BlogAttending UK music festivals with medical cannabis

Attending UK music festivals with medical cannabis

7 min read

Emily Ledger

Attending UK music festivals with medical cannabis

Medical cannabis has now been legal in the UK for over five years. Yet, there remains significant uncertainty around the rules and regulations for using cannabis-based medicines in public spaces. As summer slowly approaches, we’re taking a look at the guidelines for attending UK music festivals with a medical cannabis prescription.

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As we finally enter the spring months, many of us will be looking forward to the call of summer, with beer gardens, barbecues, and music festivals all around the corner. But while many will simply be concerned with sourcing tents and festival glad rags, medical cannabis patients may be more worried about access to their medication. 

Despite being legal in the UK for over five years, patients with a prescription for medical cannabis continue to face stigma and discrimination, especially when attempting to use their medication in a public space. An ongoing lack of education, unfortunately, means that many business owners and even members of the authorities are still unaware of the legality of medical cannabis. 

This understandably leaves many patients worried and unsure about using their medication in public. But it can be even harder to know where you stand in settings where security is ramped up, like music festivals and other entertainment events. So, what are your rights as a medical cannabis patient attending a festival with your medication?

What does the law say about medical cannabis?

Following changes to the law in 2018, there are now estimated to be around 25,000 to 30,000 medical cannabis patients in the UK - a figure that is only set to rise. Medical cannabis can take several forms, including oils, sprays, and topicals; however, dried cannabis flower, strictly for vaporisation, is the most prescribed medical cannabis product in the UK. 

The rescheduling of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 allows specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medicines for a wide range of conditions. However, this legislation doesn’t cover where patients can consume their medication. For this, we have to take a broader look at discrimination laws in the UK. 

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 includes provisions to “legally protect people from discrimination in the workplace and wider society.” This legislation can be applied to medical cannabis patients under Section 15 (1): Discrimination arising from disability. Under this legislation, a person is considered to have a disability if:

  • You have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal activities.
  • You have been diagnosed with a progressive condition, including but not limited to HIV, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Most conditions covered under medical cannabis prescription are likely to come under the scope of disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010. This legislation rules that it is unlawful to treat any person with a disability (as defined above) in a discriminatory manner. For example:

  1. A person (A) discriminates against a disabled person (B) if—
  1. A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B's disability, and
  2. A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  1. Subsection (1) does not apply if A shows that A did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that B had the disability. 

Can I use medical cannabis in a public space?

These laws are designed to ensure that people with a disability are treated the same as anyone else. This includes the right to use prescribed medications (in this case, medical cannabis) as and when needed. Unfortunately, given the ongoing misinformation around medical cannabis in the UK, this doesn’t always ensure a smooth ride.

As awareness around medical cannabis laws in the UK has slowly improved, more clarification can be found on your right to use your medicine in public spaces, including while you are at work. However, as explained in the second part (2) of the provision above, it may be necessary to inform the concerned party of your requirement and right to use cannabis-based medicines. The extent to which you may have to prove this will likely vary depending on their prior knowledge of medical cannabis laws. 

For this reason, it is always advisable to carry a copy of your prescription when taking your medication into a public area. Furthermore, it is advised that you also keep your medication in its original packaging and have access to a letter written and signed by your prescribing doctor. 

The Releaf medical cannabis card makes it easy to digitally carry all of your prescription information in one place, wherever you are. Featuring a photo ID and a QR code, you can share your prescription and Releaf medical records with law enforcement and other concerned parties within a matter of minutes.

Medical cannabis at UK festivals

If you’ve been wondering: ‘Can I carry my medical cannabis with me at Download Festival?’ Or ‘Can I use medical cannabis at Glastonbury Festival?’, you might have had a hard time actually looking forward to what should be a thoroughly enjoyable and carefree weekend. So, let’s take a look at your rights as a festivalgoer.

The good news is that all of the guidelines laid out above should also be generally applicable when attending music festivals and other events in the UK. Music festivals are often associated with high levels of security on entry, including bag checks, metal detectors and even the presence of sniffer dogs which can understandably cause some concern when carrying your medical cannabis products. It is therefore important to be as prepared as possible before heading to your chosen festival.

We recommend contacting the organisers of the festival before arrival to familiarise yourself with any potential protocols that may be in place. This will give you a better idea of any special requirements that may help to make your entry into the festival area as smooth as possible. 

Most festivals also provide access to a range of medical personnel. This can be beneficial if you are taking your medical cannabis prescription with you as there may be a designated area where you can administer your medicine. The organisers will be able to advise whether this is the case at your chosen festival. At the very least, this can provide you with a safe space to medicate without fear of repercussions from uneducated festivalgoers and staff. 

What do festival organisers say?

Festival Republic, the organisers of several popular music festivals in the UK including Download Festival and Leeds & Reading Festival, provide some guidance relating to general medication requirements in their Public Safety Advice. They state:

“If you need to bring medication with you, we recommend bringing a copy of your doctor’s letter or prescription. There will be a fridge available in the medical tent if you require cold storage for your medication.”

We were unable to find any information online specifically relating to medical cannabis and music festivals. Nonetheless, as we have covered in this article, no music festival in the UK - or any other venue, for that matter - has the right to turn you away based on your medical needs if they have been made aware of your status as a medical cannabis patient. Depending on the circumstances, doing so could leave them liable to legal action under the Equality Act 2010.

For many people, music festivals are one of the best parts of the summer. Having a medical cannabis prescription should not prevent you from enjoying your favourite music acts. So, whether you are hoping to take your medical cannabis to Leeds Festival, Glastonbury Festival, or any other of the amazing festivals in the UK, being aware of your rights and preparing any relevant documents beforehand can help to set you up for an amazing, hassle-free weekend.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

Emily, an accomplished content writer with a specialisation in cannabis and alternative health, leverages her five years in the sector to enhance education and diminish stigma around medicinal cannabis use.

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