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UK Government must seize cannabis opportunity, says parliamentary group

The UK government has the opportunity plan for the creation of a long-term cannabis industry, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for CBD Products has stated.

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Home » News » Politics & policy » UK Government must seize cannabis opportunity, says parliamentary group

The APPG for CBD has addressed a letter to George Freeman MP stating that the UK has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive new growth with the cannabis industry.

The group highlights that the UK cannabis industry could be similar in size to the Scotch Whisky industry if the Government seizes the opportunity. 

In order to drive the industry forward, it has requested an urgent meeting to establish a single point of contact between industry and government and to discuss the inclusion of the industry’s views around new regulatory frameworks.

In its letter to Freeman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the group states that this framework will determine whether the CBD industry can flourish in the UK or whether it will be “destined for bankruptcy”.

Read more: Could ACMD recommendations put the UK CBD market out of business?

The APPG has been established to encourage the development of UK regulation on CBD products and its Secretariat Advisory Board (SAB) is comprised of 701 UK businesses – approximately 70 per cent of all active cannabis-related businesses in the UK. 

Also included is Tenacious Labs, acting as secretariat, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, the Cannabis Industry Council, the Cannabis Trades Association, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the Scottish Hemp Association, the British Hemp Alliance and the Cannabis Services Advisory Board (Jersey). Co-chairs of the board are MP Crispin Blunt and Baroness Manzoor.

Developing a new economic sector

With the UK’s CBD sector having been estimated to generate £690m in annual sales in 2021, getting CBD product regulation right could create thousands of new jobs and generate millions for the UK, much akin to the Scottish Whisky industry. 

This post-Brexit opportunity could build on the UK’s international bioscience reputation and would provide a new way to generate income for agricultural farmers who can use the crop when others fail. 

Read more: Brexit: the perfect opportunity for UK to be centre of European cannabis

However, getting to this point will only be achieved if the UK government seizes the opportunity and listens to input from the industry when establishing regulations. 

The letter states: “The Scotch Whisky Association estimates their industry in 2021 directly employed 42,000 people, with 7,000 of these jobs benefitting from being in the rural economy, and had an annual gross value added of £5.5bn. 

“The UK finds itself with an enviable opportunity to take advantage of a leading position in the nascent stages of this novel burgeoning international industry which is already heavily consumer demand-driven and is crying out for clear and practical regulation.”

Speaking to Cannabis Wealth, CEO of Tenacious Labs which is secretariat of APPG, Nicolas Morland, commented: “What we have at the moment is a situation where the industry has not spoken with a single voice. 

“This has got to be done as a public, transparent process with the industry genuinely being represented – because one of the issues we’ve had to date is that people with very narrow interest bases are presenting themselves as representing the industry – and it’s not true.”

Read more: UK cannabis industry calls for government to implement new policies

Morland is chairperson of Jersey’s Cannabis Services Advisory Board, which is acting as an official conduit between industry and government.

In 2021, Jersey’s States Assembly passed an amendment allowing businesses on the island to have direct or indirect involvement with legal cannabis sectors overseas, meaning directors will not fall foul of Proceeds of Crime legislation. This progressive development is miles ahead of where the UK currently stands on cannabis-related business – with the majority of companies unable to list on the LSE, for example. 

Morland said: “We need to change the law on Proceeds of Crime because otherwise you can’t have a bank account, and the investors can’t send their money across. It needs to be updated – Proceeds of Crime involves multiples of gross international turnover. We have got a window where we can in effect set up the equivalent of Scotch Whisky, and it would be premium and long term.” 

Establishing regulations that work

The UK is making moves to be the world’s first regulated CBD market. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently published the anticipated list of credible CBD Novel Food applications which will be able to remain on the market as they progress towards final authorisation. Whilst the process has been welcomed by many in the industry, others have described it as “monumental waste of time and money”. 

Additionally, Kyle Esplin, chair of the Scottish Hemp Association has pointed out that the Novel Foods authorisation process was triggered by reports of CBD products containing four times the recommended amount of THC. Esplin states that the FSA has not followed its own criteria after CBD food products have appeared on the list with well above the FSA’s criteria and the Advisor Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD’s) safety recommendations.

The ACMD produced a report containing recommendations that CBD products should contain no more than 50ug THC per serving. A separate report from the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) suggests a THC safety limit of 0.03 per cent, which is 21 μg per day. At this point, the ACMD’s recommendations are not law, but the APPG is emphasising getting regulations right from the outset to ensure that the industry is not quashed before it can blossom.

