Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Isle of Man’s regulator grants first medicinal cannabis licence

A milestone has been passed on the Isle of Man’s race towards a lucrative medical cannabis industry: the first conditional medicinal licence for export has been offered to medicinal cannabis business GrowLab Organics (GLO) by the island’s regulator, the Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC).

The development was announced by Business Isle of Man, an executive agency within the island’s department for enterprise: “The GSC has issued the first letter of approval in principle to GLO to cultivate, extract, manufacture, import and export medicinal cannabis from the Isle of Man.” As yet, the grant of a licence to GLO is not listed on the GSC website.

GLO was incorporated in August 2018, headquartered in Horsham, UK. The company plans to move its headquarters to the Isle of Man. According to GLO’s website, construction will begin this year on a purpose-built, fully indoor, cannabis cultivation and processing facility on the island. The company plans to “produce a range of cannabis from a variety of different strains all with a single batch origin. Each strain will be chosen to target a different profile of cannabinoids and terpenes, in order to provide choice to our patients and clinicians.

“We will go strain hunting with leading geneticists to find desirable strains and then use our cutting edge cultivation facility to create optimal conditions for phenotype expression. Coupled with our GLOchain technology, this means we can grow in a controlled way to optimise the production of specific cannabinoids and terpenes in order to make the best products on Earth. Alongside this we are forging partnerships with some of the foremost cannabis producers on the planet and are excited to bring product collaborations to the European market.”

The GLOchain technology is “designed to make a secure digital connection via the blockchain, between us, our patients and our products. Whether you want to ‘meet the grower’ or simply to see the batch specific analytical report, the GLOchain creates this connection via a unique QR code on each of our products. The GLOchain will also crucially allow our patients to feed back efficacy data, on how a given strain worked for them.”

“The Isle of Man prides itself on being a well-regulated jurisdiction”

Dr Alex Allinson MHK, Isle of Man minister for treasury

Like its fellow British crown dependencies in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man’s government, the Tynwald, has been pursuing a strategy of exploiting its legislative nimbleness as compared with the UK, and its expertise in some international sectors, to put in place a regulatory framework to enable the medical cannabis industry to develop on the island. It has taken a different approach from the Channel Island governments, using one of its existing regulators, the GSC, which is an independent statutory body, as the launch regulator for the cannabis sector. In January 2021, the Tynwald passed regulations “to create a comprehensive framework to issue licences for the production, distribution and export of cannabis products from the island. Tynwald has approved changes to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations which will permit commercial operators to produce medical cannabis products,” according to the government website.

The GSC is set up to grant five types of licence within the cannabis industry: for cultivation and research, transport and storage, manufacture and extraction, import and export, and analysis. Applications opened in June 2021.

Commenting on the granting of the first licence, Dr Alex Allinson MHK, minister for treasury, said, “The GSC has worked diligently since applications opened last year and the issuing of this first conditional licence is a great step for the island’s entrance into the medicinal cannabis sector… The Isle of Man prides itself on being a well-regulated jurisdiction, and strives to ensure that businesses which choose to operate here agree that our regulation is appropriate and proportionate to their needs.”

“Establishing a new sector under a regulated framework is a complex process”

Steve Brennan, CEO, Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission

The GSC’s CEO Steve Brennan added, “Establishing a new sector under a regulated framework is a complex process and the GSC is committed to developing a framework which is fit for purpose and will offer the best possible service to applicants for this exciting new sector. Since opening applications last year,  the GSC have worked with a wide range of stakeholders to further develop the licensing framework and enable other authorities to identify their links with the sector. There has been a number of moving parts, and I would like to thank the organisations, including the Information Commissioner, with which we have worked to bring us to this point, most recently in connection with new regulations.

“These regulations are the culmination of a much longer piece of work that has sought to identify all of the sector’s stakeholders and relevant authorities and understand where they fit into our information-sharing infrastructure. The GSC has worked attentively to identify a definitive list of stakeholders before creating the regulations to ensure the correct information gateways are captured in statute. I am pleased that we are now in a position to grant the first licence in this new sector and we look forward to continually supporting this sector to grow as its regulator.”

There have been other milestones of note in the intervening period since the Tynwald passed its legislation in January 2021. One is a planning consultation held by Peel NRE in February and March this year for a proposed medicinal cannabis cultivation facility, a science innovation and research centre and a sustainable energy park to provide at least part of the development’s power requirement. The proposal represents a £90 million to £180 million investment in the island’s economy.

Another milestone is the granting of the first licence by the Manx department of health and social care to import and dispense medicinal cannabis products. The government sought bids from pharmacies to run a 12-month trial service, and it was announced on Thursday 23 June that only one—Karsons Pharmacy in Onchan—has been chosen. Medicinal cannabis is not yet available on the Manx NHS, and there are no GPs on the island who can prescribe it, but the pharmacy can dispense private prescriptions issued by private clinics. 

The minister for health and social care, Lawrie Hooper MHK, said, “This licence is the first of its kind on the island, and is a step in the right direction for providing access to a safe, legal and robust dispensing service for residents with private prescriptions. The department will be working closely with Karsons over the course of this pilot to ensure we are providing the right service in the right way.”

The department of health intends that the service should be in place before the end of the summer.

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