The recent case of Billy Caldwell’s access to his cannabis medicine has highlighted some serious issues at the heart of the UK Government. Is there a conflict of interest over cannabis medicine?
UK drugs minister Victoria Atkins is being accused of a “massive conflict of interest”, as it comes to light that her husband plays a role in operating Britain’s largest cannabis farm. Her partner, Paul Kenward is the managing director of British Sugar, a British food company licensed to grow cannabis.
British Sugar was granted a home office license to grow the drug in 2016. The legally grown British crops –with a growth area the size of 23 football pitches- will eventually be used for epilepsy drug, expidiolex in the US. MP Atkins who has previously spoken out about the class B drug has now involuntarily excused herself from speaking for the government on policy or decision relating to cannabis. Campaigners fighting for the legalization of the drug in the UK however still remain unhappy insisting that the MP for Louth and Horncastle is still speaking on the matter and claim Ms Atkins should resign from her position.
Peter Reynolds, president of Clear, Campaign for Cannabis law reform, said: “It’s not just a conflict of interests, it is hypocrisy on a grand scale. The reason she was appointed is Theresa May was looking for someone who was a hard-line prohibitionist,” he said.
“The Tory party’s policy on drugs – cannabis in particular – is directly opposed to the evidence, and Victoria Atkins is someone who supports that. But, what is appalling is she doesn’t just want to support it for policy reasons, quite evidently, she wants to support it because her husband and family are directly benefiting from [the regulation of] it.” The Home Office said: “When she was appointed the minister voluntarily recused herself from policy or decisions relating to cannabis, including licensing.”
Speaking in parliament in July last year, she said: “I must first declare an interest, because my husband works for a company that has a license to grow non-psychoactive versions of cannabis to treat epileptic conditions in children. “It is groundbreaking work, but I thought I should declare it, given that I will be talking about the psychoactive version of cannabis in due course – a very different substance.” In contrast with Ms Atkins comments surrounding her husband’s “non-psychoactive” version of cannabis, “a very different substance” from what gets you high. It is now understood that British Sugar’s Home Office licence is an exceptionally rare “high-THC” licence, allowing it to grow cannabis with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known to be the substance which effectively makes cannabis psychoactive.
The politics of CBD and cannabis products is complex and ever changing!