Read more: Review to establish greater strategic coherence for UK legal cannabis

Edward Henry QC and Jade Proudman, founder of Savage Cabbage and official UK distributor of Charlotte’s Web CBD, have suggested that some of the ACMD’s recommendations included in the report are “less than scientific” and that the “CBD sector is at risk of being put out of business by them.”

Esplin highlights that: “If the ACMDs recommendations were applied then full spectrum products on the list with 0.2 per cent THC greatly exceed serving limit,” and that “if the ACIs recommendations were applied then one single drop of oil at 0.2 per cent THC would have to be divided across four days of consumption to stay within ACI’s safe levels for trace THC consumption.” 

Read more: New report lays out cannabis social equity principles for UK

Morland highlights that the ACMD recommendations have been developed around isolate-only products and that elsewhere in Europe, there is a limit of 5mg. 

Morland commented: “What’s happened with the ACMD report was that there was nobody commercial on that at all. Nobody’s involved. There should absolutely be consumer protection. The issue with Novel Foods is that whoever has provided some of the information the first draft has done it with laboratory-grown isolates, for which there is very little consumer demand.

“There is some, and there are specific parts of the market where it’s relevant, but it’s not broad-based enough to mean that anyone would invest in the UK for it. We need to make sure that the law doesn’t change so that you can’t have plant-based cannabis products, because consumers aren’t interested in just having isolate products. Isolates are an important but small part of the industry.”

Whilst the recommendations have been developed on the basis of consumer safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that CBD is not a narcotic, and poses no health or safety risks. 

Esplin highlights that if the UK follows the path of the ACMD or ACI recommendations, and legislation was changed to allow farmers to harvest flowering crops and process them, it would lead to a situation where there would be so much extra refinement needed to the materials that the supply would not compete with ongoing importation of isolate and distillate.

Esplin commented: “We feel the industry has not been well represented within the political circles and within Westminster.

“We’ve put forward about the importance of full-spectrum and how consumers were not really satisfied by an isolate-only or isolate-dominant market, or along the lines of what would fit with the ACMD recommendations. They very much give the impression that they didn’t think consumers are so well informed to know that they want full-plant. That has given the impression their understanding was not fully comprehensive of all those operating within the hemp and CBD space. 

Read more: More than half of UK public supports cannabis legalisation

“It’s been great to see Tenacious Labs turn up and start this process – they’ve been influential on Jersey and Jersey is ahead of mainland UK. We can learn from other experiences around the world and set a real shining example of how the hemp and CBD industry could be in the UK and go a different way from Europe given the opportunity we have just now.”

Politics & policy

Report calls for UK Government to turbocharge cannabinoid innovation

A new report has set out recommendations for the UK to become the global leader in cannabinoid innovation.

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Drawing from expert insights, the report – From Containment to Nurturing: How the UK can become a world leader in cannabinoid innovation – was commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry. 

The report argues for the UK government to recognise the UK’s legal cannabis market, and to create a public policy and nurturing regulatory framework to foster its growth.

Highlighting that millions of Britons routinely purchase cannabis products as medicine and food supplements, it stipulates that the UK has the opportunity to harness its global strengths in life sciences to become a world leader in medicinal and nutraceutical cannabinoid innovation by adopting the report’s proposals and recommendations. 

Read more: UK cannabis market could be worth over £1bn by 2026

Authored by regulatory thinker Professor Christopher Hodges, the report will be launched with a speech by George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research & Innovation – the first ever ministerial address to the legal cannabis sector. 

Included in the recommendations are calls for updates to hemp farming rules, modernisation of the Proceeds of Crime Act and the creation of a national patient registry for all cannabis based medicines prescribed in the UK.

Stewarding a new industry

The report draws on inputs from leading industry players, academics, patients, consumers and investors, and its authors state that regulations are critical issues in order to help set the UK apart as it decides the economic and political path it wants to adopt post-Brexit.

Hodges argues that the regulatory framework he sets out would achieve three important objectives:

● Global competitive advantage for the UK post-Brexit, helping the country to leverage its historic and economic strengths in a rapidly growing and unprecedented global industry

● Regulatory best practice giving early mover advantage, helping to pioneer new approaches to regulating a novel industry that other jurisdictions on a similar path can choose to emulate

● Scientific advances and innovations, with pioneering new treatments, manufacturing methods, and end user product innovations, helping the UK to reinforce its reputation as the home of world-leading inventions and discoveries that improve our environment, our health, and quality of life.

Read more: New report lays out cannabis social equity principles for UK

The report views the cannabinoid sector through the lens of Outcome-Based Cooperative Regulation, arguing that for regulations to be effective, they need to be based in trust and collaboration. It also urges the Government to establish a ‘stewarding’ authority to govern and guide the sector and implement the required reforms.

