Investment opportunities can have a funny effect on ethics. Or maybe it has been remembered that Jesus used cannabis to heal the sick. Either way, the Church of England’s investment arm has suddenly changed its attitude towards ‘medical cannabis’ after a surprise announcement that it has relaxed its policy of excluding all ventures that profit from cannabis.
The ban on investing in ‘recreational cannabis’ remains; the church will not invest in companies that earn more than 10% of revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis, the threshold it uses for most of its other ethical exclusions, such as tobacco, pornography, gambling and high-interest lenders.
The Church Commissioners for England, which oversees the church’s £12.6bn investment portfolios, has not yet made any cannabis-related investments.
The Church of England will hold medicinal marijuana to the same standards it holds other pharmaceutical companies, and invest only “if it is properly licensed and regulated for medicinal use,” said Mr Mason, who was a diplomat in the UK’s Foreign Office before joining the church a decade ago. “We are happy to invest in medicines.”
Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners, said: “As with all ethical issues, we look at all aspects, including reductions of crime associated with legalisation. But on balance, we came down as an exclusion.”
There is, of course, in reality no difference between recreational and medicinal cannabis, and making the thoroughly unethical distinction creates a two-tier system of worthy patients who can afford expensive private prescriptions and those who cannot and are therefore forced to live outside the law. Cannabis is cannabis, and cannabis is medicinal. Perhaps when the recreational sector becomes sufficiently profitable the Church’s investment arm will again re-evaluate its ‘ethics’.
The popularity of the Church of England has been steadily declining in the last decade, with average Sunday Service participation falling by 18,000 to 722,000 from 2016 to 2018. With a reported 2 million to 5 million cannabis consumers in the UK it begs the question: does Britain believe in bud more than God?