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Introduction to UK cannabis legalization
The legalization of cannabis in the UK is a hot topic as public demand continues to rise. While the UK legalized medical cannabis in late 2018, doctors have so far been reluctant to issue prescriptions. There could be change on the horizon, however. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, plans to launch a review that looks at decriminalizing cannabis, which could mean an expansion opportunity and a positive outlook for global cannabis stocks. During his 2021 reelection campaign, Khan said he would establish a London Drug Commission to consider the effectiveness of UK drug laws, with a focus on cannabis. Although Khan is keen to make cannabis as available as other prescription medicines, so far the rest of the UK government isn’t on board. However, with 47% of Brits in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis, could change be coming to UK cannabis laws in the near future?
Patient access to medicinal marijuana
In early 2020, the UK government announced a change to import restrictions that aims to help ensure prescriptions for cannabis-based products for medicinal use are not delayed or interrupted. Detailed in the change is the ability of licensed wholesalers to import larger quantities of cannabis-based products and to hold supplies for future use by patients with prescriptions. In addition, the government will continue to engage with medical associations and patients to build evidence, using trials in the UK, to accelerate the understanding of how medicinal cannabis can benefit patients.
Although the legalization of cannabis seems to be a much-discussed topic when it comes to UK government regulations, there is still a long way to go. Since the introduction of the 2018 law to enable the legal prescription of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs), there has been only around 400 private prescriptions and 2 NHS prescriptions.
To help bridge this gap, there are groups working on accelerating the integration of CBMPs into UK healthcare. Let’s take a look at the first representative cannabis body dedicated to advancing the UK cannabis sector: the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC).
What is the CIC?
Launched in 2021, the CIC is a collective of organizations, business and working groups that have united with the hope of strengthening ties between the cannabis industry and the UK public sector and reducing the governmental red tape that currently restricts industry growth. The CIC comprises 6 subgroups—including Quality Standards and Environmental & Social Responsibility—and membership invitations have been extended to representatives from the Home Office, the Department of Health and NHS England. So far, the CIC has 60 members, with the hope of reaching 100 and then pushing on from there. Prof. Mike Barnes, Chairman of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, is a driver of the CIC and believes “we need a voice to represent the industry as a whole.” He states 3 main aims of the group:
• “Be the voice for the industry as whole, so if the government has any particular issue I would like to see them come to us first, as we will have the expertise to talk to them across all of the sectors.”
• “We need to counteract the negatives that come in the press in relation to cannabis, so the media, marketing and PR-side is really important, too.”
• “Push for prescriptions on the NHS to make it widely available to all those who need it.”
The most recent election to the group is Elisabetta Faenza, CEO of LeafCann, which is a group that focuses on building a robust and agile medicinal cannabis supply chain. Faenza holds the position of Chair of the Standards Group for the CIC. As the new group is still in its early stages, it will be interesting to see the impact it might have on the cannabis industry in the UK.
Full-scale decriminalization and recreational cannabis use in the UK might still be a ways off, but with nearly half of Brits in favor of legalization1, we might see cannabis use in the UK rise in the (near) future. This could mean increased demand and need for testing to adhere to limits and, even more important, protect customers and consumers. With support from SCIEX instrumentation, you can help improve detection confidence, tighten precision and simplify workflows in your cannabis analysis to meet the demands and needs of the changing market.
Don’t forget to leave a comment, share your thoughts and predictions and stay tuned for more blogs to come in the series.
1. Farley, A. Is London’s mayor teeing up a UK cannabis revolution? Value the Markets, April 12, 2021. https://www.valuethemarkets.com/2021/04/12/london-mayor-teeing-revolution-cannabis-stocks/
2. Somerset, S.B. Cannabis Patients In The United Kingdom Are Granted Faster Access To Their Medicine. Forbes, March 3, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarabrittanysomerset/2020/03/03/cannabis-patients-in-the-united-kingdom-are-granted-faster-access-to-their-medicine/
3. Health Europa. New council body launched to demand robust UK cannabis industry. Medical Cannabis Network, June 7, 2021. https://www.healtheuropa.eu/new-council-body-launched-to-demand-robust-uk-cannabis-industry/108710/
4. McCusker, P. New Cannabis Industry Council Aims To Create A Single Unified Cannabis Voice For The UK. BusinessCann, April 16, 2021. https://businesscann.com/new-cannabis-industry-council-aims-to-create-a-single-unified-cannabis-voice-for-the-uk/