Holy Smoke! Church of England backs medicinal cannabis investments

PHOTO: Workers trim cannabis plants inside a Fotmer SA greenhouse in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay, on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. PlayBloomberg via Getty Images
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The body responsible for investing the funds of the Church of England has said it is willing to invest in the medicinal cannabis industry for the first time, saying it holds the drug to the same standard as other pharmaceuticals.

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The Church Commissioners is the Church’s historic endowment fund and holds assets worth £8.2 billion (nearly $10.4 million). The Church Commissioners is a closed fund, meaning it does not take in new contributions. Profits from the investments are used to pay for bishops and ministry costs, supporting local dioceses and clergy pensions.

The announcement follows a change in the law in the United Kingdom with regards to medicinal cannabis. The U.K. legalized the use of medicinal cannabis in November 2018, following in the footsteps of Canada and many states in the U.S.

"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."

Investments in the medicinal cannabis market will have to fall in line with the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Policy, which places restrictions on how the Church can invest in companies that generate profits from industries such as gambling, alcohol and tobacco.

The Church’s willingness to invest in medicinal cannabis reflects how fast the industry is growing worldwide. The global legal cannabis market will swell from $11 billion in 2018 to over $50 billion in 2029, according to financial services company Jefferies.

Hari Guliani, the chief operating officer of the British medicinal cannabis Grow Biotech, told ABC News the announcement is “indicative that perceptions of medical cannabis are changing across the board."

"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 said. "With groups like the Church of England considering investments in medical cannabis, we can expect perceptions to continue to change."