How do you see the UK market for both medicinal and recreational cannabis?

Medical cannabis is the best kept secret in UK healthcare. We’re a nation of some 67 million people, but a patient population of less than 40,000. Given that there’s around 1.8 million medicating using the illicit market, it’s clear that there’s not only opportunity here – there’s demand.

So how do we get more people to access cannabis legally? Well, first and foremost, we need to TELL them that it’s available with a prescription. It sounds easy, but people simply don’t know here. I’d love to see a national campaign focused solely on making this overtly clear. However, of course, advertising restrictions need to be taken into consideration.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way(!).

The other piece of the puzzle that needs to fall into place in order to boost medical cannabis is  access. Currently, it’s only available via private healthcare – at a considerable cost. Given that healthcare is largely free here via the NHS, and the cost of most prescriptions is no more than £10, the idea of paying 10x that isn’t something a lot of people are willing to do – or can afford.

We need cannabis to be widely available via the NHS – but that relies on doctors being able and willing to prescribe it: which most aren’t currently.

Then there are the criteria patients need to fulfill to access medical cannabis. Not only do they need to have a qualifying condition – be it psychological, neurological, pain-, cancer-, or epilepsy-related – they must have tried at least two different treatment pathways.

In addition to that, they need to inform their GP and have their medical records shared with the prescribing cannabis clinic. That’s not to say that this is difficult. It isn’t if you meet the requirements. But it also means patients open themselves up to possible scrutiny and stigma. And honestly – in my opinion – that’s the biggest blocker facing medical cannabis today in Britain.

So where does that leave recreational cannabis in the UK?

Well it’s very popular. And illegal. And unregulated. And open to abuse by parties whose commitment to quality control and ethical commerce is less than stringent. That’s not to say that *all* illicit market operators are bad players. But – as we all know – prohibition doesn’t eradicate problems: it exacerbates them.

The hope is, that with an election looming this year in the UK, the political party in opposition (Labour) to the current ruling party (Conservative) will be more in favour of recreational legalisation when they very likely take power.

However, given that they’re trying to win more right-wing voters over, there’s little likelihood of them making legalisation a campaign pledge.

Realistically, we won’t see a rec market in Britain for at least another ten years. But those of us who want there to be one need to continually advocate for it: which means we need to keep telling people that all cannabis is medical cannabis. And it is: whether that’s an uncomfortable truth or not.

Dave Barton is co-founder and creative director at thermidor< – a content- and cannabis-focused, creative agency based in the UK, but operating internationally. He’s also co-host of the lobsterpot< podcast, which collects stories, opinions, and perspectives from professionals working in the global cannabis industry.