Online Medical Cannabis Clinic Launches in the UK
What does Montu's vote of confidence in the UK mean for the global medical cannabis market?
Access to medical cannabis in the UK remains limited, despite being legalized in 2018. But in September 2023, the Home Affairs Committee called on the UK government to widen access to medical cannabis on the NHS (1). And just a few weeks later, in an apparent vote of confidence in the UK market, Montu announced that they are launching an online medical cannabis clinic, called Alternaleaf, in the UK (2). To find out more about the UK cannabis market and the new clinic, we spoke with Asif Dewan, Managing Director at Montu UK.
What is Alternaleaf?
Montu, the company behind the medical cannabis clinic Alternaleaf, provides medical cannabis to treat conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis and endometriosis to chronic joint pain and depression. We’re hoping to eliminate barriers for patients and support the medical community in the UK to improve their understanding of medical cannabis – and how it can help people who’ve tried other means of treatment without success.
Why did you choose to develop your brand in the UK?
Things are really looking up for medical cannabis in the UK. Awareness among patients is on the rise, and the medical community is more accepting of medical cannabis as a treatment. People are starting to realize the broad spectrum of illnesses and conditions that can be helped with medical cannabis. We want to be part of this evolving landscape and take a long-term approach to make a meaningful impact. We’re excited that the UK's changing attitudes and increasing accessibility allows us to make a difference in the medical cannabis market.
Each healthcare market has its own set of regulations, payment systems, and reimbursement structures. We’re taking a pragmatic approach and treating the UK as the unique market it is. Drawing on our experience in Australia, we’ve adapted our strategies to the local context and actively involve local healthcare leaders and cannabis experts – giving us our best chance at succeeding in the UK and other European markets.
What trends are you seeing in the medical cannabis market – in the UK and across the world?
Despite the ongoing onerous regulations and lingering stigma, the industry is experiencing steady growth, with the market growing 20–30 percent year-on-year. More companies are emerging and providing patients with an expanding array of clinic choices and product options. This growth aligns with the gradual rise in awareness and acceptance of medical cannabis. That said, there are millions of people who are eligible for this treatment but haven't yet discovered its potential.
How are you navigating the regulatory/healthcare landscape in the UK?
It’s always challenging to break new ground and be at the forefront of an entirely new industry – particularly when it comes to something so personal and contentious as healthcare and medication. The medical cannabis industry is still relatively new and highly regulated. But patients still have numerous questions – from product information to pricing. Unfortunately, we are often not able to provide direct answers because of regulatory constraints. As the market progresses, we’re focused on ensuring compliance and patient safety – working with existing frameworks while also advocating for improved access and understanding moving forward.
How do you see cannabis influencing the healthcare landscape?
We’re building new industry and healthcare standards as we speak. Medical cannabis will gain more acceptance in the healthcare landscape over the coming months and years. Patients and healthcare providers are already becoming more aware of its potential benefits, which is great to see. I also believe that we’ll be discussing public funding for medical cannabis in the near future. If this comes to pass, more patients will have access to necessary treatment, which is a largely positive step forward for patients and the healthcare system as a whole.
Several interesting developments are occurring in markets like Ireland, Sweden, and potentially France. We’re closely monitoring legislative changes and patient demand for medical cannabis products and specialized care for access to potential markets. However, we aren’t limited to Europe and have options to progress in other international markets, such as New Zealand.
Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist