Sheer gall of a CANNABIS OIL BARON

Pro­fes­sor whose ad­vice led Min­is­ters to le­galise med­i­cal mar­i­juana set to make £4.4m if they give HIS OWN com­pany li­cence to grow in UK

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Jonathan Bucks, Stephen Adams and Ben Ellery

A KEY ad­viser to MPs be­hind con­tro­ver­sial new laws le­gal­is­ing cannabis for med­i­cal use is set to make mil­lions from a deal with one of the world’s big­gest sup­pli­ers of recre­ational mar­i­juana.

Pro­fes­sor Mike Barnes was paid to write a ma­jor re­port which paved the way for a law change ear­lier this year, al­low­ing cannabis to be legally pre­scribed in Bri­tain, in­clud­ing on the NHS.

When he wrote his 169-page study in 2016, high­light­ing the health ben­e­fits of mar­i­juana, Pro­fes­sor Barnes said he had ‘no com­mer­cial in­ter­ests in cannabis’.

To­day, a Mail on Sun­day in­ves­ti­ga­tion can re­veal that he now stands to make up to £4.4mil­lion sell­ing a stake in his firm to a Cana­dian con­glom­er­ate.

The On­tario-based Way­land Group sup­plies tons of cannabis to com­pa­nies sell­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana prod­ucts, in­clud­ing pack­ets of pre-rolled, super-strength joints.

It is shelling out up to £27.8mil­lion for a half-share in Pro­fes­sor Barnes’s com­pany, Theros Pharma, on the ba­sis that it will secure ei­ther a li­cence to grow cannabis for med­i­cal use in the UK, or a li­cence to import the drug. This pa­per can also dis­close that: Pro­fes­sor Barnes is now also paid about £50,000 a year for ‘con­sul­tancy’ work by a sec­ond Cana­dian com­pany which in­vests in cannabis projects around the world;

He was re­cently barred from join­ing an in­flu­en­tial com­mit­tee which will de­cide who can re­ceive cannabis-based medicines, be­cause of ‘pos­si­ble con­flicts of in­ter­est’.

Fol­low­ing pub­li­ca­tion of Pro­fes­sor Barnes’s 2016 re­port for The All Party Par­lia­men­tary Group (APPG) for Drug Pol­icy Re­form, the group called for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from cer­tain med­i­cal con­di­tions to be al­lowed to grow cannabis them­selves.

The MPs said that com­pa­nies should be able to legally import or cul­ti­vate the drug here for med­i­cal use.

Ear­lier this year, the New­cas­tle Univer­sity neu­rol­o­gist also helped spear­head emo­tive cam­paigns to secure cannabis­based med­i­ca­tion on pre­scrip­tion for two boys with se­vere epilepsy.

The sto­ries of Al­fie Din­g­ley and Billy Cald­well, whose par­ents said could only be helped by cannabis­based medicines, shifted pub­lic opin­ion on the is­sue – prompt­ing the Gov­ern­ment to change the law.

But there are fears some pro­cannabis cam­paign­ers and busi­nesses are us­ing the med­i­cal ar­gu­ment as a smoke­screen to dis­guise their ul­ti­mate aim – full le­gali­sa­tion. Cannabis is ad­dic­tive, and stud­ies show that reg­u­lar use of stronger strains can triple the risk of psy­chosis.

Only yes­ter­day, the Cen­tre for So­cial Jus­tice think-tank pre­dicted le­gali­sa­tion would ‘open the flood­gates to hun­dreds of thou­sands of new users’, leav­ing many with men­tal health prob­lems.

Last night, MPs and anti-cannabis cam­paign­ers said Bri­tain was at risk of its drugs laws be­ing in­flu­enced by large firms.

Con­ser­va­tive MP David Davies, vice-chair­man of the All-Party Par­lia­men­tary Group on Cannabis: Harm­ful Ef­fects On De­vel­op­ing Brains, said: ‘Many peo­ple think that cannabis com­pa­nies are small, fam­ily-owned busi­nesses, but there are big com­pa­nies which stand to make a lot of money. They have made mil­lions from le­gali­sa­tion for recre­ational use in Canada and we must be vig­i­lant against it hap­pen­ing here.’

The 2016 re­port for the APPG, ‘Cannabis: The Ev­i­dence For Med­i­cal Use’, ex­tolled the drug’s virtues for med­i­cal con­di­tions in­clud­ing chronic pain, chemother­a­pyin­duced nau­sea and anx­i­ety.

In it, he and co-au­thor Dr Jen­nifer Barnes, his daugh­ter, stated they had ‘no com­mer­cial in­ter­ests in cannabis or cannabis prod­ucts’.

Four years ear­lier he founded Pro­fes­sor Mike Barnes Ltd, a busi­ness in­volved in ‘spe­cial­ist med­i­cal prac­tice ac­tiv­i­ties’, ac­cord­ing to Com­pa­nies House records.

Seven weeks ago he changed its name to Theros Pharma. Until last month he was its sole direc­tor and share­holder.

On Novem­ber 26, Way­land an­nounced it was buy­ing just over half of Theros.

In a pub­lic state­ment, Way­land de­scribed the firm as ‘an early stage com­pany that has suc­cess­fully im­ported cannabis to the UK for pa­tients with a pre­scrip­tion for med­i­cal cannabis’.

Way­land will pay £3.8mil­lion up­front for 51 per cent of Theros, fol­lowed by an­other £24mil­lion when the UK firm is is­sued with ei­ther a li­cence to cul­ti­vate cannabis in the UK or import it for med­i­cal use.

Pro­fes­sor Barnes was quoted – as a ‘neu­rol­o­gist and med­i­cal cannabis cam­paigner’ – say­ing it would be ‘a plea­sure to work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Way­land’. His fi­nan­cial in­ter­est was not men­tioned.

But this pa­per has seen doc­u­ments show­ing Pro­fes­sor Barnes stands to make up to £4.4 mil­lion from the deal. He said he gave away five-sixths of his busi­ness to other in­ter­ested par­ties, and is sell­ing just over half his re­main­ing 15.9 per cent stake, which puts him in line to reap £4.4 mil­lion once Theros is granted ei­ther li­cence. He keeps a 7.8 per cent stake in Theros po­ten­tially worth a sim­i­lar amount. Sep­a­rately, The Mail on Sun­day has found he twice ap­plied to sit on a Na­tional In­sti­tute for Care Ex­cel­lence (Nice) com­mit­tee that will draw up guide­lines on which pa­tients will get cannabis-based prod­ucts, but was re­jected. Last night, Pro­fes­sor Barnes said his 2016 state­ment that he had no com­mer­cial in­ter­est in cannabis at the time was ‘en­tirely true’, ad­ding he was only paid £1,000 for the re­port. Since Jan­uary this year he had earned a ‘mod­est monthly con­sul­tancy fee’ from SOL Global, to­talling about £50,000 a year. He con­firmed hav­ing a ‘small mi­nor­ity share­hold­ing’ in Theros and did not dis­pute that he would earn about £4.4mil­lion if it was granted ei­ther li­cence.

HAr­VEsT: A farmer gath­ers a cannabis crop for Way­land AD­VIsEr: Pro­fes­sor Mike Barnes, whose re­port has led to a change in the law on sup­ply­ing and pre­scrib­ing cannabis

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