Can You Get A Medical Prescription For Cannabis?

Canada, the USA, Uruguay, and South Africa are just a few of the places where medical cannabis is legalized. If you live in any of these countries, you’ll be able to buy, consume, and potentially even grow your own cannabis for medical use.

However, navigating the laws around marijuana can be tricky. There are also other countries where medical cannabis is technically legal; however, for the average joe trying to gain access to a prescription, it’s a hefty challenge. 

Can You Get A Medical Prescription For Cannabis

Curious about medical cannabis prescriptions? Let’s find out if you’re eligible for a medical cannabis prescription and find out more about how to get one right here. 

Can You Get A Medical Prescription For Cannabis? 

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not so simple. It’s a simultaneous yes and no, depending on where you live and what you’re trying to get a prescription for. 

Medical cannabis has not been authorized in every country, and in many places, it’s still criminalized (Check out Is Cannabis Legal In Israel?). In some countries, recreational use is criminalized by medical use is legal but hard to get.

It’s a bit of a headache, but we’ll aim to simplify it as much as we can. 

First, let’s take a look at some of the countries most well-known for their medical cannabis. 


Medical cannabis has been a legal treatment in Canada since 2001. However, it wasn’t *officially* made legal until 2018. In 2018, cannabis became legal for both medicinal and recreational purposes. 

The production, sale, distribution, and possession of cannabis are heavily regulated by a solid legal framework. Government-licensed shops can sell adults up to 30g of cannabis, but it’s thought that the black market is still thriving. 

Under Canada’s Cannabis Act, citizens registered with Health Canada (a popular health service provider) cannot use cannabis as an ‘approved treatment.’

This means you can’t technically get a prescription for it. However, with a physician’s order, some private providers can prescribe it. It’s a bit of a gray area. 

However, because cannabis is legal for recreational use, prescriptions aren’t usually required – if you have an ailment, you’re free to go and buy regulated weed from a dispensary and use it as you need to. 

The USA 

19 states have legalized the use of recreational cannabis, and it can be used in 37 states for medical use. 

In the USA, there are four cannabinoid drugs available on prescription. These are Marinol, Syndros, Cesamet, and Epidiolex. However, the term ‘prescription’ is used a little loosely.

Not all states have legalized cannabis, and it remains illegal at a federal level, meaning doctors technically can’t just write you a prescription. 

However, a doctor can write you something called a ‘recommendation for medical cannabis’. You can then take this recommendation to a licensed dispensary, where you’ll be able to collect your cannabis. 

Remember: this may not be possible in all states. Also, your ability to claim medical marijuana will depend on what condition you’re suffering from – some states only administer cannabis for qualifying conditions. 


Uruguay is the cannabis pioneer of the world. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana officially.

Strict regulations were enforced, such as tight purchase limits, and you can usually only buy marijuana at Uruguayan pharmacies.

However, the government wants to expand its cultivation to bring in more profit and make cannabis more accessible. 

Can You Get A Medical Prescription For Cannabis (1)

Cannabis can be prescribed by doctors in Uruguay, and just over 50% of doctors would recommend it to their patients. However, you don’t need a prescription to access cannabis.

It’s sold in most registered pharmacies, so you won’t even need proof of your condition to buy it. However, there are purchase limits in place, so citizens won’t be able to buy too much in one go. 

South Africa 

In South Africa, cannabis has been decriminalized, and its recreational use became legal in 2018. In 2017, under the Medicines Act, medical cannabis was legalized with a permit from a practitioner. 

The only way you can gain medical cannabis in South Africa is to be prescribed it by a licensed practitioner. A practitioner will need a license from SAHPRA. However, the rules are a little contradictory. 

For recreational use, you’re allowed to grow, possess, and smoke in private, but it’s a criminal offense to smoke around minors and non-consenting adults.

Households can contain a maximum of 1,200g in private, and public possession is limited to 60g.  

Where Else Can You Get A Medical Prescription For Cannabis? 

In other countries, the laws are also a little hazy. The UK is a prime example. 

Medical cannabis is technically legal, but it’s a criminal offense to consume it recreationally.

Although you can legally get medical cannabis on a prescription, you’ll have to jump through many hoops, and honestly, it’s pretty much impossible.

Very few people are eligible, and it’s usually only prescribed as a last resort, where all other treatments have failed to provide relief. 

In Australia, medical cannabis was legalized in 2016. Organizations are permitted to grow cannabis for research and to make pharmaceutical treatments.

Doctors are legally allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients if they have the approval of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). 

Other places permitting the medical use of Cannabis include: 

  • Mexico 
  • Jamaica
  • Chile
  • Barbados
  • Rwanda
  • Morocco
  • Sri Lanka 
  • Thailand 
  • Zambia 
  • Zimbabwe 

However, it’s not always easy to get prescription cannabis in these areas.

There are often many legal hoops to jump through, and in some cases, prescriptions are only administered in exceptional circumstances or where conventional medical treatments fail. 

The Bottom Line 

Hearing that a country has legalized medical cannabis can be exciting. However, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the legal barriers in each of these places can still make prescription cannabis inaccessible to the majority of people. 

Unfortunately, even in places where medical cannabis is legal, the world still has a long way to go to make medical cannabis accessible to those who need it. 

David Barton
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