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Business & Profession Legislation & policy, Medical research

A United Kingdom on Cannabis?

Despite being legal in the UK since November 2018, medical cannabis can hardly be described as a roaring success. Clinicians are far from wowed by current evidence and red tape takes care of the rest. Not willing to sit idly by, cannabis advocates are addressing both the science and politics that seem to be holding the UK back. 

First the science – specifically, the hunger for real-world evidence. In May 2021, Project Twenty21 (T21) – the UK’s first medical cannabis registry – published some preliminary findings in Psychopharmacology (1). In brief, 678 patients (64 percent male; average age of 38.7) had already been enrolled into T21 by March 12, 2021. Why? Chronic pain (55.6 percent) and anxiety disorders (32 percent) were the primary presenting conditions; however, the authors noted high levels of multi-morbidity, including insomnia and depression. Most interestingly, the team followed up 75 patients after three months and found that receipt of (legal) prescribed cannabis was associated with a significant increase in self-reported health.

Second, from science to policy, a 16-strong team of experts has sent a strong message – and 10 recommendations – to the UK government. Mainly calling for an end to outmoded red tape, the authors also speak a language politicians may better understand: the medical cannabis market could be worth £2 billion, creating 50,000 new jobs, they say. The full report is free to download (if you don’t mind donating a little information):


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  1. C Sakal et al., “Developing a real-world evidence base for prescribed cannabis in the United Kingdom: preliminary findings from Project Twenty21,” Psychopharmacology (Berl) [online ahead of print] (2021). PMID: 33970291.
About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. “Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment.” On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. “I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication.” Rich is now Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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