I’m going to tell you a story so rife with hypocrisy and outright corruption that you’d think it was from a film.
Unfortunately, for thousands of children and adults in the UK suffering from treatable illnesses, it’s not.
The story concerns medical uses for cannabis and why UK politicians are opposed to it.
Over the last few weeks, cannabis has been in the news in a big way.
First, Canada voted to legalise it for recreational and medical use. That made a few headlines.
But it wasn’t until a couple of days later when cannabis became front-page news around the country.
Why? About two weeks ago Charlotte Caldwell flew into Heathrow carrying medicine for her severely epileptic son, Billy.
The medicine was cannabis oil, which has been proven to help with a number of debilitating illnesses, including epilepsy.
Here’s what she said as UK customs officers seized her son’s medicine:
“We’ve been awake now for more than 40 hours, we’ve had a long and exhausting day.
“It started with my son’s life saving medication being taken by a customs officer and ended without resolution today.
“Those meds were prescribed by the world’s biggest Pediatric hospital – they know what they are doing.
“I was horrified when they were taken from me.
“It may well to turn out to be a death sentence for my son.
“I need another plan – I would rather have my son illegally alive than legally dead.”
Understandably, this set off a massive public debate over the legal status and availability of medicines derived from cannabis.
I have written many times about the proven medical uses of cannabis and how it illogically remains illegal for medical use.
And when I asked you how you feel about the subject, 99% of you agreed cannabis should be legalised for medical purposes.
Given the massive amount of coverage this story has gotten in the last few weeks, it seems the majority of the public agree, too.
The real reason our government won’t allow medical cannabis
The only people who don’t seem to agree are Prime Minister Theresa May and UK Home Office drugs minister, Victoria Atkins.
Hmm, I wonder why that is?
Well, Theresa May has been notoriously hard-lined on drugs here entire career.
Rather than changing her mind as new evidence comes to light, she seeks to change the evidence instead.
Case in point. In 2014, Theresa May and her aides tried to change a study into drug policy so it was more to their liking.
From The Guardian:
[Nick Clegg] claimed that the home secretary and her aides tried to alter a 2014 study before publication because “they didn’t like the conclusions”.
The Home Office report’s finding that there was “no obvious” relationship between a zero-tolerance approach to drugs and levels of consumption triggered calls for a fresh debate over decriminalisation.
It concluded that the factors driving drug use were complex, but did cite “considerable” health improvements in Portugal since the decision to treat possession as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
Clegg said the original draft had been subject to an “endless wrangle between Lib Dem ministers and Theresa May about the fullness of what would be published”, arguing that there would be no [drug policy] change whatsoever as long as she led the Home Office.
This is a common response of people who hold onto ideologies above facts. It is known as the backfire effect.
From rational wiki:
The backfire effect occurs when, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger. The effect has been demonstrated experimentally in psychological tests, where subjects are given data that either reinforces or goes against their existing biases — and in most cases people can be shown to increase their confidence in their prior position regardless of the evidence they were faced with.
It can be seen again and again in May’s opinions about drug reform. From talkingdrugs.org in November 2017, emphasis mine:
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to continue fighting the country’s war on drugs, despite the approach having contributed to the country’s highest rate of drug-related deaths on record, and exorbitant financial costs.
“It is right that we continue to fight the war against drugs,” May announced at a prime minister’s questions session on November 22, citing “the incredible damage [drugs] can do to families and the individuals concerned”.
May had been responding to a question from Crispin Blunt MP on whether she would look at evidence “from the US on the legalisation and regulation of cannabis markets there, as well as decriminalisation [of drug possession] in Portugal and elsewhere”.
Bizarrely, she justified her approach to parliamentarians by referring to research undertaken by the Home Office, when she served as Home Secretary, which investigated and compared how different countries approached drug policy. What the prime minister failed to mention is that this report found there to be “[no] obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country”.
After hearing the same government line trotted out over and over, despite the evidence. I started to wonder just why May is so vehemently opposed to any kind of drug reform.
Theresa May’s husband benefits from cannabis’ illegal status
After doing some digging, I found a few news stories pointing out that her husband, Philip May, is a senior executive at Capital Group.
Capital Group is a $1.4 trillion investment fund. This fund’s subsidiary is the single biggest shareholder in British medical cannabis maker GW Pharmaceuticals.
That’s interesting in itself.
But it gets even more interesting when you look into GW Pharmaceutical’s products and how they got licensed.
GW Pharmaceuticals has two main products, Sativex and Epidiolex. The problem is, cannabis is currently a schedule 1 drug in the UK. This means it “has no therapeutic benefit and high potential for abuse.”
So by definition, it can’t be used as a medicine. Well, GW Pharmaceuticals managed to pull some strings and get the regulations changed to its liking.
