Medical cannabis (and cannabis oils)
Many cannabis-based products are available to buy online, but their quality and content is not known. They may be illegal and potentially dangerous.
Some products that might claim to be medical cannabis, such as “CBD oil” or hemp oil, are available to buy legally as food supplements from health stores. But there’s no guarantee these are of good quality or provide any health benefits.
And some cannabis-based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. These are only likely to benefit a very small number of patients.
Can I get a prescription for medical cannabis?
Very few people in England are likely to get a prescription for medical cannabis.
Currently, it is only likely to be prescribed for the following conditions:
- children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
- adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
- people with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS)
It would only be considered when other treatments were not suitable or had not helped.
Epidyolex for children and adults with epilepsy
Epidyolex is a highly purified liquid containing CBD (cannabidiol).
CBD is a chemical substance found in cannabis that has medical benefits.
It will not get you high, because it does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in cannabis that makes you high.
Epidyolex can be prescribed for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (both rare forms of epilepsy).
Nabilone for chemotherapy patients
Many people having chemotherapy will have periods where they feel sick or vomit.
Nabilone can be prescribed by a specialist to help relieve these symptoms, but only when other treatments have not helped or are not suitable.
Nabilone is a medicine, taken as a capsule, that has been developed to act in a similar way to THC (the chemical in cannabis that makes you high). You may have heard it described as a “manmade form of cannabis”.
Nabiximols (Sativex) for MS
Nabiximols (Sativex) is a cannabis-based medicine that is sprayed into the mouth.
It is licensed in the UK for people with MS-related muscle spasticity that has not got better with other treatments.
There is some evidence medical cannabis can help certain types of pain, though this evidence is not yet strong enough to recommend it for pain relief.
What about products available to buy?
Some cannabis-based products are available to buy over the internet without a prescription.
It’s likely most of these products – even those called “CBD oils” – will be illegal to possess or supply. There’s a good chance they will contain THC, and may not be safe to use.
Health stores sell certain types of “pure CBD”. However, there’s no guarantee these products will be of good quality.
They tend to only contain very small amounts of CBD, so it’s not clear what effect they would have.
Is medical cannabis safe?
The risks of using cannabis products containing THC (the chemical that gets you high) are not currently clear. That’s why clinical trials are needed before they can be used.
“Pure” products that only contain CBD, such as Epidyolex, do not carry these unknown risks linked with THC.
But in reality, most products will contain a certain amount of THC.
The main risks of THC cannabis products are:
- psychosis – there is evidence that regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia
- dependency on the medicine – although scientists believe this risk is probably small when its use is controlled and monitored by a specialist doctor
Generally, the more THC the product contains, the greater these risks are.
Cannabis bought illegally off the street, where the quality, ingredients and strength are not known, is the most dangerous form to use.
What are the side effects?
After taking medical cannabis, it’s possible to develop any of the following side effects:
- decreased appetite
- feeling sick
- greater weakness
- a behavioural or mood change
- feeling very tired
- feeling high
- suicidal thoughts
If you experience any side effects from medical cannabis, report these to your medical team. You can also report them through the Yellow Card Scheme.
CBD and THC can affect how other medicines work. Always discuss possible interactions with a specialist.
CBD can also affect how your liver works, so doctors would need to monitor you regularly.
How do I get a prescription?
You cannot get cannabis-based medicine from a GP – it can only be prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor.
And it is only likely to be prescribed for a small number of patients.
A hospital specialist might consider prescribing medical cannabis if:
- your child has one of the rare forms of epilepsy that might be helped by medical cannabis
- you have spasticity from MS and treatments for this are not helping
- you have vomiting or feel sick from chemotherapy and anti-sickness treatments are not helping
The specialist will discuss with you all the other treatment options first, before considering a cannabis-based product.
A prescription for medical cannabis would only be given when it was believed to be in your best interests, and when other treatments had not worked or were not suitable.
It’s expected this would only apply to a very small number of people in England.
If the above does not apply to you, do not ask a GP for a referral for medical cannabis.
Will the laws on cannabis be relaxed?
The government has no intention of legalising the use of cannabis for recreational (non-medical) use.
Possessing cannabis is illegal, whatever you’re using it for. That includes medical use unless it has been prescribed for you.
Page last reviewed: 01 November 2018
Next review due: 01 November 2021
How to Grow High-Quality Marijuana: A Beginner’s Guide
If you’re intrigued by the concept of growing your own marijuana plant, you’re not alone! With millions favoring cannabis to any other substance and more and more states legalizing it, the pot is more than a passing trend. This is a good time to get in on this growing commodity (growing literally and economically!) But before warming up that green thumb of yours, there are many more steps to growing quality product than you might imagine.
How to grow quality marijuana: a beginner’s guide will include:
- Understanding your product and its effects
- Choosing a seed type
- CBD VS. THC
- Do you want hydroponics (soilless) or a traditional process using soil?
- Indoor and Outdoor comparison
- Growing Process
- The main nutrients your plants require to thrive
- When to harvest
- How to harvest
- And all of the crucial details in between!
This guide will offer you everything you need to know whether you’re a complete novice to the recreational and medicinal practice of smoking herb, a professional toker that’s seeking to monetize your passion, or if you’re already a grower that wants to step up your game. We will also cover key strain differences, temperatures and pH levels to consider, how to harvest, and important legal information that you need to educate yourself on if you’re moving forward in a controversial profession. Get ready to learn more about this fascinating flower, and let’s get growing!
How to Grow High-Quality Marijuana: A Beginner’s Guide
Of all the hobbies to start in on, growing marijuana is certainly a polarizing topic, especially in certain countries.
Globally and in Europe, there has been great acceptance to the substance as being akin to alcohol only safer and with the added benefit of sparing yourself the hangover.
Did you know that “Alcohol is responsible for more than 8,000 deaths a year in Spain, ranging from cirrhosis and cancer, to pancreatitis and traffic accidents.” Compare this to the zero deaths related to marijuana during that same time.
Not only is it safer statistically – it’s a growing market that is booming worldwide! So why not break into a market that is already on the rise?
The process of growing marijuana is not overly complicated, but it will mostly be linked to the quality of seedings you invest in, so invest wisely.
Understanding Your Product and Legalities
You are considering growing a product that is illegal in many places around the world. This should not be taken lightly or casually. Offer your grow project the respect it deserves and take it seriously.
Here is a resource to find all the countries where marijuana is legal. Even if your country says that marijuana is legal, always check the laws regarding if it’s legal for indoor growth, outdoor growth, city growth, none of the above, or all of the above!
Do not take these small moments of self-education lightly. Do the reading.
Living in one of these countries will make your endeavor easier in some cases, harder in others, because now you’re competing with a legalized system (essentially the government) instead of low-key street dealers that are easy to overtake.
The government is another beast altogether, and like smart governments ought to do, they want the business being sent in their direction, not remaining underground.
Disclaimer: Be knowledgeable about what location you’re in, the laws regarding your local system, and don’t proceed irresponsibly. If anything happens to you or your operation because you were conducting business illegally, the responsibility lies with you and you alone. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Choosing a Seed Type
Now to the fun stuff! You want your clients to have a quality product, which means offering them a variety of selection from Indica, to Sativa, to Hybrid.
In case you are unfamiliar with the primary marijuana strain classifications, they can be summarized as:
Short and busheled
About 2-5 feet tall.
Mature in 6-8 weeks and will offer a yield of around 2 oz per plant
-Great for insomnia
-Relieves Anxiety and stress
Tall and skinny growing to about 10-20 feet tall.
Can take 12-16 weeks and offer a yield per plant of up to 1 pound.
-Feelings of ease
-Energizes (some use for working out)
-Increases focus/treats ADHD
-Called, ‘dank’ often
Sativas will often be named with the word ‘haze’ due to the psychoactive properties, while Indicas will often be named in ‘Kush’ or words that sound similar to its Indian/Hindu/Kush mountain areas of origin.
