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UK Grown Cannabis Made Available To UK Patients For The First Time

17 Jun 2024

Milestone for UK patients as first domestically grown medical cannabis arrives

UK-Grown-Cannabis-Made-Available-To-UK-Patients-For-The-First-Time National Hemp Service

The launch of UK-grown medical cannabis marks a significant milestone in the development of the market, which has long been hamstrung by its reliance on imported products and its impact on supply chains.

One of the first clinics set to begin distributing the first ‘Made in Britain’ stamped medical cannabis is Releaf, though Glass Pharms is understood to be sending its product to a number of UK customers.

“Our partnership with Glass Pharms represents a new era in medical cannabis for the UK,” said Tim Kirby, Managing Director of Releaf.

“By offering locally grown, sustainable cannabis medication, we are not only meeting a significant unmet need in the healthcare industry and improving patient access, but also reducing our environmental impact and supporting domestic industry.”

Domestic Supply 

Through its strategic partnership with Glass Pharms, Releaf will now offer a range of its own-branded medical cannabis flower products through its platform.

Glass Pharms has long made its ambition to supply the domestic market clear, telling Business of Cannabis earlier this year that the UK was its initial target market, specifically ‘solving for out-of-stock issues’ for UK patients.

“We believe that if that supply chain is replaced, and patients have the experience of being able to receive a reliable, repeatable, standardised medicine that works, that removes one of the key pieces of friction from the industry itself,” it said.

To achieve this, Glass Pharms says it has developed a ‘continuous production model’, which will harvest ‘every week of the year’, significantly shortening the supply chain and allowing the company to provide fresh flowers with ‘exacting standards’ of terpene and cannabinoid profiles.

Mr Kirby told Business of Cannabis: “I didn’t realise, as we embarked on this journey in February, just how broken the supply chain was. These closed-loop ecosystems just don’t support any business at scale.

“It was kind of this serendipitous moment. We refunded £40,000 last month to patients because we didn’t meet our charter in terms of timely delivery. We said we’d deliver within seven days, but that didn’t happen.

“And then exactly the same time I met James and Mark at Glass Pharms, and they had a similar view to me as to the root cause of the stagnation of the UK, and they were just literally about to have their first harvest.”

He continued that Releaf agreed to buy ‘as much of their first production as possible’, and found a partner to handle the store, finish and package Glass Pharms’ product into Releaf-branded medical cannabis flower.

“Not only have we sort of secured the ecosystem in terms of supply, but we have flattened the supply chain in terms of how you get it in front of the patient.”

The pair have reportedly agreed to a 12-month contract, which will see Glass Pharms utilise its continuous growth cycle to effectively cultivate to Releaf’s forecast ‘for 16 weeks out’.

Glass Pharms CEO, James Duckenfield, added: “Patients will now have a security of supply that was previously missing from a market that previously relied on imports. The ability for clinicians to write repeat prescriptions of the same product was previously hit and miss due to supply chain problems. Our continuous harvesting model will help bring an end of the out-of-stock issues that have set back the development of this promising therapeutic area in the UK.

“We are happy that Releaf is our first customer to bring our flower to market. They have a strong focus on patient experience with an excellent proprietary technology platform to enable it. The combined offering is great news for patients, particularly those who care about the environment.”

UK Supply Chain 

As noted in Prohibition Partners’ European Cannabis Report: 9th Edition, the UK’s medical cannabis market is now the second largest in Europe, and is the core driver of growth in the region.

Despite this growth, and unusually high consumption from UK patients, its supply chain and importation hurdles continue to restrain its potential.

Source: Prohibition Partners’ European Cannabis Report: 9th Edition

The importation process for finished medical cannabis products is also costly and highly bureaucratic. Products can only be imported on the basis of letters of ‘clinical need’ from doctors, which detail the specific product requirements (i.e. specific quantities of specific named products), and only for a period of three months.

This process results in higher costs to patients for products, and lower consistency and availability of the product supply.

To meet the growing demand, clinics have worked around these issues by importing intermediate products instead of finished products, opting to perform the final manufacturing steps within the UK.

This allows them to import medical cannabis classified as a Schedule I Raw Material, which is cheaper and easier to bring into the country than a Schedule II Finished Product.

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Article first published on Business of Cannabis

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