Medical Cannabis or the Dark Web? An insider speaks

cannabis uk

With Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2022 on the horizon, a few of you, especially those in London and other large cities, may notice an increase in media conversations and general promotion of the UK Medical Cannabis market.

Back in January, I made a post about wanting to leave my existing career industry, to work within the Cannabis industry.

Well I am pleased to say that I was successful in my efforts, and have spent the past six months-ish working for one of the licensed cannabis dispensing pharmacies in the UK.

And what an eye opening six months it has been; eye opening to just how small of a step forward 2018’s quiet legalisation actually was.

I’m not willing to disclose which company I work for, just in case anyone wanted to ask.

Now I will start off by saying that the 1% is if a person has medicinal needs for cannabis, and their condition is so severe that they need to medicate throughout the day, at work, while working, or if they are in any other situation where maintaining a legal status is of paramount importance to them, then yes, I would 100% recommend seeking a private consultation for a cannabis prescription.

They will be following the law, and although the police are largely uneducated on legal prescriptions, and you may have a stressful and difficult time dealing with them, ultimately you will not be prosecuted as a legal patient. Of course you probably won’t be prosecuted as an illegal patient either. More on that later.

If that risk is not really a concern for them, then I have to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend that they consider a legal prescription, and I would certainly recommend using MMUK as a primary source for their medicinal needs.

This has been swirling around in my head for a little while now, so I would like to pen it down and explain why.

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If you want to consider a cannabis prescription in the UK, you will be considering private healthcare. This is something that the majority of us can ill afford. The general process starts with you having a consultation, if successful you get a prescription, you then need to have a second consultation the following month, then another prescription.

After that you can request 2 repeats, then a consultation, 2 repeats, then a consultation. Rinse & repeat. Consultations can cost anywhere from £49 – £200 depending on the company you choose, and repeats can be free or cost up to £50 in admin fees. This means that if you started in January, you could be paying £455 – £1000+ per year in clinic fees before paying for any medicine.

It breaks my heart to say it, but the cheaper clinics, provide a cheaper experience. Some pharmacies charge up to £10 per delivery too, so you can add another £120 on top for good measure. I personally couldn’t afford this.

If you need to speak with your doctor in between those appointments, for example, if you get prescribed a product which does not help you and you need a new prescription, you will have to pay another appointment fee.

Once you have those clinical and delivery fees accounted for, you also have to pay for your medicine. I don’t want to go full blown into medicine pricing here; prices start at around £5 per gram, up to around £15ish per gram. Oils can be £30 – £150 or more depending on the size of the bottle. Carts tend to be around £125 for one ml.

People who are a little bit ignorant of the cannabis world will say:

“Well the cost might be high, but you’re getting professionally grown, high quality, clean Cannabis in return.”

This comment tends to be made by people who believe that anything you buy on the black market is laced with spice and injected with chemicals, and leads me to…

Product Quality

I have had two prescriptions in the past, and my partner has had a few more. I have seen the quality of the flower up close, vaped it and smoked it. I also help the complaints team when we receive product quality complaints, and see a lot of photos of flower that patients want to return.

While I do think that a lot of the quality complaints that are out there about medical cannabis are blown out of proportion, a good deal of them are not.

In 20 years (on and off) of consuming cannabis I have never been sold moldy flower. Certainly never been sold flower with dead bugs in it. I have never once seen any such complaint raised on these forums, and when lurking on Reddit, I have probably seen one or two people show moldy flower that they have received from the BM.

Working in the industry, I deal with legitimate reports of moldy medicine, weekly. I worked on more than five cases where flower has legitimately had dead bugs in it.

Kind of ironic if you think about the previous comments about the lovely “clean and professionally grown medicinal cannabis” that people are paying these exorbitant costs to receive.

So worst case scenario, you’re getting mold and dead bugs mixed in with pretty shit bud. In the best case scenario, you’re getting cannabis of a lower quality than the cheapest strains that you will find on this site, and that’s before it’s been blasted with gamma or e-beam to irradiate all of the “harmful microbial bacteria” that lives on the cannabis.

My partner had one prescription that cost her around £220 for 20g of flower. One of the higher quality strains available. Ghost Train Haze. The nugs were huge and dense, with very little stalk which was great, but they were also irradiated.

The whole flower was deep dark greeny/brown colour, the smell was rootbeery – medicinal. The taste in the vape was the same, medicinal. Not thoroughly unpleasant, but utterly void of any distinguishable terpenes.

The high was good, the medicinal effects were good, but they would have been better from some Amnesia or Super Lemon Haze from MMUK. This experience was fairly consistent with all of the medical stains that we tried.

You will likely get tubs with a few seeds. Most I have seen is 30ish seeds in a 10g tub. Also tubs where 1 or 2 grams of the overall weight looks like shake, and tubs utterly full of stalk.

We don’t accept refunds or returns for any of these reasons, because it’s not good for business – hey the only people who suffer here are the sick people right! There are non irradiated products available.

I haven’t tried them and so I won’t comment on them. I also cannot find a single recorded case anywhere where a person has gotten sick from smoking / vaping non irradiated cannabis and it was confirmed that the sickness was caused by microbial bacteria living on the cannabis.

When you consider that 20-40% of terpenes are lost (i think) due to irradiation, it seems utterly redundant that we are doing this to the majority of medical strains available.

Supply Chain

“Well if my cannabis is on prescription, at least I will be getting a consistent, regular supply to manage my condition right?”

Most of the medicinal cannabis brands are “white label” type businesses who do not grow their own product. in a nutshell the supply chain works a little like this:

A company overseas grows the cannabis and packages it into pre-weighed tubs. (that’s the last time those nugs are seeing daylight for a while!) These are sold to a supplier, acting on behalf of different brands, who buys the tubs and labels them appropriately. They are shipped into the UK and stored.

Meanwhile the pharmacy receives a prescription from a clinic; the pharmacy can legally only store a very small amount of medication on site, and so most prescriptions need to be ordered on demand from the supplier, who are then able to provide the tubs to the pharmacy, who then sell them to the patient.

This process takes a few months and I have a strong suspicion that it is the reason for the poor quality; essentially the grower knows they can sell a shit product to the supplier, because once the patient opens the tub, they’re going to complain to the pharmacy, who, if it is serious enough, will complain to the supplier.

Most quality complaints won’t reach the grower meaning there is little incentive for them to provide a quality product. I would imagine their higher quality stock is sent to countries who don’t have such batshit regulations surrounding medicinal cannabis as we do, but I have no real source on this.

From a patients pov, this means that they will be getting their prescriptions re-writen. A lot. Doctor prescribes you X, pharmacy gets it, orders the stock, waits 5 days gets told stock is unavailable, sends the prescription back to the clinic, three days later gets it back for product Y, orders it in, maybe it arrives, maybe it doesn’t, who the fuck knows?

Paper copies are required in order to process orders, and of course, all this time, your medicinal cannabis is sitting in a non air tight, plastic tub, possibly growing mold, that no one can check for because it’s illegal for anyone other than the patient to open the fucking thing.

Sorry, getting annoyed now. In short, a 15 day delay from the point of your prescription being written to the medicine being in your hands is very standard, as is having a different strain month after month. So let’s talk about the…

Patient Experience

In super-short, you pay for a consultation, have it, the Dr. tells you what they are prescribing, and that gets sent to a pharmacy. Unless you have been a patient for a while, or are lucky to have an awesome doctor, your feedback on strains that you prefer doesn’t mean shit.

This isn’t the USA or CA, or a social club or a coffee shop. There is no menu. There is no official stock list. Dr’s prescribe strains using the medical name, and if you are lucky, you might be told the “street name” or a little about the terpene profiles – although not all doctors have been trained on terpenes yet…Your prescription is sent to the pharmacy digitally, and the paper copy goes in the post.

Nothing really happens until the paper copy arrives. Once it does, the pharmacy will process your script. If you are lucky, stock is readily available and a payment link is sent to you.

If you pay quickly, it will be dispatched quickly. In the best case scenario, your prescription can be received on the Monday, you could have your medication by the Thursday.

That’s not common, and you were probably waiting a week for the consultation before the pharmacy even got involved. From patient feedback that I have had, the typical turn around time from the point of booking a consultation to meds in hand is around 13 days, and from requesting a repeat to meds in hand is around 10 days.

Of course if you are with a more expensive clinic who have more availability and better systems and processes, this time frame will be reduced. The meds will be the same though.

Some of the Doctors are very cannabis savvy and look at terp profiles, thc:cbd ratios, previous patient success etc. Some have been on a short, few days training course and work from a process of “the worse the condition, the higher the thc, sativa for day, indica for night, if in doubt, prescribe more”.

This is improving, don’t get me wrong, but when you pay £50 – £200 for a consultation with a Cannabis prescribing Doctor, you might be shocked to find that it lasts 15 – 30 minutes and the discussion doesn’t go quite how you would have thought.

I personally believe @iTokes knowledge and experience with Cannabis surpasses that of the vast majority of prescribing doctors.

The level of customer service that you receive from your clinic or pharmacy will vary. A lot of the customer facing peons like me, are just humans trying to get by, they don’t need to be cannabis experts to work there, they just need to be able to do call center and admin work.

As you can imagine, if you have worked in call center type roles, it can be fucking hard. Demand from management is high, demand from patients is understandably higher, we are given very few tools to help patients when things go wrong, and we can’t really answer any questions about the medicine or how to take it or prepare it.

