The hemp industry has the potential to boost the economy, create jobs and tackle climate change – but we need to act fast, say those behind the first UK Hemp Manifesto.
Britain’s greatness was built on a thriving hemp industry. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I hemp was so valuable, it was illegal not to grow it – people even paid their taxes with it.
Now Britain is being left behind as the rest of the world cashes in on the hemp renaissance.
These are the views outlined in the UK’s first Hemp Manifesto, put together by experts in the field, including the British Hemp Alliance, Beyond Green and Unyte.
The document makes a compelling case for the as-yet untapped potential of hemp here on British soil. It is calling on the government to recognise and promote hemp as an essential environmental crop and to make the change in policy necessary for the industry to thrive.
The manifesto has been delivered to Number 10 and earlier this week campaigners spoke directly to Michael Gove – former environment secretary and self-proclaimed reformed environmentalist – to educate him on what hemp can do for the British climate.
“The hemp manifesto solves a lot of our UK issues right now,” said Beyond Green’s Sam Cannon, who co-authored the manifesto with the British Hemp Alliance.
“It will boost the economy, tackle green initiatives, create jobs and support the farming industry with a plant that is sustainable and not harmful.
“This has the potential to sort out issues that are directly affecting the people of this country. It’s mind-boggling why they haven’t moved on it already.”
The global hemp industry was worth USD 4.6 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow to USD 26.6 billion by 2025.
In 2018, China made almost $1.2 billion in hemp sales, followed by the US at $1 billion, and all of Europe at $980 million.
Here in the UK the hemp sector is still relatively non-existent.
The manifesto reports that whilst hemp cultivation is growing throughout Europe (33,000 hectares in 2016) the UK lags behind with barely 850 hectares.
“There are so many barriers to growth in the UK and while the rest of the world is opening up to hemp as agricultural crop and seeing a huge renaissance, we are still very far behind and missing out on a lucrative new industry,” said Rebekah Shaman, managing director of the British Hemp Alliance.
“We haven’t looked at hemp as an agricultural crop since 1993 when they gave out the first hemp licences.
“This is the first time there has been a manifesto that very clearly lays out what needs to happen.
“It is offering a new perspective of hemp as an essential agricultural and environmental crop for future generations.”
Under current legislation hemp is not considered an agricultural crop and farmers must apply for a licence from the Home Office. This requires every farmer to provide an enhanced DBS check and for every new field grown, a new licence has to be applied for.
These are then awarded in April, too late for hemp farmers to prepare for the seasonal crop.
In addition, while hemp is under the Home Office farmers are unable to access any funding or support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The flower and leaf of the plant, which contain the cannabinoids, are then prohibited from being used, reducing any potential return they can make on it. This is despite the fact that CBD products can be legally imported into the UK – a market which is currently worth £300million and growing.
The manifesto calls for the Government to remove hemp as a controlled substance from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, permitting the use of the whole plant and to remove all Home Office licencing restrictions.
It also advocates for the descheduling of all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, and seeds of the whole hemp plant, as long as those portions of the plant remain below the THC threshold.
“We’re asking the Government to recognise the importance of this crop in a post-Brexit, coronavirus landscape and remove those crippling barriers,” said Rebekah.
Sam, who alongside Rebekah led the Seed the Future campaign earlier this year to raise awareness of hemp, added: “We can import CBD products from other countries but farmers in the UK have to destroy the leaves. If they were allowed to use them it would become a viable crop for them because of the potential return that they can get on it.”
He continued: “Hemp will bring new innovation to farming, inspiring a new generation of young farmers to come through into a cool industry, that’s sustainable and can do so much good.”
Then there’s the small matter of the climate. The UK has signed up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, pledging to become Net Zero by 2050. The manifesto highlights how hemp could have a huge role to play in helping reach those targets.
Growing four metres in just four months, hemp requires little or no pesticides and absorbs 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare – 25 times that of the equivalent size rainforest.
Rebekah said: “The Government has signed up to these green initiatives and here is a crop that could potentially support them in meeting their targets and yet they’re not recognising that there’s a potential solution here.”
But we need to act fast. With the rest of the world already ploughing on with production, we risk becoming importers of hemp rather than producers, according to Rebekah.
“Five years down the line America and other countries will be so far in the innovation and manufacturing process that we won’t be able to catch up,” she said.
“This is about highlighting this is a profitable crop that everyone should be able to benefit from – the farmers, the rural economy and small businesses that want to sell products to feed their families.
“The hemp boat is in the port and if we don’t act now to remove the barriers it will be too late.”
The manifesto also asks that the Government dedicate a proportion of the green jobs plan, promised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Green Jobs Summer 2020 Statement, to the hemp industry.
