A medical cannabis supplier caught with more than a kilogram of the class B drug has escaped from prison after hundreds of cancer patients submitted letters to the court in his defense.
Andrew Baines, 46, a father of two and a cancer patient himself, provided medical cannabis oil to hundreds of patients. The same patients and their families filed dozens of letters with the court describing how Mr Baines – who may have been charged with possession with intent to supply and manufacture a controlled drug – had saved their lives.
Mr Baines was spared a 15-year sentence in a landmark ruling after the CPS decided not to press charges and instead gave him a six-month community decree, the lowest possible sentence.
Mr. Baines used his personal “Cancard” – a police-approved medical cannabis card – to provide cannabis-based medicines to other patients. However, he was arrested in April 2020 after police found a kilogram of cannabis – including 30 plants of the drug with a street value of £10,000 – at his home in Lincoln, East Midlands.
Cannabis-based medicines were legalized in November 2018 and can only be prescribed by specialists for patients who other available medicines cannot help. But it’s rarely prescribed by the NHS, forcing patients to seek it in more dangerous and expensive illegal ways.
In her decision in Grimsby Magistrates Court, Judge Sue Fortune said: “If the law were different, Mr Baines would have been applauded and not penalized.
“I believe a community order is warranted in this case, not because of you but because of the message we need to send,” the judge added.
Mr Baines’ lawyer, Hannah Sampson, said: “I’ve never seen a six-month community order issued before. If you steal a sandwich from Tesco you get 12 months.
“Cases like this are fundamental to bringing this back to the grassroots so that the police and prosecutors make the right decisions,” Ms Sampson added. “You have to differentiate between the medical cases and the county line cases, where people are trying to profit on the black market for illegal substances, and right now the law doesn’t allow for a distinction between the two. This case is a big step.”
“This case perhaps portends a wind of change. This case may mean that the law will finally catch up with the enormity of what cannabis can do to save lives.”
Mr Baines said he was relieved not to be sentenced to imprisonment. “The result was good, but it’s just frustrating that it’s not legalized yet,” he said.
Police visited Mr Baines after postal workers became suspicious of one of his deliveries to a patient.
After his arrest, Mr. Baines noted officers’ efforts to avoid serious prosecution against him, as he understood he was using the drugs to relieve pain for cancer patients. He added that he got into debt in his efforts to get the oil to patients who find his services through a Facebook support group.
Hundreds of testimonies have been written on Mr. Baines’ behalf to support his case. Belinda Williams was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and was sent home to prepare for her death when her husband made contact with Mr Baines.
Her husband Russ said: “I got in touch with Andy and our lives have not been the same since. Andy didn’t hesitate and set about helping us. We offered to pay him, but he flatly refused. We are now 13 months old and I am pleased to report that all six of my wife’s tumors have disappeared and we only got the all clear this week. Our NHS oncologist is in shock.”
Seven-year-old Oscar has autism and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that causes him to suffer hundreds of seizures a day, leaving him disabling.
“Without Andy our son would be in a wheelchair, it is thanks to Andy that he can walk. We also have the support of Oscar’s neurologist. Oscar’s school and family members are blown away by his progress,” said his mother, Emma.
Carly Barton, founder of Cancard, which issues patients a medical ID card to carry medicinal cannabis and provided Mr Baines with an attorney, said: “I applaud the CPS and CPJ for making the fair decision in this case, Andrew incarcerated for providing access to life-changing medicine for those in need. Andrew has improved the lives of thousands of people sent home to die. The alternative for these people was to access these drugs through the criminal market, which funnels money into county lines and causes harm.
“Experts like Andrew are few and far between. They are currently filling the gap that our healthcare system does not offer. Now we need to look for better access systems so that those who need it have access to cannabis and so our experts, like Andrew, are able to use their areas of expertise legally.”
The court ruling comes just a day after the National Drugs Summit, where the government renewed its vows to crack down on middle-class drug use and police and Crime Secretary Kit Malthouse redoubled their opposition to Sadiq Khan’s review of a possible relaxation of the laws on cannabis use.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/medicinal-cannabis-spared-jail-cancer-patients-b2083747.html Father caught with £10,000 of cannabis spared jail after cancer patients defended his ‘life-saving treatment’