As no substance named in Schedule 1 can be legally prescribed as a medicine and even though it is an extract from raw cannabis, Sativex was initially placed in Schedule 2 of the MODA which required some clever tweaks to existing policies and careful wording in order to make it distinct from the illegal stuff that it was extracted from so that “raw cannabis” could remain in Schedule 1. Two things had to happen to allow this:
Firstly, as the MHRA have a policy forbidding full plant extracts from being approved as medicines, Sativex was submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as;
“a combination of 2 cannabinoids, THC and CBD in a 1-1 formulation with other inactive impurities”
Of course, what the MHRA didn’t know/weren’t told/ignored? was that the other inactive impurities are all the other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids from the raw cannabis plant, as it is, in fact, a mixture of 2 full plant extracts manufactured into a tincture which can be sprayed under the tongue.
Secondly, to make sure that Sativex remained distinct in law from anyone else’s cannabis the wording in schedule 1 of the MODA was changed from “cannabis” to “raw cannabis” – Do you see what they did there?
But it gets even better, the article continues (emphasis mine):
As mentioned above, GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex is about to become the first licensed CBD product to negotiate the medical regulatory system and win FDA approval.
This is good news as there’s good evidence it’s an effective treatment for some severe forms epilepsy in children. However, once the R&D costs have been written in and given the effective monopoly now held by GW means that it is very expensive, especially when compared to very similar unlicensed CBD products currently sold as food supplements in the UK because they cannot be sold as medicines without the MHRA’s approval. GW’s share price has naturally surged on this announcement
Among those who may be pleased at this news is UK Home Office drugs minister, Victoria Atkins. British Sugar, of which Atkins’ husband Paul Kenward is managing director, grows 45 acres of raw cannabis to supply GW to manufacture Epidiolex.
Yes, that’s right. It turns out that the UK Home Office Drugs Minister’s husband is managing director of the UK’s biggest cannabis farm, which supplies GW Pharmaceuticals.
And as you can see from the above, if cannabis were to be declassified, GW Pharmaceuticals would lose its “effective monopoly” on the market.
UK drug minister’s husband runs UK’s biggest cannabis farm
So, let’s just have a recap, because this is getting quite ridiculous now.
- Theresa May refuses to change her drugs policy, in the face of evidence.
- The company May’s husband works for is the single biggest shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals.
- May appoints a new hard-line UK Home Office drugs minister, Victoria Atkins.
- Atkins’ husband is managing director of the UK’s largest legal cannabis farm and main supplier to GW Pharmaceuticals.
- If cannabis is legalised, the UK GW Pharmaceuticals loses its effective monopoly, and its share price plummets.
As The Times reports:
Medical marijuana is already legal in more than 25 countries, including Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia and the majority of American states.
GW, which charges £125 for a 10ml bottle of the spray, could see demand for its drug collapse if the UK took a similar approach.
In fact, The Times sums up the whole situation well:
British Sugar grows cannabis under a licence from the Home Office, which they sell to GW Pharmaceuticals to make its new CBD based medicine, Epidiolex. The managing director of British Sugar is Paul Kenward, husband of the Home Office minister with responsibility for drugs Victoria Atkins.
Since this was widely publicised she has recused herself from addressing issues related to cannabis — an extraordinary position for the drug minister to be in. And this cosy relationship doesn’t end there.
Philip May, the prime minister’s husband, is a relationship manager at Capital Group, who through Mentor Capital, are the largest shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals, with a holding worth hundreds of millions.
We should be asking, is the government prioritising the interests of big-pharma profits over the health and wellbeing of British citizens? There are, for example, standardised herbal cannabis products, licensed as medicines for prescription in the Netherlands and various other EU countries.
But UK doctors are unable to see their prescriptions for these medicines honoured in Britain. Absurdly, a Dutch citizen can bring their prescribed herbal cannabis to Britain and use it freely.
How can you have a drugs minister who is directly profiting from the current drugs policy? How could anyone argue that is a good situation?
How can Theresa May insist time and again that cannabis has “no therapeutic use”, while her husband’s company is directly profiting from its therapeutic use?
We are now in a situation where the people who rule the country are putting their personal monetary interests over the health and well-being of their citizens.
They are doing so brazenly and know they will never be held to account for their actions.
How do you feel about this situation? Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
Editor, Exponential Investor
PS Just so you know I’m not making any of this up – because I’ll admit, it is difficult to believe:
- Drugs minister accused of “hypocrisy on a grand scale” over husband’s involvement in legal cannabis farm – The Independent.
- Philip May’s Capital Group profits from British weed-growing op while patients denied access – RT.
- The Home Office has questions to answer on its cannabis policies – The Times.
- Theresa May’s husband is a senior executive at a $1.4tn investment fund that profits from tax avoiding companies – The Independent.