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GW Pharma takeover marks ‘turning point’ for cannabis market

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"As times are changing and attitudes adjusting, more and more companies are getting involved with the cannabis sector."

The $7.2 billion takeover of medical cannabis giant GW Pharmaceuticals marks a ‘notable turning point’ for the cannabis market, with industry experts predicting more deals on the way. 

Europe’s first Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) focused on cannabis, says the decision by traditional pharma company JAZZ Pharmaceuticals to purchase GW Pharma is a notable turning point for the medical and wellness cannabis market.  

It expects to see further activity, with the sector still in the early phase of its growth to become a more mainstream consumer and healthcare category. 

The Medical Cannabis and Wellness fund UCITS ETF (CBDX), the first ETF to give access to the medical cannabis space in Europe, has now reached $56 million assets under management, making it the first to reach the $50 million level.

It provides access to companies active in the medical cannabis space that have been screened to ensure their legality for investment across Europe.

CBDX says foresight into the proliferation of the cannabis industry is becoming clearer, in part due to the recent tide of change from US elections. 

However, it believes that where the initial focus had been on US medical proliferation, the announcement of the $7.2 billion acquisition of GW Pharma could see attention quickly shift to the pharmaceutical cannabinoid side of this emerging theme. 

 “GW Pharma is the global leader in developing and commercialising a cannabis derived drug platform which has achieved regulatory approval in multiple jurisdictions in Europe and North America,” commented Nawan Butt, portfolio manager of The Medical Cannabis and Wellness UCITS ETF.

“Their current products, derived directly from the cannabis plant, address a broad range of diseases including the treatment of seizures associates with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), Dravet Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), all of which are rare diseases characterised by severe early onset epilepsy.

“In addition to their achievements with regulators, GW Pharma has a deep pipeline of cannabis-derived drugs as well as highly specialised manufacturing expertise combined with over two decades of pioneering cannabinoid science experience.

“The company’s first two products were rapidly scaled, achieving approximately US $510 million in annual sales within two years of launch.”

Butt continued:  “When GW Pharmaceuticals started, most global pharma companies were hesitant to work with cannabis, ignoring centuries of evidence there were some health benefits. As times are changing and attitudes adjusting, more and more companies are getting involved with the sector.  

“We are very proud to provide European investors with Europe’s first medical cannabis ETF, CBDX. It provides a legal and efficient way for investors to buy an index made of a representative group of medical cannabis companies in a single trade.”

The European listed Medical Cannabis ETF has just completed its first-year anniversary listing on Deutsche Boerse and London Stock Exchange in January 2020. 

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Cannabliss to open brick and mortar dispensary

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Michael Dobson - Cannabliss founder

UK-based medical cannabis group, Cannabliss aims to help patients transition from the illicit market into the legal cannabis space.

Following a long, “drawn-out” application process, Cannabliss has secured a pharmacy licence for dispensing medical cannabis through its online platform.

Now, after handing out its first private prescription this month, the company has announced it will be opening a brick and mortar site in Preston in April 2021.

Set to open on 12 April, the store will sell legal, over-the-counter cannabis-based products and also offer advice and guidance to people who are seeking to secure a medical cannabis prescription.

Cannabliss was founded by Michael Dobson, who was involved in a legal battle for several years over the legality of cultivating cannabis plants. In a saga that climaxed with him taking the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to court, he fought for a judicial review of cannabis legislation.

Having spent many years involved with the illicit cannabis market, including a period behind bars for growing several of his own plants, Dobson is now on a mission to widen access to legal medical cannabis.

“The vast majority of people have very little understanding of the legal cannabis market,” he tells Cannabis Health.

“What we’re doing is effectively creating a concierge service in which we help guide [people] through the process of becoming a legalised cannabis patient.”

Cannabliss says it aims to build trust with its customers and establish itself as a “go-to” place for trusted information about the medical cannabis landscape.

Dobson explains: “Customers have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with somebody who specialises in this particular area, rather than it just being a vape shop or health food store that has added cannabis products to its already existing range.

“If we do have somebody coming in and asking about the process of getting access to medical cannabis, we can explain that to them.”

Currently, in the UK, there are qualifying conditions that must be met before being considered for cannabis-based treatment.

Although an estimated 1.4 million people consume cannabis for medicinal purposes, very few can access it via a prescription.

Dobson believes that there is a “great deal” of people that could meet the criteria for a medical cannabis prescription but have never considered it due to the cost and exclusivity of private healthcare.

He says Cannabliss will provide support to its customers if they choose to go through the official process.

“Even though the prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, we still think there’s going to be a hurdle to overcome in terms of breaking down that barrier; that stigma that is there for a lot of people,” he says.

The company is already putting plans in motion to expand into a franchise with two provisional stores set to open this summer in Leicester and Essex.

As part of this franchising effort, Cannabliss aims to provide opportunities for people who may have previously been involved with the illicit cannabis market.

Dobson believes that it is “morally right” to give people the chance to enter the burgeoning legal market.

“I always wanted to include as many people as possible within what we’re doing, and support people that have been in a similar position to myself,” Dobson adds.

“We will not discriminate on somebody because they maybe have a criminal history like myself.

“In actual fact, these people are actually the best people to have running our franchises because they’re so knowledgeable.”

