Pass the industrial hemp to the left-hand side

What’s occurring?

The Department for Enterprise has announced a consultation on its plan to update the Misuse of Drugs Act 1976 and get into the cannabis business. But before we all rush out to buy king size Rizla and get Alexa to play some UB40, DfE is looking at industrial hemp products, medicines and other uses for the plant which we can export.

In simple terms, the Act makes it illegal to bring illegal drugs to the island, to have illegal substances in your possession or to supply another person with those substances. Importantly it bans the production, importation, exportation and possession of cannabis.

What’s it worth?

In the UK, the cannabis products market is currently worth over £300m, with estimates that it could reach £1bn within the next five years and the DfE believes it could be worth £3m a year to the Isle of Man. If successful, cannabis cultivation could directly employ 250 people, generating up to £11.5 million in wages.

So, what are they asking?

The consultation is looking for feedback only on a commercial-export sector for purely economic benefit and does not consider related activities for domestic sales or recreational use. Last year the Great Manx Public said 95% of us would support the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal products in the Isle of Man. Enterprise will also be consulting directly with interested parties including the Manx National Farmers’ Union, the police, prospective commercial operators and industry bodies.

Then what?

Political member for DfE Lawrie Hooper MHK said: ‘We aim to build upon that expertise and reputation by creating a gold-standard global regulatory regime for the cannabis export sector that protects consumers and patients, provides a stable regulatory regime with clear pathways to licensure for commercial operators and develops a sustainable new sector with economic benefits for the Isle of Man.’

If the proposal goes ahead, which it looks rather like it will, growers would have to stick to strict rules over the importing and exporting of cannabis related products which would include the indoor and outdoor growing of cannabis in the Isle of Man. However, as we’ve said this would only be for the purpose of manufacturing and exporting it. The hemp seed used must be an ‘EU approved variety’. These seeds have a THC content of less than 0.2% and licenses would last for up to three years.

What about medicinal cannabis?

While Mr Hooper and DfE is looking at the economic aspects, some in the island are wondering why we can’t produce our own medicinal cannabis (the type that doesn’t get you stoned) for the benefit of the GMP. Medicinal cannabis has been shown to help with conditions including some types of epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced nausea, chronic pain, muscles spasms, migraines, etc. It is also being suggested as the way to prevent pain-killer addiction for long term pain relief users.

And recreational cannabis?

There are many people in the island who would like to see cannabis decriminalised or even legalised so it could be sold and taxed. However, this consultation will not bring this about.