Medicinal Cannabis: Growing opportunities for the world economy

Thanks to its medicinal properties, cannabis has been increasingly gaining popularity around the globe. While some countries have introduced legislations and set up strategies in order to decriminalise the consumption of medicinal cannabis, others have acknowledged its role but are still awaiting further research confirming its capabilities to ease conditions and treat symptoms.

Nonetheless, due to high demand for medicinal cannabis and CBD products, hemp seems to be the next emerging market consequently contributing to the growth of the global economy.

Europe setting standards in cannabis production

With the recent wave of legislation regarding cannabis-based products, it is believed that the European market holds a key position both in medicinal and retail cannabis. This is due to a combination of variables such as population growth, GDP, national healthcare, and tarditional use in many countries, making Europe an attractive market for global producers.

For instance, in 2017 Germany signed a law that allows the use of the cannabis plant. This would in turn allow healthcare professionals to prescribe medicinal cannabis products to patients suffering from severe health issues such as chronic pain, vomiting, and nausea.

In 2013, Czech Republic legalised medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, chemotherapy induced side effects, and other severe disease indications. Moreover, the law allows patients with marijuana prescriptions to purchase the medicinal marijuana from pharmacies.

However, cultivation of marijuana in not allowed in the country, therefore suppliers need to import medicinal cannabis from other economies. This implies that a huge potential for growth of the medicinal cannabis industry in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

So far, the European Union national regulators have struggled to get to grips with the regulation of cannabidiol products, which has proven difficult given that CBD is not a scheduled controlled substance, hemp food products were historically consumed, and extracts of the plant were manipulated for use in medicines and many other applications.

The two cannabinoids — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are most often used in the treatment of certain diseases or easing of certain health conditions such as pain, blood pressure, memory, concentration, appetite, sensory stimulus, muscular problems, and seizures.

European standards are now the benchmark for market entry, and Europe has an opportunity to lead the way in establishing sensible regulatory systems that provide safe access to appropriate products, while not unnecessarily burdening what has been a historically widely-consumed product.

Medicinal Cannabis in UK: access to treatment still an ongoing issue

Although the government announced the legislation of medicinal cannabis for patients via NHS prescription in November last year, the high expectations among the public of the benefits of medicinal cannabis are not being met. Doctors are unwilling to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients based on the claim that there is still little evidence due to lack of clinical trials.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “Although the recent changes to government policy were welcomed, there was a failure to communicate what this would mean in practice for the availability of medicinal cannabis.”

Although the recent changes to government policy from schedule 1 to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, making it far easier to carry out trials into medicinal cannabis were welcomed, there was a failure to communicate what this would mean in practice for the availability of medicinal cannabis.

She added: “Expectations were unfairly raised that these products would become widely and readily available, and there needs to be far clearer communication that this is not the case.”

It remains to see whether the UK, like the rest of Europe, will take a more proactive stance on implementing the practical availability of medicinal cannabis.

Medical cannabis is gaining momentum in Asia

At the moment, many Asian countries are softening their approach to cannabis, but the plant remains illegal in the majority of Asian nations.

Seoul and Bangkok look to be leading the way in the normalisation and legalisation of medical marijuana with government licenses. However, after Thailand’s legalisation of medical cannabis in February, it is currently the only Asian country that has fully legalised medicinal cannabis.

Some experts predict that other Southeast Asian countries may move towards decriminalising the plant. South Korea surprised many by being the first East Asian nation to legalise medical marijuana last November.

In the same month, Japan approved clinical trials for the cannabis compound Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used in treating epileptic patients. Market experts argue that due to Japan’s increasing aging population, it is likely to become a big consumer of medicinal cannabis.

Even famously strict-on-drugs nations including Singapore and China have been involved in research into medical applications for cannabis. In fact, China is not only involved in the research but also heavily in production. Asia’s largest economy currently grows nearly half the world’s legal hemp, a strain of cannabis that contains almost no hallucinogens, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Hanma Investment Group (HMI) is the first company to receive permission to extract CBD in China. The country’s largest hemp production firm has been advocating for the benefits of the plant and trying to change the negative connotation most Chinese people hold towards it. The company currently exports 90% of its production, mostly to the United States, Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands, and increasingly to Japan.

”(Chinese) people’s perception of cannabis is no longer as negative as before. We have been reiterating the uses cannabis can be utilised in the medical and health sector,” Tan Xi, HMI’s president, told CNBC in a Chinese-language text message.

The global legal marijuana market — including recreational use — was estimated to be worth $13.8 billion last year and is projected to reach $66.3 billion by the end of 2025, according to a 2018 report from California-based market research firm Grand View Research, making medicinal cannabis an increasingly significant contributor to the world’s economy.

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