When Is Weed Going to be Legal in the UK?

Reading time - 9 minutes - June 17, 2021

One of the most prominent questions on any UK weed-lover’s lips is: when will the UK legalize weed? As other countries in Europe and other continents begin to legalize cannabis, the UK seems to sit stagnant in their stiff-upper lip way. As per usual, the UK is stuck in its imperial and old-fashioned box, whilst the rest of the world moves forward with the times. But, you know what, maybe it’s not all bad. There’s evidence to suggest that weed legalisation may not actually be as far away as one may think. Today we’re going to look into what the current situation is with regards to cannabis laws in the UK, we’ll check what the main political parties’ stances are, and we’ll try and figure out when marijuana could become fully legal. As always, strap yourself in. This one’s gonna be technical. Let’s go. 

Is Weed Legal in the UK Now?

Before we can begin to look into the future, we must first delve into the past. That sentence sounds like it could have come from the mouth of a wise martial art professor, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true. So let’s first look into how legal weed is on a scale of 1-10 in the UK. Remember, weed legalisation is not as simple as yes or no. There are many things to consider within it: THC products, CBD products, edibles, buds, rosin, concentrates and many more. More importantly, weed legalisation is all based around whether the use is medicinal or recreational. So let’s look into that. 

What Is Legal? 

Let’s start with the good news, eh? The good news is that some weed products are legal. CBD products have taken the market by storm; edibles, oils and creams that contain CBD are purchasable on UK shelves. As you may know, CBD does not have the same ‘high’ after effect that THC does, which is why it’s legal. It is not a psychoactive substance. Therefore, CBD creams like hemp pain relief cream, are usually for the purpose of health rather than enjoyment. That is the difference between medicinal use, and recreational use. Medicinal is for health reasons, recreational is for enjoyment reasons. 

More good news: medicinal marijuana has been legal in the UK since 2018. Since the Billy Caldwell case, certain types of medicinal cannabis have been made available in the UK – be it only in private institutes (not the NHS). Billy Caldwell had severe epilepsy and needed a certain type of medicinal oil to treat him. His mother was forced to travel as far as the US and Canada in order to get the product, and when she returned to the UK, it was taken from her upon arrival. Unfortunately, due to this, Billy was taken to hospital and almost died. Since then, people have become aware of how ridiculous the UK’s stance on medicinal cannabis was. The Billy Caldwell case was a watershed moment for weed legalisation. 

The truth is, however, that medicinal marijuana is still very very difficult to get. Unless, you’re rich of course, and can afford the extortionate prescriptions from a private doctor. This means that for those who can’t afford a prescription but still need medicinal cannabis, they’re constantly at risk of being prosecuted for possession. Thankfully, we bring more good news: the Cancard recently came into existence. The Cancard, created by Carly Burton, is an identification card which proves to officials that someone is eligible for medicinal marijuana. This avoids people being unfairly prosecuted or fined. It’s a middle finger to those who thought that expensive medicinal cannabis was a fair or just idea, and the Cancard helps those who need cannabis but aren’t rich. 

What Isn’t Legal?

So, are you feeling positive? Well, unfortunately we now move on to illegal weed products. The truth is – any weed substance that contains higher than 0.2% of THC is illegal. Therefore, any weed substance that is used for recreational purposes or to get you high is not allowed by the UK government. This would probably be a great time to mention that alcohol is an addictive substance, is much worse for the body than marijuana, and yet is legal. But oh well. 

CBD flowers or buds are also illegal despite the fact that essentially they contain no THC. This is probably because it looks like the cannabis  plant. That is the only reason. The government just doesn’t want people smoking anything that resembles buds, even if it’s a CBD product. 


If you look at what is and isn’t legal in the UK when it comes to marijuana, you’ll see two opposing things. On one side, the world of CBD and medicinal cannabis is slowly but surely becoming more accessible. Hopefully this will continue to happen. Alternatively, on the other hand, the UK has a very strict policy on any recreational use of marijuana. And it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

If you want to know more about drug policy in the uk, check out our other article

What do UK Political Parties think about Weed?

