Features Saturday, September 8th

EXPLAINER: Hereford's 'Herb Kingdom' on the world of medical marijuana

Features Saturday, September 8th

EXPLAINER: Hereford's 'Herb Kingdom' on the world of medical marijuana

Whether you think cannabis-based medicine will turn you in to a junkie (it won’t), a layabout hippie (it won’t – although there has yet to be definitive testing on whether its use correlates with an increase in Willie Nelson on your Spotify playlist), or whether you think that properly-regulated usage may aid in the treatment in otherwise-debilitating conditions – the simple reality is that we are closer now than ever before to seeing marijuana products on your prescription.

This autumn certain doctors will be able to prescribe medical marijuana, following a series of high-profile cases which prompted Home Secretary Sajid Javid to re-examine the therapeutic benefits. The subsequent advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs brings the UK’s approach more in line with countries across the world - with the USA, Canada and Portugal among those with extensive medical marijuana industries. And yet here in the UK there’s still a great deal of, at best, total, blissful ignorance and, at worst, Secondary School PSHE-level scaremongering surrounding hemp-based supplements and medical marijuana.

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One product that falls in to the former category is CBD oil, and the Herb Kingdom – a father and son business from Herefordshire – is among the UK’s leading suppliers in the premium supplement known in the industry as ‘golden’ oil.

They are at the (legal) front of what’s been termed the ‘green rush’ in the UK – which saw CBD oil users in the UK double in 2017 from 125, 000 to a quarter of a million – and are best placed to explain what this all means, and how the UK, Herefordshire and the Herb Kingdom fit in to what experts have forecast to be a potential £56bn European market.

Here’s our first Explainer.


*So you are talking to your (non-drug using) Grandma * In simple terms, what are CBDs?

thk: It’s one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the hemp/cannabis plant. Full name is Cannabidiol. The CBD we use in our products is carefully extracted using a ‘Super-critical CO2 Extraction’ process which ensures a high-quality oil containing a full array of cannabinoids.


The big question - will using them get you high (and if it doesn’t, does it interact with serotonin levels/sensory system in any way)?

Don’t worry - it won’t get you high! The bad press around cannabis use is due largely to one of the other main cannabinoids called THC. However, the CBD is actually a counter to the psychoactive effects of THC, so should really be welcomed by those opposed to cannabis usage.


What are the major reasons people use these products?

CBD interacts with our own (internal) Endocannabinoid System which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis - our body’s natural state or balance. If you research the ‘ECS’ it will help you understand why people are using CBD products.

As a registered seller of CBD products we cannot make any medical claims, so would have to suggest that readers research the many reasons why people use CBD. There is a growing amount of scientific research available to view and of course a huge amount of anecdotal evidence. We always suggest that customers take some of what they read with a pinch of salt unless it is backed up by suitable data.


What are the UK laws currently – and what would happen if a policeman stopped me with CBDs in my possession?

CBD is 100% legal in the UK, though there are restrictions regarding selling the buds etc and, of course, regarding the growing the plants. But if you were stopped by the police and were carrying any of our products, you’d be fine. I should also add that it’s very unlikely you would fail a drugs test (for THC) as the products contain very low (and legal) levels of this.


What’s your story? How did you get started in this business?

We came to CBD due to Alex contracting an aggressive form of Crohn’s Disease a few years ago. We nearly lost him following a failed operation which left poison leaking into his stomach - and we’d like to take this opportunity to say another massive thank you to the staff at Hereford County Hospital who undoubtedly saved his life and cared for him so well.

Crohn’s has no cure (yet) so Alex was facing a lifetime of steroids and other treatments, which he really was not looking forward to. So, he set about trying to find a natural alternative and discovered CBD oil. Again, we can’t say too much on this subject but suffice it to say that 6-eight months after starting with CBD, Alex gave up taking any prescription medication. We’re just stating facts, not making any claims here, but it does mean we started The Herb Kingdom for the right reasons. We did it to make very high-quality CBD products available to people at (very) fair prices.

We also donate 5% of our retail sales turnover to Crohn’s & Colitis UK in the hope that one day a cure can be found for these horrible diseases. Would be nice to think that in the future people won’t have to go through the trauma that Alex went through. When Alex was first trialling CBD products for his own use, he was first struck by the high cost of the so-called superior quality oils. At one point he was spending over £70.00 a week for what he needed, which was simply not sustainable.

He approached me last October to ask if I would help him set up the business so we could make the ‘golden’ oil more affordable for people. My previous experience of running a business meant that I was able to strike a deal with the supplier....and the rest, as they say, is history.


