Key Points

  • Medical Cannabis is legal in the UK, but there is strict control of prescriptions.
  • Cannabis is still a Class B drug in the UK, and therefore recreational use is illegal.
  • Scientific research has suggested that Cannabis can be used to help people suffering from pain and nausea.
  • The legalisation of Cannabis will help support the economy.

Medical Cannabis was legalised back in 2018, meaning in recent years, accessibility has increased both through Private dispensaries and doctors within the NHS. Patients across the UK now have access to medical Cannabis like never before, yet under current UK legislation, recreational usage of Cannabis is illegal and classed as a Class B substance. 

So why is medical Cannabis legal in the UK? And will Cannabis be fully legalised in the UK? In this blog, we’ll look at the pros and cons of Cannabis legalisation in the UK. 

What is the difference between medicinal Cannabis and illicit Cannabis? 

The Cannabis plant contains over 100 cannabinoids. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for creating the psychoactive effects of consuming Cannabis. Medicinal Cannabis usually contains a lower dosage of THC than Cannabis you can buy on the illicit market, making it safe for medicinal use. Additionally, trained practitioners will look at a patient’s condition and health history to prescribe medical Cannabis that has the right levels of THC and CBD tailored to each individual and their specific needs.

It’s also important to remember that there are some major differences in the quality and safety of Cannabis for medical and recreational use. Medical Cannabis is pure and doesn’t contain any harmful substances or chemicals. Thus, it is safe to use.

CBD is another form of cannabinoid which is more widely known – you might have seen it in supplements, food, drinks, and skincare products. CBD is different from medical Cannabis. The latter is considered to be a food product and can be purchased online or at your local health food store, whereas Medical Cannabis contains a combination of CBD and THC and is only obtained via prescription.

As part of Cannabis legalisation in the UK, only specialist doctors can prescribe medical Cannabis for people suffering from certain health conditions after they meet specific criteria. 

Benefits of Cannabis legalisation in the UK

There are several strong arguments in the case for legalising Cannabis in the UK. Let’s take a look at the many benefits of legalising medical Cannabis. 

Cannabis helps with chronic pain

For people suffering from chronic pain, Cannabis is known to help reduce the symptoms, as it is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Equally, it can also help with pain caused by nerve damage. For many of our patients, medical Cannabis has helped to manage pain and thus provide a higher quality of life.

A review of 28 clinical trials carried out by Dr Kevin Hill in 2015 found that there is strong scientific evidence that Cannabis can reduce pain in patients with MS and nerve damage. 

Cannabis reduces sickness

For people suffering from side effects of chemotherapy or HIV, AIDS and anxiety, nausea can be debilitating. The active ingredient in Cannabis – THC, has been shown to help reduce sickness in people with HIV by up to 22%. A 2015 study by M. Badaowski and S Pere also showed that Cannabis could increase appetite by 38%. Thus, we can conclude that this medication helps to reduce weight loss and improve the quality of life for people with HIV and other illnesses that cause nausea.

Medical Cannabis is a safer option

Cannabis is often a safer option than other treatments for pain, for many, Cannabis provides a natural alternative to the highly-addictive opioids initially prescribed. Patients can safely use Cannabis for long-term pain management as long as they are ingesting oil rather than smoking the drug. 

Medical cannabis helps reduce epilepsy

Cannabis is known to reduce epileptic fits and thus can improve the quality of life for people living with epilepsy. At the moment, you can access medical Cannabis for two types of epilepsy, and there are clinical trials underway to assess whether it can be used to help with the third type of epilepsy. 

Legalisation of Cannabis increases access to the medication

The legalisation of Cannabis in the UK will inevitably increase access to the medicine for people suffering from chronic pain and other ailments such as epilepsy. As only specialist doctors can prescribe medicinal Cannabis at the moment, this can create a barrier for those who need help to access it.

