A 46-year-old father of 2, who was caught with almost a kilo of cannabis, has avoided prison after the support of hundreds of people who insist he saved their lives.
Cannabis patient Andrew Baines was caught by police with almost a kilo of cannabis and 30 cannabis plants at his home in January 2020. He was charged with both supply and production of a class B drug under the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971, which could have seen him serve a maximum of 30 years to life in prison. Andrew had been using his qualifications in cannabis science to illegally supply patients with medicine to treat cancer and other life-changing illnesses, maintaining detailed patient records and has treated thousands of people in need without taking any money for his services.
In a landmark ruling, the Crown Prosecution Service took into account the wide outpouring of support and chose not to pursue a prison sentence, despite an open admission of guilt and a huge amount of evidence. Instead, Andrew was given a 6-month community order, the lowest punishment possible. Giving her ruling at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court, deputy district judge Geraldine Kelly said: “If the law was different, Mr Baines would have been applauded, not punished. I take the view that a community order is justified in this case, not because of you, but because of the message we must send.”
The case comes four years after the law was passed to allow access to medicinal cannabis in the UK. So far only three prescriptions have been written by the NHS and access still sits solely with costly private clinics which are unattainable for most. It is estimated that approximately 1.4 million patients in the UK are self sourcing cannabis to treat medical conditions. Over 50,000 of these patients are members of Cancard, a scheme that has prevented charges for over 2000 people since it began last year.
Carly Barton, founder of Cancard, who supported the case said: “I salute the CPS and the CPJ in this case who made the fair decision not to imprison Andrew for providing access to life-changing medicine for people in need. Andrew has improved the lives of thousands of people who were sent home to die. The alternative for those people was to access these medicines via the criminal market which pours money into county lines and causes harm. Experts like Andrew are few and far between. Currently they are bridging the gap that our healthcare system is not providing. Now we need to look at better access schemes so that those who need it can access cannabis, and, so that our experts, like Andrew, are able to utilise their specialisms legally. Currently our most knowledgeable scientists are operating underground and this makes no sense.”
Andrew’s case sets precedent for future cases of medicinal use and demonstrates the need and desire for legislative change. Speaking of his arrest, Andrew said “‘As soon as they understood what I was doing the police were brilliant with me, I was not handcuffed and I was treated not as a criminal but as a human being. The police get a lot of stick but in my case they were great and it’s a clear indication that they did not sign up to arrest people trying to help others.”
Mr Baines’s solicitor, Hannah Sampson, said: “I have never seen a six-month community order imposed. If you steal a sandwich from Tesco you get 12 months.”
She continued “Cases like this are fundamental in taking this back down to grassroots so the police and the prosecution are making the right decisions. They have to differentiate between the medical cases and the county lines cases, where people are trying to profit on the black market of illegal substances, and at the moment the law doesn’t allow for a difference between the two to be drawn. This case is a huge step. This case, perhaps, earmarks a wind of change. This case, perhaps, means that finally, the law will catch up with the enormity of what cannabis can do to save lives.”