The 2019 UK Cannabis Report was released by Prohibition Partners earlier this month as U.K. voters prepared to elect the biggest conservative majority in Parliament since the Thatcher era.
The study, released one year after the U.K. legalized medical cannabis in November 2018, analyzes the ins and outs of the country’s cannabis industry with the aim of providing insight for future policy and market developments.
Medical Cannabis Legalized, But Still Taking Effect
Although medical cannabis has been legal in the British Isles for over a year, only a handful of its 180,000 doctors have received specialized training, according to Prohibition Partners.
Patients are only allowed to receive cannabis treatment as a “last resort” and need to present "clear published evidence of benefit."
Britain’s National Health System does not cover costs in most cases, and treatment can reach 2,500 pounds ($3,200) for a three-month supply. As a result of these events, although cannabis is available via prescription, only 153 patients have successfully received medicine.
Sativex, Nabilone and Epidyolex are the only pharmaceutical cannabis products allowed by U.K. authorities.
Lobbying groups are working on efforts to publish more evidence that allows doctors to prescribe cannabis products without restrictions.
Imports Vs. Exports: A State Of Contradiction
The U.K. is the world’s largest exporter of cannabis products for research, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, producing 44% of the global cannabis plants intended for medicine and scientific research.
Yet the U.K. still imports cannabis products meant for medical use, as there hasn’t been an advancement in regulations surrounding domestic cultivation.
A Thriving CBD Market
Although medical cannabis products have not yet become available to the larger population in the U.K., CBD has taken over Britain.
It is estimated that 7.3 million people consume CBD products each year in the country.
Hemp cultivation is fully legal with a growing license if THC levels remain under 0.2%.
Farmers are not allowed to exploit the plant to extract CBD or commercialize the flowers. Plant materials can only be used to produce fibers, seeds and hemp seed oil for food purposes, without CBD.
For this reason, the vast majority of cannabis products are imported, meaning that U.K. hemp farmers are missing out on the local market.
Regulation concerning the sale of CBD products is vague and has caused a great deal of confusion for consumers and retailers. Although the sale of hemp flower — even without THC — is considered an offense, and law enforcement officers occasionally conduct raids on CBD oil retailers, most of the enforcement is regarded as mild.
As a result, cosmetics, capsules and flowers can be bought online and at brick-and-mortar shops.
UK Cannabis Market Predictions
Prohibition Partners expects the U.K. to legalize recreational cannabis within the next five to 10 years.
This prediction is based on two YouGov surveys that showed 51% of the population agreeing to some kind of cannabis decriminalization, paired with relaxing attitudes by neighboring countries.
Prohibition Partners is forecasting that by 2028, up to 1% of the British population could become medical marijuana patients.
Yet with a complicated regulatory landscape, "if U.K. leaders are not ready to accept evidence from international sources, the outcome of clinical trials within the country will largely determine the outcome of these issues,” the report said.
By 2024, the firm is predicting a working medical market with over 400,000 patients and a value of almost $1.3 billion.
Although these numbers are significant, Prohibition Partners said problems accessing medical cannabis products after legalization caused predictions to be brought down from previous years.
The total market of both medical and recreational cannabis will be worth an estimated $3 billion by 2024, Prohibition Partners said.
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash.