A new report by Volteface claims that streamlining the licensing process in the medical cannabis industry and other changes in regulation could create a burgeoning sector worth £1.2bn annually. It would also lead to the creation of 41,000 new jobs.
Volteface is an organization of cannabis reform activists, and their report “New Leaf: Beyond Brexit, Countering Covid” highlights the regulatory barriers that stand in the way of rapid sustainable growth.
The medicinal use of cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, and the country has made major steps in establishing itself as an important hub of the global medical marijuana industry.
Recently, the UK’s financial regulator has greenlighted the listing of cannabis companies on the London Stock Exchange. A number of medical marijuana operators have grasped this opportunity, while more are expected to follow suit. This move will further legitimize the sector and attract both institutional and retail investors.
Thus, Equinox, a British medical cannabis producer, is getting ready for an IPO in hopes of decreasing the country’s dependence on the imports of medical marijuana. Currently, 100 percent of the medicine gets imported which makes the domestic operators miss out on huge business opportunities. Some estimates predict the demand for medical marijuana in the country to reach a staggering £ 7.5bn by 2028.
However, there are still many obstacles to overcome before the United Kingdom fully embraces the medical cannabis industry and the CBD-based wellness sector.
The Volteface report proposes to create a position of medical cannabis czar or some regulatory body that would oversee routine business procedures. At the moment, the questions of licensing and similar simple matters go through the Home Office. This leads to avoidable delays and more taxpayers’ money spent on red tape.
Another important innovation that the report suggests is creating clear-cut guidelines concerning the maximum amount of the psychoactive cannabis constituent, THC, in CBD products.
Cannabis is still a Class B drug and, as such, its recreational use remains illegal. Domestic cultivation of the plant is also prohibited, although the sale of seeds is not regulated and feminized seeds for the growing of potent cannabis are openly sold online. CBD is also a legal substance, but the trace amounts of THC in CBD oils, tinctures, and other wellness products prevent many stakeholders from investing in this niche.
Yet another measure that, according to the authors of the report, can make the industry really take off is allowing local farmers to extract CBD from hemp. Currently, the only way to sell CBD in the UK is to import it. The emergence of local extraction facilities could give a long-needed boost not only to the CBD trade but also to growing hemp as a cash crop.
A whole set of issues is also created by imperfect medical cannabis laws and regulations that need to be changed for the sake of patients as well as businesses. At the moment, only certain types of medical specialists have a right to prescribe cannabis to their patients. This seriously limits the number of people who can get the medicine, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Britons can potentially benefit from cannabinoid treatment.
It should also be made extremely easy for the patients to obtain the medicine once it’s been prescribed and to receive the reimbursement on insurance.
Medical cannabis, especially the application of the non-psychoactive CBD, has been long getting a foothold in mainstream medicine, and hundreds of new studies get published every year. If the UK wants to spearhead this process, it should do so through government-funded research. At least such is the opinion of the authors of the Volteface report.
Many of the recommendations made by them had been earlier suggested by a government task force, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson received them favorably.