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Cross-party Westminster group demand Misuse of Drugs Act is overhauled

There is broad support for reform on the 50th anniversary of the controversial act’s passage into law

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A cross-party group met in Westminster today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Half a century on the controversial legislation still defines how the UK approaches drug-related issues – but a broad spread of lawmakers want change.

Fifty MPs and peers have signed a statement calling for reform, saying the act has ‘failed to reduce drug consumption’ and has ‘increased harm, damaged public health and exacerbated social inequalities’.

Drug controls have a huge knock on effect for cannabis businesses as it makes the cultivation and transport of raw materials needed in the products legally difficult.

Hemp cultivators still need to destroy the bulk of their crop because it is controlled under the act despite holding no psychoactive properties at all.

The Home Office is under pressure to look again at drug controls.

On the eve of the act’s 50th anniversary, politicians from across parliament met to call for change and to consider new evidence from advocacy group Transform Drug Policy Foundation that drug-related deaths have increased 30-fold over the law’s lifetime.

Conservative Dr Dan Poulter MP said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act is hopelessly outdated and in need of urgent reform and change.

“Drugs policy should no longer be seen through the narrow prism of the criminal justice system but as a health issue, so that we can ensure those with drug dependence can get better access to the help and support they need.”

Labour’s Jeff Smith MP said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act was supposed to eradicate drug use, reduce harm, and keep people safe.

“But since 1971, drug use has risen dramatically in the UK, decent people have been needlessly criminalised and had their lives destroyed, those struggling with addictions have been stigmatised and punished, thousands of children have fallen victim to trafficking and exploitation at the hands of criminal gangs, and we are in the midst of a devastating drug-related deaths crisis.”

According to Transform, annual drug-related deaths in England and Wales have risen from under 100 to 2883 under the act and heroin use has increased from under 10,000 people to over 250,000 an increase of 2,400%.

Cannabis use has increased from around half a million people to over 2.5 million – an increase of 400% – and, while cocaine seizures have increased from around 6kg a year to over 4,000kg a year, the UK still has the highest usage in Europe.

Poulter and fellow Conservative MP Crispin Blunt have separately called for drug issues to be taken out of the hands of the Home Office to prevent medical use being stymied by efforts to prohibit recreational use.

Dr James Nicholls, CEO of Transform, said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act has been a disaster. In the 50 years since it was introduced, we have seen both use and deaths rise dramatically.

“The UK now has some of the highest drug deaths in Europe, and the situation continues to get worse.

“At the same time, countless lives have either been lost, or ruined through needless and damaging criminalisation.

“The Government’s recent review of drug markets sets out this failure in detail, and confirms that it cannot be resolved simply through more policing.”

Markets and industry

Tilray sees net revenue increase to $513m from last year

Tilray has a net income of $33.6m during the fourth quarter compared to net loss of $84.3m in the prior year quarter.

Stephanie Price

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Tilray sees net revenue increase to $513m from last year

Cannabis leader Tilray has seen its net revenue increase to 27 per cent, totalling $513m compared to last year.

Global cannabis lifestyle and consumer packaged good company Tilray, which is a leading EU GMP-certified Medical Cannabis LP in Europe, has reported its financial results for the full fiscal year, revealing that it had net income of $33.6m during the fourth quarter compared to net loss of $84.3m in the prior year quarter.

Net revenue increased 25 per cent to $142.2m during the fourth quarter from $113.5m in the prior year quarter.

Cannabis revenue

The Company says the increase was driven by 36per cent growth in net cannabis revenue to $53.7m, which included four weeks of contribution from legacy-Tilray, a 10 per cent decline in distribution revenue, net beverage alcohol revenue of $15.9m following its SweetWater acquisition on November 25, 2020, and wellness revenue of $5.8m from its Manitoba Harvest.

Tilray’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Irwin Simon, said: “Early results from the new Tilray affirm that, while the global cannabis market remains in its early stages, our vision, scale, access to resources and operational excellence position us optimally to capitalise on the opportunity. 

“In a very short period of time since our business combination was finalised, we transformed and strengthened Tilray, delivered solid results amid continued COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions and achieved $35m in synergies to date – well on our way to delivering $80m in cost savings over the next 16 months.

