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Kanabo: The humble roots of the company with a seat at the top table

Kanabo, an Israeli medical cannabis company, became the first firm of its kind to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in February.

Just two days later, shares were up almost 800 per cent.

After launching at 6.5p, they tripled in value on the first day of trading alone, with founder and CEO Avihu Tamir describing the response as ‘overwhelming’.

The news reflects the growing buzz surrounding medical cannabis, and Kanabo in particular, after it created the VapePod – a cannabis vaporiser and formulas specifically designed for medical use.

It’s a long way from Tamir’s first experience of cannabis – being taught to roll a joint by a nurse.

He says: “I never chose cannabis. Cannabis chose me.

“When I was younger, I suffered with migraines, and so my first experience of it was as a patient. You may not know this, but Israel has one of the best medical cannabis programmes in the world, and so my physician asked me if I wanted to try it.

Kanabo founder Avihu Tamir

“I agreed, but when it came to taking it, I was a little disturbed because the nurse there recommended that we take a ground flower, roll it and smoke it in a cigarette.

“So, I thought that there must be a better way.”

As Tamir found, while cannabis was being medically prescribed, previously patients would need to smoke flowers, a method which gives a different dose with each inhale.

This proved to be a barrier for many physicians in offering it – unsurprisingly, they are reluctant to advocate smoking as a medicinal delivery method, although it has been found that most cannabis users preferred method was inhalation of some type.

Now, for the first time, Kanabo has introduced a device, VapePod, that can deliver a metered dose that works for both the patient and physician.

Tamir explains: “It’s not just simply for the benefit of physicians; there are plenty of people out there who don’t smoke and have no intention of starting. You also have patients who are more reluctant to take pills or capsules – so there was a real gap in the market for a middle ground.

“I want cannabis to be accessible to anyone who needs it, and the VapePod is just that; a solution that everyone can feel comfortable with and get the right benefits from as well.”

The next step is to increase awareness, through marketing Kanabo to both physicians and potential patients, to capitalise on the incredible growth seen in the medical marijuana industry over the past few years.

Tamir highlights three key developments that have led to this growth, beginning with the changes in legislation.

“The main change has been what has happened with regards to regulation, particularly in Canada and America.

“Across the world, we’ve seen a revolution in the ways cannabis is viewed; it’s no longer an illicit drug, it’s a medicine and a consumer product.

“The second follows on from this, in the way that CBD has become part of the wellness movement; CBD in this respect is a very easy entry for people who do not want the psychoactive compound – it’s very easy to consume.

“Thirdly, we’re seeing some big players in the industry becoming involved. An amazing legitimate product being developed by big players from the industry. I would say it is a public market. Once you have public companies that are legitimising the discussion around cannabis, and creating more opportunities to raise money and invest, it removes that stigma that has traditionally been associated with cannabis.”

Tamir points to the recent deal between British American Tobacco and Canada-based cannabis producer Organigram for about £126m as evidence of how mainstream the cannabis market is becoming.

For Kanabo, floating on the stock exchange is just the beginning – and Tamir sees exciting developments on the horizon both for his firm and the industry as a whole.

Kanabo produces novel ways of taking medical cannabis

He explains: “I think two things will happen in future.

“Firstly, the CBD market will evolve beyond North America – 90 per cent of CBD sales happen in Canada and the United States. I believe Europe will become one of the major players, along with changing regulations increasing take-up in places like South America.

“Secondly, I think there will be changes and discoveries in the science, affecting the end product. In our labs in Israel, we’re looking beyond just CBD and THC to the more minor cannabinoids, and they are amazing and have such potential to help people.”

Key to the industry’s continuing success, he says, is collaboration – a need borne out partly due to the restrictions that still govern the licensing and sale of CBD.

“Collaboration is built into the industry. Take the United States; if you want to build a company that is operating in more than one state, you need to have another company as you can’t ship cannabis between states, therefore you need to have separate companies, and productions in each state working in silos.

“So, there needs to be this level of cooperation between companies specialising in different fields, working together on this one common purpose.”

And Kanabo are in it for the long haul, working to build a network around the world.

As Tamir explains: “It’s definitely about building those long-term relationships, and I’m planting seeds that will flourish in the future.

“Some of my best partners today are companies or people that I met many years ago, with discussions that don’t necessarily relate to business support, and they became my main clients or suppliers.

“It’s about getting to know people personally; ultimately as time goes on, those relationships can flourish in two different ways, and maybe we’ll work together, maybe we won’t – but we still have a relationship.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s always a roller coaster going up and down – even looking at the more famous examples, such as Steve Jobs.

“It takes a lot of time to build a huge company, which is why you need to build those relationships right from the start.”

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