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COVID impact: UK taxpayers own shares in cannabis oil firm

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Due to a government rescue funding program established during the COVID disaster, UK taxpayers now own shares in 65 additional businesses.

Due to a government rescue funding program established during the COVID disaster, UK taxpayers now own shares in 65 additional businesses, including a medical cannabis company, a video game studio, and a chain of bars with ping pong tables.

A list of businesses that have gotten substitutable loans as part of the Future Fund is made public by the government’s development bank.

The former chancellor, Rishi Sunak, established the fund with the intention of assisting start-up businesses that were finding it difficult to attract investment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund has provided funding totaling £1.14 billion to 1,190 companies.

According to the most recent data from the British Business Bank (BBB), investments have been made in businesses like Just Won’t Die, a maker of Kombucha, Flower of Life, and Lightpoint Medical, which creates robot technology for cancer surgery. State of Play Hospitality, which operates activity bar brands including Bounce, Flight Club, and Puttshack, which each offer table tennis, darts, and mini-golf, is also partially owned by the taxpayers.

The state also owns stock in the producer of medical cannabis oils Avida Global Limited, whose chairman is Benjamin Mancroft.

Mancroft was elected to the House of Lords in February 1988 and once made headlines for his controversial comments about NHS nurses who were caring for him at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

The business started operating in 2018 and grows the plant on a farm in Colombia. Despite medical marijuana becoming legal in the UK in November 2018, the NHS website states that doctors still only recommend it to “very few” patients.

A third or so of the companies that have received investment from the Future Fund have had their loans converted to equity after obtaining at least equal private backing. As a result, the government now owns stock in more than 400 businesses.

These companies were identified in previous BBB data disclosures as the coffee brand Black Sheep, the football team Bolton Wanderers, and the sex party planning company Killing Kittens. Additionally, Better Tasting Drinks Co Limited, a company that makes kombucha, and Grass & Co., a company that produces cannabidiol products, both belong to the cannabis industry.

The Future Fund was intended to secure a flow of financing, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, to enterprises who would not have been able to access government support schemes, while providing long-term value for the UK taxpayer, said Ken Cooper, a managing director at the BBB.

“We are happy to see that so many of those businesses have since gone on to seek additional private financing, allowing the Future Fund to profit from their future expansion,” Ken added.

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