Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?


Sam North is an experienced cannabis consultant and writer who provides education and guidance for businesses, commercial projects, and private clients. With over 5 years of industry experience, Sam is passionate about the potential of cannabis to help restore balance and well-being into people's lives.

Interest in the administration of medical cannabis to help ease the symptoms of various health conditions continues to grow around the world. And as such, it has never been more important that potential patients have access to accurate and up-to-date information regarding its legal status. After all, anybody dealing with the discomfort and stress of managing a health condition deserves the dignity of knowing that treatment options (that may bring immense relief) are not only legal but also researched and recognised as an effective treatment by qualified professionals.

Here at Releaf, we are dedicated to making this information easily available while also trying to strip back the stigma associated with medicinal cannabis. We believe that patients deserve to have all the information easily available, so that they can inform themselves about what is a potentially valuable and powerful addition to healthcare management, with confidence and clarity, on their side.

So, what are the facts?

It has been legal to take cannabis for medical purposes in the UK since November 2018.

Medical cannabis is prescribable when people who are diagnosed with certain conditions have unsuccessfully tried other methods. The prescription of medical cannabis can be made legally, but only by a qualified, registered medical professional.

When was medical cannabis legalised?

In the summer of 2018, an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products took place, leading the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the UK’s Chief Medical Officer to make changes to the law. This change finally allowed expert doctors to legally issue prescriptions to patients who they decided could benefit from medical cannabis treatments.

It was recommended that the new law would not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment. This allowed specialists to make decisions on prescribing cannabis-based products for medicinal administration in a case-by-case basis, where patients are deemed to have special clinical needs that have not been met by traditional licensed medical products.

This meant that doctors no longer needed to seek approval from expert panels in order to give their patients access to cannabis-based medicines. A major barrier had been removed, and the UK is a better, healthier place for it.

The UK government review and what it found

A full government review of the legal status of medical cannabis took place in 2018 and was conducted in two parts.

Part one was overseen by the then Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who reviewed the existing evidence for the administration of cannabis-based medicinal products. She concluded that there was sufficient evidence of the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis products for a range of medical conditions to be able to recommend that the class of medical cannabis be moved out of ‘Schedule 1’, a classification that prevented it from having legal status. Part two of the review was conducted by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) who went on to agree that cannabis-derived medicinal products that reached a required medical standard should no longer be subject to Schedule 1 requirements and could be re-classified and moved into Schedule 2, opening the way for easier and wider access to medical cannabis prescriptions and officially changing the legal status of cannabis in the UK.

What conditions can medical cannabis be prescribed for?

Medical cannabis is being recognised increasingly as a suitable complementary treatment option for a wide range of health conditions. These applications range from Neurological, Psychiatric and Gastroenterological conditions, to sleep disorders and pain management.

Here are a few examples of conditions that patients report can be improved or eased with the help of medical cannabis.

Adults and children suffering from rare and severe forms of epilepsy have reported good outcomes after being prescribed medical cannabis, as have patients struggling with secondary health issues caused by chemotherapy, such as vomiting and nausea. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is another condition with a well-established history of patients who report notable potential benefits and easing of symptoms as a result of medical cannabis administration.

So, is recreational cannabis also now legal in the UK?

No. Cannabis is currently only legal for medical application in the UK. Meanwhile, recreational cannabis is still a controlled substance, subject to the law under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This Act makes it illegal for people to possess, supply, produce or import/export controlled drugs, including recreational cannabis.

How do I prove I am legally allowed to take medical cannabis?

To benefit from the legal prescription of medical cannabis in the UK, you only need a prescription from a registered doctor who is qualified to prescribe medicinal cannabis. But holding a UK medical cannabis card can help you prove the legality of your medicine should you ever need to.

Here at Releaf, we offer patients registered cannabis cards that are linked to the actual prescription. These cannabis cards exist in both digital and physical form and contains a QR unique for each patient, which holds all the medical information relevant to their cannabis prescription. We are currently the only private medicinal cannabis provider to offer this type of card. Other companies do offer cards, but they do not come with the legal safety net provided by the Releaf medical cannabis card.

Eligibility is assessed by a qualified medical specialist using your NHS Summary Care Record as reference. This is obtained automatically, with your consent, using the login to your NHS account. Once your eligibility has been confirmed, you can be invited to schedule an online video appointment with a specialist doctor to discuss your medical situation and to outline a plan to arrange treatment.

Should the prescriber deem medical cannabis a suitable treatment for your condition, you may be offered a selection of appropriate products tailored to your specific needs.

A digital version of your medical cannabis card will become available upon completion of the purchase of your recommended medication. Subsequently, a welcome pack and physical medical cannabis card will be dispatched to the patient by delivery. Finally, the prescriber will hand your prescription to a designated pharmacy, who will discreetly dispense and ship your medical cannabis to your chosen address.

The physical version of the UK cannabis card is designed to be carried with you at all times, so that you are able to prove you are legally entitled to carry your medical cannabis product if questioned by the authorities. The information stored in the card enables the police to quickly validate your ability to legally carry cannabis. The details of your medical cannabis prescription are secured via a passcode, known only to you, much in the same way as a PIN number. This means you can ensure that access to your medical cannabis prescription remains secure and private.

The medical cannabis card is a powerful and important tool for all patients who can legally benefit from medical cannabis, as it provides peace of mind in case they are ever questioned over their possession or administration of their allocated cannabis product.

Peace of mind awaits

The reclassification of medical cannabis to having legal status has opened up a new and exciting new era for people who are managing difficult and uncomfortable medical conditions. Such individuals can now benefit from a progressive and potentially effective form of treatment that’s only becoming increasingly popular and understood as research continues to reveal the true potential of its many properties. Furthermore, they can do so, safe in the knowledge that they are not breaking the law – and that can only be a good thing.

Releaf understands that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of medical cannabis and its legal status, get in touch with us today and we will be only too happy to help.

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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