You can purchase premium seedlings from companies like Dinafem.org. They will only ship to legalized or special locations. Sourcing quality seeds is a major first step, perhaps the most important step, to your entire growing operation. Without quality seeds, you basically have weak pot. Might as well grow oregano.
You will need Feminized Seeds as well as the female seeds you wish to cross. Only female plants will create the smokable buds.
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When choosing your seeds, you’ll want to look at CBD and THC of that seed and strain.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the compound found in cannabis, which is not psychoactive. It targets the body by relaxing the muscles and is used in drops, pill forms, for humans, animals, and helps many people that don’t want to get ‘stoned’ or high. You will not feel stoned, only relaxed, and a lowered sense of anxiety and pain.
You can purchase CBD drops and learn more about the benefits of CBD here from Healthline.
CBD is a great place for people to start out with that may be reluctant to get high or don’t want to feel intoxicated in any way. It is known to prevent and have anti-cancerous properties and even grow brain cells.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the part of the plant that has psychoactive properties and gives the feeling of being high.
Will typically have a lower CBD (less of a body high) and more THC (more psychoactive and creative).
Will typically have higher CBD and less THC.
Hydroponics or Traditional Soil?
Once you have your seeds and know the kind of growing operation you want to have (Indica, Sativa, Hybrid, or all three), then you will determine your growing method.
Hydroponics are common for growers seeking to keep their operation indoors. With this method, you grow plants without the use of soil.
You essentially utilize mineral-concentrated water to grow your plants or food in, and this may help if you live in a colder environment or climate that is not conducive to year-round growing.
Plants don’t require soil to grow, but the soil will help with their root stability and offer support. Many growers recommend practicing outdoors before moving up to hydroponics as it’s a more complicated process that requires specialized knowledge to be successful.
Despite its complexity, it will be the route to go if you’re seeking a year-round productivity-machine that will yield results for your consistently and without relying on external sources like the weather.
What you will need to start with hydroponics will include but is not limited to:
- A space – this can be a closet, room with UV lighting, grow tent, etc. but it will need to be a space with balanced temperature, which we will discuss later.
- Lamps – these will need to replace natural sunlight, and you can learn more about proper lighting for growing here.
- A growing and watering system such as Autopot Gravity Fed Watering System
- The soil replacement for stability – something like peat wood or Nutrients – like the top-rated Professional Grower Formula for Ph Balance
Comparing Indoor and Outdoor Growing
There are pros and cons to each, so let’s weigh out which growing environment will be best suited to your lifestyle, intentions, and expectations of your growing operation.
Advantages of Hydroponics:
- No soil to maintain
- Bugs, wind, cross-pollination of other plants/all external sources of outdoors are eliminated
- Water is reusable which cuts costs compared to soil
- Hydroponics will require 95% less water than traditional growing that utilizes soil
- Your product will grow up to twice the speed.
- Don’t have to repot
- Usually more aesthetically pleasing and ‘pretty’ than outdoor-grown product
- Limits diseases where outdoor operations are more susceptible
- Hydroponics requires less space and a cleaner environment for you and your product.
- Easier to hide
- This is often the recommended method for a quality product.
Disadvantages of Hydronics:
- Large variation in costs, depending on the scale of your operation
- Usually more expensive
- Less natural and uses metals and processed nutrients
- More involved while waiting for them to grow as you are responsible for controlling temperature and pH
- Requires a power source to keep water moving and nutrients flowing, thereby raising the electricity bill
- Some believe it’s not as natural
- Needs more monitoring than outdoor growing
Advantages of growing outdoors with soil:
- Considered a purer method
- Can have a more natural smell, fragrance, and taste
- Cheaper costs to start out
- Lower electric bill
- Smaller carbon footprint
- Large and lush plants
- More room to spread out than indoors
Disadvantages to growing outdoors with soil:
- They may grow in more lushly, but it will take considerably more time than hydroponics
- More susceptible to bugs, diseases, pollution from external sources
- Factors you can’t control like temperature, pH, pests
- Deer eat it commonly
- You’re at the mercy of the weather and season/product could freeze over or scorch
- More exposed and less discreet. If you’re growing in an illegal state/country, it cannot be left out publicly, or you will face government regulation and intervention.
