A Rose by Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name

Image: Unsplash Elsa Olofsson

Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 152 (July 2021)

There are currently attempts in the UK and other European countries to advance ‘hemp’ legislation ahead of demonizing ‘cannabis’. The argument is being made that because certain cultivars of cannabis don’t produce arbitrary levels of the devilish THC that they should be rescheduled, while ones that do should remain demonized and criminalized. They are attempting to intentionally misinterpret the science and bend the truth to fit their narrative and alter legislation to benefit their bottom dollar.

Ultimately, they are seeking to monopolize the entire industry before it has even begun. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at this claim that ‘hemp’ is not cannabis…We’ve all heard cannabis described as Sativa, Indica, hybrid, or hemp, but what do these distinctions mean? In Europe and the Americas, tall fibrous cannabis plants that produced lots of seeds were classified as Cannabis Sativa. The term Sativa comes from Latin and translates to ‘cultivated’ so Cannabis Sativameans ‘cultivated cannabis’.

Sativa is also the feminine form of the adjective Latin word ‘Sativum’which may be where some modern-day prohibitionists get the idea that the female plants produce cannabis and the male plants produce ‘hemp’. Hybrids are defined as the cultivars produced from the cross-breeding of the various cannabis cultivars.

The term Indica translates from modern Latin to English as‘ of India’.It was coined by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in the 18th century while attempting to classify the short, broad-leafed cannabis varieties that had recently been discovered in the colonies on the Indian plateau. The history of cannabis identification has been a long and controversial one. In 1753 Carl Linneaus unifiedCannabis SativaandCannabis Indicainto one genus; Cannabis Sativa L.Since then many different theories have come and gone. There have been proposals for between 1 and 4 individual and unique subspecies of cannabis.

There were also attempts to classify 13 individual genera of cannabis in the former Soviet Union. It was the Soviet-era research that led to the classification of ‘Cannabis Ruderalis’as a sub-species of Cannabis Sativa L.Ruderalis is the neglected middle child between cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.

This sub-species is arguably the missing link between the ‘sativa’ cultivars of Europe and the Americas and the cannabis ‘indica’ ones of the middle east and Asia. Interestingly it is the cross-breeding of Indica and Sativacultivars withRuderalisones that activates the ‘day neutral’ gene, creating auto-flowering varieties of the sub-species of Cannabis Sativa L. The current consensus here is that there is only one genus, Cannabis Sativa L, with three distinct sub-species Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and cannabis Ruderalis, but no ‘Cannabis Hemp’.

Image: weed World Magazine

Cannabis Sativa L was first thought to of originated in one geographical location and then, over countless generations of human interference, made its way across the world. Through adaptive evolution, the settlers of the various regions of the world have adapted and developed resilience to additional UV exposure, extreme temperature variance, and other local flora and fauna.

The same is true of the sub-species of Cannabis Sativa L. The current consensus is that cannabis originated high up in the mountains of the Tibet Plateau around 28 million years ago. It evolved in a low oxygen, high UV environment and is thought to have produced a lot of diverse cultivars that adapted to the various micro-climates the wind-spreading species found itself growing in.It is unknown just how long ago humans first discovered cannabis in the region.

What we do know is that when they did they found the seeds to be a great food source and the fibrous material a strong and durable textile. Eventually, they began cultivating it in different local climates and trading to other neighboring groups. As cannabis began to make its way around the region it began adapting to the local climate, soil, and humans’ preference for either fiber, resin, or seed production.

This caused those first cultivars to begin expressing different characteristics and traits as a response to their new environment. These diverse cultivars were then selected for their preferential mutations and bred to further express those beneficial traits. This selective breeding by early humans began a trajectory of genetic divergence that would eventually lead to cannabis cultivars from Europe and the Americas looking so distinctly different from those of the Middle East or Asia.

We are now just starting to understand how Cannabis Sativa in the Western world diverged from Cannabis Indica of the Tibetan Plateau. It appears that human selection and environmental changes seem to be the primary contributory factors in the diverse evolution of the three sub-species of Cannabis Sativa L.

The terms Sativa and Indica were created to distinguish between what was thought to be at the time two very different genus of plant from opposite ends of the planet. The world today is far smaller than it’s ever been, and our knowledge of this plant has never been greater. We have discovered hundreds of the chemical compounds in cannabis and are far more aware of the enormous potential of this plant.

So, why do we still see dispensaries, coffeeshops, and clubs selling based on these rather ambiguous classifying terms? Well, that’s partly down to a misunderstanding in what the differences are between Cannabis IndicaandCannabis Sativaand what that means.

I also believe a larger factor at play here is greedy and misguided capitalists trying to oversimplify cannabis to sell more products by claiming that this ‘strain’ will do this to you and this other one will do this. Ultimately, these classifications are still around today predominantly to help growers identify the way each cultivar will grow and the individual phytomorphology of the cultivar.

