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UK cannabis industry growing like a weed, report reveals

CBD sales totalled £690mln in the year under review, up almost a third


Research from two industry pressure groups reveals the UK cannabinoid (CBD) industry was worth £690mln in the 12 months to the end of April – up almost a third since a 2019 estimate.

CBD is the non-psychoactive element derived from both marijuana and hemp plants. It is used in an array of products for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia through to skincare. Its healthcare benefits, however, are yet to be proven.

The data provided by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) describes what it calls a ‘quiet cannabis revolution’.

It appears regulation from bodies such as the Foods Standards Agency and Home Office has helped support the industry to the point where the report concludes “the UK now has the most evolved regulatory framework in the world for CBD”.

But the report claims that, due to domestic restrictions on hemp cultivation and processing in the UK, the bulk of the profits for this industry are going overseas.

This is because farmers must destroy the parts of the hemp crop from which CBD is extracted.

It argues that the market represents a key growth sector for the UK and it is time for the government to adopt a “proactive strategy” to seize opportunities in the cannabinoids sector.

The paper calls for:

  • A dedicated agency to licence and oversee the industry
  • A new centre of excellence to fund, synthesise and promulgate the best new clinical evidence to boost the medicinal cannabis market
  • Urgent reform of licensing policy to steer and harness the emerging scientific evidence “across the whole spectrum”

“The size of this cannabinoid sector is now impossible to ignore,” said Paul Birch, co-founder of both the CMC and ACI.

“Today’s report reveals that sales of CBD products up to the year-end of April 2021 are valued at £690m, almost a third higher than our last projection in 2019.

“Almost without notice and certainly by accident rather than design, the UK has improbably become the world’s second-largest consumer cannabinoids market.”

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