Despite over four years of legalisation, topics around medical cannabis remain shrouded in doubt and even stigma in the UK. Having often come through extremely difficult circumstances just to access their medicines, many patients are still uncertain about their rights – and the uncertainties don’t end with the patient. In a country where a significant proportion of the population – including almost a third of police officers – remain unaware of the legality of medical cannabis, fear of judgement and even prosecution is still rife.
At leafie, we hear many stories from patients who have been questioned by police for using or even simply carrying their medication with them. In such a climate, it can be easy for medical cannabis patients to question when and where it is “okay” to take their medication. Understandably, then, many patients are left wondering: can I take my medical cannabis to an event?
Whether headed to a festival, a conference, or a sporting event, medical cannabis patients may well feel unsure about carrying their medication with them. Indeed, many people are still hesitant about medicating in public at all. So, we thought we would gather all the information we could find to put together a useful guide on taking medical cannabis products with you to various events.
What are your rights?
Just like using your medication in a workplace, your right to possess medical cannabis in an event setting is protected under Section 15 (1) of the Equality Act 2010. This essentially means that medical cannabis patients cannot legally be refused entry to any event for carrying their medication.
While this doesn’t always make for smooth sailing, it is great to see an increasing number of positive experiences being discussed online. In fact, we have come across several Reddit threads in which medical cannabis patients have told of their experiences at theme parks, football stadiums and music venues, to name a few.
For example, one Reddit user told of the helpful and understanding response of staff at Stamford Bridge football ground: “They just asked for doctors letter which my clinic… and I was searched on entry and explained a Showed my letter and emails I had from the matchday safety and was ushered in no problem.
“The cherry on the cake was when I asked at half time of I could go and Medicate I showed the steward my docs he called his superior and they agreed very kindly to let me leave the stadium to medicate and return was a fantastic experience for me.”
This brings us to the question: What is the best way to maximise your chances of success when taking medical cannabis to an event?
Recommended steps to take pre-attendance
- Reach out to organisers in advance
In the accounts we have heard where patients have had positive experiences, a majority describe how they reached out to the organisers of the event before attending. This is a great way to avoid complications and delays on arrival due to staff being unaware of the rules regarding medical cannabis.
Sending an email to the relevant department or calling them (you should be able to find this information on the organiser’s/venue’s website) can help to make sure that everyone – including you – is prepared for your arrival. Giving the organisers plenty of notice can give them the time to do their research (it shouldn’t really be necessary at this stage but them’s the breaks) and prevent you from waiting for them to do so when you arrive.
- Have the relevant documents ready to share
Just as is the case when you are travelling with medical cannabis, having a copy of relevant documents to share with event officials can make the entire process a lot easier. In fact, without these things, it is unlikely that you will get anywhere as these are the sole proof that you have been prescribed medical cannabis.
Be ready to share a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor either before your visit or on arrival. A letter from your clinician should ideally include the following information:
- The patient’s name and date of birth;
- A list of the prescribed medications;
- The signature of the prescribing clinician.
Recommended steps to take on arrival
- Report to the relevant place/person
If you have been in contact with the venue’s management team before your visit, you may have been given instructions on where you should go upon arrival. This may be to customer services (as was the case for one medical cannabis patient on their visit to LegoLand) or to a member of security.
If you weren’t told where to go on arrival or have not been in contact with the event organisers beforehand, speaking to a member of staff as soon as possible could be useful in minimising any delays on entry.
- Again, have access to any relevant documents
While you may have already shared your prescription and doctor’s letter via email, it is a good idea to have access to these documents during your time at the event. This will help to clear up any confusion if you are approached by a member of staff who is unaware of your situation. On that note, keeping your correspondence with the event management close to hand is also recommended.
In many cases, you should be able to access a digital copy of your prescription and your doctor’s letter for convenience.
- Keep your medication in its original packaging
It may not be the most convenient thing to carry your medication around in, but keeping your medication in its original packaging can go a long way in reducing potential scepticism from event staff. Being able to present your medication in official packaging (with your name printed on it), alongside your prescription can only be a good thing when speaking with someone who is not up to date on the legality of medical cannabis.
- Be aware of your rights
As we mentioned earlier, it is your right to be able to medicate at all types of venues across the UK. If you face difficulty with event organisers who aren’t aware of these rights, remain calm and explain as best you can. A simple Google of the relevant legislation can be helpful to alleviate the situation.
While there is still a long way to go in before medical cannabis patients no longer face any uncertainty and fear about their right to take their medicine, we are glad to see that many event venues across the UK are taking their responsibilities in this area seriously. It may not be guaranteed that you won’t face any problems or delays when headed to a music festival in the Summer or a football match at the weekend, but following these steps should help to give you the best chance of having a positive experience.