Patients in the UK are slowly becoming able to access medical cannabis with greater ease. However, with laws still criminalising the possession of cannabis, situations can arise where people find themselves stopped and quizzed by the police for possession of a prescribed drug.
To prevent confusion, a number of schemes have recently launched with the aim of clearing up confusion, allowing patients to carry and consume their medicines without fear of prosecution. One such scheme is MedCannID, the UK’s largest legally prescribed medical cannabis patient validation system.
As well as providing physical confirmation for legally prescribed medical cannabis patients, it legitimises patients carrying medical cannabis and equipment and hopes to eliminate the stigma surrounding cannabis based medicines.
We spoke to the founder of MedCannID Marios Panteli to learn more.
Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Marios Panteli and I’m the founder of MedCannID and CEO of Numeds. I have been an advocate for the legalisation of Cannabis for over 23 years with UK and international campaigns. Since 2018, our company has been offering medical cannabis services and products in the UK through a series of partnerships. We were the first company to provide a private medical cannabis prescription to an adult patient in the UK in February 2019.
Could you explain to our readers what MedCannID is?
MedCannID is the UK’s largest legally prescribed medical cannabis patient validation system that offers simple and effective identification for medical cannabis patients by means of a unique, tamper-proof holographic photo ID card, and an accompanying app. The app acts as a central hub for other patient needs and can be used to access patient prescription copies for reference
What is MedCann doing that’s different from the other medical cannabis ID cards?
MedCannID is only issued to legally prescribed patients, therefore we work within the legal structure already set up by the Home Office. All our members are 100% legal patients and there is no grey area as to how they should be treated by the authorities and law enforcement. The Equalities Act 2010 already sets out the legal framework around this.
Your website says that you have over 23 years of cannabis advocacy experience, could you explain how that has helped you within the creation of this card?
Over the course of the last 23 years, I have run several campaigns to raise awareness for the need for medical cannabis. I have also seen the changes in regulation to accommodate cannabis as a medicine both in Europe and the UK evolve. In addition, I have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of patients through seminars and international events. In these discussions, a common theme kept coming up. How do we identify patients and offer some sort of protection against arrest after the regulation of medical cannabis? How can a law enforcement officer know the difference between someone consuming cannabis as a recreational or well-being user and a genuine patient whose quality of life depended on it?
As medical cannabis regulations started coming in to place in Europe and the UK we saw the need to be able to identify the now legally prescribed patients become more urgent and that’s why MedCannID was created.
Legally prescribed medical cannabis patients should not be living in fear of arrest.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been to get the system working in such a way that it gives benefits both to the patient and to law enforcement as well as any other authorities like the DVLA, Customs, Transport Police etc. The new mobile app system we launched allows the patient to have a great deal of evidence to our disposal to make the interaction between the patient and authorities effective as possible by quickly providing what is required to not only be able to confirm the patient is legally prescribed but also what and how much he is allowed at the time.
What are your hopes for the future of MedCann?
We are looking to provide the basis for a system that will expand into all the aspects of the life of a patient, for example at work, education, accommodation etc. to ensure that patients are treated equally and with respect and under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 both for the public sector as well as private. We are also looking at expanding into European countries that have shown an interest in our system and hoping to be able to create a system that allows people to travel safely within the EU and the UK.
We are looking at expanding our offerings to include a patient essentials shop within the app as well as a patient forum and clinic, pharmacy, products directory etc.
How responsive have the police been?
We have sent out information about MedCannID to all the Police Commissioners offices and have received positive replies from a number of them. However, there is definitely more awareness work to be done to really give law enforcement officers all the information they need to be able to benefit from this system. We have also received some patient feedback where the interaction with law enforcement has been very appropriate, but we are also still getting reports of patients being harassed and there have been reported cases of seizure of legally prescribed medication. However, these could be isolated cases and we are hoping that law enforcement officers who encounter a MedCannID member would be presented with enough evidence to make an informed decision on how to handle the particular case.
Do you think there is still a stigma around cannabis medicines?
Unfortunately yes. There is still a lot of work to be done to remove the stigma associated with cannabis use but we are hoping that MedCannID will become the platform giving patients a voice as well as acting as a safety mechanism for any interactions with authorities. We have already seen MedCannID working for patients in starting conversations with their family, landlords, HR managers etc and we know how valuable it can be in those situations.