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February 15, 2019

First batch of medical cannabis arrives in the UK

By Ellen Daniel

In a milestone moment, the first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicines has been imported to the UK since its legalisation last November.

Arriving from the Netherlands, the shipment was facilitated by Grow Biotech, ECH and IPS Specials, and will be delivered directly to patients from a pharmacy in the UK.

The stock includes Bedrocan Flower Afina and Bedica Flower Talea, which are used to treat a range of conditions including chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

Medical cannabis in the UK

Last November, the UK government gave specialist doctors permission to prescribe medical cannabis to patients with certain conditions. Assessed on a case-by-case basis, individuals with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, severe childhood epilepsy and those undergoing chemotherapy may be eligible.

This is after the debate surrounding medical cannabis and CBD made headlines last year after the plight of two severely epileptic children, whose families believe medicinal cannabis oil has significantly improved their condition, were denied access to medical cannabis, prompting calls to legalise the drug in certain circumstances.

Although scientific studies have not yet been carried out, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can help ease a variety of conditions.

According to the BBC, the imported drug will likely be administered via pills, capsules and oils with carefully controlled levels of CBD and THC, rather than being smoked.

The government has said that this is not a first step towards legalising cannabis for recreational use.

Dr David McDowell, who sits on ECH’s medical board believes that this will mean patients will no longer have to worry about accessing medical cannabis:

“The fact that we are now in a position to write prescriptions that can actually be fulfilled is a huge achievement. Patients no longer need to worry about how they can access their medication, which will mark a positive step change in their journey and finally provide the relief that they are looking for, and we can now finally provide.”

A growing industry

Unbeknownst to many, the UK is the largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis in the world, with British Sugar growing about 20 tons a year.

According to NGO Health Poverty Action, a legal cannabis market could make the UK Government between £1bn and £3.5bn a year in tax revenues, meaning legalising the drug could be a significant boost for the national economy.

According to Grow Biotech, this industry milestone will set precedent for navigating regulations, paving the way for a reliable supply chain of cannabis-based medicines to the UK.

Dr Henry Fisher, R&D Project Manager at Grow Biotech said that the challenge is now establishing the right infrastructure to deliver medical cannabis to those who need it, and educating doctors on when it should be prescribed:

“We are building a team that will help take the UK medical cannabis industry’s infrastructure to the next stage, constructing a scalable and reliable system to meet patients’ needs and to support doctors’ understanding of medical cannabis as a potentially valuable treatment for particular conditions. Our aim is to encourage greater understanding of cannabis medicines in the UK.”