THE newly launched Cannabis Industry Council has brought together disparate organisations, working groups and businesses with the aim of driving meaningful change within the UK’s medical cannabis and CBD sector.
Writing exclusively for BusinessCann, the organisation’s chairman, Professor Mike Barnes, explains why the CIC is needed, more about its goals and how it hopes to achieve them.
IT’S hard to believe that four months ago the Cannabis Industry Council didn’t exist.
There had long been a feeling among members of the executive committee of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society that patient access groups, clinics, doctors, insurers, licensed producers and cannabis infrastructure bodies needed to be brought together under one umbrella.
There’s a proverb which says there’s strength in numbers; that a group of people have more influence and power than one person.
That’s very much the ethos behind CIC. That as a collective we can – and will – not only raise the profile of medical cannabis in the UK, but improve patient access and ensure the highest standards are met.
Home Office Invite
As I write we have 103 members – most of the serious players operating in the UK market.
They include; Little Green Pharma, LYPHE Group, Prohibition Partners, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform, Unyte, Sativa Learning, the Cannabis Trades Association, the British Hemp Alliance and many more.
Membership invitations have been extended to the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Whilst none has as yet joined the CIC – generally government bodies don’t become members of trade groups – I am pleased to say that both the Home Office and the MHRA have indicated they are willing to talk to us.
It is a sign that we are being taken seriously and can begin strengthening the ties between the cannabis industry and the UK public sector.
We are very much a member-led group and it is their objectives and concerns we will be taking forward.
We currently have six sub-groups: Research, Environmental and Social Responsibility, Hemp, Quality Standards, Parliamentary Lobbying and Media. Soon they will be joined by a Medical Cannabis sub-group.
It is early days, but some clear priorities are already beginning to emerge in what is a new and rapidly evolving industry.
One is the need for GPs to be able to prescribe medical cannabis – currently they can’t initiate prescriptions. Another area of concern is the legal requirement for industrial hemp growers to destroy the flower tops.
We have a crazy situation here in the UK where all the CBD you see on shop shelves is imported. Common sense would dictate that flowers grown in the UK should be used here and that we can truly have a homegrown hemp industry.
Another area of disquiet is the banks. It is difficult at the moment for anyone working with cannabis to open a bank account. The sector needs to take the industry seriously and end this financial iniquity.
These are just three examples of the red tape currently restricting the growth of the industry – bureaucracy that often doesn’t require a change in primary legislation, just a variation of statutory instrument which the Home Office could do with the stroke of a pen.
Huge Boost To Economy
Some restrictions will require more complicated change, such as adjusting the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which prevents investment from abroad if those companies have gained any profit from recreational use which is legal in their country.
We certainly don’t expect anything to be achieved on that front overnight.
But there are many things the Government could do quickly and easily to make it easier for this industry to succeed and contribute to the economic success of this nation.
If it is allowed to thrive, cannabis should be a multi-billion pound industry and create nearly 100,000 jobs in the UK. That is over and above the environmental advantages of hemp, which we already know has a crucial role to play in a greener and more sustainable society.
We shouldn’t forget the real argument, however; the medical benefits of cannabis and hemp and the need to make it more widely and sensibly available to the advantage of hundreds of thousands of people.
More than 1.4m people use medicinal cannabis in the UK daily, yet there are only around 6,000 prescriptions. There is a real need to take people out of the criminal market and put them into the safety of the legal sector.
Speak With One Voice
Many may ask why government should listen to the CIC? Evidence shows that inclusive trade associations and professional bodies do work.
The CIC is a sign that whilst still new, the cannabis sector is maturing, is willing to come together, can speak with one voice and is serious about wanting to shape its future.
We believe that any approach to government by a proper, sensible industry that will create jobs and benefit the economy, will be taken seriously.
Post-Brexit and post-covid we have an economic problem in this country. And there are nothing but positives in the cannabis industry in terms of jobs, wealth creation and tax income.
Hopefully, the Government will listen to that.
There is much work to be done and having only been in existence for a few weeks, we are very much in the early stages.
Our plan is to directly approach MPs and ministers – particularly if we can lobby through the special advisor network – and also indirectly through the media to highlight issues.
We aren’t activists and we aren’t going to chain ourselves to the railings!
We want to be seen as the reasonable, constructive and pro-active face of the cannabis industry.
Over the next few weeks and months we will be hearing from the heads of the six sub-groups starting with Jamie Bartley, Chair of the Cannabis Industry Council’s Hemp Group.