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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