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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 only get on the NHS in Wales. This urgently needs to change, as most people can’t afford to buy it privately.

This is why we've been campaigning for the Government to make cannabis based medicine 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.

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.

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 based products for medicinal use were rescheduled, making it legal for specialists to prescribe cannabis-based treatments. This was a landmark moment and a big win for people with MS who campaigned for this change. But changing the law is just a small part of creating a system that will mean people are able to access cannabis for medicinal use.

March 2019: Several months on from the change in the law, we hadn’t heard of anyone with MS who had benefited. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of available products and low confidence amongst prescribers. In March, we spoke in front of a committee of MPs to say the system wasn’t working for people with MS, and called on Government to take responsibility and produce a clear plan for change. We also told MPs that improving access to Sativex on the NHS must be a priority.

July 2019: A committee of MPs said Government should encourage greater research into the effects of cannabis-based medicines in areas like MS, with the aim of making effective treatments available on the NHS in future. 

August 2019: We responded to draft guidelines on medicinal cannabis after hearing from hundreds of people with MS. We called on NICE and the company behind Sativex to get around the table to strike a deal that makes Sativex available on the NHS.

Cannabis and MS reports