As British Cannabis Group’s newly-appointed managing director David Ralson delves into where things are headed for the company – and for the future of consumer cannabis products.
British Cannabis Group, makers of the UK’s leading Independent consumer CBD health supplements; Canabidol (R) , Access CBD(R) as well as many other brands powered under their white label division, recently celebrated the appointment of David Ralson, on his promotion from sales director to managing director in July.
David, who has been with the firm from the early days, has seen it grow into the largest and longest-standing independent cannabis company in the UK over the last six years.
“It’s hard to summarise our journey in only a few words, as the road has been long and very eventful,” he admits.
We started out back in 2015 as a small business with a dream. The light bulb moment came when our founder and CEO, Tom Whettem, was inspired by the latest reports coming in from ‘across the pond’ about the benefits of cannabis products and decided to challenge the status quo by developing and launching the first UK made sublingual cannabis / CBD tablet.
“This product at the time reached no.1 on the Amazon UK Herbal Supplements category and, at the risk of using a cliché, demand for the product grew overnight.”
British cannabis group success
This success inspired Tom to invest more into the business and expand into the research and development of more products, including the UK’s first refined, golden and smooth cannabis oil.
Having gained total control of its supply chain, with its own lab, manufacturing facility, warehouse and dispatch and leading testing facility, the firm invested all profits back into the business which led to the development of its cannabis research farm in Portugal.
David has been on board to overcome any challenges and be part of the group’s success story
“We soon became the leading experts in our field and summed this up with the company slogan ‘We know more; Because we do more,” he continues.
“Over this time, the group has had more firsts than Usain Bolt in an Olympic year. We developed the first UK-made golden CBD extract, the first water-soluble CBD, the first UK-made THC free oils and the first clinically proven cannabis cosmetic. as well as a range of supplements with added vitamins which were backed by approved EU health claims. The list goes on and on.”
This continuous programme of research and innovation at British Cannabis has most recently seen the launch of the CBD Dermal patch under their Canabidol pharmacy and retail brand
The results of over 12 months of research and development mean each patch has been designed to deliver all the benefits of the plant via a simple to use dermal application directly to any part of the body, over a 24 hour period.
Unlike other dermal products which have recently appeared on the market, the patches’ unique formula contains 17 natural plant terpenes and essential oils as well as 50mg of pure cannabis-extracted CBD.
“We looked at other products such as gummies and tablets but these are not as effective, as research shows that only a very low percentage of the CBD is actually absorbed by the body once consumed,” explains David.
“We are confident that this terpene and high CBD blend will have a more effective delivery.”
Awards and recognition
Over the years British Cannabis has won awards for its own whole plant-based distillate, as well as a number of accolades across its retail brands including best cosmetic cream and best CBD oil with Canabidol and Access CBD. Meanwhile, its white label and private label partners have also picked up a number of awards for the products we produce for them.
All this success is underpinned by the company’s motto of ‘Legacy Before Currency’ and the passion the whole business has to deliver the best quality, most compliant products on the market.
“We don’t put something out unless we’re satisfied that it is what it says and that it will work for people,” says David.
“Not only are our products working well for consumers, but our set up, with seed-to-shelf capabilities and with over 1,500 product options, all with registered Novel Foods applications, means other brands in recent months have turned to being ‘Powered by British Cannabis’ under our white-label manufacturing.
“With the situation, CBD brands are facing at the moment regarding the Novel Foods and Home office regulations, several high-profile brands have turned to us for help and support. This is because their supply chain from the US or Europe had been interrupted due to the difficulties importing products into the UK, especially ‘full-spectrum formulas and extracts.”
With many manufactures not being able to satisfy the FSA with required safety data or simply not even applying within the correct time frame for the Novel Foods dossier deadlines and the Issues surrounding controlled substances under the Home office misuse of drugs act regulations means British Cannabis offers a safe route to market and reassurance for these brands that have been let down.
British cannabis shipping
In just the first half of 2021, the company shipped over 50,000 bottles of CBD oils alone, between only two of the biggest white label clients (two of the industry’s best-known brands).
“We whole-heartedly believe in the benefit of full cannabis extracts and in getting as much of the plant into products as possible; it’s what we did (THC notwithstanding) for several years,” said David.
“But while we empathise with this cause, we have to maintain a compliant product range so that the industry as a whole can survive and move on. We would encourage any brand that is struggling with its ongoing supply chain, due to regulatory pressures, to get in touch to see if we can help.
