By / June 25, 2024

Isle of Man Seeks 10 Medical Cannabis Companies to Set Up This Year

The Isle of Man, a British Crown dependency, has clearly expressed its intention to welcome medical cannabis companies, announcing in 2020 its aim to represent the “global regulatory benchmark for the cannabis export sector.”

Four years later, with a concrete regulatory structure focused on businesses, the island is actively seeking opportunities in the cannabis field to diversify its economy.

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Isle of Man to Announce That The Door Is Now Open

In anticipation of the Isle of Man participating at Cannabis Europa in London later this month, where it hopes to engage with leading European cannabis companies, the CEO of Business Isle of Man, Tim Cowsill, declares that the “door is now open” for the island.

He told Business of Cannabis, “We are coming to Cannabis Europa, it’s the first trade show we are doing with the door open on the Isle of Man, because we now believe we have the expertise and understanding to actively market the island.”

An Island Open to Medical Cannabis

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the government of the Isle of Man sought to diversify its economy beyond finance and online gambling, the two main sectors that have supported its economy in recent years.

The Department for Enterprise, of which Business Isle of Man is an executive agency, was tasked with exploring new potential avenues that would fit within the island’s regulatory framework and existing areas of expertise.

A member of the private sector council of the department, responsible for the biomedical industry on the Isle of Man, believed that the emerging medical cannabis sector was a perfect fit.

Mr. Cowsill explains that he “presented the opportunity of medical cannabis to the government and told them that if they wanted to diversify and complement the existing biomedical sector here, we should definitely take a look at it.”

Isle of Man to Tailor Unique Offering

Given the Isle of Man’s reputation as a well-regulated jurisdiction for financial services, and its unique ability to be “agile” and tailor its framework to business needs, the organization determined it could use its expertise in other sectors to create a unique offering for European cannabis companies.

In 2020, it launched a public consultation, stating that the launch of a medical cannabis industry could create 250 jobs, generate £11.5 million in annual salaries, and increase government tax revenues by £3 million per year.

Since declaring its intention to welcome cannabis companies in 2020 and legalizing the cultivation, distribution, and export of cannabis in January 2021, a decision described as “the dawn of a new economic sector” on the territory, progress has been relatively limited.

Isle of Man Issues First Letter of Approval

In 2022, the Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC) for the Isle of Man announced that it had issued its first letter of approval in principle to the UK-based company GrowLab Organics (GLO), granting it a full license to cultivate, manufacture, import, and, for the first time, export medical cannabis from the Isle of Man. Mr. Cowsill states that this slow pace is entirely intentional.

“We have been quite cautious regarding development. We knew it’s much easier to make a proposal if we have a company that has gone through it.

“While we have been a bit slow to establish the market, we essentially wanted to ensure the regulatory structure was robust enough to hold up.”

Now that this structure has been put in place and the Isle of Man has determined its “unique selling proposition” for companies, Mr. Cowsill states that his organization “feels confident” moving forward.

Thus, the Isle of Man government now hopes that 10 cannabis companies will set up on the island by the end of the year.

A Unique Offering

The Isle of Man has a long tradition of export and is accustomed to creating bespoke niche products, such as watches and aircraft landing gear.

These areas of expertise are now being leveraged to create “high value-added medical cannabis” for export.

“Our major asset lies in the presence of bespoke small growers and small companies focusing on a premium product,” continues Mr. Cowsill.

“We know we are not going to compete with countries like Canada or California in terms of production, but we believe the opportunities lie in a high-quality niche product. The best comparison I can make is that of a craft beer brewery.

“The flat land we can develop is limited. So we are looking for companies that will develop indoors. We know we can have six or seven on the island.”

Given the geographical situation of the Isle of Man, Mr. Cowsill hinted that growers would benefit from a lower risk of cross-pollination and that a number of R&D companies looking to introduce biomass to the island and transform it into products have expressed their interest.

Besides its unique landscape, the Isle of Man also has a regulatory system that is “different in its structure from all the others.”

“We are going to explain the rules of the game to you. We granted a conditional license to GLO and told them that if they did everything right, we would grant them an export license.”

“It’s very different from other regulators who have a more chicken-and-egg approach, where you have to build the facility first. Before they even started digging the ground to build the facility, we would have defined all of this.”

“If the product is well-designed and we explain to the people coming to the Isle of Man what the rules of the game are, it should be pretty clear for them to come up with a proposal.”

(Featured image by David Pryke via Pexels)

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