With the UK Government moving towards legalising medicinal cannabis could this be an opportunity for the UK farmers to diversify?
This autumn will see specialist doctors prescribing medicinal cannabis for the first time in the UK. Could this decision be behind an emerging legal cannabis growing industry for the UK
Mike Barnes, chief medical officer of drug therapy developer Scythian Biosciences, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the British farming community to boost the rural economy. Once the changes take effect there is no doubt demand for cannabis products will massively increase. Of course, we can import cannabis products but would it not be better to have a home-grown cannabis industry providing jobs for the rural economy?”
The UK is already known for supplying GW Pharmaceuticals cannabis for their Epidiolex and Sativex.
British growers of the hemp strain of the cannabis plant, meanwhile, supply various industries including textiles, construction and health foods.
Cannabis industry analyst Stephen Murphy predicts a lucrative UK growers’ market, but warned, ‘it will not be a free-for-all’.
The co-founder of consultancy group Prohibition Partners, Mr Murphy said: “This is a good opportunity as it is a cash crop and, because it is restricted, highly-controlled and regulated, it does not have the price fluctuations other crops have. The fact demand outstrips supply also makes it very interesting.”
“Cultivation is limited across Europe. For instance, in Italy it is limited to production by the military; in Holland, it is limited to a single grower. Denmark is opening up applications for a limited number of growers, while Portugal has a small number of licences available.
“The challenge in the UK is whether or not there is going to be protectionism over domestic cultivation.
“Cannabis will become an international commodity, but only a limited number will get to cultivate it because it is a controlled substance. As it is a medical product, the authorities need to control the supply of it.”
“In international markets it is the greenhouse growers who are now specialising in cannabis. Farmers with experience of growing indoors on an industrial scale, be it fruit, veg or flowers, are in a very strong position,” he added.
“But they must understand this is a medical product requiring medical standards, and there is a cost to that.”
Angus Collingwood-Cameron, of the Northern Farmers and Landowners Group, said: “Producing medicinal cannabis could be a great opportunity for UK farmers, but there are considerable climatic and regulatory hurdles to overcome.
“If this post-Brexit opportunity is to be realised, Defra must take charge of the regulations and actively seek to drive the sector forward.”
Source – Farmers Guardian
Image – Emerald Triangle Seeds