The five appeals and one Attorney General's reference raised the issue of availability of the defence of medical necessity in the commission of an offence of possession, production, cultivation, production and importation of cannabis.
All the appellants argued they used cannabis to relieve their pain from a number of medical ailments, including HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and severe pain.
However, the Court of Appeal rejected the defences of duress of circumstances and duress of necessity. The benefits of the substance to the individuals did not outweigh the national interest in its prohibition.
"Its starting point is that the Secretary of State shall exercise his power to enable doctors (among other qualified professionals) to have, prescribe and supply controlled drugs (see section 7(3) of the 1971 Act and the consequential provisions of Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 dealing with importation set out in paragraph 11 above). But, under s 7(4), the Secretary of State may exclude the operation of s 7(3) in relation to a drug, if of the opinion that it is in the public interest that its production, supply and possession should be wholly or partly unlawful or unlawful except for purposes of research or other special purposes or except under a licence or other authority issued by him. Cannabis, cannabis resin and most cannabinoids are, under SI 2001 No. 3998 and SI 2001 No. 3997, designated as drugs which may only be used for medical or scientific research and as drugs to which s 7(4) of the 1971 Act applies. The effect of that designation is that, whatever benefits might be perceived or suggested for any individual patients, if these particular drugs were available for medical prescription and use (other than research), such individual benefits were and are in the legislator's view outweighed by disbenefits of strength sufficient in the national interest to require a general prohibition."