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UK police drug tests don’t work and criminalise cannabis patients

Home » UK police drug tests don’t work and criminalise cannabis patients

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Leading industry groups have called on the UK Government to work with the police to update roadside tests as a new study has highlighted they could be unduly criminalising cannabis patients.

Current roadside drug tests can detect cannabis for up to 30 hours after use, however, the effects of cannabis have been demonstrated to wear off after around 4.5 hours. 

These results from a two-year randomised clinical trial have recently been published in JAMA psychiatry.

It is this detection window that is concerning patients – who fear they may risk being unfairly criminalised. With an estimated 1.4 million medical cannabis patients in the UK, these tests risk criminalising people who legally use the medicine to help with sleep, chronic pain and other medical conditions. 

Paul North, director of Volteface, an independent research and advocacy organisation, is one of those raising concerns about this new study.

North commented: “This study shows that up and down the country medical cannabis patients who are perfectly able to drive are unnecessarily criminalised by the police due to inaccurate roadside testing. 

“Now is the time for policy makers to update our policies, invest in new technology and protect the estimated 1.4 million medical cannabis patients in the UK.”

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The study is of vital importance to policymakers in the UK as medical cannabis has been legal in the UK for over four years with around 10,000 patients legally prescribed cannabis.

Results from the study demonstrated that participants who consumed either 5.9 per cent THC or 13.4 per cent THC cannabis reported that, after 1.5 minutes, their driving impairment from the drug had reduced, despite no clear improvement in their driving. 

The study concludes there was an ‘individual variability seen with the impairing effects of cannabis’ and the data ‘raises questions about the validity’ of laws. The study also claims that ‘the disconnect between performance and self-perceived impairment is an important public safety message’.

As well as patients, scientists are also calling for a fairer way to test drivers for cannabis. One biotechnology company, Bloonics, is currently developing new, revolutionary testing technology that aims to more accurately measure the levels of THC in a person’s system.

Lex Beresnev, co-founder of Bloonics said: “This latest clinical trial only reinforces the desperate need for new, fairer roadside testing. Our innovative LuciX Technology will more accurately detect levels of THC (and associated cannabinoids) as well as active impairment. 

“Easily usable outside of a laboratory environment, police forces and workplaces will be able to fairly screen for impairment. We truly believe we have the answer to ending the unfair criminalisation of cannabis patients worldwide.

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“We cannot, in good conscience as a society, allow outdated cannabis testing to impose such dangerous and unfair consequences onto medical patients.”

Lyphe Group, the UK’s largest legal supplier of medical cannabis care and medicine, is joining calls for a fairer system.

Jonathan Nadler, CEO, commented:: “This latest data reinforces our long-held belief that there needs to be a major change in the way we view and treat medicinal cannabis patients. They come to us suffering from painful and often debilitating conditions. 

“The last thing they need is to fear being stopped at the roadside and arrested for accessing their medicine, which has now been legal in the UK for over three years. I hope this study helps lead to changes in our outdated system.”

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