In this article, we will cover how to get a prescription for medical cannabis, how it works, how to find a clinic, what to expect, and things you should be aware of but might not learn during the appointment process.
Getting a legal medical cannabis prescription in the UK is now possible and becoming easier every year. At the end of 2023, there are likely to be 34,000 patients receiving prescriptions for high-THC medical cannabis. You could be one of them! Read on to find out more.
Those just finding out about this now might be surprised that this is possible. But it is! Needing a medical cannabis prescription but not having one can lead to a lot of anxiety that is now avoidable. A fear of being arrested and prosecuted for using your medicine is justifiable, and thankfully, there is now a path to safety.
Having a legal medical cannabis prescription can stop you from getting a criminal record or losing your job, so if you have a genuine need for one, we advise taking the steps needed to get one. Not having to look over your shoulder makes a lot of difference to your mental health. Whilst we think cannabis should be legal and available to everyone, that shouldn’t stop you from accessing what is now your legal right.
When did the law change to allow medical cannabis?
The law changed to allow medical cannabis on prescription on the 1st of November 2018. After years of campaigning, patients’ dreams were finally realised. The protesting in towns and cities across the UK, the press interviews and the TV shows helped put pressure on the government to reschedule medical cannabis. Sadly, it is not the medical cannabis policy most patients were hoping for. There was a great desire for patients to have the right to grow their own, but this seemed like a step too far for lawmakers and has since been rejected despite petitions calling for it to be added.
Children with epilepsy and seizure disorders were cast into the limelight to show the reality of the most severe cases and patients in need of medical cannabis treatment options. Even though these children became the faces of the law change, many remain unable to access a prescription due to a lack of cannabis-friendly child neurologists and the prohibitive cost of the oils.
How is medical cannabis prescribed in the UK?
Medical cannabis is only available on prescription through private clinics. That means you can’t get a medical cannabis prescription from your NHS GP. GPs remain unable to prescribe medical cannabis, even privately. Only specialist consultant doctors registered with the General Medical Council can prescribe cannabis-based products for medicine in humans. (CBPM).
Your doctor will talk through your medical history and symptom control and ask a series of questions to learn about your cannabis history and what has worked for you in the past. This will help them come to a decision on whether they think a cannabis prescription is suitable for you.
You’ll be offered a selection of products known to help with your condition, and you’ll be able to choose which of them you’d like to try.
It is important to know that only the products that you are prescribed are legal. Having a medical cannabis prescription in the UK does not entitle you to carry any cannabis from any source. A prescription is not an exemption from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; it is a license to carry that specific cannabis product for 28 days.
What conditions qualify for a legal cannabis prescription in the UK?
Medical cannabis is available to patients with a wide range of medical diagnoses. The following list is accurate, but there may still be other conditions doctors are willing to prescribe for, but should provide some indication of what’s possible.
- Back Problems
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Chronic pain
- Chronic Inflammation
- Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy / Seizure management
- Frozen Shoulder
- Neuropathic pain
- Palliative care
- Sleep disorders
How do I know if I qualify for a medical cannabis prescription?
Patients must meet eligibility criteria to book an appointment. The eligibility criteria require patients to have a diagnosis from a qualified doctor and have tried two other medications for that condition without success.
There are potential exclusions for some people. Patients who have had a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia are unlikely to be approved.
Another health factor that may prevent you from being successful with a cannabis prescription is heart conditions.
We advise you to speak to the clinic in person and determine if they will allow you to book an appointment.
What kinds of cannabis products can be prescribed in the UK?
You might wonder what products are available to UK patients. Currently available CBMP are:
- Oil Tinctures
- Vape Cartridges
- Oral Capsules (cannacaps)
The biggest-selling cannabis prescription products are flowers, which make up around 80% of the market. The other 20% is mostly oil tinctures, with some vape cartridges starting to enter the market. Lozenges and oral capsules are also starting to become more available. Flowers, however, remain the most affordable option for most. Prices range from £5 to £16 a gram, and the price affects the quality. One thing you can be sure of with pharmaceutically grown cannabis is it will be free from heavy metals, pesticides and harmful moulds, which is a problem patients have to try and navigate using the legacy and illicit markets.
What strains are available with legal medical cannabis?
Some medical cannabis producers have stayed true to the names strains have originally been known by, yet others have opted for a more generic name labelling methodology. We can all agree prescribing Green Crack to 83-year-old Aunt Mavis, who has rheumatoid arthritis, might not come across so well. Having said that, names like Hell Fire OG and Farm Gas are still available if you want them. More generic names look like EMT-1 T18, for example. There are online resources like Strains.uk and MedBud.wiki that provide more detailed information should you want to discover more about their origins and what’s available to UK patients.
How do I find the right clinic for me?
Around 20 clinics are prescribing medical cannabis in the UK, so it can be hard to find which one is going to be right for you. You can use resources like this medical cannabis clinic review site to help you find the best clinic for your specific requirements.
How much does medical cannabis cost, all said and done?
There are several different costs associated with obtaining a medical cannabis prescription.
You will be required to pay for an initial consultation with a doctor. You will then have to pay for the products that are prescribed. Some clinics and pharmacies include postage, but others may charge for this part of the service. You’ll need to see the doctor at least four times in the first year to monitor your treatment and ensure everything is working well, it also gives you a chance to change anything you’re being prescribed. There may also be a repeat prescription fee to pay monthly to make sure you keep getting the same prescription each month.
Some cannabis clinics like Releaf have seen how complicated that can be for patients. As a response, they have created something similar to how clubs work with an all-in-one subscription package, where you pay a recurring monthly payment that covers all of the service costs, increases the number of products available to you, and reduces the price of the medication. Over the years, it can help you save some money compared to the traditional pay-as-you-go model.
What should I say to the doctor about my cannabis use?
The specialist doctors who prescribe medical cannabis in the UK have an experienced background in specific areas of medicine like neurology, psychiatry and gastroenterology. They have also taken training in prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products.
Being experienced with cannabis and having treated your own needs for many years will have given you a lot of first-hand experience learning how cannabis works. Sharing this with your doctor is important, not just so they can understand your needs, but they may be able to learn something from you to help other patients. So please do speak up. We have spoken to many of the doctors prescribing, and they do prefer it when patients disclose the way they have been self-medicating before getting a legal prescription. Tell them the strain names you’ve found helpful, how much cannabis you take and how often. The kind of symptom relief you get from certain strains can also be helpful information for doctors who will be able to recommend strains suitable for conditions from the options available.
To sum it up…
You can get a legal cannabis prescription in the UK now. Find a private clinic like Releaf and fill out the eligibility checker. Book your appointment. Meet your doctor. Get prescribed. Make your payment. Get it in the post. Sign up for a subscription model so you don’t forget to fill your repeat prescriptions and miss out on staying legal.