Legalisation of Cannabis means a stronger economy

Legalisation of Cannabis in the UK is expected to shift around £2.5 billion into the economy and away from criminal gangs. A survey by the Evening Standard found that 72% of people in the UK are supportive of this move. 

Legalisation of recreational Cannabis usage means better control

If Cannabis was legalised recreationally in the UK, it would mean that medical professionals would be able to regulate the strength of Cannabis, reducing some of the negative side effects of this substance. In the same Evening Standard survey, 68% of people were supportive of this. Equally, the legalisation of Cannabis would help to destigmatise a wrongly labelled plant medicine as a drug, decreasing fear.

Dangers of legalising Cannabis in the UK

While there are many convincing arguments for the legalisation of Cannabis in the UK, there are some cons to legalising this drug as well. Some of these dangers can have a lasting impact on the quality of life, and others present issues for the public. 

The long-term effects of Cannabis use are unknown

Whilst Cannabis is grown all over the world and has been used as a medicine since the beginning of man, it remains widely illegal around the world. Thus, there are limited studies on the long-term impact of regular Cannabis use. This makes it difficult for the UK government to gather the full facts they need to make a safe judgement about the further legalisation of Cannabis use. There is a need to do more studies into the effects of  Cannabis long term to understand all risks. At the moment, there is simply not enough information to do this. 

Cannabis can increase anxiety and paranoia

Cannabis is known to increase anxiety and paranoia in some users, and there is a high level of risk for people with conditions like schizophrenia. This is one of the reasons why only specialists can prescribe the drug for medicinal use. 

There is an increased risk of accidents

The consumption of Cannabis is known to increase the risk of accidents. A 2021 study by Preus et al. found that people are more at risk of having a car crash if they drive within two hours of using Cannabis. This is dependent on the levels of THC in the dose, and, of course, the risk increases if alcohol is also present in the driver’s system. 

However, there are many prescription drugs that come with a recommendation for the user not to operate heavy machinery. So it shouldn’t be a significant problem to have the same recommendations for medicinal Cannabis. 

Conclusion

There is a strong argument for the full legalisation of Cannabis in the UK to enable an increase in accessibility for medical users. While some questions around recreational Cannabis remain, the issue seems to be more about erroneous perceptions of the medication than any severe side effects a patient may experience. Moreover, there is significant support in the UK for legalising Cannabis and a wealth of medical evidence that shows that this remedy improves the lives of those suffering from painful conditions. 

As more data becomes available, the current legal status may change, but this will need the support of medical professionals, the public and politicians. Until then, people meeting certain criteria can continue to access medical Cannabis from their specialist providers. If you’re interested in getting a prescription for medical Cannabis in the UK, schedule a remote consultation with one of the experts at the Medical Cannabis Clinics now.  

FAQs

Why legalise medical Cannabis?

Having better controls around the levels of THC in Cannabis will help more people access Cannabis for their medical needs. It will also help them safely purchase the drug. At the moment, there are uncontrolled Cannabis products that are sold illegally and without support from medical professionals in the UK. This can increase some of those negative side effects we mention above. Plus, when buying Cannabis off the illicit market, you cannot know the levels of THC in the product. Carefully balancing the benefits of controlled Cannabis use through specialist doctors can help more people safely access help for their symptoms.

Will Cannabis be legal in the UK?

It is unclear if Cannabis will ever be legal in the UK. There are plenty of compelling arguments for legalising Cannabis, but these need to be weighed up by the risk. As more American states start to allow legal medicinal Cannabis use, more data will inevitably become available for the UK to continue balancing the risks and benefits of legalising the substance.

References

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2338266
  2. https://www.dovepress.com/clinical-utility-of-dronabinol-in-the-treatment-of-weight-loss-associa-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-HIV
  3. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/treatment/cannabis-based-treatments
  4. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/will-cannabis-be-legal-decriminalised-us-laws-sadiq-khan-b998931.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931635/
  6. https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2014-07-16-how-cannabis-causes-paranoia
  7. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.643315/full