Seeing Green: The View from London

By Alex Halperin
Jun 3, 2019

Manchester, U.K.–A few days ago I had a very pleasant conversation — over pints of lager — with some of the folks at the London cannabis consultancy Hanway Associates. They’ve got a lot going on, including the late June Cannabis Europa conference in London, which lists a solid contingent of speakers and sponsors from North America. They project attendance of about 1,300.

That said, don’t expect there to be much of a U.K. Green Rush anytime soon, for reasons I’ll go into in a forthcoming column for the Guardian. On a much smaller scale, however, there are hints of legalization reaching British and European shores.

Here are my top takeaways:

  • The European company which sounded most intriguing is Holland-based Bedrocan which claims to be the only company in the world growing flower so consistent it qualifies as pharmaceutical grade.
  • Hanway CEO George McBride said the U.K.’s National Health Service is “very ill-informed” on MED and reluctant to learn more. But access is expanding somewhat through private clinics which serve the very wealthy, as well as some of the workforces of major multinationals. The first such clinic opened in March in Manchester. More are anticipated soon on Harley Street, London’s hub of private medical care.
  • While most of the British public favors REC legalization, according to a 2018 poll commissioned by the drug policy think tank Volteface, there’s more wariness about the risks. (The consultancy Hanway has close ties to Volteface.)
  • When legalization arrives, it’s likely to be more organized and more closely tied to the medical profession. “I don’t think the American model of taking medical advice from shop assistants is something we want to follow,” McBride said.
  • In Spain, and perhaps much of southern Europe, cannabis is “ubiquitous,” which makes it harder to create a for-profit industry.