Cannabis has been used for medical purposes and as an option for recreation since ancient times. The first trace for its use is described in a Chinese medical manual, which is believed to be dating back to around 2700 B.C. Chinese states that its immense importance in treating gout, malaria, rheumatism and absent-mindedness was documented by Emperor of China namely Shen Nung, also known as the Father of Chinese Medicine.
The plant is of immense religious importance in India and is believed to be used for consumption by some Gods. It was considered as a herb in one of the Vedic hymns that could free a soul from anxiety. In ancient times, medical practitioners promoted marijuana for pain relief and cautioned against using it in more than prescribed quantity as it could result in horrifying dreams to the user. Similarly, the Egyptians believed in the drug to cure inflammation.
Certain communities prohibit the use of alcohol for the purpose of recreation as they are driven by guidelines from their religious books and scriptures. For them, cannabis was an ideal alternative. They also believed that it has intoxicating effects.
The cannabis was brought to the New World by the Spanish people in the mid-1500’s. As these are very strong fibres which are of great use for clothes, bags and more specifically in ship-rigging, the idea of growing hemp (by-product of cannabis) gained huge popularity. In Scandinavia as well as Britain, cannabis was a popular crop as hemp ropes were quite durable not only in normal conditions but also in wet and salty environments. In the late 1800s, the demand for hemp declined sharply, as the conventional sailing ships were replaced by new ships which were powered by steam engines.
Shortly after 1910, the American and European policymakers, begin to ban the use of drugs. First came the Opium convention in 1912 followed by the Harrison Act of 1914, cannabis and other drugs usage was defined as an unlawful and criminal offence. By 1925, Cannabis usage was strictly prohibited in the United States plus thirteen other countries.
Developing landscape for the Cannabis Industry is something that is gaining a lot of popularity from investors these days, and those who are in the hope to capitalise on the potential growth and high returns of what they assume from untapped market or products that can gain popularity in future, have even started punting on certain stocks in the domain. The cannabis sector has snowballed in recent years as several countries including Canada and certain U.S states have explored and set new regulations for the sale and use of cannabis for specific purposes like recreational activities. On 17th October 2018, Canada legalised the use of cannabis products for recreational activities and became the second country after Uruguay to do so. Canada legalised medical marijuana in 2001.
There were some specific reasons for banning cannabis. It is believed that cannabis has a high potential for abuse and is perceived as highly addictive. But the same happens with alcohol, which is deemed to be legal. Some experts believe it has a considerable amount of medical benefits for fatal diseases like Cancer, but these are not accepted by the medical fraternity at the national level. In addition, lawyers are putting efforts to highlight the effects it had on people lives who used it strictly for medical purposes. Some people earlier have linked cannabis with recreational drugs such as Heroin. The image is therefore carried forward this way from the past. Cannabis was once associated with oppressed ethnic groups and a ban on it was considered as discouraging their sub-cultures from blending and developing. Some people believe it is easier for children to buy cannabis than alcohol.
Businesses can take part into this fast-growing industry not only through the typical brick and mortar cultivation and/ or sale of cannabis, but they can also develop new products made from cannabis, new technologies for farming and other ancillary services. Businesses that can be established under Cannabis umbrella can be developing agriculture-related technology (for the cultivation of cannabis), biotechnological aspects to target certain diseases, or industrial hemp as intermediate products, etc.
The size of the cannabis industry under legal parlance in North America was $5 billion as at 2015 and now this is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2020. It is worth noting that the US and Canada significantly contribute to global legal cannabis revenue.
Earlier the Commissioners of Church of England had decided to give up all cannabis-related investments. But now investments in cannabis has been given a green light. This news has unlikely came from The Church of England. The authority earlier imposed a ban on any kind of exposure taken on cannabis.
The Church of England has reversed on its earlier course and now relaxed self-imposed ban; it took into consideration investment strictly for medical purposes, a contradiction to its previous policy of exclusion from all activities that contribute to profit from cannabis. The CCE (Church Commissioners for England), which manages church’s investment portfolio (£12.6 billion), had previously decided upon excluding cannabis from its portfolio and had not yet invested in companies specialising in this sector. There is a difference between recreational cannabis and cannabis for medical use. The use of cannabis strictly in accordance with medical science is accepted.
Many large investment funds are avoiding positions in so-called “sin stocks” which have huge legal uncertainties. Last week, a pension fund based out of Norway opted for divestiture from companies that generate more than five per cent of their revenue from alcohol or gambling. This shift in strategy is more prominent these days. On the contrary, ethical investors are looking for an opportunity in the dual nature of cannabis as an investment. The KLP fund (Oslo based $80 billion) divested from recreational cannabis a month ago but remained invested in cannabis for medicinal purposes. The chemical constituents present in cannabis are believed to have curing abilities.
Cannabidiol (CBD), for instance, is useful in treating anxiety, convulsions, nausea and depression as well as acts as an aid for sleep deprived or muscle recovery. In December, the AP Funds’ Ethics Council (Sweden) also excluded recreational cannabis from its $180 billion portfolios. But it said it will continue to keep on investing in medical marijuana companies, in accordance with the UN’s guidance on both ethical investment and narcotics.
Drugs such as morphine are regularised as per the UN conventions, but they are not supposed to be used as a recreational drug. There is a clear differentiation within the conventions on this matter. Medicinal cannabis was legalised in the UK, Canada and most states in the US, though it remains a prohibited item at federal level. According to a popular equity research firm, the cannabis industry (legal) was valued at $11 billion internationally in 2018 and is expected to grow by more than four times by 2029.
The Church of England will strictly avoid investing in companies that earn greater than ten per cent of revenue from the sale of cannabis for recreational use, this threshold is common for its other ethical exclusions, such as pornography, tobacco, gambling and high-interest lenders. The church is known for taking positions in the interest of people in the ethical investment realm, on the grounds of environmental impact, social good, corporate governance and morality. Companies like ExxonMobil and Glencore are challenged by the Church of England for pressuring executives to improve their environmental policies.
The Church Commissioners believe in investing in a way that is in resonance with Christian values and excludes investments on moral and ethical grounds, according to its website. By the end of last year, its portfolio comprised of 40 per cent invested in listed stocks, 12 per cent invested in property and infrastructure, 11 per cent invested in land and the remaining exposure is taken in private equity, credit, bonds and cash. The church works in accordance with the external advisory committee (ethical) to determine its investment allocations. The church will make an official announcement on cannabis shortly.
On the decision to exclude recreational cannabis he added that with legalisation there should be reductions in crime at the same time. The Church of England will hold cannabis to the same standards it holds other pharmaceutical companies and invests only if it is properly licensed and regulated for medicinal use. The central finance board of the Methodist Church (one of the biggest Christian church investors in the UK), avoided commenting on their position. It was hard to believe for some experts, to research on the medical use of cannabis and raising money from an institutional investor seemed to be a far-fetched idea, just a year ago. The church’s decision can be termed as a welcome gesture and a positive milestone for the sector. It is a huge shift in understanding and perspective on what cannabis can really contribute to medical science and its applied methodology in Identifying its potential benefits.
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