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In the UK, marijuana and most of its derivative substances are still illegal. In November 2018, doctors were allowed to prescribe certain forms of cannabis-based medicines for specific medical conditions. However, this access is restricted. If a company wants to operate in the international market, it must have the necessary licenses. However, foreign investors in the cannabis industry could be subject to criminal charges.

2018 Regulations


In November 2018, the UK government introduced regulations that allowed doctors to prescribe certain forms of cannabis-based medicines for specific medical conditions. These regulations were part of the country’s efforts to make it easier for patients to access these medicines.


Despite the evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of certain cannabis-based medicines, doctors continue to be reluctant to prescribe these products. This is because the guidance issued by the country’s health care providers did not encourage them to use these products. Implementing the new legislation also seems to have limited the impact of the regulations on the practice of medicine.


The application for a license to produce or sell certain types of cannabis-based medicines in the UK is essential to consider the various technical criteria involved in the approval process. These include the product’s level of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


In January 2019, the EU designated all cannabinoids as novel food products, so the public can use them without requiring approval from the UK’s food safety agency. Although this ruling is not binding on the agency, it has been accepted.

Impact on Foreign Investors


Due to the complexity of the legal and regulatory environment surrounding the UK’s cannabis industry, foreign investors are often reluctant to enter the country’s growing medical and recreational cannabis market. This is because they might be subject to criminal charges if they do business with companies operating in the industry. Despite the lack of official guidance from the authorities, foreign investors should still be aware of the potential risks associated with doing business in the UK’s cannabis industry.


A report released by the UK Law Commission earlier this year suggested that the government should consider the scope of the exemption for overseas conduct regarding the activities related to the production and supply of cannabis. However, it did not clearly understand the potential risks involved in business in the UK’s cannabis industry. Several financial institutions in the UK have confirmed their participation in the country’s legal cannabis industry. For instance, Lloyds of London has confirmed its involvement in the global market.

Looking to the Future


Despite the UK’s progress in establishing a regulatory framework for the medical use of marijuana, the country still has a long way to go before it can fully recognize the cost-benefit of cannabis. In November, the UK government announced that it would be conducting a study that will test the effectiveness of medical marijuana on up to 20,000 patients. The study’s goal is to convince the National Health Service (NHS) to change its guidance regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBBM).


Due to the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s legal cannabis industry, foreign investors can still not fully participate in the country’s growing industry. They also face various risks that could prevent them from entering the country. This could be resolved by the authorities issuing guidance on money laundering related to the activities of the cannabis industry.


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