A start-up on the Channel Island of Jersey has been granted a licence to cultivate, manufacture and export high-THC medical cannabis at its 75,000 sq. ft. facility.
Northern Leaf, founded in 2019, is just the second company to be granted such a license under UK Home Office legislation. Epidyolex producers GW Pharmaceuticals was awarded the same permissions in 1998 and now supplies the medical cannabis oil to patients with severe and rare forms of epilepsy.
It could mean big news for Jersey. The company says it is committed to ‘leading the development of a new industry’ on the Channel Island.
According to reports, London-based corporate finance and investment firm Chrystal Capital Partners helped secure funding for Northern Leaf in 2020. In four years, the same firm has secured over $200 million (USD) in cannabis sector investments.
In a press release, a spokesperson for Northern Leaf said:
“Northern Leaf is helping to build a new globally relevant industry on the island of Jersey.”
What happens next?
Cultivation may only take place at locations approved by Jersey’s Chief Pharmacist and Northern Leaf’s facility is the first island site to be approved.
A secure, compliant and operational facility is already in situ and Northern Leaf’s growers will now look to commence the growth of commercial quantities of medical cannabis in 2021.
The company says it will utilise ‘state-of-the-art tracing systems’ and has ‘robust policies and procedures in place to ensure the highest levels of quality from seed to sale.’
What does this mean for medical cannabis users in the UK?
The UK faces a medical cannabis crisis with access to prescriptions the biggest roadblock to a prosperous market. However, some reports suggest Britain is on course to become the biggest cannabis market in Europe by 2025.
According to cannabis market researchers at the Brightfield Group, eradicating barriers to medical cannabis access could see the market grow by 98% by 2025.
The main obstacle in the way of this is GPs in the UK are not permitted to write cannabis prescriptions, only doctors on the specialist register have permission to do so. Add to this the emergence of a two tiered access system which has come about since legalisation of medical cannabis in November 2018. For the most part, patients are unsuccessful in their efforts to achieve medical cannabis patient status through the NHS. This has paved the way for a costly private system of medical cannabis clinics to grow across the UK.
Now that Northern Leaf has secured a licence under UK legislation, the company is in prime position to take advantage of the shortfall in supply of medical cannabis in the UK.
But it won’t be an open road to market success. Canadian powerhouse Aurora Cannabis operates a 100,000 sq. ft. greenhouse site in Denmark.
There are more experienced and ever-expanding international medical cannabis developers too, like Tilray and Emmac, both operating similar sites in Portugal.
Northern Leaf says it has already secured purchase letters from distributors and manufacturers in the UK as well as Germany, Spain, Portugal and Denmark, which it intends to fulfil starting this year.
Will this ambitious start up on the largest of the Channel Islands triumph in the legal cannabis big leagues?