The UK is hardly known for its inspiringly progressive policies on marijuana and other drugs. In fact, with Brexit coming into fruition, the chances of forward-thinking European countries like the Netherlands having a positive impact on the UK’s policies is more unlikely. We are now in a land of our own rules and own laws. However, let’s not be negative nellies, eh? Whilst the UK government might be quite far off legalizing all marijuana products, there’s reason to believe that we are, slowly, moving in the right direction. Thus, the answer to the question of when will THC be legal in the UK may be more optimistic than you think. Today we’re going to be delving into the UK’s policies on marijuana products and try to figure out when it might be that we see THC edibles filling our shelves for the first time. Strap yourselves in. Let’s go.
Marijuana Legality in the UK
Before we look specifically at THC edibles, let’s discover what is and isn’t legal in the UK when it comes to marijuana. The truth is, weed legalization is not as simple as yes or no. There are many variants and products of the cannabis plant, and each one is deemed legal or illegal.
CBD vs THC
One of the big factors that the UK government takes into account when deeming a weed product’s legality or illegality is how much THC or CBD it contains. That’s why we’re quickly going to recap the differences between the two.
THC is the cannabinoid within marijuana that gives that well-known high feeling. It is psychoactive, which means it affects the brain. This can alter colour perception, make one feel euphoric, or sometimes dizzy if too much is had.
CBD does not have the same effects as THC. In fact, CBD is a property that affects the body more than the mind. It is often used medicinally for various purposes; some of these are pain relief and mental health issues. CBD gummies and CBD creams both have differing benefits.
Although the UK isn't the most progressive country in the world, there is some good news. The good news is that in the last few years there have been a few positive changes. Firstly, CBD products are now available in most supermarkets and drugstores in the UK. This includes edibles, oils, and creams. As previously stated, CBD does not have the same ‘high’ mind-altering effect that THC does, which is why it’s legal. CBD is used for medicinal purposes rather than recreational. For your information, recreational purposes means for fun.
In addition, in 2018 more good news came around. Medicinal marijuana has been legal in the UK since 2018 due to pressure made from a specific case. Since the Billy Caldwell case, certain types of medicinal cannabis have been made available in the UK - be it only in private institutions (not the NHS). Billy Caldwell had severe epilepsy and needed a certain type of medicinal oil to treat him. His mother was forced to travel as far as the US and Canada in order to get the product, and when she returned to the UK, it was taken from her upon arrival. Unfortunately, due to this, Billy was taken to the hospital and had an epileptic episode. Since then, people have become aware of how ridiculous the UK’s stance on medicinal cannabis was. The Billy Caldwell case was a watershed moment for weed legalization.
The truth is, however, that medicinal marijuana is still very very difficult to get. Unless, you’re rich of course, and can afford the extortionate prescriptions from a private doctor. The cost for a medicinal cannabis prescription can be as much as £50,000 a year. This means that for those who can’t afford a prescription but still need medicinal cannabis, they’re constantly at risk of being prosecuted for possession. Thankfully, we bring more good news. The Cancard recently came into existence. The Cancard, created by Carly Burton, is an identification card which proves to officials that someone is eligible for medicinal marijuana. This avoids people being unfairly prosecuted or fined. It’s a two fingers to those who thought that expensive medicinal cannabis was a fair or just idea. The Cancard helps those who really need cannabis but aren’t super wealthy.
If you want to find out if you’re eligible for the Cancard or want to learn more about it then click here.
What Isn’t Legal?
So, feeling positive? Well, unfortunately, we now move on to illegal weed products. The truth is: any weed substance that contains higher than 0.2% of THC is illegal. To put this into perspective, the usual amount of THC in a bud would be 10-15%. In cannabis concentrates like wax or rosin then it’s more like 30-40%. Therefore, any weed substance that is used for recreational purposes or to get you high is not allowed by the UK government. This would probably be a great time to mention that alcohol is an addictive substance, is much worse for the body than marijuana, and yet is legal. But oh well.
CBD flowers or buds are also illegal despite the fact that there is essentially no THC contained. This is literally just because it looks like the cannabis weed plant. That is the only reason. The government just doesn't want people smoking anything that resembles buds, even if it’s a CBD product.
What about THC Edibles?
Now you know more about the legal situation in the UK in relation to cannabis, we can move on to the more specific question of THC edibles.
What is a THC Edible?
Here’s some quick facts about THC edibles. In short, an edible is simply something that you digest. THC edibles take longer to kick in than smoking a joint or vaping using a dry herb vaporizer, but often the effect is stronger and lasts longer. It takes longer because the marijuana has to be broken down in the stomach before it can reach the blood. As previously stated, a THC edible is used for recreational purposes, whereas a CBD edible is used more for medicinal purposes.
Are THC Edibles Legal in the UK?
The short answer is no. They are not. Whilst CBD products are basically everywhere at the moment, THC products are still very much illegal. In Amsterdam, THC products are easily accessible to purchase legally, but the UK stands firm in their stance. Marijuana is a Class B drug, next to that of Ketamine and Speed, which means possession can lead to a potential fine and jail time.
When will THC Edibles Be Legal in the UK?
If THC edibles are currently illegal in the UK, the question left to answer then is: when will THC edibles be legal in the UK? Well, it solely depends on where the change is going to come from. The Cancard was created because of grassroots campaigners coming together and creating it. The legalization of medicinal cannabis in 2018 was because of pressure after the Billy Caldwell case. As is the way with most political change, it doesn’t often come from the government. The change comes when the people pressurise the government. Although having said that, the difficulty with THC specifically is that there isn’t an obvious medicinal reason for it to be legalized. Its desire to be legalized would be for recreational purposes. Therefore, the only real reason the government would allow for THC edibles to be legal would be to gain from taxing it. Which, in all honesty, would be a very lucrative option. In the Netherlands, the Dutch government makes over 400 million euros a year from cannabis coffeeshops.
In their manifesto, both the Lib Dems and the Green Party state that they would nationalise the weed industry if put in power. However, as we all know, the most likely parties to win any election are the Tories or maybe Labour. Both the party leaders Starmer and Johnson have no intention of legalizing THC.
However, whilst it may look slightly gloomy, there is a positive spin on all of this. The UK has moved substantially forward in the last few years. Whilst progress has been made within the CBD industry only, the consensus is now slowly moving towards understanding cannabis’ benefits rather than its negatives. A survey found in 2018 that 59% of the UK population want marijuana to be legalized. The truth is, the world is moving in a certain direction and whilst the UK slightly lives in a land of its own, it cannot deny the facts. Marijuana - both THC and CBD - will one day be fully legalized in the UK. It’s only a matter of time. Is it 5 years? 10 years? 50 years? Your guess is as good as ours.