Medical cannabis general FAQs

Here we answer your most frequently asked questions about medical cannabis

Cannabis for medicinal use can be prescribed for patients in certain situations based on clinical need. Since then, we’ve been dedicated to fulfilling thousands of patient prescriptions each month with high quality, medical grade cannabis.

Medical cannabis is not currently available through the NHS, but people can pay for their own private prescription at a special clinic if they are eligible. Patients have often tried other treatments first for months, or sometimes years.

If you’re looking for treatment options and want to know more about medical cannabis, you can find our answers to some common questions here.

We also have a dedicated FAQs page which covers everything you need to know about medical cannabis prescriptions.

Medical cannabis is legal in the UK, but only if a doctor has prescribed it for you. The doctor must be a specialist prescriber and registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since November 2018.

You need a prescription to get medical cannabis and to see your specialist prescriber, when required, for follow-up appointments.

If you’re worried about getting stopped by police in the UK, you should carry one or more of the following:

  • a copy of your prescription
  • a signed letter from your medical cannabis clinic doctor
  • the original medical cannabis container with the pharmacy, label attached.

We recommend you always keep a form of ID with you. Your ID should match the name on your prescription, doctor’s letter, and medical cannabis container.

Medical cannabis is safe to use when you take it as prescribed by a doctor that is a specialist prescriber registered with the General Medical Council (GMC).

Your specialist prescriber will be responsible for giving you guidance on how to use medical cannabis. They’ll also be checking in with you to see how you’re getting on. And they’ll recommend when you might need to change the amount or type of medical cannabis you use.

Medical cannabis is made especially for you by a registered specials medicines manufacturing company according to your prescription. They follow the standards for producing medical cannabis set out by the EU, called EU Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), to make sure the medical cannabis is safe for human use.

This means you can be sure that you are getting a medical cannabis product that is the exact strength your doctor has prescribed.

The side effects of medical cannabis will vary depending on:

  • The amount of medical cannabis you use
  • How often you take your medical cannabis
  • How you take your medical cannabis

You’re more likely to get side effects from medical cannabis if you:

  • Take a high dose
  • Use a vaporiser
  • Use it very often

Around 1 in 10 people get side effects from medical cannabis such as:

  • Feeling drowsy, sleepy or tired
  • Being less hungry than usual
  • A high temperature or fever
  • Vomiting, nausea (feeling sick) or diarrhea

Around 1 in 100 people might get these side effects after using medical cannabis:

  • Feeling faint
  • A change in blood pressure
  • A change in how fast your heart is beating
  • Tummy pain
  • Mouth or teeth changing colour
  • Dry mouth

You should not drive if you feel drowsy or your vision becomes blurry.

You should not drink alcohol if you’re using medical cannabis.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or trying for a baby, you should not use medical cannabis.

Although rare, you may have an allergic reaction to medical cannabis. If this happens to you, stop taking medical cannabis and call 999. The general signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Swollen face, lips, mouth or tongue
  • Hives, or a bumpy red rash on your skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Breathing difficulties or wheezing

If you get side effects or have any concerns, you should speak to the
doctor that is prescribing medical cannabis for you. You can also report
side effects to the MHRA yellow card scheme or report this to the
Pharmacy so that a report can be made on your behalf.

Dried medical cannabis flower looks like small, dried cones of green herbs. You normally get dried medical cannabis flower in a hard plastic container with a lid. The container will be opaque to prevent light from damaging the dried medical cannabis flower. You need to weigh out exactly how many grams you’re going to take each time. We recommend you use a weighing scale that can read at least one number after the decimal point (for example, 0.1g).

Medical cannabis oil looks like a light, yellow liquid in a brown medical bottle, which protects it from light. You use an oral syringe (there is no needle involved) to help you accurately measure out the right amount of cannabis oil. Normally this is 0.05ml or 1ml to start off with.

The amount of medical cannabis you use will depend on the strength and type of medical cannabis you have been prescribed, and the condition you are being treated for.

To find out if medical cannabis will work for you, you’ll need to speak to a doctor that is a specialist prescriber. They can be found in certain hospitals or dedicated medical cannabis clinics.

You’ll need to share your healthcare records with a specialist prescriber to show that you’ve already tried the usual treatments for your health condition. To use medical cannabis, you must not be allergic to plants in the cannabis family.

