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Mamedica CEO Predicts Rapid Growth for UK Medical Cannabis Market, But Infrastructure Needs to Catch Up

Last month, one of the first cannabis entrants onto the London Stock Exchange, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, announced plans to depart the public market, citing numerous issues with the UK’s current landscape.

With the UK’s medical cannabis market continuing to grow at pace, but falling well behind developed markets like Germany in terms of per-capita patient numbers, some believe the industry is on the cusp of significant growth.

CEO of UK medical cannabis clinic Mamedica, Jon Robson, told Business of Cannabis that he believes the maturation of the UK market is driving never before seen patient growth.

Despite this, he said there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in terms of education and domestic cultivation to enable the industry to truly flourish.

Market growth

Last month, Prohibition Partner’s European Cannabis Report: 9th Edition stated that the UK is now the primary driver of new growth in Europe’s medical cannabis landscape, with over 69,000 patients forecast to be in the market by the end of the year.

Over the next four years, this growth is expected to continue, rising by 124% to 141,000 patients by 2028, according to Prohibition Partners projections.

Mr Robson suggested that from his experience on the ground over the last few months, patient numbers could be growing by around 2000 – 4000 a month.

He explained: “Our view is that the medical cannabis market in the UK is growing quite rapidly. Certainly a faster pace than when we launched in June 2022. Some people have suggested it’s growing by about 1000 patients a month.

“I think that number is very low. I believe the market is growing between 2000 and 4000 patients a month. We’re adding 500 patients a month on average over the last six months.”

He added that with the number of clinics now operating in the UK, some of which ‘are at a lower price point the Mamedica’, his stablemates must be seeing similar numbers.

This increased growth, he suggested, is due to the ongoing maturation of the market, leading not only to price compression but to greater awareness.

“There has been a bit of price compression where we saw some products priced north of £10 pounds now coming into a sweet spot around £8.50.

“And I really think that most of the gross growth is attributed to that because patients can now actually go and make recommendations to other potential patients around the fact that the cost of accessing these types of services is reducing and the prices are most in most cases in line with the illicit market, if not cheaper.

“So our view is definitely that clinics like ourselves are onboarding more patients at a faster rate than they have ever done. There’s a lot more awareness now than there was two years ago.”

Education and domestic cultivation 

Despite this, Mr Robson noted that ‘probably 80% plus’ of the UK population were likely still unaware that medical cannabis is available, despite it being legalised in 2018.

Furthermore, he suggested that the UK was ‘falling behind as a country’ because of the ‘little to no cultivation at all coming from UK suppliers’.

Although Mr Robson says he has visited numerous UK-based facilities in recent years, he has ‘still not seen one gram of flower’ make it into the supply chain.

“This is now several years on from a lot of these companies raising quite significant amounts of money. I’m a little bit perplexed as to why there isn’t any UK supply chain yet.”

It wasn’t until earlier this month, after this interview was conducted, that the first UK-grown medical cannabis from Glass Pharms was made available to patients. 

“At the same time, I’m quite shocked at the level of cultivation expertise that I’ve seen versus what is available in places like North America where I’ve visited facilities and they’ve got 20 or 30 years of expertise.”

This lack of quality product compared to more mature markets like the US or Canada is another major hurdle UK suppliers have to overcome before a fully fledged domestic supply chain can be built.

However, Mr Robson suggests that ‘if you can get the expertise Portugal, Macedonia, Germany, there’s no reason why you can’t get expertise into one of these facilities in the UK, to then be able to manufacture a product of similar quality or better than what is currently available’.

“I think (UK cultivators) believe that they can grow anything and sell it on the basis that it’s made in Britain. Unfortunately, as proved by some of the complaints that we are seeing from patients in the UK, the quality of the product needs to be at a certain level on day one. Otherwise, you are really shooting yourself in the foot.

“I’m very supportive of UK cultivation. If they have a good quality product, and it’s the same price as Canada, we would buy it because we want to help. That’s the only way that the government is going to look at this at some point in the future as a potential value add for the economy. If we’re continuously importing everything from abroad, UK economy doesn’t benefit.”

Improving its own supply chain

In an effort to improve its own supply chain, Mamadica has now obtained a Controlled Drugs license from the Home Office, enabling it to store products.

Until now, the company has ‘effectively had its hands tied versus our competition’, able to only actively order stock once it has a prescription it is able to fulfil.

“The way that the import process works in the UK is that you can’t over import, you can only bring in three months supply for the number of patients that you have. So as you can imagine, if the market is growing by somewhere between five and 10% a month, then you’re always going to be a short and playing catchup.”

While this new licence won’t change how much the company can order, it will allow the company to significantly shorten its supply chain.

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