In a case that has been described as heralding “winds of change” for the UK, Andrew Baines, 46, received the lowest possible sentence for supplying hundreds of patients with medical cannabis.
A father of two and a cannabis user, Baines used his skills in cannabis science to illegally supply medical cannabis to people with cancer or serious illnesses.
He was arrested in January 2020 in possession of around a kilo of cannabis and 30 plants on his property and was charged with the distribution and production of a Class B drug under the UK Act 1971 drug abuse.
As a cannabis patient, Baines had a Cancard – a medical cannabis ID card designed in conjunction with the police. Although the card itself does not provide impunity from the law, the Cancard helped Baines secure the services of attorney Hannah Sampson.
Unconditional patient support
Hundreds of patients traveled to Grimsby to show their support for Baines and provided testimony in court highlighting “his selflessness, bravery and the impact of his work”, which could have earned Baines a maximum sentence of 30 years to life imprisonment.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) gave Baines the lowest possible sentence: a six-month community sentence, with no fine.
Lawyer Hannah Sampson said: “This decision is unprecedented, I have never seen anyone receive a six month community sentence. You get 12 months if you steal a sandwich from Tesco. This case may mark the beginning of 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. »
Cancard founder Carly Barton, who supported the case, said: “I salute the CPS and CPJ in this case, who have made the right decision not to jail Andrew for providing access to life-changing drugs. the lives of people in need. »
“Andrew has improved the lives of thousands of people who have been sent home to die. The alternative for these people was to access these drugs through the criminal market which pours money into the accounts and causes damage.
“Experts like Andrew are rare. Currently, they are filling the gaps in our health care system. We must now consider better access systems so that those who need it can have access to cannabis, and so that our experts, like Andrew, can use their specialties legally. »
“Currently, our most capable scientists are working underground and it makes no sense. »
The Cancard organization said Baines – who kept detailed records of his patients and treated thousands of needy people without taking money for his services – by providing those patients with medical cannabis prevented vulnerable people to access potentially dangerous products from criminals on the streets.
The organization said it hopes this case will be a catalyst for improving the lives of patients who cannot afford a private prescription: “The judge, the CPS and the police were united – at least to some extent extent – in the belief that this man is not a criminal, and that a custodial sentence was not fit for the “crime”. »
He continues: “Until there is an affordable and safe supply of quality cannabis for all eligible patients, Cancard will continue to be committed to improving the lives of patients. »
Baines said: “As soon as they realized what I was doing the police were brilliant with me, I wasn’t handcuffed and I was treated not like a criminal but like a human being. The police are often criticized, but in my case they have been great and it clearly shows that they have not signed up to arrest people trying to help others. »
A patient, Belinda Williams, was diagnosed with incurable liver cancer and was sent home to prepare for her death when her husband made contact with Andrew.
Her husband, Russ Williams, commented: “I got in touch with Andy and our lives haven’t been the same since. Andy didn’t hesitate and started to help us. We offered to pay him, but he flatly refused.
“We are now 13 months later and I am happy to report that all six of my wife’s tumors are gone and we were given the all clear this week. Our NHS oncologist is in shock. »
Seven-year-old Oscar, diagnosed with autism and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, suffered from hundreds of seizures a day that made him increasingly disabled.
Emma, Oscar’s mum, commented: “Without Andy our son would be in a wheelchair, it’s thanks to Andy that he walks. We also have support from Oscar’s neurologist. Oscar’s school and family members are blown away by his progress. »
Baines also helped provide palliative care for the father of BBC radio presenter Becky Hayes in the last few months after being diagnosed with throat cancer.
Hayes commented, “He traveled a long way to come see me and my dad and talk to us about everything. »
“He never charged for his time or asked for anything in return. His knowledge is amazing, he is the most selfless man and I can’t believe there are people like him in this world. He continued to stay in touch with my family, providing invaluable support, and again made a long trip to see my father when he was near his end. My family will never forget him. »