The first harvest of cannabis plants is now underway at GW Pharmaceuticals, the company licensed by the Home Office to conduct a unique pharmaceutical research and development programme into the medicinal uses of cannabis. Sowing commenced in August, and the initial crop of 5,000 plants has been growing in a climate-controlled glasshouse at a secure research facility in the South of England.
The plants are being cut off just above the stem and hung up to dry before transfer to the laboratory. Eventually, as many as 20,000 plants should be under cultivation. Dr Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, said: "The plants we are harvesting now will be used for prototype further extraction studies and prototype formulations, as well as in our initial clinical trials. By the end of 1999, we intend to be working with pharmaceutical grade extracts from cloned plants, rather than growing from seed. We will then be growing and harvesting on a regular basis. Clinical trials will commence in Spring 1999, and eventually involve up to 2,000 patients in 18 to 24 months time. We will be using whole plant extracts for delivery by inhalation, since this is far more precise and controllable than the oral route. The first area of study in patients will concern the relief of nerve damage pain including for sufferers of MS (multiple sclerosis)."