Nick Morland, Tenacious Labs CEO, All-Party Parliamentary Group for CBD Products Secretariat, Jersey Cannabis Services Advisory Board Chair, writes about the UK Cannabis Industry – could this be the next Scottish Whisky?
Now is a time-sensitive one-off opportunity for post-Brexit UK to dominate the premium segment of a valuable new worldwide industry if the right legislation can be agreed upon and implemented.
The Cannabis Industry
The Cannabis Sativa plant provides a range of products quite apart from recreational use – including high protein biomass for less flatulent cows and carbon credits, moisturiser for gardeners’ stiff hands and arthritic dogs, natural alternatives for nausea, pain, sleep and anxiety and medical possibilities around MS and epilepsy.
Consumers have already recognised this and are buying a lot of Cannabis products, with the industry’s worldwide turnover today circa £20 billion, expected to reach £69 billion in 2026 with long-term growth of more than 6% per annum from then.
Foundations to build on
The UK Cannabis Industry can look to two benchmarks – firstly the UK’s world-leading Scottish Whisky, and secondly Colorado, the most advanced of the 33 U.S. states that are fully legalised.
Whisky’s worldwide turnover is £69 billion as of 2021 and the UK’s share of this is £5.5 billion. UK Whisky supports 42,000 permanent high-value jobs, the vast majority in rural areas and often employing people who prefer not to move away from hometowns or continue into higher education.
Colorado with a population of only 6 million has a Cannabis turnover of £2 billion with tax of £330 million per annum, and created more than 38,000 jobs (and this before inevitable U.S. Federal legalisation). A simple extrapolation to the UK’s 67 million population suggests an annual turnover of £22 billion, with £3.7 billion of tax and 428,000 jobs. Before exports.
Work in progress
The UK Cannabis Industry is responding to this opportunity in part by engaging with government on an official and effective basis with the November 2021 formation of the highly active All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for CBD Products. The CBD APPG is supported by the normal Secretariat, in turn, less conventionally informed by the Secretariat Advisory Board (SAB).
The SAB is key, directly representing more than 70% of all active UK businesses – including the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MMCS), the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC), the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the Scottish Hemp Association (SHA), the British Hemp Alliance (BHA) and the Cannabis Services Advisory Board (Jersey), plus others totalling 701.
In one month alone, the Secretariat and SAB representatives have been in;
- Scotland hosted by Food Standards Scotland – Scottish Whisky being the gold standard in premium F&B.
- Wales hosted by Aberystwyth University – world- class agricultural development and seed bank.
- Denver, Colorado – the most professionally established legalised State.
- Washington DC – for U.S. Federal thinking and emerging market inward investors.
- Jersey – still in the British Isles and has taken the early lead in both legislative and regulatory changes already made.
Crucially the APPG and SAB together represent the single legitimate functional successor to the single- issue groups that successfully completed the crucial first stage of raising awareness, and are now an important part of (but have no mandate to speak for) the UK Cannabis Industry as a whole.
Not squandering a natural lead
The UK is lucky to be in a peculiarly strong position to become the global powerhouse if the political will is there to provide the right framework to introduce clear, balanced, inclusive processes for legislation and regulation regarding updating POCA, consumer protection, quality standards, appropriate definitions and limits, research and development, banking, agriculture, insurance, London Stock Exchange listings and more.
In short, this is the time for government to actively drive a new cycle of growth, investment and jobs with some simple, immediate and informed decisions. Yet the route legislation is currently taking outlaws for all Cannabis production, except isolate.
Bluntly, this would be a short-sighted mistake that doesn’t consider what is clearly the single most important economic opportunity available to post-Brexit UK, to legislate for and build a framework to enable a well-regulated home-grown Cannabis Industry.
Isolate and natural plants sources are both relevant and need to be included in the big tent, but by legislating for isolate only, or (as bad) moving too slowly, there’s an immediate risk of squandering our advantage and ceding the initiative to other countries who will do more than import and package a lab-made commodity supplying an important sub-set of consumers but with limited agricultural, commercial and economic interest when compared with the full plant that can be grown across the UK.
The APPG Co-chairs need to meet with Government ministers to organise a consultation process initially built around the CBD APPG including;
- The production of an inclusive industry-informed report, via a public process, for the Cannabis Industry to complete by 21st July 2022
- Building on the existing Scottish Whisky industry experience
- With clear economic benefits, choices and necessary consumer protection
- Including input from the big tent – across the industry (including isolate) as well as directly addressing all devolved governments and the various departments that will have responsibilities such as DEFRA, the Home Office, FSA, FCA, etc.
With a proper process established, post-Brexit UK has an excellent chance of becoming the leading force in the premium segment of the Cannabis Industry, generating massive economic benefits just like Scottish Whisky. Or it’s too hard, we don’t bother, and watch others doing it instead. It’s as simple as that.