By / May 24, 2024

One in Four Police Officers in the UK Unaware Medical Cannabis is Legal

Despite the legalization of medical cannabis in the UK in 2018, more than one in four police officers remain unaware of its legality. This lack of awareness can have serious consequences for patients using this treatment and the legal system. A recent survey shows that 28.5% of police officers do not know that medical cannabis is legal.

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The Impact of UK Police Ignorance on Patients and the Legal System

The lack of knowledge among police officers about the legality of medical cannabis significantly affects patients and the legal system. Patients using medical cannabis may be unjustly detained or questioned, leading to stress and uncertainty. Furthermore, inadequate training can result in ineffective law enforcement and stigmatization of patients in the UK.

Dr. Simon Erridge, Director of Research at Curaleaf Clinic, emphasizes: “Our latest study reveals a significant gap in knowledge among UK police officers regarding the legality of medical cannabis. The results clearly indicate the need for comprehensive education.”

Survey Methodology

The survey, whose results we present, was conducted between October 24 and November 1, 2022. It was designed by an interdisciplinary team of academic clinicians and a neurocognitive scientist. The study was distributed to active-duty police officers in the UK by Opinium Research, and the results were published in Sage Journals.

Two hundred police officers participated in the survey, providing demographic information before responding. The results showed that 57 of them, or 28.5%, did not know that cannabis products could be legally prescribed in the UK.

Additional survey data indicates that 47 participants (23.5%) had never received formal training on this topic, and 85 (42.5%) believed their training was inadequate. Most UK police officers (88.5%) stated they needed more training on medical cannabis and how to recognize patients legally using this treatment.

The Legal Context of Medical Cannabis in the UK

Medical cannabis was legalized in the UK in November 2018. Currently, it is estimated that around 35,000 patients use this treatment in the country, with this number expected to rise to 62,960 by the end of 2024. Prescribed cannabis products can take the form of flowers, oils, vaporizers, and capsules. Although medical cannabis is available on the NHS for a limited number of conditions, most prescriptions are issued by private clinics.

The Impact on Patients

A 2022 study on the perceived stigma against patients using medical cannabis in the UK found that 40.2% of participants feared reactions from the police, the justice system, other government agencies, and healthcare workers regarding their treatment. In numerous cases, patients were arrested or detained by police despite having legal prescriptions.

Dr. Erridge notes that UK “police officers have a challenging job, and the lack of proper education makes it even harder. Improving training for officers can help reduce stigma, improve patient care, and create a more informed and supportive community for patients.”

Conclusions and Recommendations for UK Police Officers

The study clearly shows a serious lack of knowledge among UK police officers regarding the legality of medical cannabis. There is an urgent need for education to ensure proper law enforcement and support for patients.

The researchers call for nationwide training for UK police officers. The research team has sent letters to the National Police Chiefs Council, highlighting the issue and offering their assistance. The goal is to initiate national educational efforts on medical cannabis.

(Featured image by Ethan Wilkinson via Unsplash)

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