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UK Government has failed to plot a course for cannabinoids, say experts

Posted: 27 June 2022 | | No comments yet

In a report, which will be launched by the UK’s Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, experts have called on Government to turbocharge UK cannabinoid innovation as they claim it has – so far – taken a “disinterested” attitude to the sector.

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“It is not sustainable or acceptable for the [UK] Government to continue to take an uncoordinated, disinterested or laissez faire attitude to the sector as a whole, as it has done since the cannabis sector’s 2018 inception.”

These are the words of a new report published today, which has recommended 20 ways in which the UK can become a world leader in cannabinoid innovation.  

From Containment to Nurturing: How the UK can become a world leader in cannabinoid innovation was commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI). It is authored by renowned regulatory thinker Professor Christopher Hodges and will be launched with a speech by George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research & Innovation – the first ever ministerial address to the legal cannabis sector.

The 24-paged report draws on wide ranging inputs from leading industry players, academics, patients, consumers and investors; and examines the current landscape of the sector which it describes as a market that has “evolved by accident, without coordinated government action or a coherent strategy to steward it to maturity”.

A new survey of public attitudes by STACK Data Strategy offers some interesting findings, some of which are cited in the report, including that nearly one in seven people admit to using cannabis for health reasons, and that 64 percent believe Government should do more to support scientific research into cannabis in the UK. The authors believe the results should give the industry and Government “renewed confidence” that the British people have embraced the concept of a legal cannabis sector.

What does the cannabinoid report set out to achieve?

Professor Hodges, who is Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, argues that the regulatory framework he sets out would achieve three important objectives:

  • Global competitive advantage for the UK post-Brexit, helping the country to leverage its historic and economic strengths in a rapidly growing and unprecedented global industry
  • Regulatory best practice giving early mover advantage, helping to pioneer new approaches to regulating a novel industry that other jurisdictions on a similar path can choose to emulate
  • Scientific advances and innovations, with pioneering new treatments, manufacturing methods, and end user product innovations, helping the UK to reinforce its reputation as the home of world-leading inventions and discoveries that improve our environment, our health, and quality of life.

The hope is that these recommendations will outline how best to support the safe and responsible growth – economic and social – of a sizable and dynamic legal cannabis sector that is already established in the UK.

Included in the recommendations are calls for GPs to be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis, updates to hemp farming rules, modernisation of the Proceeds of Crime Act and the creation of a national patient registry for all cannabis-based medicines prescribed in the UK.

The report also urges the Government to establish a ‘stewarding’ authority to govern and guide the sector and implement the required reforms.

“The analysis in this report and the principles we have outlined lead us to recommend a series of policy changes to help bring about the positive and shared goals that we articulate,” commented Prof Hodges. The recommendations are directed both at regulators and industry, with the understanding that both parties have an obligation to cooperate to steward this new industry and support it to develop in an innovative but also safe and responsible way.”

Co-author and Chief Scientific Officer, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis/ACI, Dr Parveen Bhatarah added:

“The seeds are there for rapid growth, but it cannot happen without a clear strategy built upon coordinated Government stewardship and the ambition to not just tolerate, but actively nurture the sector to expand and mature.” Through this, the authors hope the sector attracts more investment, jobs and innovations, and secures political support and public recognition.

“Our conclusion from this research is not that the UK’s legal cannabis sector is over-regulated, or merely suffering from outdated rules, or simply needs red tape and unwarranted regulations to be stripped back. The regulations encompassing the cannabis sector are wide-ranging and complicated, but right now are also uncalibrated to the risks associated with each product,” concluded fellow author and Senior Associate of the ACI, Blair Gibbs.

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