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U.K. Caregiver Spared Jail Sentence After Cancer Patients Defend Him

Andrew Baines, 46-years old, is a father to two children and a patient of medical cannabis in the U.K. However, he was also a caregiver. Namely, 15 years in prison.

Baines was detained in April 2020 when police found $12,000 worth of marijuana and 30 plants inside his Lincoln, East Midlands home. After suspicious postal workers discovered that one of the deliveries he made to a patient had been delivered, police arrived at his home.

His network was large. Baines personally supplied hundreds of patients with medical cannabis oil as part of an underground network—similar to ones everywhere in the world at the moment where cannabis remains out of reach for those who need it most.

Baines said that he was not being prosecuted and the police did everything they could to keep him from facing a serious charge. His grateful patients wrote hundreds of testimonials for him.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has now decided not to pursue charges as a result—instead, giving Baines a six-month community order—the lowest punishment.

During her ruling at Grimsby Magistrates Court, Geraldine Kelly, the deputy district judge commented that “If the law was different, Mr. Baines would have been applauded, not punished.”

Baines’s solicitor, Hannah Sampson, a part of the criminal defense team at Mackrell Solicitors, a prominent British law firm with a strong cannabis practice, was shocked.

“I have never seen a six-month community order imposed. If you steal a sandwich from Tesco, you get 12 months,” she said. Sampson also added that “Cases like this are fundamental in taking this back down to grassroots so the police and the prosecution are making the right decisions. The case may be a signal of the coming wind of change. This case, perhaps, means that finally, the law will catch up with the enormity of what cannabis can do to save lives.”

The court ruling comes one day after the British National Drugs Summit, which this year saw the government vow to crack down on “middle class drug use,” and policing and crime minister Kit Malthouse again vocally opposing mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plan to loosen laws around cannabis consumption and possession.

Cannabis Reform in Great Britain

The U.K. now finds itself in the same uncomfortable and slippery spot as every other country that is legalizing. Namely, where does one draw a line on criminal behavior since some reform has already taken place—but not enough to help the vast majority of potential patients.

You should know that medical marijuana use is allowed in the UK, even the THC type. Patients can legally obtain cannabis for as little as $10 through several trial programs.

CBD, besides this, is now a regulated sector.

The problem, as it is almost everywhere else, is that most doctors remain leery of prescribing the drug and the National Health Service, or NHS, is not reimbursing patients—including for use with chronic pain—the most widely cited reason for cannabis use.

There are burgeoning projects all around the U.K., some on the mainland and some just off the coast—notably the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, where medical cannabis cultivation and extraction is fully underway. Guernsey officials even consider recreational marijuana use.

Of course, repeated requests are made, such as from London mayor to make personal possession and usage illegal.

Patient Advocacy and Reform

Patients have always been at the forefront of U.K. progress. It was initially the possibility of epilepsy-afflicted children dying, and parents being sent to prison for buying CBD oil from Canada or the E.U. That was enough to persuade politicians that change was necessary.

This case has now gone even further. It is possible that this latest case, which involves THC as well as adult users, will be significant and change the political debate.

It may be, at the least from the CPS’s perspective, that the sea change is well under way.