Jersey ‘would be ideal’ for growing medicinal cannabis

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Last week, Jersey Hemp’s science officer, Chris Callaghan, claimed that the Island could make as much as £300 million a year if it used Island sites, such as disused greenhouses, to grow the lucrative crop.

His firm is currently trialling growing hemp at Warwick Farm in the north of St Helier.

Bioeconomy consultant Lucy Hopwood, who co-authored a report on alternative crops for Jersey two years ago, did not comment on Mr Callaghan’s estimate of the potential economic worth of medicinal cannabis for the Island but agreed that it would be highly valuable and suitable for Jersey.

However, Ms Hopwood, who works for the National Non-food Crop Centre based in York, added that there would be challenges to growing it in the Island.

‘The work we did for Jersey a few years ago identified medicinal hemp as a high-value alternative crop that was well suited to the Island for a number of reasons,’ she said.

‘Firstly, its value – it does offer a significant premium over conventional agricultural crops, and in fact many other alternative crop options we identified. However, the market is so highly regulated and closely controlled that very few growers would be likely to benefit.

‘Medicinal hemp is already grown in the UK, under closely managed direct contracts between the pharmaceutical company who have licensed the medicinal product for use and a very small number of growers.

‘This would be the case in Jersey
and its production would be tightly controlled.’

She added, however, that there were several factors Jersey had in its favour for growing medicinal cannabis, such as being a secure place for it to be grown and the close relations between government and farmers, which would allow crops to be tightly regulated.

‘The Island’s infrastructure is ideal for a crop like medicinal hemp. Production could be contained within existing and in many cases redundant greenhouses to reduce or possibly eliminate the need for additional security fences and controls,’ she said.

‘Policing its production would be far easier on Jersey than in the UK or many other countries, due to the established and often direct connections between the Environment Department and the Island’s farmers, for example.

‘Also, as it’s such a niche market there is a real opportunity for Jersey to benefit from some strong provenance messaging around the source and production of the material.

‘Finally, as a fast-growing annual crop, this provides an opportunity for growers to be able to respond quickly to ever-changing market conditions.’

The States were approached for comment but had not responded at the time of writing.

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