The prohibition of drugs is an arcane mess; the subsequent criminalisation that follows, is little more than a social bulldozer. We can certainly reach a consensus that the indiscriminate ploughing nature of punitive drug laws traps minorities and the most vulnerable in society, but there is one aspect to our heavy-handed approach that we seldom address – an issue that gets swept along with the noisy traffic.

This issue exemplifies everything that’s wrong with our benumbed outlook to drugs and obscures the real faces that sit behind the distorted veil. Those with serious medical conditions such as M.S, M.E, Parkinson’s, cancer, and Crohn’s disease – those that are suffering are still under real threat from our drug laws.

In a recently released report from the All-Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, Regulating Cannabis for Medical Use in the UK, we see that the UK is now one of the least hospitable countries for medicinal cannabis users.

The crux of this new paper is to bring about a debate to move cannabis from schedule 1 (meaning ‘of no medical value’) to schedule 2. This would enable doctors to prescribe cannabis in a parallel model to the Netherlands which has done so since 2001. 

One of the conditions mentioned in this new report is that of Dravet Syndrome. This rare and devastating condition is a form of epilepsy. It was during the filming of the feature documentary, The Culture High, that director Brett Harvey and Executive Producer Adam Scorgie came face to face with the palpable impact of this terrible illness. Please meet Jayden: 

When The Culture High was shown in movie theatres across the world, Jayden and his dad, Jason David, never failed to break an audience down to its very core. To see the immeasurable suffering of a family is indeed hard to watch, but it is matched by the positive and ongoing pursuit of some degree of relief for Jayden and his indefatigable father.

There will be some cynical tongues that will wag – those that will say that using a vulnerable child to make a point about a controversial subject is mawkish, but those that have had any dealings within drug policy will know that Jayden’s innocence is replicated and mirrored in the faces of many adults who do not receive any compassion or empathy. There is a forgotten contingent, and it’s time we paid due attention to suffering wherever it resides. 

In the UK, anyone caught in possession of cannabis or is to be seen cultivating can still receive hefty fines and prosecution. This is contrary to the progress that’s been made around the globe. Canada has just federally legalised all forms of cannabis for medicinal use, Spain has a social club model, Israel now have 13,000 medical cannabis patients and continues to pioneer in the field, and Uruguay fully reformed its cannabis laws and embarks on state regulation.

The U.S has over twenty medical states and four fully legalised states – recent findings have shown that there’s been no increase in adolescent use in states where legalisation of medical cannabis has taken place. 


The UK House of Lords will debate the rescheduling of cannabis and the plight of thousands of people with serious medical conditions that have found relief from using this substance. With the All-Parliamentary report still with fresh ink, there will be discussion about how current laws places a stranglehold on research, and how the UK has an inflexible legal and licencing system. The eyes of those that are currently suffering, and the families that also suffer alongside whilst facing social and criminal persecution, will certainly be watching closely.

We have to ensure that we keep our focus on those that are quite literally trapped due to current policies. It’s too easy to ignore the faces of anguish and adversity as we continue to sweep the subject along with the broad strokes of dusty drug-war rhetoric. As much as we need to keep an eye on fully reforming our drug laws, we shouldn’t forget how real lives are impacted due to esoteric drug policies.

The Culture High is available on Netflix, Vimeo on Demand, and iTunes

-This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

Comment