Is cannabis legal in Wales? What about medicinal marijuana? Is CBD legal? Let's find out.
As we've covered previously, those within the United Kingdom are no strangers to cannabis. Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, with 1/3 adults aged 16 to 64 having tried the drug at least once in their lives. On top of this, roughly 1.4 million British people consume cannabis on a regular basis as a form of self-medication for a health condition.
Therefore it shouldn't surprise readers that when UK citizens were surveyed, the majority were in favor of cannabis legalization, with 51% saying that cannabis should either be decriminalized or entirely legalized. The debate also seems to fall upon generational lines, with the number only increasing among youths. 68% of 18-24-year-olds support cannabis legalization in the UK.
The favorable stance adopted by the UK toward cannabis is likely due to the fact that people within the UK don't see cannabis as particularly harmful. In fact, when compared with heroin, cocaine, tobacco, and alcohol, the majority of respondents said cannabis was a safer choice. Only caffeine was deemed to be a safer drug than cannabis.
So with all that in mind, let's see what Wales' cannabis laws are.
Is Recreational Weed Legal in Wales?
As you may have already gathered, no, recreational weed isn't legal in Wales, and you won't find any dispensaries there like you'd find in Colorado or California.
This is because, in Wales (along with the rest of the UK) cannabis is classified as a Class B drug, alongside speed, ketamine, and some forms of codeine. This means that anyone found possessing cannabis in Wales risks facing an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail. If you're found dealing cannabis, you could face up to 14 years in jail.
Though as we mentioned earlier, the UK holds quite favorable views toward cannabis, and this includes many within the Welsh police force. This has led police to change their tact when it comes to cannabis arrests.
Arfon Jones, a North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner stated in an interview that many police were taking a "de facto decriminalization approach" to cannabis. "We can't regulate cannabis or any other drug in our own right, but we can influence the way we police it," he tells VICE. "That is within our power and we can do so without changing the law."
According to VICE, the average cannabis case in the UK costs the government approximately £2,256, and police are estimated to spend 1 million hours overall each year enforcing cannabis prohibition. "We have other far more important things to do than stop people smoking small amounts of drugs, especially cannabis," says Jones.
So while cannabis may not be legal to possess or consume in Wales, in some respects it's decriminalized by the police, which suggests a changing of the cultural tides.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Wales?
Medical marijuana became legal in Wales as of November 2018, following a handful of high-profile cases involving the use of medicinal cannabis.
Arguably the most famous case involving medical marijuana in the UK was 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who needed cannabis oil to treat his severe epilepsy. He and his mother were spending thousands traveling to and from countries such as Canada who had made cannabis legally available, in order to keep Billy's epilepsy at bay. These efforts were halted however when Billy's supply of cannabis was confiscated at Heathrow airport upon their arrival back into the UK.
Shortly after, Billy's symptoms worsened, and he was taken to the hospital. Officials decided to allow Billy to continue using cannabis for 20 days, as they kept a close eye on his condition, which promptly improved. At this point, the proof was in the pudding, meaning that no one could continue to deny the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
As a result, medicinal cannabis products became legal for prescription by professionals.
Previously, cannabis was considered to have 'no therapeutic value' according to the law, but after analysis, the Council on the Misuse of Drugs finally admitted that cannabis had medical benefits "in certain circumstances."
Perhaps the biggest irony of all, is that according to a report from the U.N., the United Kingdom is actually the world's largest producer of legal cannabis. According to the UN's International Narcotics Control Board, the UK accounted for nearly 45% of the world's total cannabis production, totaling ninety-five tonnes of marijuana produced in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use in the UK alone.
Furthermore, the UK is the home of GW Pharmaceuticals, one of the most groundbreaking biopharma companies in the cannabis space.
GW Pharmaceuticals created Sativex in 2014, a cannabinoid drug designed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) which was the first cannabis derivative to receive market approval in any country. And in 2018, the company came out with Epidiolex, which remains the only cannabis drug currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Epidiolex is used to treat epilepsy.
Is CBD Legal in Wales?
The short answer is yes, CBD is legal in Wales. In fact, the compound has attracted so much attention that Statista estimates that the UK CBD market will hit £1 billion by 2025. Let's explore what CBD is, and it's legal status in Wales.
CBD refers to cannabidiol, which is a compound found within the cannabis plant that just recently started to make waves in the cannabis space. CBD's recent rise to stardom is owed almost entirely to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized the cultivation and distribution of hemp in the U.S.
While CBD appears in marijuana, hemp plants have a much higher concentration of CBD, with only minimal amounts of THC (around 0.3%) which means users won't get high.
You can consume CBD gummies, use CBD tinctures, or put a drop of CBD into your beverages to consume the compound.
Though most notably, CBD has made strides in improving rare forms of childhood-onset epilepsy, such as Dravet Syndrome, for which traditional medicines don't always work. As a result, GW Pharma has released 'Epidiolex,' the first CBD-based drug to receive FDA approval.
When it comes to the legality of CBD in Wales, the Home Office has stated that licenses would be granted for the cultivation of plants as long as seed types contain a THC content of 0.2% or less.
The only legal gray area with CBD comes down to marketing, which has been a recurrent issue in the U.S., whereby vendors will overhype the benefits of CBD to make sales. Given that the CBD industry is still in its early stages, making definitive health claims about your CBD product is not only unfounded, but it's also misleading and could get you into trouble.
If you're living in Wales you can find CBD in certain pharmacies, such as Lloyds Pharmacy, which is believed to be the first high street pharmacy to sell CBD. It sells CBD oils, capsules and powders. Alternatively, you can look online – though you'll be running the risk of buying an unregulated product and likely won't know the percentages of CBD found within it, or the other ingredients used.
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