Derry CBD business wants to 'remove stigma surrounding cannabis' for wellness

  • When there is mention of cannabis, one may often conjure up the image of a university student outside a building with a hood up, puffing away at an illegal substance.

    However, the CBD industry that is slowly but surely growing within Northern Ireland is trying to dismantle this perception.

    Derry-based start-up, The Real Cannabis Club, is one such business aiming to do so.

    CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, one of the many chemical compounds found in marijuana and hemp, and there are multiple shops selling CBD products now popping up all over NI, ranging from Belfast to Armagh, Ballymena, Newtownards and Carrickfergus.

    Many people are turning to CBD oil as a ‘natural’ alternative to pharmaceuticals, which is what The Real Cannabis Club’s founder, Phil Patterson did whilst living in Australia.

    He said: “Out there [Australia] is a big focus on wellness and alternatives to pharmaceuticals, so I started taking CBD oil. It made me feel better in my own skin and I slept better so I became a real believer myself.”

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    Phil suggested the idea for the company to a few fellow friends that used CBD, adding: “It’s something we were all passionate about and I have a background in business so was keen to start something.”

    The platform was launched just before Christmas and is fully ecommerce-based, meaning that there’s no physical store presence.

    Phil’s reasoning for this was that “if you walk into a chemist and see CBD oil you don’t appreciate or acquire an understanding for the product and its potential markets. If you have an educational website and club model, it’s better for getting your prospective customers to understand.”

    He continued: “From our perspective it was important to not hide behind a pseudonym or another name. Our product comes from a cannabis plant and we believe in it. We wanted to be loud and proud because to be honest, I watch some people that take an AWFUL lot of tablets, which are obviously very beneficial to their health… but what if there’s a potential third wellness solution that comes from a plant?”

    Medicinal cannabis was allowed to be legally prescribed to NI patients by specialist UK doctors in limited circumstances back in November 2018, following several high-profile UK cases whose medical conditions appeared to be improved by cannabis oil.

    One of which, was Co Tyrone’s Billy Caldwell, who began using the oil in 2016 to help control epileptic seizures.

    However, the average person does not need a medical prescription to purchase a ‘regular’ bottle of CBD oil.

    Phil said that “the compound that had best impact upon Billy’s seizures was THC. It’s the psychoactive compound which is almost completely removed from our product (ours has to contain under 0.014%).

    “But the interesting thing is that regulation is catching up. There’s a real quality control issue in the industry because there hasn’t been enough regulatory oversight. That’s changing now which will stop cowboys selling products that aren’t any good, that aren’t prepared properly or don’t contain enough cannabin novels.”

    The legislation Phil refers to is the Novel Foods authorisation. The UK Food Standards Agency has announced an application deadline of 31 March 2021 for companies marketing cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as foods or food supplements.

    “Everyone in the UK that wants to sell CBD oil will have to be Novel Foods compliant which we will be,” Phil assured.  “It’s because we invested heavily in our products, processes, lab analyses, extraction methods etc. We publish our supply chain and testing results and provide certificates of analyses with every product so at least you know the exact constituent ingredients.”

    Phil and his team are focussed on the UK and Irish markets for now, as Covid-19 has stopped quick international growth, despite ecommerce thriving in the current climate due to high street stores having no choice but to shut.

    Phil continued: “It’s not a bad time to be in the ecommerce wellness space.

    “Our web traffic and sales are definitely up [since Covid-19] but we want to be entirely authentic and ethical, and we’re not pushing that angle at all.

    “If people want to try CBD oil as part of a new wellness regime to cope it’s definitely had a slightly positive impact, but there’s other negative impacts like supply chain and the ability to raise capital.”

    However, he is remaining positive amidst the coronavirus crisis, stating that “probably our biggest hurdle is obviously the stigma that is still surrounding cannabis in Northern Ireland.”

    The Real Cannabis Club is currently offering 10% off to customers with the discount "SyncNi10"  to be used at online checkout.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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