A panel, titled Industry Insights, took place as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week. It aimed to connect professionals, healthcare providers and patients to discuss the issues surrounding the UK cannabis industry.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week ran from the 1 – 7 November with a series of panel discussions. Each panel combined patients with doctors, industry professionals and healthcare practitioners to discuss some of the key issues surrounding medical cannabis access.
In the panel led by Cannabis Health managing editor, Sarah Sinclair, patients highlighted the need for the cannabis industry to recognise their part to play in it. They stressed that if there were no patients then there would be no industry. The patients were adamant that industry professionals must engage with patients from the start and that, so far, not enough has been done to work with them.
Sarah was joined by Alisia Ratliff the CEO of Victus Capital Ventures, Dr Callie Seaman the director and formulation chemist at Aqualabs, Eric Bystrom the CEO of Cellen and Leva Clinics, Jack Pierce who is a patient at Patient-Led Engagement for Access (PLEA), Mike Breeze the Managing Director of Pure Isolation Ltd and Pious who is also on the Management Committee at PLEA.
Patient led industry
Dr Callie Seaman stated that communication needs happen between the industry and patients but there is a fine line between listening and exploitation.
“Getting patient groups and communicating with them is the biggest way. A lot of patients feel like they are not listened to. It’s about making sure that they are being listened to and feeling that they are not being exploited for the information,” she said.
“It’s about being compassionate towards them as well. I feel like that has to be the start of it. Transparency is going to be a really important factor in this as patients feel there is a lack of it and that they don’t get the information they want. They don’t get information about how the plant is grown, how it’s processed or its age. Transparency is the best way to drive this forward.”
Pious, who is a medical cannabis patient, agreed with Dr Seaman. He would like to see the industry respect the knowledge that cannabis parents have.
“It’s about valuing the patient. A lot of patients have prior experience with using cannabis so it’s about respecting that knowledge. Some have experience of growing, consuming, what they like or just consuming. A lot of patients are already aware of what strains work for them, what products they like and what they want out of it.”
He added: “It can be very traumatic for patients to share or attend events like this to share deeply personal information. It’s great to spread awareness and get some valuable information but if companies or organisations are using patients on their panels then there should be remuneration as this is a multi-million-pound industry. It ultimately goes back to, without patients, especially in the UK then there wouldn’t be an industry.”
Lack of diversity for patients
The patients also highlighted that there was a lack of product diversity within the UK market. The limited amount of products within the market also meant there were issues with quality, cost and consistency.
Pious said: “Saying something is GMP certified doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality product. It ties back into the earlier point of valuing patients and their knowledge. In one sense, the government doesn’t have to worry about prescription products going to the market because no one is going to consume that product.
“If you are telling patients that is quality flower, yet half of it is sugar leaves or there are still leaves attached, or its burned or there are seeds, then that’s not quality flower. I think it’s insulting and it’s damaging to the industry.”
He continued: “We are such a small group of patients, and we talk. There are known platforms where you can find out what to avoid or what product is good. If the industry actually talks to patients then you can ask what we expect out of our flower. It’s really simple things that could be easily addressed.”
The patients stressed again that honest conversation is key when it comes to fixing consistent quality issues. It may also stop the flow of patients heading back to the illegal market due to the quality of cannabis on offer.
Cost for Patients
The cost of prescriptions and the lower quality flower was also raised.
“We’re paying a lot of money for our prescription as it’s not cheap. It’s really expensive. It’s good for the industry to recognise that in the UK, we have the national health service which is free. If you are operating in private industry and are not going above and beyond the NHS then you are going to be in for a shock when your patients are no longer buying your product,” Pious said.
Jack added that reaching the higher quality of cannabis can often be out of reach for patients due to cost. He also stressed that there should be a greater emphasis on terpenes.
“Another thing with cost and quality as a patient is that to reach the higher qualities, which are still mid-tier, they are significantly expensive. They are costing £120 for 10 grammes and are considered the higher quality cannabis for the legal market,” Jack added.
Alisia Ratliff the CEO of Victus Capital Ventures offered her point of view which is not only from the industry perspective but as a patient too. Originally from Florida in the US, she has experience in the legal markets in the US as well as Jersey in the UK.
