New report calls for UK to capitalise on potential £1.2bn medical cannabis industry

New report calls for UK to capitalise on potential £1.2 billion medical cannabis industry
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A new report by drug policy reform advocacy group Volteface has revealed the UK is missing out on a potential £1.2bn medical cannabis industry and 41,000 potential jobs due to outdated licensing regimes.

Volteface claims that an appointment of a dedicated cannabis tsar would allow the medical cannabis industry to grow. Currently, simple regulatory issues must be processed by the Home Office, which results in delays and is an expense to the taxpayer.

The report, titled “New Leaf: Beyond Brexit, Countering Covid,” makes a host of recommendations on the implementation of medical cannabis into the economy, which will boost taxable revenue, create jobs and encourage investment.

Analysing the current medical cannabis industry

The report analyses the current medical cannabis landscape and outlines simple steps that could be taken to allow the UK to capitalise on the growing sector. It called upon many industry-leading medical cannabis companies such as Kanabo, who are listed on the London Stock Exchange; Ciitech, a major CBD company and Rob Jappie; a partner at Ince and leading cannabis solicitor.

The UK has recently made progressive steps to embrace the sector, with a string of medical cannabis companies listing on the London Stock Exchange, with more expected to follow. The Financial Conduct Authority greenlit the listings after determining it was legally sound to do so with medical cannabis being legal since 2018 in the UK and booming sales of CBD related products.

Furthermore, some recommendations found in the report were previously suggested by the task force for innovation, growth and regulatory reform, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson favourably received.

However, whilst the CBD wellness market is forecasted to reach £1bn by 2025, British farmers are currently restricted due to obsolete policies.

Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute and author of the report’s foreword, said: “The UK is in a unique position to reap the benefits of medical cannabis and CBD. Thanks to our sensible, liberal approach to regulation, these fast-growing markets are already attracting innovation, investment and jobs to our shores. But we can still do much more to become the European leader in these sectors, bringing huge benefits to patients and the economy whilst cementing our reputation as a global centre for excellence in research and development.”

Recommendations outlined in the paper

The report has suggested the following recommendations to capitalise on the UK medical cannabis market:

  • The appointment of a ‘cannabis tsar’ or the creation of a governmental body in the UK to oversee the expansion of the UK medical cannabis industry. At the moment, regulatory matters must be processed through the Home Office. This is slowing down development due to a lack of a streamlined approach. A governmental body reserved for cannabis is a necessary step toward further harmonising development in the sector.
  • The Food Standards Association should provide clarity around the amount of THC to be permitted in CBD products. Such regulatory clarity must be done in a way to ensure it encourages further investment and innovation.
  • The British Chambers of Commerce should invest in innovation for the cannabis sector. This would further legitimise cannabis as a growth sector and contribute to research and development for expanding access to medicine.
  • Allow UK farmers to extract CBD from hemp flowers. This would be a significant boost to the CBD industry by allowing for local extraction sites. It would also be a symbolic step toward normalising hemp production and enabling further innovation development in the cannabis sector.
  • Simple amendments to legislation change to improve to facilitate the flow of products. Currently, customs and other legislative bodies are slowing down and increasing costs of supply. If these processes are simplified, costs will be reduced, and patient access will be improved.
  • Amend the regulation requiring medical cannabis prescriptions to be made by doctors on the specialist register. This could be replaced by doctors undertaking a suitable CPD qualification. The UK should follow in Germany’s footsteps regarding how quickly the sector can grow if allowed. The UK should aim to help private patients achieve reimbursement on insurance.
  • Increase the evidence base for cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK to expand patient access to the NHS. The only way of successfully achieving this would be through a government-funded national trial.

Speaking about the report, Katya Kowalski, Head of Strategy at Volteface and lead author of the report, said: “It is an exciting time for the UK cannabis industry, as it stands on the brink of expansion. The space must capitalise on sustainable growth and encourage innovation in order to be seen as a serious industry. The report’s findings indicate the opportunity for a lucrative market is there. Now the UK must work toward streamlined development, so the sector truly takes off.”

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