It is the unique combination of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals in cannabis that gives each cultivar its effects. The monoterpene Myrcene, and the sesquiterpenes β-Caryophyllene and α-Humulene are the most dominant terpenes found in most, if not all cultivars of Cannabis Sativa L. It has long been conventional wisdom that ‘sativas’ produce an uplifting, euphoric, and cerebral effect on the consumer, whereas ‘Indicas’ will cause the consumer to have a stony, couch-lock, and full-body high.

Cannabis Sativacultivars are often high in terpenes such as α-Terpinolene and α-Pinene and typically produce lower levels of Myrcene. Conversely, higher levels of Myrcene would produce ‘Indica’ type effects. That being said there are some Cannabis Sativa cultivars out there that have Myrcene as their primary terpene and still produce these effects in some consumers.

This is down to the complex synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes creating unique minor compounds that play a far larger part in the effect of a cultivar than we previously thought. The unique and complex nature of the compounds in cannabis makes it impossible to fit into a traditional pharmacological paradigm. Our endocannabinoid systems (ECS) are as unique as our fingerprints, the way one cultivar affects someone might not be the same for another.

This is why there is now an argument being put forward that we should classify cannabis not by cultivar, but by ‘chemovars’ (chemical varieties). Using liquid and gas chromatography, individual plants could be tested and identified by their unique chemical profile including its primary and minor cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid levels.

While I see the merit in this undertaking, I also see great a deal of potential for abuse at the hands of greedy self-serving corporate interests seeking to standardize, homogenize, and patent nature. I fear that adopting this approach will only further help in the production of highly profitable synthetic cannabis-based pharmaceutical medications.

It is that same greed that has seen the ‘legal’ cannabis industry perpetuate bad science and overly simplistic and outdated terminology in order to sell their products. This is evident in companies demonizing THC in order to sell CBD and brands insisting that they only use ‘hemp-derived’ cannabinoids in an attempt to placate the fear of cannabis in their consumers.

So where does this leave ‘Hemp’ in all of this? Well, as we have just learned, ‘Hemp’ is a result of selective breeding by humans, genetic response to environmental changes, and arbitrary and irrational international legislation. ‘Hemp’ therefore is just a loose grouping of the accepted low-THC cultivars of the sub-species Cannabis Sativaof the genus Cannabis Sativa L. Despite what the venture capitalists, ill-informed opportunists, and those with a vested interest in politics say, all cannabis is cannabis.

There is no ‘hemp’ and we shouldn’t be gaslit into believing there ever was anything other than a handful of accepted cannabis cultivars and the arbitrary criminalization of its immense industrial and commercial potential. If we are to survive the impending global wave of corporate ‘legalization’ crashing upon our gentle shores then we must learn everything we can about this humble plant.

We must not let those set to profit from cannabis be our prophets. We must do all we can to promote unbiased education, equity, and justice above perpetual profits, patents, and the creation of prohibition 2.0.

Written for Weed World Magazine by Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 50

Last Week in Weed

(22/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue New German coalition signals that it might ‘legalise’ the adult consumption of cannabis, Cannabis edible blamed for man’s psychotic episode that resulted in him murdering his partner, and finally Police in Oregon seize 250 tons of ‘illegal’ cannabis at just one location.

Image: Dinafem

New German coalition would ‘legalise’ adult-use of cannabis

First up this week is the rather exciting news that the newly formed potential future German coalition government may ‘legalise’ and regulate the sale of cannabis for adult consumption. The incoming political alliance of the Social Democrats (SPD)Green party, and Free Democrats (FDP) 

which has been dubbed the ‘Traffic light parties’ have indicated that they will seriously consider ‘legalising’ the possession and trade of cannabis.

The new political partnership published a report by its internal working group on health and care. In it, they lay out the coalition’s intentions to ‘legalise’ the sale of cannabis for adult consumption to help control and regulate quality, remove adulterants and potential contaminants, and restrict youth access. Perhaps this focus has something to do with the recent rumour in Germany that cannabis was being laced with heroin. See Max Daly’s Vice piece about Germany’s heroin-laced cannabis myth for more.

The authors of the paper state that “We are introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for pleasure purposes in licensed shops.” This is contingent on a major evaluation of the new legislation after four years to assess its social and health impacts. The working group also expressed a desire to expand drug testing and access to harm reduction measures and services across the country to help reduce any potential harms created and amplified by drug prohibition. 

Interestingly, the traffic light parties have also declared their intention to tighten regulations pertaining to marketing, advertising, and sponsorship of alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis products and brands. We measure regulations again and again against new scientific findings and align measures for health protection” states the health and care report paper. 

Although all three parties campaigned on a platform to ‘legalise’ cannabis. Only time will tell if the three parties keep their election promises and now their collective commitment to ‘regulate the sale of cannabis’ in Germany. However, all three at least appear to have the same non-fiscal motivations for ending the prohibition of cannabis sales in Germany.

