Podcast Interview Transcript: Cannabis and the law with Nick Davis

Anuj: (00:57)
Okay. Today I have Nick Davis from Memery Crystal on the show and Nick is CEO of Memery Crystal, which is a specialist international law firm based in London. Memery Crystal are taking quite an active role in the nascent cannabis industry, so it's great to have Nick on to help us understand the legal and regulatory backdrop. Nick, welcome.

Nick: (01:15)
Good morning. How are you?

Anuj: (01:16)
Very good, thanks. Thanks for coming on the show. So there's obviously a lot to talk about today. Cannabis has been in the news a lot over the last year, probably, maybe a bit longer. What's what's actually happening in terms of the legal status in the UK?

Nick: (01:32)
The market is in its very early stages and actually the law has moved super quickly in the last 12 months. But if you cast your mind back 12 months, which in cannabis years is a very, very long time. Medical cannabis wasn't legal. That happened as you know, well we'll come on to that. So sitting here this time last year we were trying to list an investment company. We needed to get comfortable on what they could and what they couldn't do. We found a barrister that we worked very closely with and we very quickly got to the point where we were comfortable that CBD, which is extracted predominantly from hemp. Cannabis is two different plants and - hemp and cannabis. Hemp is used to produce non-psychoactive CBD - it doesn't have any of the THC in it, which is the psychoactive part, which was banned by the Psychoactive Substances Act.

Nick: (02:29)
So CBD - low hanging fruit as far as UK law was concerned because there was a very clear path that it was being marketed as a health supplement. A complex area, which we'll come back to. So we went, we got comfortable that as long as what the company would do and investing in was legal in the UK, it was legal. Subsequently the law has been clarified around medical cannabis. So we see cannabis in four distinct areas from a legal point of view. Starting at the full end of the spectrum, you've got GW Pharma producing pharmaceuticals where the API, the active pharmaceutical ingredient is a cannabinoid. That is Sativex. That is the other licensed products. That is covered in the same way as any other medical products

Anuj: (03:17)
And these are pharmaceutical grade products that have gone through all of the trials necessary to get rubber stamped in that way.

Nick: (03:24)
That's correct. And big news but earlier in the year the FDA in the US approved Sativex for GW, who used to be listed here in London on AIM and moved to New York Stock Exchange and have had the most amazing ride and are currently the only company in the world with an FDA approved drug.

Nick: (03:44)
So that's the pharma end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum, you've got recreational, or as they say now call it - adult market. Completely legal in Canada, legal in a number of states in the US, federally illegal, illegal across most of Europe and in particular the UK. And so that's very clear. So the non-intoxicating CBD, and we're working with a number of CBD companies, and we'll come back to that. CBD pretty clear, although there is some legal issues around novel foods, European standards, not yet very clear. There's been two mainstream stories in the press. One is about an investment company listed on NEX called, Sativa Investments who seem to have got planning permission and a licence for a very large medical cannabis facility based in the UK in Wiltshire. What most people don't know that will be listening to the podcast is the UK is the biggest producer of medical cannabis in the world for GW Pharma, in Kent and Essex, and nobody knows about!

Nick: (04:56)
So that was interesting. But at the other end, the Daily Mail, who I have to say have undoubtedly a political agenda around this, published a story saying, all CBD products, were going to be removed from the shelves in the next 18 months because of this new Novel Foods Directive. I can't see any legal footing around that, but it's moving all the time. So you can see this is a dynamic area, but as far as I'm concerned, CBD legal, you can buy it in Boots, you can buy it in Holland & Barrett, you can buy it all over the place. And then you've got this fourth area called medical cannabis. And medical cannabis is not pharmaceutical grade Sativex, it is formulations or flower, which is used by doctors to treat medical conditions. So as we all know, or those of you who've been following the space the Alfie Dingley case; the Billy Caldwell case. That was a medical cannabis prescription, and that's either in the form of oils or flower that's vaped or put into tea. Medical cannabis, November 1st [2018] clarified in the UK as legal. However the rollout's been a disaster.

Anuj: (06:08)
And is that effectively because not enough people can get it prescribed?