“We are unmatched when it comes to these areas, and as we see the market evolve, we are already poised to take the next step as the UK leading independent cannabis company.”
The firm is now investing in a new facility which will see it treble its capacity and ensure staff are well looked after with improved staff benefits; after all, “look after your staff and they will look after your customers”, adds David.
British cannabis analytics
This facility includes a state of the art ISO-accredited testing lab (British Cannabis Analytics) and manufacturing investment, including a new cosmetics line.
As one of 35 testing labs selected to participate in the UK’s Government Chemist ring trial assessment for measuring CBD and cannabinoid content in commercial products, British Cannabis’ Analytics division received a vote of confidence in their product testing services and validation about the reliability and accuracy of their results.
The ring trial represents a coordinated effort to establish effective processes for measuring cannabinoid levels in nutrition, novel food and cosmetics products as they become increasingly available in the UK. The LGC stated that the trial was “very successful”, with 82 percent of labs demonstrating their capability to determine CBD in consumer products successfully.
CEO and founder, Tom Whettem, commented: “Having this amount of trust and faith put into our analytics services is further ratification that British Cannabis’ labs are up to par with other established testing facilities such as the MHRA, Eurofins and British American Tobacco. “After five years of pioneering in the UK consumer cannabis industry, the hope is that the establishment of British Cannabis Analytics will take the company one step closer to becoming a preeminent household name, on a par with legacy firms the likes of British Sugar, British Gas and British Airways.”
The company is also in the process of building a cannabis experience room, which should be ready for clients to immerse themselves in the story of the industry by the end of the year.
The idea came about after the company’s Portugal research and development farm donated a Cannabis sativa L. plant to showcase in the RHS Wisley plant medicines display at its new Hilltop Science Centre.
But the team also realises that they can only stay ahead of the game for so long as an independent company.
Following the recent trend of cannabis companies gaining London Stock Exchange (LSE) listings, David has confirmed that they too are in the process of securing investment.
“We want to ensure our legacy not only continues but that we have the size and scale to truly become a success story for the cannabis sector,” he says.
“With no ties to cigarette or vape companies or another larger parent company backing us, being independent and family-owned is something we continue to be proud of. However, we certainly intend to move with the times and look outward to strengthen British Cannabis for the long term.”
David adds: “I extend my thanks to the team and our customers for the faith they have shown in putting me in this position to lead.
“There’s going to be a great ride ahead of us.”
New research refutes ‘gateway drug’ fears over cannabis legalisation
Young adults consumed less alcohol, cigarettes and other substances following cannabis legalisation in Washington State.
Young adults consume less alcohol, cigarettes and other substances following cannabis legalisation, according to a new study.
A paper published earlier this month by researchers at the University of Washington, found that young people consumed less alcohol, nicotine, and non-prescribed pain medication, after cannabis was legalised for adult-use.
Researchers assessed trends in alcohol, nicotine, and non-prescribed pain reliever use among a cohort of over 12,500 young adults (ages 18 to 25) in Washington State following legalisation in 2012.
Contrary to concerns about the detrimental effects on wider society, according to the study, “the implementation of legalised non-medical cannabis coincided with decreases in alcohol and cigarette use and pain reliever misuse.”
The findings show that prevalence of alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking and cigarette use in the past month, as well as prevalence of past-year pain reliever misuse decreased.
While the prevalence of substance use other than cannabis was “higher among occasional and frequent cannabis users compared to cannabis non-users”, associations between cannabis and pain reliever misuse and heavy episodic drinking “weakened over time”.
However the team did find that the prevalence of past-month e-cigarette use had increased post-legalisation.
They concluded: “Our findings add to evidence that the legalisation of non-medical cannabis has not led to dramatic increases in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and non-prescribed opioids.
“The findings indicate that the most critical public health concerns surrounding cannabis legalisation and the evolution of legalised cannabis markets may be specific to cannabis use and related consequences.”
Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Real-world data from legalisation states disputes longstanding claims that cannabis is some sort of ‘gateway’ substance. In fact, in many instances, cannabis regulation is associated with the decreased use of other substances, including many prescription medications.”
Cannabis legalisation in the UK
Cannabis legalisation is a hot topic in the UK at the moment, following London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fact-finding trip to LA last week. He subsequently announced that he would be launching a review panel to explore the possibility of decriminalisation in the UK.
This has sparked debate among politicians, media personalities and the general public alike.
While Home Secretary Priti Patel shared her thoughts that cannabis can “ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives”, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse described it as an “entry level drug”.
