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
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