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Often unenforced

Cannabis in the United Kingdom is widely used as an illegal drug, while other strains lower in THC (commonly called hemp) have been used industrially for over a thousand years for fibre, oil, and seeds.

Cannabis has been restricted as a drug in the United Kingdom since 1928, though its usage as a recreational drug was limited until the 1960s, when increasing popularity led to stricter 1971 classification. Since the end of the twentieth century, there has been rising interest in cannabis-based medicine, and a number of advocacy groups have pressed the government to reform its cannabis drug policies.

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Sativex: Available
Dronabinol: Available

Apart from a synthetic cannabinoid called Nabilone, the only cannabis-based medicine licensed for medical prescription in the UK is Sativex. EU residents prescribed medical products containing cannabis are permitted to be in possession of cannabis whilst freely travelling throughout the United Kingdom. Although it is possible to use all kinds of cannabis for medicinal purposes, some are more appropriate for specific conditions than others. However, this does not apply to UK-resident patients, who may not travel to the UK in possession of medicinal cannabis even if they managed to acquire a prescription in a country where it is legal.


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The oldest evidence of cannabis in Britain was from some seeds found in a well in York; seeds found at Micklegate were associated with a 10th-century Viking settlement. Since it appears to have been mostly grown around the coastal areas it suggests the main reason for cultivating it was as a source of vegetable fibre which was stronger and more durable than stinging nettle or flax. This makes it ideal for making into cordage, ropes, fishing nets and canvas.

With hempen ropes being fundamental to the success of the English Navy, King Henry VIII in 1533 mandated that landowners grown allotments of hemp; Elizabeth I later increased those quotas, and the penalties for failing to meet them. As fibre became more available and the growing of hemp became more widespread, people began to find many other uses for the crop. It became a very important part of the British economy. Eventually, demand had expanded to the point that the demand for more fibre was part of the driving force to colonise new lands. Thanks to its hardiness and ease of cultivation, it became an ideal crop to grow in the new British colonies. Moreover, the naval ships built to protect the new colonies and those built to bring the hemp back, also increased demand, as every two years or so much of their two hundred tonnes of ropes and sail cloth had to be renewed.

Since 1993 the Home Office has been granting licencee for the purposes of cultivating and processing cannabis. The UK government now provides free business advice and support services for growers and processors of cannabis for fibre. They can also issue licences for importing fibre in the form of hemp from abroad.


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Cannabis is widely used throughout the United Kingdom, by people of all ages and from all socio-economic backgrounds.


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Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), formerly the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, is a UK lobby group which campaigns to end the prohibition of cannabis, most urgently for those who need it as medicine.

NORML UK is the United Kingdom branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a cannabislegalisation campaign organisation. NORML UK was founded in 2012.


  • King Henry VIII mandated that landowners grown allotments of hemp


  • United Kingdom first prohibited cannabis as a drug


  • Marijuana possession convictions in the UK had reached 11,111


  • NORML UK was founded


  • Thousands gather in Hyde Park to celebrate smoking weed


    A record number (at least by my rough head count) of people showed up to Hyde Park in London from across the country for the annual 420 event.


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