None of the parties discussed blustering the treasury reserves or the potential financial gains. Indeed, none of them chose to highlight the recent report from the Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) at the Dusseldorf Heinrich Heine UniversityThe report found that a potential ‘legal’ market in Germany could add €3.4 billion through taxation and save an estimated €1.3 billion in policing and judicial costs

Instead, they all pointed to social issues over economic ones. They intend to prioritise youth diversion/protection, disempowering illicit markets, proving better dependency support, and desire to see an end to the arbitrary criminalisation of all cannabis consumers on faux-moral grounds.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, it still nevertheless rings hollow in my ears. I cannot help but feel that if the coalition is successfully formed and does manage to pass its legislation through the Bundesrat, that little will really change for regular German cannabis consumers. They will still potentially face the same arbitrary criminaliastion, increased taxation, strict regulations, and the whitewashing and gentrifying of their cannabis culture. 

I am aware that information and the finer details are yet to be revealed, however, there has so far been no public discussion that I can see about social consumption spaces, expungement of prior convictions, true social equity programs, minority/marginalised participation schemes, or the ‘legalising’ of growing your own at home. Without these elements, it feels rather disingenuous of the traffic light parties to paint themselves as though they aren’t simply doing this for the money.

If passed this new legislation would see Europe’s most populated and wealthiest country become the continent’s biggest cannabis market. It would dwarf efforts to commence small-scale trails in fellow European countries like The Netherlands and Switzerland in 2022. It could also potentially leave ‘decriminalisation-plus’ models in Italy and Luxembourg looking a lot less desirable to the likes of CuraLeaf that are eager to start seeing dominoes fall in Europe.

Psychotic break murder being blamed on ‘cannabis brownie’

Next up this week is the tragic story of a UK man suffering a psychotic break that led to him brutally murdering his then-girlfriend. Although this story is still unfolding and details are still emerging the mainstream media have quickly jumped on it to overemphasise the fact that the man had consumed a ‘cannabis brownie.’

This terrible incident is made all the more harrowing given the fact the victim recorded the whole thing on her mobile phone. Details are still scarce about the contents of the brownie or the man’s mental health history. The papers seem more interested in directly implying that the young victim died solely thanks to the man’s consumption of a ‘cannabis brownie.’

The episode occurred in the early hours of November 20th, 2020 after the man is alleged to of consumed a ‘cannabis brownie’ earlier in the evening. The man is then suspected to have suffered an ‘adverse reaction’ or a temporary psychotic break. This led the victim to search online for advice on the internet about how to deal with a “bad weed trip.” She then began filming her partner “like something out of the movie Scream” according to the prosecutor Deborah Gould.

Stafford Crown Court where the case is being heard

The jury was told that the nearly-17 minute long audio recording captured the moments leading up to the murder, the murder itself, and the aftermath. The recording is reported to begin with the victim laughing and the man accusing her of laughing at him. The court heard how the man became aggressive around nine minutes into the recording shortly before he attacked her “at first with his bare hands.”

The man then proceeded to strangle and stab the victim more than 30 times before the recording captures the man saying “I am going to make sure.” The sound of an engine revving and a thud is then heard as he then allegedly ran over her lifeless body in his car. Neighbours who reported witnessing the event said he took no steps to help her before walking back into the house. A call to 999 was received at 01:32 AM, informing the operator that he had “been told I have killed my girlfriend.”

During five separate police interviews, the man offered ‘no comment’ instead of providing a statement that suggested that the ‘cannabis brownie’ he had consumed contained another drug that induced his psychotic state. The man was then evaluated by three different psychologists who concluded that he had an ‘adverse reaction’ to the consumption of the ‘cannabis brownie.’

During opening statements of the murder trial the defense barrister Andrew Fisher QC told the jury at Stafford Crown Court that the defendant had suffered an “extreme florid psychiatric episode in the course of which he totally lost touch with reality and became wholly delusional”

The prosecutor Deborah Gould countered this by telling the jury that the defense’s case does “not provide a defence in law.” Going on to state that although it was believed that he had suffered an adverse reaction  “A disordered intention caused by self-induced ingestion of an intoxicant is as good as a sober intention.” 

The trial is continuing so more information is due to be made public in the coming weeks. Hopefully there will be a toxicology report that can provide further insight as to what the ‘cannabis brownie’ contained. As well as more detail about the man’s mental health history. 

There are a few possibilities here, one is that the man is correct and that the alleged ‘cannabis brownie’ contained another psychoactive substance unknown to him at the time. I can tell you from personal experience that taking one drug thinking it’s another can cause confusion, disorientation, and unpredictable cognitive functionality. 

Sticking with adulterants it could also be a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (SCRA) which have been shown in certain populations to induce all manner of mental and physical health problems – including psychosis type conditions. 

Another potential culprit here is the moulds, pesticides, and chemical fertilisers used in the cultivation of commercial-scale cannabis by criminal organisations. The consequences of combusting certain moulds have been linked to psychosis-type events. The same is theorised of particular compounds found in ornamental and non-consumable agricultural grow mediums and feeds.

While it isn’t fair or accurate to say that cannabis causes psychosis. There are some extremely rare incidences of cannabis consumption precipitating temporary psychosis-like illness in a tiny minority of consumers. However, this is most often linked to pre-existing and undiagnosed mental health illnesses. So it’ll be crucial to see if the man has had a history of mental illness.

