UK government urged to become world leader in cannabinoid innovation
The document from the Hodges Commission was launched with a speech by Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, George Freeman MP, in London on 27 June.
The recommendations include allowing GPs to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes, updating rules on hemp farming, modernising the Proceeds of Crime Act and creating a national patient registry for all medicines prescribed in the UK that are cannabis-based.
Entitled From Containment to Nurturing: How the UK can become a world leader in cannabinoid innovation, Professor Christopher Hodges, Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, authored the report.
According to Hodges, the framework he outlines would achieve three key goals. These include giving the UK a global competitive advantage post-Brexit, establishing regulatory best practice and making significant scientific innovations and advances.
He says: “The analysis in this report and the principles we have outlined lead us to recommend a series of policy changes to help bring about the positive and shared goals that we articulate.
“The recommendations are directed both at regulators and industry, with the understanding that both parties have an obligation to cooperate to steward this new industry and support it to develop in an innovative but also safe and responsible way.”
The report, commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), calls for the government to create a ‘stewarding’ authority to guide and regulate the industry, using that approach to implement the necessary changes.
Elisabeth Philipps, Clinical Neuroscientist and Adviser to ACI and the CMC, welcomed the guidance. She believes urgent action is important because those working in the UK cannabinoid sector are currently very restricted.
She explains: “There are a lot of regulatory conditions, and some are too lax while some are far too onerous. This has really caused us to feel shut out of policy engagement, so there's a big problem of having no clear course, no clear framework or guidance in how we can move this industry forward.
“What's come out of the report as well is that we've got this new survey of public attitudes and the public are mostly aware, are accepting and embracing the legal cannabis sector. But, at the same time, we need to make sure that the products are out there and that the investment is coming into the country, so we really need this clear vision and this clear course for us to take the industry forward.”
According to Philipps, the proposals are comprehensive and also focus on the delivery of the objectives they set out.
She says: “What we've got here are these 20 key recommendations that really cover all three main objectives. We're looking at the global side and the competitive advantages, the economic advantages that we can have through clearer guidance and policy. We're looking at regulatory best practice as well, which is very important.
“It covers scientific advances as well – the recommendations are encompassing how we can advance the research side and really make the UK global leaders in cannabinoid research. But it’s also ultimately about getting better, safer, quality products to patients, as well as patient access and patient education.”
Philipps believes the recommendations not only clearly and concisely cover what is needed to move the UK sector forward, but also outline how to do this.
She adds: “It's not just a set of rules that have been written down, but it's really how we can deliver these recommendations via what Professor Hodges talks about as the outcome-based cooperative regulation.
“This really elevates the framework and elevates the recommendations as well. We set out shared goals to make this movement of the recommendations going forward much more inclusive.”