Based on the above information, you probably know instinctually, which will work for your lifestyle, city, amount of space, budget, etc. Choose the one that will be less hassle starting out, and you can always upgrade your system down the line when you’ve received some return on your initial investment.
The Growing Process
Assuming that you’re going with hydroponics for the ease of indoor growth without worrying about external forces like climate, pests, pH, exposing your operation to the public, etc. – here’s the process in its most basic form for growing indoors:
- Find your grow room or designated space. Choose a small or large room/closet/space that can be kept in a balanced state. Meaning, you don’t want the highest-humidity room in the house, or you’ll constantly be trying to balance the moisture in the air. You’ll want a dry and cool room that can have some access to fresh air without substantial light-interference. You’ll also want a spot that is not easily detectable. Not just because of the law, but you don’t want your neighbors or strangers peeping in on your business. This will also mean picking a quiet fan that won’t attract unsolicited attention.
- Start out small as this will be less expensive than a huge operation. Monitor a few plants and test your skill before investing large. You will make some mistakes, so you’ll want to make them while the risk is low.
- Everything will need to be incredibly clean. Sanitize your entire grow space before beginning and make sure the surfaces are easy to access and keep clean.
- It will need to be sealable like a tent, closet, room that you can contain the light within. Light leaks will harm your plants by confusing them on where their energy source is originating from and why they’re not outside. It may result in your crop offering male flowers when you want the female flowers.
- Here are some of the best grow lights to get started. Try to find one that leaves room in your budget for other things without going cheap. Lighting is crucial to the success of your crop, so don’t be stingy. But don’t buy the most expensive one while you’re starting out.
- Your plants will need air! This is where the fans go in that will move the warm air out of the room and the cooler air towards your plants. Like a steady wind flow of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), you’ll want your plants to receive air at a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit when the lights are on.
- Understand the pH of your plants and use the Ph Tester Meter mentioned above. Your hydroponics-based plants should be at a pH of 5.5-6.5 (with 7 being neutral). Your soil-based plants should fall between 6-7 ph.
- Automate your processes. You want things to be running on their own, even while you sleep. This will mean choosing a system that controls light, humidity, temperature, Carbon Dioxide levels, and more.
You will want your lights on about 18 hours a day (recommended between 16-20 hours) and the lights off for the remaining time to induce a more natural environment that mimics night.
When the lights have been turned off (Indicas requiring less light probably based on their origin of being further North/South of the Equator and having to thrive despite having less sunlight than their Sativa counterparts), the temperature can be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are the main steps, but of course, there is so much more in between if you’re serious about knowing the nitty-gritty.
The Main Nutrients Your Plant Requires to Thrive
Whether you are purchasing a nutrient package for hydroponics, soil, or creating your own from scratch – you will need to understand what needs to be in your nutrients to have a successful yield.
The main things you will be looking for when shopping for each individually or reading the labels on these nutrition substances include the following:
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
- Nitrogen (N)
Slightly less important but still necessary in lower quantities:
If you purchase a pre-fertilized soil, be sure that you are feeding your plants weekly. If you are doing hydroponics, it will need to be flowing consistently, and the pH checked frequently to be sure the nutrients are being absorbed.
If the pH is too high, your nutrients cannot properly absorb into your marijuana plant. Test the water and soil frequently.
Your plants will, of course, need water. Water them frequently or when they feel dry but do not overwater them. Cannabis plants can take on nasty fungus diseases if oversaturated, and they are also very susceptible to the type of water you are placing on them.
