Church of England Reverses Course, Okays Investments in Medical Marijuana

When Meghan Markle’s nephew announced back in April 2018 that he was developing a new strain of cannabis to commemorate the royal wedding between his aunt and Britain’s Prince Harry, hardly anyone blinked. After all, what does one expect from an American? Prince Harry, for that matter, had been sent to a rehab clinic once when he was 16 after his father found him with a joint.

Now the investment arm of the Church of England, the country’s official church, has reportedly relaxed its self-imposed ban on investment in medical marijuana. The Financial Times reported over the weekend that the Church’s $16 billion endowment, which previously had a ban on investing in cannabis, has not yet made its first wager on medical marijuana.

Edward Mason, the Church Commissioner’s head of responsible investments told the FT, “We make a distinction between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis. We are content with it being used for proper medicinal purposes.”

If ever there was a likely candidate to be called a “sin” stock it would seem that cannabis, medical or otherwise, fits the bill. When we looked at exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that held a substantial portion of their investments in sin stocks, the most common holdings were tobacco, casino, and alcoholic beverage stocks.

Medical cannabis was legalized in the United Kingdom in October of last year and both medical and recreational cannabis are now legal in Canada. So far, 11 U.S. states have legalized the possession and use of recreational and medical marijuana, including Illinois where the legislature passed and the governor signed the legislation just last week.  Medical marijuana is available in 22 other states as well.

We do have a suggestion for the Church of England. The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSEARCA: YOLO) launched on April 17 of this year with nearly $58 million assets under management might be a good choice — it’s among the few ETFs targeting “sinners.” However, the Church would have to relax its rule limiting investments in cannabis to companies that derive less than 10% of their income from recreational marijuana. That would seem to rule out some of the large Canada-based firms like Canopy Growth, Cronos, and Tilray.

The other issue with the cannabis ETF is its name–YOLO is social-media speak for “you only live once.” That hardly fits the big message the Church of England (and virtually every other religion in the world) is trying to convey.

Now we’re looking forward to the day when England’s royal family puts the family seal on marijuana-laced products. If it’s good enough for Ben & Jerry’s, which is planning to offer CBD-infused ice cream it’s good enough for the Queen.