Most British people would now consider using medical cannabis, survey shows

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It's now legal to prescribe cannabis in the UK, but few NHS prescriptions have been written (Getty)

Most British people would consider using cannabis to treat medical conditions, particularly if prescribed by a doctor, a new study has shown.

The survey of 4,000 people is thought to be the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK, and also found that there was low awareness of the availability of medical cannabis in the UK.

Since 2018, it has been legal to prescribe cannabis in Britain, in the wake of cases such as Alfie Dingley, who suffered from severe epilepsy which was treated with cannabis oil.

The survey, conducted by private cannabis clinic Mamedica, found that most British people (60%) would consider using medical cannabis instead of traditional medicines.

It also found that 89% of British people would consider it or be interested if prescribed by a doctor - although 59% are not aware cannabis is available on prescription.

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Despite cannabis being technically legal to prescribe, only a handful of prescriptions have been written on the NHS, although up to 17,000 people are now prescribed cannabis via private clinics in the UK.

Two children, Billy Caudwell and Alfie Dingley were prescribed cannabis for life-threatening seizures in 2018.

The Government issued a statement saying there were, “no plans to legalise or decriminalise the drug”.

Professor Mike Barnes, who wrote the prescription for Alfie Dingley says, “Much has been done over the last three years but much still to do!”

“It’s encouraging to see that so many people in Britain are now open to using medical cannabis - what’s now needed is education that this medicine is legally available in Britain.”

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The survey found that 70% of people thought there was a problem with education on medical cannabis and 81% still feel there is a negative stigma around cannabis.

Dr Elisabeth Philipps, Clinical Lead at The Centre For Medical Cannabis and CBD expert from fourfive says, “Many still hear the word cannabis and think of illegal street drugs so are prejudiced against legitimate medical cannabis. Many still think it just makes you high and it may lead to serious conditions like schizophrenia. This is not the case with medical cannabis products as the levels of THC (the cannabinoid that makes you high) are carefully controlled.

“The levels of THC in medical cannabis are at much lower levels than recreational cannabis, therefore they provide positive health benefits without the “high” that it is often stigmatised with.”

“Medical cannabis has become more widely reported in the media, especially with stories around children with epilepsy and the role that medicinal cannabis can play in treatment, so people have become more aware and are more likely to seek information and try it for themselves.

“We need to focus on medical cannabis education for patients and clinicians so there’s fairer and equal access to these products.”

David Bienenstock, co-host of the podcast Great Moments in Weed History says, “Many people's views of cannabis unfortunately remain deeply impacted by a century-long propaganda campaign against the plant that was perpetrated by the government and the media.

“Cannabis legalisation also represents a direct financial threat to the powerful pharmaceutical industry, because a plant that's easy to grow—with no lethal dose and low potential for abuse—is often a far safer and more effective therapeutic treatment than Big Pharma's synthetic alternatives.”

“Forcing chemotherapy patients (as one example) to suffer through pain and extreme nausea needlessly is both a cruelty and an ongoing medical malpractice.”

Jon Robson, founder of Mamedica, says, “While the law has changed, it’s clear that there’s been a failure of communication.”

“There are millions of people in this country who could benefit from medical cannabis - and so far, many of them remain unaware that there is a safe, legal way to be prescribed a plant that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of chronic conditions.”

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