Study Brits Favor Medical Cannabis Despite Limited Access
Medical cannabis was legalized on a prescription-only basis in the UK in 2018. However, a comparatively low number of prescriptions have actually been written by NHS physicians in the four years since. That has not prevented Brits from developing positive views about the drug. In fact, a recent study shows the majority in favor of medical cannabis.
The survey of some 4,000 UK residents shows that 60% would be in favor of using medical cannabis over more traditional medications. Additionally, 89% said they would be more interested if medical cannabis were prescribed by a doctor. Strangely enough, only 59% know that such prescriptions are available under certain circumstances.
Meanwhile, the British government has repeatedly said it has no plans to legalize cannabis. It also has no plans to loosen the current restrictions on medical cannabis. Perhaps things will change over time. We’ve changed things here in the U.S., haven’t we?
Cannabis As a Medicine
Understanding how we got to where we are could help cannabis activists in the UK influence future legislation. Prior to the mid-1990s, cannabis in all forms – including marijuana and hemp – was illegal across the country. But then California and Oregon began pushing medical marijuana. They were among the first states to legalize it.
California and Oregon paved the way for more states to embrace the medical marijuana concept. And embrace it they did. There are now 38 states with medical cannabis laws on the books. Success in each and every one of those states rested on making people aware of cannabis as a medicine rather than just a recreational drug.
Utah is a prime example of how advocacy has worked. Few thought that Utah would legalize medical cannabis, according to the owners of the Deseret Wellness cannabis pharmacy in Provo. But through advocacy and education, proponents managed to get Proposition 2 on the ballot in 2018. After its passage, lawmakers had no choice but to create a legal medical cannabis program.
From Medicine to Recreation
The next step taken by cannabis advocates is exactly what critics feared: they used medical cannabis legalization to begin advocating for legalize recreational use. Regardless of how you feel about recreational marijuana, it is clear that the endgame in many states was never medical consumption alone. The medical angle was only used to get a foot in the door.
Today, some 18 states now allow recreational marijuana use. That number will only grow as time goes by. It is exactly what cannabis proponents have wanted all along. They have succeeded in accomplishing their goals by taking the incremental approach. Medical cannabis first, then recreational consumption.
Lest you think it’s all over, think again. States like California, Oregon, and Colorado are now entertaining the possibility of legalizing psychedelics. The push for psychedelics is just the next logical step in the goal of decriminalizing all drugs across the board.
Concern Is Justified
Whether or not you agree with the UK government’s stand on cannabis legalization, it is hard to argue that their concerns are not justified. They can see how we have gotten to where we are today just as easily as cannabis advocates. Today it is medical cannabis; tomorrow it’s recreational marijuana; the day after it is psychedelics. Where does it end?
There are plenty of potentially harmful drugs we allow on a prescription basis. That’s good. Cannabis should be included. But cannabis is not without its risks. Here in the U.S., the majority of people support cannabis legalization despite not being aware of such risks. It would be interesting to know if UK residents have a similar lack of awareness.