A recent study conducted among UK consumers shows a majority of them would be willing to use medical cannabis instead of other prescription medications. But that same study also showed a surprising number of people who didn’t even know medical cannabis was legal in the UK. Why such low awareness?
The UK gave the green light to prescription cannabis back in 2018. Despite that, only a small number of National Health Service (NHS) prescriptions have been written. Some 17,000 people are prescribed cannabis from private medical clinics. That may seem like a lot but consider this: the state of Utah alone has issued more than 40,000 medical cannabis cards since their program went live two years ago.
It would seem that, with all the news about medical cannabis worldwide, more eligible patients in the UK would ask their NHS physicians for a prescription. And if that is the case, logic dictates that people do not know they can get a prescription from an NHS doctor.
The Majority Would Use It
Getting back to the previously mentioned survey, it was conducted by a private medical cannabis clinic. The clinic surveyed 4,000 people regarding their knowledge of medical cannabis. News reports say it is the largest study of its kind to date in the UK.
Here are the two most important things the study revealed:
- 89% of the respondents would consider using medical cannabis if a doctor prescribed it
- 59% were not aware, prior to the study, that cannabis could be prescribed legally.
The discrepancy in the numbers points to only one thing: NHS medical providers are not making a point of telling patients they have an option. Patients cannot ask for a medical cannabis prescription if they don’t know that is legally available. Are they even being told that prescriptions are legal?
Some Possible Explanations
Let us assume that NHS doctors are not talking to their patients about cannabis. There could be any number of reasons explaining why that is. At the top of the list are doubts that cannabis has any medical benefit. There are still plenty of doctors on both sides of the Atlantic who feel that way.
A second possible reason, according to the medical providers at UtahMarijuana.org, is the ongoing stigma attached to cannabis. Doctors may be too afraid of that stigma to say anything. Likewise, the stigma might discourage patients from asking about cannabis.
The third possible reason is the most disturbing of all: regulators within the NHS are telling doctors to keep quiet despite prescription cannabis being legal. Let’s hope that this is not the case.
No Plans to Decriminalize
In response to the survey, UK regulators have said there are no plans to decriminalize cannabis. They remain convinced that cannabis is a dangerous drug with little to no benefit and a high propensity for abuse. The fact that other countries are openly embracing cannabis does not appear to be swaying many minds in the UK.
Medical cannabis advocates in the UK have their work cut out for them. With survey data in hand, they now know that the most important task is to educate consumers. They need to know that prescription cannabis is available for certain qualifying conditions. They need to be encouraged to ask their doctors about it.
It remains to be seen if NHS doctors begin writing more cannabis prescriptions in the coming months. That probably depends on why the prescriptions have not been forthcoming to date. But in the end, the chances of learning why medical cannabis awareness in the UK has been so low are pretty slim.