Sales of consumer cannabis products have undergone an “accidental” boom during the pandemic that will see the popularity of cannabinoids exceed the market for Vitamins B and C combined, according to industry groups.
The industry estimates the market for products containing cannabis extracts will reach £690m this year, more than double the £314m of sales in 2019.
The stress and uncertainty caused by the pandemic is credited with increasing interest in cannabinoid products, consolidating what the industry calls a “quiet, commercial, legal cannabis revolution”.
Cannabinoids are chemicals that naturally occur in cannabis plants
The popularity of products containing cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) means the UK is now the second-largest consumer behind the United States.
Such products include CBD oil, touted by retailers as having calming and moisturising effects.
In a new report the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry and Centre for Medical Cannabis call on the government to act to exploit an economic opportunity.
They argue that legislation has failed to keep pace with the growth of the market.
Currently, the Food Standards Agency regulates CBD products, while the Home Office is running a trial to assess tolerable levels of THC – that is, the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis.
But restrictions governing the cultivation of hemp, a relative of the cannabis plant that also contains cannabinoids, mean the majority of profits go abroad.
That is because the Home Office will only grant licenses for cultivation on two grounds: as a raw material for industrial use, or for pharmaceutical clinical trials or licensed drug production.
Yet the cannabidiol that is extracted from the plants has never been a controlled substance and the market for that product is far larger than for those two uses.
That means it can be sold in the UK even though the plants from which it is extracted cannot be grown here – unless there is a change in the law.
Steve Moore, co-founder of the ACI & CMC said: “With new government support the accidental consumer cannabis revolution that has allowed CBD to become available on every high street in the UK could become permanent, nurturing hundreds of new businesses, thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in exports.
“It’s hard to imagine there many more industries that could benefit almost immediately from the proposals set out in our report.”
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