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Field of dreams: the CEO of British Cannabis™ on building a legacy

CEO of British Cannabis™, Tom Whettem, talks to Cannabis Health about his journey so far

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Field of dreams: the CEO of British Cannabis™ on building a legacy
Tom Whettem and the team are dedicated to continuing the legacy of British Cannabis.

Entrepreneur  and CEO of British Cannabis, Tom Whettem, on building a legacy his daughter would be proud of and securing the position of largest manufacturer of legal cannabis in the UK.

“My number one goal is to have my son say I love you. People take that for granted… that people talk and say I love you. That’s all I want to hear my son say.”

These words from Jason David, father of epileptic child, Jayden, rocked the world of medical cannabis in April 2013. He described weening his seven-year-old son off 22 prescription pills a day to be replaced by a small dose of cannabis oil, almost immediately putting an end to the constant seizures from which he had suffered since birth.

“The first day I gave it to him was the first day he went seizure-free in his life,” Jason tells his interviewer in a YouTube video that has since been shared thousands of times.

Tom’s journey

For another father, Tom Whettem, these words were powerful enough for him to begin a journey that propelled a small British start-up to become the largest manufacturer of legal cannabis supplements in the UK.

It’s a journey that has seen him play an instrumental role in influencing the regulatory direction of ‘Novel Food’ supplements, working with the EU and member states, supporting trade bodies and securing the position of an industry built around the once-controversial substance.

Field of dreams: the CEO of British Cannabis™ on building a legacy

Tom Whettem, CEO of British Cannabis

When Tom was growing up in Berkshire, UK, attending the same school as Dragons’ Den’s Peter Jones, Cannabis was just an illegal substance.

But all that has changed. As of 31 March 2022 Tom’s company British Cannabis™, now manufactures nine per cent of all CBD food supplements legal to sell in the UK, following successful inclusion on the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) Novel Foods public list.

“It was by chance that I saw that video of Jayden,” says Tom.

“Diagnosed with a rare and catastrophic form of epilepsy, his life was changed overnight by CBD. I saw an opportunity to start a business that could be based on principles I had never experienced before.

Field of dreams: the CEO of British Cannabis™ on building a legacy

CBD by British Cannabis

A path that yielded 

Semi-retired aged 30, this natural-born entrepreneur, had a string of successful businesses after turning his back on traditional employment at the age of 20. Eventually, however, he began to realise that money wasn’t the key to happiness.

“The moment my daughter was born two months premature, my outlook on life changed. I was fortunate enough to have financial stability at that point. Overnight I exited my businesses, relinquished everything self-serving and surrendered myself to the pursuit of happiness,” Tom explains.

“I stopped drinking, smoking, and started eating well, and exercising daily. I went through a transformative change from an egocentric businessman to an altruistic human being. My daily mantra became ‘legacy before currency’ and this is when the journey really started.”

He continues: “I dedicated those five years exclusively to raising my daughter. It was just me and her. Looking back, they were the best five years of my life. We formed a lifelong bond.

“While she learned to walk, talk, read and write, I learned that being a dad gave me more life lessons than I had experienced in the previous 30 years put together.

“I wanted to make a difference, to change the lives of people and leave a lasting legacy to make my daughter proud. When I saw the video of Jayden who was suffering from hundreds of seizures a day and then had his life returned after taking CBD, I didn’t hesitate.” 

British Cannabis™ was born.

A pioneering spirit

They say that pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their back, and for Tom, the story was no less arduous. He persevered and has the scars to prove it.

“There was no CBD on the market in the UK at that time. I knew that even if I made a difference in one person’s life it would be worth it. Little did I know we would improve the lives of thousands of people over the next seven years,” he says.

CBD as a Novel Food

There was no blueprint for the CBD industry in the UK when Tom started. He began from square one. 

“We built the science, the technology and growing methods all from the ground up,” he says.

By far the most monumental challenge has been compliance with the regulatory environment around CBD as a ‘Novel Food’, the classification under which CBD products are now listed in the UK. 

