• Christopher Smith, Publisher

Carbon-Negative Cannabis in the UK?

My final story on 2021 comes from a headline in Health Europa, which goes to show one can’t go too far afield to get a good cannabis story. But first, I’d like to share some good news on the last day of the year. For a consulting project, I had to become as well versed as I could be on regenerative practices, carbon sequestration and stuff like that. So I took a course from the Carbon Literacy Project in Manchester, England, which was recognized by the United Nations as one of the 100 Transformative Action Programmes that could materially change the way we deal with climate change.


And just yesterday I learned I am certified as "Carbon Literate." (Thank you, Hebah Saddique!)

Now that I have passed the audition, I can tell you about my headline: “The World’s First Carbon-Negative Medical Cannabis Cultivation Facility, which is coincidentally being planned in the UK.


A leading infrastructure investment firm has agreed to invest 22.5 Million pounds in Glass Pharms (“Pharms” with a "ph" – cute!) which is “the largest dedicated infrastructure investment in the UK medical cannabis industry to date, demonstrating real confidence that medical cannabis has a long term and sustainable future in the UK."


The facility will be 2.5 hectares or about 6 acres of Indoor Grow that will be "...powered by an anaerobic digestion plant which converts food waste into electricity, with hot water from the plant being utilized for both heating and cooling in the greenhouse."


THE DEEPER DIVE


Kudos to the Brits for investing in an advanced facility for the cannabis industry. Hopefully some of their technologies can be leveraged in indoor growing environments worldwide.


However, it’s been pointed out by esteemed cannabis authority Omar Figueroa that outdoor cultivation of cannabis sativa L. is by nature carbon-negative, because the cannabis plant is so effici ent at sequestering carbon in the soil. Taking that a step further, since cannabis would have a relatively short growing window in southern England due to seasonal low temperatures and high rainfall, the project is designed after what’s essentially the English-garden/English-colony mentality of remaking nature into something orderly – bring the 6 acres of outdoor cultivation indoors. The Canadian cannabis experiment has already revealed significant problems with this approach (the biggest being mold). And another step further, this colonialist mentality of “taming the wild”, while very on-brand for England, requires these extra '"sustainable" steps at creating, rather than simply letting occur, a carbon-negative growing environment. Forcing nature can be tricky...


Another bit of a disconnect when they talk about their '... confidence in long term medical cannabis in the UK." I would argue that "confidence in medical cannabis" does not exist today in the UK.


Although they do have GB Pharmaceutical making Epidiolex, a cannabis derived drug that costs about $32,000 a year and requires sick children to take grams-per-day of CBD-isolate, not milligrams but whole grams...


More importantly, medicinal cannabis was legalized in the UK in 2018 – four years ago tomorrow… and do you remember how many patients are approved to get their cannabis medicine through their National Institute of Health?


Three.


Three patients in the whole country of 67 million. Law-abiding parents with sick children have to pay almost 3,000 pounds per month to either smuggle cannabis or to import it. UK government authorities have literally taken medicine out of the hands of mothers with epileptic children. It's disgusting.


California legalized medicinal cannabis a quarter of a century ago, so if the UK wants to say its serious, they need to put up or shut up.


THE LOOP BACK


Second, in this press release/article Glass Pharms group is providing a roadmap of how a Pharma company thinks about cannabis. Their announced aim is to “secure the first UK commercial license … to supply High-THC cannabis flower to lawful third parties, such as pharmaceutical companies” while creating a secure supply chain of “replicable end-product” by “employing an array of methods, including AI-based environmental management systems, to control a range of growing variables.” Sounds like a recipe for British Boof to me.


From the brief story I reviewed, I have a few questions for the newbies across the pond:

  1. The only technology mentioned in this "carbon-negative" cultivation is the anaerobic power plant. That’s all it takes to get to carbon-negative? Gee whiz, why didn’t anyone else think of that? Seriously, what else is in the plan?

  2. There are no commercial cannabis licenses in the UK? Zero? So, where’s the commitment to medical marijuana? Oh right – it doesn’t exist in the UK.

  3. If there are no licenses in the UK, there must be no testing yet either, right? So how will anyone know the "replicable end product" from Glass Pharm is free of molds, heavy metals, contaminants, pesticides, etc.?

  4. "High-THC flower" … there are over 140 cannabinoids in cannabis and this group only mentions one? What about CBN, CBG, and all the rest? Don’t these people know anything about what they’re doing?

  5. The intend to "… supply High-THC flower to pharmaceutical companies…" – and just what secret knowledge do only pharmaceutical companies have about cannabinoid medicines? When will Pharma be ready to use this cannabis flower to help people? Will they charge extortionate prices like GB Pharmaceutical does for Epidiolex?

  6. "AI-Based environmental management systems…"? Why not hire experienced and skilled cultivators? Glass Pharma is in for a big surprise when they learn how much art is needed to make their 22.5 Million-pound science experiment actually work.

Glass Pharma says they want to start serving customers in 2022, but they haven’t even broken ground yet, and as Nichole West so ably explains, even after they finish construction, they will require at least 4-5 growing cycles if not more before they’ve dialed in their environment and processes and can deliver “replicable end-product.”


Glass Pharma product is not months away, it might be years.


Cannabis patients in the UK will have to keep a stiff upper lip until then.


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Image source: https://carbonliteracy.com