Legal UK Cannabis Industry Mapped Out For First Time – And Poised For Rapid Change

SOME say it’s journalists who sketch history’s initial draft but this attempt to map-out the UK’s cannabis ecosystem by Hanway Associates is a notable first.

The London-based strategic cannabis consultancy has complied a legend of more than 130 active business in over a dozen distinct sub-sectors.

By no means an exhaustive list – it is already under revision – and one of Hanway’s co-founders says it may look dramatically different within just a few months.

Hanway co-founder Alastair Moore.

George McBride, Alastair Moore and Dr Henry Fisher established Hanway in 2017 after meeting at the Volteface think tank where they worked on drug liberalisation initiatives.

The company, which is based on Hanway St in London’s Soho, is now one of the leading lights of the UK cannabis scene with a wide-range of clients.

Co-founder Alastair Moore has watched the industry grow from just a handful of businesses to hundreds in a short space of time.

He said: “We pride ourselves on being a small, quality house, rather than trying to do everything, we concentrate on strategic, European-focused work with respectable businesses.

“When we started out we were mainly focused on North America cannabis businesses and over the last three years we have embraced the development of the European industry.

Map Will Change In A Matter Of Months

“There has been a switch from licenced producers to a R&D, genetics, agricultural, food and pharma business, as well as some really interesting ancillary business. The European industry has come on a lot over the last three years.

“When we were putting together the Ecosystem it was quite interesting to realise that the whole map is going to change over the next few months; just from our knowledge of who’s building what, at the moment.

“There’s going to be some interesting new licenced businesses across the spectrum in the UK, and Europe, over the coming months. 

“So it’s nice to get a map out, to get it down on paper; a snapshot of the publicly available information at this moment in time.”

CBD Firms Feature Strongly

The UK Cannabis Ecosystem map (copy available here) spawned from Hanway’s First Wednesdays (FW) network.

This started in London in early 2018, as a monthly gathering of 15 people and is now a network of over 3,500 entrepreneurs and investors across the UK, France and Holland.

The business featured in the Ecosystem have been garnered from publicly available information and the FW network, says Hanway.

Notable deals in the UK Cannabis market in the last year.

The largest category by number is for brands and retail associated with the booming CBD market, including the likes of FourFive CBD, Alphagreen, Daye and Botanic Labs.

Away from Hight St and e-commerce CBD platforms there are over 100 businesses, groups and organisations providing a wide range of services.

These feature the full panoply from seed to sale and support services including; growing, processing, testing, manufacturing, distribution, technology, patient access, professional services, media and ancillary.

Mr Moore foresees some exceptional growth in the years ahead for the sector, based around the UK’s world-leading bio-technology know-how.

UK Emerging As Thought-Leaders

He continued: “What is going to be really interesting going forward is all of the R&D and really high-tech-business coming forward, which the UK is perfectly suited to support.

“We have some amazing universities who have focused on cannabinoid research over the last few decades. This has given us a head-start on places such as the US, which has tight restrictions on cannabis research.

“We have some really good human capital in the UK that will slowly begin to move into the market and we will begin to see huge numbers employed in cannabis.

“While there will be jobs in the consumer brand and retailing side of the industry I think we will have quite a high-tech industry. In the global industry there is a lot of respect for the UK as thought-leaders.” 


Mr Moore paints a picture of hi-tech university campuses full of specialists and researchers dissecting the secrets of the cannabis plant’s hundreds of cannabinoids and compounds.

Europe will lead the way on drug and delivery device development, biotechnology and pharma businesses will come to the fore as European regulators drive industry innovation.

He sees the technology and innovation sector growing ‘five fold’ in a short space of time.

Other areas set for rapid growth include cultivation, contract manufacturing and licensing.

There will be initiatives around patient access, with technology-led solutions such as patient apps emerging rapidly.

Boom-Time For Hemp?

He sees the CBD industry fluctuating with company mergers and take-overs and the emergence of new e-commerce platforms.

But, perhaps one of the fastest-growing sector for the UK will be an industry that has been a feature of its domestic agricultural landscape for hundreds of years. 

It could be boom-time for the hemp cultivation industry as initiatives to remove the punitive rules surrounding the use of hemp leaves and flowers are ushered in on a new green wave.

Mr Moore added: “There is a growing case for hemp reform in the UK to unlock its potential for UK farmers and, in the current economic climate and with state of politics, right now, there appears to be a real momentum for this change.”

@Businesses or organisations wishing to be included in the Hanway Ecosystem should contact the First Wednesdays team; hello@firstwednesdays.eu

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