Tom and his team went above and beyond to prove the safety and efficacy of CBD, a task that only a company like British Cannabis™ could have achieved. Getting listed by the FSA was a big deal.

“It was like everything I had done in my life up to this point had led me to this,” says Tom. 

“I was not qualified, I left school at the age of 15 to work instead of going on to further education. I only achieved two GCSEs in English and Maths. I was told I would never get anywhere in life. I guess that has always been my motivation.”

Some of the British Cannabis team

Novel foods are not just about the law

“I was never interested in science at school, but was interested in developing our primary extraction method, THC removal methods, undertaking the first cannabinoid analysis within the business and developing nearly all of the products we sell today,” Tom continues.

“Building our farm from the ground up and living and breathing cannabis every day all gave me the knowledge to demonstrate the safety of CBD as a Novel Food.”

The personal rewards have been huge.

Tom says: “The business has not only enabled me to help so many of our customers but also it’s been instrumental in securing the future of the industry. If we hadn’t done what we did, many lives would be worse off as a result. My legacy before currency mantra is something that has driven every aspect of my life for the last 10 years.” 

“It’s the daily emails and thanks we receive as a team that continue to drive this business.”

He continues: “There is Alfie, a little boy just like Jayden that inspired this journey. We have given him over £50,000 of free cannabis oil after the NHS let him down. As a result of our products, he is now walking, talking and even going to school like a normal child. We have given him the chance of a normal life.

“Then there’s Paul, who had never really met his dad as his father had been struck down with a debilitating illness when he was four. It was only 20 years later when he gave his dad our CBD oil that his father smiled at him for the first time. Imagine that – 26 years of age and it’s the first time your dad smiles and talks to you.”

What sets British Cannabis™ apart from the competition in this emerging market is its dedication to regulatory compliance and professionalism. So where is this business heading? 

“I aspire to a world in which we don’t just stand on the shoulders of giants, but we are standing shoulder to shoulder alongside them. I want British Cannabis™ to be a household name,” says Tom, who still has much more to give to this burgeoning industry.

“After years of being self-funded, having no debt and operating a profitable business, we are now looking for investment. The next stage is to enable others to share this legacy with me and help further accelerate our growth. 

“Everything I do, whatever it is, is dedicated to continuing the legacy that is British Cannabis™.”

For more information visit www.britishcannabis.org

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New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

It aims to streamline the process through which  cannabis patients can access their medicine.

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New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

A new fully digital medical cannabis pharmacy aims to improve the dispensing experience for UK patients.

A new digital dispensing solution has launched in the UK, with the aim of streamlining the process through which cannabis patients can access their medicine.

Through the new system, patients are able to schedule delivery to their home or office, with a 120-minute delivery service in London and Birmingham and next-day delivery across the UK.

Akanda subsidiary, CanMart, has partnered with digital pharmacy infrastructure Phlo Connect and Cellen Life Sciences to bring the project to life.

The process will be increasingly seamless for patients in the near future as Phlo Connect, Cellen and CanMart build additional digital interconnections, Akanda said.

Osteoarthritis: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinics

Tej Virk, CEO of Akanda, said: “Akanda is committed to expanding access to high-quality products for anyone in need, and that is qualified in the United Kingdom, a growing market for medical cannabis.

“Phlo Connect and Cellen are the ideal partners to make this happen, combining the UK’s first fully digital pharmacy with a digital dispensing model that is easy to use, secure, and real-time.

“In the nascent UK medical cannabis market, patients currently suffer from excess friction as the prescription process, and last-mile delivery is disjointed.

“We firmly believe that our solution is the best way to satisfy patients and get our 1P and 3P-supplied medical cannabis in their hands quickly and conveniently, which will greatly improve the patient experience.”

New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

The partnership with Phlo Connect builds on CanMart’s existing partnership with Cellen, a health tech company that provides treatment to chronic pain patients through Leva Clinic, as well as through partners including the NHS, and Boots UK.

