Royal College of General Practioners publishes ‘interim guide’ for GPs on cannabis-based medicines


The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has published an “interim guide” for GPs advising them on how to handle enquiries from patients about cannabis medicine.

Only specialists, not GPs, can prescribe cannabis medicine following the law change in November, but the document addresses the fact that there is bound to be “increased demand on GPs for information and referrals for a range of conditions, increased referral rates to pediatric neurologists and general neurologists with lengthening of waiting times”.

Titled “Cannabis-based medicines: an interim desktop guide”, the document “gives an overview of the current legal situation regarding medicinal cannabis, the different forms it is available in, the conditions for which there is some, if limited, clinical evidence of benefit, and the potential side-effects of taking cannabis. The guidance also includes signposting to further resources for GPs and patients, and some FAQs.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said: “The decision to legalise medicinal cannabis for some patients, where there is an evidence-base that it could benefit them, is welcome.

“However, the treatments that have become legal are only able to be prescribed by specialist doctors if they have a patient with an unmet clinical need – and so it will affect a relatively small number of patients, many of whom will likely already be known by their specialist doctor.

“GPs will not be able to prescribe patients medicinal cannabis, but as the first point of contact for the vast majority of patients in the NHS it is important that we are aware of the legal situation and current clinical evidence around medicinal cannabis.

“This desktop guide aims to be a quick reference guide for GPs, providing them with the information they may need when having discussions with patients who ask them about cannabis, and to make it clear to patients that GPs are not in a position to prescribe cannabis.”

At least GPs won’t be completely ignorant when they’re being educated by cannabis-using patients from now on…