Ben Langley, founder and CEO of the Grow Group, a biopharmaceutical company focused solely on cannabis based medicines and improving global access to those medicine
How and when did the business start?
I founded Grow in 2017, having left JP Morgan to become a socially conscious entrepreneur. After researching the burgeoning legal cannabis sector, by 2017 I was convinced that medical cannabis represented an enormous opportunity to improve patient lives, globally, and so co-founded Grow Group to ensure we could work to accelerate getting quality legal cannabis medicines to the patients that need them.
What are your plans for this year?
Our plan for 2021 is to scale our existing operations. This includes across our R&D division where we are researching new cannabis medicine technologies; our distribution operations where we are helping patients access the medicines they need; and expansion into Europe to increase access to cannabis medicines across the Continent.
We have just launched a crowdfund to raise a further £3.2 million to accelerate us on this journey and to bring in a new type of investor to our community that share our vision. All of this should help us become a true global industry leader in the years ahead.
Has Covid-19 affected the business or the wider industry at all?
Covid-19 has impacted the industry in various ways. Understandably regulators and politicians have been focussed on dealing with the pandemic, and not as much on cannabis medicine.
This has slowed discussions around the changes required to ensure regulations are appropriate and ensure patients who need the medicine have access to it.
One significant positive, however, was that remote consultations and prescribing of cannabis medicines were allowed for the first time in March 2020, in response to the national lockdown and patients’ inability to physically get to clinics.
This has allowed more patients to access clinics which otherwise would have been located too far from their homes.
Where do you see the UK medicinal cannabis sector going next, both in terms of the regulation and how the industry is growing?
The UK has a huge opportunity to be a leader in medical cannabis given our global life sciences leadership and the highly talented workforce we have in the sector.
The economic opportunity is certainly in the multiple billions of pounds. However, current regulations in the UK are not fit for purpose and hurt business and patient wellbeing.
While UK companies such as Grow are now becoming multi-national, prohibitive regulations (such as the ban on exporting cannabis medicines from the UK) mean we are forced to setup operations, deploy capital expenditure, and hire staff, outside of the UK.
In order to truly capture the opportunity, which is huge in terms of both economic impact and the impact on domestic patients’ lives, the UK needs to review and amend the existing regulations.
If that is done, medical cannabis can truly be one of the industries that comes to define pragmatic post-Brexit Britain.