Nick: (06:12)
Yes, because the rules are not clear. It's really interesting. I speak to a number of doctors and we're quite involved on the lobbying side here, we're certainly involved with trying to help the MHRA get to - that's the Medical Health Regulation Authority -to get to the right landing on what medical cannabis needs to look like in the UK. And the guidance that's currently there is, it has to be prescribed by a specialist and lots of the specialist governing bodies have basically said there's no proof that this works and therefore we don't think you should do it. Notwithstanding the body of evidence that is out there. It's not clinical evidence in the same way you go through a phase one, phase two, phase three trial of a new drug. So, actually since medical cannabis was legalised November 1st, there seems to be less patients able to get prescriptions. You can see why podcasts like this are really important, but fundamentally, why did we as a law firm get involved in this? We got involved in it because I 100% believe in the ability for medical cannabis to change people's lives. And look, it's business. We're a law firm. What do we want to do? We want to help companies raise money, grow, list on the stock exchange, get bought, get sold. But I think most of the people you meet in the industry, all have come to it for a personal reason and it's really fascinating - so there's lots of likeminded people. I don't think you could be in this space right now and just say we're here because we want to make money - that will come undoubtedly, look what's happening in North America. But I think there's a pretty small community in the UK at the moment and we're all pushing in the same direction.

Anuj: (07:51)
So there's several very interesting things that you raised in that summary. Thank you for that. I guess the first one, which is probably going to be a bit of a surprise for some listeners, is that the UK produces the most medical cannabis in the world by a company called GW Pharma. How does that work?

Nick: (08:10)
In order to grow cannabis in the UK, you have to get a licence from the Home Office. Anyone can apply for one, it's a £5,000 licence fee. It's a hugely complicated process. We're doing it for two clients at the moment, just at the beginning of our learning curve, but there's a clear set of guidelines. You need to have a farm. There's approved seeds that you can use to grow cannabis and you could apply for either a hemp licence, and we'll come back to this strange legal position around hemp and the processing of hemp flower in a minute. Or you can apply for a full narcotics licence - a restricted license. GW have a number of licences. They've had them for many years and they're growing medical cannabis, in vast quantities.

Anuj: (08:55)
However, primarily for the US market, or only for the US market?

Nick: (08:58)
Well, the drug's been approved now in the US and in the UK. Very few prescriptions written in either market yet. So Canada, the US, the UK, the whole of Europe, products are available. They're very expensive and there is this interesting interplay between medical cannabis that we talked about and their pharmaceutical product, because actually you can replicate their pharmaceutical products using CBD and THC at a fraction of the cost of the pharma drug. However, doctors going to be much more comfortable prescribing the pharmaceutical, I think in the short term, than medical cannabis.

Anuj: (09:35)
Thank you. One of the things that springs from that question is around this area of medical cannabis, which you told us about is one of the four buckets that exists. Are there any other analogies or analogous medicines that are not pharmacy grade, but would sit in a similar sort of level to medical cannabis?

Nick: (09:56)
It's a unique situation. Human beings have been using cannabis as a medicine since the beginning of time. If you look back to ancient civilizations, you can see drawings, you can see writings, you can find all sorts of evidence. And about 1930 suddenly cannabis, post the end of prohibition, the Americans decided cannabis was this evil drug that needed to be banned across the world and it was. And yet, you can see bottles of medicine from the 1920s in America where the active ingredient was cannabis. So it is a pretty unique situation. Canada is the wrong model for the rest of the world if you believe in recreational right through to medical cannabis, I'm certainly not, and we as a firm, and I think most of the people involved in the industry, are not lobbying for recreational cannabis at this stage, but we all undoubtedly pro-medical cannabis. Now the doctors have got to catch up. I spoke to, as I said, one of the doctors I know quite well, he's a surgeon, he's spent eight years qualifying as a doctor and then 1200 hours a week or whatever they work as a junior doctor. And they were never taught about cannabis, and they were never taught about the endocannabinoid system that sits within the body which I'm going to leave to somebody who's not a lawyer to explain further in one of your future podcasts. But you say "right Charlie, what's your views on medical cannabis?" And he says, "I don't have one because I don't know anything about it." So there's a huge education that needs to be done to the medical practice. And one of the groups we work very closely with ECH

Anuj: (11:33)
That's European Cannabis Holdings?