The Leva Clinic, which is licensed and regulated by the Care Quality Commission, is one of the first fully digital pain clinics in the UK.

Cellen is also a medical cannabis supplier to Project Twenty21, the large-scale medical cannabis observational study monitored by Drug Science that aims to improve access to medical cannabis.

Adam Hunter, CCO of Phlo Connect commented: “We believe partnering with CanMart and Cellen will be a game-changer for medicinal cannabis patients here in the UK.

“By integrating with both CanMart and Cellen via our API-driven pharmacy platform, we believe that this partnership is the first truly end-to-end digital experience for medicinal cannabis patients in the UK.”

He added: “Our patients require access to new high-quality products without the friction and hassle of traditional dispensing services. This partnership is another example of our continuing efforts to build on our national, established relationships with the wider pharmaceutical community in innovative ways.

“We believe that CanMart’s access to high quality products as well as Phlo Connect’s extensive capabilities in dispensing will go a long way to helping our service to our patients.”

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CiiTECH celebrates five years with five days of CBD offers

CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said.

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ciitech

Cannabis healthcare company CiiTECH celebrates its fifth birthday and reflects on a turbulent half-decade for the CBD industry.

CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said. After what has been one of the most turbulent times for the industry, the firm has achieved six months of stability. With new crypto projects on the horizon and new markets on the cards, the company is gearing up for a period of growth.

CBD is a tough industry to be in right now but that has never stopped CiiTECH CEO and founder, Clifton Flack, from driving the business through regulatory issues and the challenges of an increasingly saturated market.

“When we started the business in 2017 the market was approaching the peak of interest and excitement. Since then, alongside the hundreds of brands that have been born to compete with us, we’ve also faced monumental regulatory pressures and flip-flopping,” Flack said.

“We’re still here though, independent and with a bright future ahead as the coming year ahead brings settled regulations.”

After a stormy start to the year, the FSA delivered on their promise to roll out a framework by which products can be set on a supervised pathway to novel food authorisation. The market is now more difficult than ever to penetrate for new and emerging brands, however it gives established UK CBD companies like CiiTECH an advantage over international companies attempting to penetrate the UK market.

“In parallel, the industry and our peers have had a two year pandemic, Brexit supply chain disruptions and now a cost of living crisis set to put all previous volatilities to shame,” Flack added.

“Now more than ever, cannabis healthcare companies need to take our time, avoid the panic and focus on delivering quality products behind trusted brands that are built for the long term.”

Recently, CiiTECH investigated a stock market listing on the London Stock Exchange but the IPO did not come to fruition.

“As the CEO, I had to make an impossible decision,” Flack said.

“Amongst other things, the timing was just not right. Consumer sentiment and demands are volatile and we found the essence of our company getting lost in bureaucracy at a time when it should have been front of mind.

Yesterday, CiiTECH launched five promotions over five days to celebrate the anniversary of the company.

“As a revenue-driven business, CiiTECH would not be in the position it is today without its army of loyal Provacan customers, so we’re giving back to them the best way we know-how.

“With five days’ worth of promos and freebies to mark five years of success. Our Friday promo emails have become somewhat legendary among our customers but we have never done anything like this before.”

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GPs should prescribe medical cannabis, says industry review

A new review has recommended the roll out of a national trial, permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.

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GPs should prescribe medical cannabis, says industry review
Polling showed strong support for allowing all doctors to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. 

A new UK report has recommended the roll out of a national trial permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.

GPs should be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, according to a new review published on Monday 27 June.

Industry experts have recommended the roll-out of a national trial, which would see GPs permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products, alongside specialist consultants. 

The recommendation was published as part of the Hodges Review, commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI).

The report, which aims to set out how the UK can be a world-leader in cannabinoid innovation, is set to be launched today (27 June) with a speech by MP George Freeman, the minister for science, research and innovation.