What do you think recent statements by politicians mean for CBDs and cannabinoids/cannabis legalisation in the UK (and by extension, the big one - is this the first step toward cannabis legalisation?)

We have definitely seen a softening of the rhetoric used by politicians regarding the whole cannabis debate.

There are now too many examples of people being helped by medicinal cannabis and the recent case of young Billy Caldwell has helped highlight the benefits available. Finally the government has conceded that cannabis does have a medicinal value - though it was strange for this to be denied for so long whilst the UK was the biggest exporter of medical cannabis in the world. Yes folks, we grow medicinal cannabis on an industrial scale, fully licensed, for companies like GW Pharmaceuticals. It’s hard to believe that there has been such a hard stance publicly whilst unbeknown to most, high-quality ‘weed’ has been grown legally here for years.

We are now seeing the start of the process for the legalising of cannabis for medical use but it’s clear that we’re a long way off legalising it for recreational use. And if the CBD industry is anything to go by, it will be really important for a proper framework to be put in place before the debate can progress further.

The huge growth in CBD product sales in recent years has shown the potential for a vibrant and prosperous industry, able to create thousands of jobs and potentially many millions of pounds for The Exchequer. However, with there being limited governance over the industry, the marketplace is awash with fake products and rip-off merchants making unsubstantiated claims. The buyer must be very careful when deciding which products to buy - especially from Ebay and Amazon.


If it’s illegal to grow cannabis in the UK, how do you get/make CBD oil?

We source our oil from a trusted European manufacturer which grows hemp legally as part of certified scheme for growers. We opted to pay a higher price for a specialist ‘golden’ oil which goes through extra filtration to remove unwanted plant matter and chlorophyll. The result has been described as the difference between fine cognac and supermarket own-label brandy.

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 How regulated is the CBD industry in the UK currently – and how do you reassure your customers over the quality of the product they’re getting?

We always wanted to be able to assure customers that our products were exactly what they say on the label. We therefore decided to voluntarily join the Cannabis Trades Association, as membership of this requires that all products are clearly labelled and 3rd party lab tested. The Association reserves the right to randomly test products and no product is launched until the CTA has checked the provenance.

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest frustrations we have is the rip-off merchants getting away with selling bogus products. That’s why it’s of vital importance that we put a legal framework in place by which all sellers must abide. There’s a lot of in-fighting currently within the industry, as some view the CTA as a self-appointed regulator. But at least it is a step in the right direction and all of the members believe wholeheartedly in consumer protection. We’d like to think that in 20 years time the general public will view CBD, and indeed cannabis as a whole, in the way that vitamins are viewed today. With a robust regulation of the market, such as the upcoming Cannabis Products Directive, CBD products will be trusted and will likely be sold in many high street outlets. As more is understood about the science of cannabinoids, we hope that everyone will come to embrace the benefits as we have.


Other that looking infinitely cooler to teenagers – are there any differences to vaping CBDs compared to ingesting it or using it as a rub?

Products are currently available as oil drops (to be taken under the tongue), vape liquids, capsules and balms. Drops and vape liquids offer the best bioavailability as more of the CBD enters the blood system. But the taste can be an issue (though ‘golden’ oil tastes far better than raw oil), so capsules are a good alternative.

It’s important to compare the actual CBD content, as this is what you’re paying for. Some companies try to bamboozle you with percentages, or original extract percentage which often just disguise a low CBD content. Look for a full spectrum product (with a wide array of cannabinoids) and avoid products made from CBD isolate.


Countries all over the world (including Ireland, and arguably the UK) are moving towards far more progressive and evidence-based laws when it comes to cannabis-related products. What one thing do you think would most change the public perception of something still widely-associated negatively with drug-taking?

We’re already seeing a change due to coverage of CBD and medicinal cannabis being seen in the mainstream media. When the Daily Mail features positive articles about this then you know things are changing.

But for a real change of mindset we need to see politicians and respected commentators presenting the facts about the benefits of cannabis. We need to educate the public that cannabis is not all about people getting ‘stoned’ or using it as a gateway to other drugs. With a legal but sensitively regulated market, the fear can be removed and the many benefits of this wonderful plant can be embraced.

CBD is demonstrating that people’s opinions are changed by positive influences. It has been a life-changing experience for our family and we hope it can be for many other families too.


For more on Herb Kingdom products, you can visit their website here - or stay on touch through Facebook, or Instagram.

NOTE: The Herb Kingdom want to make it clear that they are operating under the guidelines of the MHRA and the FSA by not making medical claims. They sell CBD products as a food supplement only with any benefits being derived from it used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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