The landscape of the UK Medical Cannabis market is ever changing and while progress is steady there is much that needs to be achieved to dramatically increase the numbers of people who are obtaining a medical cannabis prescription. Despite growing evidence of the potential of cannabis as a medication for an array of symptoms and conditions, the domestic distribution of medical cannabis in the UK remains low. Other than some prescriptions of epileptic children, all UK medical cannabis prescriptions are unlicensed, and the medication is imported from abroad.
The existing regulatory framework can be perplexing to both patients and doctors. There were also reports of existing prescriptions being stopped because of complications caused by Brexit.
The number of mental health and physical problems people experience have been amplified by the pandemic. This distress has led to people searching for alternative remedies in the health and wellness market as well as exploring ground-breaking new treatments such as medical cannabis.
The medical cannabis market in growing and there are an increasing number of entrants to the space. It is inevitable that the market will soon become more sophisticated and the delivery methods that are used to provide patients with cannabis will develop beyond tincture oils and flower. Using a tincture oil is not a medical device that people are used to and it doesn’t provide a standardised dose. While vaping THC/CBD is not comparable to any other method of consuming a medication and the safety of vaping is still not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The stigma that has long overshadowed the cannabis industry is gradually shifting as more people in the UK begin to accept that cannabis is a viable medication and evidence slowly begins to strengthen the case for prescribing cannabis. However, there is a massive amount of research that needs to be undertaken that investigates the benefits of treating specific conditions with medical cannabis. Whether it be private companies, universities or a trust, clinical trials and clinical studies are needed to accelerate the medical cannabis industry and provide the much-needed evidence that THC and CBD as well as other cannabinoids can greatly improve people’s quality of life.
The Future of the Industry
One of the most important things that is currently holding the UK cannabis industry back is the price the patient has to pay for a medical cannabis prescription. Asking a normal person to pay in excess of £300 per month for their medication to manage their symptoms is not sustainable and is simply unaffordable for the vast majority of people.
Enabling bulk imports and cutting down on commissions throughout the supply chain would enable the cost paid by the patient to fall. However, for cannabis to become widely available as a medication in the UK, clinical studies are needed.
The cannabis industry has the capacity to help many people and improve their quality of life. Enabling people to access the medicine is the biggest challenge the industry faces. As cannabis companies list on the London Stock Exchange, the level of capital that is accessible to cannabis companies may substantially increase. This could result in private companies having the capital to embark on more ambitious projects in the cannabis space which would result in a higher quality of data and proof of the safety of cannabis as a medicine.
The variation in laws and regulations across Europe complicates matters for all European cannabis companies. The red tape that has to be navigated in a single country let alone an entire continent is a tremendous hurdle which has to be overcome before the risk and reward balances for larger companies looking to take on huge project such as a clinical trial.
The complex regulatory environment can lead to a lack of confidence within the cannabis sector. However, it is this confidence that is needed to propel the industry to a position of strength where it can be taken seriously by both the capital markets and patients.
The level of evidence that needs to be compiled is massive and needs to offer factual insights into the safety and efficacy of treating specific conditions with medical cannabis. As the evidence and the science develops it means that cannabis will gradually be considered the correct course of treatment rather than a last resort.
Education is also an imperative part of advancing the industry. As medical professionals and patients begin to understand how cannabis could prospectively assist them in their job or their daily life. The endocannabinoid system should be taught throughout medical education and this would alleviate some of the scepticism that surrounds medical cannabis. Rigorous scientific research is needed to persuade clinicians and politicians that cannabis-based medical products (CBMPs) have the capacity to benefit society as a whole.
There are over 800 CBD companies based in the EU and very few of them have the appropriate licenses and accreditations to produce naturally sourced CBD on a commercial level. Even fewer companies have the capacity to provide an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical purposes.
Product development within the cannabis space has a long way to go and investment into research is still lacking. There is still yet to be a cannabis product in Europe that defines medical cannabis use. Innovating a revolutionary product that is unanimously associated with cannabis. Whoever cracks this problem will drive the industry forward and create a new dawn within the European cannabis industry.
Medical Cannabis in the UK
The medical cannabis space in the UK has tremendous potential. There are certainly lessons to be learned from the North American markets to ensure that the UK cannabis sector is equitable, fair and efficient. Destabilising the black market is integral in driving custom to legal cannabis avenues. The legal cannabis industry can only truly progress if existing cannabis users elect to pursue a legal route. However, this will only happen when the legal market is open, competitive on price and high-quality. In Canada, 1,000,000kg of cannabis was destroyed because of oversupply and the low quality of the product.
With improved and more substantiated evidence, the UK medical cannabis market can begin to remove the shackles of restrictive legislation. Obtaining a medical cannabis prescription will then become much easier. The more people who try medical cannabis, the more people will discover the power of the plant and as society’s perception of cannabis shifts. A great opportunity beckons.