Admittedly, I never saw this coming. I pride myself in staying on top of cannabis happenings around the world, but had to do a double take when I read the headline.

According to a report by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board, the UK produced almost half of the world’s legal cannabis in 2016 at a whopping 95 tons of production, followed by Canada’s 80.7 tons of production, with Portugal and Israel trailing at 21 tons and 9.2 tons respectively. Chile and the Netherlands each produced 1.4 tons of legal cannabis that same year.

Wait? What? How can this be the case in a country which doesn’t have a legal adult-use market nor even recognize the medical efficacy of cannabis?

According to the Russia Times, there is a logical reason.

“The UK government has refused to allow medical cannabis in the UK on the basis that it has “no therapeutic value.” There is, however, one licensed cannabis-based medicine in the UK called Sativex – a cannabis extract in spray form – produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, which accounts for a significant proportion of UK legal cannabis production. It is available on prescription for patients such as those suffering the effects of multiple sclerosis, but only via the National Health Service (NHS) in Wales.

“Steve Rolles, lobby group Transform’s senior policy analyst, says it is ‘scandalous and untenable’ for the ‘government to maintain that cannabis has no medical uses, at the same time as licensing the world’s biggest government approved medical cannabis production and export market.’ He added that UK patients are either denied access and suffering unnecessarily or are forced to buy cannabis from the criminal market.

“Estimates suggest as many as 1 million people who use cannabis for medical purposes are put at risk from buying cannabis on the criminal market. Rolles says it is ‘profoundly unethical’ and ‘a violation of the fundamental right to health’ to deny people access to medicine.”

Touché, Big Pharma. You did well in 2016. But with other countries, such as Germany, moving forward to implement their own markets, I predict strong competition on the world marketplace. I also predict the UK will follow the global trend to allow cannabis as a medicine which incorporates all the many forms that medicine may take – from flower to edibles to lotions, with variable cannabinoid profiles – not just a single sublingual spray produced by one giant corporation.

We will keep our fingers crossed that politicians in the UK wake up soon to the reality of the failed policy of prohibition. There are cannabis patients who need more than just GW Pharmaceuticals in their regimen.

Find out the most current happenings in European cannabis markets at the next International Cannabis Business Conference, taking place April 11-13, 2018 in Berlin, Germany! Tickets are on sale now! Of course, Canada is looking to make an even bigger splash on the international market soon, so the ICBC in Vancouver is also a great place to get the latest info on where the industry stands in the Great White North on June 24th-25th.