From farmer to pharma – what is the potential for cannabis?

Agri-TechE webinar looks at the opportunities for UK farmers

Cannabis and hemp are two products of a wonder-crop, Cannabis sativa, grown commercially across nearly 50 thousand hectares in the EU. The crop grows very well in the UK but farmers here are struggling to break into the market, for legislative reasons amongst others.

“Growing cannabis commercially in the UK is currently difficult, but far from impossible,” comments George McBride, CEO of Hanway Associates, who will be discussing the topic further in the upcoming online event ‘From Farmer to Pharma – a Teaser of Things to Come’ hosted by Agri-TechE on 14th May.

For a single plant, Cannabis sativa offers many assets: its fibres provide extremely resilient materials; its seeds and stem are nutritious; and its leaves contain a medically important extract, called CBD, or cannabidiol (canna-bi-diol).

George continues: “Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, excitement has grown for this nascent sector. Now is the perfect time to take a look at how UK farmers can take advantage and make the most out of the new opportunity that growing hemp and cannabis offer.”

Hanway Associates is supporting the development of medical cannabis facilities in the UK with its recently launched initiative – Crop17 – in association with Savills. George says: “The Hanway team is very excited to connect with the members of Agri-TechE for this event.”

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE, says there is considerable interest within its membership in this versatile crop but there is uncertainty over legal issues and the route to market.

One of the issues is that Cannabis sativa is known by many names, depending upon which parts of the plant are taken, and how they are used.

The CBD extract is becoming well established as a treatment for seizures, chronic pain and various other illsiii, and is also a common ingredient in wellness and lifestyle products. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the name of a much less abundant extract that has psychoactive properties and is a class-B controlled drug in the UK. Finally, hemp is the term for a cannabis crop grown for its fibres, for material usage or consumption, where extracts are generally present only at very low levels.

The conflation of Hemp and CBD and THC is a misunderstanding that filters through the general public and has ended up being captured in UK and EU law. The effect is a legal landscape that is “confusing, contradictory and illogical,” which harms market stability, consumer confidence, and simply makes it harder to produce and process the crop.

Navigating this landscape, and exchanging thoughts on hemp and cannabis in general, is the focus of the upcoming webinar on May 14th.

This event, titled ‘From Farmer to Pharma – A Teaser of Things to Come’, replaces a previously organised conference of the same name. Innovation gains even more importance in the time of Coronavirus, and Agri-TechE is focused on finding ways to keep its members talking and sharing ideas.

Attendance is free of charge and further details can be found on the Agri-TechE website: agri-tech-e.co.uk.

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.