By Emily Ledger
A start-up company based on the island of Jersey in the British Isles has been granted the second-ever license for the cultivation of medical cannabis in the UK. The first cultivation license was granted over 20 years ago to GW Pharmaceuticals.
The company, Northern Leaf, was founded two years ago and gained its permit in December 2020. It has now been granted a license by the Jersey government in line with UK Home Office rules to begin the cultivation of cannabis plants for medical purposes.
The license allows for a cultivation area of up to 400,000 square feet according to the chief executive of Northern Leaf, Campbell Dunlop. In an interview with the Financial Times, Dunlop stated that “demand is increasing globally and the market is currently undersupplied.”
Northern Leaf will aim to provide cannabis for the production of numerous medical products in European countries such as the UK, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Portugal. The start-up will join larger cannabis suppliers such as Aurora Cannabis, Emmac, and Tilray who also have operations in Europe.
While public attitudes towards medical cannabis are becoming increasingly liberal, in many European countries, this is yet to be meaningfully reflected in domestic and EU drug policy. For example, while the UK legalised medical cannabis in 2018, patient access cannabis-based drugs remains limited, particularly through the National Health Service (NHS).
On the other hand, the cannabis sector has continued to experience noteworthy growth in recent years, with a recent valuation by Brightfield Group revealing that the European market was worth around €330 million in 2020.
Jersey has emerged as a promising contributor to this growth, as the island’s Economic Development Minister revealed plans for Jersey to become a “centre of excellence” for the industry at Cannabis Europa’s 2019 cannabis convention.
Since then, the island has welcomed its first medical cannabis clinic with specialist doctors trained by the medical cannabis company Medicann. In addition, a CBD company based on the island became the first in the UK to be granted a CBD extraction license. This means that the company is able to extract CBD from their own hemp plants as opposed to importing the ingredient from other countries.
With the addition of a medical cannabis cultivation facility, Jersey could be slowly achieving the ambitions of Economic Development Minister Senator Farnham, as a centre of excellence for the growing European cannabis sector.