‘Cannabis Will Be Far Bigger for the UK Economy Than Scotch Whiskey’

Cannabis will be far bigger for the UK economy than Scotch Whiskey, said Nicholas Morland, CEO of Tenacious Labs, Secretariat to the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for CBD Products in the Recommendations for Government Engagement with APPG for CBD Products and the wider CBD Industry.

The APPG for CBD products was established on 17th November 2021. Members of the Secretariat Advisory Board include the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MMCS), the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC), the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the Scottish Hemp Association (SHA), the British Hemp Alliance (BHA) and the Cannabis Services Advisory Board (Jersey). Together with some corporates, its membership sums up to 701 UK businesses, which represent approximately 70% of all active cannabis-related businesses in the UK.

In their Recommendations for Government Engagement with APPG for CBD Products and the wider CBD Industry, they explicitly welcomed the Novel Food initiative and emphasized they are now actively organized to contribute promptly and effectively to the series of important steps stretching out ahead.

As they point out, cannabis’ worldwide turnover is expected to reach £69bn in 2026 from a pre-fully legalized level of c. £20bn today and is expected to continue the growth by over 6% per year. For comparison, Whisky’s worldwide turnover is steady at £69bn as of 2021.

Scotch whiskey is a commonly used benchmark

The Scottish Whisky industry is a commonly used benchmark – although Cannabis will be far bigger for the UK economy and the British Isles, they find it to be a sensible starting point for the short and medium-term. This long-term premium industry provides 42,000 permanent high-value jobs, the vast majority of people who don’t necessarily want to go to university or move away from home, and 7,000 of the 42,000 even in deprived rural areas.

The UK is lucky enough to find itself in a peculiarly strong position to become the global powerhouse in the cannabis industry, they say in their analysis. However, there is a need for the introduction of clear balanced inclusive processes around legislation and regulation. Those regard updating POCA, consumer protection, quality standards, appropriate definitions and limits, research and development, banking, agriculture, insurance, London Stock Exchange listings, and the rest.

The Cannabis industry stands on the cusp of becoming something special in the UK, a once-in-a-generation chance to drive a new cycle of growth, investment, and jobs, they state. 

The APPG for CBD products concludes that the UK needs an appropriate, transparent, genuinely industry-representative forum to work as a single point of formal contact with all of the necessarily interested parties. The forum would be asked by the UK government – together with and directly supported by the devolved governments – to provide a plan for the establishment of a timely and valuable new long-term premium Cannabis industry along similar lines to Scotch Whisky.

In the next stage, they plan to build on the depth and breadth of work undertaken by multiple single-issue pressure groups – aggregating them into a legitimate single formal point of contact for the industry.

The Secretariat to the Westminster APPG for CBD Products is prepared to take the lead, hoping to structure a big tent for all the parties included.

The next steps include establishing the terms for the work that would be completed by 21 July this year, the methodology in establishing the UK as the world market leader in the premium Cannabis Industry using Scottish Whisky as the benchmark, assessing the parameters required, economic benefits and consumer protection, and seeking public evidence from the full range of interested parties, concentrating first on industry proposals and second on the input of those who will be responsible for their action.

Among the other planned activities, as of 1st May, they are expected to have a website updated weekly.

On April 27th, a further 2,446 products have been added to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) list of CBD products linked to novel food applications. It now contains 5981 products that may stay on the market in England and Wales. Another update is expected before 30th June 2022.

Reviewed by Sasha Bajilo, founder of ILESOL Pharmaceuticals, an industrial scale producer of CBD products and formulations. Expert on Hemp/Cannabis policy, member of the Croatian Ministry of Health regulatory commission for medical cannabis.