Nick: (11:35)
Yes they are working with Mike Barnes, who's the doctor that prescribed medical cannabis for Alfie Dingley, to train doctors. So that's a really positive step and education is key around this whole industry and the more doctors, and funnily enough, I got an email this morning from GP in London, who's just emailed me and said, "I know you were acting in medical cannabis, can we speak? I want to know more". It's interesting that that email's come to law firm this morning, as opposed to going to the MHRA or the BMA or whoever it might be.

Nick: (12:06)
So it's the beginning. We're working with groups out of Canada, we're working with groups out of the US, we're working with groups out of Australia. And, Australia legalised medical cannabis five years ago. Canada, the same. And what they're saying is the teething problems that we're having in the UK legally and practically are exactly the same as they had, and that it will all sort itself out over time.

Anuj: (12:28)
So certainly, just because the law changes, it doesn't mean everyone's ready to go on day one. And one of the things that I've learned over getting involved in this space, is education. As you say, so, great the law has changed, but if doctors don't know what to do and how to prescribe it, there's still that barrier to overcome. So that will take time, but it's good that the ball is rolling.

Nick: (12:49)
And you're going to have interested parties. Do big pharmaceutical companies, want people who've been spending billions of dollars on Prozac and all the other anti-depressant suddenly being treated with, well, here's a dose of medical cannabis. There's all sorts of conspiracy theories, but actually you can see that the interplay is going to be really interesting because big Pharma is hugely powerful. What we've already seen is tobacco companies buying into large cannabis companies and drinks companies, alcohol companies. So yeah, this will evolve. I'm sure the pharmaceutical industry will embrace ultimately what's going on, and doctors will get better training, and I hope we'll be doing this again in a couple of years and the environment will look slightly different.

Anuj: (13:30)
Absolutely. So I think we touched on a couple of things, and it would just be good to highlight to everyone - hemp and CBD and what their legal status is because hemp, you hear about it, it's kind of a wonder material but no one's quite sure what it is or a lot of people aren't. And in CBD even more so I think is being marketed as a cure-all for every single ailment you can imagine. You're not here to give us the medical background, but it'd be good to understand the legal status in relation to both of those. So hemp is a plant that's been grown in the UK since - there's all sorts of evidence of hemp clothing and hemp ropes and hemp everything from the 800/900s right the way through till it went out of fashion. So hemp is, as we said, cannabis, it's a strain of cannabis but is produced using seeds that have a very low THC level. Legally the seeds have to be less than 0.2% THC and there's an approved list of seeds. So you can grow hemp in the UK. There's this strange anomaly in the law where you can grow hemp, you can process hemp seeds, you can process the fibrous material, but you can't process the flowers without a narcotics licence.

Anuj: (14:48)
Despite them not having any intoxicating or supposedly intoxicating....

Nick: (14:53)
Supposedly not. So it doesn't make sense to me. Um, it's one of a number of things in the law that doesn't make sense at the moment. So what you're finding is that the CBD that's being sold in the UK, whether it be CBD oil or drinks, whatever it may be, is being imported. So it's either coming from Switzerland or it's coming from the US. So that doesn't really make sense to me. So you get a hemp license, costs you £500 to make the application. You get your farm. You get your security - anyone that tries to break in and smoke the stuff is going to get really disappointed - but you can't process the flower without the next degree of licence, which is strictly substance licence. That's something which those quality campaign around because hemp's good for the environment. It's an amazing versatile plant. Does great. We're working with a guy at the moment who has just built an entire farmhouse from hemp. Yeah, really cool. He decided he wanted to do something good for the environment and has managed to make working with Cambridge University: corrugated hemp; hemp walls; hemp bricks; hempcrete and they've built a whole house from it. So hemp is being used but not from a CBD oil points of view.

