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The government has been advised to move the licensing regime for cannabinoid pharmaceutical research and CBD over-the-counter medicines from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Care or the MHRA.

A report by a government taskforce also recommended the creation of a regulatory  pathway for approving cannabinoids and medical CBD using an evidence-based assessment of their medicinal effects.

“At present this is prevented because the rules governing CBD medicines are not properly separated from the criminal law on banned substances derived from cannabis.”

The findings published on Tuesday night by the taskforce for innovation, growth and regulatory reform (TIGRR), led by former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, laid out to the prime minister a number of ways that the UK could “boost its economy by taking advantage of its post-Brexit regulatory freedom”.

The taskforce’s recommendation was made around two fundamental problems it found with the existing licensing rules:

“The first is 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. International examples and leading scientists working in this area have shown that sensible, but limited, reforms to the current licensing process could unlock significant investment into UK medical research into cannabinoids for pain relief.

“The second is the dichotomy that whilst there is in the UK a fast-growing, legal and well established consumer market for medicinal CBD for a range of pain and neurological conditions, current Home Office rules make it impossible for them to be produced here. This means that domestic consumers are relying on imported products and the UK is losing out on a c£1 billion medicines industry.”

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) today welcomed the key recommendations relating to the cannabinoid sector which could spark significant changes to the UK’s rules and regulations around hemp and cannabis.

“On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act, and three years on from the law changing to permit the prescribing of medicinal cannabis, this is exactly the news the nascent UK cannabinoid sector has been crying out for,” said Steve Moore, the founder of CMC.

Boris Johnson’s government has come under increasing pressure from MPs, advisors and industry members to reform the current UK cannabis laws, who claim that the sector is being held back despite a flourishing CBD industry and legalisation of medical cannabis back in 2018.

Commenting on the TIGRR findings, Dr Andy Yates, the pharmacy lead at CMC, said: “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.

“The UK already is a leading market for consumer nutraceuticals and specials and licensed medicines containing cannabinoids and these proposals will not only support the growth of all of these sectors but will lead to increased investment and innovation here within the shores of the UK.”

The TIGRR report also includes a wide range of further recommendations pertaining to optimising and modernising the clinical trials environment and the nutraceutical and consumer health sector in the UK.

Yates added: “Outside of the specific cannabinoid medicines proposals included in the report, the further proposals related to optimising and modernising the clinical trials environment and the nutraceutical and consumer health sector here in the UK. As a package of measures this will truly create a go-to environment for cannabinoid innovation now and well out into the future.”

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