Chris Callaghan, the chief science officer at Jersey Hemp, says the European medicinal cannabis market is expected to be worth £30 billion within the next two years.
And he says that if the Island entered the market early it is not ‘unreasonable’ to believe that Jersey could take between one and five per cent of the EU market.
Mr Callaghan, who achieved a Phd in environmental plant biochemistry and molecular biology from Newcastle University, also said that much of the infrastructure needed to grow the crop already existed in the Island left over from the flower, tomato and potato industries.
He added: ‘The pros [of growing medicinal cannabis] could see many of the dilapidated greenhouses restored to their former glory as well as retaining much of the agricultural knowledge acquired from the historical tomato and flower industries.’
But he stressed that it was important for ‘Jersey to learn from the past’.
‘The Island has a habit of jumping on an agricultural band wagon mono-cropping with either cider apples, tomatoes or potatoes,’ he said.
‘A similar approach with medical cannabis may have short-term gains but could have unintended consequences on food security, particularly, in a post-Brexit world. It would be prudent to not build the industry at the expense of existing food crops.’
And he said that ‘considerable investment’ would be needed to renovate and update the existing infrastructure to conform with the Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Agricultural Practices required for the cultivation and production of medicinal products.
However, Mr Callaghan said the medicinal cannabis industry could be a major boost for the economy and that if the Island received just one per cent of the European market it would generate £300 million per annum. ‘The European medical cannabis market is expected to exceed the value of the US, with some estimates valuing the market at £30 billion by 2020,’ he said.
‘As an early-stage entrant into the market it would not be unreasonable for Jersey to take 1-to-5% of the total EU-market. A 1% market share would increase the GDP of the Island by about 10% and at 5% the medical cannabis market would rival the local finance industry.’
Meanwhile, Mr Callaghan said that the biggest gain to the economy may not be from the direct sales of medical cannabis.
‘The opening of the market in the Island could be very attractive for foreign companies who wish to invest or develop products within the industry but cannot do so in their home country due to current regulations,’ Mr Callaghan said.
‘These peripheral industries, services and associated intellectual property would create a knowledge-based economic model and could outweigh the direct sales of cannabis-based products providing long-term sustainability.’