British residents ‘blocked’ from medical cannabis access three years post-legalization

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Medical cannabis was legalized across the United Kingdom in November 2018. However, since this time, patients are still struggling to access plant-based medicines.

Last year, cannabis legalization policy was strongly supported by the British population. However, despite legalization, general practitioners (GPs) across the U.K. are unable to prescribe patients with medical cannabis such prescriptions are only permitted by specialist doctors.

To make matters worse, the National Health Service (NHS) only promotes the use of medical cannabis if someone is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), if he/she is enduring chemotherapy side effects and/or if the individual is diagnosed with rare or severe epilepsy.

Medicinal cannabis users in the U.K. are turning to illegal sources

Unfortunately, despite a growing need for medical cannabis in the U.K., many people still seek out the plant from the black market. Why? Because access is restricted and, even if someone is diagnosed with a qualifying condition, he/she is not guaranteed to gain plant access.

Data published by Statista shows that an estimated 41 percent of Huntington’s disease and schizophrenia patients use cannabis procured from the ‘street’ to relieve their symptoms.

What’s more, 56 percent of Brits who use medical cannabis for symptomatic relief use the plant daily, whereas a further 24 percent consume the plant weekly.

Since Brits are likely forking out a lot for illicitly sourced cannabis on a monthly basis, the U.K. could be leaving some serious money on the table if it fails to expand the currently limited program.

The U.K. medical cannabis market is anticipated to grow

According to Statista, there were fewer than 250 active medical cannabis users in the country at the end of 2019. By the year 2024, this figure is anticipated to surpass 337,000.

Considering the fact that over three-quarters of Brits would consume medical cannabis if it was doctor-prescribed, it’s clear that there is still plenty of room for market growth.

When the number of people who depend on medical cannabis is taken into account, the sheer potential of the British market is made all the more apparent.

For example, since there are approximately 360,000 annual cancer cases in the U.K., improved access to the plant in pharmaceutical form could help many in-need patients who are currently being blocked from obtaining their medicine.

Moreover, an estimated 30 percent of the British population have reportedly consumed cannabis at some time or another in their life.  On top of that, the U.K. medical cannabis market is projected to rake in 8.8 billion euros in 2028, which would make it the second-largest EU market after France.