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Medicinal cannabis is set for a new high

January 2019

Cannabis plant
There is growing demand for cannabis

If you remember the 1960s you weren’t there! This is a great sentence that captures a unique era when the young were breaking boundaries...and smoking pot.

As in the UK now, the recreational use of cannabis was illegal in those days, but many youngsters turned to it and today it is easy for this group to reminisce, saying it never did them any harm. But it is interesting that in the 60s, there was a limited variety of strains available and most products were imported over long distances. This caused the levels of effective THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive part of cannabis) to decrease as oxidation took place. Today the American Chemical Society says that the average potency of cannabis has increased by a factor of at least three percent.

While Uruguay, Canada, Spain, Holland and certain American states have relaxed their rulings on the use of cannabis, here in the UK it remains a Class B drug and recreational use is still illegal.

However, a couple of months ago the medicinal use of cannabis was legalised here in the UK. This doesn’t mean there is now a rush of prescriptions being issues…at the moment the official view here is that only some cannabis-based products should be available on prescription as they are only likely to benefit a very small number of patients. At the moment it is likely medicinal cannabis will mainly be prescribed for people suffering from vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy, and even here it will probably be the last choice after other remedies have failed. Doctors can also prescribe a cannabis based medicine for people with multiple sclerosis related muscle problems.

Trials are currently underway to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, glaucoma and epilepsy in children.

There is some evidence that medicinal cannabis can help to cause relief for long term pain, and this can cause frustration among patients when their doctor won’t prescribe it. But the official view is that while there is some evidence, stronger proof is needed before it can be properly authorised or indeed adapted into accepted medication.


Increasingly there are adverts for CBD oil, hemp oil and other related cannabis products that are available to buy legally as food supplements.

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is one of over 100 chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant. Unlike cannabis oil, which can contain high levels of the psychoactive substance THC, CBD contains less than 0.2% of THC and properly made should not be psychoactive. It is legal in the UK as long as the less than 0.2% THC regulation is adhered to.

CBD oil in particular is becoming increasingly popular to help treat problems such as chronic pain in arthritis. However, the NHS warns that unfortunately there is no guarantee that commercial products are of good quality or do exactly what they promise.

The use of CBD oil is undergoing extensive research and is such a fast growing area that hopefully we will soon get some authoritative reports from our health authorities.

In the meantime, there are a lot of grey areas in the use of cannabis and of CBD oil, it really is a very complex field, and it is always wise to speak to your doctor about your health plans before you invest in any new products.

Late last year Georgia Chambers wrote a good report on CBD Oil in London’s Evening Standard which is still available at

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