- The Original Alternative has secured permission to start growing cannabis, not hemp, on the island of Guernsey
- Plants and cannabis products can have as high as 3% THC on Guernsey
- Mainland customers will not be able to purchase THC containing oils
- “Guernsey has opened up a world of opportunities for us.”
Guernsey’s Government has approved the island’s first legal medical cannabis farm, bringing hope to patients on the small island.
Celebrated Limited, trading as The Original Alternative (TOA), have been granted permitted to cultivate and process cannabis containing THC as well as CBD, a “revolution” for both the island and the OA.
The license was granted by the Committee for Health & social care under strict requirements which were negotiated between Guernsey’s Government and Green Star Consultancy.
Discussing their new license, Ben Birrell, co-founder of The Original Alternative, expressed his delight at the opportunity to provide cannabis medicines containing THC, and what the future holds for the company.
From humble beginnings: The Original Alternative’s first shop on Guernsey
“It’s a dream come true.
“To be able to grow and manufacture actual cannabis is a wonderful thing.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this progress. I had tears in my eyes when we got the news!
“To have this [license] finally granted to us is something we are very moved by. It feels like the accumulation of years of work is finally paying off!”
Looking at the bigger picture, Ben told us how he sees the move as just the first step to expanding into the ever-growing global market of medical cannabis users.
“It gives us the opportunity to evolve the business from a food supplement seller to a world leader in medical cannabis,” Ben explained.
“It also gives us more funding to further research our own products. I believe this can help us compete with pharmaceutical giants like GW Pharmaceutical.
“It’s wonderful for cannabis in general!”
The example Guernsey’s Government has set by granting a medical cannabis license to a non-pharmaceutical company could send shockwaves through mainland Britain’s Government.
“If Guernsey can rethink THC legislation, I don’t see why this can’t have a positive impact in the UK’s Home Office,” Ben said.
“Our goal is to delve into markets in Canada and across the world. We want to match our products to their individual regulations.
To gain the license, Ben and his team had to adhere to strict regulations which put patient safety first.
“We’ve spent over two years working towards this, working very closely with Guernsey’s Government.
“There were very strict criteria to adhere to,” Ben added. “Transparency and accountability are at the heart of the project.
“The Guernsey government have pushed and encouraged us, I cannot emphasise how much detail has gone into this!”
One of the conditions the farm will have to meet concerns THC levels. Guernsey allows a higher threshold for THC than mainland Britain, up to 3%.
From oils to balms: The Original Alternative’s wide range of CBD products
Finished products, such as cannabis oil, will be allowed up to 3% (as a percentage of the whole product).
The strain the farm will be growing, Guernsey Gold, will be a Government approved one, with a ratio of 20:1 CBD-THC.
Unfortunately for British patients, the OA’s THC-containing products will only be available to patients on Guernsey.
While the company has acquired a license to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes on Guernsey, they are still classified as a food supplement company, thus must refrain entirely from mentioning the potential medicinal benefits their products can have, despite overwhelming scientific evidence in support of CBD and THC in healthcare.
“We cannot sell our products as medicine at this point in time,” Ben explained, “but we’re looking at entering that market at a later date.”
The farm contains a 2 acre of glasshouse, a state of art security system, and the company will be working very closely with law enforcement on the island to ensure public safety.
The farm will also employ a state-of-the-art software system, which IDs every single plant, meaning plants cannot be moved offsite without activating an alarm.
There are also onsite processing and testing facilities, meaning everything from seed to oil can be done in one place.
Looking to the future, Ben hopes that this move can ignite similar progressive thinking in the mainland Government.
“Hopefully we can show that this model works and gain trust from the Home Office, they can sit down and discuss with us”.
“It’s a dream come true. To be able to grow and manufacture actual cannabis is a wonderful thing.”
– Ben Birrell, co-founder The Original Alternative
Resistance from the British Government to expanding medical cannabis projects led Ben and his team to look at opportunities elsewhere.
“The laws over here are archaic,” Ben said. “There are no two ways about it.
“We tried to apply for a license in the UK, but they’re not very keen to help anyone who isn’t heavily funded by established Pharmaceutical companies.
“Guernsey has opened up a world of opportunities for us.”
Initially, the news that a cannabis farm would be opening on the island gathered negative attention from locals, but Ben explained how they’ve noticed a positive change in opinions as the project has progressed:
“Comments on local newspaper website were very negative initially, but after we opened our first shop on the island, and people got a better understanding of what we do, there’s been a positive shift in opinions.
“As knowledge grows, so does consensus!
Community at heart: TOA donated £5,000 to help buy specialist equipment for a local school near their mainland site.
“Also, more people are starting to see the benefits of our presence.
“Economically speaking, the financial implications of this can be huge! Hopefully, it can help bring a new revenue stream into the island.
“We’re employing local people to help run the company and keep the money circulating in the community; locals are not only helping run the shop, but they’re involved in the construction and security.
“It’s important for us to recycle money back into the local community.”
When Canada first legalised cannabis, there were reports of products containing dangerous levels of pesticides and heavy metals, something Ben and his team are driven to avoid:
“We’ve spent half a million on analysis equipment.
“Our products are completely pure and clean; in Canada, there were reports of products containing lots of pesticides, so you really have to be very careful.
“It’s a food supplement, so we need to keep to high standards of food. We need to be accountable.”
With Guernsey giving the green-light for its first medical cannabis farm, will Ben and TOA achieve their wider aim to help revolutionise the way Westminister approaches medical cannabis? Only time can tell.