Medical cannabis in the UK and the industry’s future

From an economic standpoint, a strong, regulated legal cannabis industry can contribute numerous economic benefits including employment opportunities, tax revenues and R&D innovations. But how do we get there?

In September 2020, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued guidance on the listing of medical cannabis businesses on the London Stock Exchange. Although preliminary in nature and subject to further consultation, the guidance offered welcome relief for the industry and signalled to UK investors the potential value of the medical cannabis.

This guidance provides real scope for UK-based cannabis companies to secure significant investment and plays a role in removing ambiguity, increasing transparency and legitimising the industry as a sector that can offer returns – economically and socially. It will also address domestic demand issues.

While the FCA’s guidance signals a positive shift, barriers to entry and a lack of clarity on the criteria remains, hindering the confidence of serious investors.

Across Europe, different rules and regulatory frameworks also can lead to complications for cannabis businesses with borderless supply chains and can hamper the ability to scale and grow in new markets. Though there have been strong arguments to harmonise policies and standardise processes and practices to create reliable, competitively priced products, there is still a way to go.

The variations in global cannabis legalisation and complex regulatory environment can create a lack of certainty and confidence in the industry, which is required to propel it to new heights and gain investment momentum. To overcome this, there needs to be a body of evidence and research that offer valuable insights into the efficacy of medical cannabis for patients suffering from a range of conditions. As science and medicine play catch up, cannabis can grow from marginalised to the mainstream – moving it away from a treatment of last resort to the right course of treatment.

Developing pragmatic solutions based on imperative research, educating, and empowering the medical community and coordinating regulation will be vital for the industry to progress. As the endocannabinoid system is integrated into medical education, the stigma behind prescribing medical cannabis will be easier. Evidence-based on a rigorous scientific approach and methodology will also help clinicians and policy-makers understand cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) and support prescriptions and funding decisions.

There are over 900 CBD companies in the EU, but only a handful of companies that hold the appropriate licenses and accreditations to commercially produce naturally sourced cannabidiol (CBD) as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical use.

It is important that we raise the bar on product development via research and innovation to ensure products are precise, consistent, and safe before it gets to a patient. With more quality and refined cannabis products entering the market, patient experiences and access can only improve.

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