In late April, MPs held a debate on the contribution of medical cannabis to the UK economy, as legislation towards increased legalisation grows warmer.

During the debate, David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, raised key points around the prospects for the UK medicinal cannabis industry, highlighting the potential of a £1bn contribution to the economy and the creation of 100,000 new jobs.

The UK Government is slowly but surely allowing companies to enter the legal cannabis market. Dalgety is one of the most recent businesses to progress to the front of the UK medicinal cannabis industry after being granted Home Office approval to cultivate, process and pack medicinal cannabis ready for sale to the pharmaceutical market.

The Home Office licence will allow the rapidly expanding business to begin commercial cultivation and distribution of its product, which follows its inspection from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. 

Speaking on the comments made in the debate, James Leavesley, chief operating officer at Dalgety, said: “Being at the forefront of this market is incredibly exciting, not least of all for the economic boost we believe it will bring to the UK, which was highlighted by MP Mundell. He also raised the challenges facing rural communities and the chance for an ‘evolution of horticulture’ that we firmly align with at Dalgety.

“As we progress as a business, we will be looking to bring more skilled jobs to help ‘level up’ our region, as well as substantial investment opportunities; not just for the businesses and investors harnessing the economic potential of the industry, but for patients that cannot access the high-quality [EU] Good Manufacturing Practice-approved cannabis that Dalgety can provide. MP Mundell reported there could be more than 300,000 potential patients as of next year.”

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Over the next two years, Dalgety aims to be able to provide at least 50 highly skilled job roles in the industry, as well as university research projects and placements that will help develop the next generation of skills. Those working in medicinal cannabis production are not typical horticulturalists, but rather require specialised training in a completely new industry. There is the potential for careers in controlled cultivation, pharmaceutical manufacture, research and development and healthcare services.

“These roles require a high level of expertise, to ensure control and progress,” says Leavesley. “This is a level up from traditional agriculture, and for the right candidates it is an incredibly promising career pathway. I welcome the discussion today and any future debates in Parliament as this industry continues to flourish and hopefully bring forth more opportunities for work, investment and research, to see the UK as a true leader in medicinal cannabis production.”

The UK medical cannabis market is forecast to reach $1.1bn (£880.26m) by 2024. By 2028, it is predicted to rise higher, to $8.8bn, making it the second-largest in Europe and potentially serving 1% of the country’s population.

Medicinal cannabis products were legalised in the UK in 2018, making them available on prescription, commonly via private doctors and specialist pain clinics. Currently, the UK imports the majority of its cannabis-based medicines, with a drive to grant licences that will allow in-country sourcing for improved quality control and traceability.