January 14, 2022 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
A new report carried out by drug policy reform organization Volteface suggests that the United Kingdom could be leaving £1.2 billion on the table with its underactive medicinal cannabis market.
The report, titled “New Leaf: Beyond Brexit, Countering Covid,” indicates that the U.K. is perfectly positioned to capitalize on medical cannabis but is failing to perform as experts had initially hoped. The report emphasizes the fact that an additional 41,000 cannabis industry jobs and 17,000 ancillary jobs could materialize due to the British medical cannabis market, which has been largely stimulated by Brexit.
Improving the U.K.’s Medical Cannabis Industry
Conducted with assistance from medical cannabis distributor Kanabo, brand-building cannabis research specialist Ciitech, and Rob Jappie—the latter of whom is a partner in Ince’s London office concentrating on life sciences and cannabis regulation for the U.K. and Europe—the report investigates the existing medical cannabis market and advises the British government to take specific steps that will amplify the market’s overall potential.
“The U.K. 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,” said Daniel Pryor, author of the report’s foreword.
The Home Office is tasked with basic regulatory matters and a long list of things to deal with, so it’s unsurprising that the process of legalization has cost unnecessary time. Since time is money, the British government ought to get a move on. Appointing an official can help to speed things up, according to the report authors.
“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 center for excellence in research and development,” added Pryor, who also works as the head of programs at the Adam Smith Institute.
Additional suggestions featured in this analysis for the U.K.’s medical cannabis industry include the following:
British farmers ought to be given the green light to extract CBD from hemp plants
The British Chambers of Commerce should be prepared to further invest in the medical cannabis market
The rule that only permits some licensed doctors to write cannabis prescriptions should be updated
Is the U.K. feeling inclined to follow in Germany’s footsteps? After all, Germany’s incoming government of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and Free Democrats (FDP) announced in November that it will permit the licensed sale of the drug. Germany’s news was announced after Malta officially legalized the plant for adult-use purposes.
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Amid the “domino effect” that is rippling across Europe in the wake of Germany’s and Malta’s reform decisions, members of the cannabis industry marvel open-mouthed, wondering if other EU countries will shift their focus and embrace a more relaxed cannabis policy (and if so, which ones?).
“The space must capitalize on sustainable growth and encourage innovation in order to be seen as a serious industry. It is an exciting time for the U.K. cannabis industry, as it stands on the brink of expansion,” said the study’s lead author and Volteface’s head of strategy, Katya Kowalski. “The report’s findings indicate the opportunity for a lucrative market is there. Now the U.K. must work toward streamlined development so the sector truly takes off.”
The State of Legal Cannabis in the U.K.
Cannabis is still considered to be an illicit substance across the nation. Following a rule change that took place in 2008, cannabis is categorized as a Class B drug on British soil. This is a step back from 2001 when the Labour Party made an announcement that resulted in cannabis earning a Class C classification (at which point the penalties for use were less harsh).
A 2005 Home Office report claimed that 199,000 police hours were saved after the Labour Party changed cannabis’ classification. Unfortunately, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced in 2007 that the drug would, once again, become a Class B substance. This rule change counteracted guidance from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
To this day, cannabis remains in its Class B category. In November 2018, the medicinal use of cannabis became legal in the U.K. on the condition that the person writing a prescription is a registered doctor specializing in cannabis and various other types of medicine.
But is this progress? Or just an illusion of something that’s never going to happen? Nobody can deny that things are, at the very least, not getting worse. However, a lot of effort must be made on the government’s behalf to ensure that a good portion of the country’s 4.7 million cannabis consumers is targeted by legal sellers, should a legal market be introduced.
Currently, the illegal cannabis market in the U.K. is thriving at an estimated valuation of £6 billion. “Never say never,” as the old saying goes, but if the National Health Service’s (NHS) sluggish adoption of a medicinal cannabis market is anything to go by—one that is responsible for distributing a mere three whole plant prescriptions over the last three years—the road ahead may be infiltrated with traffic jams.
What’s more, contamination has been a problem with the U.K.’s legal medical cannabis industry, which is renowned for its steep patient costs and slow rollout. Consequently, as many as 1.4 million Brits are believed to have turned their attention in the direction of the black market. There’s no telling whether or not legal cannabis will be the solution, but as so many U.S. states venture into 100% green territory—with positive results—the idea shouldn’t be shunned completely.
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