Dobson also believes that this approach could help reduce the influence and scale of the illegal market.

“By removing people from the illegal market and bringing them into the legal market, you’re getting rid of the black market rather than putting something in place that’s in competition with it,” he says.

Looking ahead, Dobson says the company is feeling “very positive”. It has formed partnerships with suppliers in the UK and Europe, including a distribution agreement with Canopy Growth Corporation subsidiary, Storz and Bickel, for its range of medical-grade vaporisers.

“It’s going very well and we’re anticipating a lot of interest,” Dobson adds.

“Feedback that I’m getting from different people [in the sector] is that a lot of people are interested in what we’re doing, how we’ve got to where we’ve got to and, in particular, my backstory and how that fed into the whole ethos of what we’re trying to do.

“I feel very strongly that the UK is going to become a world leader in the legalised cannabis space over the next few years and I’m looking forward to playing my own small part in that.”

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Twitter’s Katie Ford joins Fyllo to focus on cannabis sector

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Katie Ford - former head of global brands for Twitter

Tech and media leaders are shunning social media giants to bring their expertise to the cannabis industry.

Twitter’s former head of global brands, Katie Ford has announced she is joining cannabis marketing company Fyllo as chief operating officer.

Fyllo is working with major cannabis companies to enable them to advertise to mainstream consumers.

Ford was previously at Twitter where she served for the past two years as head of global brands and is one of the biggest names in digital media, with a career built at Fortune 100 media & technology companies at the intersection of data, marketing, and creativity. 

She spent two plus decades at Publicis Media, rising to the rank of president where she was the Executive lead on P&G, Coca-Cola, USAA, and Kellogg’s accounts.

During her time at Publicis she was recognized by Ad Age as one of the “Women to Watch,” and by Campaign US, as a leading “Media Maven.” 

From there she joined Amobee’s executive team as chief client officer, where she was integral in delivering two successful acquisitions within 18 months, along with achieving positive EBITDA with over $1billion in annual revenue. 

The Fyllo Compliance Cloud is a suite of software and services built to overcome the complexities of highly regulated industries.

With 2021 shaping up to be a transformational year for cannabis, Fyllo now allows cannabis brands to market themselves at a scale that has never been possible for companies that operate in highly regulated industries.

Mainstream brands also seek out Fyllo’s Data Marketplace to target previously inaccessible cannabis and CBD consumers.

Ford was the first person to be appointed to Fyllo’s board of directors, a role she’s held since 2019.

“Katie has been an incredible partner since day one, always believing in the company and its mission,” said Chad Bronstein, founder and CEO of Fyllo.

“She was the first person to join our Board and has been instrumental in Fyllo’s creation, growth and development.”

Ford added: “Fyllo has built incredible products and proven their business model in a very short period of time.

“I look forward to being part of Fyllo’s success as we build breakthrough solutions for companies in highly regulated industries like cannabis, pharma, and alcohol.”

As COO, Ford will depart Fyllo’s board of directors to assume her new executive position.

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Kanabo brings its unique VapePod to UK patients

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The VapePod can administer a measured dose of cannabis extract

Following its listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) cannabis company Kanabo is set to make its unique vaporiser available to UK patients. 

A week after it became the second company to list on the LSE, Israeli firm Kanabo, has announced it will supply its medical-grade inhalation device, VapePod and a line of medicinal cannabis formulations in pods for the UK market. 

The company has signed its first distribution agreement with the UK’s biggest cannabis clinic provider, LYPHE Group, which is part of Drug Science’s Project Twenty21. 

Through this new agreement, Kanabo’s VapePod medicinal cannabis formula, will be made available to Project Twenty21 patients under LYPHE Group’s brand NOIDECS.

Kanabo seeks to provide an alternative solution to the smoking of medicinal cannabis flowers.

The VapePod will be the first product of its kind, a medical-grade handheld vaporiser with controlled metered dosage, made available to UK cannabis patients with a medical prescription. 

It can administer an accurate, measured dose of cannabis extract, which the company hopes will improve patient access and boost trust amongst medical professionals.

The initial formula, which Astral Health will distribute under the name NOIDECS 400T, is based on the Israeli medical cannabis pharmacopoeia as a recommended ratio for pain management. 

Kanabo and Astral Health will work closely to make the products available to patients over the coming months.

Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s CEO commented: “We believe this new product will be revolutionary for medical cannabis patients who need immediate relief of pain, and will replace the smoking of cannabis flowers as a medical delivery method, which is one of Kanabo’s main targets.”

Kanabo founder, Avihu Tamir

Project Twenty21 provides eligible patients with affordable medical cannabis treatment, monitored by Drug Science and aims to create the UK’s largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis.

LYPHE Group announced its partnership with Project Twenty21 in December to bring a range of EU-GMP and equivalent GMP medicines to the UK.

LYPHE Group, which has more than 60 percent of the British patient market, recently entered into a supply partnership with Canadian manufacturer, Northern Green to bring a range of indoor grown flower-based products to the market.

Dean Friday, LYPHE’s CEO added: “We have seen the headlines, and we have witnessed the negative impact of opioids. Pain is not going to go away, so a more natural and caring approach to treating it must find centre stage. Thanks to our partnership with Kanabo we now have a metered dose NOIDECS product that can treat patients across the U.K. that suffer from chronic pain.”

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