Note: This article is not legal advice, and it should not be construed as such. It’s merely a summary of current medical law in the UK as understood by an enthusiast and journalist on the subject.
Despite the increasing support for medicinal cannabis in the United Kingdom, whole-plant medical cannabis, and cannabis overall remains illegal in the UK, although the standardised cannabis prescription Sativex is legal for the specific purpose of treating the gastrointestinal discomfort produced by chemotherapy in cancer patients. For any other treatment purpose approval must first be sought from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. This is likely to change sometime soon as parliament becomes more in line with changing social norms and evolving society. Until the day comes where the law changes, UK medical cannabis prohibition unequally affects many people in the UK.
Despite the fact that medicinal cannabis possession is overall illegal according to current law in the UK, there are legal loopholes that can afford some European citizens protection within the country. According to Clause 75 of the European Union’s Schengen Agreement, residents of a country prescribed any medication legal within the borders of it have the nearly unlimited right to transport their prescription medications throughout the European Union uninhibited, so long as they are in possession of the proper documentation to prove that they are legally in possession of their medicines under their respective national law.
This law doctrine would amply protect any Dutch or Belgian citizen residents traveling within the confines of the European Union, including to and within the UK. This means that as a legal resident and medical cannabis patient in these countries according to the law you would be protected from legal issues arising from medical cannabis use when you’re traveling to, from, and within the UK. This a great boon to resident patients of European countries that it applies to who are seeking to travel to or temporarily reside in the United Kingdom. If this applies to you, it doesn’t mean that you’re excused from common courtesy and discretion overall however. Avoiding creating a hassle with people who would be put off or offended by your actions is still always in your best interest even if you may have some legal standing to justify yourself.
Unfortunately, this doctrine does nothing to protect or expand the access to medicinal cannabis for UK citizens as it is explicitly for the movement safety of residents of European countries with access to medicinal cannabis. So even though it is possible for UK residents to acquire and consume medical cannabis outside the UK, but within the confines of local national laws while remaining in the jurisdiction of the European Union, it is still illegal for UK residents to bring back their legally obtained medical cannabis and cannabis based medicines with them when they return home. This is highly unfortunate given the many known benefits of the plant as a medicine and the easing cultural attitudes across the EU.
Someday soon we’ll likely see comprehensive reform of medical cannabis law in the UK, throughout the EU, and the world. As it stands though, 67% of all recorded drug law offenses in the UK are cannabis related. With law changes likely coming though we can soon be seeing a future with a massive reduction in burden on the criminal justice system, along with a lot less people being fined and put behind bars for possession of a plant that’s increasingly accepted worldwide.