Professor Christopher Hodges, Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems at the Centre for Socio Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, commented: “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 co-operate to steward this new industry and support it to develop in an innovative but also safe and responsible way.”

Key objectives of the report include:

  • To build a strategic engagement with government and associated agencies – move from containment to nurturing
  • To establish a footprint / landing zone for the sector within government i.e. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • To establish a new coherent regulatory framework for CBMPs and consumer cannabinoids in the UK
  • To optimise the potential public funding opportunities for the sector
  • To align ourselves with current government thinking with regard to future regulation

The UK has a global cannabinoid leader

With cannabinoids making up a rapidly accelerating global industry, the report highlights that the UK holds an advantage in that it can learn from the successes and failures of other comparable regimes. 

It also states that Brexit has given the UK the “freedom to choose to align or differentiate itself from the markets with which it is competing” such as hemp cultivation and CBD regulation. 

Addressing the country’s potential to be a sector leader, the report encourages the creation of a UK ‘Centre of Excellence’ to advance the evidence base for cannabinoids and their applications, which it says could be established with the support of major universities.

Whilst the UK has set out its Life Sciences Vision, aiming to make the country a global leader in the sector post-Brexit, the report highlights how the cannabinoid sector can help accelerate this ambition.

Ir recommends that an incubator and cannabinoid innovation fund for UK pilot studies is created in areas aligned with the government’s R&D strategy to support key areas like life sciences and new agri-tech opportunities.

“By adopting the proposals and recommendations laid out here, the UK can inaugurate a timely opportunity to harness its global strengths in life sciences to become a world leader in medicinal and nutraceutical cannabinoid innovation,” state Steve Moore and Paul Birch, co-founders of the CMC and ACI.

Attracting investment into the UK

With the government having neglected to provide the right regulatory and grant support, the report highlights that those working in the sector feel restricted and shut out of policy engagement. It notes this has led to a situation whereby the UK’s sector is struggling to “find its feet” in the international market. 

The recommendations in the report intent to provide a vision that “moves beyond a policy of control and containment to one of support and stewardship”. As well as helping to advance scientific discovery and innovation, and improve well-being, this will also help to create jobs and investment in local economies.

One recommendation that address this issue is modernising the Proceeds of Crime Act, which currently prohibits dealing with any benefit arising from criminal conduct, even when that activity occurs abroad if that same activity would be illegal if it occured in the UK. 

This is a step that has already been taken on the island of Jersey, where people are permitted to do business in the cannabis sector as long as it is legal where it is taking place.

The report suggests that the UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act should be updated to create an explicit exemption for private enterprise by entities operating in legal jurisdictions – modelled on the changes already incorporated into law in Jersey.

The report states: “The seeds are there for rapid growth but it cannot happen without a clear strategy built upon co-ordinated 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.”

It goes on to say: “Until such time as the POCA regime is clarified to exempt the owners and operators and those who gain (including shareholders) from the activities of legal companies in the UK, major institutional investors will be deterred from committing to the sector.”

Blair Gibbs, Senior Associate, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis/Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, commented: “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.”

The report has also recommended that GP are enabled to prescribe medical cannabis. To find out more about this recommendation please visit our sister site: www.cannabishealthnews.co.uk.

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Politics & policy

CLIMB Act aims to give cannabis businesses access to financial capital

The new Act will allow US cannabis businesses to list on stock exchanges. 

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Home » News » Politics & policy » UK Government must seize cannabis opportunity, says parliamentary group

Representatives Troy Carter and Guy Reschenthaler have introduced the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses Act (CLIMB Act) to help improve access to services for legitimate cannabis-related businesses. 

This legislation would give US cannabis companies access to lending and grant opportunities from both financial institutions and government agencies.

The US cannabis industry has been growing at a rapid rate, but due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, cannabis businesses in the US are currently struggling to access capital through traditional routes.

Federal prohibition also prevents US cannabis businesses from listing on US exchanges. However, global companies are currently permitted to list, giving them an unfair advantage over US cannabis businesses to secure critical capital.

Read more: MORE Act moves forward in US sparking hopes for federal legalisation

The CLIMB Act aims to permit access to community development, small businesses, minority development and financial institution capital for investment and financing of cannabis-related businesses. 

This includes business assistance, such as access to financial services, insurance/surety products, debt or equity capital, accounting services and more, as well as safe harbour for businesses to list on stock exchanges.

If passed, the bill could generate an estimated $22.7bn in tax revenue through increased investment.

Congressman Troy Carter stated: “The bipartisan CLIMB Act is a huge opportunity to bring equity and equal opportunity into our nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry.

