When Will Cannabis Be Legal In The UK?

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As other countries around the world begin to decriminalise and even legalise cannabis, people are beginning to wonder when cannabis will be legalised here in the United Kingdom. 

However, the timeline for cannabis legalisation in the UK remains uncertain, as factors such as the current political climate, the distinction between medical and recreational use, international agreements, and the potential risks and challenges of cannabis legalisation make it unlikely to happen before 2030.

While public opinion has shifted towards legalisation and medical cannabis has been permitted for specific conditions since November 2018, a significant policy change would require a substantial shift in the position of the major political parties.

Keep reading for a thorough review of the current legal status of cannabis in the UK, its history, and the ongoing debate about legalisation.

Luckily for a growing part of the UK population medical cannabis was legalised on 1st November 2018; whilst CBD has always been legal, it is now widely available to the public.

If you would like CBD oil with UK next day delivery, please browse our shop once you have read our article!

A dish of legal, medical cannabis.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a flowering herbaceous plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family. It contains over 400 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, which have psychoactive properties. 

The two primary cannabinoids are THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), with THC producing the "high" typically associated with cannabis use, while CBD, now found in health food supplements, offers a range of potential health benefits without the psychoactive effects.

For more information on cannabinoids, visit this Wikipedia page.

How Does Cannabis Work?

Cannabis works by interacting with receptors in your body called CB1 and CB2. These receptors are located throughout your body, including in your lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, stomach, intestines, spleen, reproductive organs, bones, muscles, nerves, skin, eyes, and brain. 

When activated, these receptors send signals to your central nervous system, causing changes in your mood, perception, memory, appetite, sleep patterns, motor skills, coordination, pain sensitivity, reaction time, and much more.

When you consume cannabis, the active ingredient THC enters your bloodstream and binds to those receptors. Once bound, it stimulates them, sending signals to your brain and producing its effects.

You can read all about the history of cannabis in our article!

Current UK Cannabis Laws and Regulations

As of 2023, Cannabis is a Class B drug in the UK. This means that possession of the substance is illegal, and anyone caught selling or distributing it could face up to 14 years in prison. However, there are exceptions to this rule. 

For example, if someone is prescribed medical cannabis by a specialist GP, then they may possess it without fear of prosecution. However, recreational use remains illegal in the UK.

History Of Legalisation Debate In The United Kingdom

In 2014, the Conservative Party won the general election and formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. One of the first things the new government did was introduce legislation to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis.

They were able to do so because of the support from the Labour Party, which had previously advocated legalisation.

In 2017, the UK Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which included provisions allowing for the sale and distribution of medical cannabis. This bill was later repealed after Home Secretary Amber Rudd decided it violated human rights.

The current status of cannabis in the UK remains unclear for most, with various laws covering cannabis, medical cannabis and hemp.

While the law has been changed to allow for medicinal use, the government has stated that the recreational use of the substance is still illegal, with no current plan to change its status.

Medical cannabis on a table next to a doctor writing a prescription
When Will Cannabis Be Legal In The UK? 1

Will Cannabis Be Legal In The UK Within The Next Ten Years? 

The possibility of legalising cannabis in the UK within the next ten years is a topic of debate and speculation. 

While public opinion is shifting towards legalisation, with 59% of the population now supporting a change in policy, according to this Volteface poll, several factors make it unlikely to happen within the next decade.

  1. Political climate: The current political climate in the UK has not shown significant support for cannabis legalisation. While some political parties have expressed interest in reconsidering the country's drug policies, the major parties have not adopted a pro-legalisation stance. The Conservative Party currently holds power and has maintained a firm stance against legalisation. Any policy change would likely require a change in government or a significant shift in the party's position.
  2. Medical vs recreational use: In recent years, the UK has taken steps towards acknowledging the potential benefits of cannabis for medical purposes. In November 2018, medical cannabis was legalised for specific conditions, and the prescription of cannabis-based products is tightly controlled. However, this development is far from full legalisation for recreational use, and there remains a significant distinction between medical and recreational cannabis in the eyes of policymakers.
  3. International agreements: The UK is a signatory to several international drug control treaties, such as the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which classifies cannabis as a controlled substance. Legalising cannabis would require the UK to either renegotiate these treaties or withdraw from them, which could have broader implications for the country's international relations.
  4. Public opinion vs political action: Although polls have shown that a majority of British citizens support the legalisation of cannabis, public opinion does not always translate into political action. Policymakers may be hesitant to take on a controversial issue like cannabis legalisation, especially if they believe it could jeopardise their political careers or party's electoral success.
  5. Lessons from other countries: The UK is closely watching the experiences of countries that have legalised cannabis, such as Canada and some US states. While these examples provide valuable insight into legalisation's potential benefits and challenges, they may also highlight potential issues and risks that UK policymakers still need to be ready to address.

Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug?

Cannabis being a 'Gateway Drug' is one of the main reasons that anti-cannabis advocates often use it in arguments. A gateway drug is a drug that leads users into taking other, more dangerous substances.

However, research is inconclusive, with some studies suggesting that cannabis use does not necessarily lead to the use of other illicit drugs.

See this National Institutes of Health article for more information on this topic.

Other studies suggest that some people who start out using marijuana end up using other drugs simply because they're already interested in experimenting with different types of substances.

What Is The Legality Of Cannabis In The United States?

Now let's compare the laws in the UK to the Laws of the United States Of America.

In most states, cannabis is considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that possessing it is completely prohibited, and any attempt to sell it could result in severe penalties. Many restrictions are also placed on where people can grow their cannabis plants.

However, there are a few states where cannabis is legal for both recreational and medicinal purposes. These include Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Vermont, New Mexico, and Arizona.

How Cannabis and CBD Affect Health in the UK

Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, can have various effects on health. THC may cause anxiety or paranoia, sleepiness, relaxation, increased appetite, and decreased pain sensations. 

In contrast, CBD is non-psychoactive and is being studied worldwide for its potential to help with chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, and even addiction.

CBD oil, derived from hemp plants containing only trace amounts of THC, is legal in the UK and available online or in high street stores like Holland & Barrett. 

It offers many potential health benefits without the "high" associated with cannabis.

Is CBD Legal In The UK?

Unlike Cannabis, CBD oil is completely legal in the United Kingdom.

That said, a seemingly legal grey area surrounds a very popular form of CBD, CBD flower. To find out more about the legal status of CBD flower read our article here.

You don't need a prescription to purchase CBD oil products in the UK. However, if you have an existing medical condition, you should speak with your doctor before using CBD oil.

CBD oil isn't intended to cure diseases or replace conventional medicine.


Final Thoughts

So there you have it. There is still likely a long way to go before cannabis is legalised in the United Kingdom. There is still a lot of debate, stigma, and wrong information going around about the plant and its effects.

Whether it should be legal or not is still up to debate - and that's for you to decide with your own opinion, but it's clear that attitudes have been changing in recent years.

We hope that this article has helped you understand more about cannabis and its legal status within the United Kingdom.

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