The United Kingdom is the largest producer of cannabis in the world according to a report released by the United Nations.
Britain produced 95 tons of cannabis in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use. This accounted for 44.8% of the world’s legally cultivated cannabis.
The UN also found that the UK accounts for the highest rates of exports for cannabis with approximately 70 percent of the world’s exported cannabis originating from the region.
The revelation brings poses some interesting questions. Recreational cannabis is illegal in the UK and medicinal use is only permitted in the form of Sativex, a GW Pharmaceuticals medication made with cannabis extracts. Even Sativex is not available throughout the UK. Only patients with MS in Wales qualify for a prescription. So why is it ok to export a medicine with “no therapeutic value” that the country’s own residents are not permitted to use?
“It is scandalous and untenable for the UK government to maintain that cannabis has no medical uses, at the same time as licensing the world’s biggest government-approved medical cannabis production and export market,” said Steve Rolles, a senior policy adviser with the group Transform Drug Policy according to Independent UK.
“UK patients are either denied access and suffering unnecessarily or are forced to buy cannabis from the criminal market,” Rolles continued. “Countries with proper access to medical cannabis do not have this problem, as standardized cannabis products are in the hands of doctors and pharmacists.”
Momentum to expand the legalization of medicinal cannabis is building in the UK. Alfie Dingley is a six-year-old boy who suffers from epilepsy. Dingley’s mother is pushing to have her son included in a medical trial examining cannabis as a treatment option. Parliament member Nick Hurd has met with the Alfie family and vows to “explore every option” available and indicated that Dingley being included in a medical trial was a possibility.
The title of world’s largest cannabis producer could be short-lived for the UK. Canada is expected to assume the role as the world’s largest exporter of cannabis once the 2017 exporting totals are calculated. Canada had 40 licensed cannabis producers in 2016 but that number rose to 80 for 2017. Recreational sales of cannabis are expected to begin this summer in Canada.