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Meet the new fashion super power

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a super fibre and its soaring to a clothes rack near you.

Industrial hemp, that tough stuff traditionally associated with rope and sack cloth, is now charming the fashion world.

Expert Brenda Gordon explains: “I really believe hemp is a super fibre. It’s clean, it has no limitations and is very versatile. It’s on the cusp of a wave and is ready to take off.”

Brenda is an eco-fashion and textiles sourcing specialist and founder of international clothing sourcing agent Monoshe, headquartered in Birmingham.

Having witnessed the disastrous environmental fallout of fast fashion, she sees hemp as a potential saviour.

She says: “We over produce products and garments that people over buy and so we are living in a throwaway fashion world.

“In all the years I’ve been in fashion, I really hadn’t expected it to come to this point.

“We’re throwing away garments, many of which are made from polyester and other fibres that just do not biodegrade. So we are making garments that we don’t really care about the quality of them and they end up in landfill. This is a massive problem.

“But hemp is biodegradable and can be grown very easily, using low level fertilisers. It is also kind to the soil and uses less water than cotton, for example.

“Because it’s kinder to the environment it’s kinder to the air you breathe. Also none of the plant is wasted, the leaves, the stem, everything can be utilised [for various purposes].”

According to the Stockholm Environmental Institute, 10,000 litres of water is used to produce 1kg of cotton compared to just 300-500 for the same amount of dry hemp matter.

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Hemp can be rain-fed rather than irrigated, it aerates the soil, leaving it rich for future crops, but also grows more densely than cotton. Hemp will produce 1500 pounds of fibre per acre, around three times that of cotton.

The impact of fast fashion presents an opportunity for hemp meanwhile.

In the UK alone, around 300,000 tonnes of clothes per year are sent to incineration or landfill, according to figures cited by the Environmental Audit Committee.

Data from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation also suggests that the equivalent of one bin lorry load of textiles is landfilled or burned every second globally.

Clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.

Against the ugly face of fast fashion, biodegradable hemp has obvious appeal.

But it’s not just the crop’s environmental credentials that have the world’s catwalk overlords eyeing it up.

It is also its versatility which is attracting increased attention and doing away with the misconception that it is just a tough industrial textile

Brenda says: “The plant grows very tall, producing long fibres that can be woven into material.

“The hemp fibre stems are cut and are laid out to undergo a rotting process out in the fields for six weeks or so. That makes it easier to remove the fibres, which can then be woven or knitted into whatever product or raw material you want to make.”

But misconceptions continue to hold hemp back.

Partly, there’s its reputation as the so-called cousin of marijuana and the confusion that causes about legality.

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In an article on Hypebeast, Sarah Hayes, director of material development at outdoor clothing firm Patagonia, says: “A high percentage of citizens do not know the difference between industrial hemp and cannabis, and get the two mixed up frequently.”

Hemp also has a long association with tough, hard-wearing industrial textiles, which doesn’t help its charming of the world’s fashion buyers and designers.

But Brenda explains: “The benefits of the hemp fibre are amazing. Its antibacterial and a very strong fibre – stronger in fact than cotton. It’s very breathable and it can be very soft.

“When you use hemp material people imagine it being very hard, but the way it can be processed now allows for very soft finishes, similar to silk, for example.

“You can use it for a myriad of things – denim, satin, gym wear, suits for the office and bridal wear.

“There is nothing actually stopping it from taking over any existing [clothing] fibre. In terms of versatility, there are no limits.”

One potential stumbling block to hemp textile’s meteoric rise is cost.

“Sometimes when you want to buy something different that is very natural, the price automatically goes higher. Unfortunately with hemp, this is the case.

“It’s not as popular as other textiles, so you could pay double what you would pay for the same garment in cotton, for example.

“People aren’t understanding the full benefits of it but I think once they do, it will be a bit like what we saw when the mobile phone first came out.

“The first phones were so big and expensive, but now everyone has one. I feel hemp will get to the stage where it will become cheaper once more people start buying it.”

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Where a hemp fibre shirt at an unnamed High Street shop could be £50, Brenda says, the same garment in cotton could cost around £20/£25.

In closing this general price gap, she believes consumers can play a role not just by changing their buying habits to increase demand; but also by pressurising retailers into changing their ways and providing more hemp fibre lines.

