Cannabis Legalisation: Where is Medicinal Cannabis Legal in the World?

19th August 2020

Despite the growing medicinal use of cannabis throughout the world, there are still more than a hundred countries where medicinal cannabis is illegal. However, the reason for the continued prohibition varies from country to country. 

Cannabis, as an alternative treatment, is extremely popular among people who feel medication is either insufficient, dangerous or too expensive. Patients can consume medicinal cannabis in various methods including capsules, dermal patches, oral or dermal sprays, cannabis edibles, vaporising, or smoking dried flowers.

Despite growing liberalisation around medical cannabis, misconceptions still remain in many parts of the world. These misconceptions are based particularly on the plant’s association with ‘weed’ or ‘marijuana’, known for their recreational use for producing a ‘high’.

The truth is “cannabis refers to a group of three plants with psychoactive properties, known as Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis.” There are many different strains of these plants, containing varying ratios of compounds known as cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in all strains of the cannabis plant. The most common of these compounds are THC – known for its psychoactive properties – and CBD, which is gaining increasing attention throughout the world for its potential wellness and therapeutic properties.

The change is on its way

We found almost 150 countries where there are strict rules and prohibition laws in force when it comes to the medicinal use of cannabis.


(Even European countries have differing views around medical cannabis. Map: Canex)

As you can see, even some leading, progressive Western countries (for example, Sweden and Iceland) are against legalisation.

The United Kingdom is under the legal with conditions label as limited use has been approved since 2018. In France, on the other hand, the medical use of some cannabinoid-based drugs has been legal since 2013.

It is worth noting that the stance on this issue is not clear in the European Union either. Most members are about to take the next step or have already legalised medicinal cannabis. However, some parts of the trade block are not showing much of an interest in following the flow.

Canex talked to Dr Mikael Sodergren, the Managing Director of Sapphire Medical Clinics, who told us that “the reason medical cannabis is illegal in many countries is multifactorial.”

He continued:

“It is related to the local political landscape, the legal position of recreational cannabis and the fact that medical research has been slow and difficult due to these factors up until recently.”

“Countries that consider medical cannabis illegal have simply not made a distinction between medical indications and evaluated the now definitive evidence base in support of treating certain conditions such as epilepsy.

“I think that will change relatively quickly globally over the next few years.”

The future

Either way, the CBD and Hemp industry is already flourishing, and dealing with CBD becoming a global business.

Patients and athletes use it for its potential anti-inflammatory, wellness, and therapeutic effects. CBD has become popular among many people who suffer from conditions such as anxiety, sleep disorders, arthritis, and epilepsy, among many more.

Finally – although continued research is essential – according to the preliminary evidence, cannabis can actually be a decisive factor when treating some of the life-threatening diseases or mitigating side effects of medical treatments.

Countries that say no to research and trial might miss out on a huge opportunity. And in the end, the patients will pay the ultimate price.


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