NHS Chief: We’re risking a ‘big mistake’ with medical cannabis

The head of NHS England has warned that medical cannabis risks “normalising drug use” in the UK.

Simon Stevens argues that medical cannabis could pave the way for the drug to be legalised for recreational use – as has happened in parts of the US and Canada.

Since 1 November 2018, specialist doctors in the UK have been permitted to prescribe cannabis products that have not undergone clinical trials.

Medical risks

In a speech to the Royal Society of Medicine in London this week the NHS Chief Executive highlighted the dangers of the Class B drug.

Stevens said: “I think we have to be careful, as we have a legitimate national debate on medical cannabis, that we don’t look back in a decade’s time and wonder whether we inadvertently made a big mistake.

“Given the well-documented medical risks from so-called recreational cannabis, we don’t want to be accidentally normalising drug use.”

He highlighted the need for research to understand whether there are specific clinical uses for cannabis.


Stevens also spoke of a recent trip to America where magazines were advertising various cannabis businesses.

He added: “We must not be naive in pretending that there isn’t a whole industry just waiting to expand their ‘addressable market’ for drugs in this country.”

David Raynes, from the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said the NHS Chief was “absolutely right”.

“Medical cannabis use is just a Trojan horse for recreational drug use”, he said.


The comments come as a recent BBC documentary drew attention to the link between cannabis use and psychosis.

In ‘David Harewood: Psychosis and Me’ a consultant psychiatrist said that cannabis use makes a person ‘highly vulnerable’ to psychosis.

Repeated studies show that smoking cannabis regularly doubles the likelihood of psychosis.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Specialist doctors can now prescribe cannabis-based products for medical use where there is clinical evidence of benefit. However, the Government has no plans to legalise cannabis for recreational use.”