“Just ask for the items you want in hemp,” she says. “You can ask shops why they are not doing it in hemp. Implement retailers to produce more and use hemp in that way. It’s never going to change unless we start asking and pushing retailers and brands for it.”

Perhaps the most globally-recognised brand to dabble in hemp is Levi’s. The company last year released a new line of 70/30 cotton-to-cottonised hemp blend jeans and shirts.

The hemp was sourced from a rain-fed hemp crop and thereby reduced the water used in fibre cultivation by roughly 30 per cent.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to offer consumers a cottonised hemp product that feels just as good, if not better, than cotton,” said Paul Dillinger, VP of product innovation.

For the sake of the environment and hemp growers everywhere, let’s hope many more follow Levi’s lead soon.

Brenda Gordon was presenting at the Hemp and CBD Expo in Birmingham.

Read more: Is CBD-infused fashion just a fad?

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Grow Pharma launches new platform to help UK doctors learn about medical cannabis

The Journal Club will help inform UK doctors about the latest medical cannabis research.

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Doctor
A new platform help inform doctors about the latest medical cannabis research.

Grow Pharma has launched a Journal Club to help inform UK doctors about the latest medical cannabis research.

The UK’s leading distributor of prescribed cannabis medicines, Grow Pharma, is now launching the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at educating doctors on cannabis medicines.

Each edition of the Journal Club will feature two recently published clinical papers relevant to the field of medical cannabis/cannabinoids from a variety of different disease areas including chronic pain, psychiatric disorders, neurology, and IBD, and will be released approximately every two weeks.

Those interested can sign up to Grow’s Journal Club here.

Grow Pharma: Journal Club

The first Journal Club will be sent round on 1st December featuring the articles named here.

The clinical papers will be emailed out as well as hosted on Grow’s Doctor Portal where healthcare professionals will be able to comment on the articles and share thoughts and ideas with each other. The Doctor Portal also features recordings of past webinar educational sessions from medical cannabis experts, as well as news articles, information on medicines and discussion forums for doctors.

Grow Pharma: Dr Portal

Doctors can sign up to the Grow Doctor Portal here


“Educating doctors really is the key to increasing the use and acceptance of medical cannabis in the UK,” commented Grow Pharma CEO, Pierre Van Weperen.

“We have had significant success in supporting new doctors on their journey towards prescribing medical cannabis. Many doctors want to be involved in multiple educational sessions and hear from others who are already prescribing. We facilitate those interactions. We also help to connect them to existing specialist cannabis clinics or help them set up their own clinics.”

Grow Pharma

Grow Pharma CEO Pierre Van Weperen leads the team in educating healthcare professionals on cannabis medicines

There are now upwards of 15 clinics specialising in the prescription of cannabis medicines in the UK and on the Channel Islands.

Grow Pharma are proud to be the preferred distributor for more of these clinics than any other and is dedicated to supporting the clinics and doctors as they learn about medical cannabis, onboard new doctors and set themselves up as centres of expertise in the field. Grow puts its success down to having the broadest range of cannabis medicines available in the UK and their hard work and dedication to supporting doctors throughout the process.

The clinical papers featured in the Journal Club will be selected by Grow’s Medical Team for their high level of evidence and relevance to clinical areas where there is the most perceived potential to help patients.

In the UK, any specialist doctor can prescribe cannabis medicines within their field but not all doctors are aware of the potential benefits of cannabis medicines, even three years after they were rescheduled, due to a lack of formal education from clinical bodies. Grow Pharma believes that the Journal Club will help to bridge this gap in doctors’ knowledge.

Grow Pharma clinic list

There are now over 15 clinics specialising in prescribing cannabis medicines in the UK for patients to choose from.

“We all know how busy UK doctors are. It’s understandable they don’t always have the time to read about new treatments, especially one like medical cannabis, where there is so much to learn about the many ways it can help patients,” said Grow’s patient access lead Alex Fraser.

“The Journal Club is about making it easy and straightforward for Doctors to keep up-to-date with research and to continue learning about cannabis medicines, even if they are already prescribing them. We carefully select the studies and deliver them straight to their inbox in digestible chunks.

“If they have any more questions, they know that we’re on hand to answer them.”

