Navigating the Legality: Your Guide to Obtaining Medical Cannabis in the UK
by Rowan Bailey
Medical Cannabis UK
Image Source: Unsplash
The points made in this article are personal opinion, and not that of any medical cannabis clinic/ pharmacy. My views expressed here are my own. Furthermore always check the latest updates around the law as they could change/ develop.
Medical cannabis has gained significant attention in the UK in recent years due to its potential therapeutic benefits seen elsewhere for a wide range of medical conditions. In the United Kingdom, the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been a topic of much debate, although even prior to medical legalisation, many would argue any debate against it was founded on outdated beliefs, and not peer reviewed scientific study. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to obtain medical cannabis in the UK if you're eligible, covering the legalisation, typical eligibility criteria, the process of obtaining it, private options, associated costs, medical cannabis clinics and practitioners, tips to find the cheapest options, and patient experiences.
Legalisation of Medical Cannabis in the UK
The legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK took place in November 2018, although many are still unaware of that fact now. Prior to this change, cannabis was simply a schedule drug with no exemption, which meant it had no recognised medical value. However, the new law allowed specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis if they believed it would be beneficial for their patients if they met a set of eligibility criteria. This marked a significant milestone in the acceptance and recognition of the therapeutic potential of cannabis in the UK.
Although it has been almost five years since this change, the processes, products, supply chains and public awareness still has a long way to go. Personally, I have been a patient for over two years and it has made a significant change to my life for a number of reasons, but that isn't to say that there aren't issues, restrictions, and still even to this day unlawful confiscation from misinformed police officers. I hope to help raise awareness of the ins and outs of medical cannabis here in the UK from my unique perspective as a patient, and someone who works in a position that provides insight for the complex compliance regulations, behind the scenes processes and insider scoop from my network of contacts throughout this industry. Please keep in mind that this is all my own personal opinion, experiences, and shared feedback from my customers who happen to use our CBD products alongside their medical cannabis prescription. I always aim to be balanced, and unbiased, however, as with everything check your sources and fact check me. Furthermore, the landscape of medical cannabis is ever changing, so although i'll do my best to keep on top of updating this, laws may change that make this outdated. Always check yourself, and if in doubt contact a clinic for the latest insight, they will be more than happy to discuss the law with you over the phone or email.
Let's jump in!
Eligibility Criteria for Medical Cannabis in the UK
To be eligible for medical cannabis in the UK, patients must firstly have one of the preexisting conditions. List of such conditions can be found HERE, though it is important to know this list may get updated, and simply having a condition on the list isn't a guarantee of acceptance. The first criterion is that the patient must have a condition that is listed as one of the qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Some of the qualifying conditions include epilepsy, anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
The second criterion is that the patient must have a medical condition that has failed to respond to conventional treatments. This means that other treatment options have been exhausted or have been deemed ineffective. Typically speaking the Dr will be looking to see at least 2 separate treatments that have been previously tried. It is important to note that the decision to prescribe medical cannabis ultimately lies with the medical board, who will assess the patient's medical history and individual circumstances along with the doctors recommendation. Find out more about how to find out if you could be eligible HERE.
The Process of Obtaining Medical Cannabis in the UK
Obtaining medical cannabis in the UK involves several steps. The first step is to fill out an application form with a clinic such as this one HERE. It's important to be open and honest, including about any previous cannabis use. Filling out this form is free, and it is used for the clinic to asses whether it's worth pursuing a consultation by looking at whether you seem to fit the criteria. If they believe that you do, then they'll offer you the chance to book a consultation with a Dr (Typically £50-£150 non refundable). This is no way guarantees acceptance. If you approve and proceed, they will then go ahead and request your medical history from your GP to confirm your details (Pro tip, if you source this yourself ahead of time it can save A LOT of time during the application process by supplying it directly to the clinic).
Once your summary of care has been received and looked over you'll hace a consult with a specialist doctor who has the authority to prescribe medical cannabis. During the consultation, the doctor will assess your medical history, current condition, and previous treatment outcomes to determine if medical cannabis is a suitable option. If the doctor believes that medical cannabis would be beneficial, they will make a recommendation for a prescription, which can then be filled at a pharmacy if you are approved by the medical board. Typically speaking the board meets weekly, meaning that your outcome should take no longer than a week from your consultation. At this point, the recommended prescription will be sent to the pharmacy, who will then contact you typically within a week with a payment link and order form for your delivery.
Private Medical Cannabis Options in the UK
While medical cannabis is available through the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, the availability and access to NHS prescriptions are extremely limited. As a result, many patients turn to private medical cannabis options. Private clinics specialising in medical cannabis treatment have emerged to meet this demand. These private options offer a more streamlined process, allowing patients to consult with specialist doctors more efficiently than a typical GP appointment system. However, it is important to note that private medical cannabis options can be costly, and not all patients may be able to afford them.
