This page is intended for healthcare professionals including, but not limited to, doctors and pharmacists.
Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since November 2018, when there was a change in the laws surrounding its regulation and supply to patients.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals that are listed as specialist prescribers can legally prescribe medical cannabis for patients. A patient’s suitability for medical cannabis will depend on whether or not they have exhausted the usual treatments for their health condition.
The specialist prescriber must understand that medical cannabis is prescribed as an unlicensed special that is listed as a schedule 2 controlled drug.
Medical cannabis is safe for human consumption because it is manufactured to EU GMP standards.
Curaleaf Pharmacy works with Rokshaw, a specials manufacturer for over 10 years, to ensure the medical cannabis we import or produce is high quality.
As with any medicine, medical cannabis can have side effects which should be recorded on the patient’s records and reported to the MHRA Yellow Card scheme.
Medical cannabis can be prescribed for patients who have tried all of the available treatment options for their condition. If the available, or recommended, treatment options have not proven clinically beneficial, then a specialist prescriber can offer medical cannabis as a potential treatment or aid to manage their condition.
A specialist prescriber may consider medical cannabis for their patient if they have:
Medical cannabis might be right for your patient depending on their circumstances. You must do a thorough check of the patient’s medical history and consider all other treatment options before deciding to prescribe medical cannabis.
You will need to:
You can refer your patient to a doctor that is a specialist prescriber for medical cannabis, or they can refer themselves to a private medical cannabis clinic.
CBD and THC are different types of active cannabinoids found in medical cannabis. They each have unique chemical compound structures and influence the human endocannabinoid system differently. Cannabinoids produced naturally by the body are called endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids attach to receptors called CB1 and CB2 in the body. THC can activate CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, while CBD does not. When THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors, it can affect cognition, sensitivity and mobility.
CBD works in a different way to THC in the body. CBD blocks an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). FAAH normally breaks down the body’s natural endocannabinoids. When CBD blocks FAAH, the effects of endocannabinoids in the body last longer.
THC is more “active” than CBD as it works directly on CB1 cannabinoid receptors that are found in the brain. This is why, at high doses, THC can cause a feeling of euphoria known as a “high”. CBD does not have this effect.
Since January 2019, non-prescription CBD products have been available to the public in the form of CBD oil drops (extracts or tinctures), gels, creams, balms, capsules, teas, edible products and other formulations. The public can buy these from health food shops, pharmacies and other outlets as there are no restrictions on where they can be sold. Currently, CBD is not a controlled substance and it is still being researched.
These non-prescription CBD products are all classed as novel foods. All non-prescription CBD products need to go through an application process as a novel food, which then needs to be approved to authorise them for sale to the public. You can find updates on authorised CBD products or extracts on the market in England and Wales here.
Non-prescription CBD products should:
Medical cannabis products are manufactured to EU GMP standards to make them safe for human consumption as medicines for the treatment or management of health conditions. The concentration of THC and CBD in medical cannabis products are known and will always be stated on the product in a standardised format, such as 1% w/w. Medical cannabis products that contain THC are schedule 2 controlled drugs and must be prescribed by a doctor that is a specialist prescriber.