A major conference, including a session chaired by ADAS (an RSK company) Business Development Director Colin Morgan, has been exploring the opportunities and challenges for cannabis cultivation in Europe. Colin chaired the Hemp Farming in Europe session at the Cannabis Future Strategies Europe 2020 conference and told us about the key discussions from the day.
In November 2018, medicines based on cannabis were permitted for prescription by specialist doctors in the UK. Further uses derived from the cannabis plant include beauty products, food supplements (e.g., oils and cannabidiol (CBD) oils), fuel, materials and fibres. With a wide range of delegates from across the cannabis and food and beverage categories, as well as support services from blockchain providers and laboratory testing facilities, the conference session explored current UK restrictions on cannabis growing to the challenges presented by UK and EU regulations, as well as the future of sustainable cannabis farming in the UK.
“The panellists saw Brexit as an opportunity,” says Colin. “Potential divergent legislation for cannabis cultivation could provide opportunities for the UK to work with and develop new cannabis varieties, which could offer a range of different benefits – such as use in fibre production to help build sustainable biomaterial-based value chains. Further deregulation could permit the UK to grow a range of varieties for different purposes and expand the range of outputs.
For example, currently, in the UK, it’s not permitted to produce CBD oils from flowers. However, panellists described this as a ‘CBD trade deficit’. Instead of importing CBD for use in the UK market (as is the current situation), UK growers could produce quality CBD, which means that sourcing such products could be local and more sustainable.”
But the opportunities are not without challenges. “The session members saw capability building as a challenge to expanding the sector,” Colin adds. “Brand building was another area where the panellists thought there could be further development. The CBD market is growing fast, and yet not all consumers know the full story of the products they consume. Supply chains are not always transparent, and brands need to build better supply chains to ensure practices are ethical and sustainable.”
Overall, the panellists feel that the UK has a significant role to play, post-Brexit, as a major force in quality production and development from farm to consumer. To achieve this, however, “more needs to be done for regulation clarity and for the development of quality brands based on trust and high production values”, says Colin. “One question for interested parties to consider is ‘Where does your proposition fit in the value chain?’, and for growers especially, ‘Where is the final destination of your produce?’”
This is where ADAS can help. The ADAS sustainable food and farming team have been working in the cannabis sector since 2018. They offer a range of services to the sector that are advertised on their website on a dedicated cannabis service page.