Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March, one of the leading medical cannabis advocates in the United Kingdom, is working with Canopy Growth Group, the world’s biggest cannabis producer. Together they’re trying to expand the market for marijuana in Europe.
Often known as the Countess of Cannabis, the titled aristocrat has been studying marijuana and other psychedelic drugs for decades and seeking drug reform by advising government and international organizations, as wide-ranging as the United Kingdom’s government to the government of Jamaica and the United Nations. Feilding smoked her first joint in the 1960s and quickly became fascinated by its cognitive effects, but it took her years to set up her foundation, where she research is cannabis. “For a long time, you couldn’t even talk about these compounds positively, it just wasn’t acceptable,” Feilding told Bloomberg in an interview.
Through the Beckley Foundation, which she founded in 1998, Feilding studies the effects of psychedelic drugs on consciousness to harness their benefits. She advises governments on sensible drug policies focused on harm reduction and human rights. The foundation is named after her country estate, Beckley Hall, although she calls it Brainblood Hall. The house has a mysterious presence which was captured on film when it was used as the set of Riddle House in the 2005 film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
As Europe lags behind the United States in legalizing cannabis, Canopy is working with Feilding to boost the market for medical marijuana in Europe by partnering with her on groundbreaking research. Feilding is working on a $9.6 million research venture to study cannabis-derived treatments for cancer pain and opioid dependence.
Together, they’re trying to outrun rivals to the potentially vast and lucrative European market. Europe’s cannabis market is projected to be so vast and lucrative that, in fact, it could reach as much as $65 billion by 2028, say analysts at Prohibition Partners. The U.K. alone is projected to have annual legal sales of $800 million within the next five years, says Canopy Founder Bruce Linton, and Canopy wants a piece of that action.
“There’s now an unstoppable global momentum behind medical cannabis reform,” Fielding said to Bloomberg in an interview, at her bucolic, but eclectic, stately home. “It will soon take over Europe.”
“Her ability to take a scientific look at what would otherwise be considered as controversial therapeutics makes her a very good partner,” Mark Ware, Canopy’s chief medical officer, said to Bloomberg. “She’s brave enough to step into relatively uncharted waters with us, but is scientifically rigorous enough to be able to give really credible information.”
One controversial thing that Feilding attempted to look at from a medical perspective is trepanning, where one drills a hole in their head to expose the brain’s protective sheath. A practice thousands of years old, trepanning was thought to induce cerebral blood flood and enhance consciousness. In the 1970s, the countess was filmed performing the procedure on herself with a dentist’s drill, wrapping her head in a scarf, eating a steak to replace the iron in the lost blood, and heading out to a party. She ran unsuccessfully for Parliament twice, campaigning on a platform for the U.K.’s National Health Service to provide trepanning to its patients.
“People used to call mum a wacko,” said Feilding’s son, Cosmo Feilding-Mellen, 34, “and now she’s seen as a visionary.”