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It might come as a surprise to many UK citizens to hear that the UK is already established as global player in the burgeoning legal cannabis market. After all, the products are not widely available for UK consumers to purchase, and there is little to no mention about it in public life. While much of the commercial conversation in the industry focuses on North America, the domestic discourse so far in the UK has focused on local patients, personal stories and generally a lack of infrastructure regionwide.
Yet, figures from the UN’s international Narcotics Control Board paint an almost unrecognisable picture. The figures show the UK is one of the largest legal cannabis producers in the world. If we look at 2016 for example, the UK’s production of legal cannabis doubled to a massive 95 tonnes. To put figure in context, it meant the UK was responsible for growing nearly half of the world’s legal cannabis that year (44.9%) The following year, the UK was then responsible for 69% of global legal cannabis exports, with the majority going directly to the US. Behind the scenes, the UK has been quietly busy becoming one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of medical cannabis.
Since 2000, political developments and mainstream discourse have been changing around cannabis, with more and more European countries developing medical programmes and establishing prosperous industries in the process., According to figures from consultancy firm Prohibition Partners, the European cannabis market could be worth in excess of £100bn by 2028. That’s more than twice the revenues that Apple reported in the region last year.
Progress has certainly picked up speed in the last year. In November 2018, and much sooner than many analysts had anticipated, the Home Office introduced new legislation which made medical cannabis legal. This was after pressure from campaigns of brave patients like Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell who helped make history, with Dingley receiving the first legal cannabis prescription in the country. In the wake of this, ECH has now opened the first medical cannabis clinics in the UK to assist patients with chronic conditions, with two more due to open before the end of the year in Birmingham and London.
From an investment perspective, the positive domestic media attention, a growing global shift in attitudes and an increasing number of countries moving towards legalisation of medical cannabis – have now opened the door for a few UK cannabis companies to float on London’s public exchanges. Already attracting buoyant backing from fund managers, institutional investors and more recently state investment funds.