While this event is deeply saddening and tragic for the victim and her family. It has the opportunity to highlight the urgent need to tackle the consequences of prohibition. Issues of drug adulteration, non-existent regulations, and a lack of basic drug education for consumers. 

This article is not intended in any way to diminish, dismiss, or defend the actions of the man in this story and I will endeavor to continue to cover this case as more information comes to light. 

Image: OST Twitter page

Oregon police seize 250 tons of ‘illegal’ cannabis

State police announced in a press release on Saturday that its South-west Region Drug Enforcement Team executed search warrants at a site containing several large warehouses in the small unincorporated community of White City, Oregon. 

In the statement the Oregon state police declare that they seized firearms and discovered and subsequently arrested more than 100 individuals on-site including some undocumented workers that were living there in poor conditions. 

A total estimate of 250 tons (500,000lb or 226,796kg) of raw cannabis was seized during the operation. The authorities are claiming that the haul has an estimated street price of $500 million and will take them quite some time to investigate. 

One of several units full of unlicensed cannabis in White City, Oregon

“This is a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks” – Oregon State Police statement

The tiny community with a population of less than 10,000 is located in Southern Oregon in Jackson County close to the Californian border. Although Oregon ‘legalised’ cannabis back in 2015 it has since been fighting against an ever-increasing number of ‘illegal’ operations and farms.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) recently learned that 54% of the estimated 212 registered low-THC cannabis cultivation operations (‘hemp farms’) registered in Jackson County were unlawfully growing high-THC cannabis cultivars

In early October 2021, Jackson County’s Board of Commissioners declared a ‘state of emergency’ having become ‘overwhelmed’ by the scale of illegal cultivation in the region. 

The board warned of an “imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our county.”  Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler claims that the local crime rate has gone through the roof due to the influx of ‘illegal’ cannabis farms.

We’ve had stabbings, robberies, thefts, burglaries, homicides, sex crimes, motor vehicle accidents, DUIs, all related to the influx of the marijuana-cannabis industry in our in our valley. It is certainly an issue we deal with on a daily basis here” – Nathan Sickler Jackson County Sheriff

The combination of being so close to the largest cannabis market in the US and the fact that it benefits from a ‘warm-summer Mediterranean climate’ – make it a rather attractive region to grow a lot of cannabis lawfully or not. The vast quantities of cannabis being cultivated and processed in the county are now inevitably attracting criminals from near and far willing to chance a gun for a literal ton of cannabis.

Crews from eight different states have come to Jackson County to perform home invasion robberies of marijuana farms or individuals associated with marijuana industry with money” – Nathan Sickler Jackson County Sheriff

There can be no secession to the unlawful cultivation, production, and trade of cannabis without sincere movement at the federal level to ubiquitously end criminalisation. Cannabis prohibition must truly end for everyone not simply be replaced by a white-washed, gentrified, and corporatised pay-to-play system.

If reform fails to even attempt to put right the decades of wrongs and harms inflicted by racist, classist, and fascist policies. Then it guarantees a future not too dissimilar from Oregon’s current reality. The current incarnation of ‘legalisation’ in Oregon may very well be one of the best in the US, but it is still not even close to what the end of the war should really look like. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 49

Last Week in Weed

(15/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, a strong performance for cannabis stocks in the US and Canada, a Police officer in Northern Ireland being disciplined for not reporting a woman for cannabis possession, and a UK man was fined £167 for possession of less than 0.29g of cannabis in Norfolk.

Image: InvestmentU.com

Cannabis stocks rally in the US and Canada

The main news from last week comes in the form of rallying cannabis stocks in the US and Canada. As we eluded to in the previous issue of Last Week in Weed a new Republican-led bill to federally ‘legalise’ cannabis in the US was leaked.

A few weeks ago ‘Marijuana Moment’ announced news of a leaked draft bill titled ‘The states Reform Act’ from the Republican Senator from South Carolina, Nancy Mace. The bill is being framed as a compromise between Democrats’ bureaucratic, restrictive, and overly regulated ‘legalisation’ models and other Republicans’ desire to deschedule and ‘decriminalise’ cannabis.

The draft bill that has quietly been circulating amongst stakeholders and policymakers would see cannabis regulated more like alcohol and tobacco is expected to be finalised later this month. The South Carolina Republican representative who authored the bill hopes the 116-page draft will garner support amongst her colleagues in the GOP by appealing to their conservative sensibilities and vested financial interests. 

The details are still a little spotty but it would federally end cannabis prohibition and allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and consume cannabis. As well as ‘grandfather’ in excising state-licensed cannabis companies, medical patient programs, and include some form of low-level non-violent federal expungement program.

