UN Report Shows UK Is Largest Legal Supplier Of Cannabis for Medical Purposes

The United Kingdom (UK) is now the largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis globally, even though it is viewed by its government as an illegal substance.

The United Nations’ (UN) latest report from the International Narcotics Control Board examines the global trade of drugs, including cannabis, and the human impact on and by them.

The report shows the United Kingdom’s production of legal cannabis has doubled, up to 95 tons and 45 percent of the world’s production. It also exported 2.1 tons of legal cannabis, which was 2.3 of the world’s export.

Canada is the next largest producer at 80.7 tons of cannabis produced, followed by Portugal at 21 tons and Israel at 9.2 tons. The Netherlands was the next largest exporter, shipping 16.4 percent of the export total.

The UK’s Home Office currently prohibits the consumption of medical cannabis, as it has said it “cannot be practically prescribed, administered or supplied to the public” and licensing from the Home Office is only allowable for research purposes. It was downgraded to a Class C Drug in the mid-2000s but was reinstated to Class B after public complaints. Sativex, a cannabis extract spray that contains equal amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is available for by prescription to patients with certain conditions, but is costly and only available through the National Health Service in Wales.

It is estimated that up to one million people in the UK are consuming cannabis for medical reasons, sourcing it from drug dealers or growing it themselves. After national media attention, the Home Office is currently exploring options for a six-year-old with a rare epilepsy condition after it originally refused the petition to use cannabis oil to help his symptoms, including a possible clinical trial.

The UN’s report continues to take a conservative stance on the medical benefits of cannabis, and uses the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as a guide to its policy. “Thus, we discuss the therapeutic use of cannabinoids and eschew the notion of ‘medical cannabis.’ This is done to ensure that when reference is made to medicinal products, it is understood to refer to products that have been appropriately tested, have passed a full scientific evaluation and clinical trials and are licensed as medicines.” wrote Viroj Sumyai, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, in the report. He continued, “INCB notes that there have been anecdotal reports of some cannabinoids having therapeutic effects and that some jurisdictions have licensed such products even though there is still insufficient evidence of their therapeutic value and clinical trials are still ongoing.”

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