Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Investigation

Big cannabis in the UK: is industry support for wider patient access motivated by promises of recreational market worth billions?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 18 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1002

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  1. Jonathan Gornall, investigative journalist
  1. Suffolk, UK
  1. jgornall{at}

The BMJ has uncovered links between companies, campaign groups, and individuals lobbying for wider patient access to cannabis for medical use and a parallel campaign to create a lucrative recreational market for the drug in the UK, Jonathan Gornall reports

When Charlotte Caldwell arrived at Heathrow on 11 June 2018 with a six month supply of cannabis medication to treat her son Billy’s epilepsy, it was no coincidence that journalists and TV crews were on hand for the press conference that followed the inevitable seizure of the drug by customs officers.1

The stunt, along with the press conference and the subsequent outpouring of media outrage that her son had been denied treatment, had been orchestrated by Steve Moore, the former chief executive of David Cameron’s failed Big Society initiative.23

Caldwell revealed Moore’s role in an article published under her name on the website Vice in July 2018. “A friend,” she wrote, had put her in touch with him. He in turn had put her in touch with Tilray, a Canadian medical cannabis company, and had then fought her corner, organising press coverage and negotiating on her behalf with the Home Office.4 Moore confirmed his involvement, telling The BMJ: “I was very involved in the case of Billy Caldwell.”

But Moore’s interest in cannabis is not limited to the drug’s medicinal use. His involvement in the Caldwell case is indicative of the increasingly blurred lines between groups and individuals campaigning for wider access to cannabis for medical reasons and those pushing for the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

Vested interests?

Moore is strategic counsel for the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, “the UK’s first ... industry membership body for businesses and investors operating in cannabis based medicinal products and cannabidiol wellness markets.”5 He is also the co-founder …

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