The majority of cannabis policy shift has occurred due to grass-root means, rather than government policy. This was the case both with the Cancard and the Billy Caldwell case. However, the political parties in the UK still have the potential to cause real change if they wanted to. Thus, let’s look at what their stances are on weed. 


The Conservatives are probably the least likely to back cannabis legalisation. This is probably due to the fact that the individuals who make up the Tory party are extremely out of touch. If the wildest thing previous Prime Minister Theresa May has done is run through a field of wheat, then it’s not surprising that she doesn’t care much about legalizing marijuana. She sounds absolutely wild!

In 2017, a tory spokesperson said: “There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities. We have no plans to change the law.” 

However, since then, medicinal cannabis has been legalized. But, as previously stated, this was because of grass-root pressure rather than the government’s own doing. 

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are usually slap bang in the middle when it comes to policies. On the party’s website, it says: “the Liberal Democrats want to introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis”. This would supposedly include a limit on the potency and would allow for it to be sold at regulated stores. As usual with the Liberal Democrats, this sounds idealistic. Similar to when they promised to abolish tuition fees, but then allowed for them to rise. However, whatever you think of the Liberal Democrats, their desire to legalize marijuana is evident in their manifesto. Therefore, hopefully this will cause a chain reaction in other parties. 


Labour have just recently changed leader from Corbyn to Starmer. Labour under Corbyn were all for weed legalization, and as early as 2000 he himself voted against the criminalization of marijuana use. However, Labour have historically been careful where to place themselves in the legalize weed debate. They don’t want to be seen as too liberal in comparison with the Conservatives. It’s classic tactical politics.Who knows what anyone actually thinks? 

Recently Starmer has come out and said he thinks the UK’s drug policy is ‘roughly right’. So it looks as if Labour under Starmer wouldn’t do much for cannabis legalisation either. 

Green Party

The Green Party have always had a very mature and forward-thinking approach to drug laws. On their website they state they want “to end the prohibition of drugs and create a system of legal regulation to minimise the harms associated with drug use, production and supply as part of an inclusive, supportive, socially just society.” Whilst the Green Party are very unlikely to get into power in the current first-past-the post system, they still have the power to change the legalize weed discussion. And hopefully their consistent drug policies will rub off on the rest of politics. 


Other Countries

In its current state, the UK is far from competing with the rest of the world when it comes to progressive drug policy. Here are some examples of countries which have legalized marijuana both medicinally and recreationally. An obvious example is the Netherlands, which  is probably one of the most high-profile legal weed countries. In fact, according to Dutch data, around 58% of tourists come to Amsterdam for marijuana purposes. The Netherlands is a great example for how weed legalisation can boost the economy.

Examples of countries that the UK should aim to replicate:

If you want to know more details about weed laws in other parts of the world, make sure to check out our article

When will the UK Legalize Weed?

So, now you know a lot more about the current situation in the UK in regards to marijuana laws. However, the question still remains: when will the UK legalize weed? Well, there has been research into the potential market worth if the UK was to legaliae marijuana, and apparently it sits somewhere between: £1billion and £3.5billion. If there was ever to be a good reason for the Conservatives to legalize marijuana, it would be profit like this. Furthermore, with many political parties not wanting to be seen raising taxes after the pandemic, marijuana sales could be a wonderful way to make money indirectly. So who knows? 

Despite leaving the EU, a lot of the people within the UK still feel very much part of Europe. Therefore, the more countries in Europe that begin to ease their views on cannabis, the more pressure will be put on the UK government. In addition, the further research that goes into medicinal cannabis benefits and recreational cannabis financial benefits, the more likely the government will be to legalize it entirely. 

What is Our Prediction? 

If we were forced to predict a year when marijuana could be legal both medicinally and recreationally then it would be… drum roll please…2030. By 2030, you’d hope that medicinal cannabis would be easily attainable, and recreational cannabis was available in special stores. It’s the way the world is going and it’s the right thing.

But, that’s just our opinion, what’s yours?

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