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Government debate acknowledges economic potential of cannabis and hemp, but further work remains

On Thursday 20 April 2023, a ground-breaking debate unfolded in Parliament, focusing on the UK's cannabis and hemp sectors.

The debate saw cross-party attendance, with MPs from various political parties, including Jeremy Wright MP (Conservative), Jim Shannon MP (Democratic Unionist Party), Ronnie Cowan MP (Scottish National Party), David Mundell MP (Conservative), and Karin Smyth MP (Labour), discussing the need for clearer licensing and collaboration between the industry and government.

Addressing the key barriers to cannabis industry growth

"The economic contribution of medicinal cannabis" aimed to address the key barriers preventing the UK cannabis industry from reaching its full potential.

The UK has the opportunity to become a world leader in cannabis and hemp, potentially creating 100,000 new jobs, helping over 2 million patients, and generating a multi-billion-pound market. However, disjointed government thinking and regulatory barriers have been deterring investment and holding the sector back. The debate urged the government to adopt a whole sector approach and appoint champions to drive the industry forward.

Jeremy Wright MP delivered a particularly powerful speech, highlighting the importance of cannabis for both patients and the industry. The debate urged the government to acknowledge the sector's significance, work collaboratively with it, and facilitate its growth.

Responding to the economic and health benefits of a strong UK cannabis industry

In response, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, Will Quince MP, addressed the licensing issue, stating that the Home Office had no plans to remove hemp licensing. However, he did not comment on the proposal to allow farmers to extract or sell hemp flowers for CBD.

Although Quince stated that the government prioritised health benefits over the industry's economic value, he mentioned several visits to Jazz Pharmaceuticals, a multinational biopharmaceutical company.

We feel it is vital for the minister to engage with other companies across the cannabis and CBD sectors and to engage with doctors and their representative bodies to ensure patient voices are heard in this debate.

Confusion remains around licensed and unlicensed medicines

Regrettably, Quince appeared misinformed about NHS prescription practises, incorrectly asserting that only licensed medications were allowed. In reality, over 500 medications prescribed to children with severe chronic illnesses are unlicensed or off-label and commonly used in the NHS. Emphasising the importance of further research for proper licensing, Quince called on the medical cannabis sector to conduct the necessary investigations.

We urge the government and its ministers to understand that not all cannabis-based products, such as Sativex, are licensed, contrary to Quince's statement. We will continue to support MPs to better understand the situation. Nevertheless, he committed to discussing the issues raised in the debate with the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Despite some setbacks, the debate marked a positive development, as the government now appears to recognise the need for collaboration in building the industry. Maple Tree Consultants was proud to support the debate, the first of its kind to concentrate on the economic contribution of the cannabis and CBD sectors.

Work to engage government continues

We extend our gratitude to David Mundell MP, Jeremy Wright MP, Ronnie Cowan MP, Jim Shannon MP, and Karin Smyth MP for their contributions to the debate. Though the journey towards a fully recognised and accessible cannabis industry continues to be challenging, persistent efforts and collaboration will keep this vital issue at the forefront of the government's agenda.

Maple Tree continues in its efforts to bring this issue to the government's attention, foster industry growth, and address the challenges faced by this burgeoning market in the UK.

Watch the debate

Watch the debate below, or visit ParliamentLiveTV to watch.


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