Taskforce proposes UK cannabinoid regulation changes

Taskforce proposes UK cannabinoid regulation changes
© iStock-Tinnakorn Jorruang

The Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) has reported recommendations to the Prime Minister on how the UK can reshape regulation and seize new opportunities from Brexit – including changes to the cannabis sector.

The TIGRR has included a proposal to move the licensing regime for cannabinoid clinical research and consumer cannabinoids from the Home Office to DHSC/MHRA, a suggestion that has been welcomed by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). As the report acknowledges, the present rules governing these medicinal and nutraceutical products are not properly separated from the criminal law relating to banned substances derived from cannabis.

This recommendation was a central proposal of the CMC in its submission to the Taskforce with the follow-up report Green Shoots, which could unleash much-needed investment in cannabinoid medicines and consumer products.

Dr Parveen Bhatarah, CMC and The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) Regulatory Lead, commented: “The UK has been the largest importer of cannabis for use in the medicinal and consumer cannabinoids industry. These recommendations will assist in the development of general skills related to medicinal and consumer cannabinoid for the nutraceutical industry, which has not been nurtured due to the existing regulatory framework in place. These recommendations will assist in data generation for improved consumer safety and accelerated sustainable business growth in the cannabinoid sector.”

Research and clinical trials

The report also includes a wide range of further recommendations pertaining to optimising and modernising the clinical trials environment and the nutraceutical and consumer health sector in the UK.

The report states: ‘There are two problems with the existing licensing rules. The first is the current regime makes it very difficult for scientists in the UK to conduct pharmaceutical research on potential medical benefits of cannabinoids and medicinal CBD. International examples and leading scientists working in this area have shown that sensible, but limited, reforms to the current licensing process could unlock significant investment into UK medical research into cannabinoids for pain relief.

‘The second is the dichotomy that whilst there is in the UK a fast-growing, legal and well-established consumer market for medicinal CBD for a range of pain and neurological conditions, current Home Office rules make it impossible for them to be produced here. This means that domestic consumers are relying on imported products and the UK is losing out on a c£1bn medicines industry.’

The report recommends that, to solve these issues, the Government ‘should move the licensing regime for cannabinoid pharmaceutical research and CBD over-the-counter medicines from the Home Office to DHSC/MHRA and create a regulatory pathway for approving these products using an evidence-based assessment of their medicinal effects.’

In a letter to the Taskforce, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The Government, through our Better Regulation Committee, is already hard at work on reform of the UK’s regulatory framework. Your bold proposals provide a valuable template for this, illustrating the sheer level of ambitious thinking needed to usher in a new golden age of growth and innovation right across the UK. So, we will give your report the detailed consideration it deserves, consult widely across industry and civil society, and publish a response as soon as is practicable.”

Steve Moore, CMC Founder, said: “On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act, and three years on from the law changing to permit the prescribing of medicinal cannabis, this is exactly the news the nascent UK cannabinoid sector has been crying out for. The future of this industry will be forged in product innovation and research and development. That senior government advisors now recognise that is incredibly important”

Dr Andy Yates CMC, Pharmacy Lead, added: “I am delighted to see cannabinoid medicines feature as a specific area of focus in this report. Should these proposals, which aim to separate the medical benefits of cannabinoids from the criminal law associated with substance abuse, be adopted then it will benefit all three sectors of the legal cannabinoid industry.

“The UK already is a leading market for consumer nutraceuticals and specials and licensed medicines containing cannabinoids and these proposals will not only support the growth of all of these sectors but will lead to increased investment and innovation here within the shores of the UK. Outside of the specific cannabinoid medicines proposals included in the report, the further proposals related to optimising and modernising the clinical trials environment and the nutraceutical and consumer health sector here in the UK. As a package of measures, this will truly create a go-to environment for cannabinoid innovation now and well out into the future.”

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