“I’m a patient here in Jersey and getting access to flower was just so difficult. It would take weeks for my prescription to be filled but then the quality of the flower is really subpar. I came from the states where I had been consuming cannabis for the last four years and something that has been helpful for my chronic pain has been variety.”
She explained: “Sometimes, flower doesn’t work for me so I need a vape cartridge or I might need edibles or oil. That’s one of the things that I find daunting here is that you don’t have that diversification of products.”
Alisia highlighted that it’s the same producers when it comes time to choose a product that is at odds with the UK being the largest producer of cannabis. She believes the UK will struggle to diversify the portfolio of products so that they can choose the method that works well for their aliment.
“It’s weird when the UK and GW Pharma are the largest exporters of medical cannabis but it’s not coming directly into your community. That rings all kinds of pound signs in that it is not focused on what patients need.”
Patients and audience poll
Sarah raised the results of a poll that had been running during the panel discussion. The audience members were asked to vote for what was most important to them.
The results revealed that 77 per cent of attendees felt product quality was the most important aspect of the medical cannabis industry while a further 46 per cent said patient engagement. A further 38 per cent chose ethical practice while just 23 per cent chose corporate responsibility.
Entry level into the industry
The industry professionals said that the industry can be difficult to enter due to barriers with cost, legislation hurdles and the length of time it takes to get products approved. Dr Callie Seaman offered her experiences of countries like Denmark and how it compares to the UK.
“In having worked with countries like Denmark, I think the licensing process needs to be made a lot shorter. It takes far too long in this country to obtain a cultivation license. What happens in this country is that a facility needs to be built before the license is granted which makes it impossible for the everyday person to be able to even enter the market.”
She suggested that there is experience and expertise to be found in the legacy market. “The legacy market has got some amazing people within it who have got far more experience than anyone who is involved in the industry at this point. They are being ignored at the moment.”
Cookies and InterCure expand into UK and Austria
Iconic cannabis brand Cookies is expanding into the UK and Austria with the opening of retail locations.
Iconic cannabis brand Cookies has partnered with Israel-based InterCure to expand into Europe.
The partnership will see Cookies and InterCure open retail locations in the UK and Austria in early 2022. The parties entered into a multi-year deal under which InterCure will establish Cookies stores and medical cannabis pharmacies in the countries.
President of Cookies, Parker Berling, commented: “As we focus on new territories, it’s vital our customers continue to count on the quality Cookies is known for, which is a value we share with our partners at InterCure.
“We look forward to reaching audiences in Austria and the United Kingdom and establishing Cookies as a mainstay in each community.”
InterCure, a Cookies’ international partner, is already cultivating, manufacturing and distributing GMP standard, Cookies-branded products through its Cookies national medical cannabis pharmacy chain. InterCure will leverage its licensed international supply chain to serve the growing communities of medical cannabis patients in Europe.
CEO of InterCure, Alexander Rabinovitch, added: “Cookies is one of the most internationally recognized brands in cannabis, and after our mutual success in Israel, it’s only obvious we further our expansion to Europe, providing the highest quality grade cannabis products.”
Cookies recently announced its partnership with The Flowr Corporation to bring its premium strains such as Pink Runtz and Gelatti to the European Union. The partnership will see Flowr’s indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, RPK Biopharma, cultivate and distribute Cookies products in Portugal from its 25,000 square foot indoor EU GMP facility in Sintra.
CiiTECH set to launch its medicinal cannabis range Provacan THC in Israel
Israeli patients will have access to the first Provacan THC oil in January 2022.
CiiTECH and Cannassure have announced a major deal to develop and market Provacan THC products for medical cannabis use in Israel, marking CiiTECH’s long-awaited move into medicinal cannabis.
In addition to offering established consumer CBD brands, CiiTECH‘s flagship brand Provacan is considered one of the most respected in the UK. Clifton Flack, CEO and founder of CiiTECH, intends to bring Provacan’s reputation for quality and consistency to the troubled Israeli medical cannabis market.
“CiiTECH is unique in its approach to the CBD wellness and medicinal cannabis markets. We built an international reputation as a market-leading CBD company by producing pharmacy-trusted CBD oil tinctures and selling them as food supplements before making our move into THC. Our intention is to bring these International standards to the Israeli market,” says Flack, “As a UK company with strong roots in Israel, CiiTECH is well positioned to make its THC debut and there is no better place to do so than in Israel, the epicenter of global cannabis research.
