A licence is required to cover both cultivation and possession.
In June 2018, the UK government announced a review of cannabis-based medicines. The government considered licence applications for the use
of cannabis-based medicines but only in ‘exceptional cases’ where there is an unmet clinical need.
On November 1, 2018, the medicinal cannabis was re-assigned to Schedule 2 and specialist clinicians can legally prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products to patients with an exceptional clinical need.
NHS guidance states that a decision to prescribe cannabis products would only be considered where other options had been exhausted first.
Cannabis is a Class B controlled drug under Part II, Schedule 2, of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA 1971). It is also listed in Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDR 2001) and designated under the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2015 (2015 Order). As such, it is unlawful to possess, supply, produce, import or export this drug except under a Home Office licence. It is also an offence to cultivate any plant of the genus Cannabis except under a Home Office licence.
Each grower must be individually licensed.
Most cannabis-derived products are controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act, but some types of CBD oil are legal to sell as health supplements. CBD oils approved for sale in the UK must not contain more than 0.2% of THC, the chemical responsible for the ‘high’ effect.
The legislative controls identified above apply to cannabis plants cultivated for the production of drug material (e.g. hemp fibre or oil). Cultivation or possession of cannabis plants cannot lawfully be undertaken without the requisite Home Office Licence.
Licences are granted to enable the use of non-controlled parts of the plant (i.e. seeds and fibre/ mature stalk only) and the policy does not allow for use of ‘green’ material- i.e. the leaves and flowers as these are controlled parts of the plant.
The Home Office only issues licences for cultivation of plants from approved seed types with a THC content not exceeding 0.2%.
Medical Cannabis Market
It is estimated that there can be about 3 million medical cannabis users in the UK, contributing to a forecast potential market value of up to £4.5 billion per year.
Cannabisbased products for medicinal use e.g. Tilray and Bedrocan products that were supplied under a Home Office (HO) licence, Schedule 2 (Cannabis-based products for medicinal use as defined by the change in regulations on 1st November 2018)
A range of preparations containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) with differing percentages of the active constituents. The product to be specified by brand/supplier; cannabis strain and content of THC/CBD (and ratio of THC/CBD where relevant), as appropriate.
Suppliers should comply with MHRA guidance and Good Manufacturing Practice standards.
Available on a named patient basis for indications where there is clear published evidence of benefit or UK Guidelines and in patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted.
Specialist doctors on the GMC specialist register only can take the decision to prescribe.
The agriculture industry in the UK has started to recognise the increasing value of hemp as a crop and is expected to increase output and processing capabilities by 200% in the next 5 years.
In hemp varieties grown for seed or fiber use, the plants are grown very closely together and a very dense biomass product is obtained, rich in oil from the seeds and fiber from the stalks and low in THC content.
Much of the hemp grown in the UK in recent decades has been used in the building & construction industry, in a variety of forms, mainly as non-structural building materials and wall insulation. The natural insulating properties and astonishing durability of hemp make it a viable alternative, in terms of technical quality, to traditional materials.
Recent reports indicate that the global cannabidiol (CBD) market is estimated to grow by 700% and could be worth $2.1 billion by 2020. In the UK, the number of people using CBD oil is estimated to have reached around 300,000. The Cannabis Trades Association UK has estimated that UK CBD use has doubled in a year. The CBD market has been thriving in the UK. Although CBD, making medicinal claims, needs to receive a marketing authorisation from the MHRA, many companies have set of CBD companies categorised as food supplements.
In that time, the market value for CBD oil in the UK has gone from almost nothing to €57m per annum. The health and well-being market looks likely to capitalize on growing public interest, with CBD-based snacks, suppliments and even skincare products making their way onto shelves.