Image: a graphic showing the chemical structure of cannabis

Cannabis and MS

Evidence shows cannabis for medicinal use can work for some people to relieve pain and muscle spasms in MS.

The case for cannabis for MS

Dealing with pain and muscle spasms when you have MS can be exhausting and make it impossible to manage daily life.

There are NHS treatments for pain and muscle spasms, but they don’t work for everyone. And there is Sativex, a cannabis spray, which you can’t get on the NHS. This urgently needs to change, as most people can’t afford to buy it privately.

Countries including Canada and Germany have already legalised cannabis for medicinal use. They're offering cannabis on prescription so people can be more confident about quality, safety and dose. 72% of people with MS feel that cannabis should be legalised for medicinal purposes.

That's why we've been campaigning for the Government to make cannabis for medicinal use available to people with MS who could benefit.

Making progress

December 2016 - June 2017: We talked to medical professionals about the evidence for cannabis for MS and asked people with MS whether they thought we should be calling for change.

July 2017: Based on the response from our community and medical professionals we changed our official position and went public with it. We wrote to the UK Government calling on them to legalise cannabis for medicinal use to treat pain and muscle spasms in MS.

January 2018: We launched our first campaign action on cannabis for MS. Thousands of you tweeted and emailed your MP calling for change.

February - June 2018: We continued to put pressure on the UK Government and met with politicians. Meanwhile, individual cases of people who couldn't access cannabis for medicinal use hit the headlines.

June 2018: The UK Government announced a review of cannabis for medicinal use. Following this news we worked with neurologists, MPs and celebrities to send an open letter to the Home Secretary to ensure MS was in the review.

July 2018  The UK’s Chief Medical Officer concluded in the first part of the review that cannabis can be beneficial for some conditions, including MS. The second part of the review, conducted by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, also recommended cannabis-derived medicinal products should be made available.

The Home Secretary accepted the recommendations of the review and instructed the relevant bodies to begin identifying what cannabis-based products should be considered.

August 2018: Alongside other charities we wrote to the bodies involved in this process. Together we highlighted the importance of this issue and the need for healthcare professionals and patients to be involved.

October 2018: The Government started the process to change the law on cannabis for medicinal use. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that with the approval of a specialist, people would be able to get prescriptions for cannabis-derived medicinal products from 1 November 2018

November 2018: On 1 November 2018 cannabis-derived products for medicinal use were rescheduled, making it legal for specialists to prescribe cannabis-based treatments. This is a landmark moment and a big win for people with MS who campaigned for this change. But rescheduling is just a small part of creating a system that will mean people are able to access cannabis for medicinal use. We're still waiting to find out more about what this will mean for people with MS. We'll also keep working to make sure people with MS are at the forefront of the Government's plans.