“The ideal scenario is that Gove comes back and organises a sit-down with the Prime Minister and says let’s stop mucking around,” added Sam.
“Let’s be the entrepreneurs that this country is thought to be. We should be allowed to drive this forward and let the hemp industry thrive.”
“CBD is such a powerful product, it needs to be available on the NHS”
Why does the woman behind a new CBD brand want to see products available on the NHS? Founder of Medrar Wellbeing, Jo Cunliffe reveals why cannabis is more than a money-making opportunity for her.
In 2011, Jo Cunliffe was given the news that every daughter dreads. Her dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
When he was admitted to a hospice in August 2012, doctors told the family to prepare for the end. But Jo wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“They told us to prepare ourselves, that he was going to die imminently – I wasn’t ready for that to happen,” she says.
Jo had heard of Rick Simpson cannabis oil being used to treat cancer patients in America, so she contacted the producers, but her dad was too sick to travel to California.
“There were so many hurdles, I couldn’t risk it, but speaking to them made me feel less alone and actually I could do this myself,” says Jo.
She risked criminalising herself to source cannabis illicitly and make her own oil which she administered to her dad in the hospital.
“After two weeks he was sitting up, after four weeks he was walking and after 10 weeks they discharged him as no longer terminal,” she says.
“The only thing we changed was giving him the oil.”
But the rest of the family were concerned about what the repercussions would be if they were found out.
“I would have gone to prison to save my dad, to me it didn’t matter, but my family didn’t want to be a part of it,” says Jo.
“They were scared that now he was in our care if anything happened and they found out about the cannabis oil we would get in trouble.
“In the end I couldn’t battle with them anymore and had to stop giving him the oil, but it was obviously really upsetting and caused a bit of a rift in our family.”
Jo’s dad passed away in January 2013, aged 60.
Since then she has been campaigning for wider knowledge and understanding of the benefits of medical cannabis – particularly for cancer patients – approaching MPs and lobbying leading organisations such as Cancer Research UK.
Now, after years of research and testing products, Jo is launching her own CBD brand.
The first product available from Medrar Wellbeing is a CBD balm, used by customers to help ease pain relief, insomnia, anxiety.
It won her investment and a mentor from the Westmont Enterprise Hub University of West London in London and she has been working with them since to launch her brand – albeit slightly slower than hoped due to covid.
But this is not about making a quick buck. Jo is using it as an opportunity to collect much needed data and evidence of the efficacy of CBD.
When consumers buy the balm online they have the option to sign up to a membership page, where they can record when they used the product and what results they saw.
“There is not enough research being done and the Government is not going to fund it, so it’s up to the producers to step forward,” says Jo.
“People have been taught this dark perception of what cannabis is and we need to spend some time reeducating people about the benefits of it.
“I could have sold the same white label products as everyone else but I want to do this differently, launching one product at a time and proving that it works.”
She then plans to submit the findings to researchers at the University of West London, in what she hopes could be the first steps to having CBD classed as a medicinal product and made available to patients via NHS prescriptions.
“CBD is such a powerful product that can help so many people, I’d like to see it proven that it is medicinal and available on the NHS, ” she says.
“The Government could issue licenses to producers and support them to step up and do this research.”
However, she recognises that this won’t go down well with everyone in the industry.
“I know some companies won’t like it because they are scared that something they have put time and money into will be taken away from them, but we have allowed CBD to become this massive white label product, which has diluted the market,” she adds.
“We live in a world where everybody just wants to make money, but there are few of us who just really care about people.
“I wouldn’t be how I am today if I hadn’t seen first hand how medical cannabis helped my dad and the difference that it can make.”
The future is CBD
CBD has been transformative for Dave Singh, founder of Future CBD, and now he’s helping others reap the benefits too. He tells Cannabis Health why the future looks bright.
A few years ago Dave Singh could barely get out of bed.
Due to a myriad of health conditions, including back pain, diabetes, slipped discs, sciatica and epilepsy, the vape shop he had run for 10 years in Walsall, in the West Midlands would often stand closed.
But after he discovered CBD a few years ago Dave claims he hasn’t had a seizure since. Not only this but he’s been able to come off several heavy duty painkillers – which included tramadol and diazepam – and has noticed an improvement in his mental health.
“At one point, I physically couldn’t get out of my bed, I couldn’t move,” said the 40-year-old.
“Doctors kept giving me different medications, I tried acupuncture, orthopaedic mattresses, a chiropractor, hypnotherapy, physiotherapy, whatever you can think of I tried it.
“Now I still have pain but it’s nothing like it used to be, I can get out of bed every day and I’m taking a lot less medication, which means I have a lot less side effects as a result.”
However, it took Dave a while to find a CBD product that worked for him. After trying several well-known brands from the US and the UK and feeling they were ineffective, he became disheartened with the industry.
