Legal Medical Cannabis in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide
von Rowan Bailey
Legal Medical Cannabis in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide
Photo by gjbmiller on Pixabay
Note: This article serves as an unofficial guide to legal medical cannabis in the UK. It aims to provide readers with valuable insights and information about the topic, however this is a developing industry and specific laws and compliance standards may develop and change over time. So please consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice and the latest information with regards to the law to ensure full legal compliance. We do not condone or promote the illegal use of cannabis.
Legal medical cannabis has emerged as a promising option for individuals seeking alternative treatments for various conditions. In 2018, the UK legalised medical cannabis under specific circumstances that can be verified by clinicians. This groundbreaking change has opened doors for patients who have not found relief through 'traditional' treatments and want to try an alternative that may be better suited to their needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the key aspects of legal medical cannabis in the UK, including its definition, efficacy, legality, concerns, quality, how to apply to see if you are eligible and more.
Understanding Medical Cannabis
What is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis for medical purposes. It is only available to address specific conditions that have not responded to other treatments in the UK. So a patient must meet this criteria, undergo a consultation and have this put to a medical board for approval to access it here in the UK. In the UK, medical cannabis is most commonly prescribed in the form of oils or flowers, and prescriptions can only be obtained through a licensed pharmacy. The THC/ CBD Oils are to be taken sublingually and have recently been accompanied by the addition of 'gummies' or 'pastilles' for easier dosing. The Cannabis flower that is prescribed is to be used via a Dry Herb Vaporiser in measured dosages typically around 0.2g+. This flower is typically prescribed in multiples of 5G or 10G pots depending on the patients needs, and often multiple strains will be provided for day vs night for example. You can see some examples of the types of strains that are prescribed by jumping into some of our strain reviews HERE.
How Does Medical Cannabis Work?
Medical cannabis strains are typically prescribed based on their terpene profile and the ratios of two key compounds found within: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with cannabis use, while CBD is non-psychoactive compound that can help balance some of the effects that THC provides. The balance between these two compounds can play an important role in the resulting effects and as such are prescribed for different reasons and tolerances. These compounds interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating various functions such as pain, mood, appetite and more.
Medical Cannabis Efficacy
What Conditions Can Medical Cannabis Help?
Medical cannabis has shown potential in alleviating symptoms associated with various conditions, with ongoing studies being carried out in the UK and abroad for definitive results. Some of the more common symptoms that it can be prescribed for include but not limited to:
Intractable nausea and vomiting
Severe treatment-resistant epilepsy
- ADHD/ ASD
Is Medical Cannabis Truly Effective?
The effectiveness of medical cannabis varies from person to person and depends on several factors such as the condition being treated, strains used, device setup and individual response. While some individuals report significant improvements in their symptoms with medical cannabis, others may not experience the same level of relief. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to assess if medical cannabis is suitable for your specific needs. If you want to find out more about eligibility criteria, where to start and other frequently asked questions we have some more information HERE.
What Evidence is There for Medical Cannabis in the UK?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidance and technology appraisals on the use of medical cannabis for specific conditions. These recommendations are based on rigorous research and clinical evidence. However, it is important to note that the evidence base for medical cannabis is still evolving, and further research is needed to fully understand its efficacy and safety. There are many ongoing studies about medical cannabis here in the UK, as well as prior studies carried out internationally.
How Long Does Medical Cannabis Take to Take Effect?
The onset and duration of effects vary depending on the method of administration. When using oils, the effects may be felt within 30 minutes to an hour and can last for several hours. In contrast, inhalation methods, such as vaporisation via a Dry Herb Vaporiser, provide more immediate relief but with a shorter duration of action. Your Dr will tailor your dosage and administration methods to your needs and can help guide you through a slow process to build things up safely if you are unsure.
Who Can Legally Provide Medical Cannabis in the UK?
Medical cannabis can only be prescribed by a doctor listed on the 'Specialist Register' of the General Medical Council. These specialists have undergone specific training and have the necessary expertise to evaluate and prescribe medical cannabis. Even then, the decision to initially approve you comes down to a medical board approval. Only after then can the Dr proceed to prescribe you this medication.
Is Medical Cannabis Legal in the UK?
Yes, medical cannabis is legal in the UK under certain circumstances. It can only be prescribed for specific conditions that have not responded to other treatments. However, it is important to note that recreational cannabis remains illegal in the UK. Furthermore the method of administration is important as legal Medical Cannabis is prescribed to be used in a dry herb vaporiser such as THESE.
What are the Laws Around Driving and Using Medical Cannabis?
It is illegal to drive under the influence of any impairing substances, including medical cannabis. The presence of THC in your system can impair driving ability and may result in legal consequences. It is crucial to understand the potential effects of medical cannabis and refrain from driving if impaired. The critical importance here is about being impaired. There are plenty of prescription medications such as anti anxiety or pain medications which can impair you when first prescribed and you adjust your dosage/ build a tolerance. This is the same with medically prescribed cannabis. If you are not impaired in anyway by your dosage and you are safe to drive then you can proceed. However, we do not in anyway condone taking risks with this as it simply is not worth risking your life or the lives of others by being impaired in any way when operating heavy machinery.
What is the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Cannabis?
