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How to get a cannabis prescription in Northern Ireland

Cannabis Prescriptions In The UK What Are They, And How Do People Get Them?

To date, the United Kingdom has yet to fully legalize recreational cannabis. In fact, UK Parliament still considers cannabis a “Class B drug,” meaning residents can face jail time if they’re caught using, growing, or storing cannabis on their property. However, local regulators seem aware that cannabis has legitimate medical applications. Although the medical cannabis laws in the UK aren’t as lenient as in Canada or dozens of US states, there are ways for people in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland to get medical cannabis products. 

Getting Cannabis Prescriptions In The UK: Where Do People Start? 

If UK patients are interested in using medical weed as a form of therapy, they need to look into registered cannabis clinics. GPs can’t prescribe cannabis, but patients can submit paperwork to a medical cannabis clinic for a consultation. Currently, most medical cannabis clinics in the UK need to see evidence that a patient has already tried two doctor-prescribed medications for their condition. If you can provide this evidence to a registered UK cannabis clinic, there’s a good chance you qualify for medicinal weed products.

Keep in mind that the medical cannabis industry in the UK is in the private sector and unaffiliated with the NHS. Although doctors can recommend cannabis and refer patients to medical cannabis clinics, patients won’t receive their cannabis directly through the NHS’s traditional services. Instead, patients must work with a cannabis clinic and pay a fee to obtain a medical weed license. UK cannabis clinics also ask patients to submit detailed health information on their prior medical history, current prescriptions, and dosage requirements. 

Where Can Patients Find UK Cannabis Clinics? 

The simplest way to find a legitimate UK cannabis clinic is to search for locations on websites like Google. There are also independent organizations like Patient-Led Engagement for Access (PLEA) and the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) that provide helpful resources on the locations and contact details for local cannabis clinics. Patients should take their time reading reviews for various clinics and checking their accreditations. You should also read through each clinic’s unique requirements, fees, and restrictions to obtain a medical cannabis prescription. 

Unfortunately, since cannabis isn’t a legal substance in the UK, it may take some extra time to find the cannabis clinic that meets each patient’s needs. There’s no uniformity on how clinics inspect and issue weed licenses. However, there are plenty of online resources to help prospective cannabis patients on their quest. Many cannabis clinics also offer consultation services to help clients understand all of their options. 

What Conditions Are Approved For A UK Medical Cannabis Prescription? 

According to Northern Ireland Direct Government Services, medicinal cannabis products are only intended for patients with a few conditions that aren’t responding to traditional medicines. Specifically, NI health officials mentioned childhood epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), and nausea related to chemotherapy as the most common reasons for a medical cannabis prescription. Outside of these three areas, it’s unlikely an NHS clinic will recommend cannabis as a valid form of treatment. 

However, a private cannabis clinic in the UK may be able to recommend a cannabis prescription for people with issues that don’t meet the above criteria. Typically, consultants at cannabis clinics may help patients find ways to get a cannabis prescription for various ailments, including chronic migraines, mental health issues, neuropathy, and degenerative disc disorder. If patients are struggling to get medical cannabis, they should consider talking with a nearby cannabis clinic for details on their condition. 

What’s The Status Of Synthetic Cannabis Medications? 

Although the NHS can’t prescribe cannabis directly to patients, there are a few synthetic medications UK patients could obtain directly with a doctor’s prescription. The following weed-derived drugs are approved for the following conditions:

  • Sativex: MS multiple sclerosis
  • Nabilone: Nausea related to chemotherapy treatment 

Doctors in the UK can also prescribe a combination of hemp-derived CBD in the form of Epidyolex and the drug clobazam for children with epilepsy.

While more cannabis drugs may be approved with further clinical trials, the above prescriptions are available through the NHS. 

Gamma-Irradiation Decontamination: Ensuring Medical Cannabis Meets Rigorous Standards 

One potential benefit of working with a UK cannabis clinic is that their products meet high standards for transparency and testing. Patients also have the option to choose between gamma-irradiated weed or non-gamma products. Currently, those involved in the cannabis industry sometimes put plants through intense radiation known as “gamma-irradiation” to ensure patients aren’t exposing themselves to toxic compounds. Although initial trials suggest gamma-irradiation destroys some of the aromatic terpenes in cannabis, it seems to ward off harmful chemicals like mold spores. 

One of the unfortunate aspects of the cannabis plant is that it’s incredibly susceptible to mildew and mold, especially if cultivators don’t properly dry and cure their plants. Procedures like gamma-irradiation can eliminate the risk of mold, which is essential for many cannabis patients struggling with immune-related disorders.

While gamma-irradiation is popular at many UK weed clinics, there are still questions about its potential impact on the flavor and quality of weed. Some cannabis advocates have also expressed concerns over the long-term health effects of smoking or vaping weed that has gone through radiation. Many cannabis users in legal areas like The Netherlands and Canada claim to prefer “non-irradiated” weed due to concerns over the health impacts of radiation therapy.

All that being said, patients in the UK should know that many weed clinics offer both gamma and non-gamma weed strains. If a clinic doesn’t explicitly discuss its stance on radiation, patients could reach out to the clinic for answers. 

Also, keep in mind that non-gamma weed strains tend to cost more on average. Since it takes greater skill and maintenance to reduce mold without using radiation procedures, it’s common for UK clinics to charge a few extra pounds per gram of medical weed. Average prices for non-irradiated weed are typically in the £8.00/g range, while gamma weed strains usually sell for about £5.50/g. Of course, there’s great variation between clinics and cultivars, but non-irradiates strains tend to cost a premium.

Since the field of cannabis medicine is still new, there are many questions surrounding radiation therapy’s impact. Each patient must evaluate their comfort level before choosing which UK cannabis clinic to work with. 

Is CBD Included In The UK’s Medical Cannabis Policy? 

Most of the medical cannabis laws discussed above apply to medicines and strains with high traces of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. CBD, on the other hand, is legal in the UK if it comes from the hemp plant and has no more than 1 mg of THC content. Since CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, the UK government has taken a less restrictive stance towards this product. It’s getting easier for UK residents to find many recreational CBD items in shops and online. 

Although it’s legal to purchase hemp CBD products in the UK, the NHS cautions customers to review the quality of their items carefully. Since the CBD market is so new and largely unregulated, people need to rely on third-party lab reviews to scan their CBD oils for potential toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals. Anyone thinking of ordering CBD in the UK should take plenty of time to review the reputation of different brands and read official lab screenings before making a purchase. 

A Few Final Thoughts On Medical Cannabis Prescriptions In The UK

Medical cannabis is far from mainstream in the UK, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to obtain. There are many medical cannabis clinics nationwide that are open to patient consultations.. There are also more approved synthetic versions of weed that may be of benefit to patients with conditions such as chronic nausea or MS. Anyone interested in using medical cannabis as a part of their treatment program should speak with a cannabis clinic to figure out whether they qualify for a cannabis prescription.