Jacqui Smith, Mrs ‘Class B’, Appointed to Board of UK Cannabis Firm

Dalgety, a UK-based company in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, has been awarded the second Home Office licence to permit the commercial cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis.

Interestingly, former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who held the position from 2007 to 2009, is a member of Dalgety’s board. In addition to her role at Dalgety, she serves as the Chair of an NHS Trust.

During her time as Home Secretary, Smith was responsible for upgrading cannabis from a class C to class B substance, a decision that was met with controversy and disagreement, including from the government’s own drug advisors, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

However, the shadow Conservative Home Secretary at the time, David Davies, supported the reclassification.

Smith justified the upgrade by citing the prevalence of “high-strength skunk” and the potential harmful mental health consequences for teenagers smoking it.

In a 2008 Commons speech, she stated, “Reclassification reflects the fact that skunk, a much stronger type of the drug, now dominates the cannabis market.”

Smith also highlighted that the average age for starting cannabis use was 13, and teenagers were “binging” on it in the same way they did with alcohol.

Yet, her concerns about cannabis use among children may not have been supported by her department’s research.

The British Crime Survey indicated that cannabis use among young people dropped from 25.3% to 20.9% in the years leading up to the reclassification.

Smith later admitted that her decision to reclassify cannabis was wrong and that education would have been a better approach than criminalisation. In a 2016 Radio Times interview, she said, “Knowing what I know now, I would resist the temptation to resort to the law to tackle the harm from cannabis. Education, treatment and information, if we can get the message through, are perhaps a lot more effective.”

Peter Reynolds, who revealed Smith’s position on Dalgety’s board on his blog, welcomed her change of heart and support for common sense. He said, “I also welcome this second set of licences. I firmly believe that domestic production is what will improve quality and service for UK patients and eventually lead to more far-reaching cannabis reform.”

Dalgety UK was granted its licence around the same time as Celadon Pharmaceuticals, a Scottish business and the first recipient. James Leavesley, CEO of Dalgety, expressed enthusiasm about the opportunities this licence brings.

He said, “The granting of this licence after three years of investment and development means we now join the limited few that are at the forefront of this burgeoning market.”

He added, “The opportunities are substantial; not just for the businesses and investors harnessing the economic potential of the industry, but for patients that cannot access the high-quality GMP approved cannabis that Dalgety can provide.”

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