At present, there is a virtual ban in the UK on any product containing Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the substance in marijuana/cannabis that makes you high.
But it is a combination of THC and CBD, a pain reliever also derived from marijuana and that is legal in the UK, which gives medicinal cannabis its potency says Thomas.
In Canada, which legalised medicinal products in 2001, sales are predicted to soar to C$10bn (£5.8bn).
There are almost twice as many people in the UK so it’s fair to see the market here being considerably larger, Thomas told Proactive.
Germany is another example. Laws were relaxed in March and by June medicinal prescriptions had jumped to 5,000 per month.
“A lot of people are getting benefit from the component parts of cannabis restricted in the UK because of political campaigns in the seventies.
“Why should our [UK] patients be denied access to something that is proving to be very effective around the world.
“The market is racing away in North America and on our doorstep in Germany.”
And that’s the point of Sativa.
Shift in opinion
Initially, it will give UK investors a way into the North American markets but ultimately Thomas wants to establish a first mover position if the UK legal position changes.
Thomas is convinced there will be a change in the law, albeit it might take up to two years.
Public opinion has shifted, he says.
High profile cases such as six year-old epileptic Alfie Dingley, whose mother had to go the Netherlands to get a cannabis oil that dramatically improved his condition, are driving a change in mood.
Thomas, a serial entrepreneur, admits his interest is financial rather than compassionate and points to a track record of being ahead of the game in his previous ventures.
His first fortune was in mobile phones just as cellular took off.
That was followed by a shift into telecoms ahead of the dot.com boom and most recently a move into consumer finance that benefited from a regulatory crackdown.
That business, George Banco, was sold for £53mln last year.
A conference in Vancouver convinced Thomas that medicinal cannabis was the place to make his next fortune.
“I was blown away by the scale and size of the investment,” he says.
Sativa a way in
EU laws prohibit direct investment into overseas companies where the operations are technically illegal within the investor’s own country, but through a vehicle such as Sativa there is a route in.
NEX-listed, the company raised £1.6mln when it went public, most of which came from Thomas himself and friends and family.
The company has made two small investments so far: Veritas a Toronto-based firm which is carrying out testing to find the optimum combinations of CBD/THC for specific ailments.
Rapid Dose Therapeutics, meanwhile, has adapted dissolving film technology to deliver cannabis oils accurately, quicker and more effectively.
Sativa is likely to assume the rights to distribute Rapid Dose’s products in the UK and Europe.
The company has invested C$200,000 in both companies, while there is a memorandum of understanding in place for a 51% stake in George Botanicals, a UK-based CBD business owned by Carbon Managers, another of Thomas’s vehicles.
While these investments are small, Thomas is not short of ambition for the company and cites UK-based but Nasdaq-listed GW Pharma, which has a market value of US$4bn.
GW is reportedly close to US approval for a cannabis-based childhood epilepsy drug Epidolex, which it might launch in Europe next year.
Spreading the word
If successful it will raise awareness of the market even more though Thomas believes a major part of his role at Sativa is to educate both the marketplace and investors about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
It’s a role he clearly relishes.
Unlike opiates, for instance, cannabis oils deliver real benefits to patients and without doing damage to them in the process.
People written off by traditional medicines have also seen dramatic turnarounds on cannabis oil.
“The opportunity in this space is huge and the driver is that medicinal cannabis works.”