Canadian Weed Giant Backs Medical Marijuana Trials in U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- One of the world’s biggest cannabis growers is preparing to fund clinical trials of marijuana-based drugs in the U.K. that could help jump-start the nascent British market.

Canopy Growth Corp., the Canadian pot producer, and a consortium of investors said they’re putting 7.4 million pounds ($9.5 million) into testing medical cannabis for treatment of pain and opioid dependence. Beckley Canopy Therapeutics Ltd., a U.K. firm partly owned by Ontario-based Canopy, will conduct the tests.

While the U.K. legalized medical cannabis earlier this month, adoption has been slow. Companies such as Canopy are in the process of getting permits to import the drug, doctors need to learn about when to prescribe it, and government guidelines limit the potential for widespread applications. Clinical research will help facilitate wider acceptance of cannabis by the medical community, according to Mark Ware, Canopy’s chief medical officer.

“All eyes are focused on the U.K. right now to see this program move forward,” he said in a phone interview. “The discussion has gone from zero to 100 in the space of a few months.”

Canopy contributed about one-third of the funds for the project, which is expected to start early next year. The rest of the money came from a group of investors including Manx Financial Group Plc Chairman Jim Mellon, Richard Reed, co-founder of juice company Innocent Drinks, and biotech entrepreneur Annalisa Jenkins.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.