Peter Reynolds

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Posts Tagged ‘Philip May

The Crazy Conspiracy Theories that Undermine the Cannabis Campaign

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No, Theresa May’s husband does not own the largest cannabis farm in Europe. No, ‘the government’ is not growing cannabis, exporting it all over the world, making millions from it while denying it to British people. No, you do not have to be a Tory donor to get a licence to grow cannabis. No, MPs do not have investments in cannabis companies which is why prices are so high. No, the former drugs minister, Victoria Atkins MP, did not give her husband a licence to grow cannabis.

These and an almost limitless variety of permutations of the same ideas are endlessly repeated on social media and it’s reached the stage where one version or another is regarded as fact by many people.

These ideas do us no favours. The don’t prove some massive conspiracy about cannabis in the government, Parliament or amongst the wealthy elite because they are simply fake. They make fools of us all and play straight into the hands of prohibitionists who paint cannabis consumers as paranoid fantasists with wild obsessions about imaginary conspiracies and plots.

Sadly, on the last point, from what I’ve seen over the past year in particular, they’re right – at least to some degree about some people!

Of course, they arise because it genuinely is impossible to see any rhyme, reason or common sense about the way that cannabis is handled in the UK. With the exceptions of France, Ireland and Sweden, Britain has the most backwards, regressive and irrational position on cannabis and wider drugs policy of any country in Europe.

It’s inevitable that people will try to look for explanations and because there is dishonesty in drugs policy, because the Home Office has been lying to us about the harms of cannabis for at least 50 years, people develop extraordinary theories that are enhanced if you’ve just had a couple of big hits off your bong.

The trick though, which is what anyone who understands anything about psychology will tell you, is that in each of them, at the root is a tiny grain of truth which has been distorted, exaggerated and falsified until it becomes, apparently, a massive scandal. So much so, that even as I have done many times, you explain in great detail why some particular theory is fake, the response is often ‘no smoke without fire, ‘there must be some truth in it’.

But all these conspiracy theories do is dissipate our energy, divert our focus and attention, distract us from the real story and actually obscure what is more about cock-up, cowardice and stupidity than any grand plan. The reason this government, just like the last Labour government, maintains the prohibition of cannabis, is mainly about ignorance and fear. They don’t believe that it is something their core supporters want to see changed and although many senior politicians fully understand the arguments, the idea of explaining why reform is a good idea looks like far too much hard work and for what?

Don’t be fooled that it’s all about the ‘effing Tories’. Labour has a far worse record on drugs policy. It was Margaret Thatcher who first introduced clean needle exchange when HIV/AIDS first struck. She was a scientist by training and understood the value of evidence. Note that that there is a dearth of scientific training amongst current members of both Houses of Parliament. It was Gordon Brown, Labour PM, who reclassified cannabis upwards to class B in 2009, basically on the instructions of Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. And it was Alan Johnson, Labour Home Secretary, who sacked Professor Nutt for stating the scientific facts that cannabis and MDMA are much less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco – and even horse riding. And finally, most surprising of all, it was Theresa May and Sajid Javid, Conservative PM and Home Secretary respectively, who legalised medicinal cannabis in 2018 Solely, of course, because of public outcry over incredibly emotive stories of small children with epilepsy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg. Stoned out of his tiny mind.

Of course there are MPs, mostly Conservatives, who have investment portfolios and, within the confines of the law, may well have investments in cannabis companies. It’s perfectly legal for anyone to invest in cannabis companies both in the UK and abroad, although not to being any profits back to the UK if they’re from activities that would be illegal here – such as producing and selling recreational cannabis. Great store has been made of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s alleged investments in cannabis but although there are few more odious MPs, there really isn’t any substance worth bothering about in these allegations. In 2007, he was one of the founders of Somerset Capital Management but he now owns less than 15% of it and plays no active role. It has been involved in advising on investments in Canada’s cannabis industry so, by a convoluted route, it is possible that some of the profits from fees earned on this advice have made their way back into his pocket but there’s no evidence at all that he had any involvement.

The Theresa May’s husband’s story has been invented because he, Philip May, is a mid-ranking employee of Capital Group, another investment company which at one point was the largest shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals, owning about $300 million in its shares. GW’s sub-contractor, British Sugar, does run the largest cannabis farm in Europe at its Wissington glasshouse in Norfolk. But there’s no evidence at all and nothing even to suggest that Philip May had anything to do with it. And you have to put it in context. Capital Group’s investments exceed $2 trillion and it has owned $20 billion of Amazon shares, $2 billion of Starbucks, $5 billion of McDonald’s and $1.5 billion in Ryanair. It’s GW investment was tiny, insignificant and now it doesn’t own any shares in it at all.

And yes, it’s true. British Sugar’s managing director, Paul Kenward, is marrid to Victoria Atkins MP, who was drugs minister for a short time but its licence to grow cannabis was issued before she was even an MP.

Paul Kenward with a big, fat, badly-photoshopped bud

The biggest problem that all this nonsense creates is that it destroys the credibility of the cannabis campaign. If we want to see progress the people we have to persuade aren’t cannabis consumers and that is, of course, the majority. They already have various perceptions, mostly negative, of those of us that do enjoy cannabis. Most of these are thanks to the government-originated propaganda, gratefully published and exaggerated by the tabloid press and most of them revolve around the idea that cannabis causes mental health problems. These wild, evidence-free conspiracy theories appear to confirm this idea.

So please, stop it! Put your energy into something worthwhile and effective. Write to your MP. Arrange to meet them and explain in calm, respectful terms why cannabis matters to you and why you want to see the law reformed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 4, 2022 at 7:42 pm