The bill would place a relatively low excise tax of 3.75% that would in part fund federal and local law enforcement, small business loans, and community re-entry programs. It would unfortunately still allow federal agencies to continue to drug test for cannabis and restrict advertising and marketing.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have a limited role in the federal regulation of cannabis. It would retain authority over so-called ‘medical cannabis’ and pharmaceutical drugs derived from or based on cannabis. However, it would have no more control over adult consumption than it currently does over alcohol or tobacco.

The bill would see raw cannabis classified as an agricultural commodity regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) become the primary regulator of interstate commerce.

Although the current US president has been hesitant to support ‘full legalisation’ in the past. Joe Biden has nevertheless expressed interest in the federal ‘decriminalisation’ of adult consumption, the federal ‘legalisation’ of ‘medical cannabis’, and allowing states to determine their own adult consumption laws.

While this final draft hasn’t yet been completed it does signal a turning point in US cannabis law reform. This is the first major Republican bill aimed at ending federal cannabis prohibition. This has caused a great deal of speculative investing and larger funds to hedge their bets on what could be America’s and the world’s largest single industry.

There has also been fresh speculation of various mergers and acquisitions in the cannabis industry that has sparked renewed interest in the sector. One such rumour is that global tobacco giant Altria may soon purchase the remaining shares of Cronos Group that it doesn’t already own. After the company paid $1.9 billion for a 45% stake in the international production and distribution conglomerate back in 2019.

These events coupled with an ever-increasing acceptance and awareness of cannabis in general around the world have once again kick-started speculation that the US could soon federally end cannabis prohibition.

These revelations resulted in the stock price of various cannabis companies from both the US and Canada gaining some serious ground last week. It was a far cry from the inflated prices caused by Reddit and retail investors in February. However, it still saw Canopy Growth Corp, Aurora Cannabis, Tilray, Cronos Group, Curaleaf Holdings, and more increase its share price by several percentage points day on day.

PSNI logo

PSNI officer disciplined for not reporting cannabis

PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) officer has been disciplined after a review of body-camera footage caught them finding ‘what appeared to be cannabis’ without reporting it. The incident happened while the officer was attending a call to a suicidal woman who was clearly in crisis at the time.

Last week the Police Ombudsman Service released its report on the incident that happened back in January 2019. The review was conducted into the use of force by the PSNI against the distressed and suicidal woman. The woman was injured by falling backward against a door frame after being tased by the officer to prevent her from cutting herself with a knife she had in her hand. 

During its review of the body cam footage from the incident, the officer in question was observed to open a kitchen draw while searching for a tea towel to stop the woman’s bleeding wound. The video allegedly shows the office opening a kitchen draw and discovering what appears to be “two clear plastic sandwich bags containing what appeared to be cannabis.”

The office is observed to handle the bags before placing them back in the draw and attending to the woman’s wounds. According to the ombudsman’s report, the officer subsequently made no mention of the suspected cannabis in their report or their police-issued notebook. The officers claimed during the Ombudsman’s investigation to have simply forgotten and stated that the woman’s welfare was his main concern. Something I agree with entirely here.

He had several opportunities after the incident to record the suspected drugs find and report it – particularly when completing his police issue notebook entry, which is intended as an aide-memoire. The evidence is that he failed to do so” – Ombudsman Marie Anderson 

It doesn’t appear as though there was a welfare follow up from the service, however according to the ombudsman’s report; “A subsequent police search of the woman’s home found cannabis leaves in a kitchen drawer, as well as a heat lamp in an upstairs bedroom. She was interviewed on suspicion of possessing and cultivating cannabis and admitted the offence.” Unfortunately, I cannot find any information about whether she was charged and prosecuted with the cultivation offence.

The Ombudsman did however submit a file to the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS), as is required when these types of infractions are suspected, however, the PPS declined to prosecute the case. The Ombudsman also recommended that the PSNI should take disciplinary action against the officer, which it has accepted and commenced. 

Ultimately the ombudsman service found that the PSNI’s use of force “had been necessary and proportionate given that there had been an immediate threat to life” and that its officers had treated the woman “with courtesy and compassion”. I agree that at least one of them acted with compassion and they have been duly rewarded with disciplinary action the first mark against their professional name. So sadly I doubt they’ll ever act so compassionately again towards cannabis consumers. 

Kings Lynn Magistrates court where man sentenced for possession of £1 worth of cannabis

Man fined £167 for less than £1 worth of cannabis

The final story that we’ll look at this week would be comical if it weren’t so truly tragic. On Thursday a self-employed car valeter from Scunthorpe appeared before King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court to plead guilty to possession of less than £1 worth of cannabis. 

The police attended the man’s then home on the South Creake caravan park in Norfolk on October 4th after he reported a disturbance that resulted in him sustaining “quite a nasty injury.” The man was subsequently searched and found to be in possession of just 0.29 grams of cannabis flower, a pitifully small amount, yet they still decided to arrest and charge him.

Although the Crown Prosecution Services representative Anna Crayford conceded that “The cannabis was worth less than £1” she still attempted to justify his arrest and subsequent prosecution by stating that the “defendant had previously been in court for a drug offence in October 2020.”

