A NEW REPORT from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has revealed that the UK is the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis for medical and scientific uses. Yet proper access to medical cannabis is still out of reach to many UK patients.

The report, which includes data from governments around the world, estimates that the UK produced 320 tonnes of legal cannabis in 2019. This is more than triple the 2016 total of 95 tonnes and accounts for 75 per cent of the global total (468.3 tonnes), meaning the UK retains the ‘number one’ spot. (The INCB’s data for the Uk is based on estimates submitted by the UK government. The INCB is currently waiting for confirmation from the Home Office of the true figure)

This news may come as a surprise to many, given that the UK Government is behind many other nations on access to medical cannabis, despite a change in the law in November 2018.

There are, however, two UK licensed cannabis-based medicines called Sativex, a whole plant cannabis extract in spray form used to treat Multiple Sclerosis, and Epidiolex, a purified oral CBD solution used to treat two rare and severe epilepsies. Both are produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. They are only available on prescription as a last resort.

For many people it is either not the right cannabis product, or too expensive to buy privately. In 2019, a research study survey in England and Wales found that 1.4 million people self-reported they were using ‘street’ cannabis to treat chronic health conditions.

Jane Slater, Transform’s Deputy CEO said: “If the data from the UN’s drug control board is accurate, then the UK government has serious questions to answer from 1.4 million people relying on the criminal market to self-medicate with cannabis.

“Over 50 years of criminalising people for using cannabis for medical and recreational purposes has paralysed vital research into the potential benefits of cannabis-based medicines, and led to stigmatisation of people who rely on it.

“The government owes it to the 1.4 million forced to rely on the criminal market, to provide a safe and regulated supply of cannabis for their medical needs. It is simply cruel and misguided that these people are demonised and criminalised for seeking help. Countries with proper access to medical and recreational cannabis do not have this problem, with  standardised cannabis products available through doctors, pharmacists and licensed retailers to all who need them.”

* Read the UN report here.

* Source: Transform Drug Policy Foundation