US research programme studies cannabinoids in ovarian cancer

GP prescribing 

In the UK, GPs may prescribe as part of a ‘Shared Care’ agreement, under the direction of a doctor on the specialist register, but they are not permitted to initiate treatment themselves.

According to polling data, collected for the review from 1,500 individuals across the UK, between the 9-13th June, 2022, there was strong support for allowing all doctors, not just specialists, to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. 

Two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) believe GPs should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis and more than a third said they would trust their GP to prescribe it to them.

Among 20 recommendations made by the report, the authors suggest an “opt-in model” which would give GPs the option to consent to prescribing cannabis-based medicines and participating in data collection to help inform future guidelines.

In more than 50 countries worldwide where medical cannabis has been made legal GPs make up the majority of prescribers. 

A survey of over 1,000 GPs, published last year by the Primary Care Cannabis Network, found that there was a willingness from UK doctors to prescribe too. 

Almost a quarter (24 percent) said they would be willing to take on the role of prescribing and overseeing medical cannabis treatments and just under three quarters (73 per cent) were open-minded about having a more active role in the field.

Read more: How GPs could open up access to medical cannabis

Quoted in the Hodges Review, Hazel Neavyn-Neita, medical information lead, Althea Life UK and Ireland said: “The cost of supplying product to the UK is roughly 3.2 times higher than supplying product to Australia.

“Allowing GPs to prescribe and widening patient access may increase sales. It would also reduce the costs of consultations for private patients since they could see a GP rather than a specialist consultant. If volumes increase, companies will be able to reduce the cost of manufacture and shipping which will reduce the cost to the patient.” 

Deepak Anand, principal of ASDA Consultancy Services, added: “By not allowing all GPs to prescribe, we’re effectively putting people into the black market, because people are going to try to access this whichever way they can… That is a serious and abject policy failure from a public health perspective by the government. Once we start to see GPs prescribing, you will see a real opening up of the industry in the UK.”

The report also highlighted the need to “take forward commitments” for coordinated data collection, suggesting that GP prescriptions could involve patient enrolment in a national registry to help gather real-world evidence.

Further recommendations include consulting with patient groups and police forces to introduce Home Office guidance for frontline officers to verify patients who have a valid prescription, and creating a single formulary of all available products in the UK to support doctors in prescribing with up-to-date information.

Attitudes towards medical cannabis 

Among those polled, there was broad support for cannabis as a medical treatment.

One in five respondents said they personally know someone whose health has benefited from medicinal cannabis and 63 per cent would be supportive if a family member was taking it to address a health condition.

Only eight per cent said they would be “somewhat” or “very” opposed to it and almost one in seven people admitted that they have used cannabis for “health reasons” themselves. 

Of those who had used cannabis for medicinal reasons (whether prescribed by a doctor or not), 90 per cent experienced positive benefits, including a fifth whose symptoms were “completely resolved”. 

There was also recognition of a need to make cannabis medicines more accessible for patients in the UK, with 59 per cent of those polled believing that the government should help lower the cost of cannabis supplied by private clinics so more people can afford it.

A large majority (64 per cent) of respondents believe the government should do more to support scientific research into cannabis in the UK.

CBD vs Medical cannabis

Although public awareness of medicinal cannabis was lower than of CBD, the report found evidence to suggest that public levels of trust are generally higher. 

When asked about CBD products, the most concerning thing for 43 per cent of respondents was if the product was synthetic and not from natural ingredients, or if the product was not tested for purity. 

Those hesitant to try CBD said they would be most likely to try a product if there was more public information about CBD and how to take it and if the government made it clear that CBD was legal.

The report also claims that where young people are more open to the use of CBD, older people are more likely to report positive views towards medicinal cannabis.

By contrast, young people were more likely to think that medicinal cannabis is “not a serious clinical treatment”.

A total of 59 per cent of respondents believe that in 10 years time the medical benefits of cannabis would be more widespread and accepted.

You can download the full report here

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