When responding to the CPS charges and providing mitigation the man’s solicitor Andrew Cogan said; “It would have cost the state a great deal more than £105 [to bring the case to court] for £1 worth of cannabis. “Nevertheless, he is here and the reason is because he shouldn’t have been in possession of it.”

This quote highlights an absurdity within the UK ‘justice’ system. Magistrates courts only deal with minor offences with strict liability. Defendants hire or are appointed solicitors who are sworn to the bar, not their clients. This means they’ll always push their client to go guilty for drug offences and not challenge the validity, legality, and efficacy of the charges levied against them. Worse still the limited power and scope of Magistrates courts means they cannot rule against the law, even if they wanted to.

In this case, the CPS made a claim for £105 to cover its costs, despite the fact they will have been far higher. The court initially handed the man a total bill of £167, possibly making it one of the most expensive bong hits in UK history. However, they were reduced to £83 given his low income.

Just think for a minute how much money was pissed away to bring this man to ‘justice’ for his crimes against the crown. This case is just another in a long, long list of prosecutions that proves that cannabis prohibition and its enforcement does little but hemorrhage money from the country’s coffers. 

In the grand scheme of things, what good does it do to prosecute people for possessing such pathetically low amounts of cannabis? It does nothing to deter consumption or affect supply. However, there are very real harms caused when you prosecute and criminalise individuals for possessing an amount that a lot of consumers would simply brush off the table after rolling up. So now ask yourself honestly, who are the real criminals here?

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 48

Last Week in Weed

(8/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, the UK Home Office hiding stop and search figures, J.P. Morgan restrict trading in cannabis stocks and securities, and the US state of Illinois increases monthly sales year on year 64% yet still has not one black, Latino, or minority-owned dispensaries.

UK Home Office delays releasing Stop and Search figures till Nov 18th

UK Home Office hiding ‘Stop and Search’ figures

Last week should have seen the UK Home Office release its annual ‘stop and search’ figures for the year ending April 2021. The government department has said that it will require additional time to “resolve data quality issues” due to a “record level” of data that has been gathered and has ultimately delayed its release until November 18th. 

The reason given for delaying the annual stop-and-search dataset implies that a record number of street searches took place in 2020/21. This holds a special irony when you consider that crime levels fell during this period primarily because of lockdown rules that mandated the nation to stay indoors. The government seems committed to helping the police avoid scrutiny over the effectiveness of their actions while increasing their stop-and-search powers.” – Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at StopWatch 

The previous year’s data was the highest in 6 years and showed massive disparities between the policing of ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups. There were a total of 559,973 stop and search procedures conducted between March 2019 and April 2020. Police used drugs 63% and weapons 16% of the time to justify and excuse their detention and search of citizens. This resulted in just 1 in 4 (24%) leading to further action. 40 of the 43 English and Welsh police constabularies increased their usage of stop and search during this period.

The figures also revealed that black people were 8.9 times more likely to be targeted victims of stop and search by police. While for other non-white ethnic and racial groups are was 4.1 times. Regardless of what police spin doctors may have said this does represent a systemic bias and disproportional application of this too often abused and excessive policy.

This comes at the same time as the UK government is taking heat for two controversial and archaic pieces of legislation. The ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ and the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill.’ The latter was recently found to be in violation of at least 10 domestic and international laws and heavily criticised by human rights campaigners. 

The UK government is not just delaying these figures it has also refused to release the results of its own researching into this contentious border policy. The newly proposed legislation is described as “the cornerstone of the government’s New Plan for Immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.” Yet its implications could be far-reaching and rather socially destructive.

There were more than 7,500 public responses to the publication of the proposed immigration legislation. Despite their objections and concerns, the government has refused to publish them. It has even gone as far as utilising Freedom of Information exemption rules to prevent disclosure stating that the “balance of the public interest lies in withholding the information.” Which does beg the question what exactly is it trying to hide? 

Although it does concede in the same statement that “Disclosing the full reports would increase public awareness of the issues, accountability and transparency.” The passing of these two bills would greatly compound and increase the same problems that this data will likely highlight upon its release later this month. 

Transparency over the use and abuse of police powers is critical, yet this government has shown time and time again that it will do anything to evade scrutiny and undermine accountability.” – Emmanuelle Andrews Human Rights Group Liberty

Another issue to consider here is the controversial and continually increasing use of stop and search under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Using this power police do not need to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In the most recently available data (2019/2020) the use of section 60 increased 35% with just 4% resulting in further action or arrest. A hideous overreach and abuse of power.

It’s highly likely that the government’s desire to quietly pass its latest pernicious, authoritarian, and dehumanising legislation has motivated this delay in releasing the latest stop and search data. It would seem that its self-preservation and self-interests trump its obligations and commitment to the public that elected it.

So therefore I imagine that it will likely use this time to massage the numbers and further workshop its official response to the figures to placate an increasingly enraged and disenfranchised public. Either that or it will simply find another excuse in a few week’s time to continue to dither, delay, and deny disclosing this damaging dataset.

