The Urgent Need for Quality and Affordable Cannabis in the UK

New data has found that 1.77 million in the UK are spending on average £150 a month to self-medicate with cannabis.

In the UK, individuals dealing with chronic pain and anxiety often resort to spending significant sums on illicit cannabis monthly. This arises from the absence of accessible, high-quality, and reasonably priced medical cannabis options. Such a scenario not only imposes a financial strain on patients but also subjects them to legal jeopardy and the gamble of inconsistent product standards.

How much money is spent on illicit cannabis for self-medicating pain symptoms?

A YouGov poll conducted in September 2022 indicated that around 1.8 million individuals in the UK might be self-medicating with cannabis, marking a notable rise from the 1.4 million previously estimated in 2019.

Now, a newly released cross-sectional study by JMIR in June 2024 has examined these statistics more, finding that 1.77 million people in the UK, in a bid to manage their health conditions, spend an average of £150 monthly on illicit cannabis.

Why do patients choose illicit cannabis?

The reasons why many patients opt for illicit cannabis are multifaceted. The study found that 25% of illicit cannabis users were unaware that cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) could be legally prescribed in the UK, and nearly 50% had never discussed the possibility of CBMPs with their healthcare providers. This indicates the significant lack of awareness and communication within the medical community about the availability and benefits of CBMPs.

Findings from the report suggest that patients opt for illicit cannabis due to several key reasons:

  • Cost: Legal medical cannabis is often prohibitively expensive.
  • Access: Significant barriers exist in obtaining prescriptions for medical cannabis.
  • Quality: Patients report better and more consistent quality from illicit sources compared to legal products.

Which medical conditions are typically treated with medical cannabis?

Chronic pain and anxiety are two major health conditions driving the demand for medical cannabis. The report estimates that 28 million people in the UK suffer from chronic pain, and a significant portion of these individuals use cannabis to manage their symptoms. Additionally, anxiety affects a substantial number of people, further contributing to the demand for cannabis-based treatments.

Estimates from the report suggest that:

  • 7.48% of UK adults suffer from chronic pain.
  • 14.48% of UK adults experience anxiety disorders.

As modern life stressors increase, more people are affected, causing a growing number to seek medical treatment through the NHS.

However, in April 2024, the latest Referral to Treatment (RTT) data reveals significant figures:

  • The NHS waiting list tallied 7.57 million cases, encompassing roughly 6.33 million individual patients awaiting treatment.
  • Of them, about 3.16 million patients have surpassed an 18-week wait.
  • Notably, over 302,600 patients have endured a year-long wait, showing a slight decline from the previous month’s count of around 309,300 (March 2024).
  • The median wait for treatment stands at 13.9 weeks, nearly doubling the pre-COVID median of 7.2 weeks in April 2019.

This emphasises the vital necessity of efficient and readily available treatment options that eliminate long waiting periods.

The message is clear: it’s time to get better. Better quality, better affordability, and better legal frameworks are essential to improve the lives of those suffering from chronic pain and anxiety.

The solution

One solution lies in legal, safe, and affordable medical cannabis that can be consistently issued by private clinics in the UK. The UK market is crying out for high-quality CBPM’s at affordable price points that patients can access regularly. 

It is well known that current laws need to dramatically evolve to enhance accessibility, but little progress has been made to date since legislation in 2018. Comprehensive education is required within the NHS, law enforcement, regulatory organisations, and the general public, encompassing current NHS clients. It is also imperative to combat the stigma against cannabis that has been passed down through generations due to years of propaganda.

JP-Doran, CEO of Crucial Innovations Corp, states, “We need to provide better quality cannabis and improve affordability for patients, which is the ultimate vision for myself and the rest of the team here at CINV. The UK legal system requires a complete overhaul to give people an alternative to addictive opioids for pain treatment. It is puzzling why many politicians resist improving access for patients in the UK, yet the UK is the world’s biggest exporter of medical cannabis. Effective decision-making that genuinely helps people in need is essential.”


Erridge, S., Troup, L., & Sodergren, M. H. (2024). Illicit Cannabis Use to Self-Treat Chronic Health Conditions: A Cross-Sectional Study from the United Kingdom. JMIR Preprints. Retrieved from

NHS England. (2024). Analysis of monthly data releases by NHS England to highlight the growing backlogs across the NHS – including operations data, cancer waiting list GP referrals and A&E waiting times. Available at:,individual%20patients%20waiting%20for%20treatment [Accessed 1 Jul. 2024].

Buchanan, I., Booth, L. and Brien, P. (2023) ‘Economic contribution of medicinal cannabis’, House of Commons Library Debate Pack, 14 April, CDP-0086. Available at:

Ramage, J. (2024) ‘Patients are finding big problems with their medical weed’, Vice, 11 April. Available at: