TENACIOUS Labs, which launched into the cannabis market last year with a flurry of acquisitions across the US and UK, was appointed as secretariat of the CBD (Cannabidiol) Products All Party Parliamentary Group just months later.
Its role sees the young company act as a bridge between the UK’s cannabis industry, including around 700 companies on the APPG’s advisory board, and the government providing guidance on how the industry could and should develop.
While its CEO Nicholas Morland believes CBD has the potential to become a multi-billion-pound ‘long term premium industry that the British Isles can own worldwide’, the government currently faces a decision simply as to whether they ‘want a new industry or not?’
With the Home Office currently facing a decision as to whether to implement the recommendations of the ACMD, the potential future of British CBD hangs in the balance.
In December last year, the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published its long awaited guidance regarding the level of trace THC which should safely be allowed in CBD products.
The advisory body suggested that the current THC level of one milligram (1mg) per closed container (no matter what size), should be severely reduced to 50 micrograms in a ‘single serving’.
These recommendations proved controversial for a number of reasons, not least because the report was represented as the view of the industry when, according to Mr Morland, ‘it just wasn’t’.
“The industry at the moment is skewed by what is currently legal, so it is clearly wrong to use the tiny, pre-industry presence we have out there and represent it as the industry.”
Crucially however, the implementation of a 50 microgram (0.05 mg) THC limit would all but wipe out whole-plant CBD, resulting in an industry dominated by isolate based products.
Mr Morland explained that while the price of a kilo of isolate has declined dramatically over the past few years, ‘none of it is produced here’.
“The issue is that the dose itself is so far outside the conventional range, there’s simply no point in any commercial business bothering… It would mean that there are no jobs here, there’s no industry here, there’s no farming here, there’s no nothing.
“The reason there’s no industry on the isolate route is because customers don’t want to buy something from a lab that they don’t know what it is.
“So it’s an unintended consequence, I don’t believe for a second the ACMD authors intended this, but it’s a dead end and develops no industry, which is a great shame.”
Though Mr Morland says it would be ‘a real shame’ if the government chose to implement these recommendations verbatim, he said that he ‘very much welcomed’ the ACMD’s report.
He explained that though its recommendations were not appropriate to use as a ‘default setting’, they were ‘very useful as a data point for the overall debate’.
“What it does is it introduces the idea that we have to have some limits put in so we don’t fall foul of proceeds of crime. People can actually go out and legislate for it and we can put a process in place, I think that’s absolutely right. We welcome it as part of the debate.
“Actually, the process has worked because it’s come out, people have seen it, and the people who have been loudly talking over each other are now cooperating in response, so actually, it’s done a lot of good.”
However, Mr Morland suggests that the UK has the opportunity to not only build a multi-billion-pound industry, but become the dominant force in CBD across the globe by following a similar model to Scotch Whisky.
The Scotch Whisky Association says that the industry, worth £5.5bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, has created 42,000 jobs in 7000 rural and deprived areas throughout Scotland.
By ensuring only whisky which has been matured for at least three years in an oak casks in Scotland can officially be classed as ‘Scotch Whisky’, the UK has been able to effectively ‘own’ the market, which accounted for 22% of its entire food and drink exports last year.
He explained that ‘if we want to own that premium discretionary space where the margin is long term, we need to have the same thing’, adding that ‘if we can get it right we can own it forever, like Scotch Whisky.’
To achieve this, the industry would need to be ‘nationally directed’, meaning no CBD which wasn’t grown from a nationally controlled seed and gene stock would be allowed to be classed as ‘British Isles CBD’.
“We must have a proper transparent process, which is government directed. They should say we want an industry and this is what we want out of it. But to to set up rules, which have the unintended consequence of removing this even as an option forever, would be incredibly stupid.
“This is a long term premium industry, the British Isles can own worldwide, we’d be nuts not to do it, but it needs somebody in the cabinet to tell us to do something with it.”