Medicinal cannabis 'is worth millions'

GROWING medicinal cannabis in the Channel Islands could increase the economic output by £300m. a year, according to an industry expert.

Chris Callaghan, chief science officer of Jersey Hemp. (Picture by Rob Currie, 21281122)
Chris Callaghan, chief science officer of Jersey Hemp. (Picture by Rob Currie, 21281122)

Chris Callaghan, the chief science officer at Jersey Hemp, says the European medicinal cannabis market is expected to be worth £30bn within the next two years.

He said recently that if Jersey entered the market early on it is not ‘unreasonable’ to believe the island could take between 1 and 5% of the EU market.

He has since said Guernsey could benefit from working with Jersey.

‘The space is large enough for all the islands to benefit without competing with each other as global supply is not keeping up with demand,’ he said.

‘Inter-island cooperation could also significantly increase the island’s standing in the industry.’

Mr Callaghan, who achieved a Phd in environmental plant biochemistry and molecular biology from Newcastle University, also said that much of the infrastructure needed to grow the crop already existed on the islands, left over from the flower, tomato and potato industries.

He added: ‘The pros [of growing medicinal cannabis] could see many of the dilapidated greenhouses restored to their former glory as well as retaining much of the agricultural knowledge acquired from the historical tomato and flower industries.’

He said that ‘considerable investment’ would be needed to renovate and update the existing infrastructure to conform with the good manufacturing practices and good agricultural practices required for the cultivation and production of medicinal products.

However, Mr Callaghan said the medicinal cannabis industry could be a major boost for the economy and that if the Channel Islands received just 1% of the European market it would generate £300m. per annum.

‘The European medical cannabis market is expected to exceed the value of the US, with some estimates valuing the market at £30bn by 2020,’ he said.

‘As an early-stage entrant into the market it would not be unreasonable to take 1-5% of the total EU market.

‘A 1% market share would increase the GDP by about 10% and at 5% the medical cannabis market would rival the local finance industry.’

Policy & Resources Committee president Deputy Gavin St Pier reacted on social media saying there was ‘absolutely nothing’ standing in the way of the industry getting started.

‘The door is firmly jammed open,’ he said.

‘It just needs someone to rock up, apply for a licence and get on with it.

‘There are several interested groups who have been engaging with government and others for a while so I am sure it is a question of when, not if.’

The 2019 Budget said such an industry could fall within the scope of the company higher income tax rate of 20% if the growing of the plant for the production of industrial hemp, food supplements or medicinal products becomes a ‘licensed activity’.

Health & Social Care said the growing of medicinal cannabis is a highly regulated process, and is covered locally by the provisions of the Medicines Law.

‘It is perfectly possible for a local operator to apply and to be licensed for such an operation under the current law, but they would need to evidence they could meet the regulations before such an operation could be approved,’ it said.

‘They would also need to provide very detailed documentation not only to the States of Guernsey but also the The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency who we would need to bring in to oversee the pharmaceutical manufacturing processes as we do not have the expertise locally.’

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