19 August 2019

Authors  –  Carolyn E. Pepper and Jess Parry

Not too long ago, 3 British MPs went to Canada on a truth-acquiring cross-celebration trip to look at the effects of a extra relaxed regulatory atmosphere in respect of cannabis. Soon after the trip, the MPs predicted that the UK would comply with Canada’s lead and legalise cannabis for adult use inside a decade.

The current trend towards decriminalization of cannabis in other nations suggests they might be proper, but in the meantime, a proliferation of items containing extracts from cannabis plants are appearing in UK retailers. This Client Alert sets out the present guidelines with regards to the regulation of cannabis items and medicinal cannabis in the UK.

What substances are at problem?

Cannabinoids are the chemical substances identified in cannabis. More than 100 unique cannabinoids have been linked to the cannabis plant. The two that are most relevant to the ongoing healthcare and legalisation debate are cannabidiol ( CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The important distinction involving CBD and THC is that THC has psychoactive properties, which means customers knowledge a higher from its use, whereas CBD has no psychoactive properties (it consists of tiny or no THC).

What is the relevant legislation?

The major relevant UK legislation is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (the Act) and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (as amended by the Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) ( Cannabis and Licence Charges) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2018) (the Regulations).

In the UK cannabis, cannabinol and cannabinol derivatives are classified as Class B drugs below Schedule two of the Act as such, they are controlled drugs. Cannabinol derivatives incorporate tetrahydro derivatives. THC, a tetrahydro derivative of cannabinol, is a controlled drug below the Act. CBD is not listed in any schedule of the Act and so is not, of itself, a controlled drug.

The Regulations set out how controlled drugs can be employed legally for reputable purposes and the many restrictions on import, export, production, possession and provide that apply, as nicely as the unique labelling, record-maintaining, destruction and security needs that are applicable primarily based on the schedule to the Regulations that governs the controlled drug. Cannabis, cannabinol and cannabinol derivatives are incorporated in Schedule 1 of the Regulations hence, they are topic to Schedule 1 restrictions. CBD is not listed in any of the schedules of the Regulations, so it is not controlled by the Regulations.

Soon after a assessment of cannabis regulation in the UK announced by the Residence Secretary final year (prompted by the instances of two kids who had been denied access to cannabis oil to manage their epileptic seizures), the Regulations had been amended in November, 2018 to develop a new category of typically unlicensed cannabis-primarily based items – named “cannabis-primarily based solution for medicinal use in humans” (CBPM) in order to let unlicensed cannabis-primarily based items to be prescribed for medicinal purposes, supplied particular needs are met.

Restrictions and licensing needs

In order to legally make, possess, provide, cultivate, import or export cannabis items, there are many regulatory needs that need to be met, based on regardless of whether the solution consists of a controlled drug or is classified as a CBPM. It is critical to recall that even if the finish solution is an exempt solution or a CBPM, it is nonetheless an offence below the Act to cultivate the cannabis plant with no a Residence Workplace cultivation licence, which will be granted only if particular circumstances are met.


Simply because THC is a controlled drug, items that include THC are topic to strict legislative controls. For instance, section three(1) of the Act prohibits the importation and exportation of controlled drugs section four(1) tends to make it unlawful to make, provide or give to provide a controlled drug and section five(1) tends to make it unlawful to be in possession of a controlled drug. The Regulations supply that the restrictions in the Act on importation, exportation, production, provide and possession do not apply to substances that qualify as “exempt products”.  Below the Regulations, an “exempt product” is a preparation or other solution containing a controlled drug exactly where “(a) the preparation or other solution is not created for administration of the controlled drug to a human becoming or animal (b) the controlled drug in any element component is packaged in such a kind, or in mixture with other active or inert substances in such a manner, that it can’t be recovered by readily applicable signifies or in a yield which constitutes a danger to overall health and (c) no 1 element component of the solution or preparation consists of extra than 1 milligram of the controlled drug…”. The which means of “exempt product” is not wholly clear, but the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a public advisory physique, suggests that the exempt solution definition is intended to relate to smaller quantities of controlled substances which are in a non-recoverable kind and are not for human [or animal] administration. The exempt solution exception is hence most likely to have restricted applicability to items containing THC that are at the moment becoming sold in UK shops.


Pure CBD is not a controlled drug below the Act or the Regulations. On the other hand, the Residence Office’s position seems to be that it is quite tricky to isolate pure CBD and get rid of any controlled cannabinoids, such as THC (in spite of the truth that there are producers who unequivocally say they can do so) and the presence of THC (even in quite smaller quantities) is very most likely to imply that CBD items intended for human or animal administration are controlled below each the Act and the Regulations. Hence, the Residence Office’s strategy appears to be that a Residence Workplace licence would be needed to import, export, make, provide or possess CBD items. Nonetheless, items advertised as containing CBD are extensively out there in the UK, and there is disagreement as to regardless of whether the position taken by the Residence Workplace is appropriate. It has been reported that the president and chief scientist of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have written to the Residence Workplace asking it to supply clear guidance on the actions that pharmacists ought to be taking to assure that they abide by the law in respect of CBD oils, in light of reports that have been circulating suggesting that CBD oil items with a THC content material of significantly less than .two% are legal and by implication that they might not demand a Residence Workplace licence (these reports might be primarily based on the interpretation of the regulations relating to the cultivation and importation of low THC industrial hemp).

