Review of UK public policy and regulatory stewardship of the legal cannabis industry announced

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry and the First November Group have today announced the launch the Hodges Review – a new, wide ranging commission to assess regulation and public policy relating to the UK’s legal cannabis industry.

The review will be led by Professor Christopher Hodges, Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, will chair the Commission which will report in May 2022. 

The final report will provide a detailed blueprint for how the UK government and its regulation agencies can accelerate the path to becoming the global leader in cannabinoid research and innovation.  

The UK’s legal cannabis market comprises both medicinal (cannabis-based medicinal products CBMPs)  and wellness products (consumer cannabinoids CCs). CBMPs were legalised in 2018 and CCs are now subject to novel foods approval by the FSA. 

The regulation of this market is dispersed across the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and associated agencies without any obvious strategic coordination, the sector has no developmental footprint in Whitehall and as it stands is unlikely to accrue benefit from the new significant new public investment in research and development. 

Despite this lack of effective public policy stewardship, the UK has created the most successful medicinal company in history – GW Pharmaceuticals – and is the first jurisdiction in the world to formally regulate consumer cannabinoids products. 

Announcing the commission, Steve Moore, Strategic Counsel to the CMC and ACI said:

The UK has the potential to become a world leader in the field of cannabinoids but to do so it will require more visionary public-private leadership, much more effective public policy stewardship and smarter regulation. This report will pinpoint exactly what is needed to make this prize attainable.”

The Hodges Review will consider the size and nature of the UK’s legal marketplace in cannabinoids, and make policy and industry recommendations. The scope of the report will cover two main areas – medicinal and consumer cannabinoids – and it will take account of the entire supply chain from cultivation and R&D to product development, manufacturing and sale.

It will not consider wider arguments for legalisation of cannabis for adult use, as the Government’s recent ten year drugs strategy implies that is not a near-term political prospect at the current time. The UK’s large illegal market in cannabis is therefore out of scope for this project.

The principal objective is to create greater strategic coherence across Whitehall in relation to engagement with the sector in relation to both economic development and regulation. 

Paul Birch, Founder of CMC and ACI said:

“The UK is already a world leader in life sciences. We should be able to extend this capability, expertise and resources to the cannabinoid sector. The report will set out how government can work with the sector to drive the innovation that will deliver health and economic dividend for UK and the world.”

The process of consultation informing the commission will incorporate key industry players, government and regulatory stakeholder, ancillary services (legal, finance) and campaigning patient groups. 

The final report with recommendations will be published in May 2022.

The First November Group was formed in November 2021 and is the first industry platform to specifically provide political and parliamentary advocacy on behalf of the sector in all its forms.