Greenwich Biosciences, the United States subsidiary of the British GW Pharmaceuticals, registered to lobby in every single state in the country—including ones where all forms of cannabis are prohibited—over the last three years. GW is the world’s oldest and largest pharmaceutical company solely focused on producing medicines derived from cannabis plants, which it grows in Britain.
Greenwich Biosciences is also registered at the federal level, where it spent upwards of $1 million lobbying on Food and Drug Administration regulation of “cannabidiol in medicines and consumer products,” the “regulation of cannabis-based medicine,” and on the “education and support for public policies related to the research and development of, and access to, FDA-approved therapies containing CBD or other cannabinoids.”
The company is also lobbying on top cannabis bills in Congress: the SAFE Banking Act, which would give the booming industry access to banks and other financial services; and the STATES Act, which would get federal law out of the way in state-legal cannabis programs. Not to mention one bill that sailed through Congress, and was signed into law one year ago: “Regulations to implement 2018 Farm Bill Provisions,” is another articulated priority. One of the lobbyists for Greenwich—Hazen Marshall with Marshall & Popp, LLC—is the former policy director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an outspoken hemp advocate who pushed the crop’s legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill.
It’s worth noting that the company also urged the FDA to “establish clear differentiation between FDA-approved medicines and consumer-focused foods and supplements” at FDA’s CBD hearing in May. This matters because Greenwich Biosciences markets Epidiolex, which was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals for treating seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, and is the only FDA-approved medicine derived directly from cannabis plants. That a medicine containing CBD derived from cannabis is available by prescription in the United States creates a rub for the rest of the CBD industry, as the FDA traditionally does not approve for use in food any compounds that are in clinical trials or available by prescription.
Cannabis Wire asked Greenwich: why are you lobbying all over the country? To ensure two things, according to Stephen Schultz, the company’s vice president of investor relations: one, that Epidiolex is available to patients in every state, and two, that Sativex—another cannabis-based medicine developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, which is approved in the United Kingdom and other countries to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis —reaches patients quickly, should it also be approved by the FDA. Sativex, unlike Epidiolex, contains THC.
“Greenwich’s Government Affairs Team engages and actively lobbies in any jurisdiction in which there are challenges that would impede or delay access to our FDA approved medications for appropriate patients,” Schultz told Cannabis Wire in an email. “We are similarly seeking to ensure that our investigational product, Sativex, will be rapidly available to patients in the states if and when it is approved by FDA and rescheduled by DEA.”
Greenwich has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2019 alone on its state-level lobbying activities, mostly on issues related such as “scheduling of FDA approved cannabidiol drugs,” “drugs and controlled substances,” “pharmaceuticals,” “healthcare,” and “health insurance,” according to lobbying disclosures. But Greenwich has also listed hemp-related bills under lobbying interests in Wisconsin.
In some states, such as Utah, Arizona, Georgia, and New Jersey, the company has reported no recent lobbying activity.