Embracing the Green Economy: UK Parliament Debates the Medical Cannabis Industry

For the first time ever, MPs gathered to discuss the promising economic prospects of the UK medical cannabis industry.

The parliamentary debate held on Thursday, 20 April, featured cross-party support for the UK’s medical cannabis industry.

MPs expressed their belief in its economic potential, despite receiving a rather disappointing response from the government, which seemed to lack a comprehensive understanding of the sector.

“This is a legitimate industry, and an industry of the future. Its products do not come from humid, tinfoil-draped sheds or sunlamp-lit lofts; they come from laboratories and facilities that are as controlled an environment as those that synthesise a vaccine, for example.”


The spirited debate, titled “Economic Contribution of Medical Cannabis,” was spearheaded by David Mundell, Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale, and Tweeddale.

Topics of discussion included domestic medical cannabis production, the CBD industry, and the obstacles hindering patients from accessing cannabis-based medicines through the NHS.

MPs from various parties passionately spoke about the economic benefits that the UK’s medical cannabis industry could bring.

Some projections suggest that a flourishing sector could generate over 100,000 new jobs, with the medical cannabis industry reaching £2.4 billion by 2024 and the domestic CBD market being worth £1 billion by 2025.

329 Tonnes Of Weed Produced in 2021

David Mundell mentioned in his opening speech that in 2021, the UK produced 329 tonnes of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, exporting 213 tonnes.

He highlighted the significant impact the industry could have on local economies and communities, as seen in his constituency, home to one of the largest production facilities in the UK, owned by Hilltop Leaf.

Jeremy Wright, a fellow Conservative MP, stated that it made no sense to create demand without allowing domestic producers to meet it, thus resulting in imports of these products. This approach, he argued, not only wasted economic opportunities but also had direct implications on healthcare.

Many MPs called for a review of current regulations and the rescheduling of cannabis to address the complex and expensive challenges in the licensing process. They also proposed the appointment of a government official to engage directly with the industry.

Unfortunately, no Home Office ministers were present, so the responsibility of responding fell to the Minister for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince. His response mainly focused on barriers preventing NHS access.

During the debate, Health Minister Quince announced the first details of upcoming NHS randomised control trials (RCTs) on CBD and THC products for adults and children with drug-resistant epilepsy.

Researchers at University College London will conduct these trials, with a tender opportunity for commercial partners to supply products for the trials launching soon.

Ronnie Cowan, SNP MP and medical cannabis advocate, expressed concern that parents of children already being successfully treated with cannabis products might be hesitant to have their children participate in RCTs due to the risk of receiving a placebo.

Quince admitted that it was a difficult question to answer. He was also corrected on his inaccurate statements regarding the need for medicines to be licensed for use and prescription within the NHS.

Campaigner and director of Maple Tree Consultants, Hannah Deacon, who attended and helped secure the debate, stated that many medications prescribed for children with epilepsy are unlicensed or prescribed off-label.

Data from the NHS Business Service Authority reveals that over 30,000 prescriptions for ‘specials’ or unlicensed medicines are written each month, equating to around £4.5 million per month.

Deacon continued by saying that the government’s approach seemed outdated and possibly obstructive for sick children who need access to cannabis-based medicines.

She emphasized the importance of ministers engaging with the wider industry, including companies beyond the well-known Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which produces licensed cannabis-based medicines Epidyolex and Sativex.

Although the debate signaled some progress towards accepting medical cannabis among MPs, many felt that Quince’s response was inadequate and demonstrated a lack of understanding.

Both Deacon and Professor Mike Barnes, Chair of the Cannabis Industry Council, expressed their disappointment in the Health Minister’s response, calling for a more informed and forward-thinking approach

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