Cannabis Industry Wales: First Multidisciplinary Summit energises movement for reform


On Tuesday 8 January, UKCSC chair Greg de Hoedt was invited to speak at the first multidisciplinary Cannabis Industry Wales summit at the Sennad, the Welsh National Assembly in Cardiff. With several excellent and well-received speeches, the event inspired those in attendance and provided impetus to building a cannabis industry in Wales.

Assembly Member (AM) and former leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood kicked things off by saying that Wales – where unemployment and low-paid work is “too high” – would be “daft” not to build an industry around cannabis in order to boost employment and economic opportunities.

“This is a debate that is long overdue,” she said, and emphasised that it was taking place “away from the kneejerk reactions of reactionary politicians and tabloid editors”.

And she highlighted Wales historical cannabis legacy that has been buried by the revisionism of prohibition: “In Wales it was grown from at least 800AD to 1800AD for the use in manufacturing of textiles, paper, rope and oil,” she said. “But it is worth noting that some of the historic links between Wales and cannabis can be found in our native language. For example, Cwm Cywarch, Gwynedd, translates as Hemp Valley.”

Wood said that the limited successes she has seen working with the MS Society to push Westminster into making reforms had reaffirmed her belief that oversight of the criminal justice system would have to be devolved to Wales “if we are to develop a compassionate and progressive raft of policies that do not result in the criminalisation of innocent people”.

And Leanne finished by saying that she did not want a cannabis industry in Wales taken over by big business.

“What is really important is that people in Wales who want to use cannabis both recreationally and medicinally are at the heart of determining the policy. We don’t want to see what has happened in countries like the US where big corporate pharmaceutical companies end up making all the profit. I want to see people power.”

From left to right: Nathaniel Loxely, Axel Klein, Arfon Jones, Neil Anderson, Greg de Hoedt, John Calcagni. Picture: Darren Rigby.

Six speakers, including Greg, followed:

• Nathaniel Loxely, founder of Vitality Hemp and co-founder of the British Hemp Association, who decided after researching hemp five years ago that it was time to “take the bull by the horns” and grow it.

• John Calcagni MPH, who gave an inspiring talk the importance of cannabis in treatment of PTSD, and who, having moved from California to Cardiff, gave a firsthand insight into how legalisation works in that particular US state.

• Arfon Jones, the elected Police and Crime commissioner for North Wales, who is committed to harm reduction and wider drug law reform and a vocal supporter of UKCSC.

• Axel Klein, a social anthropologist specialising in the use of governance of drugs. He has worked with different national and international organisations and published a clutch of books and papers including the recent “Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs”, Emerald (2018). Recently he has been working on the trade in falsified prescription medicines, medical cannabis and identifying opportunities for smallholder tobacco farmers. He is a research fellow at the Global Drug Policy Observatory and editor of the journal Drugs and Alcohol Today.

• Neil Anderson, Principal of Pace Consultants, which specialises in transportation spatial planning, including urban mass transit and sustainability, macroeconomic planning and political reform. He is a former Trustee and Vice Chair of Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

We will publish summaries of each speech in the coming days, but you can watch the event in full below:

Video by Darren Rigby.