UK: Inside one of the first licensed medicinal cannabis labs in Britain

A sweet smell wafts through the air as two men weave through the small room tightly packed with cannabis plants, growing high above their shoulders in a flush of intoxicating flora. This isn’t yet another illegal cannabis factory but one of the first licensed medicinal cannabis labs in Britain.

Wielding a quantum sensor, microscope, and leaf barometer to check in on the 180 plants growing up to 1.5 meters tall out of waist-height hydroponic planters, the two men are agronomists – experts in the science of crop production – at the West Midlands plant owned by Celadon Pharmaceuticals.

They want to ensure optimal light, oxygen, water, and nutrient levels and harvest the flowers after about nine weeks, from which cannabinoids are extracted and put into vials. The cannabis grown for medicinal purposes is under tightly controlled conditions that ensure consistency and high quality across batches at a secret location by a startup created in 2018, the year Sajid Javid, the then UK home secretary, authorized its use.

Celadon is one of the few firms that grow medical cannabis in the UK but, unlike others, uses an indoor lab rather than greenhouses. This means it can produce five to six harvests each year and a much higher yield, it says, although an indoor lab is more expensive to run.

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