A medicinal cannabis card launched in Britain today so patients carrying the drug can easily prove they aren’t breaking the law.
The card, the same size as a driving licence or bank card, shows a patient’s name, picture, date-of-birth and address.
It also carries a QR code, which can be scanned to show instantly show they legally have a prescription.
The card is provided by Releaf, a website which can prescribe cannabis, which says customers can show the card to police officers who question their use of the drug.
The launch comes on 4/20, an international day to celebrate cannabis, which sees lovers of the drug descend on parks across the globe to light up.
The Medical Cannabis Card shows a patient’s name, picture and a QR code which can be scanned to show that they have a prescription
The card is provided by Releaf, a website which prescribes cannabis (pictured), which says customers can show the card to police officers who question their use of the drug
The Nottingham-based company says its card will provide patients with the confidence to use their medication ‘whenever and wherever they need’
It is currently illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell cannabis in the UK.
Police can issue an on-the-spot fine of £90 for carrying the Class B drug. It can also come with a maximum of five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
Penalties depends on the quantity of the drug, where it was found, criminal history and other aggravating or mitigating factors.
However, some patients can access cannabis legally on the NHS after medicinal use was made legal in the UK following a landmark review in 2018.
This includes patients with severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, as well as adults suffering vomiting or nausea due to chemotherapy.
HOW IS MEDICAL CANNABIS USED?
Medical cannabis is a broad term for any sort of cannabis-based medicine used to relieve symptoms.
Some products that might claim to be medical cannabis, such as CBD oil or hemp oil, are available to buy legally as food supplements from health stores.
But there’s no guarantee these are of good quality or provide any health benefits.
And some cannabis-based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. These are only likely to benefit a very small number of patients.
Epidyolex for children and adults with epilepsy
Epidyolex is a highly purified liquid containing CBD (cannabidiol).
CBD is a chemical substance found in cannabis that has medical benefits.
It won’t get you high, because it doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
Nabilone for chemotherapy patients
Many people having chemotherapy will have periods where they feel sick or vomit.
Nabilone can be prescribed by a specialist to help relieve these symptoms, but only when other treatments haven’t helped or aren’t suitable.
Nabilone is a medicine, taken as a capsule, that has been developed to act in a similar way to THC.
The medicine has been licensed in the UK, so has passed strict quality and safety tests, and is proven to have medical benefit.
Nabiximols (Sativex) for MS
Nabiximols (Sativex) is a cannabis-based medicine that is sprayed into the mouth
It is licensed in the UK for people with MS-related muscle spasticity that hasn’t got better with other treatments.
But its availability on the NHS is limited. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not recommend that NHS doctors prescribe Sativex, as it is not cost effective.
There is some evidence medical cannabis can help certain types of pain, though this evidence is not yet strong enough to recommend it for pain relief.
Only specialist hospital doctors can prescribe it and even then, it is only dished out as a last resort if all other treatments have failed.
NHS doctors remain reluctant to prescribe it because of a lack of strong evidence that it helps sufferers of most illnesses.
Private prescriptions, which can cost hundreds of pounds each month, are more common.
Doctors who are on the General Medical Council’s specialist register can legally prescribe cannabis-based products. Health chiefs warn they should follow the NHS narrow approach and only offer the drug to few patients.
Those who have been given cannabis medication by doctors can already prove they have a prescription by keeping the medicine in its original packaging, a copy of their prescription and a letter from the doctor who prescribed it.
Patients may also need to show their ID, such as a passport or driving licence, that matches the information on the other documents.
But Releaf says that its new card contains all this information, including what has been prescribed, the patient’s condition and the doctor who prescribed it which is ‘what police require’ to verify legitimate cannabis use.
It shows the patient’s full name, address, photo and QR code, which provides police with ‘all the information they need’ to verify that someone is a registered cannabis patient.
The card also contains a 24-hour helpline that police can call.
The Nottingham-based company says its card will provide patients with the confidence to use their medication ‘whenever and wherever they need’.
Releaf customers can access the card if they set up a subscription with the website, which starts from £3.25 per day for 20g and is valid for as long as the prescription.
They can only do this after meeting criteria to be prescribed the drug and being assessed by a doctor via an online or phone appointment.
Just four in 10 Brits know that medical cannabis is legal in the UK, according to its survey of 4,200 Brits.
And a quarter would be put off using the prescribed drug outside their home, while a third are concerned about being mistaken for doing something illegal, it found.
Greg de Hoet, a 35 year old medicinal cannabis patient, is prescribed cannabis to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
He said: ‘Until now, I have been worried that I will be prevented from getting into the football stadium or music concert I have tickets to see and have my medication taken away from me due to a lack of understanding.
‘This will really help to reduce the stigma and hopefully will empower others whose quality of life could be really improved by taking medical cannabis to speak to their doctor about it.’
Dr Stephen D’Souza, clinical director at Releaf, said: ‘This card will ultimately provide those who really need medical cannabis the confidence and freedom to take their prescribed medication when they feel the need to, free of stigma.’
It comes as former Scottish secretary David Mundell today urged ministers to back the cannabis sector, which is the ‘industry of the future.
While not ‘advocating for legalisation of recreational use’, he wants to highlight ‘the opportunities that flow from the growing and manufacturing of medical cannabis-related products’.
The MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale said: ‘I have the development of a large medical cannabis facility in my constituency.
‘It is called Hilltop Leaf and I wanted to highlight the fact that this is a huge industry, a growing industry, an industry of the future because medical cannabis isn’t just legal here in the UK.
‘It’s legal in many parts of the world and it’s a great opportunity for the UK to be at the forefront of this industry.
‘But unfortunately, we just make it very difficult.’
While the health benefits are starting to be used more frequently in UK medicine, there are concerns about the recreational use among young people and the impact they have on mental health.
Ian Hamilton, an addiction expert from the University of York, told MailOnline that the increasing strength of cannabis has upped the risk for some users.
Those with mental health conditions such as psychosis may see their symptoms worsen with frequent use of ‘high potency cannabis’, he warned.
Young people can fall into the trap of thinking that cannabis is relatively harmless, as it is promoted for its health properties, without realising that the dose used in medicine is significantly lower, Mr Hamilton said.
He said: ‘Many people believe that cannabis is not addictive but research suggests that one in ten of those using the drug regularly will develop a dependency.
‘Some of these risks and harms could be tackled if the drug was decriminalised and regulated.
‘For example there would be an opportunity to provide quality control to the cannabis that was legally sold rather than leaving it to the black market.’
But Mr Hamilton noted that both the Conservatives and Labour have ruled out decriminalisation.
Only the Liberal Democrats have made clear their ambition to decriminalise cannabis, so policy would likely only change if they were included in a coalition government,’ he added.