Britain’s first investment firm dedicated to funding medical cannabis ventures will float in London today, amid a global “green rush” of investment into products made from the widely-banned weed.
Sativa Investments has raised £1.1m through the IPO on the capital’s Nex exchange, which is also used by Arsenal football club. The fundraising values Sativa at £4m.
The vehicle has been founded by serial entrepreneur Geremy Thomas, who has made millions through ventures in the early days of mobile phone technology and consumer finance.
Mr Thomas told The Daily Telegraph the fund would enable UK investors to capitalise on the “massive growth potential” of medical cannabis – despite the products being all-but banned in Britain.
“This is the most exciting area I’ve invested in so far because of the scale of the opportunity and the benefit it delivers for people,” Mr Thomas said.
“It has been held back for too long because of political bias rooted in the drug wars of the Seventies. But public opinion has swung against this.”
Mr Thomas predicted that the UK would liberalise its laws to allow more medical cannabis products “within 18 months”, following the path set by countries including Israel, Canada, Germany and more than half of US states.
Medical cannabis products are used around the world to treat a number of ailments, including for pain relief, anxiety and to reduce seizures in epilepsy.
A limited number of medicines containing cannabidiol, a derivative of cannabis more commonly known as CBD, have been approved for use in the UK for conditions such as easing loss of muscle control in people with multiple sclerosis.
But a blanket ban on products containing the psychoactive part of cannabis – THC – has prevented a wider range coming to market.
Analysts predict cannabis sales will overtake beer in California next year following its legalisation for recreational as well as medicinal use at the start of this year, highlighting the product’s explosive growth in places that have liberalised their drug laws.
Britain is already home to one of the world’s largest medical cannabis companies. GW Pharma is listed on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange, with a market valuation of $3.1bn (£2.2bn), but is based in the UK and grows cannabis plants in greenhouses covering the area of 23 football pitches in Norfolk.