(16:08)
Now let's move on to CBD - the wonder drug of wonder drugs, that everybody says cures everything but nobody can make any medical claims about. So most of CBD being sold in the UK at the moment is being sold as a health supplement. You go to Holland & Barrett, you pick up a bottle. It doesn't say anything other than this is CBD. Put three drops under your tongue before you go to bed. It doesn't make any of the health claims. It doesn't make any of the stuff that everybody else is talking about. So it's an interesting situation. You could go and get it licenced if you wanted to go and prove that CBD helps you sleep well and CBD helps with joint pains. And CBD helps with recovery from sport and all the other areas, which I know through anecdotal evidence it works. But you can't say that. So you walk into Boots and you pick up a bottle of their CBD oil and it just says CBD oil. And you've got all these influencers on Instagram and Facebook and... Extolling its virtues. We're working with a group in Camden who produce really high quality CBD oil. They're very active in the MMA space and the mixed martial arts governing body have said CBD is fine. Lot of the athletes are using it for recovery. We are working with another group - I was out with them last night. They are Canadians and the ice hockey players are using it for recovery.

Nick: (17:28)
I take it every night before I go to bed. I sleep better. I do. Maybe it's a placebo, maybe it's not. But I can tell you since I started taking it, I sleep better. So you've got this area and then you've got this novel foods issue, which is just coming up in, in Europe and we'll see where that goes.

Anuj: (17:46)
Could you elaborate a bit on that? From a high level, I understand it's not entirely clear.

Nick: (17:51)
Novel foods are foods or things that are used in food that haven't been around for very long and haven't been tested. And theoretically, they need to go through the same testing as olive oil when it was first certified 50 years ago. There is an argument that cannabis has been around for a very long time, so it's not a novel food. The European Union are having looked at it, we may or may not decide what sort of Brexit we're going to have, or we may still be in the European Union when we do this again in a couple of years. That's a European directive and we'll have to just watch this space as to where that goes.

Anuj: (39:34)
So, if it gets deemed a novel food then...

Nick: (39:34)
Then you could see it coming off the shelves to go off and be tested and then you could see it coming back with people actually making claims of what it does. Or, I think people will just continue doing what they're doing at the moment, which is saying it's a health supplement and take it in the same way, nobody says what vitamin B does for you or C.

Anuj: (39:34)
I guess the problem or an issue that arises out of that kind of grey area, health supplement is whilst there are some genuine products on the market, there are also plenty of room for snake oil merchants to thrive and quality assurance is probably something that all consumers want in the long run, I think.

Nick: (39:34)
Yes and I hope its something that gets legislated in due course. Again, I'm not a doctor, I've just spent a bit of time around the space. If you're going to buy medical cannabis, you buy medical cannabis. If you buy CBD, you don't really know what you're getting, you know even if you look on the bottles, most of it is pretty unclear. So what you're looking for is a certified GMP product which is Good Manufacturing Process, you're also looking ideally for something that's organic. In a way, you're also looking for something I think that's sensibly priced. If you're buying a bottle of CBD for a fiver when people are selling it for £50, you've got to kind of work out that's most likely not going to be what you want. But similarly, there is now mass market CBD, Holland and Barrett, I think it's nine pounds a bottle, Boots similarly. So do your research, but it is a minefield. I think there is about 300-

Anuj: (39:34)
Wow.

Nick: (39:34)
Somebody said to me, different manufacturing companies selling CBD. You can't buy it on Amazon at the moment, you can't buy it on Facebook, that's going to change I think in due course. So again, I mean looking at the crazy laws around the world.So in the US, until the end of last year, CBD that we've been talking about was not legal. You were allowed to call it activated hemp, but the whole CBD industry was illegal yet you could go and buy 20% super skunk at your local dispensary and fly around the room for eight hours. The Farm Act was passed in the US just before Christmas, again, I'm not a US lawyer, it's early days but that is going to significantly open up CBD into the US.

Anuj: (39:34)
And that's primarily to help hemp-

Nick: (39:34)
The farmers.

Anuj: (39:34)
And therefore CBD.

Nick: (39:34)
Correct.

Anuj: (39:34)
So that's a good segue actually into just kind of give us a brief, high level of what's going on in north America because huge numbers are coming out of Toronto and various things going on in various US states but if you can just highlight I guess a bit about what's going on there, that would be really useful I think.

Nick: (39:34)
So let's take the easy one first, Canada. In mid-October, Canada went recreation legal, I was there the day it happened on business. That was an interesting 24 hours, there were these massive cannabis parties at midnight, in fact, everyone ran out of cannabis. So completely legal, you go and buy it either online through, most of it is state run at the moment, or provincially run. Again, they've gone backwards to go forwards so a lot of the dispensaries that were there, because it was decriminalized many years ago, because a lot of the dispensaries that were there got closed down because it's been taken under the control of the licensing laws.So, recreational is legal, CBD is legal. Interestingly, edibles and drinks are not yet legal, they took another year on that because they were concerned about children.