“These are early achievements but they provide the roadmap for our strategy and priorities moving forward. Tilray is now truly leading the global cannabis industry with low cost of production, leading brands, a well-developed distribution network, and unique partnerships that we believe will drive sustainable shareholder value in the quarters to come. 

“We look forward to accelerating and refining our business-level strategies and roadmaps and to ensuring unmistakable, measurable progress as we build the leading consumer-packaged goods business in the cannabis industry.”

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Medicinal

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies secures drug development agreements

The agreements follow its post-IPO review after its £16.5m fundraise and admission to the main market on LSE in May this year.

Stephanie Price

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Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies secures drug development agreements

UK pharmaceutical company Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies has secured two commercial agreements that will contribute to the development of its lead compound and other drug development programmes. 

Focused on developing a portfolio of cannabinoid-based prescription medicines approved by medicines regulatory agencies which target the pain market, the company has secured agreements with life sciences consultancy Voisin Consulting SARL and Evotec SE subsidiary Aptuit (Verona) SRL.

The agreements follow its recent post-IPO review after its £16.5m fundraise and admission to the main market on the London Stock Exchange earlier in May this year.

Drug development programmes

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies struck a deal with Voisin, which has over 200 professionals in the UK, US and India with expertise in medical devices, cannabinoids, neurological disorders and addictions, in June this year, which will support and advise the company on its regulatory strategy and roadmap for its drug development programmes in the US, UK and Europe. 

This will include First Time in Human clinical trials for its lead compound OCT461201 – a selective cannabinoid receptor type 2 agonist which has initial indications in post-herpetic neuralgia and visceral pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The trials are expected to commence in 2022. 

The deal with Aptuit (Verona) SRL, subsidiary of Evotec SE, a fully integrated drug discovery and development company based in Germany, with a market capitalisation of approximately €5.7bn, will provide access to Evotec’s technology platform to further accelerate the development of OCT461201 towards phase 1 clinical trials.

These trials will be aimed at demonstrating the compound’s safety and tolerability by utilising its INDiGO programme, which is an integrated drug development process for expediting early drug candidates to the clinical trial stage. 

This is scheduled to run for approximately 12 months and will provide manufacturing, safety and toxicology packages for regulatory submissions to the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and in the US, The Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr John Lucas, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies CEO, said: “I am delighted with the company’s progress across all fronts. The board agrees that we are off to a great operational start as a public company with the two partnership agreements signed recently, and we remain firmly on schedule to deliver the drug development timeline set out in our prospectus dated 17 May 2021. 

“The Group will continue to develop its drug pipeline and its proprietary, unique library of cannabinoid derivative compounds. Furthermore, we have visibility over a number of exciting developments and a clear path to growth. By utilising a range of inputs, the Group is creating a drug development portfolio that is intended to maximise the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, long-term market value and market exclusivity across its activities.”

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CBD

Paul Finnegan discusses 300 per cent growth of CBD brand Naturecan

CBD brand Naturecan has grown substantially over just a short period and seen record growth of 300 per cent over the last 12 months. 

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Paul Finnegan discusses 300 per cent growth of CBD brand Naturecan

Stockport-based CBD brand Naturecan has seen a record growth of 300 per cent over the last year. Co-founder Paul Finnegan discusses the company’s journey and the secrets behind its success. 

Founded just over two years ago by ex-CEO and board director of My Protein, Andy Duckworth and entrepreneur Paul Finnegan, the high-quality CBD brand Naturecan has grown substantially over just a short period, seeing a record growth of 300 per cent over the last 12 months. 

Naturecan’s products are now sold in more than 28 countries across the globe from the Far East, to America and Europe. As well as recently securing a seven figure investment from the Far East, Naturecan is backed by high profile cricket star Freddie Flintoff – an early investor who is aiding the brand’s global expansion. 

Passionate beginnings

Finnegan decided to get into the CBD business after his friend’s mother used the cannabinoid to aid with her recovery from breast cancer.

“It all started at beginning of 2018 – I had shares in a drinks business and property – and I had seen CBD advertised everywhere. A friend’s mum had breast cancer and had used cannabis treatment in her recovery. I was amazed at how she had recovered and amazed that this lady had gone down this route, so it really piqued my interest and I needed to see what it was all about,” said Finnegan. 

