Voters approved Medical Marijuana in Utah back in 2018. Within 15 months, the state’s Medical Cannabis program was up and running. There’s always room for improvement in the program, but Utah has already made significant progress.
If you have any doubts about that, compare Utah’s Medical Cannabis scene with that of the UK. The Cannigma website has a great article discussing this very topic. It was published in February 2021, but little has changed in the UK since then. Author Mary Biles explains just how difficult it is to obtain Medical Cannabis and why millions of patients choose to go the illicit route. Reading the piece makes it easier to appreciate what we have in Utah and most other states.
The UK joined the Medical Cannabis community when the drug was approved for use in 2018. At the time, Medical Cannabis advocates were sure that patients would be given easy access to their medicines the same way other prescription drugs are obtained in the UK. That did not happen. In fact, it wasn’t even close.
A 2020 report from the UK’s Centre for Medical Cannabis revealed that only twelve patients had received legitimate Medical Cannabis prescriptions from NHS doctors. That is a total of twelve from the time Medical Cannabis was approved to the date the report was compiled. In addition, another four-dozen or so had gotten prescriptions from private physicians.
You have to understand that the UK’s medical system is a single-payer system. Medical providers do not have nearly as much freedom as providers here in the US. UK doctors have largely been hampered in their efforts to prescribe Medical Marijuana by an NHS that insists on continuing to wait for more evidence of its efficacy.
The unfortunate reality in the UK is that the vast majority of Medical Cannabis patients turn to the illicit market to buy what they need. In fact, the previously mentioned report indicated some 1.4 million illicit users in 2020. That hardly seems reasonable for a country that approved legal Medical Cannabis four years ago.
There is some good news on the horizon, though. Biles reported last year on the UK’s new Cancard program. Though it isn’t at all like Utah’s Medical Cannabis program, it still serves a valuable purpose.
Medical Cannabis patients with valid Cancards have something they can show to demonstrate they use cannabis for medical purposes. For example, the card could be presented to a police officer who happens to be investigating whether a person is in possession of cannabis legally. This gives the officer more information in helping to determine whether to take action against the person in question.
In order to get a Cancard, a patient must be suffering from one of more than two-dozen qualifying medical conditions approved by the British government. Biles notes that the card is intended for patients who either could not get approval from an NHS doctor or cannot afford the annual registration fee required to get a prescription.
It has been said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. In terms of Medical Cannabis, the grass is greener in Utah than in many other places. Sure, there are plenty of things about the Utah Medical Cannabis program we hope legislators will fix. But our program is still light years ahead of the UK’s program. We should appreciate the effort our lawmakers have put into making Medical Cannabis accessible here.