Image credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

JP Morgan to restrict cannabis stocks and securities

America’s largest bank ‘JP Morgan Chase & co’ announced last week that it would no longer allow its brokerage clients to purchase cannabis-related stocks and securities as of November 8th, 2021. The banking giant has said that after the deadline it would no longer allow new purchases or short positions in cannabis-related businesses, but would allow clients to liquefy their existing positions.

The new restrictions apply to any company that has a “direct nexus to marijuana-related activities,” including ones that aren’t currently traded on major markets like the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange. An internal letter from the bank to its brokers seems to reveal the motivation for the decision. 

It stated that “J.P. Morgan (JPMS) has introduced a framework that is designed to comply with U.S. money laundering laws and regulations by restricting certain activities in the securities of U.S. Marijuana-Related Businesses.”

This move comes after a similar one made in May by the global investment firm Credit Suisse Group. A decision motivated by losses the bank was making by acting as a ‘custodian’ for cannabis trades “That led to a significant selloff.”

JPMorgan’s new policy is regressive and at odds with the majority of Americans, who want legal, regulated cannabis. What’s more, it’s self-defeating. The end of federal cannabis prohibition is within site [sight], and the industry is already growing rapidly. I imagine more than a few JPMorgan customers will take issue with being blocked from one of the hottest industries on the market today. JPMorgan is on the wrong side of history on this and will come to regret its decision.” – Steve Hawkins, CEO U.S. Cannabis Council

It is likely that both decisions are connected to the volatility created in the markets in February by Reddit and retail investors. The then record-breaking GW/Jazz sale forced them to turn their attention away from Gamestop and AMC to light up the US and Canadian cannabis stock markets.

The markets in Israel, Australia, and the US are continuing to grow and over £50million has already made its way onto the London Stock Exchange this year following the FCA’s volte-face in policy. So why is America’s largest bank restricting trading in the market now? Could it be related to the recent leak that there is a republican-led congressional cannabis legalisation bill, only time will tell.

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

Illinois increases monthly adult sales year on year 64% yet still has no black, Latino, or minority-owned dispensaries.

Our final story this week comes from the Midwestern US state of Illinois. New figures released last week show that its adult cannabis sales increased 64% in October compared to October the previous year. The same data revealed that adult-use sales have surpassed $1.12billion since the year began, an increase of 121% on its inaugural sales last year. 

Sales to non-residents continue to represent a high and increasing percentage of overall sales, reaching a previous year’s high of 34.2%. Of its five neighbouring states, none are fully ‘legal’ and only one has decriminalised and created a medical access program. So this rather high percentage of sales to out-of-state residents is understandable and to be expected.

We also learned that ‘medical cannabis’ sales in Illinois have reduced by 3.5% in October compared to the previous year. A common trend in markets that allow adult sales after previously establishing a ‘medical’ industry. A wider choice of products, less red tape, and better knowledge seem to make the adult market too attractive for patients to not just get what they need there.

While these figures are encouraging as they represent increased state revenues, more social programs, and more people participating in the market – well, at least at the consumer level. The fact that two years after ‘legalising’ there isn’t a single black, Latino, or minority-owned cannabis business, rather changes their meaning. 

Illinois has a slightly higher black population than the national average and is the third most populous city in Chicago. It’s racial demographic is 31.4% White, 29.9% Latino, 28.7% Black, and 6.9% Asian according to the 2020 US Census. Yet all businesses in the region and state are white-owned. 

This same bias and prejudice are evident in the city’s arrest figures since the state ‘legalised’. In 2020, three times the number of black people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses than all other ethnic/racial groups combined.

According to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Police Department by the Chicago Tribune. Black people accounted for three-quarters of all arrests last year with a total of 2,311. Latinos were the next largest group with 506 arrests. While white people made up just 4% of arrests at 117.

The fact there still isn’t a single racial/ethnic minority-owned cannabis business in the state of Illinois highlights one of the glaring flaws in the current system. Black American’s make up around 13% of the national population yet they only make up 1.2 – 1.7% of cannabis company owners according to the 2021 Leafy Jobs Report

There are now 19 US states plus Washington D.C and Guam that have access to a ‘legal’ adult-use cannabis market. Yet under-representation remains a massive problem for ethnic and racial groups in the US including Indigenous, Pacific Islanders, Asian, Latino, and Hispanic Americans. Collectively their share of executive positions within cannabis companies reduced by more than half from 28% in 2019 down to 13.1% in 2021. 

Although this brings it in line with the national average across the wider US economy it still represents a failure to capitalise on a golden opportunity to empower and enable those most harmed by cannabis prohibition. All of this without even mentioning class which seems to be an even more pervasive issue when it comes to participation in the modern cannabis industry. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

Exploring the Daily Mail ‘Investigation into cannabis dealing on Instagram’

Exploring the Daily Mail ‘Investigation into cannabis dealing on Instagram’

Image: Daily Mail ‘investigation’ into cannabis dealing on Instagram

Last week ‘The UK’s most popular daily newspaper’ the Daily Mail published an investigation into cannabis dealing on Instagram on its website DailyMail.co.uk that has caused some contempt, controversy, and confusion.

