Two years after the United Kingdom legalized medical marijuana, farmers in southern Scotland are about to break ground on the country's first legal cannabis farm.
Agricultural entrepreneurs William and Neil Ewart have just received planning permission to open a 3.7-acre greenhouse in the burgh of Langholm, Dumfriesshire. The Ewarts, who also run a horse racing training school, will harvest their plants exclusively for the UK's new medical marijuana market. All of the plants grown at this facility will be processed into medical cannabis oils, which will be bottled and sold to pharmaceutical companies.
The UK legalized medical marijuana in November 2018, allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis to treat epilepsy, chronic pain, and other conditions. But because the country lacked any domestic cannabis production facilities, patients are forced to import their medicine from overseas. The high cost of these imported medicines are not covered under Britain or Scotland's national health service, forcing many families to sell their homes or turn to crowdfunding to afford medicine for their sick children.
In the past year, several cannabis production facilities have sprung up across Britain. Last January, a medical pot farm opened at a secret location in Wiltshire, and other farms recently opened in Kent and Somerset. LeafCann, an Australian medical cannabis firm, has reportedly considered opening a cannabis facility in Irvine, Scotland, but the Ewart family were able to secure approval to open the country's first legal facility.
The planning approval is just the first stage of a long and complicated process, however. “This is an excellent step in the correct direction but there are so many other steps to be taken,” Ewart told The Scottish Sun. The farm now must apply to the UK Home Office for a license to produce medical cannabis.
In order to receive this license, the company must “demonstrate that Langholm is a fit place to do this kind of thing,” Ewart explained. “I don’t want to sound too optimistic and make too much of a fuss because things can go wrong, but it’s a very exciting project for Langholm.”
The new facility hopes to recruit at least 50 employees locally, including scientists, IT specialists, horticulturalists, and security guards. The plans for the farm include a commercial greenhouse, water storage tanks, and an on-site generator that will recapture heat from the grow rooms to create electricity. Once it becomes fully operational, the farm hopes to produce 200 liters of cannabis oil annually.
Although medical cannabis has been legal in the UK for well over a year, the growth of this new industry has been extremely slow-paced. Most people do not have access to legal medical marijuana — not like in the States. Scotland currently only has one medical cannabis clinic, which has been open for two months now. The current situation leaves many patients unable to find or afford this medicine, and according to a recent survey, around 1.4 million UK residents have turned to black market cannabis to help treat their medical conditions.