North American Cannabis Firms Flexed Muscle At This Big London Event – Benzinga


London is fast becoming an important hub for the nascent legal cannabis industry in Europe, despite medical cannabis being legal for less than a year. Last month I was fortunate to have attended Europe’s most influential cannabis conference, Cannabis Europa, which took place at the South Bank.

With a spectacular view overlooking the River Thames, this was not your typical cannabis conference. Delegates from all over the world were in attendance highlighted with speeches by the Prime Minister of Malta and Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho and representatives from Jamaica, Israel, Japan, Columbia and Denmark rubbed shoulders with businessmen in London. Without sounding North American-centric, it was clearly  Canadians and Americans that dominated in presence and substance.

The tone of the conference was sombre and professional, with a focus on medical cannabis for obvious reasons instead of adult use. Cam Battley of Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB) set the tone in his opening address:

“Cannabis is a very serious need among patients worldwide and it has clearly become a very serious business. In Canada 5 years after we created our medical cannabis system, we’ve gone from a handful of patients, and a handful of physicians who were prescribing, to more than 400,000 patients with a prescription from their physician to manage the symptoms of a very wide range of chronic healthcare conditions. We have nearly 20,000 physicians who have written a prescription. This demonstrates that medical cannabis is serious for patients and is serious business.”

The UK  under both popular and political duress, moved forward on the path towards legalization of medical cannabis in October of 2018, after a hard fought battle against the government waged by two courageous and tenacious mothers, Charlotte Cadwell and Hannah Deacon, who’s sons suffered from debilitating seizures.

Hannah was poised and passionate as she recounted the story of her struggle to obtain medical cannabis for her son Alfie Dingly.

“I was told by doctors at every appointment that if the seizures didn’t kill my son, the steroids would. That is not a choice that any parent should face. I was forced to do my own research and soon learned that cannabis could reduce seizures by 50-100%. I immediately knew cannabis was something I had to try. I had an initial conversation with Alfie’s neurologist and was shocked when his response to my inquiry about cannabis was  “do not speak to me about cannabis or I will have to refer you to social services.”

Under this extraordinary set of circumstances, Hannah was forced to make a life saving decision and go to The Netherlands to obtain the life-saving medication her son desperately needed. “The position of the UK  government was that cannabis has no medicinal value. I was told by my family doctor that “you will never get a prescription for THC-based medicine from the National Health Service”. I was challenged and conflicted as a mother and UK citizen. After a fierce battle, three months later my son was issued the first UK license for prescription for medical cannabis.” Dr. Mike Barnes was an outspoken advocate, adviser and medical professional in having Hannah’s prayers become reality.  

The groundbreaking decision for Alfie led to dozens of prescriptions being issued by doctors across the UK, with firms like Grow Biotech and IPS Specials finding ways to import medical cannabis on a large scale, despite regulatory hurdles. Despite these initial positive steps, NHS’s approval of only a small number of prescriptions has been a sore point for UK citizens and many conference attendees.

Another highlight was the controversial “cross party cannabis, UK Politics” panel discussion moderated by veteran BBC Political Editor Andrew Neil, which pitted MPs Normal Lamb and Crispin Blunt and Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens against one another in what turned into a fiery debate.

The audience erupted with applause as the politicians debated the legalisation of recreational cannabis and demonstrated frustration and despair when conservative positions were given.

When asked how long they thought the path toward a legal recreational market would take and whether the Canadian experience was crucial to the UK, Crispen Blunt replied, “lets see how the Canadian experience goes.

Roll the Uruguayan experience into that as well – and no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at the American States with the absence of banking facilities, etcetera – the taxing, regulatory and licensing regimes all have lessons to be learned for the United Kingdom.

If the United Kingdom is going to follow Canada in principle, and I think that we should after five years, the Government should present the analysis of the Canadian Scheme, with all the other experiences rolled into it, and a set of licence conditions and regulations that would be applicable to the UK and then request parliament to make a decision.”

Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat stated, “I absolutely would not wait for five years. There is a price to be paid for caution in my view, the price is that we will continue to criminalize people in a rather inconsistent way. What is happening at the moment is that police are choosing to effectively decriminalize cannabis in some parts of the country, where others continue to prosecute which in effect becomes a postal code lottery.”

The organisers of Cannabis Europa are hopeful as they along with others see a clear trend towards legalisation of cannabis across the globe.

“Around the world, countries are changing their laws at an increasing pace to allow access to medicines derived from this fantastic plant” said George McBride, a former barrister turned cannabis consultant and the co-founder of Cannabis Europa and Hanway Associates, which has become a cornerstone of the emerging European cannabis industry.

McBride sees the fates of North America and Europe closely intertwined:

“As European countries adapt their medical cannabis legislation there will be a demand for insight, skills and investment, all of which Canadian and Americans can provide. However, the North American companies will need the guidance of European professionals to help navigate the maze of legislation on this side of the pond.”

While the cannabis industry remains full of legal and political uncertainty, the demand for professionally curated content and insight by global cannabis thought leaders into the booming European medical cannabis sector is  a certainty and George and the Hanway team will soon be bringing their flagship event to both the U.S. and Canada.

Photo by Michael Miller.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

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