Around 200 people have gathered in central London for the Cannabis Invest Conference 2018 to discuss the financial opportunities that cannabis legalization in the UK could bring.
Investors filled the conference rooms of a Mayfair hotel to hear of the benefits legalization could bring to the UK economy. Nine states in the US have already legalized the drug, and later in the year Canada will become the first country in the G8 to completely legalize the drug.
Legal cannabis sales in North America were expected to hit $10 billion by the end of 2017 — a 33 percent increase from 2016, according to a new report released by cannabis industry analysts at Arcview Market Research.
Some are positive that decriminalization is on the horizon for the UK. Cam Battley, chief corporate officer of Aurora Inc, a Canadian cannabis supplier, said that he expects to see cannabis in the UK medical system.
“Not long after that legalization will happen,” he said. “Guaranteed. You guys will look back and think, ‘What was the big deal?’ In the meantime massive new wealth will have been created.”
Six-year-old Alfie Dingley is the reason that many are sure that the UK will see decriminalization in less than a decade. Dingley has a type of epilepsy that means he has thousands of seizures a year. When he was treated with cannabis oil in the Netherlands, his of seizures fell from 30 a day to one a month.
The oil is legal in much of Europe – but UK users face up to 14 years in prison for a treatment that could have a significant impact on children like Dingley. The boy’s parents have applied to the Home Office for a license, supported by a 370,000-strong petition in the child’s name.
Alfie’s mother, Hannah Deacon, said “It’s a big decision and if they say no, they’re condemning our son to death.”
The Home Office has been shrouded in scandal, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd forced to resign on Sunday after she admitted that she had “inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants.”
Steve Moore, of Volteface, a drug policy think tank, believes that the Windrush scandal may be the key to winning Alfie’s case with the Home Office. “Post the Windrush saga, the Home Office’s authority is weakened,” he told the Times. “They do not want a death on their hands. Alfie’s case is compelling and hundreds of thousands are watching.”
At the conference, Moore said that it is the first year that business, and not activism, is driving the agenda.
“Everything is about political advocacy for medical cannabis and nothing else,” he said. “That is how these guys changed things in north America and that is how it will happen here.”
“The situation in the UK is absurd. You’ve got the Home Office denying that medical marijuana works while you have traditional Tories in this room investing in it.”
If the Home Office issues a license for Dingley, many believe that it will set a precedent for medical marijuana use.
“Once one license is issued, how can they deny others? A precedent has been set,” one conference attendee said. “And when a medical system is safely in place, and people see the benefits, legalization is the inevitable next step. That is the pattern established across the Atlantic and that is what will happen here.”
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