SCOTLAND’S first home-grown cannabis medicines could be in UK patients’ hands in early 2022 after work started on a new £15m cultivation and production facility in the Borders.
With the UK’s one million-plus medical cannabis users currently reliant on imports, home-grown and black market suppliers this marks a significant milestone.
Hilltop Leaf says it hopes to harvest the first crop from 120,000 sq ft facility – equivalent to the size of two football pitches – later this year.
CEO Hamish Clegg told BusinessCann: “The main brands in the UK are Canadian and Dutch and we now have the opportunity to become one of the UK’s first domestic cannabis brands.
“This is a significant moment for the UK medical cannabis industry. Our aim is to deliver medicines and support to UK patients and help reduce the country’s reliance on imports.”
Boosting Domestic UK Supply
Hilltop Leaf’s first products will come as oils, flowers and tinctures with a one to one ratio of THC to CBD and the desire to support patients needing treatments for pain, epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis.
As well as Mr Clegg the leadership team includes father and son William and Neil Ewart, Chief Financial Officer Ed Browne and science lead Colin Newbould.
The facility is under construction in an undisclosed, secluded and secure location, with abundant water supplies and the ability to source renewable energy from an adjacent wind farm.
When complete it will encompass an holistic operation from cultivation through to processing, extraction, product formulation and production, all under the umbrella of EU-GMP certification.
The company is currently working with the Home Office on securing the required Schedule One and Schedule Two drug licence approvals for cultivating commercial high-THC cannabis.
With few licensed UK cannabis medicines currently available Hilltop is also in discussion with the MHRA to secure licences for the production of ‘specials’ medicines, which is the prescription pathway for the vast majority of UK patients.
Hilltop is close to completion £2m equity funding round following an initial £500,000 investment and anticipates raising a further £2m equity funding and up to £10m borrowing to complete and operate the project.
It has also secured the £690,000 capital investment from Government agency South of Scotland Enterprise.
Momentum Behind UK Medical Cultivation
Mr Clegg is Director at Hannam & Partners and has previously raised $6m for a similar medical cannabis project overseas. He was formerly employed as an oil analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The Ewarts have a wealth of experience in construction and engineering projects in the Borders. In his role as Chairman of Hilltop Mr Ewart (snr) is maintaining close relations with the local community. When complete the facility will employ around 50 people.
As it builds the business Hilltop says will look to invest into research and development. Additional advisors include high-profile medical cannabis figures Prof Mike Barnes and Hannah Deacon of the Maple Tree Consultancy.
The development will see Hilltop become the UK’s second largest medical cannabis producer following trailblazer GW Pharmaceuticals.
GW is one of the world’s leading medical cannabis companies with its home-grown cannabis going into its licensed drugs Sativex and Epidyolex. Its first cultivation facility was built over 20 years ago.
Its research operations are based in Kent and its growing facilities are owned and managed by British Sugar in Wissington, Norfolk consisting of almost two million sq ft of growing space – equivalent to 34 football pitches.
There are a number of other companies looking to cultivate cannabis for medicines. Earlier this week we reported on Northern Leaf’s facility in Jersey, Ananda Developments, Sativa Wellness and Bridge Farm are all moving forward with cultivation plans.