UK receives initial ‘bulk’ shipment of medical cannabis

The United Kingdom received its first-ever import of “bulk” medical cannabis this week, marking a milestone for a market that has so far relied on patient-specific imports to meet demand, experts say.

The development represents a change in how cannabis enters the country.

“To date, all imports have been for a single, predefined patient. This is the first time that product has been imported to be sold for future demand,” said Stephen Murphy, managing director of U.K.-based analytics company Prohibition Partners.

British medical cannabis startup Grow Biotech collaborated with IPS Specials and European Cannabis Holdings to facilitate the import from the Netherlands.

The Office of Medical Cannabis of the Netherlands shipped the product to a pharmacy in the U.K., and stock was retained to ensure continuity of supply.

“The first major shipment of 800 grams (1.8 pounds) of medicinal cannabis arrived in the U.K. on Feb. 14 from the Netherlands, ending months of frustration for patients, doctors and carers, who say the medicine offers respite from conditions including chronic pain and multiple sclerosis,” Grow Biotech Chief Operating Officer Hari Guliani told Marijuana Business Daily.

The shipment consisted of 400 grams of Bedrocan Flower Afina and 400 grams of Bedica Flower Talea.

“Pricing is still an issue in the U.K., and lack of NHS support … but this is a major milestone in meaningful and sustained supply for patients in needs across the U.K.,” Murphy said.

Three patients received their medical cannabis on Feb. 15 from the shipment, and the remaining stock is available for new prescriptions, Guliani said.

The development of the United Kingdom’s nascent medical cannabis market is expected to be one of the biggest stories in international cannabis markets in 2019.

Specially trained doctors have been able to legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines in the United Kingdom only since Nov. 1, and supply and doctor awareness are two of the main hurdles.

The country is expected to rely on imports to supply “unlicensed” cannabis-derived products from the Netherlands and Canada for some time.

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]

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