UK report suggests moving licensing of cannabinoids to health agencies

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Licensing for cannabinoid clinical research and consumer cannabinoids should move from the UK’s Home Office to two health agencies, according to a report from a government study group.

Doing so would properly separate medicinal and nutraceutical cannabinoid products from criminal laws that address banned cannabis derivatives, and free up the sectors for growth, the Taskforce for Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) said in the report, released last week.

Medicinal cannabinoids mainly include medical marijuana and hemp-derived products that have high concentrations of CBD. Such CBD products are separate from nutraceuticals and food products that contain lower concentrations of CBD.

The suggestions in the TIGGR report are among a wide range of recommendations sought by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on how the UK can seize new economic growth opportunities post-Brexit.

Patient benefit

The report said putting cannabinoid research licensing under the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would establish a pathway for products based on patient benefit through “an evidence-based assessment of their medicinal effects.”

“The current regime makes it very difficult for scientists in the UK to conduct pharmaceutical research on potential medical benefits of cannabinoids and medicinal CBD,” the report’s authors observed. “International examples and leading scientists working in this area have shown that sensible, but limited, reforms to the current licensing process could unlock significant investment into UK medical research into cannabinoids for pain relief.”

The task force also said despite the UK’s fast-growing, legal and well established consumer market for medicinal CBD – used by patients for a range of pain and neurological conditions – current Home Office rules make it impossible for such products to be produced domestically.

“This means that domestic consumers are relying on imported products and the UK is losing out on a ~£1 billion medicines industry,” the report says.

Good news

Steve Moore, founder of the UK’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), welcomed the TIGGR recommendations. “This is exactly the news the nascent UK cannabinoid sector has been crying out for,” Moore said. “The future of this industry will be forged in product innovation and research and development. That senior government advisors now recognize that is incredibly important.”

The changes in oversight of cannabinoids sector licensing were central to proposalsCMC submitted to TIGRR in Green Shoots, a report released earlier this year which suggested the overall UK CBD sector could generate sales of £690 million (€800 million) in 2021 from over-the-counter hemp-based CBD extracts and licensed medicinal CBD.

The TIGRR report was put together by former ministers at the request of the Prime Minister to identify how the UK can take advantage of its new-found regulatory freedoms as a result of leaving the EU, and stimulate growth, innovation and competition across the economy.

FULL REPORT: UK Taskforce for Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform

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