Peel Group’s John Whitaker hopes to set up Isle of Man cannabis farm
Cannabis leaves are positioned on cannabis plants in a greenhouse at the GW Pharmaceuticals Plc plant in Sittingboune (U.K.), Monday, October 29, 2018.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images
On a tiny island in the U.K., a large marijuana farm might soon be constructed.
Peel Group, a real estate firm led by 79-year-old billionaire John Whitaker, the company’s chairman and largest shareholder, wants to build a £100 million ($136 million) cannabis-growing facility on the Isle of Man, where it is headquartered.
This facility would produce medical cannabis, which would then be spread around the globe and given to patients. It is located in the suburb of Douglas. The self-governing country has yet to legalize medical cannabis. Therefore, cannabis grown at this facility cannot be used on the Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is located in the middle of Ireland Sea. Its economy is principally based on financial services, with tourism and agriculture also being key industries.
CNBC’s Chris Eves told CNBC Wednesday, Peel Group finance director, that marijuana could become a new, lucrative industry.
Eves added that she believes medical cannabis or pharmaceutical cannabis is the next opportunity for the island of taking a stride on this side. Eves also noted that Canada and the U.S. had made an impressive start.
Computer generated images show a site that includes around 10 buildings and office space.
Eves explained that they are developing atmospherically sealed units and would like to “ensure the maximum potency” for the product.
Although the crop is not legal in recreational use on the Isle of Man or in the U.K, it would be grown in large warehouses which Peel Group would rent to tenants.
The Isle of Man government is yet to issue Cannabis Production Licenses. Eves indicated that applications were made by several parties. Eves added that some people may be required to first import the cannabis-farming skills.
The next few years will see cannabis sales rise as legalization of recreational marijuana in more countries.
Eves stated that Peel Group doesn’t hold any opinion on legalizing recreational marijuana use on the Isle of Man.
He said, “At this stage, what are we looking to provide here is purely medicinal.” “We aren’t necessarily advocating change. “We believe there’s a business case without it. [recreational use]. This seems like the natural progression. That direction of travel is generally accepted by societies, I believe.”
Peel Group has several notable projects including Media City in Salford and Trafford Centre Mall in Manchester. They plan to submit an application for a cannabis farm planning permit in the coming months.
The public consultation is ongoing on the Isle of Man and will last through March 7.
Local residents and legislators have supported the development, but some worry that it could be an eyesore or consume too many energy.
CNBC spoke with an Isle of Man civil servant who said that “The energy needs are concerning” and were currently not compatible with the supply and grid. They asked to keep their anonymity because they weren’t allowed to talk publicly about it.
Peel Group stated that it will set up a solar farm in order to power its cannabis farms.
The civil servant replied, “Solar capacities are limited on the Island unless they plan on investing significant in battery storage. This would be fantastic.”
CNBC’s Andrew Newton, Leader of the Isle of Man Green Party said that there are many sustainability concerns that must be taken into consideration.
These include the risk of a proliferation single-use plastic at the site as well as an increased energy demand.
Newton stated, “It’s notable that Peel NRE proposes installing 11MW.” [megawatt]The site will also be powered by renewable energy. This is an enormous amount of power, in excess of 15% of current electricity generation capacity on the Isle of Man.
Approval would see the construction completed in either two or three phases. The first phase is expected to be finished within three years. Eves stated that it was possible to have an operational site within five years.
High net-worth individuals on the Isle of Man enjoy a favorable tax system that does not include inheritance or capital gains taxes. The island’s billionaires (of which there are many) have been accused of failing to make more investments locally over the years.