And even Labour refused to get behind Khan, saying the party “does not support changing the law on drugs.”
But recent polling suggests the politicians may be out of touch with the public. YouGov polls show that more than half of Londoners support the mayor’s proposals.
Meanwhile a poll last year revealed that 52 per cent of the population either ‘strongly supported’ or ‘tended to support’ legalisation.
Medical cannabis in the mainstream – the top headlines this week
Get up to date on the week’s headlines.
This week the media has been dominated with responses to Sadiq Khan’s controversial fact-finding mission to LA and plans for cannabis decriminalisation.
Although stories of police raids and cannabis farm busts continue to make up the majority of major cannabis headlines, the mainstream media is increasingly covering new developments in the cannabis space, from policy to patient stories.
Over the past few days, MPs have been responding to Sadiq Khan’s controversial trip to LA cultivators and dispensaries, while the Daily Express reported on a new study about a cannabis-based product aiming to treat chronic pain. Here are the week’s five top cannabis headlines not to miss.
New study into cannabis for chronic pain
Daily Express spoke to the managing director of LVL Health, Tony Samios, about the company’s feasibility study which explores the effects of a cannabis-based product for chronic pain. The study will use cannabis flower in pre-filled cartridges and aims to build the data and evidence needed to improve patient access on the NHS.
Samios told the Express that the study is set to be a “game-changer in bridging the gap between evidence and making change using a rigorous scientific approach” providing “reliable data that is essentially missing”.
Sadiq Khan’s time would be “better spent focusing on knife and drug crime”, says Patel
Priti Patel made her thoughts on Sadiq Khan’s plan to consider cannabis legalisation in London clear in a Twitter post last week.
“Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London. The Mayor has no powers to legalise drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives,” Patel said in the Tweet.
Her rebuke comes after Sadiq Khan’s recent trip to the US which included a fact-finding mission to LA to understand more about an international evidence-based approach to reducing drug-related harm in the capital. The London mayor also announced the launch of a new London Drugs Commission.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse expressed a similar view to Patel. Last week he told The Sun: “I find it baffling that just last week, the Mayor of London thought it appropriate to stage a photoshoot in a cannabis farm in LA, to reiterate his support for the legalisation of this entry level drug. I profoundly wish he would focus on knife crime and violence taking place in the capital instead.”
Khan initially made his plans clear last year prior to his re-election, saying that he would consider decriminalising cannabis in the capital if he were to be voted in as mayor for a second term.
The Labour party’s response to Khan’s cannabis plan
The party’s stance was made clear in a statement that stated: “Labour does not support changing the law on drugs. Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national Government.”
HuffPost UK reported that a number of shadow cabinet members were “furious” at Khan’s comments, including Yvette Cooper. “Yvette is furious about it,” a Labour source told HuffPost UK. “People are just rolling their eyes because it definitely is not the official party line.”
Although it goes against his party’s official stance, Khan’s plan reflects data gathered by YouGov which has found that the majority of UK citizens are in support of cannabis legalisation.
Another source told the online outlet: “Sadiq has positioned himself as a progressive mayor on the side of the public prepared to take on the tough questions to genuinely tackle crime rather than pointless posturing that isn’t even popular anyway.”
Meanwhile, iNews reported that Labour MPs “let rip” in a private WhatsApp group. “This is going to go down like a bucket of cold sick in my bit of the suburbs just now… Crime up, police numbers still way below where people think they should be, so Labour is going to have a chat about drugs… Inspired,” said Gareth Thomas, the Shadow International Trade minister.
Not all Labour MPs have responded negatively, however. The Daily Mail reported on Shadow Cabinet minister Ed Miliband’s response to Khan’s plans. Although he highlighted that Khan did not reflect the Party’s position, he said Labour “welcome[s] Sadiq looking at these issues because this debate should carry on”.
“Cannabis ruins lives and legalising it won’t help”
In response to Sadiq Khan’s US visit, journalist and campaigner Louise Perry offered her opinion in an article for the London Evening Standard. While she said she would be “happy” to see possession of small amounts of cannabis made legal, but added that legalising the cannabis industry is “another matter entirely”.
The article is unlikely to sit well with cannabis campaigners and advocates thanks to its comparison between cannabis and tobacco, a focus on the dangers of psychosis and the lack of attention given to studies showing the positive effects of cannabis on health and wellbeing.
“Industries employ lobbyists to disguise the harmful effects of the products they sell,” Perry writes. “This has happened many times before.
