Remarks made decades ago by the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss regarding the legalization of cannabis have sparked enthusiastic comments feverishly speculating about impending cannabis reform in the UK.
When she was a student, the 47-year-old Conservative Prime Minister – then a Liberal Democrat – wondered in an Oxford University newsletter whether cannabis should be legal.
However, on the day she became Prime Minister, the attempt by the British Crown dependency of Bermuda to introduce cannabis reform was rejected by the Foreign Office – a department that had been headed until then by Ms. Truss.
A “bottom-up” reform
Nevertheless, with a new Prime Minister and a new cabinet in place, work is already underway to secure Westminster’s support for further liberalization of UK cannabis laws.
In the absence of clear commitments to reform, reform is currently limited to a bottom-up approach and is led by two All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).
The APPG on prescription medical cannabis aims to boost access to NHS medical cannabis, and the APPG on CBD products is co-chaired by two Tory MPs, Crispin Blunt MP and Baroness Manzoor CBE.
In July, the latter unveiled its “Cannabis Plan”, which proposes changes regarding the cultivation and prescription of medical cannabis, the licensing of hemp and the financing of cannabis.
The co-chair of the CBD advisory board is Nicholas Morland, CEO of Tenacious Labs, who says his approach is “operational, rather than lobbyist.”
“What we find is that as long as we are reasonable and divide (our proposals) into reasonable blocks, every MP we go to says, ‘Yes, you have my support. Just let me know when you have something to support.
“Our aim now is to find ministers in the newly formed cabinet who want to lead the project and instruct their individual departments on who needs to work on what.
A massive boost to the economy
“The proposals we have put forward could create 500,000 new jobs and generate billions of pounds in tax revenue – and we haven’t found anyone to say no to these proposals. »
“We try not to make waves…but who doesn’t want jobs, who doesn’t want tax revenue? “.
Through its membership in the Cannabis Trade Association (CTA), at Cannabis Industry Council et al’European Industrial Hemp Associationthe CBD APPG says it speaks on behalf of some 700 of the UK’s 900 cannabis companies.
In the coming days and weeks, he will focus his efforts on three of the main state departments, namely agriculture, business and the interior ministry.
All these ministries have new secretaries of state: Jacob Rees-Mogg for agriculture, Suella Braverman for the interior and Ranil Jayawardena for DEFRA.
Appear on the list of ongoing projects
Mr Morland continued: “We have spoken to people in these departments – other than the ministers who have just been appointed – and our proposals need to be added to the list of things they are doing.
“We want to make sure we’re not just on the ten things they say they do, but we’re also on the five they’re working on right now. »
The APPG will also target the Deputy First Minister and Secretary of State for Health, Therese Coffey, who represents a rural constituency in Suffolk – jobs in hemp farming, perhaps? — and as a former Mars executive, she understands branding, food products and the importance of consumer protection, Morland said.
He added, “Fundamentally, we are against prohibition that puts money in the hands of the wrong people. …as cannabis becomes more socially acceptable, it needs to be managed the same way as alcohol. »
“Nobody wants more children with epilepsy; nobody wants people who buy hand cream (CBD) to be criminalized. »
Galvanized British Industry
Marika Graham-Woods, the CTA’s co-executive director and operator at Westminster, said Mr Rees-Mogg’s appointment was welcome.
“It’s a good thing – he has no problem with the APPG cannabis plan that we announced in July. And why would he? It will create lots of jobs, support the new economy and fuel the development of the green economy. »
“The new Prime Minister has been briefed on the cannabis plan beforehand and we feel that the doors of Westminster are opening to cannabis.”
The UK Cannabis Industry Council has already written to the new PM highlighting a number of post-Brexit opportunities available.
Its CEO, Mike Morgan-Giles, says Brexit has proven the opportunity for the UK to implement its own regulations, which should include revised rules on CBD Novel Food and hemp seed varieties. available to UK farmers.
“Another area of importance is to help enable patients to have better access to medical cannabis,” he added.
However, there are a few dissenting voices in the industry. A business executive told BusinessCann the industry needs to be more realistic and stop trumpeting its potential value, as it gives politicians a misleading picture of a thriving industry that can get by without government help.
Rising political consensus
This bottom-up policy approach appears to be cementing a growing cross-party consensus in favor of cannabis.
This was evident last year when a private member’s bill by Manchester Labor MP Jeff Smith to boost access to NHS medical cannabis garnered widespread support but ultimately failed to pass.
This project aimed to build on groundbreaking 2018 legislation that allowed access to medical cannabis in the UK for the first time.
Although this law also garnered widespread support, it proved ineffective – almost four years later – with only three young people receiving medical cannabis to treat epilepsy.
This stalemate has led to an upsurge in paid and unlicensed prescriptions through a growing army of private clinics accommodating up to 15,000 patients.
In June last year, more than 60 MPs and peers from across the political spectrum called for an urgent review of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Public opinion in favor of reform
Away from Westminster, the emerging support for cannabis is also evident in the general public, with opinion polls showing that twice as many UK adults support the legalization of cannabis rather than oppose it.
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is set to introduce a decriminalization pilot scheme and a dozen UK police forces have taken a soft approach to cannabis prosecutions.
Recent research has shown that the number of cannabis possession offenses increased from 160,733 in 2010/11 to 110,085 in 2019/20.
In May this year, the Mayor of London also announced the launch of a commission to review the effectiveness of UK drug laws, with a particular focus on cannabis. This commission will be chaired by Lord Charlie Falconer QC, former Lord Chancellor and Secretary for Justice.
Commitments by political manifestos
However, for the UK to make more fundamental progress, cannabis reform will also need to feature – as it does in the US – in political party election manifestos.
This has happened in Germany, where cannabis is among the political commitments of two of the three members of the traffic light association, with a focus on health protection.
German cannabis legislation is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks, with 2024 looking the likely date for the introduction of a fully regulated adult-use market.
Returning from a trip abroad, opposition Labor MP David Lammy echoed Germany’s approach, saying: “I want the market to be legalized, regulated and removed from criminal gangs”.
Immediate reform on the other side of the world
The views of Sadiq Khan and David Lammy were echoed by former Labor leader Ed Miliband earlier this year and are more widely shared in the left-wing opposition.
Until there is, perhaps, a change in government, hopes for top-down cannabis reform in the UK – and an eventual market for adult use – seem unrealistic.
Nevertheless, Britain’s new economically liberal Prime Minister is keen to roll back the weight of the state, indicating an openness to exploring new areas of economic growth for the UK – and an opportunity, perhaps. be, for cannabis?
It’s also worth noting that alongside the young prime minister’s stance on cannabis reform, she also once advocated for the privatization of street lights in Britain.
Members of the UK cannabis community hope that the first point will carry more weight in the months and years to come than the second!