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Controlled drugs

'Urgent review' of medical cannabis access needed to curb use of street drugs, says trade body

An industry body has called on the UK government to review access to cannabis-based medical products after a YouGov survey revealed that as many as 2.8% of the adult population may be self-medicating with ‘street’ cannabis.

woman smoking cannabis


A YouGov poll has led the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis to suggest that as many as 1.4 million adults in the UK could be self-medicating with illegal cannabis

The Centre for medicinal cannabis (CMC), an industry membership body for businesses and investors operating in in cannabis-based medicinal products and cannabidiol markets, has called on the government to “urgently review” access to medical cannabis, to prevent patients from having to rely on illegal and unregulated “street” cannabis.

The call comes in response to a YouGov survey commissioned by the CMC, from which it estimated that up to 2.8% of the adult UK population could be using street cannabis to self-medicate.

Some 10,602 people responded to the poll, of whom 281 said they used cannabis to manage the symptoms of a current medical condition.

Most respondents said they used cannabis to treat depression (134) or anxiety (120), while 69 respondents said they used cannabis to help with chronic pain.

Extrapolating this to the wider UK population, the CMC suggests that that more than 1.4 million people (2.8% of the adult population) could be self-medicating with cannabis.

In a report published with the findings on 13 January 2020, the CMC acknowledged that self-reported medical use “does not necessarily equate to therapeutic value”.

But, it added, the survey shows that the “frustratingly slow” pace of change in access to legal medical cannabis could be leading a significant proportion of the UK’s population to purchase non-standardised cannabis from “potentially dangerous ‘backstreet’ environments”.

A spokesperson for the CMC called for the Danish cannabis pilot model to be implemented in the UK, telling The Pharmaceutical Journal that it “allows any doctor to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products for any condition”. 

They added that the model “would generate vast amounts of data on the efficacy of cannabis in treating a multitude of conditions” and would “give the NHS the data it needs”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207568

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