United Kingdom Marijuana Laws & Policy

While recreational cannabis remains illegal in the United Kingdom (UK), the island nation did recently legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Current Legislation

In the UK, recreational cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and it is illegal to possess, cultivate, distribute or sell without the appropriate licenses. The maximum penalty for possession is 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine. In cases where possession is in small amounts, a police officer may issue a warning or an on-the spot fine of £90. In the event a warning is issued, police keep record of the offense but there is no associated fine. Cultivation or possession with the intent to sell comes with a maximum penalty of up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine

It is legal to grow industrial hemp in the UK, but a license is required to cover both cultivation and possession.

Medical Marijuana Laws

After receiving a two-part review on the safety and efficacy of cannabis, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced in July 2018 that medical marijuana would be available by prescription in the United Kingdom. In October 2018, Javid announced that specialized doctors — such as neurologists and pediatricians — will be able to begin prescribing cannabis-based medicines to UK patients “with an exceptional clinical need” on November 1, 2018. The country’s National Health Service will cover its cost.

The UK’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will decide which cannabis-derived medicinal products will be rescheduled to Schedule 2, allowing them to be prescribed by a doctor.

Separately, since April 2013, cannabis (THC) drug Sativex was rescheduled from a Schedule 1 Class B drug to Schedule IV controlled substance, which allows it to be prescribed by a general practitioner. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has authorized Sativex to assist in the treatment of spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. Doctors can prescribe it to assist in the treatment of other conditions, but at their own risk.


Drugs penalties. (2015, August 12). Gov.UK. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/penalties-drug-possession-dealing.

Government announces that medicinal cannabis is legal. (2018, October 11). Gov.UK. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-that-medicinal-cannabis-is-legal.