THE Isle of Man has become the latest British crown dependency to bolster its burgeoning cannabis industry after issuing its first licence for medical cannabis export last week.
The island’s Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC) announced that it had issued its first letter of approval in principle to British cannabis company GrowLab Organics (GLO), granting it a comprehensive licence to cultivate, manufacture, import and, for the first time, export medical cannabis from the Isle of Man.
Tynwald’s Minister for Enterprise Tim Crookall MHK said the move represented ‘the dawn of a new economic sector for the Isle of Man’, which passed a law allowing the cultivation, distribution and export of cannabis in January 2021.
It comes just days after news that the island had issued its first licence for the importation and dispensing of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBPMs), allowing patients access to medical cannabis for the first time.
While the Government pushes ahead with plans to make the island an attractive destination for cannabis companies, GLO’s Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Charlie Lyons tells BusinessCann he believes the future of its industry is ‘totally down to the companies working in lockstep with the government, the regulators and most importantly the cannabis patient communities’.
GLO, founded in 2018, is understood to have been ‘one the first of a wide range of stakeholders’ that the GSC has worked with since opening applications last year.
“We have had to overcome a number of challenges as a business already. As with any product coming out of prohibition there is a huge amount of fast learning that is required as this frontier industry forms in real time.”
Now that the company has secured a ‘comprehensive suite of licences’, which, unlike other jurisdictions, it believes will be the only licences it needs, the company is poised to begin operating imminently.
“This marks the culmination of GLO’s plan to ensure we have all of our licences in place, a prestigious site on the Isle of Man and a clear route to market before closing our fundraising and launching into the British market.”
Having already secured its seed funding, the company is planning to begin construction of its facility on the island imminently, which is expected to be completed within 12 months.
Outside of its main operation on the Isle of Man, GLO has farmed over 100 million low THC cannabis plants under Home Office licence on its farms in Sussex, and the company is continually innovating in the hemp space.
The Isle of Man
The news comes amid a flurry of developments on the Isle of Man and wider crown dependencies, which are continuing to push ahead of the wider UK on cannabis reform.
Less than a week earlier, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) awarded its first-ever licence for the importation and dispensing of CBPMs on the island.
As BusinessCann reported in April, despite the significant moves towards cannabis liberalisation made in early 2021, the DHSC had until last week failed to issue any import licences to the island, meaning medical cannabis remained effectively illegal.
On June 23, Karsons Pharmacy, a local family-run business in Onchan and Kirk Michael, became the only on-island pharmacy with a licence to import and dispense CBPMs, giving the island’s 83,000 inhabitants access to medical cannabis for the first time.
This came just a day after construction giant Peel NRE submitted an application for planning consent for a new ‘science innovation and research centre’, which is set to include 178,000 sq. ft of space for cannabis cultivation, alongside 102,000 sq. ft for research and development.
According to Treasury Minister Dr Alex Allinson MHK, the creation of a ‘world-class infrastructure’ to nurture the development of the island’s medical cannabis sector is a ‘key part of the Government’s ambitions to diversify the economy’.
My Lyons echoed this, recognising that the Isle of Man, much like Jersey and Guernsey, ‘has to be legislatively agile to create favourable conditions’ for businesses to base themselves there.
While he welcomed the Government’s efforts to ‘create this environment for us to operate’, he asserted that it was really down to businesses to realise this opportunity responsibly.
“We’re in a jurisdiction where there is the opportunity to legally import, export, cultivate, test, store cannabis, do research and development, all the rest of it, and that’s great.
“But we believe the responsibility lies with GLO and other companies to create a fair, diverse and equitable industry that delivers the best cannabis for those that need it the most.”