Ruby Deevoy: There’s no shame or danger in using cannabis as a medicine

Ruby Deevoy is one of Britain’s most prominent cannabis journalists. She contributes to many major publications including The Independent, The Mirror, The Express, The Sun, Daily Mail, Good Health, Natural Health, Stylist, Top Sante, Elle, Red and many more.

She’s founder of The CBD Consultancy, primary press member for The Cannabis Industry Council and works closely with cannabis patients, members of The CIC and Women in Cannabis Leadership group to stay up to date on all the latest information emerging in the cannabis sector.

Ruby spoke to us about the obstacles to the full medical potential of cannabis being realised, the major impact it is having on patients’ lives and what more needs to be done to get the message out to others who could benefit from it.

What is the current situation with medical cannabis in the UK?

The UK clearly has the potential to become a global leader in the cannabis industry. Interest from patients and investors is consistently growing, evidence is constantly building, even the narrative is gradually changing. Currently, we have a strong medical cannabis foundation to build upon, with access improving all the time as more and more clinics open up and patients realise medical cannabis is a very real option for them. But there’s a long way to go.

Right now, there are many patients who also can’t afford a private medical cannabis prescription. People on disability allowance, carer’s allowance or supporting a family and chronically ill child find the cost unrealistic and devastating. As cannabis medications are not as readily available on the NHS as our government likes to make out, patients are being left in desperate situations. 

For some, this isn’t the case – particularly those on subsidised programmes. Being able to access cannabis at an affordable price has been (and continues to be) transformational for thousands of patients. 

What got us here? 


On the negative side: red tape, archaic regulation, a ‘profit over patient’ medical model and propaganda-fuelled prohibition supported by mainstream media. On the positive: public patient advocacy, an increase in interest from doctors, a growth in robust evidence, a shift in narrative in some press coverage.

What do you think should happen next? 

Patients need to be put front and centre by the medical cannabis industry, and feel it. Right now, most patients do not feel they are considered as human beings by the sector – just numbers. They want their voices to be heard, they want product that is affordable and high quality. Increased education and awareness needs to continue, ideally with more high profile advocates getting involved as this helps change the media narrative, fast. 

Patients who you’ve met – what has been their experience of accessing medical cannabis? 

Overall, patients say that the process of obtaining a prescription is very simple, the care from the clinics is vastly superior to what they have previously experienced on the NHS and cannabis medications have been life-changing. However, they always comment on the ‘astronomical’ prices, inconsistency of products and poor customer service outside of the clinician consultations which are generally reported as very positive. 

“Widespread education is absolutely vital – not only for raising awareness that cannabis is legally available on prescription, but also to help potential patients realise that there’s no shame or danger in using cannabis as a medicine.”

Is it still hard to get? Do people still think of it as an illicit drug? 

It’s astonishing how many people (including potential patients) are still completely unaware that cannabis is legally available on prescription in the UK, which demonstrates how far we have to go in terms of both accessibility and education. For the most part, I would say that the vast majority still consider cannabis to be an illicit drug, rather than a viable medicine – which in many cases is safer and more effective than other prescribed medications. 

In reality, obtaining a private medical cannabis prescription is generally a fairly simple process, with most of the consultations even taking place via a video call and medication being delivered straight to the patient’s home. However, the rule that patients must try at least two other ‘first line therapies’ before being able to access CBMPs can be off putting, as a lot of people don’t want to use the standard pharmaceutical drugs on offer, particularly if they have had a bad experience in the past. 

This is also confusing for patients who have conditions for which treatments aren’t really available, such as PTSD and (now that there has been a review of when to prescribe opioid medications), chronic pain.

Both of these points, the cost of a private prescription and the fact that lots of prospective patients are suspicious of the quality of prescribed cannabis does mean that plenty of cannabis users (who could qualify for a prescription) are still turning to the illicit market. This perhaps deepens the confusion among those who are unsure of the legality of cannabis as a medicine.

What needs to happen to get more patients treated with this medication? 

Widespread education is absolutely vital – not only for raising awareness that cannabis is legally available on prescription, but also to help potential patients realise that there’s no shame or danger in using cannabis as a medicine.

How that education can reach the masses is a question yet to be answered! Positive coverage in the media goes a long way, of course, but it’s still not enough given the stark contrast in reporting. It’s very confusing for people who are on the fence, and that uncertainty is enough to put them off entirely.

Having more NHS GPs being positive about their patients trying cannabis (even if that’s via a private clinic) would also help enormously. Most people (especially older people) want to trust their doctor, so if they seem unconvinced by the therapeutic potential of cannabis (or, worse still, are against its use) this can be extremely off-putting. If GPs (and specialist consultants) could reach the point where they are educated enough to suggest cannabis (even if they can’t prescribe it) this would probably go a long way. 

Why does the mainstream press not cover this story? 

“This sort of story doesn’t drive traffic for us” is something I hear a lot from newspaper editors. This is, sadly, really what it comes down to. Our ‘news’ is largely based on what pulls in readers. Is it sensational? Will it evoke strong emotions? Is it an exclusive story? Is there an angle that makes this a strong article to run right now?

This is what commissioning editors are looking for and also why most mainstream cannabis coverage is so negative. 

However, it is possible to meet that criteria and write a positive piece. You just need to play the game and give them what they want, but from a different perspective!

What drew you to covering this?

I was actually extremely anti-cannabis as a teenager, even into my early 20s. I was totally misinformed and had fallen hook, line and sinker for the propaganda. Now, I feel this gives me unique insight into ‘the other side’!

I started writing about cannabis after being commissioned to write 40 articles about CBD for a CBD marketplace! That job took me on a deep dive into the many mechanisms of cannabis, which quickly became personal as my partner has EDS and my son has GERD.

 I quickly discovered that cannabis held absolutely enormous potential for the treatment of a huge number of conditions, and I was shocked that all of these remarkable findings weren’t making front page news! Eventually I got onto researching the origins of cannabis prohibition and the corruption behind its illegal status. I couldn’t stay quiet after that!

“Cannabis has to be viewed (and presented) as legitimate by official bodies first.”

What can be done (by gov, charities etc) to make medical cannabis more legitimate in people’s minds? 

Our government’s skewed and outdated line of ‘there’s not enough evidence’ has become the national rhetoric. This is still what’s reported in newspaper stories, and what a number of charities parrot without further explanation. In actual fact, there is an abundance of real world evidence (a form of evidence deemed weighty enough to roll out the use of Covid vaccines in pregnant women), and even a large number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), albeit mostly looking at CBD isolate. There are now over 40,000 studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and cannabis – that’s more than any other pharmaceutical drug or physiological system. The results are overwhelmingly positive

For the most part, it’s not really possible to perform RCTs on whole plant cannabis given its complex composition and wide variety of mechanisms. It can’t be researched like synthesised, standardised pharmaceutical drugs. That doesn’t make it bad, just different. But, our governing bodies don’t explain that taking cannabis down the usual pharmaceutical route is like trying to shove a round peg into a square hole. This leads people to believe that the safety and efficacy of cannabis remains to be seen, which is simply not true. Unfortunately I have no idea how to get them to change their tone on this!