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East Anglian farmers helped to overcome hurdles to growing medical cannibis and hemp

PUBLISHED: 09:55 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:54 30 April 2020

Medicinal cannabis plants can be grown in the UK under licence  Picture: ARCHANT

Medicinal cannabis plants can be grown in the UK under licence Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Farmers struggling to break into the lucrative medical cannabis and hemp markets because of legal obstacles will be offered pointers by the experts.

Cannabis flowers contain the most CBD oil  Picture: ARCHANTCannabis flowers contain the most CBD oil Picture: ARCHANT

East Anglia-based farm innovation body Agri-TechE is set to host a webinar to examine the opportunities for farmers willing to work in a legal landscape described as “confusing, contradictory and illogical” to grow medical cannabis.

The “wonder-crop” – which grows well in the UK – is grown commercially across nearly 50,000ha in the European Union.

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George McBride, chief executive of legal cannabis consultants Hanway Associates, will be explaining to farmers how the obstacles to growing the cannabis sativa plant can be overcome when he speaks at the event on May 14.

“Growing cannabis commercially in the UK is currently difficult, but far from impossible,” he said.

George McBride, Founder and CEO, Hanway Associates  Picture: HANWAY ASSOCIATESGeorge McBride, Founder and CEO, Hanway Associates Picture: HANWAY ASSOCIATES

“Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, excitement has grown for this nascent sector. Now is the perfect time to take a look at how UK farmers can take advantage and make the most out of the new opportunity that growing hemp and cannabis offer.”

A single cannabis sativa plant contains a number of “assets” which can be put to good use. Its fibres provide extremely resilient materials, while its seeds and stem are nutritious. The leaves contain a medically important extract known as CBD, or cannabidiol.

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The CBD extract is becoming well established as a treatment for seizures, chronic pain and various other illnesses, and is also a common ingredient in wellness and lifestyle products.

Inside the 18 hectare glasshouse at British Sugar's Wissington cannabis farm. Picture: ARCHANTInside the 18 hectare glasshouse at British Sugar's Wissington cannabis farm. Picture: ARCHANT

Meanwhile, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) – a much less abundant extract which has psychoactive properties – is a class B controlled drug in the UK.

Hemp is the term for a cannabis crop grown for its fibres, either in materials or for consumption, and where extracts are generally present only at very low levels.

However, the legal landscape was “confusing, contradictory and illogical”, admitted Mr McBride.

Hanway is supporting the development of medical cannabis facilities in the UK with the launch of a new initiative, Crop17, in association with Savills.

Agri-TechE director Dr Belinda Clarke said there was considerable interest among its membership in the versatile crop, but uncertainty over legal issues and the route to market.

For more information on ‘From Farmer to Pharma – a Teaser of Things to Come’ – which is free to attend – visit the Agri-TechE website at agri-tech-e.co.uk.


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