The key difference between medical and recreational cannabis lies in their purpose and legality. Medical cannabis is prescribed by healthcare professionals to alleviate specific medical conditions, while recreational cannabis is used for non-medical purposes. Recreational cannabis remains illegal in the UK though it is important to distinguish the fact that illegal cannabis use can also be for medical reasons, just those choosing to source their cannabis elsewhere for medical purposes. Though we do not condone breaking the law in anyway with regards to this, it is an important distinction to make that not everyone can afford the private options for legal medical cannabis so have to rely on other sources whilst still using it for medical purposes.
Common Concerns and Considerations
Can I Take Medical Cannabis With Other Pain Medication?
Before incorporating medical cannabis into your treatment regimen, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on potential interactions between medical cannabis and other pain medications to ensure your safety and optimise treatment outcomes. This is part of what you are paying your Dr for in your consultations. They will make sure you have a safe regime taking into consideration all of your medications and needs.
Will Medical Cannabis Make Me Feel 'High'?
The psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis use are primarily attributed to THC. Medical cannabis products prescribed in the UK does contain high levels of THC. At the time of writing this I believe the stronger strains sit around 29%, though you can also access low THC high CBD strains through pharmacies. So with these strains the right dose will certainly get you 'high' alongside the primary relief. With use a tolerance to that 'high' will balance this, and with the right strain and dosage routine it's possible to manage your symptoms whilst still being productive without a strong 'high' impairing you. Everyone is different and tolerances vary greatly. So it's important when trying a new strain/ prescription to take it slow and see how strong it is. Remember high THC doesn't always correlate to high strong you'll feel it. I have been caught off guard with low THC strains a couple of times!
Are There Any Potential Side Effects of Medical Cannabis?
Like any medication, medical cannabis may have potential side effects. Common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, and changes in appetite. However, it is important to note that not everyone experiences these side effects, and they are often mild and well-tolerated. If you experience any of these, they can be managed with adjusted dosage, dry herb vape temperature/ setup as well as by trying alternative strains.
Can I Continue to Take Illicit/Street/Home-Grown Cannabis Alongside Medical Cannabis Prescribed?
It is not recommended to combine illicit or street cannabis with medical cannabis prescribed by a healthcare professional. Medical cannabis prescribed by a specialist provides a regulated and consistent dose, ensuring optimal safety and efficacy. It is important to follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and disclose any other cannabis use. You won't be reported for illicit use, but it will help them adjust your dosage to match your tolerance etc.
Can I Take My UK Medical Cannabis Abroad?
The legality of medical cannabis varies from country to country. It is crucial to research and understand the laws and regulations of your destination before traveling with medical cannabis. Some countries may have strict regulations or even prohibit its possession or use. In those where you can, it usually requires a Dr's letter, as well as contacting the embassy in the relevant country. Keeping records of your prescription, appointment letters and your prescription in its original packaging will all typically be required for travel.
Having flown with my prescription I wasn't even stopped to check when putting my vape and medical cannabis tubs in the xray tray.
Will Medical Cannabis Affect Memory and Cognitive Function?
The impact of medical cannabis on memory and cognitive function is still being studied. While some individuals may experience short-term memory impairment or changes in cognitive function, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects. It is important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and make a note of any strains or doses that you feel may be causing this more.
Can Medical Cannabis be Addictive?
Medical cannabis has a low risk of addiction when used as prescribed and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. However, individuals with a history of substance abuse or addiction should exercise caution and discuss their medical history with their healthcare provider.
Exploring Different Forms of Medical Cannabis
What are the Different Forms of Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis is available in various forms, including oils, capsules, sprays, and dried flowers. Each form has its own unique characteristics and methods of administration. It is important to discuss with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable form for your specific needs.
Which Vaporiser Will I Need for My Medical Cannabis?
Vaporizers are commonly used for inhaling medical cannabis. There are various types of vaporisers available, including portable and desktop models. It is recommended to consult with a knowledgeable professional to select a vaporiser that suits your preferences and needs. We have broken down some of our top picks and explained some of the complex ins and outs of different setups. If you'd like to check it out you can read our Dry Herb Vaporiser Guide HERE.
Cost and Accessibility
How Much Does UK Medical Cannabis Cost?
The cost of UK medical cannabis can vary depending on factors such as the type of product, dosage, and frequency of use. It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider and consider your budget when discussing medical cannabis as a treatment option. Most appointments cost between £50-£100 each, and monthly prescriptions can vary from as little as £55 up to £500 depending on your specific needs and tolerances.
Does Health Insurance Cover Medical Cannabis?
Health insurance coverage for medical cannabis varies depending on the insurance provider and policy. It is important to verify coverage details with your insurance company to understand the extent of coverage, if any, for medical cannabis treatments before applying if cost is an issue. Although there are cost support options, there's no getting away from the fact that this is still an expensive private healthcare option as it currently stands.
What is Project Twenty21 and Am I Eligible?
Project Twenty21 is a research initiative aimed at gathering real-world evidence on the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis. It offers subsidised medical cannabis prescriptions for patients with certain conditions. Eligibility criteria and enrolment details can be obtained through Project Twenty21's official website.
Legal medical cannabis in the UK has opened new doors for patients seeking alternative treatments for various conditions. While the field is still evolving, medical cannabis holds promise as a potential option for those who have not found relief through traditional treatments. If you are considering medical cannabis, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional who specialises in medical cannabis to assess its suitability for your specific needs. Remember, personalised guidance and support are crucial in navigating the world of legal medical cannabis in the UK.
If you would like to find out more about how to apply and other FAQs, click HERE.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice regarding your specific medical condition and treatment options.