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UK Government Advised to Move Regulation of Cannabinoids from Home Office to the Department of Health

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jun 16, 2021   
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The UK government has been advised to move the licensing authority of CBD medicines and cannabinoid research and away from the Home Office.

Instead, according to a new report, the licensing system should be run by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Authored by three members of parliament (MPs) from the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR), the new 130-page report highlights two existing problems with the current licensing rules for cannabinoids.

Firstly, it claims, “the current regime makes it very difficult for scientists in the UK to conduct pharmaceutical research on potential medical benefits of cannabinoids and medicinal CBD.” Secondly, current Home Office rules prevent CBD from being extracted in the UK, meaning all CBD extracts must be imported. This latter issue starves the UK CBD sector of a further £1 billion, according to the report.

To amend these issues, the report recommends that the government “move the licensing regime for cannabinoid pharmaceutical research and CBD over-the-counter medicines from the Home Office to DHSC/MHRA and create a regulatory pathway for approving these products using an evidence-based assessment of their medicinal effects.”

But such a shift, say the report’s authors, is currently prevented by criminal laws on banned substances derived from cannabis, so the government would need to intervene to implement its recommendations.

The report does seem to have been well received the UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who initially commissioned the authors, Iain Duncan-Smith, George Freeman and Theresa Villiers, to outline the new regulatory opportunities for economic growth post-Brexit.

“I asked you to re-imagine, quickly and creatively, the UK’s approach to regulation and make best use of our recently rediscovered freedoms,” the prime minister said in a statement. “You have more than delivered on that charge, responding with substantive plans that will really put a TIGRR in the tank of British business.”

“So we will give your report the detailed consideration it deserves, consult widely across industry and civil society, and publish a response as soon as is practicable,” he added.

The recommendations have also been well received by those in the UK’s CBD industry and medical cannabis sector, such as the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC).

“I am delighted to see cannabinoid medicines feature as a specific area of focus in this report. Should these proposals, which aim to separate the medical benefits of cannabinoids from the criminal law associated with substance abuse, be adopted then it will benefit all three sectors of the legal cannabinoid industry,” Dr Andy Yates, the CMC’s pharmacy lead, said in a statement.  


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