Business Leader recently sat down with Cannaray’s Chief Executive Officer, Scott Maguire, to discuss how the company has become a leading UK figure for medical cannabis, the future of the sector, and how public opinion towards the drug has changed in recent years.
Can you give me an overview of the company?
Cannaray is a company focused on medical cannabis and the marketing and selling the latest generation of CBD formulations. We have a best in class management team, board of directors and scientific advisory board. We have acquired a company, Therismos, which provides us all the necessary license to import and distribute medical cannabis across the UK and Europe. Our management team combines life science and fast-moving consumer goods expertise, both elements important for our Medical and CBD businesses.
What was the inspiration behind setting up the company?
The inspiration behind setting up the company was when my dog Bozy, a nine-month-old King Charles Spaniel puppy, became very ill last August in Switzerland. Bozy would not eat and his condition worsened to the point where he was sent to a specialist hospital in Bern. After a number of days in the hospital and still not eating Bozy was finally diagnosed with stage 5 hepatic lymphoma and was given two days to two weeks to live.
The vet refused to put the dog on strong anti-cancer medication since he was so weak that he would die, and I was advised to put him to sleep when they visited the clinic the next day. The next day, I was convinced that I would let the vets put Bozy down but my young son pleaded to bring Bozy home. The boys got their wish and I brought Bozy home. Bozy had not eaten for 10 days now and was on his way out.
I had read about the benefits of medical cannabis over the course of the previous few months and saw how cannabis was being used to treat anorexia, AIDS-wasting and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. So I decided to try cannabis to get Bozy eating. I bought a bag of marijuana from a local ski instructor and breathed the smoke into Bozy’s face. Bozy then attacked a grilled hamburger within minutes.
I repeated the cannabis hamburger combination twice a day for two weeks.
Bozy now had his strength back and he and his family were able to bring him back to the UK and visit his local vet who put Bozy on high dose of steroids. Bozy is still alive today, cannabis saved his life and steroids have sustained his life. I then decided to focus my efforts and capital in building a cannabis company knowing if cannabis could save my dog’s life, then it can provide true medical benefits to humans in need of new and better therapies.
Have views of cannabis changed in the UK?
The stigma surrounding cannabis is changing globally. A plant which has been used as a medical agent dating back to 2500BC is now becoming a mainstream therapy in North America and a number of European countries. Although the UK is a slower adopter of medical cannabis, the ongoing research is helping the specialists understand the benefits and dosing necessary to assist patients in need.
In one year the stigma around cannabis has changed significantly. CBD is now a mainstream product with UK sales around £100m in 2018 and growing exponentially each year. In the medical community, cannabis is now at the forefront of many therapeutic discussions. A few years ago cannabis would never have been a subject of discussion in the UK medical community.
Has this played a part in the creation and growth of the business?
Medical cannabis in the UK is still a tiny industry with the number of patients who have been prescribed cannabis standing at around 100 as opposed to Germany where over a hundred thousand prescriptions have been written.
Cannaray is putting all the elements in place to be a market leader in the UK but this will take time as more research results are generated. Our investors are patient in understanding the potential of the UK medical cannabis market. In order to create a solid business foundation, we are expanding into medical cannabis in Germany and launching a branded CBD product line in the UK.
How would you describe the growth of the company? How have you achieved this?
As a start-up in an emerging industry cash is the key to growth. We raised £7.8m for a Series A round and used this capital to acquire a leading company in the import and distribution of controlled drugs.
We will continue to raise money to acquire complimentary companies and hire professionals in the UK and Germany. With our acquisitions, we are in revenue terms one of the largest European cannabis companies.
What more needs to be done to have Cannabis more accepted in the UK?
There needs to be more research and clinical trials. Clinicians have a desire to prescribe cannabis but have no guidance on dosing amounts and most effective formulations. There simply needs to be a better understanding of the medical benefits of the plant which can only happen through research and clinical trials.
NICE engagement with the world’s leading cannabis companies to make this therapy affordable would greatly assist in bringing this therapy to those patients who do not have the substantial sums to pay for their prescriptions.
What does the future hold for the company?
Our goal is to have the leading CBD brand across Europe and be the European leader in medical cannabis. In order to achieve this goal, we are committing capital to research and have an outstanding group of scientists to lead our research and development efforts.
Our leadership would be achieved through continuous innovation and create new and novel formulations in CBD for a better experience for the consumer and leading research in medical cannabis to provide a more effective product that has more patient friendly delivery formulations.