Introduction

Since 1928 cannabis in the UK has been criminalized and gotten a bad rap from both scientists and authorities alike. In modern times, despite emerging medical research and widespread legalization of the “drug” taking the rest of the world by storm, cannabis remains largely illegal in the UK. One cannot grow, possess, distribute or sell this seemingly miraculous plant medicine without a license. 

In fact, if caught in possession of marijuana, the law states that one could face up to five years in prison, a hefty fine, or even both. If caught producing or supplying cannabis (for medicinal reasons or otherwise) a person could be condemned to fourteen years in prison, subject to fines as well.

Although over the years cannabis was temporarily classified as a class C drug, in 2009 authorities controversially announced the reclassification of marijuana as a class B drug. Since then, marijuana has remained within this legal category, gaining approval for medicinal use as late as 2018.  

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What with modern findings on the medical use of the plant, these laws have proven to be rather old-school and could even be said to be outdated, however the substance is now registered for medical use under specific circumstances. That being said, millions of patients struggle to gain access to the powerful plant, which is known to treat pain and nausea among other things.

With all this in mind, one would hope that figures of authority would do the right thing, and make marijuana more accessible to those who need it. Unfortunately though, it seems inevitable that along with politics comes a slew of hidden agendas, one of which involves profiting from the criminalization of the cannabis plant…

The Recent History of Cannabis Corruption in the UK

Shortly after cannabis was made legal medicinally in 2018, both Theresa May and Victoria Atkins were accused of significant hypocrisy and corruption. The former prime minister and former home office minister (who were both vehemently and publicly against the use of cannabis) found themselves in a sticky situation when it slowly emerged that both of their husbands had a hand in the cannabis industry’s pie. 

According to The Independent, Atkins (a former drug prosecutor) “voluntarily recused herself from speaking for the government on cannabis and other aspects of her drugs brief, because her husband was involved with a legal cannabis farm.” 

Paul Kenwood, the husband of Victoria Atkins and managing director of British Sugar (a cannabis company that produces a non-psychoactive medicine used to treat epilepsy in children) is involved with the largest farm in the UK. The farm rakes in millions of pounds wholesaling marijuana for medicinal use, and yet Atkins has previously expressed her strong opposition to the legalization and regulation of marijuana. 

Theresa May on the other hand, did not recuse herself from commenting on cannabis, and continued to wage war on the plant medicine, despite her husband’s shares in the GW Pharmaceuticals (a medical cannabis company). Although these 22 percent shares are more of an indirect link - owing to his employment with the stakeholder Capital Group company.

That being said, GW Pharmaceuticals exports a whopping metric ton of buds annually, contributing greatly to the fact that the United Kingdom is the world’s largest exporter of cannabis. This really doesn’t seem to add up given Theresa May’s stance on cannabis, both recreationally and medicinally. 

Of course, the burning question in these two cases, is how these companies acquired a legal license to grow and distribute cannabis in the first place. Well, the answer to that question is shrouded in mystery but one thing is for sure, and that is that the widespread legalization and regulation of cannabis would mean more competition - and perhaps the demise of a lucrative monopoly. 

Cannabis Popularity is on the Rise

Sadiq Khan, the current mayor of London who hopes to be re-elected 6 May, has spoken out about the decriminalization of cannabis – in light of mounting public pressure. According to a poll by Survation, with 47 percent of British citizens in favor of regulating and legalizing cannabis, the proof is in the numbers. As it stands only 30 percent of Britain’s people are against legalization. 

The mayor plans to reexamine the classification of cannabis, stating that if elected he will be establishing a London Drugs Commission, with the specific purpose of reviewing the UK’s legal stance on drugs. Given that the UK is the largest exporter of cannabis, if the substance were to be legalized Britain could see considerable revenue through the global cannabis stocks. 

But the post-covid economy is not the only reason for legalizing cannabis, and there are a host of other advantages to be gained by regulating marijuana. For starters, the police would have more time and resources available, so as to focus on more serious crimes. In fact, according to the annual crime survey, up to 30 percent of Welsh and English citizens have tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime. 

This percentage translates to approximately 10 million Brits smoking marijuana and being policed by the local forces. Fortunately, the recent release of Cancards, or cannabis-cards, has meant the exemption of millions of patients (previously unable to afford repeated prescription scripts for cannabis) from prosecution. 

However, the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal, and one must apply for a Cancard in order to legally possess and use cannabis medicinally. What regulating marijuana would achieve, is a safer means for obtaining a highly beneficial medicine. From pain and nausea relief, to neurological and gastrointestinal conditions, medical cannabis can be used to treat a wide range of injuries and illnesses. 

Just as alcohol and tobacco must adhere to certain safety standards and measurements in order to be sold, so too should marijuana. This would assist with the THC dosage found in each unique strain, and prevent consumers from purchasing not only low-quality, but dangerous forms of marijuana that have been laced with other drugs. 

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Legalization is Looming Large

According to cannabis-consultancy, Prohibition Partners, Britain’s legal cannabis industry is estimated to supersede two billion pounds by 2024. In light of this, legalization could provide welcome relief in the wake of a global pandemic and local lockdowns. America has already seen a substantial profit from the taxes accompanying cannabis in various states. In fact, in 2020, the state of Colorado raked in an impressive 387 million dollars - from marijuana taxes alone. 

However, although the health of the economy is of significant importance, the health of the people is a far greater concern. Marijuana not only provides physical relief from a number of ailments and injuries, but it holds the potential to alleviate certain mental maladies as well. One study, conducted in 2020, noted that “Case studies suggest that medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for improving sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder, however evidence is currently weak.”

Yet no matter the lag between science and reality, there are anecdotal reports around the globe from people who claim that the plant relieves depression or anxiety. Furthermore, the research surrounding CBD (which is already widely available in the UK) strongly suggests positive benefits. In fact, scientific knowledge of CBD is far ahead of the psychoactive compound THC. 

The Bottom Line

Although the question of how Theresa May and Victoria Atkins’ husbands companies gained access to licenses for growing cannabis remains unanswered, it seems certain that if Sadiq Khan is re-elected, their shares are set to plummet. With the legalization of cannabis looming large on Britain’s horizon, the problem of cannabis corruption will soon be a thing of the past. What’s more, is that the UK could revive it’s current economy, with experts suggesting revenue gathered from the industry to equate to around 300 million pounds. Furthermore, patients who use cannabis medicinally would be able to gain easier access, making the legalization of marijuana a win-win all round.

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