EducationInsightful statistics about medical cannabis in the UK

Insightful statistics about medical cannabis in the UK

5 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Insightful statistics about medical cannabis in the UK

In Releaf’s recent national survey, we discovered over 83% of respondents in the UK were aware of the cannabis plant's medicinal potential, and over two-thirds would consider taking medical cannabis treatments.

However, over 70% of our respondents indicated some kind of societal stigma would discourage them from trying this treatment option, which is something that we aim to remove.

We’ve designed this article to summarise the most important cannabis health statistics, give you an overview of the current medical cannabis market, and an insight into the possible future of cannabis industries in the UK.

Contents

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An Overview of the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK

In October 2017, the British Parliament received a bill from Welsh MP Paul Flynn asking the government to reevaluate the prohibition on cannabis, calling for compassion and reconsideration of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 that criminalised medicinal and recreational cannabis. Later in February 2018, the Scottish Conservative Health Spokesman Miles Briggs strengthened this voice and appealed to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, asking for a review into the efficacy of medical cannabis treatments.

At the same time, the British media was heavily sharing the stories of patients like Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingely, whose families were campaigning for access to cannabis-based treatments to alleviate their rare forms of epilepsy. After withstanding a fair amount of political and social pressures, the UK finally held their first parliamentary hearing on the subject in October 2018, followed by a two-part review into the scheduling of cannabis-related medicinal products.

On the 1st of November 2018, medical cannabis was legalised in the United Kingdom following advice given by the Government’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dame Sally Davies. Strict restrictions were imposed around the classification of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans (CBPM), as well as the prescription and dispensing of medical cannabis.

In the UK, only doctors on the General Medical Council Specialist Register can prescribe cannabis-based treatments, and they can only do so for conditions in which cannabis has proven to be an effective and safe treatment option. NHS doctors face extra prescription regulations, which has resulted in almost every medical cannabis patient in the UK accesses their medication through private cannabis clinics.

Statistics on medical cannabis in the UK

According to the research we commissioned in April 2023, around 29.6 million Brits may be eligible for medical cannabis. Our data showed that over 50% of people living in the UK are living with at least one of the 52 health conditions listed by The British Medical Journal as a candidate for cannabis-based treatments.

However, although these patients may be eligible for cannabis-based treatments, due to a lack of awareness or education and an abundance of associated stigma, in reality, there are very few patients with legal access to these treatment options. In March 2023, it was reported by Sky News that there were 32,000 patients in the United Kingdom receiving prescribed medical cannabis treatments, but another 4 million people are believed to be self-medicating with black-market cannabis.

This report suggested a total of £3.57 billion a year, or £2550 per person, was contributed to the illicit cannabis market by patients sourcing cannabis illegally. However, a Drug Science report from 2020 suggests this figure may be even higher, estimating an average spend of £3732 a year.

In 2021, The European Cannabis Report used data from the largest medical cannabis registry in the UK, Project Twenty21, to analyse patient demographics. This data shows the average age for medical cannabis patients in the UK is younger than other European nations such as Italy, Denmark and Belgium, with an average age of 39. Currently, there are more men receiving cannabis-based treatments in Britain than women, and the most common conditions treated with medical cannabis are pain and anxiety.

And finally, what does the future hold for the UK cannabis industry?

Now that medical cannabis has been legalised in the UK for almost five years, many cannabis advocates are calling for either a partial or complete end to cannabis prohibition. Recently, this notion has gained political traction and has been supported by both The Green Party and The Liberal Democrats.

In September 2022, following the announcement of a commission that will investigate the possibility for drug reform in the UK launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, a YouGov survey found that 50% of Londoners felt that cannabis should be decriminalised within the capital city.

Another survey on British attitudes towards the current cannabis policy published their results in March 2023, stating that 55% of adults in Great Britain were in favour of drug reform. This survey found 32% of Brits were in favour of complete cannabis legalisation, and a further 23% supported the idea of decriminalisation, whilst 10% confessed they were not sure how they felt about changing the regulations currently in place.

For now, it is unclear what the future holds for the cannabis industry in the UK. Britain does have a historical pattern of mirroring other European nations in terms of policy, and so, many experts believe it is just a matter of time before the cannabis laws in the UK are altered once again.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma.

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

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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