UK: A new leaf? The Cornish company trying to unlock the secrets of cannabis

Elegantly refurbished farm buildings hardly merit a second look near the Cornish coast, but the CCTV cameras on stalks around the Trelonk estate hint at something unusual. This is not a second home, or Airbnb fodder: it’s a cannabis business.

The buildings, overlooking a bend in the River Fal amid the peaceful Roseland peninsula, are home to Phytome Life Sciences, and one of the few legal cannabis crops in the UK.

Walk along the street in any large enough town in Britain, and you can usually smell how successful, or otherwise, the UK’s ban on cannabis is. However, medicinal cannabis companies still have to follow extremely strict licensing requirements. Phytome’s laboratories may be in one of the most picturesque settings in Britain, but they have hefty security. There are 200kg bombproof doors, ram-raid-resistant wire mesh walls, and no recording devices.

Inside the building, racks of cannabis plants appear nearly black under rows of bright lights carefully tuned to different shades of purple, blue and pink, and beyond; ultraviolet and far-red light, invisible to the human eye, have the potential to stimulate the growth of useful compounds in the plants. Water, fertiliser, and even humidity and carbon dioxide levels are controlled in order to find conditions that will stimulate the plant to produce chemicals that may have promising applications.

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