Dalgety, a business based in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire which has recently been granted permission from the Home Office to grow and distribute cannabis for medicinal purposes, has former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith sitting on its main board.
Jacqui Smith was Home Secretary from 2007 to 2009, she was the first woman to hold the position. As well as her position at Dalgety, she is also Chair of an NHS Trust.
During Smith’s tenure as Home Secretary cannabis was upgraded from class C to class B, a reclassification many deemed unnecessary, including the government’s own drug advisors the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
The shadow Conservative Home Secretary at the time, David Davies, supported the reclassification decision.
Justifying her decision to upgrade cannabis, the then Home Secretary Smith cited the prevalence of ‘high-strength skunk’ and the potentially harmful mental health consequences to teenagers who were smoking it.
Speaking in the Commons in 2008, Jacqui Smith said, “Reclassification reflects the fact that skunk, a much stronger type of the drug, now dominates the cannabis market.” She also said the average age of people who start to use cannabis was 13, and teenagers ‘binged’ on it the same as they did on alcohol.
However, Smith’s fears of children using cannabis may not have been based on evidence from her department’s own research; findings from the British Crime Survey showed that use in young people during the years leading to the reclassification fell from 25.3% to 20.9%. Smith later went on to admit that her decision to reclassify cannabis while Home Secretary was wrong, and that education would have been a better option than criminalisation. “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,” she told Radio Times in 2016.
Revealing the former Home Secretary’s position on the board of Dalgety on his blog, Peter Reynolds said “ I welcome Ms Smith’s now wholehearted conversion to common sense. Perhaps it will influence others. 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.”
Companies who wish to grow and or manufacture cannabis-based medicinal products are required to obtain permission from both the Home Office and the MHRA. The first company in the UK to be granted a license was GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998. They were bought by Irish company Jazz Pharmaceuticals in a $6.7 billion deal in 2021.
Dalgety UK was granted its license at around the same time as the 1st recipient, Scottish business Celadon Pharmaceuticals.
James Leavesley, CEO at Dalgety 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.”
“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.”