Anuj: (39:34)
And just for everyone's benefit, edibles are what they say they are, so any kind of food stuff with cannabis in it?

Nick: (39:34)
Chocolate, gummy bears.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yep, so there's obviously, there's greater risk for it appealing to children I suppose, so.

Nick: (39:34)
Correct, so that is currently I think due to happen in a years time. So, fully legal, medical, all four buckets that we talked about. The US has, as you probably know, two levels of law, you have federal and you have state. The federal government, cannabis is illegal, at state level, they'd all gone off and made their own rules starting in California and Colorado, spreading like wildfire. I don't know what the current number is, it's somewhere around 20, 21 states I think.

Anuj: (39:34)
I think it might be as high as 30 actually.

Nick: (39:34)
There you go.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yep.

Nick: (39:34)
I know there were, at the last elections in November, a lot of states had it on the electoral bill. So strange, a really strange situation. So, let's take somebody who owns a dispensary which is just a posh name for a shop selling cannabis, and some of the shops are stuck, you know, you walk in and you're in an Apple store. So, you can sell cannabis, you can't take a credit card because credit cards cross the country, so everything is cash and you can't put the money in the bank because all of the banks tend to be across the country and you can't take the money across state lines because that's illegal. So, what you had and have currently is these huge vaults where companies are putting the money they're making in cash. Credit unions, which tend to be state by state are starting to take cash and I understand that, that issue is starting to be less of an issue. So, medical cannabis again, state by state at the moment. We just talked about CBD having been illegal and now becoming legal. So the US is a real, mess is the wrong word, completely the wrong word, it's a real hotch potch of regulation. I was talking to an American client of ours last week and their view is, for as long as you've got a republican government, you're unlikely to see cannabis legalized at the federal level. But if you get a democratic government, it's highly likely given the flow that you'll see, yeah, the federal barriers come down.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah and it's good to highlight that sort of divergence between federal and state law. And as I understand it, because of the federal prohibition, a lot of the companies that, as you say, operate at a federal level, can't get involved. So the huge US companies are kind of almost sitting on the side lines, although some of the drinks companies and tobacco companies have made modest investments.

Nick: (39:34)
Well not so modest. I mean it's all relative, about four billion pound investment-

Anuj: (39:34)
No, true.

Nick: (39:34)
From one of the drinks companies is a pretty big investment.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah, I mean that's modest to me but-

Nick: (39:34)
Yeah of course.

Anuj: (39:34)
No, you're right, that's a big investment but, where I like to view it in is, because the big guys are not kind of going full pelt for it.

Nick: (39:34)
Jumping at it, yep.

Anuj: (39:34)
It's a good area for entrepreneurship because you know, the little guys have a bit of a chance to get things going before the big guys come and squash them.

Nick: (39:34)
And you've got this interesting thing where you can't list an American cannabis company on the New York Stock Exchange but you can list Canadian.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yes.

Nick: (39:34)
So all of the successful large Canadian companies now listing on the New York Stock Exchange, but because it's federally illegal, you can't list an American producer.

Anuj: (39:34)
Right.

Nick: (39:34)
So it's just this really weird interplay.

Anuj: (39:34)
Sort of strange isn't it, yeah.

Nick: (39:34)
Between the continent.

Anuj: (39:34)
That's cool, thank you. So look, again, another big topic and without going into huge detail, and probably the best way to ask this question is around about what's happening in Europe is, who are the more progressive states in Europe and who are possibly the more conservative and less progressive states?

