The Isle of Man (located in the middle of the Irish Sea, between Ireland and the U.K.) is attempting to enter the cannabiz, and in a big way.
Peel NRE, a local firm, has outlined proposals to build an indoor cultivation facility and is currently asking for views from the public. The enterprise is just one of several belonging to John Whittaker, a billionaire and island resident. The planned complex would include cultivation units, plus research and development facilities.
According to the finance director Chris Eves, there has “never been a better time to grow the industry than the post-pandemic era.” Licenses for the production and export of medicinal cannabis have been available since June 2021 on the island.
Indeed, Eves said that it was the change in the law on the island, along with the zoning of the company land for employment use, that allowed such plans to progress.
Initial planning applications are still on the drawing board but will be submitted later this year.
Will The U.K.’s Islands Drive Cannabis Reform on The Mainland?
Progress towards legalization in the U.K. has moved forward in fits and starts for the past couple of years. Theoretically it is possible to obtain a medical cannabis prescription here, but in reality, the only people getting access are those willing to pay for private doctors (i.e. not on the NHS or national healthcare insurance that covers everyone who is legally allowed to live in the U.K.), and those willing to face down the Home Office and apply for individual licenses with a willing doctor.
It has literally taken dying children and showdowns at Heathrow over imported (medical) CBD oil to move the needle, and so far, it has not moved much.
In the meantime, the CBD industry has struggled to get certifications and licenses in an environment where the cultivation of any part of the cannabis flower remains illegal on the mainland.
However, the picture appears to be different on islands off the mainland. This starts with the Channel Islands of both Jersey and Guernsey where efforts have been underway for several years to get cultivation and processing off the ground for (at minimum) a medical market.
That said, unlike the Channel Islands, Isle of Man residents will not be able to use the drug they produce until further reform happens locally. The island government passed a resolution in January 2021 to legalize the growing, production, and export of medical cannabis. In the meantime, patients who attempt to cultivate are still being fined and prosecuted.
On the mainland, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has pledged to begin a unique new decriminalization trial in two of the city’s boroughs.
When Is Real Reform Coming to the U.K.?
This is a question many on the ground are asking, particularly post-Brexit and post-COVID. However, with ethics, sex, and other scandals engulfing the British Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and the largest police force in the country, it appears that things are a bit rocky politically at the moment. Cannabis reform is going to be far down the list of things to get done, in spite of those who have run on pro cannabis reform platforms of late — from Germany to Louisiana.
This is particularly salient because post-Brexit, the U.K. is diverging from European regs and laws not to mention looking at dire figures when it comes to living standards and employment. That said, tragically, the Labour government and its leaders have repeatedly dropped the ball on this issue and everyone else is too busy defending themselves from the latest scandal du jour.
What Is Likely to Happen?
Cannabis reform at this point is a zeitgeisty political issue everywhere. Given the major money now backing reform in the U.K., it is unlikely to hold the tide back much longer on domestic reform, even in small and incremental steps. Indeed, this is clearly what Khan is banking on, beyond disgust with the rampant problems that have surfaced at the Metropolitan Police Service (the country’s largest police force).
Expect to see other city trials after London’s kicks off. Not to mention the issue’s day in Parliament. Beyond this, as an economic booster, the issue is a no-brainer.
And who knows? It may even attract some oddball, well-known figures, looking for alternative sources of income, no matter whose nose they put out of joint in doing so. Dodgy reputation might even help.
Prince of York cannabis, anyone? Harry, after all, is living in Cali, now.
Marguerite Arnold is a veteran cannabis industry journalist, covering the market from Germany since 2013. Her second book, Green II: Spreading Like Kudzu, about the inside story of the first German cannabis cultivation bid, is on sale now in English and German.