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4/20 stories, pt. 2:

UK: "We believe that having a domestic supply chain will be a market disruptor"

We continue with our 4/20 special series with insights on the cannabis industry's developments and prospects. Today, we take a closer look at the European market, as we have insights from a UK grower and a Spanish greenhouse supplier.

Addressing the lack of domestic supply
How are things going in the UK? Back in January, Glass Pharms announced the completion of its medical cannabis facility in the West of England. "Excitingly, we have completed our first commercial harvests and are getting ready to ship product," says Mark Heley, External Relations at Glass Pharms. "It's been a long journey to get here, but we will have cannabis flower of all three chemotypes (High-THC, THC-CBD Balanced, High-CBD) available, and prescription to UK patients should be just around the corner."

According to Mark, anytime you are opening a brand-new horticulture facility there is always going to be accelerated learning. "But we are also innovating in multiple areas simultaneously, and that requires a lot of dedication and teamwork to get all of our processes running smoothly and efficiently. Fortunately, that's been going well, and we've been overcoming the challenges, both the expected and unexpected ones."

What will the future bring? "We are very much focused on the UK and believe that having a domestic supply chain for medical cannabis flower will be a market disruptor. Flower will reach the patients much more quickly and we believe that we will be able to address the serious out-of-stock issues that have plagued an industry that has been dependent on imports. This is our horizon right now, and we think that it is still an incredible opportunity despite the market size being behind countries like Australia and Germany," Mark says.

Spain's potential
According to Amir Abbas-Khan, Medical Cannabis Project Manager at J. Huete Greenhouses, Spain is now among the top seven countries that produce the most medical cannabis legally. "It is a milestone that patients in our country are still unable to enjoy, however, because all production must be destined for export, as its use has not yet been regulated in Spain."

Amir Abbas-Khan

Amir explains that each year, states must inform the INCB of the estimated requirements for all substances that are subject to international control in compliance with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and are intended for pharmacological and scientific use, including cannabis.

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), which reports to the Ministry of Health, has notified the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of a production forecast of 36 tons of medical cannabis in 2024.

"The lack of regulation has not been an obstacle for Spain to climb up the ranks year after year in the world ranking of medical cannabis production, to the point of being in seventh place in 2024, only surpassed by the giants of this industry: Australia, which has reported 97.2 tons, Israel (97.5), Colombia (100), Uruguay (116.6), Canada (284.6) and the United Kingdom (406.1)," Amir says.

"With the significant growth forecast for this year - 12.5 tons more than in 2023 - Spain has overtaken leading European countries in the production and use of medical cannabis such as Portugal (32 tons), Germany (2.8) and Denmark (15), and others such as New Zealand (21) and Peru, which by 2023 had doubled Spain's turnover."

When it comes to J. Huete itself, they have been experiencing an increasing trend to include more complex technology in projects. "For example, the inclusion of HVAC, heat pumps, the use of solar panels, etc. Above all, clients demand meticulous precision in the operation of the different equipment, not only to ensure the correct operation of the installations, but also the need to pass inspections with zero non-conformities. We have faced these challenges in one of our latest projects: an advanced greenhouse for the cultivation of medical cannabis in Portugal. We believe this greenhouse is, at the moment, one of the most advanced in technology and agricultural equipment in Europe," Amir says.

J. Huete sees the cannabis market growing, with more and more countries legalizing cannabis. "I would say the opportunities are in the countries that have recently changed their position and have created the legislative context to be able to make these types of projects. Also, for us, there is opportunity in the countries where the facilities are not very advanced and where they are now realizing that improvements are necessary. Also, the countries that have many cultivation facilities, but do not have processing areas for the final product," Amir says.

For more information:
Glass Pharms

J. Huete Greenhouses