Even if a CBD-containing solution is not topic to the controls of the Act or the Regulations, the UK’s medicines and healthcare devices regulator, the Medicines & Healthcare items Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has taken the view that “products containing cannabidiol ( CBD) employed for healthcare purposes are a medicine” and as such need to have an MHRA solution licence (advertising and marketing authorisation) prior to becoming created out there to customers, supplied or advertised unless they fall below the narrow exemptions of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (the exemptions now incorporate CBPMs, topic to particular controls). To date, only 1 cannabis-primarily based medicinal solution, Sativex, (for the remedy of a number of sclerosis) has been licensed by the MHRA.


The Regulations define a CBPM as a preparation or solution that

(a) is or consists of cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative (not becoming dronabinol or its stereoisomers)

(b) is developed for medicinal use in humans and

(c) is

(i) a medicinal solution, or

(ii) a substance or preparation for use as an ingredient of, or in the production of an ingredient of, a medicinal solution[.]

A restricted quantity of substances are excepted from the definition, such as Sativex (as a licensed solution) and synthetic dronabinol. Only if a cannabis solution meets the needs above will it be thought of a CBPM – otherwise, it will be treated as a Schedule 1 drug below the Regulations that is, a drug that has no identified reputable healthcare makes use of and that can typically be employed only for study below a Residence Workplace licence.

Even though enabling unlicensed cannabis-primarily based items to be prescribed for medicinal purposes, the current amendments to the Regulations set out restrictions relating to the provide of CBPMs. Exactly where CBPMs are unlicensed i.e. they have not obtained a advertising and marketing authorisation from the MHRA, a prescription for a CBPM can be written only by a specialist physician on the Common Health-related Council’s Specialist Register and in accordance with the regulations applying to “special medicinal products”. If a CBPM receives a advertising and marketing authorisation from the MHRA, it will cease to be a “special medicinal product” and can be prescribed by other certified practitioners.

Additional, entities in the CBPM’s provide chain need to be licensed by the Residence Workplace and MHRA. For instance, importers need to have a Residence Workplace import and domestic licence and makers need to have a domestic licence and an MHRA dealer’s or manufacturer’s licence to provide and possess CBPMs. Wholesale distributors need to also be licensed. Cultivation of cannabis also needs a Residence Workplace licence. In addition, there are import notifications, records, storage and labelling needs with which importers, makers and wholesalers need to comply. Medical doctors prescribing CBPMs require to be confident that the actual provide of the CBPM they prescribe is lawful.

In addition, CBPMs can be prescribed by medical doctors only when there is clear published proof of advantage or UK Recommendations (which have not but been published), and only to individuals whose established remedy choices have been exhausted.

The public overall health minister stated that as of May possibly 2019, only six NHS prescriptions had been written because the adjustments to the Regulations came into impact and ten private prescriptions had been written involving January 2019 and February 2019 according to the NHS Company Solutions Authority, which collects information on major care. No information is out there with regards to prescriptions written in respect of secondary care.

Novel Foods Regulation

EU Regulation 2015/2283 of the European Union (the Novel Foods Regulation) regulates “novel foods”. A novel meals is “any meals that was not employed for human consumption to a important degree inside the Union prior to 15 May possibly 1997”. Below EU law, in the interests of safeguarding public overall health, novel foods need to undergo a security assessment prior to they can be authorised for putting on the marketplace. On 17 January 2019, a new entry for cannabinoids was added to the Novel Meals Catalogue (a non-legally binding guide in which the EU tends to make suggestions to member states as to regardless of whether a solution is most likely to demand authorisation below the Novel Foods Regulation). The entry gives that “products containing cannabinoids are thought of novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated”. On the other hand, seeds, seed oil, hemp seed flour and defatted hemp seed are not deemed to be novel foods unless cannabinoids have been added to them.

It is now up to EU member states to identify regardless of whether CBD items demand authorisation in order to be marketed in the relevant member state. On the other hand, member states are frequently influenced by the truth that a meals has been listed in the Novel Meals Catalogue, so it appears most likely that several items will now be treated as novel foods that demand authorisation. The Meals Requirements Agency, the UK’s regulatory physique in charge of meals security, has stated that it accepts the EU’s clarification that CBD extracts are novel foods and that it is “committed to acquiring a proportionate way forward by functioning with regional authorities, companies and customers to clarify how to accomplish compliance in a marketplace in a proportionate manner”. Accordingly, in England, regional authorities will have the energy below the Novel Foods (England) Regulations 2018 to seize and inspect suspected unauthorised novel foods and problem compliance and cease notices requiring a solution to be removed from sale – for instance, when there is explanation to suspect it could be dangerous to customers – and to impose fines. The European Meals Requirements Agency, which is accountable for meals security in the European Union, is at the moment taking into consideration the very first novel meals application for CBD.

Very best practices

This is a continually evolving and complicated location of law. The most effective practice is to acquire certified legal tips certain to your situations, as licensing blunders can have pricey and even criminal repercussions.

The content material of this post is intended to supply a basic guide to the topic matter. Specialist tips ought to be sought about your certain situations.

Published on Mondaq: http://www.mondaq.com/uk/x/837750/meals+drugs+law/ Cannabis+In+The+UK+A+Regulatory+Atmosphere+In+Transition