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Sapphire Clinics Updated Research on Illegal Cannabis

Published: 08/03/2023
Sapphire Medical Clinics are committed to advancing knowledge and awareness of the barriers to accessing medical cannabis in the United Kingdom, as such we have been hard at work to build on previous research with more UK polling.

Back in October 2022, we conducted a YouGov survey of the general population which estimated that approximately 1.8 million individuals use illicitly obtained cannabis products with the purpose of alleviating symptoms associated with chronic physical and mental health conditions1. A comparable report published in 2019 suggests this is up 29% from 2019 pre-pandemic levels2.

The study pointed to a lack of awareness and perceived difficulty accessing legal cannabis products, with a quarter (24%) unaware that cannabis could be legally prescribed while two-fifths (41%) were under the impression it would be too difficult to access and nearly a third (29%) assuming it would be too expensive2.

As many as half the adult population (52%) have a diagnosed health condition1, including 15.5 million people in England living with chronic pain3 and 3.2 million with anxiety disorders4 – the two most common conditions for which people in the UK are prescribed medical cannabis5.

We found that the average person using illegally procured cannabis for chronic pain is spending £156 a month. Yet the average monthly cost of care for the same condition at Sapphire is in fact around £135 a month6 – £21 less a month / £252 less a year[1].

We want to educate patients and the public that illegally sourced cannabis poses a potential risk to the individual with respect to their health as there are no safeguards to ensure that it is manufactured to be safe for human consumption, whilst also putting individuals at risk by engaging in criminal activity.

While research into the effects of medical cannabis is still limited, evidence is being collected every day which aims to contribute to future NHS funding decisions. Studies from Sapphire’s UK Medical Cannabis Registry have shown that over 80 percent of patients have not reported an adverse event since commencing medical cannabis5. Sapphire Clinics still calls on the government for further funding into research to determine the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis.

Sky News were the first to cover this latest research in an interview with co-founder Dr Mikael Sodergren which aired during Kay Burley on March 7th 2023.


  1. According to online research conducted by YouGov Plc on behalf of Sapphire Medical Clinics between 22nd – 29th September 2022. Total sample size was 10,684 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  2. Left Behind: The scale of illegal cannabis use for medicinal intent in the UK, 2019
  3. Versus Arthritis – Accessed February 2023
  4. Mind – Accessed February 2023
  5. An observational study of safety and clinical outcome measures across patient groups in the United Kingdom Medical Cannabis Registry, February 2023
  6. Average pricing for a chronic pain patient at Sapphire Clinics These costs are calculated using individuals enrolled on both the Curaleaf Access Scheme and those who pay for full priced appointments.
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