This week, the Church of England announced that it is moving to make investments in the cannabis industry.
The Church of England’s commissioners, who manage its endowment fund containing over $10 billion in assets, recently made the announcement. They noted that they would be holding the plant to the same standard that they hold pharmaceuticals.
ABC News reported that the church’s endowment is a closed fund, which means it does not take in new contributions. Any money the fund ends up bringing in is used to pay for bishops and ministry costs, supporting local dioceses and paying clergy pensions.
“There has been no change to our overall position on medicines,” a spokesperson for the Church Commissioners told ABC News. “We will hold medicinal cannabis to the same standards as we hold other pharmaceuticals, and invest only if properly licensed and regulated for medicinal use.”
Since it’s a church, there are obviously some stipulations on how the Church of England can invest the money. In the Church of England’s case, it’s called the Ethical Investment Policy. The policy sets guidelines on how the church invests in companies that generate profits from all kinds of fun stuff like gambling, alcohol and tobacco. Any investment made at this point in cannabis would be strictly medical.
But let us not write off Henry the VII’s heavenly spliffs just yet. The Church is obviously looking to get into one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, following the limited legalization of medical cannabis in the UK last fall. If you were to go back to the third day of creation week when God created plants and do the math about how much the cannabis sector has grown since then, the amount of lost revenue for the church would be simply staggering. All jokes aside, this new development from the Church of England shows how much times are changing.
This new development from the Church of England shows how much times are changing.
Hari Guliani of the UK-based cannabis company Grow Biotech gave his take on the news.
“There is a lot of research being undertaken globally on medical cannabis that will help everyone’s understanding, but it does seem that the distinction between medical and recreational cannabis remains unclear for some people,” he told ABC News. “With groups like the Church of England considering investments in medical cannabis, we can expect perceptions to continue to change.”
On its website, the Church of England goes into a bit more depth on how a big part of the fund revolves around its ethical standards. “We are committed to responsible investment. We think that taking account of environmental, social and governance issues in our investment decisions is an intrinsic part of being a good long-term investor,” so clearly medical cannabis is now checking all those boxes.
The Church Commissioners first started controlling the fund just after the Second World War, when England was deep in reconstruction efforts after spending the first half of the decade dealing with Luftwaffe bombers. In 2017, under the guidance of the commissioners, the fund was able to produce $287 million in funds to donate to the church. According to the church’s website, that sum accounted for roughly 15% of the Church’s overall income, and it makes the commissioners one of the largest charitable givers inside the UK.
The church won’t have to look far too invest. England is home to the creators of Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals. The Cambridge-based company’s stock was up 5% following the announcement about the Church’s decision, and it’s hard to not see it as a likely target for the fund. Currently, GW is producing 90 tons of cannabis annually in 18 hectares of greenhouses.
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