ACMD Advice on Medical Cannabis in the UK | George McBride

Yesterday, the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ new (non-binding) advice to the Home Office on medical cannabis was published. Here are my preliminary thoughts.


1. Stringent standards for medical products are important, but the ACMD advice, if implemented, would make cannabis far harder to prescribe than other drugs, harming more patients than it would protect by restricting access.

2. Patients are already using cannabis. We need to work rapidly to make sure they are accessing tested products, rather than illegal untested products. We also already know a lot about side effects, risks and contraindications for cannabis.

3. Cannabis products have a very low risk profile and cannabis access is proven to reduce opiate fatalities — we can afford to be far more bold and optimistic.

4. I agree on the importance of giving more advice to those prescribing cannabis, but this has to be more than just guidelines - health professionals in the UK need extensive training.

5. Advocating clinical trials is great, but the UK already has the second highest number of cannabis trials in the world. The public called for access, not more evidence gathering. More clinical trials are needed, but not before wider access.

6. The recommendations state that, "at present the demand for CDMPs is unknown". Hanway Associates are happy to inform here. Hint - the demand is very high indeed.

7. This advice advocates marketing authorisation for products, but gives no advice to MHRA on how to expedite or manage this process. Without a suitable process access could take years, not months.

8. There is clearly a lack of understanding about the unique opportunities cannabis medicines present for patients, practitioners and public health. More input from medical cannabis professionals would help.

George McBride is one of the founders and partners at Hanway Associates, London’s global cannabis consultancy. Get in touch for more insights and advice on cannabis in the United Kingdom and Europe.

George McBride