A new report authored by regulatory thinker Professor Christopher Hodges sets out 20 key recommendations to set the UK on a path to becoming the ‘global leader in cannabinoid innovation’.

From Containment to Nurturing: How the UK can become a world leader in cannabinoid innovation, which was commissioned by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), draws ‘wide-ranging inputs from industry players, academics, patients, consumers and investors’.

Hodges argues that his regulatory framework set out in the report would achieve three important objectives:

  • A global competitive advantage for the UK post-Brexit, helping the country leverage its economic and historic strengths ‘in a rapidly growing and unprecedented global industry’
  • Regulatory best practice, providing ‘early mover advantage’, which would enable the UK to pioneer new regulatory approaches which may be emulated by ‘other jurisdictions on a similar path’
  • Scientific innovations, advancements, pioneering new treatments, manufacturing methods and end user products which would reinforce the UK’s status as ‘the home of world-leading inventions and discoveries that improve our environment, our health and quality of life’.

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

Hodges argues that in order for regulations to be effective they must be rooted in trust and collaboration and he urges the Government to establish a ‘stewarding’ authority which would guide and govern the sector, as well as implement any required reforms.

The seeds are there for rapid growth but it cannot happen without a clear strategy

“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. 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,” says Hodges.

Dr Parveen Bhatarah, chief scientific officer at the CMC and the ACI, comments: “It is no longer wise or sustainable for the Government to continue to take a distanced, disinterested or laissez faire attitude to the sector as a whole, as it has done since the cannabis sector’s inception. 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, so it attracts more investment, jobs and innovations, and secures political support and public recognition.” 

Blair Gibbs, senior associate at the CMC and the ACI, adds: “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.”