Nick: (39:34)
Again, every country has a different regulatory environment. We've just sponsored the Prohibition Partners produce a European cannabis report, free to download and anybody that wants to understand a bit more about the European legal framework, and that's an amazing publication where they look at each and every jurisdiction from a legal point of view. Each of the buckets, what's going on, and a publication we're really proud to have been associated with. Actually, it was launched at Davos last week. Who would have thought you'd have a cannabis enclave at Davos while the world is talking about Brexit and Trump and yeah, trade sanctions. I think the cannabis enclave was pretty well attended.Germany is at the forefront of medical cannabis, very much the centre currently of medical cannabis. Holland, you know, everyone thinks of Amsterdam and where did we go when we were 18 and we want to do that, indulge? You jumped on a plane and you went to Amsterdam because you couldn't do it in England. Strange enough, not the whole of Holland is legal, the largest producer of cannabis in Europe is a Dutch company called Bedrocan, vast amounts of cannabis being grown for the medical market across Holland.Spain is looking at decriminalizing cannabis. If we stuck a sign on the room that we're in now and said, this is a cannabis club and we invited all of our friends to come and bring their own cannabis and have an evening drinking wine and smoking cannabis, in Spain, that's legal. As long as it's a cannabis club. You walk down the street, it's illegal. They are granting licenses for growing, Portugal is granting licenses for growing and looking at their whole decriminalization. Greece has just issued the first two growing licenses, in fact, we're working with one of the two groups looking to list on AIM later in the year.We're working with groups that have got licenses, as I said, in Portugal, in Spain, Greece and we're working with a number of groups who've got their medical licenses in Macedonia. Malta is trying to position itself as well in the European Union as a place to grow cannabis. Guess which is the only country in Europe that has legalized recreational cannabis?

Anuj: (39:34)
Luxembourg.

Nick: (39:34)
Correct, bizarre, you know this little country in the middle of those huge countries we just talked about, decided, out of the blue almost, to legalize cannabis. So, Luxembourg, the only place in Europe. Italy, is moving very fast towards decriminalization, they're calling it "legalization light" at the moment so what they're doing is they're increasing the levels of THC that you can have in whatever it is you choose to smoke.

Anuj: (39:34)
So while the notable exception there is France I guess, are they the cannabis Luddites of Europe?

Nick: (39:34)
Yep, they are, interesting Cannabis Europa which is a big education conference that we're involved in, they're doing one in Paris and one in London, we're sponsoring the London conference. The Paris conference, I think they probably picked Paris for that very reason. France are definitely behind but again, looking and making noise about looking. And then, I don't know whether you consider Israel as Europe or the middle east, they play in the Euros so for me that, they're allowed to play in the European championships and the European song contest, the Eurovision song contest.

Anuj: (39:34)
But everyone is allowed in there.

Nick: (39:34)
Exactly, Australia is in Europe for that. Right at the epicentre of, particularly on the technology side but a land mark decision on Sunday in the parliament to allow the export of medical cannabis.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah.

Nick: (39:34)
So Israel very much at the centre of-

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah definitely there's lots of interesting things in Israel, as I, I think I read a report where the usage of cannabis in Israel is the highest in the world by some distance actually. That's a really good round up of what's going on in Europe. So I guess a bit about what you guys as a law firm are doing in this space, and one of the interesting angles which applies to individuals but it certainly would apply to you as a firm is, did you view any kind of risk in getting into this area either reputationally or otherwise?

Nick: (39:34)
Yep, I'm sure there's a number of my partners that wonder what I'm doing all day meeting wonderfully interesting people. There is a line that we've been very careful to stay, as I said to you, we've never, and have no interest in campaigning for legalization of recreational cannabis. I believe passionately, and you'd be amazed how many of my colleagues in the building have friends with auto immune diseases or with epilepsy or with, unfortunately, cancer and who have all got an interest in the medical side of cannabis.So, as I said, we came into this via Ananda and you know, Melissa Sturgess, the CEO there is a very long standing client of mine. So we got very, very comfortable legally right at the beginning about what we could do and what we couldn't. What we've seen since then, is I think we've got sixteen active cannabis instructions at the moment. As I said, I by trade, are a corporate finance lawyer which means we help companies raise money and the one thing you need if you're going to be in the cannabis space is money because it's expensive to grow and it's expensive to process and it's expensive to produce.What are we doing? We're working with a group who applied for some licenses in Columbia, they've also got a lighting business, specialist lighting. We're working with a group with licenses in Greece looking to come to the stock exchange. We're working with another group who've got licenses across most of the European countries we talked about looking to go to the main market. We're working with a couple of pharmaceutical companies, cannabis pharmaceutical companies listed in Australia, looking at secondary listings in the UK for their products. As I said, Australia is ahead of us and we've naturally dual listed Australian resources companies, so it's the same path. What's been really interesting for us and something that we probably didn't expect when we started this is we're heavily involved in applying for licenses.

