A poll has revealed that an estimated 1.4m British people are using illegal ‘street cannabis’ to treat medically-diagnosed health conditions.
The poll, conducted on behalf of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Cannabis Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS), by YouGov lays bare the widespread illicit adult use of cannabis to treat the symptoms of chronic conditions – around 2.8% of the adult population.
Previous reports have estimated that between 50,000 and 1.1 million people in the UK are already using cannabis in this way, excluding recreational use.
The research found 56% of those using cannabis for their conditions did so on a daily basis, with a further 23% on a weekly basis.
A total of 9% spent nothing on cannabis, implying they grow their own, and 44% spent up to £99 per month, with a further 21% spending between £100 and £199.
Steve Moore, director of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, said: “We can no longer ignore the scale of ‘street cannabis’ use by chronically ill people in the UK.
“We urge the Government to explore models such as those being implemented by the Danish Government which accelerate patient access and clinical learning and address grim illicit profiteering and exploitation of vulnerable people”
Dr Daniel Couch, medical lead, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, added: “For the first time we have reliable, representative data regarding the number of people in Britain using cannabis as a medicine.
“The findings are astounding and present a national challenge. We urgently require robust clinical evidence to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid medicines.”
This week the National Health Service (NHS) approved two cannabis-based medicines used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
The decision follows new guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), a drugs advisory body.
Doctors will be able to prescribe Epidyolex for children with two types of severe epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.