Getting Cannabis Licenses in the UK

We sat down with Two firms who want to supply medical cannabis to UK patients

Medical cannabis has been legal since November 1st 2018 and yet patients are still having difficulty accessing products. We sat down with two companies, one big one small, who want to fill that gap.

Nick Curtis, runs Acle Urban Gardens, a hydroponic grow shop in Norfolk. His company applied for a license to produce medical cannabis in November but only received a request for more information from the Home Office in February, Nick’s experience suggests that with legalisation there hasn’t been support for businesses who want to supply the new medical market, “there wasn’t even a direct contact number.”

Nick’s bespoke-design Urban Buddy Grow lights put out full spectrum light which allows a banana tree to flourish indoors

We also spoke to Cosmo Feilding, of Spectrum Biomedical UK. Spectrum is the joint venture of Canopy Growth, the largest cannabis company in the world, and Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, a company developed to “research and develop innovative cannabis-based medicinal products” for patients in the UK. Beckley Canopy Therapeutics aims to utilise the Beckley Foundation’s knowledge in “pioneering psychedelic research and drive evidence-based drug policy reform” and Canopy’s “expertise in production and formulation of pharmaceutical quality” cannabis products.

For Cosmo it’s important “not to lose sight of what an important movement” the law change in November represents, “but patient access is still extremely difficult.” The Beckley Foundation has an existing joint venture with the Canadian company. Beckley Canopy Therapeutics which was formed to take Canopy products through clinical trials in the UK with the end goal of producing a pharmaceutically consistent product that can be licensed as a medicine. Current medical cannabis products are not licensed as a medicine within the UK and so products must be sold as unlicensed or ‘specials’. Spectrum UK was formed because “there is a need for medical cannabis now for all the patients in extreme clinical need.”

As to what the government is looking for when it awards these licenses, that’s less clear. Nick believes that the government is looking for companies that have a buyer straight away, and has been in talks with potential buyers from Canada. For Cosmo, the important factor will be the “proper, large scale research” at Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, that should give the government the assurance it’s seeking, “the regulators are not yet comfortable and we are determined to stay on the right side of them”

Five licences needed to supply medical cannabis in the UK

Possess controlled drugs£3,133
Supply, or offer to supply, controlled drugs£3,655
Produce preparations containing controlled drugs£4,178
Produce controlled drugs£4,700

Cultivate cannabis
£4,700

Both companies are confident in their applications, but once they have permission there is still the practical matter of selling it. As an unlicensed medicine “there is no marketing” says Cosmo, Nick is more sanguine, “If you build it, they will come”.