Anuj: (39:34)
I was going to say, so, you predominantly would've gone into it on a sort of corporate level.

Nick: (39:34)
Correct.

Anuj: (39:34)
But you're having to get involved in the regulatory licensing.

Nick: (39:34)
Yeah, yeah, and it's really fascinating and as I said, there was an article this morning that a medical cannabis license has been issued which is great news because there was this smoke and mirrors, will another license ever be issued or does GW have them all, hopefully those, yeah, if you meet the criteria, you'll get a license. So we're doing some of that, with that comes planning, our real estate guys are involved, so it's just really interesting. We've got consultants helping us on the pharmaceutical side, again, did we think we'd be helping clients apply for pharmaceutical licenses? No, so, it's just going off in all areas and as I said, we're working with an amazing entrepreneur who's built a house out of hemp. Probably someone you should interview on your podcast.

Anuj: (39:34)
Absolutely, yeah.

Nick: (39:34)
So it's really eclectic, I'm probably having three or four meetings a day.

Anuj: (39:34)
Wow.

Nick: (39:34)
What was yesterday? Yesterday we were helping a member of the landed gentry, an earl who has a large farm in the north of England looking to find a North American partner to come and help him grow cannabis. He'd been approached last year by an American group who'd found him because he's got lots of greenhouses. We got approached yesterday by a very well known property developer who's teamed up with a Canadian and they are co-working with a lettuce farmer who wants to apply for a cannabis license, so that's been quite an unexpected area. I'm still not convinced I understand why people want to grow cannabis in the UK. And then, at the other end of the spectrum, I've always had an African practice, you know, we've done a lot of work in emerging markets and I've got one long standing client now who's got licenses in Lesotho. For those of you who don't know where Lesotho is, which will be most of you because why would you unless you're in the mining industry, that is a mountain in the middle of South Africa that is a self governed kingdom and the first place in Africa that legalised cannabis and there's been quite a number of Canadian investments into it.So, I've got clients that have got licenses in Lesotho, Zambia, one of my clients yesterday sent me a license in French, I can't quite work out what it's for but it said cannabis so I'm guessing he's picked up a cannabis license in French west Africa.

Anuj: (39:34)
But very good growing climates.

Nick: (39:34)
Well this is the thing, and, as is Columbia, which is why a lot of the Canadian companies have spent a lot of money in Columbia. What's interesting is, you know, you talked about reputational, yeah we're working with a group in Columbia and a group in Jamaica.And you think back to when we were all told that cannabis is bad and we've all watched narcos, it's quite interesting doing legal cannabis in Columbia and the client said to me, can you find us a lawyer, so you type in cannabis lawyer, Columbia into Google and you get all these stories of narcos being sprung out of jail for their ... But actually I managed to find, because it is legal and they're doing a licensing around a very eminent lawyer who specializes in that, so it's just fascinating.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah, yeah, I can imagine and it's really good that you guys are open to taking those risks and getting involved in all kinds of stuff.

Nick: (39:34)
Yeah as I said to you, if somebody walked in today and we've had it a number of times, can we act on the recreational side? We've got to get comfortable. And actually, what's interesting is from a legal point of view, the biggest impediment for acting for Canadian companies that are producing both recreational and medical wanting to come into the UK, is the Proceeds of Crime Act, it's called POCA and the perceived wisdom certainly on the deals that we've been involved with in the early days was that it had to be legal in the UK and legal in the country it's being done. So, if you had money from a Canadian company that had come from their recreational business, you couldn't then invest that into a UK business.

Anuj: (39:34)
Right, interesting.

Nick: (39:34)
However, we're hoping that we've found, well we have found an eminent QC that has a different view on POCA that basically says as long as it's legal in the country it's being done, then the fact that it's not legal in the UK means that because it was not a crime where the proceeds were generated, you can bring that money into the UK and we're working with one very large listed Canadian group who are going to be doing just that. And you're starting to see, you know, Canopy and Aurora talking at all the conferences in the UK and-

Anuj: (39:34)
So just for everyone's benefit, Canopy and Aurora are two, the two biggest cannabis companies listed in Toronto and both worth upwards of $10 billion each?

