UK Taxpayers Are Shareholders in Cannabis Companies

Liz Filmer
08 Aug 2022

 British taxpayers have unknowingly become shareholders in more than 65 companies due to a government "rescue" scheme set up during the Covid crisis. These include a video game studio, a medical cannabis firm, and a chain of bars that offer activities, including ping pong and darts. 

The list published by the government's development bank displays a wide range of firms that have received the convertible loans from the Future Fund. 

The Future Fund was created by the former chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to support start-up firms floundering at securing investment at the height of the pandemic. Altogether it has helped 1,190 companies with total funding of £1.14bn. 

This latest data has revealed stakes in companies including the video game studio "Just Won't Die", kombucha maker "Flower of Life", and Light point Medical, who develops robot technology for cancer surgery. 

A company chaired by Benjamin Mancroft, who entered the House of Lords in February 1988. Mancroft once made headlines for controversial remarks about NHS nurses treating him at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Most interestingly, however, is the news that the government also holds shares in a producer of medicinal cannabis oils, Avida Global Limited. 

Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018 but is still only prescribed to a tiny percentage of people. This is due to a mixture of stigma and lack of knowledge on the part of many medical practitioners. The firm opened in 2018 and cultivated the plant from a farm in Colombia.

Roughly a third of businesses that have received support from the Future Fund have converted their loans to equity after raising private funding that at least matched the loan from the government. This means the taxpayer has an equity stake in more than 400 companies.

 Taxpayers also have equity in another cannabis-based company, producer of CBD products, Grass & Co.

  "The Future Fund was created to ensure a flow of capital, at the height of the pandemic, to companies that would otherwise have been unable to access government support schemes while providing long-term value for the UK taxpayer." -Ken Cooper, managing director at the BBB.

"We are pleased to see so many of those companies now going on to raise further private sector capital, which will allow the Future Fund to benefit from their continued growth."

Whilst not begrudging any of these companies a penny of that money, as businesses did suffer during the pandemic, it must have been a horrendous time for start-ups.

My issue is the two-faced culture toward cannabis here in the UK. News like this goes on to show the hypocrisy that we face on the subject.

Cannabis use and possession remain largely illegal, yet the government continue to make money from the export of medicinal cannabis.(The UK is the biggest Medicinal cannabis exporter in the world). They also don't seem to mind becoming a shareholder and subsequently making every taxpayer a shareholder in cannabis companies when it suits them.

 A small minority of people, some with political links to governments past and present, continue to make millions of pounds on something they keep out of reach for the vast majority of us! Things need to change.




Liz Filmer