Understanding UK Medical Cannabis Laws: What You Need to Know

Written by Dr Green Jun 5, 2024

The legal landscape of medical cannabis in the UK is intricate and evolving. With recent changes and ongoing discussions about cannabis use for medical purposes, it's crucial to understand the current framework, updates, and their impact on patients and healthcare providers.

Legal Framework Surrounding Medical Cannabis in the UK

Historical Context

In the 1800s, cannabis was legal and widely used in the UK for various medical conditions. However, by 1928, it became illegal under the Dangerous Drugs Act. In 1971, it was classified as a Class B substance, a status it holds today despite a brief reclassification to Class C at the turn of the century.

The 2018 Legalisation

The significant shift occurred in 2018 when the UK government legalised medical cannabis. Under this change, patients can access medical cannabis with a prescription from the NHS or a registered private doctor. However, cannabis remains a Class B drug, and unauthorised possession or cultivation can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment.

Regulations and Restrictions

Medical cannabis can only be legally accessed through a prescription. Smoking cannabis flower is prohibited, even with a prescription, and acquiring cannabis from sources other than authorised suppliers is illegal.

The NHS has strict guidelines, limiting prescriptions to conditions like Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Recent Updates in UK Medical Cannabis Laws

Increased Research and Trials

Despite the 2018 legalisation, access to medical cannabis through the NHS remains limited. Research initiatives like Project Twenty21 aim to gather data on the efficacy of cannabis for various conditions, potentially broadening future access.

Legal Trials and Potential Changes

A noteworthy trial set to begin later this year in three London boroughs will prosecute young adults aged 18-24 found in possession of cannabis. The outcomes could influence future law enforcement and legislative adjustments regarding cannabis use.

Expanding Prescriptions

Private practices have more flexibility in prescribing medical cannabis, covering a broader range of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Crohn's disease, HIV/AIDS, mental health issues, and chronic pain. This contrasts with the NHS's restrictive criteria, highlighting the disparities in access.

Impact on Patients and Healthcare Providers

Challenges in Accessing Medical Cannabis

For patients, the process to obtain medical cannabis on the NHS is cumbersome. They must first try two other treatments before being referred to a specialist who can prescribe cannabis. This creates barriers, particularly for those whose conditions fall outside the NHS’s limited list.

Private Prescriptions as an Alternative

Patients seeking more accessible routes often turn to private practitioners. These providers can prescribe medical cannabis for a wider array of conditions, offering hope to those who do not meet the NHS’s stringent criteria.

Healthcare Providers' Role

Healthcare providers play a crucial role in navigating the regulatory landscape. They must ensure compliance with legal requirements while advocating for their patients' needs. This includes staying informed about the latest research and legislative changes to provide the best possible care.

Dr Green: Leading the Cannabis Industry

With world-renowned facilities in Portugal, Dr Green is at the forefront of the cannabis industry. Through exclusive government partnerships and cutting-edge cultivation techniques, Dr Green is shaping the future of medical cannabis. The innovative Digital Key smart contract allows legal cannabis trading, inviting collaboration with the world's premier cannabis grower and distributor.


While significant strides have been made since 2018, challenges remain, particularly in accessing medical cannabis through the NHS.

Patients and healthcare providers must navigate these complexities, often turning to private prescriptions for broader access. 

Organisations like Dr Green play a pivotal role in this evolving landscape, driving forward the medical cannabis industry and fostering greater understanding and accessibility.