“The more I researched it the more I thought this is incredible, from kids with autism, to people with anxiety and fibromyalgia sufferers that haven’t got a real cure or a way to take the edge off the pain. I went out to the United States and found that there was so many cowboys in the industry – you didn’t know who was extracting, who was an agent, who was selling you hot dog water. You needed to go out and physically look at these facilities and check their standards. Being from the drinks background – there is high standards in the UK for food products so it was about checking all of those things.

“I went and visited everywhere in the States – I went to extractors in Colorado, Oregon, LA and eventually met with a man who had done this out of pure passion for helping his children, one of which was heavily autistic and suffered night terrors who was on seven different prescription drugs. He then, as a doctor himself, took the path of taking him off this medication and putting him onto a cannabis-based medicine. This young boy’s life totally changed – he went from being in the emergency room for 300 days a year to literally living a normal life, going to school with years and years between episodes. So, I thought that this guy has got the passion and the motivation – nothing motivates you more than your children. I have two of my own children and it resonated with me.

“He also had at the time the mythical beast of zero THC because of this enhanced technology he had been using – chromatography – where the levels were incredible low. That was the big turn on. We struck a deal with them on an exclusivity agreement.”

High profile investors and supporters

Naturecan attracted high profile investors early on, including Flintoff, who Finnegan says is a true believer in the benefits of CBD. 

“Freddie invested in the business early on, it is not an endorsement deal. I have known him for a few years, we are good friends and he believes in the business and the product. So, at a very early stage he was a major investor.” says Finnegan.

“He does use the products, you can see that he has a go at everything – he keeps himself in such good shape and uses everything from protein and keratin on the non-CBD product side, through to oils, cookies and balms. A lot of his network also use CBD such as ex-cricketer Kevin Pietersen who has been posting about our ‘miracle’ CBD arnica cream, as well as Darren Gough, and Tom Davies the comedian uses the gummies relentlessly for golf –  so Flintoff is a great person to have as an investor and supporter. 

“CBD is really taking off in the sport world. There are still issues with whether or not CBD is allowed, so that is something the whole industry needs to get behind. Naturecan, at the moment, are sponsoring PhD courses at Liverpool John Moores University under professor Graeme Close who works with the England rugby and the European golf tour, as well as many others. We want to give that clarity to these sporting bodies about retention of THC and how it effects you so, we are undertaking human trials.”

Taking Naturecan global

Finnegan met Andy Duckworth, Ex-CEO and board director of My Protein, who has helped take the business to global levels, as well as helping to broaden Naturecan’s product offering.

“Duckworth took the business to huge numbers and spread it all around – he truly globalised the business. We were introduced by our mutual friend and investor, Flintoff. He took the business on and looked at how we could make this into a global wellness platform. 

“He had contacts from contract manufacturing which allowed us to create more products – instead of just offering tinctures, gummies and balms, we now do all sorts of baked goods as well such as cookies and brownies, and a capsule range with dozens of different extra skews, and products with ingredients like novaSOL curcumin which is 185 times more bioavailable than native curcumin. These ingredients compliment CBD so well for inflammation. 

“With Andy’s network we have been able to put this together so quickly and he has also helped to bring a lot of staff in – we have around 40 staff working with us, most of which are ex-My Protein or the Hut Group that have worked with Andy in the past.”

Finnegan attributes the last year’s success to the hard working and driven team, as well as the high quality of Naturecan’s products.

“The product is incredible quality and everybody that we deal with as a contract manufacturer say it is the best they have seen from a purity level,” says Finnegan.

“However, 100 per cent the growth is from the team – the people in the business are fantastic, driven. They believe in the product and also believe in increasing peoples’ happiness in life, which is the key to our business so, we have just got a real group of highly motivated skilled people, and, with Duckworth as our leader, he drives everything forward.

“We are in 28 countries now with 40 planned by the end of the year – being able to rely on each country manager and staff in their team to drive each territory forward has been a massive contributor to the growth.”

Finnegan says that Naturecan’s ethos is to bring together the power of nature and science, and to include only the best ingredients to create high-quality products.

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