Black market cannabis

Black market cannabis is a term used to describe illicit cannabis that has been purchased, or grown, illegally.

In the UK, cannabis is only legal if it has been prescribed to an individual for a medicinal purpose by a qualified specialist. Medical cannabis has to be dispensed by licensed pharmacies to legitimate patients, and cannabis acquired in any other way is considered as black market cannabis. 


What is black market cannabis?


In the UK, the term black market cannabis refers to any and all cannabis that is obtained or cultivated illegally. This includes cannabis bought on the street, from unlicensed dealers, or grown in unregulated conditions. It is not clear exactly where the phrase ‘black market’ originated, although it does pay homage to things happening in the shadows, outside of legal and regulatory frameworks. 


Is black market cannabis legal?


No. Black market cannabis is a considered a class B drug, under part II, schedule 2, of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in the UK. This means that the possession, production, and supply of cannabis without a licence is a criminal offence. 


What are the penalities for possessing black market cannabis?


The penalties and punishments relating to possession of black market cannabis in the UK vary depending on the circumstances, from an on-the-spot fine of £90 to a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If found to be supplying or producing black market cannabis, individuals can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. 


How much is the UK’s illegal cannabis market worth?


Despite these high penalties, in 2018 it was estimated that the UK’s black market for cannabis was worth around £2.6 billion. By 2023, it is thought that £3.57 billion a year is spent on black market cannabis by Brits who are self-medicating - despite cannabis being legally available for these purposes.


What is the difference between black market cannabis and medical cannabis flower?

The main difference between black market cannabis and medical cannabis flower is the quality and consistency of the product, as well as the regulatory oversight that medical cannabis is subject to. Black market cannabis is totally unregulated and can vary greatly in potency, purity, and potential contaminants. 

Medical cannabis flower is tightly regulated and undergoes strict testing to ensure it meets safety and quality standards, as do all other cannabis-based medicines. 

If you would like to learn more about medical cannabis in the UK, Releaf is here to help.