“By the early 50s, the scientific evidence was clear: tobacco was killing people. And yet it would be 20 years until warning signs appeared on the side of cigarette packets sold in the UK. This tardiness was the result of lobbying by the tobacco industry, which opposed health authorities every step of the way.”
Patient faces dispute with council over housing
A man living in Norwich who holds a private cannabis prescription says he is facing difficulties finding a new place to live after being told by the city council to disclose his indoor cannabis use to landlords.
As reported by Norwich Evening News, Danny Wilson is prescribed legal cannabis by TMCC Medical Clinic for chronic pain, ADHD and anxiety. Wilson – who is currently on universal credit and personal independence payments due to his condition – pays between £700 and £1,000 per month for his medication.
Mr Wilson said: “I’ve repeatedly told them forcing me to go around approaching landlords and agents this way is causing me trauma but they ignored me.”
Despite never having being in prison, the city council offered him a place at House of Genesis, a rehoming initiative for ex-offenders.
Medical cannabis in the mainstream – the UK’s top stories
All your cannabis news in one place
There has been a mix of cannabis-related stories in the media over the past week. In case you missed them, we’ve compiled some of the headlines.
This week, news outlets such as The Guardian and The Telegraph have reported on UK medical cannabis labs, cannabis use for fibromyalgia and a rise in drug-driving cases amongst medical consumers.
Inside one of the UK’s first medical cannabis labs
The Guardian’s Julia Kollewe visited a growing lab owned by Celadon Pharmaceuticals, one of the first cultivation sites to be granted a home office licence to grow high-THC medical cannabis in the UK. The site is based in the West Midlands and grows cannabis predominantly for chronic pain. It is one of the only cannabis cultivators in the country to use an indoor lab rather than greenhouses.
According to The Guardian, Celadon is planning to ramp up production, aiming to grow 10 to 15 tonnes a year and supply up to 50,000 patients. At full capacity, the lab could generate £90m in annual revenues.
Founder James Short said: “I speak to patients on a regular basis who can’t work and are in terrible pain each day, that don’t want to be on opioids. Some are having to pay hundreds of pounds each month for medicinal cannabis. It really does work.”
“Massive injustice” – medical cannabis patients facing driving offences
In a less positive story, The Telegraph reported that medicinal cannabis patients are increasingly being prosecuted for drug driving with arrests reportedly doubling in the last four years.
Those taking cannabis may face a positive result in police roadside testing up to 72 hours after taking the drug. Although studies have shown driving capabilities are not impaired after this length of time, patients still face prosecution.
Since 2016, arrests linked with drug driving have increased by 140 per cent, according to police figures obtained by The Telegraph.
But while medical cannabis patients are at risk of arrest, those taking opiate-based prescription drugs are permitted to drive even if they are over the lawful limit, provided they follow their doctor’s advice.
The Telegraph spoke to one patient, David Dancy, who was being prosecuted for drug driving despite the fact he had taken his prescription 12 hours prior to getting in his car. The 33-year-old said the prosecution is “a massive injustice”.
Fibromyalgia and arthritis patient on how cannabis changed her life
Andrea Wright, a medical cannabis patient from Bristol, spoke to The Guardian about her ongoing battle with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. The 39-year-old was diagnosed in 2016, suffering from constant pain and severe lack of sleep. She eventually was forced to leave her job due to her ill health.
“I had to stop work because the pain was too much. It’s been very depressing; I really enjoyed my job. I tried so many different therapies and managed to get my arthritis under control but for fibromyalgia, there isn’t anything, no magical pill,” Wright told The Guardian.
After trying medical cannabis as part of a study run by LVL Health, she found she was able to get her first “proper night’s sleep” since 2012. She is now back at work and now aiming to reduce her reliance on opioid painkillers.
300 campaigners march through streets of Cardiff
Campaigners calling for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK marched through Cardiff city centre this weekend, WalesOnline reported on Saturday (7 May). This was the first protest to take place in Wales since before the pandemic.
The march was organised by Terry Wakefield, who has been involved in cannabis campaigning since 1999. She told WalesOnline that the stigma surrounding cannabis was pushing the trade further underground.
“Cannabis is my medicine. I suffer complex PTSD and this march might sometimes be the only time I’m outside,” she said. “If I was in a position where I could go to my GP and ask for a prescription I would do.
“If we are able to consume cannabis in the UK then we should have a right to grow our own. The more this stays illegal the more it will be pushed underground and the more gangs and slaves in Britain.”
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