Whilst our focus here at Ciao CBD is on using CBD infused products as a wellbeing supplement, it can be easy to confuse the CBD products you can buy in health stores with the conversation around the use of cannabis as a medicine to treat major health conditions.

There is growing evidence to suggest that cannabis should be taken seriously as a medicine in its own right, and clinical studies showing the effectiveness of what’s usually referred to as ‘medical marijuana’ has led to countries around the world, including the UK, reviewing, debating and passing laws to legalise its use as a medicine.

High-profile cases around the world helped to bring the the use of medical marijuana as a treatment into the spotlight and led to a growing awareness of its potential benefits amongst the general public. For example, the outcry around the cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell in the UK, led Home Secretary, Sajid Javid to commission a review into the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines which ultimately led to legislation being passed in November 2018. 

Medical Marijuana can be cannabidiol (CBD) or a mix of CBD and THC which is where the difference comes into play from the CBD products aimed at the wellness market. And whilst THC gets a bit of a bad rap due to its intoxicating properties, when taken for the correct conditions and administered in the correct dosage it does have beneficial medicinal properties.

That’s why cannabis based medicines are heavily tested before gaining licences and have to be prescribed by a specialist doctor. In some counties like Canada, cannabis has been legalised for both medicinal and recreational purposes however, in most countries it has only been legalised for medicinal reasons and then under strict conditions. Here we take a look at the status in the UK and US.

The UK

A review by Chief Medical Advisor Dame Sally Davies concluded that there was evidence medical cannabis can have therapeutic benefits. The second part of the review which was held by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), stated that doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis provided the products meet safety standards.

The subsequent legislation enabled specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for patients, usually as a last resort when other medicines have not been effective or the side effects are too great. That doesn’t mean that anyone can walk into their doctor’s surgery and ask to be treated with a cannabis based medicine as there are stringent rules as to what conditions can be treated:

  • Children and adults with rare, sever forms of epilepsy

  • Adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy

 The cannabis based medicines that can legally be prescribed by specialist doctors in the UK are:


Epidiolex is a treatment for adults and children with epilepsy and is a contains highly purified liquid containing CBD (cannabidiol). Although it is not yet licensed in the UK it can still be prescribed for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome which are both rare and severe forms of epilepsy.


Nabilone is a medication for chemotherapy patients to help relieve sickness and nausea. It can only be prescribed when other treatments haven’t helped or aren’t suitable and is taken in capsule form. According to the NHS website, Nabilone has been developed to act in a similar way to THC - the cannabis chemical that makes you high which is described as a ‘mandmade form of cannabis.’

Nabiximols (Sativex)

Nabiximols was the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed in the UK. Sprayed into the mouth, it can be prescribed for the treatment of MS-related spasticity if a patient has shown inadequate response to other treatments or found their side effects intolerable.

For more information, visit the NHS website.

The US

In America, the state of medical cannabis or ‘medical marijuana’ is confusing as marijuana is not recognised for its medicinal purposes by the overall Federal Government which makes it illegal under US federal law. However, individual states have the power to legalise its use for medicinal and recreational within their particular state boundaries.

As of April 2019, the use of medical marijuana is legal in 33 US states and Washington, D.C. with each individual state having a specific legal framework governing rules, regulations and requirements. Anyone wanting to use medical cannabis must have a qualifying medical condition and is required to obtain a ‘Medical Marijuana Card’ from an approved, licensed doctor.

Whilst the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognised or approved the marijuana plant as a medicine, in June 2018 it did approve the first drug that is derived from marijuana for use as an anti-epileptic treatment. Epidiolex is the first prescription pharmaceutical formulation of highly purified, plant-derived Cannabidiol (CBD) available as a prescribed oral solution in all 50 US states and as in the UK it can be prescribed as a treatment for seizures in patients with the most severe forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

For more information on the US and medical marijuana visit here