The cannabidiol (CBD) industry within the UK is expected to generate annual revenues of approximately £690 million in 2021. Figures published in a joint report by the ACI (Association for the Cannabinoid Industry) and the CMC (Centre for Medicinal Cannabis) are greater than previous estimations made back in 2019, where the 2021 market was predicted to be worth around £526 million.
The report – Green Shoots: Sowing the Seeds of the New UK Cannabis Industry – provides a detailed insight into the growth of the United Kingdom’s burgeoning consumer CBD market. While the figures surrounding the growth of the industry are encouraging, the report also highlights that the UK now has the most rigorous regulatory framework for cannabis-related products.
Obstacles to overcome
Analysis of the domestic restrictions surrounding the processing and cultivation of hemp within the UK reveals that the majority of industry profits end up overseas. This is partly because UK hemp farmers have to legally destroy parts of their hemp crops from which CBD could be extracted. In addition to this, interventions by the Food Standards Agency are also mentioned, whereby CBD products are regulated in the UK as dietary supplements.
Home Office regulations also play a role in restricting the growth of the UK CBD industry, as existing stipulations mean there are strict guidelines on the amount of safe, tolerable levels of THC present in CBD products. THC is the psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant.
The Green Shoots report also makes a total of 20 recommendations as to how the government could help further unlock the potential with the UK CBD industry. These recommendations are based on a recent submission received by Boris Johnson’s new Taskforce for Innovation, Growth and Regulation Reform. The task force was established in February 2021 as a means to boost economic growth during the post-COVID era. Amongst other things, campaigners are aiming for:
– The establishment of a centre of excellence to fund research and development, and to establish clinical evidence to boost the UK medical cannabis market.
– The establishment of a dedicated agency to control and licence the industry’s legal framework.
– Reformed licensing policies that take into account emerging evidence in agri-science, new therapies, novel synthetics and plant genetics.