UK to rely on imports to meet ‘unlicensed’ medical cannabis demand

United Kingdom medical marijuana, UK to rely on imports to meet ‘unlicensed’ medical cannabis demand

The United Kingdom likely will lean on imports to supply “unlicensed” cannabis-derived products after medical marijuana becomes available by prescription later this year.

A new report by a council studying medical cannabis in the U.K. advises the government should encourage pharmaceutical companies to apply to the Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for a license to market cannabis-derived medicinal products – thus bringing them into the “licensed” fold.

The analysis is part of Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s promise to make approved medical marijuana products available by prescription in the coming months.

This was one of 11 recommendations made by the council, which was convened at the request of Javid.

Deepak Anand, vice president of Toronto consultancy Cannabis Compliance, expects Canadian licensed producers to largely fill the void of unlicensed MMJ in the U.K.

“With the U.K. acknowledging that the supply of unlicensed cannabis-derived medical products will be largely through imports, Canadian licensed producers who supply the current German and international markets are in a leading position to be able to supply the U.K. market,” he said.

However, Anand noted the advisory council agreed that unlicensed medical cannabis should be considered “a product of last resort” and used only when no other drug with marketing authorization meets the clinical need, which would limit overall demand for imports of unlicensed cannabis-derived medical products.

“This combined with the limiting of (general practitioners) prescribing … are issues with the proposed approach by the U.K.,” he said.

The U.K. is looking to restrict the ability to prescribe MMJ to specialist clinicians – not general practitioners of medicine.

Before any of the recommendations can be accepted by the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency need to be consulted.

Other key recommendations from the advisory council include:

  • Refining the definition of cannabis-derived medical products.
  • Banning smoking of cannabis products.
  • Creating three access routes: unlicensed medicinal product via prescription of a specialist medical practitioner; MMJ for clinical trials; and licensed MMJ products with marketing authorizations.
  • Establishing guidance to support specialist clinicians in prescribing both unlicensed products and licensed ones.

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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