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.
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.
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.