“Cannassure is known for producing high-grade medical cannabis in Israel with an advanced indoor-aeroponic growing system and state-of-the-art extraction.”
“The collaboration with CiiTECH, a leading company in the field of cannabis research and marketing and owner of the leading brand Provacan, is an important step in the field of cannabis oils for us, an area that enjoys significant growth among patients who do not want to consume inflorescence cannabis. We are confident that this collaboration will bring value for us, for CiiTECH and for cannabis patients in Israel, and we believe that it will help us conquer a more significant share of the cannabis oil market in Israel,” added Ran Amir, Cannassure CEO.
As part of its business strategy, CiiTECH seeks and collaborates with best-of-breed cannabis providers up and down the supply chain in multiple geographies. With this agreement, CiiTECH continues to demonstrate its effective business strategy, commitment to quality assurance, and speed of entry into the market that the industry has grown to expect from CiiTECH.
With the help of Cannassure, CiiTECH will help reform, standardise, educate and establish quality, consistency, and reliability in the Israeli medical cannabis market. In order to achieve this goal, CiiTECH is developing a hybrid solution in which a superior quality product is offered to patients and a unique professional enrichment programme is offered to help doctors and pharmacists support patients on a deeper level.
Around 80 per cent of Israel’s 100,000 licensed medical cannabis users smoke, rather than using tinctures. The biggest complaint in those groups is the lack of quality and consistency. It is CiiTECH’s mission to show these users how much better tinctures are than smoking. Provacan ambassadors and users will benefit from comprehensive education courses provided by CiiTECH as part of this re-education so they will feel more confident and better supported while using CiiTECH products.
“As cannabis market experts and our involvement in the cannabis ecosystem in Israel, we understand the nature of the demand and the gaps in the Israeli market. Our new THC tincture will revolutionise the lives of many patients who are currently suffering from inconsistencies in the medical cannabis supply chain, and it will be made to the same strict UK & European guidelines as our current products,” concludes Flack.
Israeli patients will have access to the first Provacan THC oil in January 2022, followed soon thereafter by Brazilian and British patients.
Further drug development agreement for Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies
Dalriada will support the company with R&D activities.
Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies has signed a drug development agreement with Canada-based Dalriada Drug Discovery Inc.
Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies Holdings (OCTP), the holding company of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies Ltd (OCT), has entered into an agreement with Dalriada to propel OCT’s R&D activities. A goal of the collaboration is the selection of two drug candidates ready for pre-clinical development by the end of 2022.
Dalriada will evaluate cannabinoid derivatives, which includes 335 cannabinoid derivatives, 14 patent families and related intellectual property, acquired under the exclusive licence agreement with Canopy Growth Corporation to advance OCT’s Programmes 3 and 4. These programmes target pain, neurology, and inflammation.
OCTP chief executive, Dr John Lucas, commented: “Whilst our main focus remains pain therapy, the collaboration with Dalriada, in synergy with the strategic collaborations recently announced, will enable us to expand and differentiate our efforts into other therapeutic areas including neurology, oncology and inflammation.
“Working with the team that helped Canopy to develop its library is hugely exciting for OCT and will help us get the very best out of that important acquisition.”
Dalriada designed, synthesised and experimentally tested all of the compounds in the Canopy library, and OCT will be able to leverage Dalriada’s existing knowledge and experience as it continues research and development aimed at identifying multiple drug candidates.
Dalriada chief executive and co-founder, Diana Kraskouskaya, said: “Dalriada looks forward to supporting OCT advance the cannabinoid derivative library we helped discover. Targeting the endogenous cannabinoid system with small molecules holds significant promise in delivering improved therapies and over the years, we have significantly invested in building our expertise and infrastructure in this pharmacology as well as our work with controlled substances.
“Together we are well equipped to rapidly advance OCT’s pipeline through hit-to-lead and lead optimisation.”
The agreement with Dalriada follows another recent agreement with Oxford-based StemTech, which will also be providing support across all four of OCTP’s drug development programmes.