“From my work on the Small Business Committee and by working directly with small, minority, and veteran-owned cannabis businesses, it’s clear that access to capital remains one of the biggest barriers to entry and to success in the industry. 

“By bringing symmetry into the business ecosystem with the CLIMB Act, we can help communities that have long been harmed by the criminalisation of marijuana move to now be leaders in the business sphere – and that’s what the American Dream is all about.”

It has been estimated that the CLIMB Act would bring in an expected $47.3bn in investments to support the growth and stability of US cannabis operators and ancillary businesses within the first year, and it is also projected to create 600,000 jobs by giving these businesses access to capital.

Reschenthaler also stated: “American cannabis companies are currently restricted from receiving traditional lending and financing, making it difficult to compete with larger, global competitors.

“The CLIMB Act will eliminate these barriers to entry, and provide state legal American cannabis companies, including small, minority, and veteran-owned businesses, with access to the financial tools necessary for success. 

“This bipartisan legislation will boost the economy, create jobs, and level the playing field for American businesses.”

First vice chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable and CEO of Ilera Holistic, Dr Chanda Macias, stated: “The CLIMB Act will unleash the full potential of the American cannabis industry. This legislation will ensure that American cannabis businesses can access the lending and grant opportunities that other domestic industries currently enjoy, and it will make it easier for veteran, minority and women-owned businesses to compete by giving them access to a broad range of economic opportunities.

“I want to thank Congressmen Troy Carter and Guy Reschenthaler for introducing this important legislation.”

National Cannabis Industry Association CEO Aaron Smith, commented: “Small cannabis businesses cannot effectively compete in the highly regulated and complex cannabis industry without access to capital and lending services.

“This bill is a much-needed reform that will help level the playing field for main street cannabis businesses across the country.”

The bill could help to transform the US cannabis industry if it passes alongside the SAFE Banking Act, which has been designed to allow cannabis businesses access to traditional banking services, the HOPE Act, which aims to expunge past cannabis-related convictions, and the MORE Act, under which cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act’s list of scheduled substances and would remove criminal penalties for individuals manufacturing, distributing, or possessing the plant.

The SAFE Banking Act, however, which was last year included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and then subsequently removed, has now been stalled in the Senate for sixth time.

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Medical cannabis bill given green light in Spain

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party introduced a bill to regulate medical cannabis in the country in May.

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Medical cannabis bill given green light in Spain
Home » News » Politics & policy » UK Government must seize cannabis opportunity, says parliamentary group

To move patients away from the black market, Spain’s Subcommittee on medicinal cannabis in the Congress of Deputies has approved the bill aiming to regulate the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Currently, it is illegal to sell cannabis in Spain. However, personal consumption on private residences is permitted. This means Spanish citizens that consume cannabis for medical purposes are often using the black market to access their medicine.

Although, cannabis-based medical products were not legal in the country, two cannabis medicines have been available to patients in Spain – GW Pharma’s oil products, Epidiolex and Sativex.

The new bill aims to give patients’ in Spain access to medical cannabis through hospitals and health centre pharmacies via medical specialists for a number of different conditions. Some of these conditions include multiple sclerosis-related pain, epilepsy, and symptoms related to chemotherapy and cancer pain. 

Read more: MoU to establish medical cannabis production facility in Spain

According to local reports, the proposal has been supported by political parties including the socialist PSOE, United We Can, and Ciudadanos, PNV and PDECAT. The Canary reported that ERC and Bildu abstained, and the conservative PP and Vox voted against the proposals.

The non-profit organisation, The Spanish Observatory for Medical Cannabis (OECM), was established in the country in 2015 to “promote, coordinate and carry out activities and projects aimed at learning about the medicinal properties and uses of cannabis and its derivatives”.

The OECM stated: “From the OECM we are pleased with the agreement reached based on the report of conclusions of the medical cannabis subcommittee approved today by a majority thanks to UP, PSOE, Cs, PNV and PDeCAT. With the abstentions of ERC and Bildu and the votes against of PP and Vox.

“We started this journey in 2015 and after seven years we have achieved it. It has been an honour to fight for the rights of at least more than half a million patients who use medical cannabis. From the OECM we want to thank all the people who have worked to bring it forward, it is a giant first step for all of us.” [Translated from Google]

The proposed bill has been given the green light in parliament, however, it must still be voted on next week. If the bill wins the vote then the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Products (AEMPS) will begin carrying out work on finalising regulations within the next six months. 

The bill initially excluded cannabis flower, however, The Canary reports that the parties have included an amendment at the request of patients to use flower to develop “medicinal experimental projects” as “this way of using cannabis by inhalation provides faster effects for users than simply eating or drinking infusions”.

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