How Close Is the UK to Medical Marijuana Legalisation?

The scientific community appears split when it comes to recreational use of marijuana. Despite proof that marijuana consumption might trigger latent mental illnesses, several experts argue cannabis poses limited health threats.

However, evidence concerning medicinal cannabis is considered more solid. Research points to marijuana being a viable treatment for illnesses ranging from multiple sclerosis to epilepsy, from chronic pain to depression.

In last month’s United States election, four additional states voted to legalise marijuana. As a result, marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 28 US states, while recreational use is allowed in eight.

Ireland is  unprecedentedly close to legalisation, as the Dàil (Assembly of Ireland) recently received permission by the Government to pass a bill that would decriminalise medical marijuana. In Europe, ten states currently allow patients to access medical cannabis, with the addition of Germany in 2017.

The issue of marijuana legalisation in the UK appears hazy. UK drug policies regulating the consumption of marijuana date back to 1971. The Misuse of Drugs Act classifies marijuana as a class B drug, implying the substance has no medical properties. However, there are limited ways to legally get hold of the substance for medicinal use.

Paul Hussey, London-based sound engineer, is a regular marijuana user. However, he wouldn’t be caught dead holding a joint. Paul is a cancer survivor who relied on medical cannabis oil all throughout his recovery, and continues to use it to prevent a recurrence. He told City Beat: “The worst thing that happened to marijuana is that it’s become synonymous with smoking. Smoking is the last thing you should do with it.”

The oil Paul swears by is currently illegal in the UK. He recently launched a petition and a Facebook campaign, calling for the decriminalisation of marijuana for cancer patients.

In the video interview below, Paul explains his approach to cannabis oil and the reasons behind his petition.

His cause is also receiving support on a larger scale, with an All Party Group of MPs currently advocating for the legalisation of medical marijuana. Labour MP Paul Flynn, Conservative former cabinet minister Peter Lilley and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas were quick to back a pro-legalisation report issued by the Adam Smith Institute. The report indicates a legal marijuana market would bring significant economic benefits to the UK, with an estimated annual worth of £6.8m.

Marijuana-derived products are available on the UK market in two limited forms. Medicinal cannabis can be legally prescribed to cure spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, though access is left at the discretion of GPs.

Other types of oils containing marijuana are available in the UK: they are referred to as CBD and are useful in the treatment of various conditions resulting in seizures, primarily epilepsy. These products do not contain TCH, marijuana psychoactive component, meaning they do not provide the substance’s traditional ‘high’. Until recently, these products were not classified as medicine and, therefore, were not subject to the same quality controls as pharmaceutical products.

UCL Pharmacognosy Professor Michael Heinrich explains CBD products are going to face tougher regulations from the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) by the end of the year, as they are now considered medicine.

This is likely to reduce circulation of CBD oils, usually produced by small companies, which do not have the funds to get in line with the MHRA’s medicine-level standards. Dr Heinrich suggests the UK might want to draw inspiration from the Dutch medical marijuana model, should the MHRA decide to legalise the substance.


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