“I tried all these different products and I found they were either too expensive, not worth the money or I would have to take more and more to feel any effect – I just wasn’t happy with any of them,” he said.
With over 10 years experience in the vaping industry, Dave saw an opportunity to expand into the rapidly growing world of CBD and offer the product that he had been looking for himself.
After doing his research and consulting with a handful of UK, US and European companies, he launched his first 1,000mg, full spectrum CBD drops, and Future CBD was born.
The brand now stocks a wide range of products from CBD skin care to edibles and drinks and has built up a trusted reputation, both locally and across the UK.
“I’ve always had a good reputation in the vaping industry, I’m not going to sell a product if it’s a copy or if I think it is of poor quality, and I took the same approach to CBD,” said Dave.
“Customers are sometimes put off because we’re not a health shop, but every single person has come back.”
With his own experience of using CBD to draw on, Dave makes a point of providing a personalised service for his customers, sometimes spending up to an hour with them to make sure they leave with the right product for them.
“The word is spreading about CBD, but people still need a lot of education that it’s not going to make them high and it’s not a drug,” he said.
“It can help with your own personal health but we’re clear that it’s not a medicine.”
Dave continued: “I’ll spend time with a new customer and go through everything, answering all their questions. I always ask them to give me a call or pop into the shop, because I’ve been on so many medications myself, I like to find out a bit about their own background and health concerns so I can offer them advice.”
With the Food Standards Agency’s novel food guidance due to come into force from March 2021, some in the industry are worried about the impact the regulations might have on smaller, family-run companies such as Future CBD.
But Dave welcomes the regulation, believing it will bring much-needed credibility to the sector.
“I think the industry is just going to get better and better,” he said.
“There’s a lot of brands out there making false claims, with products which are overpriced, have unclear labelling and ultimately don’t work – hopefully these are going to be weeded out by March. They are giving CBD a bad name.”
Dave added: “If a person was to have a bad experience with a CBD product it puts them off trying any other CBD brands, because they think it’s all the same.
“CBD can be amazing, we receive so much positive feedback from customers about all the different ways it has helped them.”
New North Macedonian facility to export medical cannabis extracts to global markets
A new 17,800 m2 indoor cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility has opened in Skopje, North Macedonia.
This is the PHCANN International’s second cannabis facility in North Macedonia.
The facility, which has an annual flower production capacity of up to 15,500kg, will manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients in herbal form and export finished medical cannabis products, including dried flower (subject to the passing of a cannabis flower export law) and oils to global markets that allow legal medical cannabis.
PHCANN has also integrated a fully equipped cannabinoid research and testing laboratory into the facility to research the microbiology and stability data of cannabinoids in all forms, according to German standards. The lab is built to ensure that all products are made to the highest standards – from planting to packaging to storage – for patients in need around the world.
“The opening of our second cannabis facility in North Macedonia is a significant opportunity for PHCANN to provide pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products worldwide,” said Zlatko Keskovski, PHCANN’s CEO. “Over the next five years, we expect Europe to become the largest medical cannabis market in the world. As such, this facility will enable the Company to meet the demand from the U.K., Germany, Poland and other countries that are starting to adopt pharmaceutical cannabis in the EU, as well as other international markets such as Australia and Brazil.
“PHCANN’s philosophy has always been to keep the patient at the heart of what we do, and we have implemented advanced technologies to ensure that only the highest-quality pharmaceutical-grade products are produced at our facility.”
In recent years, growing evidence of cannabis’ therapeutic value in treating a variety of diseases and conditions – from cancer treatment to pain management to sleep disorders – has led to a shift in public perception around medical cannabis and a wave of medical cannabis legalization across Europe.
However, despite medical cannabis’ growing demand, there are a limited number of Europe-based facilities producing legal, high-quality, cannabinoid-based products. Launching this facility will allow the Company to scale its production and expand its footprint into new markets in 2021.
“PHCANN’s new facility provides a highly competitive advantage with its pharmaceutical products, combined with scalable, low-cost production,” added Yuval Soiref, PHCANN’s Founder and Director. “With PHCANN leading the way, North Macedonia is now on the map for producing pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis, and our vision is to become one of the largest providers of medicinal cannabis to the EU and other global markets. Our next steps are the validation, qualification and inspection for EU GMP certification for the new facility. We aim to launch products from this facility to the market in 2021.”
- Why are women more likely to use medical cannabis than men?
- Community extends support to cannabis icon Rick Simpson
- CBD has no adverse effects on health – study
- UCLA receives US$6.4 million to fund cannabis research
- How CBD could help you quit smoking
- “CBD is such a powerful product, it needs to be available on the NHS”
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