JERSEY remains the ‘best and easiest place’ in the world to grow commercial crops of medicinal cannabis, according to the government – as a new entrant to the market was given permission to open a farm in Grouville.
Oasthouse Ventures – which majority-owns a cannabis-growing business called GroVida – said it would employ 50 people in a wide range of horticultural, compliance, security and managerial roles, 46 of whom would be sourced locally.
The firm was recently given planning permission to turn part of Fauvic Nurseries into a cannabis farm.
Existing modern glasshouses on the site, to the east of the Holme Grown shop and café, will be upgraded and extended, and another one demolished to be replaced by a new building which will be used for drying leaves and staff facilities.
An energy centre – making use of low-carbon air- and ground-source heat pumps – will also be built, and a 2.2m-high green wire-mesh fence will surround the facility, screened by hedging and set back from the site perimeter.
The site is expected to start operating in early 2025, building to full capability in 2026.
Ed Moorhouse, business development manager at Oasthouse Ventures, said the decision marked ‘the culmination of 26 months of detailed planning and work undertaken by us in consultation and partnership with various other Jersey-based businesses’.
He added: ‘The Fauvic East Nursery has a long tradition of horticultural production, and the current infrastructure can now be refurbished to transition the site from its historical use of tomatoes production to medicinal cannabis.
‘The refurbishment of the site will incorporate cutting-edge design and technology to ensure that the optimum growing environment is created with minimal impact on the local environment and residents.’
Oasthouse Ventures is one of five companies to hold a licence to cultivate commercial quantities of medicinal cannabis in Jersey, with the first of these being awarded in December 2020.
Daniel Houseago – group director at the Department for the Economy – said the successful planning application was an important next step in the development of the Island’s medicinal cannabis growing industry.
He said that five licences – with the first awarded in December 2020 – was a ‘good number’.
‘Although none are at the stage of producing a commercial crop or product, several are going through EU accreditation to sell into Europe, with a couple negotiating the last regulatory hurdle before they can go to market,’ he added.
He said that the five licence-holders, most of whom were Jersey-based companies, had already invested £50m in the local economy, which might not sound that much in terms of financial services, but was a lot for the agricultural sector.
Mr Houseago added: ‘Jersey is still ahead of the curve. Guernsey has the capacity to issue licences and it has also amended its Proceeds of Crime Law, as we have done, and we obviously wish them well.
‘Germany has announced that it is considering legalising cannabis for recreational use and legislation on medicinal cannabis is increasing across Europe, but the challenge for bigger jurisdictions is the pace of change.
‘Jersey has the advantage of that personal touch and we can get all the key players around the table very quickly. We remain the best and easiest place in the world to crop medicinal cannabis.’
Mr Houseago said: ‘Electricity is up to 80% of a company’s fixed costs, so we are in discussions with Jersey Electricity about a possible industrial tariff for cannabis.
‘There are already very high-cost and regulatory barriers to entering this market, so we need to do all we can to make sure Jersey creates an environment that promotes the highest quality of products that people can afford.
‘We need to also ensure that we have a gold-standard supply chain and remain agile to the market.
‘GroVida’s investment is proof that we remain in a very strong position.’