29th November 2021
By Roland Sebestyén

Cannabis advocates are calling for the prime minister to introduce a “cannabis tsar” in order for the country not to miss out on a billion-pound industry that could create thousands of jobs in the post-Covid era.

Volteface, a drug policy reform advocacy group, has revealed that the UK could be benefiting from the medical cannabis industry should it embraced it in time.

According to a recently published report called ‘New Leaf: Beyond Brexit, Countering Covid’, the UK’s estimated medical cannabis market could well be worth £1.2 billion but regulatory issues are hindering the sector.

Katya Kowalski, Head of Strategy at Volteface and lead author of the report, said: “It is an exciting time for the UK cannabis industry, as it stands on the brink of expansion. The space must capitalise on sustainable growth and encourage innovation in order to be seen as a serious industry.

“The report’s findings indicate the opportunity for a lucrative market is there. Now the UK must work toward streamlined development so the sector truly takes off.”

Volteface claims that the appointment of a dedicated “cannabis tsar” would allow the medical cannabis industry to flourish.

Currently, simple regulatory issues must be processed by the Home Office, which is leading to unnecessary delays and costing the taxpayer money.

The appointment of a “cannabis tsar” is just one of the proposals that were sent to Boris Johnson. Some recommendations also mirror those put forward by the task force for innovation, growth and regulatory reform.

The recommendations are as follows:

  1. The appointment of a ‘cannabis tsar’ or the creation of a governmental body in the UK to oversee the expansion of the UK medical cannabis industry. At the moment, regulatory matters must be processed through the Home Office. This is slowing down development due to a lack of a streamlined approach. A governmental body reserved for cannabis is a necessary step toward further harmonising development in the sector.
  2. The Food Standards Association should provide clarity around the amount of THC to be permitted in CBD products. Such regulatory clarity must be done in a way to ensure it encourages further investment and innovation.
  3. The British Chambers of Commerce should invest in innovation for the cannabis sector. This would further legitimise cannabis as a growth sector and contribute to research and development for expanding access to medicine.
  4. Allow UK farmers to extract CBD from hemp flower. This would be a significant boost to the CBD industry by allowing for local extraction sites. It would also be a symbolic step toward normalising hemp production and enabling further innovation development in the cannabis sector.
  5. Simple amendments to legislation change to improve to facilitate the flow of products. Currently, customs and other legislative bodies are slowing down and increasing costs of supply. If these processes are simplified, costs will be reduced and patient access will be improved.
  6. Amend the regulation requiring medical cannabis prescriptions to be made by doctors on the specialist register. This could be replaced by doctors undertaking a suitable CPD qualification. The UK should follow in Germany’s footsteps in regards to how quickly the sector can grow if allowed. The UK should aim to help private patients achieve reimbursement on insurance.
  7. Increase the evidence base for cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK in order to expand patient access on the NHS. The only way of successfully achieving this would be through a government-funded national trial.

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