Britain’s first legal cannabis farm will be built in rural Wiltshire and could make £32million worth of the medicinal drug in a single harvest after it was legalised
- Sativa Investments has got planning permission for the 7.5-acre facility
- There will be 200,000 square feet of growing space inside the giant greenhouse
- Calculations suggest it could make £160 per square foot at 2018’s market rate
- The facility is expected to be near the town of Frome in Somerset
- Cannabis-based medicines were legalised in November 2018 by Sajid Javid MP
Cannabis will soon be grown legally in the UK as plans have been revealed for the first farm to be set up in the West Country.
A £10million 7.5-acre greenhouse will be built in rural Wiltshire, where cannabis will be grown for use in medicines which became legal in November.
The law now allows specialist doctors to prescribe medications based on cannabis, which are most commonly used to treat epilepsy or chronic pain.
But all the drugs the NHS can dish out are currently imported because it has been illegal to grow the drug here for decades.
The company intending to set up the greenhouse, Sativa Investments, owns a company in Frome, Somerset, and said its previous growing trials were discovered by ‘hoodlums’ from the town – its new facility is expected to be built nearby in the Wiltshire countryside
Sativa Investments, a London-based company, has been given planning permission for the pioneering facility, which could earn it £32million per harvest.
The firm owns a cannabis-testing lab in Frome, Somerset – PhytoVista Laboratories – and the greenhouse is expected to appear nearby in the neighbouring county.
Its exact location has not been disclosed.
Test fields were last year discovered by ‘hoodlums’ who posted a video of their location online, the company’s chief executive Geremy Thomas said.
‘Last year it was all about trialling 10 acres of industrial hemp that we were licensed to grow by the Home Office,’ he told Radio 4’s Farming Today programme.
‘One of the problems we had is a security issue where three of the local hoodlums from Frome spotted the fields from afar and started dancing around with their cameras and published that on Facebook, which prompted us to plough the crop into the ground very quickly.’
The greenhouse could be hugely profitable, with 200,000 square feet of it designated for growing cannabis.
Each square foot will be able to yield 40 grams of cannabis, with one gram selling for about £4 on the wholesale market last year – £160 per square foot.
If the market rate continues, Sativa could make millions on its first harvest alone once the £10.5million build cost is accounted for.
A Canadian company, Veritas, is expected to advise Sativa Investments on which strains of cannabis would be most useful to grow.
Drugs from Canada are currently being shipped to the UK to cater to patients who have obtained prescriptions since Home Secretary Sajid Javid legalised the drugs on November 1, 2018.
He changed the law following a high-profile campaign by the parents of children suffering severe forms of epilepsy.
Numerous families had been travelling abroad to get their children medicines containing the psychoactive chemical THC, which was illegal in the UK.
Sativa Investments CEO, Mr Thomas, added: ‘We have a test facility here which will allow us to grow different strains of cannabis to assess with our laboratory.
‘But also we’re interested in testing different forms of hydroponic mediums and we’re also looking at different forms of lighting.’
Farmers who own the land the greenhouse is built on will be offered shares in the company for 5p each – the current share price is 11.9p.
THE LANDMARK CASE OF BILLY CALDWELL
Billy Caldwell’s mother Charlotte (pictured together) had seven bottles of cannabis oil confiscated at Heathrow Airport customs, prompting a row over cannabis oil
Cannabis oil was thrust into the limelight when epileptic boy Billy Caldwell’s mother had seven bottles confiscated at Heathrow Airport customs.
The 12-year-old sparked a row over the medicinal status of the oil, prompting the Home Office to step in and grant his mother Charlotte an emergency licence for the product that was calming his seizures, which contained THC.
Billy’s bottles were confiscated on June 11 after Ms Caldwell brought them in from Toronto.
On the back of the cases of Billy and fellow epileptic boy Alfie Dingley, six, Home Secretary Sajid Javid called for a review into medicinal cannabis.
In a major shift of policy, he announced in July that some products containing the drug would be available on prescription in the UK from the autumn.
On the back of today’s change to the law, Ms Caldwell said she wept with joy.
‘For me what started off as a journey which was about the needs of my little boy actually turned into something, proved to be something, a lot bigger,’ she told Sky News.
‘It proved to be the needs of a nation.
‘Medicinal cannabis gave me back my right as a mummy to hope, but the most important thing medicinal cannabis has done is given Billy back his right to life.
‘Only relatively recently did our Government and country really start to appreciate just how many wee children and people of all ages were affected by the difficulties associated with accessing medicinal cannabis.
‘But it became clear it wasn’t just about what was perceived to be a small number of very sick children and that medicinal cannabis could make a life-changing or life-saving difference to more than a million people.’
Although thrilled by the law change, Ms Caldwell hopes regulations will be expanded to allow more people to benefit from cannabis-based treatments.
‘This is new ground for everybody. We did in a few days what successive UK governments failed to do in more than half a century and made medicinal cannabis legal,’ she said.
‘Then, as now, politicians didn’t realise the complexities involved.
‘There’s a wide range of conditions, each of which can only be treated by certain forms of medicinal cannabis.’