Broughton's Regulatory Operations Manager, Emily Saunders discusses the key themes from Cannabis Europa 2022.
Members of the Broughton commercial, regulatory, and toxicology team attended Cannabis Europa last week in London (June 28th – 29th) to network with peers, meet with clients, and listen to the discussion panels. The main messages from the sessions aligned with key themes raised at other cannabis conferences we’ve attended this year.
- People need greater access to cannabis as a source of medicine because without patients there is no industry.
- Building a cannabis-based medicinal industry needs heavy investment to enable more research.
- High-quality scientific data and real-world evidence are essential for building societal acceptance.
The subject of potential changes to the German cannabis regulatory environment was a recurring topic of discussion and speculation. There was a lot of interest in what type of regulatory framework German legislators potentially might adopt to legalize recreational cannabis in that market with many seeing this as a possible model for the rest of Europe. It is obvious many within the industry are watching with huge interest to see how one of Europe’s biggest economies will balance the needs of adult consumers with issues like youth access, taxation, consistent product quality, and end-to-end supply chains. One of the biggest challenges identified was building production capacity to meet the needs of this sizable market. Others included the challenge of different government ministries working together to facilitate this and ensuring the safety and quality of products. It was also highlighted that it will essential that prices are not too high, and products are easily accessible otherwise the illegal market will continue to thrive. The potential of and ambition for the German market is huge, and everyone in Europe is looking to them as a model for other markets to follow.
There was also a focus on the need for global harmonization of the cannabis market. Panel experts repeatedly highlighted one of the biggest obstacles to the industry’s development is the current fragmented nature of different countries’ regulatory frameworks which hamper cross-border transportation and international trade. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the US where 39 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, 19 of these also legalizing adult recreational use, but individual states have local, state-specific regulatory requirements. As such, there is a lack of regulation at the federal level, and interstate transportation of cannabis products is prohibited.
Until recently, the US federal government had only a single source of federally legal cannabis via the university of Mississippi. Last year, four new growers were federally authorized to grow including Groff North America which can export the product to other medical markets outside the US. This opens the possibility of non-US countries utilizing companies in the US like Groff to grow specific cannabis strains for different therapeutic purposes which should yield new cannabis preparations and technologies in the future. This is an exciting development but a greater focus on global frameworks for collaboration and trade would significantly speed up research and development in cannabinoid medicinal development to help thousands of patients suffering from chronic medical conditions.
The overall message from Cannabis Europa was that this industry still needs heavy investment from large pharmaceutical companies to drive research into cannabinoids forward. There needs to be a huge investment into randomized clinical trials to build the evidence base with high-quality data to encourage medical and societal acceptance. This is especially important due to the historical stigma attached to cannabis as an illegal drug.
Another big topic from the event was the need for patients to have greater access to medical cannabis by educating medical professionals and enabling more GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis. In countries like the UK with national health services, this would require funding for medicinal cannabis to become a regular part of standard health services and may require changes to current legislation.
Photography, from left to right: Libby Clarke, Toxicology Consultant, Emily Saunders, Regulatory Operations Manager, and Phil Saunders, Strategic Partnership Manager.
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