In November 2018, medical cannabis was legalized in the United Kingdom, meaning cannabis can be prescribed if no other licensed medicine could be of help to the patient. The policy of cannabis legalization for medical purposes wad supported overwhelmingly by the British population as of 2020
The medical cannabis market in the UK is predicted to soar. At the end of 2019, there were less than 250 active medical cannabis users in the country; by 2024, this figure is expected to be over 337 thousand. The potential of the market in the UK is clear when the number of sufferers of medical conditions for whom medical cannabis is legal and available in other countries is taken into account. For example, there are 400 thousand sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis in the UK who could benefit from medical cannabis, and 360 thousand cancer cases a year for which medical cannabis could be available to combat the worst effects of chemotherapy. Furthermore, in 2028, the medical cannabis market in the UK is predicted to have a revenue of approximately 8.8 billion euros, which is forecast to be the second biggest in Europe, behind only France. The possible capacity of the medical cannabis market in the UK can be further seen in a survey that found over three-quarters of Brits would take medical cannabis if it was prescribed by a doctor.
The UK government made the decision in 2004 to reclassify cannabis from a Class B to Class C drug, but the decision was rescinded in 2009.
This is despite the fact that a 2007 report by the Advisory Council on the Misuse Drugs stated that “after a most careful scrutiny,” cannabis should remain a class C substance and that the harmfulness of it is closer to that of Class C substances and not Class B ones. Class C are prescription medications
The UK’s CBD industry
The UK’s CBD industry provides a particular example of this tension, having grown exponentially in only a few years. From humble beginnings as something of an insider’s secret, CBD products are now found on sale in every city, town, and village across the country.
The availability of a wide range of products may be good news for consumers, but it has led to difficult clashes with regulators in the UK and the EU, including CBD’s status as a ‘novel food’.
In the UK, applications for novel food authorisation had to be submitted to the FSA by 31 March 2021. That deadline has now been and gone, and only products which were on the market when the FSA announced it would be treating CBD as a novel food can remain available.
In the days leading up to the deadline, the UK Government announced that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) had been commissioned to provide “impartial and independent scientific advice on the acceptable levels of cannabinoids in cannabidiol (CBD) products”.
The announcement followed the intervention of UK Minister of State for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse MP, who wrote to the ACMD earlier this year to request that it consider the maximum dose of THC for any “non-negligible effect”.