Pharmacies are selling cannabis products to stay in business after struggling to cope with NHS cuts
Faced with funding cuts of up to 12 percent, GP practices closing and failing high streets, an increasing number of pharmacies are turning to cannabinoids (CBD) to attract new customers. CBD is the none non-psychoactive element of the cannabis plant and in the last year there have been an explosion in the number of products available in the UK including skin cream, gummy bears and drinks. The rate of pharmacy closures across the UK has increased significantly with at least 190 in the two years since Department of Health introduced its cuts in 2016.
Manjit Jhoot, owner of the Jhoots Pharmacy chain, which operates 100 pharmacies across England, has started stocking CBD products.
Another pharmacist in Birmingham, who did not want to be named, said: “Our local GP moved to a combined health centre with on-site pharmacist and the ASDA near us also opened a pharmacist so we have had a really hard time.
“That is why I started selling CBD products, I don’t know if they will save the business but they have certainly been a real success. And there have been no prescriptions for cannabis that’s for sure.”
Last year the Home Secretary Sajid Javid sanctioned the use of medical cannabis for certain conditions but so far there have only been a handful of people prescribed the drug in the country.
Mr Jhoot had to educate his customers about the difference between the types of cannabis when he began selling CBD products.
He said: “There was a lot of scepticism at first as people didn’t really understand the difference between CBD and THC (the chemical in illegal cannabis) but our team of pharmacists and staff have been able to educate people in to the difference and our customers who have tried the products have not only returned to purchase more but also commented on their efficacy.
“Obviously the benefits need more research which is coming but hopefully the World Health Organisation (WHO) report stating that CBD is perfectly safe will open up more avenues of research so we can continue to explore the benefits and market further.”
The Food Standards Agency recently reclassified CBD products as a “novel” food which means its health benefits have not been confirmed which some people fear could be the precursor to an outright ban.
However, with the UK CBD industry one of the few sectors experiencing rapid growth with the number of daily users doubling year on year and the market is projected to be worth £2 billion by 2020. The Cannabis Trade Association now has 700 members and is currently lobbying Government about reducing regulation.
Mr Jhoot noticed CBD products were attracting a new type of customer to his pharmacies.
He said: “The change has been quite marked. Traditionally pharmacies have been places where people come when they are sick and just need their prescriptions collecting.
“These new products have seen younger, more wellbeing-focussed customers visiting the pharmacies as they look for ways to find preventative measures for their health. People have become sceptical about taking too many tablets or traditional remedies hence their desire to try something different.”
Green Monkey, which launched the UK’s first CBD carbonated drink last year, aggressively targeted pharmacies as a place to stock its range of products.
CEO of Green Monkey Serge Davies said: “We have developed a range of pharmaceutical products aimed at the pharmacy market as well as the more mainstream consumer market so it is only natural that we distribute through pharmacies.
“As well as their supposed healing properties, they have also helped create a demand for customers seeking new therapies that are more organic and natural and we believe the pharmacy of the 21st century will be the go-to places to get CBD products.”
He added: “We are very lucky to have Phoenix on board (pharmacy distributors), as they know their market. It’s great that we’ve been able to attract new customers to pharmacies who are more concerned about their wellbeing.