Nick: (39:34)
Correct.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yeah so major players.

Nick: (39:34)
One announced a deal yesterday to fund research in the UK. You know one of the areas we're really hoping to do more in and this will happen over time is, that the clients we're working with who are getting licenses, they're all going to be doing medical research. And actually, we were working with an Israeli group who are just about to launch a pharmaceutical and approved API for Crohn's disease which is one of those autoimmune diseases that a number of my colleagues have got in the building.So, it's real, you know, people whose parents, family, friends are going through chemotherapy, the positive affect of medical cannabis oil to counteract the side effects of chemo is just, you know, it's stuff we want to be involved in, stuff we want to be associated with. So, I absolutely get the point on a risk profile but we see it as a huge positive.

Anuj: (39:34)
That's great, that's really great. Kind of getting towards the end now but what-

Nick: (39:34)
I could talk about this for days.

Anuj: (39:34)
So could I! One thing, part of this podcast that I'm really interested in is around career and industry change and obviously I've been looking at this new area myself and hence, set up this podcast, what advice would you give anyone that's looking to start a business or move into this new exciting industry?

Nick: (39:34)
Jump in with both feet, it's so exciting. We as a firm have always acted for entrepreneurs, that's the basis of Memery Crystal behind most of our large public company clients, there is an individual. Because of the risk profile that we've talked about, most of the Canadian multi billion dollar companies have an entrepreneur that sits behind as the individual. There's just such an opportunity, I met four guys in their early 20s last week who've got an online CBD business, they're turning over 50 thousand pounds a month, it's not to be sniffed at and they're just beginning, educate yourself, go spend some time in Canada if you're able to, read ... Once you get into this industry, you become a little bit obsessive, everyone I speak to, you've got the bug, I've got the bug, amazing stuff online. Lots of TED Talks, lots of YouTube, lots of, I mean, you know, advice, some crazy dude trying to go the source of the original mother plant in the Congo and ends up dying of malaria in his hut. Books. But you know what there wasn't, and that's why we're so keen to be involved this morning with what you're doing is, there was not a basic cannabis podcast in the UK. You know in Canada, you've got cannabis radio, you've got these guys going off to, you know, today we're in this 20 thousand acre facility growing, da, da, da. But there's nothing UK centric and that's why I think what you're doing is just another really important part of the industry and I commend you for it because I know-

Anuj: (39:34)
Thank you very much.

Nick: (39:34)
You have a day job. So, if I was looking to get into this, I'd jump in with both feet, yeah I think this is the end of prohibition, which ever way you look at it, whether you look at it from a medical point of view, from a CBD point of view, from a pharmaceutical point of view, and if you're in north America, from a recreational point of view, this is a drug that we were all taught in school was really bad for you and it made you psychotic. The reality is, nobody has ever overdosed on cannabis, they might eat too much pizza and sleep for a couple of days. So there's just a complete re-education going on and so find the truth.

Anuj: (39:34)
Well, I think the key take away from there is listen to this podcast.

Nick: (39:34)
And subscribe.

Anuj: (39:34)
Yes.Press the subscribe button.

Nick: (39:34)
Yeah press the subscribe button. Cool, so my last question, and I've been asking my other guests this, is what did your family say when you said I'm working in cannabis, or I'm working with cannabis companies? They weren't surprised because as I said to you, we've got, I've got a personal interest in cannabis, so we'd been having the conversation a long time before it hit my professional life through Olivia's Vision, through the charity that we run, we fund all sorts of clinical trials and we knew what was going on. So, from our point of view, this wasn't a big jump for me. My 15 and 18 year old who are normal 15 and 18 year olds and doing what normal 15 and 18 year olds do, they're being educated. And I think, hopefully, I think it's kind of cool.Cool, that's good. I hope so too.

Anuj: (39:34)
Thank you Nick, it's been really good chatting to you and great to sort of touch on lots of different topics. Hopefully everyone found that very useful.

Nick: (39:34)
My absolute pleasure.

Anuj: (39:34)
Thank you.