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As part of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, GPs can be at the forefront of the conversation around the practicalities and benefits of shared care, repeat prescription and GP prescribing in the UK, as well as learning more about medical cannabis and CBD to better support your patients.  

As more patients in the UK ask their GP about medical cannabis, it is becoming increasingly vital for GPs to be well-informed and able to prescribe. This was highlighted in the June 2021 survey from the Primary Care Cannabis Network, which surveyed over 1000 GPs on their attitudes towards cannabis-based medicines. A unique insight into general practitioners attitudes towards understanding, accessing and prescribing cannabis-based medicine for patients in the United Kingdom, GP Attitudes Towards Medical Cannabis found that more than two-thirds of GPs were asked about medical cannabis by their patients at least every six months.

The pressure for the government to review its policy is growing, with countries such as Jersey and Guernsey already allowing GPs to prescribe freely. This means that UK GPs need to be prepared for an eventual change in legislation and be ready to prescribe when appropriate. With this in mind, it is essential for GPs to be adequately informed and prepared on medical cannabis and the potential benefits that it can offer patients.

We encourage GPs to become members of our Society and join us in taking a leadership role in this field.

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Primary Care Cannabis Network integration

Striving to increase knowledge and open dialogue, the PCCN worked to create an environment of balance and understanding around this rapidly developing field of medicine within primary healthcare. Its goals – to eradicate stigma associated with medical cannabis and improve the primary care sector’s comfort in discussing treatment options with patients – are aligned with the vision and mission of the  Society.

In March 2023, the Society welcomed the PCCN and its members into the Society. By educating and supporting general practitioners with current guidelines and evidence-based medicine, the Society can ensure that primary care providers have access to the most up to date resources to enable informed conversations with patients.

Expert Leadership

The Society’s Expert Committee members are recognised as leading experts in their fields, dedicated to opening up access to medical cannabis for every patient in the UK and mentoring and supporting its members. 

Dr Leon Barron

BSc MB BS MRCGP, General Practitioner & Society Chair

Dr Barron is dedicated to improving people’s quality of life through access to medical cannabis. As a GP, Dr Barron works to highlight the benefits of opening up prescribing options to encompass primary care clinicians.

Dr Leon Barron

FAQs: GPs and medical cannabis

What is the role of GPs in the widespread understanding of medical cannabis as a treatment option?

As the frontline in patient access to specialist clinicians, GP’s have a crucial role to play in the understanding and acceptance of medical cannabis as a legitimate treatment option for patients in the UK. GPs need to be knowledgeable about the latest evidence and research on medical cannabis and its potential benefits, as well as its limitations. They also need to have an open dialogue with their patients to discuss the risks and benefits associated with using medical cannabis. This is essential in order for GPs to make informed decisions when considering whether medical cannabis may be an appropriate treatment choice for their patients.

GPs need to be aware of the different ways in which medical cannabis can be obtained and administered. This includes understanding the various legal pathways available to access medical cannabis, such as through a private prescription. GPs also need to understand how different forms of medical cannabis – such as extracts, oils, edibles and vape products – may vary in their effectiveness and potential side-effects, so they can support patients who choose to access a private prescription.

GPs can play an important role in helping to normalise the use of medical cannabis by having positive conversations with patients and ensuring they are fully informed about their treatment options. This can help to reduce any stigma associated with medical cannabis, and ensure that patients are able to make an informed decision about whether they wish to pursue this treatment option. Ultimately, GPs must remain open minded and willing to explore the potential of medical cannabis as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for their patients. By doing so, they can help to ensure that more people have access to safe and effective medical cannabis treatments.

Can GPs prescribe medical cannabis in the UK?

Currently in the UK, medical cannabis is only available to patients with an unmet clinical need on a private prescription basis. GPs are not able to initiate scripts for unlicensed cannabis based medical products under current UK legislation. However, GPs can play an important role in the management and monitoring of their patient’s use of medical cannabis, and a GP can prescribe for follow-up under the direction of a specialist.

When it comes to shared care arrangements, the NHS guidance states:

Whilst it is possible for a GP to continue prescribing legally, it is advised that all prescriptions will need to be initiated and signed by a specialist doctor. Consideration will be given to how shared care arrangements should or could work, including determining whether it is indeed appropriate to have such arrangements in place. If a doctor prescribes a medicine under shared care arrangements, he or she accepts clinical and professional responsibility for that prescribing decision.

Private GPs need to have an FP-10 special prescribing pad to undertake shared care prescribing of medical cannabis and have the permission of their CQC licensed clinic to do so.

A review by Christopher Hodges, emeritus professor of justice systems at the Centre for Socio-legal Studies at the University of Oxford, found in a survey of 1500 people, two thirds believe GPs should be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis.

Why should GPs be open minded about talking to patients who are self medicating with cannabis in the UK?

GPs should be open minded about talking to patients who are self medicating with cannabis because it is becoming increasingly accepted in the UK as an effective means of treating various health conditions. It is becoming more and more available through prescription, meaning that it is legally used to treat a range of illnesses, including severe epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

A YouGov poll carried out in October 2022 found that approximately 1.8million people with diagnosed medical conditions are turning to illegally obtained cannabis to manage their illness – 400,000 more than a similar report carried out in 2019. A study by Sapphire Medical Clinics found that nearly half of the UK population (48.6%) are unaware that medical cannabis is legally available on prescription since the law change in November 2018.

Given the increasing acceptability of cannabis as a medicine, GPs should be open minded about talking to patients who are self medicating with cannabis. Such conversations can help doctors to identify and treat any potential medical issues that arise from the use of cannabis and provide information about legal routes to treatment.

What guidance is available for GPs interested in learning more about medical cannabis?

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has published guidance and resources for GPs interested in learning more about medical cannabis.  The RCGP eLearning course provides an in-depth introduction to medical cannabis, including information on the legal framework, clinical considerations and potential risks and benefits.

The Australian Royal College Of General Practitioners also provides some excellent information and resources for GPs who are interested in learning more and becoming active prescribers of medical cannabis.

The Society and PCCN have produced a range of educational resources to support GPs and clinicians to learn more. Members of the Society also have access to our peer support group to learn from and advise each other.

What guidance is available for GPs interested in learning more about CBD?

GPs in the UK are likely to find themselves encountering more patients who are being prescribed medical cannabis or who are using over the counter CBD for a range of health conditions. 

GPs need to be aware of the benefits and potential risks posed by over-the-counter CBD products. Many such products are not regulated and may contain varying concentrations of CBD, making them difficult to accurately dose. Furthermore, as these products are not subject to the same rigorous quality control measures and evidence-based standards as licenced products, it is difficult to know whether they are safe and effective.

Two guides below offer advice so doctors feel comfortable talking to their patients.

Resources for GPs

Join The Medical Cannabis Clinicians SocietyJoin the MCCS


News, case studies, clinician profiles and patient stories from the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society.

Patient stories

Patient stories

Hear from patients benefiting from medical cannabis treatments in the UK.

Join the MCCS

Join the MCCS

Key reasons to join the MCCS, a supportive network of clinicians growing by the day. Exclusive prescribing information, product details and peer support.

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