Key topics covered in the panel session, chaired by Dr Colin Morgan of ADAS, were:
- Exploring the current UK restrictions on cannabis growing
- Looking at changes and challenges presented by UK and EU regulations
- The future of sustainable cannabis farming in the UK – as a potential world leader
The panellists had many views on the topics, and there were some clear opportunities and barriers to the UK cannabis market raised which are outlined here.
The panellists saw Brexit as an opportunity. A potentially divergent legislation for cannabis cultivation could provide opportunities for the UK to work with and develop new cannabis varieties that could offer a range of different benefits – such as use in fibre production to help build sustainable biomaterial-based value chains. Further de-regulation could permit the UK to grow a range of varieties for different purposes and expand the range of outputs. For example, it is currently not permitted in the UK to produce CBD oils from flowers, however, panellists described this as a “CBD trade deficit”. It was felt that rather than importing CBD for use in the UK market (as is the current situation), UK growers could produce quality CBD themselves, meaning that sourcing such products could be local and more sustainable.
The session members saw capacity building as a challenge to the expansion of the sector. Brand building was another area where the panellists thought there could be further development. The CBD market is growing fast, and yet not all consumers know the full story of the products they consume. Supply chains are not always transparent, and brands need to build better supply chains to ensure practices are ethical and sustainable. For a product that is often sold on the basis of living a sustainable lifestyle, many operators are not clear on the sources of the products they are selling, and this introduces significant risk to them and the sector.
There was also discussion about terminology in the cannabis sector and the confusion that can be caused to consumers and potential producers from a range of different terms. This topic emerged several times during the event, revealing a need to use a single term to describe the plant (Cannabis sativa L.) and then supplementing this with information about the key molecules (e.g. CBD, THC) and applications and uses, e.g. recreational, medicinal, health and wellbeing, or industrial hemp for seed and fibre. The confusion of terms in the marketplace is not supporting transparency, and terms are often used interchangeably in the same sentence.
Looking to the Future
There is much to do in this sector. Overall, panellists felt that the UK had a significant role it could play, post-Brexit, as a major force in quality production and development from farm to consumer. However, to achieve this, more is needed to be done for regulatory clarity, and for development of quality brands based on trust and high production values.
One question for interested parties to consider is “Where does your proposition fit in the value chain?” and for growers especially “Where is the final destination of your produce?”. It is important to ensure that due diligence is practised and to ensure that only work with licensed and reputable operators is practised. ADAS brings a trusted offer to the marketplace and we are pleased to support our customers as they look to explore the market and set up operations, particularly where there is a clear focus on sustainable production and the creation of sustainable value chains.
Recent ADAS Experience
ADAS is one of the key trusted organisations in the agriculture, food and environment sector regularly attending events and speaking on the topic. ADAS launched the Cannabis Value Chain Service in 2018 and have been pleased to help a number of organisations on their journey. The biggest challenges facing the sector, and those who have contacted us, are regarding the development of robust and legal value chains, licensing, regulations, and questions about growing and harvesting practices. Those wishing to enter the sector have also contacted us because they want to focus on the sustainability benefits of the plant as a crop and the related claimed benefits of the plant itself.
If you want to know more about how the legal cannabis value chain could offer opportunities for you please get in touch with Dr Colin Morgan via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a conversation.