Medical Marijuana Laws in the United Kingdom

Updated on October 22, 2018.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

After more than 90 years of cannabis prohibition, the UK is finally in the process of establishing an official medical marijuana program with the impending legalization of medical cannabis. In October 2018, it was announced the doctors would be able to legally prescribe medical cannabis to patients, though the details have not been outlined by legislators.

Do Authorized Patients Have Access to Medical Marijuana?

While UK legislators have experienced a great push from the public to legalize medical marijuana, they have yet to construct any bills or laws that currently give patients safe and lawful access to cannabis medications.

Currently, patients with a medical condition have the option of purchasing cannabis oils with a less than 0.05 percent THC concentrate at a pharmacy. Sativex, a spray mixture of THC and CBD, is also legal when approved. However, higher concentration formulas and others forms of marijuana are banned.

To ensure the safety and effectiveness of substance, UK legislators are in the process of crafting an official medical marijuana program that will grant eligible patients lawful access to lab-tested and potent cannabis varieties.

Will the UK Have an Official Medical Marijuana Program?

As a region in Europe, it’s likely that the UK will follow the trajectory of its various other European-area counterparts that have recently imposed medical marijuana laws and regulations. This means the UK is likely to offer one of two paths for potential patients:

  1. Patients will have to schedule an appointment with an authorized medical professional, who will be responsible for diagnosing their condition. If they possess a qualifying ailment, they’ll have the option of accessing their cannabis medications from pharmacy through a prescription.
  2. Qualifying patient will have to register with a state program that will determine whether their condition would make them the ideal candidate for a medical marijuana treatment program. If approved, they may have to maintain regular contact with their physician and access their cannabis at a state-authorized facility.

Criminalization for Recreational or Medical Marijuana Use in the UK

Under current UK laws, any individual found possessing or using cannabis can receive a fine or other legal penalty. Since marijuana is still considered an illegal drug, individuals caught with this substance put themselves at risk of experiencing legal repercussions. Your punishment will vary depending on your previous history with the drug, the amount found on your person, and various other factors.

Although UK lawmakers plan to establish a legal framework for the nation’s medical marijuana program this upcoming fall, individuals using cannabis can still get in trouble for using this substance — even for medicinal purposes.

Will There Be Legal Limits to the UK’s Medical Marijuana Program?

It’s very likely that the UK’s medical marijuana program will impose limitations of cannabis possession and use. Because the country has shown no indication of backing recreational cannabis laws anytime in the near future, patients will be entirely at the mercy of the UK’s medical marijuana laws when striving to access their necessary cannabis medications.

Other potential limitations include those imposed on patients, such as:

  • Marijuana prices and taxes
  • Potential strict or limited patient eligibility
  • Age limitations, which would restrict younger patients

In a region where recreational marijuana is prohibited, patients must comply with the state’s medical cannabis program if they wish to obtain their medicine.

Will There Be Legal Protection for Patients and Doctors?

Even patients with a medical condition caught using cannabis can suffer legal repercussions — an act for which the nation has received considerable backlash in recent years.

As the nation works to establish medical marijuana laws that grant certain users legal access to cannabis, it takes a step forward in fostering safer and more extensive medical options. Currently, patients seeking marijuana to alleviate their conditions may resort to purchasing this substance from unauthorized individuals — an act that puts them at risk of receiving fines or even prison sentences.

Medical marijuana legalization would provide significantly more legal protection for patients and those who prescribe this medication, too.

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The United Kingdom is still in the process of developing its medical marijuana program. Because the laws surrounding cannabis use may seem tricky or uncertain, it’s vital to stay informed about the latest progress in the country. Follow our blog to learn more about ever-evolving cannabis laws in the UK and beyond.

Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in the UK