CBD: who’s paying who?
A dig into recent articles elsewhere about CBD brings up some worrying questions about big pharma and some of the less ethical aspects of capitalism as we know it. Two big questions should be ringing alarm bells.
Two dangers for CBD
First, discussions in the European Parliament throughout 2019 raised the danger that as medical cannabis is gradually becoming recognised for it therapeutic properties, the involvement of big pharma could lead to their dominating the market for non-medical CBD as well.
Second, in part an example of the first, there seem to be curiously close links between political decisions taken by Theresa May when Prime Minister of the UK, and the benefits to her husband Phillip May who is involved in financing offered to GW Pharmaceuticals.
GW Pharmaceuticals is the company chosen by the
UK government to be the sole registered producers of medical cannabis products in the UK.
Let’s try and unpick these parallel stories.
To take the big picture, cannabis and its derivatives are increasingly recognised as having medicinal properties. In most countries, however, cannabis is illegal, so the production of cannabis-based medicines poses complex legal problems around growing the source plants and them about manufacture. Naturally enough, licences need granting and controlling. And because there are potentially huge profits at stake, one immediately starts to worry about the who is lobbying whom and how they are being persuasive. If we assume that licences are issued honestly and transparently, the question remains as to who gets them. It’s not a huge leap of logic to realise that big pharma are the ones best equipped to develop medicines, so it is they who are most likely to get the licences. So far, so good. But if big pharma have an effective monopoly of cannabis products they are only a step away from grasping a monopoly of CBD products too. And this threatens independent growers (in Europe, mainly in France and the Netherlands) and it threatens independent producers of CBD who make CBD products like oils and are not pretending, for example, to be selling a therapy for epilepsy.
The long term risks
The long term danger is that big pharma will develop such as grasp of cannabis production that they will be able to dominate the markets for CBD products as well as for medical cannabis. Once dominant, there will be very little stopping them increasing prices in the manner of a classic monopoly. Goodbye independent retailers. Goodbye CBD remedies for all but the wealthy.
The Devil’s in the detail
Back to the story of Phillip May, and others. As Wikipedia says of May: “Philip John May is a British banker and Conservative Party activist. He has worked at financial group Capital Group as an investment relationship manager. He is married to Theresa May, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom”. Although what follows has been in the public domain for a while, it’s neatly summarised by Tom Bourlet on CBD Sloth.com:
“…legislation [was brought forward] in November 2018 making it legal to have medical
cannabis as long as it is prescribed by a doctor. All good so far, until it became clear that the brand that the Torie government chose to supply
the medical cannabis was GW pharmaceuticals. They were to create a schedule-4 substance
On the surface, this would already appear like a monopoly and a controversial decision to just
allow one brand, but as you dig deeper it just gets more and more despicable.
Philip May, the Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband, works for the Capital Group which is
the largest investor in GW Pharmaceuticals. At the same time, Geoffrey Guy (the chairman of
GW Pharmaceuticals) is a significant donor to the Tories, with a clear connection between the
Even worse, the ministers have been stating the product has ‘no medical value’, however
Savitex retails at £125 per 10ml bottle, to the British market, making a huge profit margin.
Meanwhile, if anyone is caught using a rival brand in the UK, they will receive 14 years in jail,
a clear detriment to prevent any form of competition.
GW Pharmaceuticals also use the medicine Epidiolex for its anti-epilepsy medicine, which has
received FDA approval (fast tracked through) which is derived from cannabis. However, this is
from the UK operated British Sugar, growing the marijuana in the UK. Yet the Managing
Director of British Sugar is Paul Kenward, who is actually married to former Tory drugs
minister Victoria Atkins. This has been labelled by multiple figures as the biggest form of
hypocrisy seen in UK politics on such a grand scale. I mentioned former, she only stepped down
‘voluntarily’ when the controversy reached the media and the backlash was at full swing and it
became clear British Sugar were legally permitted to grow cannabis here in the UK.
Despite all the rules around growing marijuana in the UK, GW Pharmaceuticals grows over 20
million tonnes each year here in the UK and that number is growing with time as they get to
skip casually around laws…”
Complex, yet simple
Once one starts digging, the details in this type of situation quickly become complicated. But the issues and questions remain quite simple. Is it just that CBD continues to be categorized as a food supplement? Is it just that medical cannabis production is for all practical purpose a monopoly?
When lawfully selling CBD products is about to even more complex and onerous ( just have a look at
https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/cannabidiol-cbd ), it seems as if, yet again, it’s one rule for the
people, and one rule for the elite.