London not ‘hottest’ cannabis market in Europe but hope lies in CBD
The UK government should capitalise on its efforts in medical cannabis research if it wants to keep up with the budding market growing across Europe.
The country currently has the second-largest cannabis market in Europe, behind only France, and worth around $150m (£125m), according to a white paper by investment bank Bryan Garnier today.
The estimated value is far less than bloated figures floating around the £400-£800m mark, due mostly to sluggish regulation, according to the author of the white paper, and senior analyst Nikolaas Faes.
“I wouldn’t say [London’s] the hottest market around, not for cannabis. But there is some light for the CBD market which has been well developed in the UK,” Faes told City A.M.
Products containing CBD, short for cannabinoid and a derivative of cannabis, can be found in retailers like Holland & Barrett, Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s thanks to the novel foods regulation that passed in April.
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in 2018 but the market has been slow to take off, with only 15,000 patients having access to the treatment.
However, the country’s strength in research and development means more patients can access medicinal cannabis through clinical studies.
“The UK has always been at the forefront of medicinal research and that’s definitely an angle that one should exploit. The knowledge is there. Some of the greatest scientists are here,” Faes continued.
“Research and science is a very strong angle in the UK. And we see it in these clinical studies that have been developed – 15,000 patients may sound like a lot but there 1.4m people using cannabis for medical reasons, and we haven’t gotten onto recreational use yet.”
Just three licences to grow commercial medical cannabis have been issued by the Home Office, the paper added.
While around 20 farmers in the UK grow cannabis currently, across 800 hectares, according to the British Hemp Alliance. The amount is completely dwarfed by the approximately 50,000 hectares in the entire EU and 13,000 hectares in the US.
However, Franziska Katterbach, European president of Khiron, which has the largest medical cannabis patient registry in the continent and a clinic in London, said that the company is “very well positioned” in the capital.
“For us, the UK and Germany are equally interesting… With the developments in Germany, UK and Spain, you can say that the train has left the station when it comes to medical cannabis. Even traditionally conservative markets have changed their mindset in support of medical cannabis. It will just continue to grow.”