TIGRR: Is it a wonderful thing for the UK’s Cannabis Industry? – John Binns and David Hardstaff write for Open Access Government

TIGRR: Is it a wonderful thing for the UK’s Cannabis Industry? – John Binns and David Hardstaff write for Open Access Government

BCL partner John Binns and associate David Hardstaff ask if a new report should put a spring in the step of UK businesses with an interest in medicinal cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) in their article published by Open Access Government.

Here’s an extract from the article:

“What does the UK government-appointed Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Reform (TIGRR) think about medicinal cannabis? A close look at the report it issued in summer 2021 suggests some surprisingly positive answers.

A post-EU bounce

The impetus for appointing TIGRR came from the UK’s exit from the EU, with the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, convening it on 2nd February 2021 ‘to scope out and propose options for how the UK can take advantage of our newfound regulatory freedoms’. It is unashamedly political, with three Conservative MPs as its members (Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and George Freeman), but also independent from the government.

Two proposals in the report published by TIGRR on 16th June 2021 are of particular interest to the cannabis industry. The first (numbered 11.15, on page 81) is in part of a section on clinical trials, under the subheading ‘Cannabinoid Medicines’. The second (number 16, on page 109) is less obvious, and concerns a hybrid category of products referred to as ‘nutraceuticals’.

Let medicines be medicines?

Few in the medicinal cannabis sector would argue with the sentiment of proposal 11.15, which says that regulation of medicinal cannabinoids and medicinal cannabidiol (CBD) should move from the Home Office to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

In practice, of course, the MHRA already does lead on medicinal products, although licences from the Home Office are also needed where the medicine contains a controlled drug, and it is to them that anyone wanting to do research involving cannabis currently has to turn.

A question of mindset

The mindset of the Home Office is understandably focused on aspects such as security of samples, rather than commerciality or science. But in truth, a licence to conduct research on a controlled drug (which CBD will only be if it contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)), whether dealt with by them or the MHRA, will always need to have security firmly in mind.

There would certainly be advantages of having a joined-up approach to the regulation of research into potential medicines and the medicines themselves. It might also be said that the unique issues raised by cannabis call for a bespoke agency, covering all aspects of cannabis regulation. Either way, the need for efficiency and expertise in this sector is clear.”

This article was originally published by Open Access Government on 04/11/21. You can read the full version on their website here.

John Binns is a partner at BCL specialising in all aspects of business crime, with a particular interest in confiscation, civil recovery and money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”). His business crime experience includes representing suspects, defendants and witnesses in cases invoking allegations of bribery and corruption, fraud (including carbon credits, carousel/MTIC, land-banking, Ponzi and pyramid scheme frauds), insider trading, market abuse, price-fixing, sanctions-busting, and tax evasion. He has coordinated and undertaken corporate investigations and defended in cases brought by BEIS, the FCA, HMRC, NCA, OFT, SFO and others.

David Hardstaff is an associate solicitor at BCL specialising in criminal and regulatory law. He advises individuals and companies in relation to controlled drug licensing and AML/Proceeds of Crime considerations in the context of the domestic and international cannabis market. He has particular experience in advising and representing individuals accused of sexual offences, drugs offences and offences involving violence. He is an experienced police station representative and advocate and represents clients in a broad range of proceedings at the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and Court of Appeal.

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