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Cannabis oil – and how one local firm is at the forefront of using it to improve health

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A “serial entrepreneur” with a sharp eye on the latest health trends says he is convinced the time is right to back production of top-quality hemp-derived cannabis oil in the UK.

George Thomas, 29, points out that the industry was valued at £90 million in 2018 and is expected to reach almost £200 million this year. On top of this, he is convinced CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a great product that has helped thousands of people living with chronic health conditions. His company sells the highest quality Cannabis Sativa L extracts available in the UK.

At home on the family farm near Frome, George is excited at the prospect of building the business, launched in September, 2017 with funding from his father’s investment company Sativa Investments PLC – the UK’s first public-listed cannabis investment company. 

George is MD and owner of George Botanicals, which aims to be the market leader in the development and production of cannabinoid products, growing, manufacturing and distributing high-quality cannabis oils, all with less than the government-approved 0.2 per cent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content. He also oversees the running of sister company Phytovista, a specialist cannabis laboratory bought last summer by his father, Geremy, and dedicated to testing the oils and other hemp-based products. The two businesses work closely together, to ensure the highest standards are retained in this relatively new health sector.

The family is licensed by the Home Office to grow hemp (Cannabis Sativa L) on its 160-acre farm and aims shortly to provide a “seed-to-consumer experience”, once all the necessary permissions are in place. 

Cannabis plants contain more than 100 cannabinoids, of which CBD (cannabidiol) is one, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is another. CBD is extracted from the flowers and leaves of the Cannabis Sativa L (industrial hemp) plant. The extracts have no psychoactive properties, no recreational value and are legal, having been withdrawn from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list in 2018.

As of November 1st, 2018, those patients with severe forms of illness like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and in need of CBD with THC over the UK’s legal limit of 0.2% can obtain a prescription from a specialist doctor. However, there is much debate currently as to how readily available these medicines are and the process by which to obtain the medicine is extremely difficult. 

An estimated 300,000 people in the UK are now regularly using CBD oil, to ease a number of health conditions, from chronic pain to inflammation, acne, anxiety and insomnia.

George, who admits to having dipped into many fund-raising ventures before he discovered the hemp business, explained how he got involved. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, always looking for the next trend and, after monitoring the cannabis oil production industry in Canada and the United States, where it has existed for some time, I could see this was an exciting development. To give you an idea of the scale of what is happening in California for example, this year the value of cannabis derived products is set to outweigh that of beer sales. The oils produced there are a fantastic product and help loads of people. In the UK, the market is only just waking up to the potential”.

The company plans to extract both CBD (non-psychoactive) and the more controversial THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) oils, which contain an element of psychoactive compound, but are safe used under carefully controlled conditions. As George explains, CBD and THC products are as different as apples and oranges. 

George welcomes official backing of his chosen business and understands the caution expressed by the MHRA over claims made about cannabis oils. “We are always ultra-careful with anything we say to promote our products,” he adds. “At the moment, the oils are registered as a food supplement, although there is a movement to reclassify them. For now, we simply suggest that people try our different types of oil, to see if it can help their condition. We never claim it is a miracle cure for anything.”   

George is anxious to stress that hemp is grown legally across the UK and Europe and provides a number of different products as well as the oil – a strong and versatile fibre, used in the building and clothing industry, and nutritious seeds. Despite gaining Home Office approval to grow hemp on the farm, only a small acreage is planted so far, under test conditions. At present, the production line uses CBD extract imported from Colorado in the United States and Slovenia, however it is George’s aspiration to extract CBD from their own hemp crop in Somerset. Sativa Investments PLC are also working on a £10m-plus fund raise to build a 300,000Sqft glasshouse on a site only nine miles from the family farm. 

More recently, George Botanical’s, parent company, Sativa Investments PLC has entered into a research agreement with King’s College London to research the impact of cannabinoids on inflammation and respiratory diseases.  The research will be led by Professor Clive Page OBE PhD Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology at King’s College London, and Professor Peter Hylands, an expert in medicines obtained from plants.  Professor Page is a world authority on the pharmacology of inflammation and respiratory disease, having published over 250 scientific papers.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and the British Pharmacological Society, and was awarded an OBE in 2017 for his “Services to Pharmacology”.  

George employs 16 people across the George Botanicals business and says where possible they are drawn from the local community. 

It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur and George is clearly relishing the challenges of being in at the birth of a new UK industry, with the possibility of branching out into many more products, including shampoo and toothpaste. 

• The full range of cannabis oil-based products, including drops in various flavours, as well as balm and vape liquid for e-cigarettes can be found at Georgebotanicals.com Prices start from £20.

 

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