By SAM BUTLER
Real Cannabis Club, a Derry-based start-up venture, is aiming to change perceptions in Northern Ireland and further afield about the benefits it sees in cannabis oil (CBD).
Experienced businessman Phil Patterson, who set up the small venture, discovered the benefits of CBD oil (Cannabidiol), a natural compound found in cannabis, whilst working in Australia.
Mr Patterson decided to start the business because “some people are now turning to CBD oil as a natural and organic alternative to pharmaceuticals”.
Medicinal cannabis, he continues, “has been allowed to be legally prescribed to Northern Ireland patients by specialist UK doctors in limited circumstances since November 2018”.
Mr Patterson explains: “In Australia there’s 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 and so I became a real believer.”
He’s set out to address what he sees as the biggest problem facing advocates in Northern Ireland, which is “the stigma surrounding CBD oil”.
He then pitched his idea of a local CBD company to friends who used the oil and was encouraged by their enthusiastic response.
“It’s something we were all passionate about. I have a background in business and so was keen to start something,” he adds.
Varieties of some CBD oils are currently available in major health stores as a food supplement and for use in reducing anxiety, for pain relief and treating some conditions.
A successful manager with a passion for start-ups, Mr Patterson was formerly commercial director of MOF Technologies, a world renowned nano-materials company which is based in Belfast. He formed Real Cannabis Club to raise the level of awareness of the oil’s benefits just before last Christmas, primarily as an e-commerce-based operation without any physical retail presence.
The idea was to set up an educational website to increase awareness as well as to develop online sales here.
“If you have an educational website and club model, it’s better for getting your prospective customers to understand about CBD,” he explains.
He continues: “Our product is plant based, entirely natural, organic and most importantly we believe in it. Our focus is on ensuring that our CBD oil is a consistently high quality produce. We are an ethical business.
“The average person does not need a medical prescription to purchase a ‘regular’ bottle of CBD oil.
“It is interesting 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.
“Everyone in the UK who wants to sell CBD oil will have to be Novel Foods compliant, which we will be,” he says.
“We have 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 customers know the exact constituent ingredients and provenance.”
The Covid-19 crisis, he says, has led to people looking more closely at wellness issues.
“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,” he adds.