The first week of March this year was significant for British cannabis patients for one very big reason: the first medical cannabis clinic in the country opened in Manchester. Firsts are very important right now for both the British industry and patients, as are overall numbers in general. This is because, despite reform happening in the UK last year (namely cannabis can be prescribed as a Schedule II drug) a very limited number of patients have been able to access medicinal cannabis legally.
Germany, with its relatively onerous approvals process, has been faster than this, where cannabis prescriptions in have been covered increasingly by public health insurance. In the UK, the first foray into greater efficiency and access for patients is coming via the private healthcare market.
The new clinic in Manchester and the two planned this year for Birmingham and London will also specialize in patients suffering from chronic conditions including epilepsy, PTSD, and other neurological and psychological diseases. So far, a specialty clinic for cannabis patients has not successfully opened in Germany, despite several unsuccessful attempts over the past several years.
The market entry to medical cannabis access in Europe so far is one ultimately, beyond doctor education, that has been slowed by price. This is not all due to “regulation” of the food and medicine safety kind but rather the reluctance of both Germany and the UK to (so far) authorize domestic cultivation. This in turn has created a highly expensive market entry barrier that in turn is passed through the system to both patients and insurers.
That said, this too is changing. And as it does, the price of cannabis itself is also going to drop, which in turn will allow “public” healthcare to more easily accommodate patient prescriptions from both the cost and efficacy discussion.
In the meantime, expect the greatest numbers of medical cannabis patients to show up in the UK as those who can afford to go to a private clinic or have private health insurance. That issue alone, at a time when the British are realizing that the fate of the NHS may well depend on the direction the country goes with regards to Brexit, may tip the balance of reform to move faster in the UK.
Populist uprisings are a la mode these days in Europe, and cannabis, of course, is no exception.
To find out more about the political landscape with regards to cannabis reform in the UK and across Europe this spring, be sure to attend the International Cannabis Business Conference events in Berlin and Zurich (a superconference team-up with CannaTrade).