The trial of a paralyzed man who was prosecuted by Swedish authorities for self-medicating with cannabis recently sparked debate over the right to cultivate medicinal herb in the Scandinavian nation. Now Sweden’s Supreme Court has just ruled against the defendant, dealing a blow to the right to self-medicate.
Andreas Thörn, 39, who broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in 1994, used cannabis for relief from neuropathic pain, as well as for anxiety and depression. He was acquitted in August 2015 by a local district court in Västerås, after successfully using a medical necessity defense. Thörn said he had tried numerous pharmaceuticals which did not help and had run out of legal options.
But the prosecution appealed, and last year the appellate court found him guilty, imposing a fine of 11,700 kronor (about $1,400). Then, it was Thörn’s turn to appeal, and the case went before the country’s top court.
The issue for the high court was whether cannabis cultivation for pain relief may be permitted under a provision of Sweden’s penal code concerning criminal offenses in emergency situations.
The Penal Code’s Chapter 24, Section 4 does allow a necessity defense for crimes committed in distress, the legal affairs website Jurist noted. However, in its Nov. 20 decision, the high court determined that the provision does not apply in Thörn’s case because a permanent problem does not constitute an emergency in a juridical sense.
The ruling did provide some glimmers of hope, however.
The Supreme Court stated that Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, could amend the law to allow access to medical cannabis. And the court took personal circumstances into account, finding that Thörn’s crime only constituted a minor drug offense. He was fined 5,200 kronor ($616) and will serve no prison time.