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“They just didn’t care” – cannabis patient arrested on driving lesson speaks out


A learner driver was arrested despite having a legal prescription for cannabis.
The post “They just didn’t care” – cannabis patient arrested on driving lesson speaks out appeared first on Cannabis Health News. 


A learner driver who was arrested, despite having a legal prescription for cannabis, has spoken out about the discrimination he faced.

Nathan Williams was on a driving lesson with a friend when he was pulled over by police in his hometown of Newton in February. 

The 25-year-old, who has been prescribed cannabis for chronic pain since January 2020, refused to provide a roadside saliva sample, explaining that his medication was legal. But despite logging onto his clinic’s patient portal and showing the officers a copy of his prescription, Williams said they ‘didn’t care’ and had ‘no idea’ what it was. 

He was then taken to the local police station where officers requested he take a blood test, which he also refused on the basis of advice he had received.

Under Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act (RTA) any driver who is stopped by the police can expect to be swabbed and if THC is identified, a blood test is enough to secure a conviction. However, blood and saliva tests have repeatedly been shown to be  ‘inconsistent markers for a driver’s impairment’, as THC can be detected in the blood for up to 30 days after consumption.

Williams felt he had ‘no choice’, but to plead guilty to the charge of failing to provide a specimen under Section 7 of the RTA, leaving him at risk of losing his licence. 

“It was horrible,” William says.

“I could have lost my licence before I had even passed my test. I kept trying to tell them about my prescription and they just didn’t care.”

Case dismissed on a ‘technicality’ 

Williams then reached out to Guy Coxall, founder of advocacy group Seed Our Future (SOF), who has repeatedly called for reform to the RTA having supported dozens of cannabis patients facing similar offences.

SOF believes there is a defence case for patients who refuse to complete a swab after providing evidence of a prescription.

With the support of Coxall, who worked closely with Williams’ lawyer, he went back to court and withdrew his guilty plea, requesting a trial instead. 

Williams appeared at Welshpool Magistrates’ Court on Monday 4 September, where a trial was due to take place, but the charge was dismissed when the prosecution offered no evidence. 

It was hoped Williams’ case may set a precedent for the prescription defence, however, his case was actually won on a technicality.

His lawyer stated: “Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act, as amended, provides the police with only two grounds for requesting blood i.e. failure of the roadside test or impairment based upon the opinion of a health professional. Neither of those scenarios applied to Nathan’s case and the charges were dismissed.

“We never had to refer to the prescription defence… the prosecutor actually applied to the court today to lay a charge relating to the roadside test; but with the expiry of the six month time limit for bringing new charges the magistrates refused to entertain this.”

Concern over roadside swab tests

Williams’ lawyer also expressed concern that roadside swab tests are being used as a ‘political tool’ to ‘deter cannabis use’ rather than for apprehending those who should not be driving as a consequence of impairment.

“I can confidently state that in the many dozens of cases that I have dealt with over the past many months, there has been no evidence of impairment,” he said.

Coxall commented: “Nathan’s case is yet another example of the police refusing to believe that lawful medical cannabis prescriptions are real even after five years since the change in legislation. This has recently been highlighted via the increasing cases of patients having their essential medications seized and charged with possession, sometimes even in the privacy of their own home.

“Roadside swabs should only be used following either a road traffic incident (such as a crash) or following evidence of impairment (via a field impairment test). Unfortunately, this is far from reality and even following production of evidence of a valid prescription, the police continue to insist on using swabs which will only identify the presence of THC.”

He added: “SOF believe that there is a case for those who refuse a swab following evidence of a prescription, but a precedent is still to come.”

Calls for overhaul of ‘discriminatory’ driving laws 

A recent report by the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) produced with support from SOF called for an overhaul of ‘discriminatory’ driving laws following numerous reports of patients having been stopped by police and had charges brought against them, in some cases even losing their licence. 

Analysis shows the number of arrests for driving under the influence of cannabis have increased by more than 72% between 2016/17 to 2020/21. A conviction may lead to a 12-months driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison and a criminal record.

Key recommendations include standardising medical cannabis and driving guidelines to focus on impairment rather than the ‘zero tolerance’ threshold limit and the use of the Field Impairment Test (FIT) to identify impairment, as THC concentration in blood and saliva are inconsistent markers.

The report also called for a review of the ‘consistency and effectiveness’ of law enforcement training around the legalisation of medical cannabis and patients’ statutory rights.

“I know I’m probably have to go through it all again”

Nathan has recently passed his driving test, but says the incident and following court case have had a significant impact on the health of him and his partner.

“It’s made things a lot worse,” he says.

“My partner has anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD and that whole incident has been really difficult for her.”

Meanwhile, he continues to live in fear that the same thing will happen again.

“It’s not nice at all and I know I’m probably going to end up going through it all again,” he continued.

“[Without cannabis] I can’t do anything and if I was to lie in bed my mental health would be so bad. It allows me to  get up and get out and do stuff. Without it I wouldn’t be able to have that ability to concentrate or the lack of pain to be able to drive. I couldn’t take the dogs out, or cook dinner or even have a shower.” 

He added: “What’s the difference between me vaping cannabis a few hours before I drive and someone else taking a slow-releasing morphine pill? Cannabis needs to be treated like any other medication.”

Williams has received an apology from Dyfed Powys Police in response to a complaint he submitted regarding his treatment by officers.

Cannabis Health contacted the press office for further comment but had not received a response at the time of publication. 

What the official guidance says 

DVLA guidelines require patients to be ‘free from any medication effects that would impair driving’ as a condition for continuing to drive or resuming driving following medication. The elements required for safe driving include: attention and concentration, good reaction time, and coordination.

However, it is down to the individual driver to judge whether their ability to drive safely is impaired, as with any other prescribed medication.

READ MORE: What does UK law say about medical cannabis and driving?

UK law requires that drivers tell the DVLA about any medical condition that could potentially affect their driving. The only condition requiring mandatory notification for which a CBPM is commonly used is epilepsy. There is no requirement for patients to inform the DVLA of their prescription, unless related to epilepsy. However, some prescribers told researchers behind the report that they have advised patients to notify the DVLA of their prescriptions ‘to comply with the law’.

In line with DVLA guidelines, as with other medicines, prescribers of CBPMs should give their patients advice on driving, including informing them that they should not drive if they feel impaired. 

The post “They just didn’t care” – cannabis patient arrested on driving lesson speaks out appeared first on Cannabis Health News.


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