Peel Group’s John Whitaker hopes to set up a cannabis farm on the Isle of Man
Cannabis leaves lie on plants growing in a greenhouse at the GW Pharmaceuticals Plc factory in Sittingboune, UK, Monday October 29, 2018.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A sprawling marijuana farm could soon be built on a small island between the UK and Ireland.
Peel Group, a property company run by 79-year-old billionaire John Whitaker, the company’s chairman and largest shareholder, wants to build a £100m ($136m) cannabis cultivation facility on the Isle of Man , where it is headquartered. .
The proposed facility, located on the outskirts of the capital Douglas, would be used to produce medicinal cannabis which would then be distributed worldwide and prescribed to patients. However, the self-governing nation has yet to legalize medical cannabis, meaning cannabis produced at the facility cannot be prescribed for use on the Isle of Man.
Located in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s economy is mainly based on finance, while tourism and agriculture are also key sectors.
Chris Eves, chief financial officer of the Peel Group, told CNBC on Wednesday that cannabis could be a lucrative new industry for the island.
“I think medical cannabis, pharmaceutical cannabis, is the next real opportunity for the island to steal a march from this side of the Atlantic,” Eves said, adding that the United States and Canada had already off to a good start.
The synthetic images show a site with about ten buildings including warehouses and offices.
“What we plan to develop here are atmosphere-tight units,” Eves said, adding that the facilities would “ensure maximum potency” of the product.
The crop, which is not yet legal for recreational use in the UK or the Isle of Man, would be grown in several large warehouses which Peel Group would lease to one or more tenants, who would first need a license.
Cannabis production licenses have yet to be issued by the Isle of Man government, but applications have been made by a number of parties, Eves said, adding that people with the necessary skills in cultivation of cannabis may need to be imported first.
Cannabis sales are expected to skyrocket over the next few years as more countries around the world legalize the drug for recreational use.
The Peel Group has no opinion on whether recreational cannabis use should be legalized in the Isle of Man or overseas, Eves said.
“At this point, what we’re looking to deliver here is purely pharmaceutical,” he said. “We don’t necessarily push for change. We think there’s a business case without [recreational use]. Without a doubt, this seems like the natural progression to me. I think societies generally accept this direction of travel.”
Peel Group, which counts Media City in Salford, England, and the Trafford Center shopping center in Manchester among its biggest projects, intends to submit a planning application for the cannabis farm in the coming months.
He is currently conducting a public consultation on the Isle of Man which is due to last until March 7.
While the development has received support from local residents and lawmakers, some fear it will be an eyesore, while others fear it will consume too much energy.
“Energy needs are of concern and currently inconsistent with supply and grid,” an Isle of Man official told CNBC, asking to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. .
Peel Group said it would set up a solar farm to help power the cannabis farm.
But the official said: ‘Solar capabilities are limited on the island unless they plan to invest significantly in battery storage, which would be great.’
Andrew Newton, leader of the Isle of Man Green Party, told CNBC that the development has a number of sustainability issues that will need to be addressed.
“These include a risk of proliferation of single-use plastic on site and high energy demand,” he said.
Newton added: “It should be noted that Peel NRE proposes to install 11 MW [megawatt] renewable energy to help power the site. That’s a huge amount of power; in the region of 15% of the Isle of Man’s current total power generation capacity.”
If approved, the development would be completed in two or three phases, with the first phase likely to be completed within three years of approval. “Within five years, it’s not unrealistic to think that we could have a fully operational site,” Eves said.
The Isle of Man has a favorable tax system for high net worth individuals which does not include capital gains tax or inheritance tax. But the island’s billionaires, of whom there are several, have been criticized over the years for not investing more of their money locally.