Let me tell you when someone calls me and tells me that they’ve never used Cannabis before, they have their flower, and they want to know what kind of vape to buy and do they need to grind it and what temp to they vape it on etc, it breaks my heart that I am not permitted to answer them.

The words “speak with your Doctor, or look online” are uttered regularly and make me feel like an absolute melt.

it also might take two or three orders before you find a strain that works for you. Considering that nearly all strains come in 10g pots, this is going to be a costly exercise.

nice purple plant

Legal status as a prescribed patient – I am not a lawyer!

“Alright Mr. Negative Nancy, you’ve made your point, it’s expensive, it’s slow, the weed is tepid and the customer service is luke warm, but at least it’s legal, that’s got to count for SOMETHING right?”

Maybe, maybe not. This is literally the only deciding factor I would tell you to think about.

How vitally important is being legal to you? If you need to prove legality to an employer, probation officer, social worker, landlord or some other nosey sod, or if you need to medicate during the day, in public, take your medication with you to places and events etc, then sure, maybe it is in your best interest to get a prescription. However if you ever get stopped by police with said prescription, here’s what’s going to happen: (probably).

Firstly, the officer will probably have no idea that legal prescriptions exist.

They’re going to imply that you are a liar, explain that “anyone can make a tub and a label like that” and also say that “only a few people have prescriptions” because all they know about is the rare few NHS prescriptions. You’re going to get stressed, and argue with them.

Lets hope that you are from the appropriate ethnic, racial or social background to not send PC plod into a fit of rage when you do this! Then plod will radio for help.

Sooner or later, someone will tell them that actually prescription cannabis has been legally available for the past four years, and they may call your pharmacy or your clinic to verify your honesty.

However the feedback that I have been given is that rather making the call then and there, the fuzz like to confiscate your medication, take it away, “conduct their inquiries” over a few days, before eventually phoning you with their tail between their legs, inviting you to come back to the station to collect it.

Oh what’s what? you’re disabled and suffer with extreme anxieties and this whole situation was very unpleasant for you? Too bad, fuck you. They don’t care.

Given that being “caught” with your prescription results in a massive amount of stress and heartache, and then thinking about the fact that really, people need to be caught with in possession of at least 100g of Cannabis in order to qualify for a category 4 sentencing ( it might be something that is just not, worth the time, money and trouble.

Of course your situation is not my situation and everyone is different and this is something that I would encourage everyone to look into before embarking on trying any new substance.

I’m not a lawyer. I’ve never been arrested. I come from a place of certain privilege and am generally not targeted by the police so really this is all down to my personal experience and your mileage may vary.

Me personally, I consume 90% of my weed at home. When I do take some out with me, it’s in small towns or cities and I take pre-loaded dosing capsules and my mighty.

I have sat on busy benches and vaped away in a city center without anyone giving me a second glance. If I ever get searched, they’re going to find at most 1.2g of herb packed into 8 dosing caps, which I can probably talk my way out of any serious trouble for, and it’s not a great loss if it gets confiscated. A Cancard can also help in these situations.

So what about Cancard?

Taken from their website; “A Cancard is a medical ID card, recognised by the police. It is a validated indication to any third-party that you are consuming cannabis for medical reasons.”

Essentially Cancard is a scheme designed to help people who are using illegal cannabis for medicinal reasons, but who do not have access to a legal prescription. It is not akin to the “medical cards” that you hear about across the pond, and does not give you a legal right to possess Cannabis. There are other features the scheme has, I’m not here to promote them, research it if you’re interested.

I do not agree with the “scamcard” consensus that you see people repeat on dreddit, virtually high fiving each other over while shooting down anyone who offers a differing opinion. There is no scam.

Whenever people ask about the card, the word “scam” is thrown around over and over again. It’s ridiculous. The website is perfectly upfront and honest about how the card works, what it can and can’t do, and what the organisation does.

I have a card, and have (by my own choice) offered it to police on two occasions (when I have not been carrying) to ask them what they understood about it. On both occasions, the officers confirmed that they have received the training, and know the appropriate questions to ask when being presented with the card, and one told me they had used that training in a real world situation.

I can’t tell you whether or not you should get one, I have one, I hope that I never need to use it, but I don’t mind paying a small yearly fee for it.

Well, that certainly escalated. I wrote this down in between jobs during my shift yesterday, and it certainly helped to pass the time.

You’ll notice that I haven’t compared each point to the service that MMUK offers. I don’t think that I need to do that. The selection, prices, and renowned turnaround time speak for themselves.

Honestly, if you need cannabis medicinally, the heartache of being a long term prescribed patient is often more trouble than the perk of “being legal” is worth. I can’t in good faith recommend it, but am happy to answer questions if anyone is interested.

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