AutoPot have visited licensed cannabis producers overseas for many years. In the US, Canada, South America, and parts of Europe we’ve seen our systems at work in the hands of government approved businesses. We’ve experienced first-hand the staggering professionalism, technical innovation, and exemplary execution untapped by legitimate cannabis farming. Could it happen in the U.K.? Is it happening in the U.K.? It depends where you look.
If you looked to the incredibly profitable and productive activities of a handful of licensed U.K. producers you’d likely conclude that cannabis farming is a serious proposition over here. Export, projected growth, consumer demand, and global trade all point to a bright future. If you looked to the U.K. government, where licence applications for such farming are handled, you might reason that an open pathway for prospective producers does exist. Those prospective U.K. producers might protest that, at least by dint of its inscrutability, access to the marketplace is somewhat exclusionary and there is cynicism at a perceived lack of diversity in current licence holders. From all of this one possible conclusion is that a great many well-placed, interested parties in the U.K. simply don’t know if the day shall come. That surely can’t be a satisfactory situation given the potential importance and value of the industry.
As with a great many industries, those lobbying from outside government will complain that their views and knowledge are not properly represented within government. Clearly there is self-interest amongst lobbyists here. But there’s also the passion arising from intimate knowledge of a subject and a desire to see potential unlocked. It is hard to stand by and watch so many techniques, technologies, and intellects stymied by a lack of economic viability that is, in turn, dictated by regulatory uncertainty. Doubly disheartening is the awareness of what is possible when one looks to licensed overseas production.
The opaque situation regarding the future of U.K. cannabis production is compounded as sections of the horticultural industry synonymous with legal cannabis production come under increasingly tight regulation. There is a real risk that those with experience from overseas ventures and those keen to invest in U.K. production cannot bridge to the as-yet-unknown point at which policies are clarified. Invaluable resources could be lost as a result.
There’s often a tendency to overstate the imperative nature of immediate action where economic or technological gains are concerned. Better perhaps to illustrate with examples why action is required if the U.K. wishes to take a bigger stake in legal cannabis production. One such example are the inextricable issues of supply, end use, and end users. Supply issues have bedevilled a number of nations who have legalised medical cannabis in one form or another. The inherent frailties of a supply chain that is in its relative infancy have further been exposed by Brexit and Covid-19. Domestic production and processing at levels sufficient to satisfy demand are arguably a necessary precursor to any potential relaxation of medical end use. Unless the U.K. government wants end users of legal medicinal cannabis to be dependant on an insecure supply of imported products, the revenues from which are lost abroad, then a coherent strategy for production reforms seems necessary. Just such a strategy has been adopted in Germany.
Germany’s experience with initial supply issues has, in part, led to the creation of a solid framework for domestic cultivation and a dedicated cannabis agency. A simple process for licence applications with clear guidance has been designed to encourage experienced agriculturalists and producers to engage their skills. Cultivators can look to increasingly relaxed limits on production as the county seeks to reduce outside dependence on supply and serve its 60,000-strong-and-growing body of medical cannabis users.
Currently, legal U.K. production of raw materials is almost entirely exported whilst its supply of legal end product is almost entirely imported. The U.K. is a world-leader in pharma production but moves towards peer-reviewed medical trials, for what is clearly a potentially valuable commodity, have been slow and fitful. CBD is considered a medicine by the Medicines & Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) but producers cannot make claims for medical efficacy in marketing material. Such contradictions abound within current legal cannabis production and use. But these contradictions should not necessarily be read as a deliberate attempt to derail a viable U.K.-based industry. They are, by all accounts, more the result of the usual morass of stakeholders and infrastructures present in any large organisation. A single, distinct department that could liaise between all parties on the government’s side might at least give a better sense of whether taking a lead in the global cannabis marketplace is truly a priority.
Spectacular advances and untold profits. A veritable gold rush. Such prophesied futures of unqualified success have been throughly debunked by the experiences of Canadian and US legal producers. It is certainly true that their fortunes have fluctuated. Unschooled arrivistes and chancers aplenty have fallen by the wayside – which is no bad thing. However their cannabis industries are progressing. Enviable practices and technologies that will support sustainable, long-term growth and innovation are developing. The opportunity to join them on a level playing field will not last forever.