Property billionaire John Whittaker, who leads the firm Peel Group, is hoping to set up a huge marijuana farm on a tiny island in the Irish Sea.
The 79-year-old billionaire is Peel Group’s chairman and largest shareholder, and is aiming to build a £100 million ($136 million) cannabis-growing facility on the Isle of Man, where it is headquartered.
The proposed facility, located on the fringe of the capital Douglas, is intended to produce medicinal cannabis that would then be distributed around the world.
The crop, not yet legal for recreational use in the U.K. or the Isle of Man, would be grown in several large warehouses that Peel Group would lease to tenants. The tenants would need a license first.
Chris Eves, finance director at Peel Group, told CNBC Wednesday that cannabis could be a lucrative new industry for the island.
“I think medicinal cannabis, pharmaceutical cannabis, is the next real opportunity for the island to steal a march on this side of the Atlantic,” Eves said, adding that the U.S. and Canada have already made a strong start.
“What we’re planning to develop over here is atmospherically sealed units,” Eves said, adding that the facilities would “ensure maximum potency” of the product.
Cannabis production licenses are yet to be issued by the Isle of Man government but applications have been made by a number of parties, Eves said, adding that people with the necessary cannabis farming skills may need to be imported initially.
Peel Group does not hold a view on whether recreational cannabis use should be legalized on the Isle of Man or overseas, Eves added.
“At this point, what we’re looking to deliver here is purely pharmaceutical,” he said.
“We’re not necessarily pushing for change. We think there is a business case for it without [recreational use]. Undoubtedly, that feels to me as the natural progression. I think societies are generally accepting of that direction of travel.”