First Wednesdays is a network of European investors and entrepreneurs working in the cannabis sector. Founded in London in 2018 by the team behind Hanway Associates, the network has over 3500 members, and regional chapters in Paris and Amsterdam. 

 

Laurence Busch Hansen, Head of Community at First Wednesdays said:

“We felt it was important to take a closer look at current activity in the UK cannabis ecosystem and how much it has grown since we started 2 years ago. To celebrate the progress the industry has made in those 2 years we have compiled a map of the ecosystem, looking at core segments of the market, and covering unique UK-headquartered companies operating in each market segment.”

The London chapter has seen a huge number of law firms engage with the network, offering services and getting involved in the transactions that are beginning to pick up in speed and size in Europe.

Household legal name, DLA Piper have recently launched a cannabis practice within their global business and have been extremely active since the start of the network in the UK. Dylan Kennet, Senior Associate at DLA Piper’s London office said:

“We as a firm remain bullish that the UK will be a leading player in the medicinal cannabis market.  This optimism is predicated on companies having access to growth capital, both private and public; the former is growing, while the latter remains extremely difficult to procure given what seems to be a reluctance by the major public markets in the UK to list such entities.  Coupled with regulatory hurdles to patient access, there are still some ways to go – but we are still in the beginning phases.”

Alastair Moore, the co-founder of Hanway Associates credits the presence of large legal firms in the UK’s cannabis sector on the professionalism of the early industry actors, the fact a lot of European law firms had North American offices which were exposed to the early industry there, and the high demand for financial and regulatory advice on issues like proceeds of crime (POCA). 

McCarthy Tétrault, one of the leading Canadian law firms, is an example of a transatlantic cannabis legal practice – one that embraced the early cannabis sector in the UK. The team there were involved with Canadian company Auxley and the investment they received from Imperial Brands, a listed British FMCG company, in 2019, that moved the dial on corporate interest in the sector. Rami Chalabi, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault said:

“Access to medical cannabis is largely driven by the regulatory framework adopted in any given jurisdiction. While participation in the UK medical cannabis sector will require patience, the adoption of a cautious, evidence-based approach can be a catalyst for research, innovation and creativity from the private sector, spur regulatory change and better access to cannabis for medical patients. A number of recent positive developments (easing of import restrictions, a pragmatic approach to the regulation of CBD products) should give investors and entrepreneurs reason to be optimistic about the future of the cannabis industry in the UK.”

To download and browse the First Wednesdays map of the UK cannabis ecosystem you can sign up here. Membership is free and the FW team are at hand to help you meet European entrepreneurs and investors.