Published: 20/10/2022

Study suggests a sharp rise in number of people using illicitly obtained cannabis to manage medical conditions

Sapphire Medical Clinics are committed to advancing knowledge and awareness of the barriers to accessing medical cannabis in the United Kingdom.

As such we conducted a YouGov survey of the general population which estimated that approximately 1.8 million individuals use illicitly obtained cannabis products with the purpose of alleviating symptoms associated with chronic physical and mental health conditions. A comparable report* published in 2019 suggested the figure stood at around 1.4 million, indicating that approximately 400,000 more people are now turning to the illicit market.

The study points to a lack of awareness and perceived difficulty accessing legal cannabis products, with a quarter (24%) unaware that cannabis could be legally prescribed while two-fifths (41%) were under the impression it would be too difficult to access.

As part of the research, we also polled 1,300 of our patients and found that three-quarters (74%) had previously turned to the illicit market. We want to educate patients and the public that illegally sourced cannabis poses a potential risk to the individual with respect to their health as there are no safeguards to ensure that it is manufactured to be safe for human consumption, whilst also putting individuals at risk by engaging in criminal activity.

Prescription medical cannabis, just like any other medication, must be manufactured to a pharmaceutical standard.

This new evidence was covered in national and regional news. Click here to watch the coverage on STV and here to listen to Dr Simon Erridge on BBC Radio Solent.

*Left-Behind012020.pdf (

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