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NHS Skepticism Toward Medical Cannabis: Is Safety Really a Valid Concern?

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A Dorset man, battling the challenges of Tourette's syndrome, has found solace in medicinal cannabis as was first reported by the BBC. Conor Ryder, who spends a substantial amount on these prescriptions, is now urging the government to make this essential treatment more accessible through the NHS.

Despite the legalization of medical cannabis in 2018, its presence within the NHS has been minimal, with fewer than five prescriptions issued across the entire system. The government cites the need for conclusive safety data before considering widespread availability.

This lack of NHS coverage means that individuals like Mr. Ryder are burdened with substantial out-of-pocket costs. He currently depletes £300 of his savings each month to afford his vital cannabis medication. Frustrated by the limited options within the NHS, Mr. Ryder took matters into his own hands, seeking treatment from private clinics.

The rise of private cannabis clinics in the UK is indicative of the growing demand for these treatments. Over the past five years, these clinics have dispensed more than 140,000 prescriptions, illustrating the increasing popularity and recognition of the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis.

For Mr. Ryder, the impact of medicinal cannabis on his life has been profound. Diagnosed with Tourette's at the age of 13, he grapples with severe tics, both audible and physical, which cause him considerable pain and have rendered him unable to work. However, using a medicinal vaporizer to consume cannabis has provided him with much-needed relief.

Mr. Ryder's journey reflects the hope that cannabis-based treatments offer for individuals like him who have long sought effective solutions for their conditions. He dreams of returning to work and managing his symptoms, with cannabis serving as the only treatment capable of controlling his tics without turning him into a “zombie,” as he experienced with previous medications.

The legalization of whole-cannabis medicine was a groundbreaking development for patients, granting both NHS and private specialist doctors the option to prescribe it when they believed it could benefit their patients. However, the reality has been far from ideal, with many patients being turned away due to a lack of knowledge among doctors and the absence of cannabis-based medicines on NHS trusts' approved lists.

Some medical professionals with specialized knowledge have also expressed concerns, citing insufficient evidence of the drug's safety and benefits as reasons to withhold prescriptions. The Department of Health and Social Care emphasizes the importance of clear evidence regarding the quality, safety, and effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines before considering wider NHS coverage.

In response to these challenges, an NHS spokesperson said the following:

“While there is limited evidence on the safety of these unlicensed products, we continue to encourage manufacturers of these products to engage with the UK medicines regulator, which would provide doctors with the confidence to use the products in the same way they use other licensed medicines.”

Conor Ryder's plea for more accessible medicinal cannabis on the NHS is a reminder of the complex landscape surrounding this treatment option. As the medical community continues to grapple with the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicines, many patients like him are left in limbo, seeking relief while hoping for a brighter, more accessible future.


Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.