For this reason, you may need to test your water quality to be sure your water isn’t contaminated, have an excessive mineral content, containing chlorine or other metals that are common in our tap water but will harm your cannabis crop.
When to Harvest
The time is right when you notice your lush plants are maturing to have brown tips. You’ll look for white pistil hairs and harvest when around 75%-85% of them have turned brown.
You also need to be aware of the stickiness and sugary quality that is layered on top like crystallization. If they’re beginning to turn an amber-brown, then it is time to harvest your buds.
This process will take around a season, averaging between 2-4 months, depending on strain, nutrients, seed quality, and environment.
During the last few weeks, you won’t need to fertilize your plants as much because a great bulk of the nutrients are stored inside of the flower. Like cooking, this is the time to let them simmer and turn down the heat.
Another indication is the way the flower will curl backward, into itself and towards the bud.
Give your buds as long as they require to mature, and don’t rush the process. This will mean the difference between a matured, fragrant, and dense harvest compared to a malnourished, dull, and dry plant that lacks quality.
How to Harvest
The process after harvesting is trimming. You may need to hire a team down the line to assist you with this. This can be a lucrative side gig in legalized states. The process can be simplified as follows:
- Cut the plant at the bottom to trim off the entire stalk for curing. You will be trimming branch by branch, so during this step, it will not look at all like what you imagine a finished product of marijuana that you’ve seen in movies, art, or life. They will be flowers that you will trim into that nugget-like shape, but first, they need to dry out.
- Before any trimming is to be done, you’ll need to dry the flower in a dark space that is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want it to have a humidity level of about 60%, and fans turned off at this point.
- You may open a window to get minor airflow moving, but not too much. It’s a fine balance because if there’s no airflow at all, the marijuana will mildew/mold and be ruined. This drying out process will take about a week.
- After the week of drying, it’s time to trim into those nugget shapes we mentioned! This is why it needs to be fairly dry for trimming. You can use a pair of You will cut off the leafy parts by holding the stem at the base and trimming each branch into a more rounded and manicured shape. You want all of the nuggets to be relatively similar and avoid trimming the little red hairs that add value and richness to the strain.
- After you are done trimming the entire harvest, it is time to cure.
- Place all of your trimmed buds in a sealed container made of metal or glass as that will keep the oxygen from penetrating. You want to remove the product from any air or light, keeping it at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let it cure for about 3 weeks and sample the product to test for quality. This step will be like winemaking so you can develop your own formula for the best quality effect, taste, high, and overall quality in flower.
Important to note when harvesting: You don’t want to touch the flower too much. Try to handle it in as little interaction as possible, considering investing in gloves. This will prevent your hands from being sticky but also retain the THC that is the crystallized bits on the outside of the flower. Every touch takes some away, so be cognizant of that in your harvesting and trimming process.
Final Tips to Make Your Grow a Success!
Some final gems of wisdom we’d like to offer you are tips for success:
- Find a style or way of handling each specific strain because each will be unique and require different things. Some will soak of water and nutrients faster than others, and you’ll need to adapt to its needs.
- If your plant is growing extremely tall, you may consider adding lights on the sides of it to aid in its lushness for all angles instead of just above.
- It’s easy to get the seeds, but you alone are responsible for using the legal resources listed in this guide, knowing the legality of your local government, and using the seeds responsibly. Know what laws apply to you or suffer the consequences of thinking you’re above the law.
- Finally, don’t rush the process. This is the biggest mistake of newbie growers because they’re just dying to know if they did it right or their product is good! Don’t do this.
Just like a fine wine that needs to age, your product needs to grow slowly, mature to its fullest potential, and not be dried out like a bale of hay. If you rush it, your consumers will taste and feel the difference between a subpar product.
Not only will that result in you not getting repeat customers to cover your initial overhead, but it’s also known to cause a more ‘edgy’ product that gives your clients paranoia. This is why it’s key to offer a quality product, or you’ll be stuck with an expensive hydroponics set, a ton of seeds, and no clients to sell to.