1.1 Million patients will be eligible for Cancard by 2021

Published Dec 12, 2020 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Vadzim Kushniarou

“You cannot arrest me because I have Cancard.” These words could be used by up to 1.4 million people in the UK by 2021. The card is backed by police commissioners, and it lets law enforcement officers know that you have the legal right to consume self-sourced cannabis as a medicine.

Marijuana has been legally accessible for medical reasons in the UK since 2018. There has, interestingly, though, only been a handful of medical cannabis prescriptions written to date. To obtain cannabis prescriptions, one must go through a specialist GP or a private GP, due to the guidelines of (NICE)  National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which does not recommend funding for cannabis prescriptions.

NICE guidelines left Barton, a medical cannabis patient, with no other choice but to grow her weed and make necessary purchases through illicit market sources. Through this method of obtaining her cannabis prescriptions, Barton could seek out the different medical strains of cannabis she needed. This practice worked well for Barton, but it carried a heavy burden with it because, in the eyes of the law, she was a criminal. It did not matter that she qualified to have a cannabis prescription for her condition legally.

The list of conditions that qualify:

  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Cancer
  • Palliative care
  • Neurological
  • Psychiatric


Carly Barton is a patient advocate for the use of cannabis and a person living with seizure-like dystonic episodes and chronic pain. She was the first patient in the United Kingdom to obtain a private cannabis prescription. Unfortunately, the cost of private cannabis prescriptions became a financial burden for her, and so she returned to the illicit cannabis market to meet her medical prescription needs.

Her circumstances led her to the Cancard brainchild. Cancard would be providing police with the confidence and tools needed when arresting someone for possession of an illegal substance, and it would ensure that they are not arresting someone for using their legal medicine. This would also be the first time a grassroots campaign has had such a positive relationship with law enforcement, policymakers and health professionals.


Cancard provides a service that benefits both the patient and the police. Having law enforcement involved with the design and the implementation of Cancard has helped to make this a plausible project.

When the police encounter someone with a Cancard, they will be able to access a helpline that will verify the patient. The card also contains an RFID chip, enabling the officer to scan the card to confirm identity. Cancard, according to GP. Dr. Leon Barron helps to ease the anxiety of facing criminal charges for using a medicine that helps their medical condition. Moving forward, there are now more GP's coming on board with using cannabis to treat a list of conditions today.

More GP's are becoming supportive of patients who are choosing cannabis as an alternative medicine, which helped to launch the initiative forward. The Police and Crime Commissioner of Dorset, Martyn Underhill, also put the stamp of approval on Cancard, which will help to provide sick patients with the assurance that their illness will not result in them having a criminal record.

Final words

Many people in the United Kingdom have a diagnosed medical health reason for using medicinal cannabis. The Cancard can help relieve the strain on public resources that are currently being used by law enforcement and different legal avenues for patients using cannabis to medicate. Theoretically, Cancard decriminalizes medical cannabis use for those who meet the list of conditions for health professionals who are prescribing cannabis.

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