Medicinal cannabis farm promises to be 'community company'

The company behind a medicinal cannabis farm in Dumfries and Galloway has pledged to operate as a "community company".

Hamish Clegg, CEO and co-founder of Hilltop Leaf, says the development will bring dozens of jobs, many of them highly skilled, to the south of Scotland.

He told Representing Border the company would be paying "millions of pounds" in wages, with an emphasis on employing local people.

Construction has started on an 11,000-square-metre facility in a rural location in the region, where cannabis will be cultivated and extracted for medicinal purposes. 

Mr Clegg says he hopes construction will finish next March, and, providing the company is awarded the necessary license, production could be underway by the end of 2021. 

The aim is to produce medicinal cannabis products at an "affordable" price, which Mr Clegg says will provide a "solution to patients suffering from a range of conditions from chronic pain to severe epilepsy".

The project is possible because the UK Government legalised medicinal cannabis in 2018, following campaigning by the parents of children with conditions like severe epilepsy. 

It is one of the first developments of its kind in the UK, and if everything proceeds to schedule, it could be the first medicinal cannabis farm in Scotland. 

The farm has received capital investment of almost £700,000 from South of Scotland Enterprise, the economic and community development agency for the region. 

The agency's Chair, Professor Russel Griggs, told Representing Border they had engaged thoroughly with the local community before agreeing to fund the project, as well as receiving assurances it would provide local jobs. 

Having launched in April 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Prof Griggs says the investment shows the agency is concerned with driving the region's economy forwards, as well as helping existing local companies to survive the effects of COVID-19.

Hilltop Leaf CEO Hamish Clegg told us he understood the concerns some people may have, and acknowledged there is still a stigma around the production of cannabis.

However, he told us: "you have to think of the cannabis industry just like you would think of any drug industry.

"You have the misuse of drugs for recreational and black market use, and the medicine that is used for legitimate purposes. The only way we get through the stigma is through education, education, education."