Costs Associated with Medical Cannabis in the UK
The cost of medical cannabis in the UK can vary depending on various factors. Firstly, the cost of the consultation with a specialist doctor must be taken into account. Private consultations can range from £50 to £200, depending on the clinic. In addition to the consultation fee, there is also the cost of the medical cannabis itself. Medical cannabis is not currently covered by the NHS, so patients must pay for it out of pocket. The cost of medical cannabis can vary depending on the type, dosage, and duration of treatment. On average, patients can expect to pay anywhere from £100 to £500 per month for their medical cannabis depending on specific products and quantities being prescribed. Personally, my average monthly cost is £160 for chronic pain, however I know many who have higher tolerances using twice as much as me at around £320 per month. From most people I speak to, under £200 for prescription per month is typical, with a once quarterly consultation fee of £50 - £100 (This consultation fee is initially once a month).
Medical Cannabis Clinics and Practitioners in the UK
There are several medical cannabis clinics and practitioners in the UK that specialize in providing medical cannabis treatment. These clinics offer a range of services, including consultations with specialist doctors, ongoing monitoring and support, and access to high-quality medical cannabis products. Some well-known medical cannabis clinics in the UK include The Medical Cannabis Clinics, Sapphire Medical Clinics, London Cannabis Clinic, Mamedica and Integro. Although it is an emerging industry with many more opening their doors as I write this. It is important to do thorough research and choose a reputable clinic that has experienced doctors and a good track record in providing medical cannabis treatment.
How to Find the Cheapest Medical Cannabis Options in the UK
For patients who are concerned about the cost of medical cannabis, there are ways to find cheaper options. One option is to explore compassionate access programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. These programs aim to provide affordable access to medical cannabis for patients who meet certain criteria. Another option is to consider joining patient support groups or online communities where individuals share their experiences and tips on finding affordable medical cannabis. Additionally, some private clinics may offer discounted rates or payment plans for patients who have financial difficulties. It is important to discuss these options with the specialist doctor during the consultation. I hate to plug ourselves in here as it's supposed to be educational, but if you are looking to source the CBD part of your medical cannabis treatment outside of the clinic to save costs, we offer an additional discount for medical cannabis patients on all of our products. As a patient myself, I appreciate the costs involved can be hard to handle at times, so every little helps. To get your own unique discount code that won't expire drop us an email and we'll hook you up.
Patient Experiences with Medical Cannabis in the UK
Patient experiences with medical cannabis in the UK have been largely positive. Many patients have reported improvements in their symptoms and overall quality of life after starting medical cannabis treatment. For example, patients with chronic pain have reported reduced pain levels and improved mobility, while patients with epilepsy have experienced a reduction in the frequency and severity of seizures. However, it is important to note that medical cannabis may not work for everyone, and individual results may vary. It is crucial for patients to maintain open and honest communication with their specialist doctor throughout the treatment process to ensure the best possible outcome.
Another important tip is tread lightly online when researching clinics/ strains. When it comes to your health, nothing is more important, and as such many people get passionate when things aren't ideal. I'll be the first one to tell you that the quality of some medical cannabis is sub par in terms of terpene preservation, flower selection and storage. However, forums can be a concentrated echo chamber, that in experience can put off newcomers from trying clinics/ strains due to kneejerk reactions, and often somewhat conspiratorial accusations about clinics and pharmacies without really understanding how the industry works with regulations/ restrictions and supply chain issues imposed upon it. Tread lightly, and look for balanced opinion on strains. I have seen plenty of reviews that slam strains I have found incredibly effective, and if I didn't know better, i'd have never tried them. So ask around, and talk to your Doctor about their other patients experiences with your condition and the strain provided for some more insight.
Constructive feedback in an effort to work with pharmacies and clinics to build a better quality future is essential!
Conclusion: The Future of Medical Cannabis in the UK
The legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK has opened up new possibilities for patients seeking alternative treatment options. While there are still abundant challenges and limitations associated with obtaining medical cannabis, the future looks promising.
As more research is conducted and the medical community gains a better understanding of the therapeutic potential of cannabis, it is likely that access to medical cannabis will become more widespread and affordable. Furthermore public perception and even police interaction will change greatly as more and more people become aware as we unpack decades of disinformation.
In the meantime, patients who are considering medical cannabis treatment should consult with a specialist doctor to explore their options and make an informed decision. If you want to find out more about medical cannabis in the UK and how to apply click HERE.
Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment or medication.