CBD, Cannabis and UK Law: What you need to know.
In a historic decision, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, decided this year (2017) to classify CBD as a medical ingredient. The decision is a direct response to the vast scientific evidence supporting CBD’s efficacy that surfaces every year. But while this marks a significant step forward for countless patients in the UK, the agency has also established several guidelines and standards of quality, safety, and efficacy that CBD manufacturers must meet. Furthermore, what seems more troubling for some is that this decision doesn’t change the legality of the entire cannabis plant, which isn’t yet recognized for its therapeutic value.
The decision, issued in October 2016 but ratified in late December, implies that CBD is now a part of the UK’s list of medicines. Thus, products containing CBD extracts can be legally considered as medicines and not cosmetics or nutritional supplements, as has been the case in the past. Now, the CBD market is expected to be on the rise, and with new regulations in place, so is the quality of CBD products.
Only CBD’s Value is Recognized
However positive this news may seem, we have to keep in mind that in the UK, the consumption, cultivation, and even the mere possession of cannabis remains illegal. According to the UK’s MHRA, the only phytocannabinoid with therapeutic properties is CBD, and while some may object to this, the whole plant is still classified as a narcotic or class B drug, which has no recognized medicinal values.
Cannabis plants contain several active ingredients called phytocannabinoids, which are capable of determining the strength of the plant and its therapeutic benefits. The two primary cannabinoids found in the plant are CBD and THC. Undoubtedly, THC is best known for being a psychoactive compound responsible for the ‘high’ that recreational users are seeking. But for those who are only seeking medical benefits, it can be perceived as an unpleasant side effect.
Because of that, CBD has continuously been gaining traction in the market. This compound is one of the most studied phytocannabinoids to date. We now know that it doesn’t have any psychoactive power and acts as a potent antagonist to THC’s effects. This is why it’s accepted in more countries than the controversial THC.
It’s because of this lack of psychoactivity that the medical community has taken a growing interest in this compound. With the substantial anecdotal evidence at hand, CBD has been shown to have potential to be investigated further for the treatment of several diseases. Applications being investigated include depression, anxiety, epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease, as well as plenty of other disorders and conditions. Using the MHRAs own words, CBD has a corrective, restorative or modifying effect on the human brain function that can be beneficial to multiple conditions.
However, some cannabis supporters are advocating legality for the hundreds of other compounds found in the plant. They make their case against the widely popular stigmatization of everything derived from the cannabis plant, like THC, which has also been proven useful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.
What Will Happen?
No matter how you look at it, the MHRA’s recognition of CBD as a medicine marks an unprecedented victory in the history of the medical cannabis industry in the UK, as it’s the first time the government has taken a real step towards the full recognition of the medicinal value of cannabis.
Not so long ago in 2016, a growing number of UK MPs backed a petition supporting radical reforms on drug policy, which ended up being a failure. In fact, MPs from different political parties even set up a group called the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drugs, or APPG. The APPG looked into a range of issues and the result of their research led to them recommending legal access to medical cannabis for all patients in need. The group concluded that with legalization, State coffers will witness a rise in tax revenues of up to £1 billion.
Regulating CBD products is the first of many steps towards achieving cannabis legalization in the United Kingdom. However, at present, it doesn’t seem likely that the country will shift towards full legalization of recreational cannabis anytime soon. But not all hope is gone, as this is a sign that change is definitely coming in the UK’s medical cannabis industry.