As a medical cannabis patient in the U.S., you may find yourself frustrated by some of the rules imposed by your state. And of course, you may live in one of the few remaining states that still prohibits medical cannabis. Those states notwithstanding, medical cannabis rules in this country are not as restrictive as they could be.
If you need proof, look no further than the UK. Patients in the UK have theoretically had access to medical cannabis since late 2018. But in practical terms, it is another story. Medical cannabis laws in the UK are so restrictive that an estimated 1.4 million patients use the drug illicitly.
Only Specialists Can Prescribe
The UK system is a minefield of potential problems. It all starts with the fact that only specialized consultants can prescribe medical cannabis to patients. So if a patient goes to a GP in hopes of getting a prescription, the best they can get is a referral to a special consultant.
Consultant referrals would not be such a big deal if said consultants willingly prescribed cannabis medications. But they don’t. Consultants tend to make their decisions based on National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) policies. And right now, NICE takes the position that cannabis doesn’t have any viable medical purposes.
This leaves desperate patients no other choice but to go outside of the National Health Service (NHS). They turn to private physicians instead, hoping to get a prescription. It turns out that private physicians are more willing to prescribe cannabis, but not by much.
How frustrating it must be to suffer from a condition on the UK’s qualifying list only to not be able to get the medicine you need through a doctor’s prescription. You have to turn to the black market and take your chances. Fortunately, the UK has launched a new program (the Cancard program) designed to reduce the chances that legitimate medical users will face penalties if caught in possession.
Medical Cannabis in Utah
For purposes of comparison, we can take a close look at Utah’s medical cannabis program. According to the folks behind the Utahmarijuana.org website, Utah is among the most restrictive of the thirty-seven states with existing medical cannabis programs.
Utah maintains a list of qualifying medical conditions for which cannabis use is deemed appropriate. In order to buy cannabis legally, Utah patients must obtain a medical cannabis card and visit a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy. Cannabis purchased from any other source is illegal.
To obtain a card, a patient must visit with a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP) or Limited Medical Provider (LMP) willing to offer a cannabis recommendation. With that recommendation, the patient submits a card application and waits for approval.
Utah also has a Compassionate Use Board capable of approving medical cannabis for minors and adults whose conditions are not included on the qualifying conditions list. It all adds up to a program under which it is fairly easy to obtain a medical cannabis card as long as a patient qualifies and makes the effort to follow all the steps.
Approval vs. Access
The biggest difference between the UK program and Utah’s program is as clear as comparing approval and access. Medical cannabis has been approved in the UK, but access is limited. Likewise, it has been approved in Utah, where access is much more open.
Ironically, Utah patients are concerned that access is not as open there as in other states. That may be true, but Utah rules are not nearly as restrictive as they could be. Such is the case in most states.