Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

CANNABIS is legal in the UK — but only if you’ve had it prescribed for medicinal purposes.

Here’s what we know about medical marijuana and who is eligible for it.


What is medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis is a broad term for using any form of the drug to relieve symptoms of an illness or condition.

The plant has been linked to treating a variety of conditions, from relieving nausea caused by certain treatments to easing chronic pain.

One of the chemicals in cannabis, CBD, has been shown to improve a range of symptoms.

But the risks of taking THC, the psychoactive part of the drug, are not yet clear and it has been linked to increasing your risk of addiction and psychosis. 

Not all medical uses of cannabis are legal, and only a few forms of the drug are allowed to be taken on prescription.

Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

Medical cannabis is only legal if you have an NHS prescription.

A law introduced in 2018 made it possible to possess and take it if you have had clearance from a specialist doctor.

However, possessing the Class B drug without a prescription, even if only for medicinal use, is a crime.

It can be punished by up to five years in prison.

Some CBD products can be bought online without a prescription, but it is likely many will be illegal to possess or supply them.

There is no guarantee oils and gummies sold at health stores are of good quality, and many have only very small amounts of CBD so are unlikely to have much medicinal value.

How to get a medical cannabis card 

Medical cannabis prescriptions on the NHS are only available to very few people in England.

They are currently limited to people with three rare conditions and only a handful have got a script.

These include children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy who can have Epidyolex, a highly purified liquid containing CBD.

Nabilone, a capsule designed to have similar effects to THC, can also be prescribed to adults with cancer on chemotherapy experiencing extreme nausea.

Adults with multiple sclerosis can also apply for a prescription to Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine that is sprayed into the mouth.

All the products can only be prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor, not your GP.

Prescriptions will only be given out if they are deemed to be likely to help and other treatments have not been effective.

Can I fly with a medical cannabis card?

Travelling abroad with a cannabis prescription varies greatly depending on the country you are going to.

Some countries may have restrictions on travelling with controlled drugs and it is essential you contact an embassy to check what the rules are before flying.

Many countries make no distinction between medicinal and recreational cannabis and have harsh penalties for possession.

It is recommended you check if you need written proof of prescription from your doctor.

You should always keep a copy of your prescription, a letter from your doctor that prescribed it and the dispensing label from your pharmacist when you pick it up.

ID may need to be given to prove you match the details on the dispensing label and the prescription.

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