Venues should welcome customers carrying cannabis prescriptions

Cannabis has now been legally available for medicinal use in the UK for five years – but due to the historical stigma around the drug, legitimate holders of a medical prescription can still hit problems when visiting hospitality and entertainment venues.

A whopping 1.8 million people in the UK are already using cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs) which are prescribed by specialist clinics to alleviate symptoms of diseases and ailments including chronic pain, Parkinson’s, Multiple sclerosis, depression, epilepsy and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

CBMPs can be prescribed in the form of bud/flower – the flowering part of the cannabis plant, which is placed inside the heated chamber of an inhaler and vapourised. Patients may also be prescribed oil, to be consumed orally in a dropper bottle, or tablets – but the vast majority of patients are accessing cannabis in flower form.

Unfortunately, the presence of such items on an individual’s person can raise an undeserved red flag for hospitality door and security staff. One remedy for that awkward situation would be wider use and recognition of medical ID cards recognised by the police as a validated indication to any third-party that its carrier is consuming cannabis for medical reasons.

Kirstie Morrison of Cancard – the UK’s Medicinal Cannabis ID verification scheme, backed by the CBMP industry, the police and MPs – has been busy promoting this message to the licensed trade.

“When patients with disabilities or life-altering conditions go out to visit their local pub or go to a show at a theatre; it can be a big source of stress and worry that they may need to use their inhaler to treat an oncoming seizure or a significant symptom,” said Ms Morrison. “The main concern is around someone smelling their medication in their bag, for example, and misunderstanding them.

“Patients have been denied access to venues, faced questioning and threats of police involvement, many have had their medicine confiscated and much worse,” she noted. “Discriminatory policies or just lack of awareness could, and has, inadvertently meant that someone who is using a medicine is excluded from events and is forced to go home rather than being able to enjoy time with friends and family.

“Being able to be in the world and attend events is a huge part of maintaining a good quality of life – especially for disabled people who are at greater risk of isolation. It is essential that patients required to carry emergency medicine are catered for, just as many places would provide a disabled toilet or an access ramp to be more accessible.”

Set up with direction from policing organisations and doctors, Cancard aims to support prescription medicinal cannabis patients, and also those who cannot afford to buy their medicine privately but legally qualify for a prescription.

Cancard also works in an advocacy role, campaigning on behalf of patients within parliamentary and industry groups, and as a support network that covers the whole of the UK.

Its mission is to encourage police and other third parties utilise the Cancard initiative to identify those with genuine medicinal need for cannabis medicines, helping them to make decisions which take into consideration a patient’s needs.  A quick scan of the patient’s unique QR code will confirm to the officer that the person is a verified Cancard holder. Venues where staff have mobile phones can scan a card to be certain that they are registered and legitimate.

Working in collaboration with trade organisations and relevant bodies across the UK, Cancard has also produced information for venues, licenced establishments and public facilities, to help raise awareness of medicinal cannabis patients, and increase sensitivity in their establishments towards this set of customer’s requirements.

“Being aware of disabilities and the ever-changing landscape of healthcare is really important for businesses, not only to maintain a good standing in the community and to avoid accusations of discrimination, but also to ensure that a service is delivered with compassion and care,” said Kirstie.

“Well trained staff could make a situation much kinder and more inclusive for patients who need to carry cannabinoid medicines – this creates a more welcoming environment which sets them apart from other venues.

“Once training has been received, venues can be certified as ‘Canaware’ and will be issued with a window sticker to display. Venues will also be promoted on a map that will be distributed and made available to the 85,000 Cancard members – this number is rapidly growing. This helps people feel confident that they can attend a premises without fear of confrontation.”

Ms Morrison stressed that Cancard did not give anyone carte blanche to consume cannabis in hospitality settings: “Not to worry, there is no fear of an Amsterdam scenario being created in a venue! We are in no way suggesting that patients can or should smoke cannabis on or anywhere near licensed premises, in fact – there is no smoke involved at all!

“Cancard members follow a strict code of conduct that ensures that other customers are not affected by the requirement for an individual to carry or consume their medication. If a patient requires the use of their inhaler, a venue can designate an area or request that the patient leaves the premises to do so if there are concerns around smell.

“Cannabis inhalers are nothing like the huge whopping clouds of vapour that come from e-cigarettes. The vapour produced is similar to boiling a kettle, there is an aroma, but it dissipates in seconds and is not considered a risk for passive inhalation like smoking. Most venues consider a smoking area a suitable place to medicate, others have an alternative area that they consider appropriate.”

For more information on medicinal cannabis use and recognition of Cancard at hospitality venues, email