A specialist prescriber will need to look at your healthcare records, and what health condition you’re looking to get treatment for. Then they’ll make a decision, with a team of healthcare professionals, on whether medical cannabis might work for you.

When you start your treatment with medical cannabis, your specialist prescriber will ask you how you’re getting on with it. This is to check whether medical cannabis is working for you. They’ll keep a record of which medical cannabis prescription products you are using and decide whether you need to switch to a different product or change your dose.

Some clinics have a dedicated patient portal where you can sign in and view your own medical records and past prescriptions.

If medical cannabis does not work for you, your specialist prescriber can:

  • Recommend an alternative treatment for your condition
  • Refer you to another healthcare professional

When you first start taking medical cannabis, you’ll begin with a low dose of THC or CBD and it’s unlikely that you’ll get a high. The doctor looking after you and providing your medical cannabis prescription can discuss this further with you.

Medical cannabis can cause a high if you take a high dose of THC. THC is the active substance in medical cannabis that can cause a high and is known as tetrahydrocannabinol. CBD stands for cannabidiol and doesn’t cause a high.

The main difference between CBD and THC is that they act differently in your body. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD is short for cannabidiol.

THC and CBD are both types of active cannabinoids found in medical cannabis. Your body naturally produces cannabinoids, and we call these endocannabinoids.

THC can affect how you think, what you feel and the way your body moves by stimulating your body’s cannabinoid receptors. CBD works in a different way and can make the effects of THC and your body’s natural endocannabinoids last longer.

The THC (and CBD) in medical cannabis are unlikely to cause a “high” as you always start with the lowest possible dose, and slowly work your way up to help treat your medical condition.

CBD that is not prescribed by a doctor is classed as a food supplement (novel food) and is not regulated in the same way that medical cannabis products are. Therefore, it should not be used medically to treat any kind of health condition. This includes CBD products that you may buy from a “health food shop” or over the counter in a pharmacy.

The main difference is that medical cannabis needs to be prescribed by doctors that are specialist prescribers, and CBD products can be bought at shops, online and in pharmacies. You may have seen CBD products such as:

  • CBD oils, tinctures or extracts
  • CBD gels, creams, balms or rubs
  • CBD capsules that you swallow or vape
  • CBD teas or drinks
  • CBD foods, such as brownies or energy bars

CBD products are manufactured in a different way to medical cannabis, so it can be difficult to tell exactly what they contain. Legally, CBD products should not contain THC and are not allowed to be used to treat medical health conditions.

The cost of medical cannabis depends on your prescription.

You’ll need to consider the:

  • Type of medical cannabis product – whether it’s medical cannabis oil or dried medical cannabis flower
  • Amount of medical cannabis you need to last you one month
  • Cost of appointments with a doctor that is a specialist prescriber for medical cannabis
  • Cost of new or repeat prescriptions for medical cannabis

EU GMP medical cannabis means that the medical cannabis has been made under the guidance of EU Good Manufacturing Practice standards. This ensures that the medical cannabis is:

  • Consistently high quality
  • Safe for humans to use
  • Free from harmful substances, like mould or anything that could contaminate the final product
  • Inspected on a regular basis by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) and the HPRA (Health Products Regulatory Authority)

All Curaleaf Pharmacy products follow EU GMP standards. These are the most common EU GMP medical cannabis products we offer on prescription:

  • Dried medical cannabis flowers
  • Medical cannabis oils

We also manufacture other medical cannabis products, such as capsules. Your prescriber will advise the best product medical cannabis product for you.

Medical cannabis is now manufactured in the UK.

This ensures that the medical cannabis:

  • Meets EU GMP (EU Good Manufacturing Practice) standards
  • Is approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency)

Medical cannabis can also be imported from other countries. Then it can be turned into medical cannabis oil or other medical cannabis prescription only products in the UK.

To find out if you qualify for medical cannabis, you need to speak to a doctor that is a specialist prescriber. You can find a specialist prescriber at certain hospitals or medical cannabis clinics.

A specialist prescriber might decide that you do qualify for medical cannabis depending on what you have tried to help treat your medical condition. If you’ve tried all the possible treatment options and they haven’t helped, then you may qualify for medical cannabis.

Get in touch

If you have any other questions about medical cannabis, you can ask us by filling out a free online form.