Whilst the Doctor Portal is only accessible to healthcare professionals and the Journal Club is aimed at doctors, anyone can sign-up if they want to learn more about medical cannabis. The Journal Club is educational and non-promotional and solely designed to increase awareness of the latest research around this exciting field of medicine.

To sign up to Journal Club just click the link and fill in the short form here

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Study: States with full legal access show fewer registered medical cannabis patients

“If true, this could have implications for public health and policy,” say researchers.

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Study shows U.S states where cannabis is legal for recreational purposes have experienced a decrease in patients registering for medical cannabis programmes.

The study on different US states, published in the International Drug Journal, revealed that numbers of registered and active medical cannabis consumers increased while it was not legal for recreational use.

Researchers in Arizona took data from the medical cannabis registry from two dozen states between 2013 and 2020.  These are mandatory registries that record the number of medical cannabis patients. They analysed the data to see if there were any changes around the times that recreational legalisation was introduced.

There are currently 19 states in the US that have legalised recreational cannabis including New Jersey, Vermont, Arizona and New York. However, more states have medical cannabis programs although some are still not operational. Some states such as Colorado have had recreational access since 2012, the year before the study was started.

Medical cannabis patients

The results confirmed that medical cannabis cardholders increased during times when recreational use was not legal. It then subsequently decreased when it became legal.

It also revealed an increase of 380 patients per 100,000 people per year when just medical cannabis was legal. This corresponded to a decrease of 100 patients per 100,000 after recreational cannabis was allowed. The researchers noted that active registered active male patients decreased faster than women. In states where only medical cannabis was legal, the older age groups (35 or older), increased faster.

They also found that in three states with medical-only use, the results showed significant increases in enrollment from 2016 to 2020 across white, African-American and Hispanic patients.

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The researchers wrote: “There is speculation that enrollment in U.S. state medical cannabis programs differs depending on whether adult recreational cannabis use is legal. If true, this could have implications for public health and policy.”

“Findings suggest that recreational cannabis legalisation is associated with decreasing enrollment in medical cannabis programs, particularly for males.”

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Latin American cannabis clinic Zerenia arrives in UK – promising patients more ‘affordable’ access

The clinic has recently joined Project Twenty21 with the promise of making medical cannabis more accessible.

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Zerenia clinic: doctor holding medical cannabis
The clinic will initially prescribe for chronic pain and mental health conditions.

Latin American medical cannabis clinic, Zerenia, has launched in the UK, with a bid to improve patient access as it joins Project Twenty21.

Zerenia Clinics, which launched in the UK in recent weeks, has joined a growing number of clinics on Project Twenty21 (T21), as it aims to make medical cannabis more affordable for patients. 

The clinic also offers competitive costs, with consultation fees at £80. 

The clinic’s three doctors will initially prescribe for chronic pain and mental health, with the majority of patients so far seeking treatment for indications such as anxiety, ADHD, PTSD and insomnia.

Zerenia, which already has 14 clinics across Latin America, has treated around 14,000 patients with medical cannabis, and according to Zerenia’s UK clinical operations director, Freeda Solliman, mental health is the predominant indication prescribed for. 

Many of these patients now get their prescriptions funded via private insurers, a model which the clinic now hopes to replicate in the UK. 

“In Latin America we’ve built a body of evidence there to support private insurers to fund medical cannabis treatment,” Solliman told Cannabis Health.

“We’ve seen about 14,000 patients who have been treated with medical cannabis and a large number of those actually get their prescriptions funded by private insurers. That’s the kind of model that you want to bring here.”

Zerenia has partnered with T21, which subsidises the cost of prescriptions, to help build the growing body of evidence for the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. 

“Our goals are quite well aligned, we want to build the evidence and we want to make medical cannabis more affordable for patients,” continued Solliman.

“We want to work to encourage the NHS first and foremost, but also private insurers to fund at least part of the costs involved in being treated with medical cannabis.”

She added: “We did our research to understand some of the bottlenecks in the industry and how hard it is for some patients to go through the process, so we wanted to support patients through that and try to offer them more of a seamless experience.”

Zerenia is now taking on new patients who wish to join T21, or those who may want to try a different clinic. 

Initial consultations for new patients are priced at £80, for those transfering from a different clinic, £40. Find more information here

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