Despite being illegal in Britain, UK will host its first medical cannabis conference, an international jamboree of weed-based therapies in London. Although it does not have an exact date yet, organizers eye it to be held this October in London.
According to Saul Kaye, the Israeli entrepreneur behind the event, the country is on the verge of decriminalizing marijuana and ushering in a “green rush” of investment. This event is a big leap towards that goal as top giants, a mix of international companies and investors, are planning to attend.
The cannabis industry has already made its mark, creating a multibillion-dollar industry and around 500 companies. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the US, this is grossing around $20 billion as of now and some forecast even says that it may reach $100 billion-mark by 2020.
Kaye confidently made a bold claim stating that he will retire if the UK still doesn’t have a regulated cannabis industry in two years.
Cannabis-related therapies are backed by the supporters saying that these can help manage pain and also treat a wide variety of conditions, from epilepsy to Parkinson’s Disease. Marijuana is deemed to be as a safer alternative when US drug companies producing opioid-based painkillers faced a ton of lawsuits when people allegedly was harmed by it.
So far in UK, only a very small number of cannabis-based drug treatments are approved for use. One of which is Sativex, a peppermint-flavoured mouth spray derived from cannabis produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, which is an approved treatment to alleviate loss of muscle control in people with multiple sclerosis yet it is costly and rarely prescribed.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPRA) has also recognized Cannabidiol (CBD) as possible therapy on its way. CBD is a derivative of cannabis which can be prescribed without containing the psychoactive part of cannabis, called THC, which gives the people the feeling of being “high”.
Kaye estimates the CBD industry UK value is worth £200m already and boasts around 20-30 companies. He assures that he has “been working with the regulator to get better policy”.
The London conference is set to take place at CannaTech, a former brewery in the east of the city with a lot of international companies participating.
Kaye added that the UK has a lot of catching up to do with the US where more than 20 states permit cannabis for medical purposes. He emphasized, “It’s a significant industry that can’t be ignored any more.”
Meanwhile, one of the firms that would benefit if medical cannabis products take off in the UK is GW Pharmaceuticals, the firm behind Sativex. However, Mick Cooper, an analyst at pharmaceuticals consultant Trinity Delta, is skeptical the UK is on the cusp of a green rush.
“They would have the same challenges as any drug developer – i.e. they would have to demonstrate safety, efficacy in a specific indication and consistency of product,” he says.
“It is worth emphasising the manufacturing issue, as the levels of THC and other chemicals produced by a cannabis plant will vary depending on conditions. It might be very difficult to produce a medicinal cannabis that is sufficiently consistent to meet the demands of the MHRA.”
Although cannabis has political pressure that’s building over the past year to legalize cannabis, cannabis could make a breakthrough via different route.
The political atmosphere around marijuana is crucial too for the investors hoping to back a medical revolution. As the US and Israel forge ahead, supporters of the industry say Britain risks failing to stake its claim on a new frontier.