It started some 4 years ago, when two friends Karl and Paul, were chatting about an article in a Times magazine regarding Cannabidiol, or CBD as we all know it, the article was entitled “In Search of Oil” intriguing!
Subsequently, three bottles of CBD oil were purchased from Ebay to help with Karl’s Diabetes and Carla’s (Paul’s Wife) fibromyalgia. After using this oil for a while there were no real effects and we were unsure of the potency or legitimacy of the oil that we’d been sent.
Karl decided it would be a good idea to make our own oil and that is where the tale really starts.
Hempire Limited was formed in November 2014, we applied for a licence from the Home Office, which was duly granted to cultivate industrial hemp and in May 2015 our first hemp crop of Finola, was planted on our Farm – we of course are not farmers and things did not go fantastically well – from 2 acres we managed to get about 8lbs ish of dried hemp, the rest was affected by frost and turned black overnight, disaster!
From the hemp materials that we harvested and using crude extraction methods, we managed to produce an oil. Carla and Karl both used this and soon felt the benefits.
Karl realized at this point that whilst Hemp is good for seed and fiber production ultimately we would need an awful lot of green material to produce a small amount of CBD oil and that there were similar plants out there with much higher levels of CBD however these were over the 0.2%THC level which is the maximum legal amount to qualify as Industrial Hemp. (THC is the psychoactive compound found in Hemp/Cannabis), which would offer a better option both in terms of cost and quality.
With this in mind, we applied to the Home Office for a high THC Cannabis licence, this involved lots of planning, security costs and laser beams. Our facility became like Fort Knox almost overnight. Even at this early stage, our experience with the final product gave us the confidence to invest heavily in preparing our facility, including the purchase of specialist cultivation and extraction equipment and even an in house laboratory for R&D.
We had a compliance visit from the Home office in 2015 who granted us a pilot licence for high THC Cannabis, cultivation, possession, production and supply, this licence was duly renewed in 2016, and the adventure began.
We learned very quickly how to and how not to grow cannabis plants, spending a lot of time on YouTube™ and forums. We were also given invaluable free advice from horticulturalists who are experts in hydroponic cultivation systems, (you know who you are, no names mentioned ~ Jason and his team) Once we had a crop of flower to process we set about making an oil high in CBD but with no psychoactive compounds, each batch was tested by FERA Science (at considerable expense) a home office approved laboratory and after the third failure we were getting concerned… after some research we purchased further specialist extraction equipment from America and on our 4th attempt we managed to produce a high quality oil with no psychoactive compounds present. Eureka!
We requested an increase in our licence to enable us to grow more plants so that we could take the product to market. The Home Office increased our licence, not by the amount that we requested but enough that we could grow more plants and continue the development of our products including Oil, tinctures, cream and vapes. Things were really moving fast and we were starting to invest in branding and marketing in readiness to go to market. Two years had elapsed since the idea was conceived, we’d invested a considerable sum of personal monies on development, legal costs and even travel to visit overseas facilities to gain further knowledge from respected licensed Cannabis growers and processors.
It was around this time that the MHRA published their opinion that CBD may be classed as a medicine. On the one hand this was good news in terms of recognition, on the other hand it had started off a chain of regulatory chaos.
This sent the CBD world into meltdown, both suppliers and customers voiced their worries and concerns. The MHRA requested that the industry refrain from making any medical claims whatsoever, and in line with their recommendations we took our website down in November 2016 in order to comply.The MHRA began to conduct a consultation on CBD and this process is still ongoing.
During this time we became more involved with organisations within the industry and started to see the potential size of the market, we quickly realised that we would not be able to go to market unless we ramped up our production and number of plants.
The Home Office asked that we be regulated by our Trading Standards Agency (TSA) or the Food Standard Agency (FSA) so again we complied and were inspected by our TSA and Environmental health,
Both were happy with our facility and products and confirmed this view to the Home Office. We then approached the FSA to ensure that our products did not fall into the “novel foods category” again we had confirmation that our products are not classed as novel, but this may change in the future, but at present they are happy for us to market and sell our products. This was again communicated to the Home Office.
Our current high THC licence was due to renew on 15th September 2017, so to ensure continuity we applied to the Home Office for renewal and variance to this existing licence 8 weeks prior to the expiry date, however to our astonishment, the day our licence was due to expire we received correspondence from the Home Office effectively suspending our licence and to stop any further cultivation with immediate effect.
All plants under cultivation were ripped out and destroyed. This was a really sad day, as all our mother plants, which had taken in excess of 8 months to cultivate were also destroyed.
To date the Home Office are reviewing our licence and have forced us into commencing legal proceedings. These are ongoing at present with the Government Legal Department, but this is a situation we do not want to be in, We feel that we have been left with no alternative due to their current stance.
We have also now applied for additional licensing from the MHRA, to produce and supply unlicensed medicinal products, and we will keep you advised on the position of this in due course
Our aim is to help and assist people with our products, wether this be via ‘exempt products’ (products with no psychoactive compounds within them) or unlicensed medicinal products further licensed and controlled by the MHRA.
All these products will be extracted and produced to a defined set standard in our own GMP laboratory, including bottling, labeling and packaging line. All products will be fully tested and this data made available for each batch produced.
In addition, there will be a plethora of products that we intend to produce, market and supply from this type of plant, all being completely natural products, with no known side effects. Finally, the plant lends itself to further ecological, namely, building materials, textiles, biofuels, solvent production, pet foods, cosmetics etc. the list goes on.
We already have many customers waiting, including business to business contracts and export opportunities, we will ultimately create jobs, tax revenues, not only locally but on a wider national scale as our business expands, all being done in a sustainable and ecological way using renewable energy.
It is a very exciting time and we at Hempire are passionate about our current products, and our future direction, To now assist the Home Office in re-issuing our licence, we are inviting our local MP to our facility to understand our predicament and hopefully resolve this obstacle on which the Home Office’s stance seems unclear.