In the article, the anonymous authors claim that there are ‘hundreds of drug dealers using Instagram to peddle potent cannabis to children.’ An unsubstantiated and frankly hyperbole claim to say the least. There is a lot to break down here, but I’ll do my best to cover all of the relevant material and threads discussed in the article. 

There are several parts to this piece. First the story about Instagram vendors allegedly offering to sell cannabis products to undercover journalists pretending to be minors. Then a previous story about an undercover sting on a violent and grandiose Albanian gangster, a reference to another previous Daily Mail piece about a young girls suicide that I discuss in issue 8 of Last Week in Weed, and a host of unsourced ‘facts’ and misinformation.

The piece starts by asserting that the scale of online cannabis dealing ‘has mushroomed during lockdown’ and that hundreds of cannabis dealers are using Instagram to sell to young children. This rather alarmist summation seems to be based on their allegation that their undercover team was able to find just four out of 250 Instagram accounts they suspected of being dealers that would allegedly sell cannabis products to under-18s. 

The authors go on to say their investigation revealed “Dealers, some with almost 30,000 followers, promote their wares with enticing pictures of cannabis packaged as children’s sweets and then arrange sales via private messaging services.”

While the private messenger comment may be true. The idea that dealers are ‘lacing children’s sweets with cannabis’ is a rehashing of classic reefer madness propaganda and wilful ignorance of cannabis culture. This persistent myth is spread by the mainstream press, prohibitionists, and especially politicians. They like to cash in on appearing tough on drugs and pro-heteronormative family at the same time. 

Cannabis consumers like to pay homage to the brands they consumed as kids by imitating or infusing them with cannabis extracts. This is intended for other adult members of the community to nostalgically enjoy and is a way of celebrating the creativity, ingenuity, and humour of cannabis culture.

The piece continues with several images include a menu and several promotional shots taken from the four accounts that the media giant is accused of offering to supply cannabis to minors. All of whom have now subsequently been removed by Instagram. Along with all the 250 accounts involved in the investigation. 

We’ve removed several of the accounts flagged to us by the Daily Mail and are continuing to investigate. Buying and selling drugs is strictly against our rules and we use a combination of technology and human review to remove it. Between April and June [2021], we removed 2.3million pieces of drug sales content, over 95 percent before it was reported to us, and we work closely with law enforcement and youth organisations to help us continually improve. We’re exploring new ways to support people who search for this content in the UK, and hope to have an update soon” – Facebook spokesperson

The team claims to have contacted the four accounts to purchase cannabis products and duly informed them of their juvenile status. They then claim that all of the accounts responded indicating in various ways that they were happy to complete the transaction. Even going on to state that one of the accounts ‘promised gifts if they recruited their classmates as customers.’ 

It isn’t mentioned if they actually went through with purchasing the cannabis products, but I can’t imagine that the team was willing to break any laws, just various social media guidelines. Interestingly, they do not provide screenshots of the conversations, just a thought.

image: food Safety News

Next, ‘the team’ makes the frankly absurd claim that there are Instagram accounts offering products including ‘cannabis-laced sweets with the equivalent strength of 50 joints, which police have warned causes ‘substantial harm.’ Let’s look at this claim a little closer shall we? The average gram of cannabis flower contains around 15 – 25% THC or around 150 – 250mg of THC.

A typical pure joint will contain around 1g or so of flower, which would mean it contained 150 – 250mg of THC. An edible 50 times stronger than that would contain between 7,500 – 12,500mg of THC. Even if a consumer mixes their cannabis with tobacco and only consumes say 0.5g that still equates to around 3,750 – 6,250mg of THC. The strongest edibles you’ll typically see for sale at events or online in the UK scene are around 1,000mg.

So, I cannot believe I am typing this but in this singular instance, I am inclined to agree. Consuming edibles 50 times stronger than a joint would cause an extraordinary high, a several day stoner over, and could potentially cause the consumer to experience tachycardia, heightened anxiety, and difficulty retaining full cognitive control of their mental faculties. However, given that cannabis is non-toxic and doesn’t suppress repository function they won’t risk death, no matter how much is consumed.

A comment from an unnamed consultant psychiatrist ‘who welcomed the Mail’s investigation’ follows. They warn that ‘high-strength cannabis trade ‘exploded’ during lockdown and was driving young people into ‘psychosis, depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.’ This comment is provided without any attempt to provide any further explanation as to what would drive young people to consume cannabis. 

There is no consideration or mention of the multitude of other potential factors such as; an ongoing global pandemic, intermittent country-wide lockdowns, extended social isolation, increased poverty, food scarcity, or just the same general sense of hopelessness and helplessness that most of us are currently experiencing. 

It then goes on to claim that 8% of ‘school pupils’ have tried cannabis, which they claim has caused 13,000 under-18s to need ‘treatment’ including more than 1,000 aged 13 and under. It doesn’t reveal their sources or how they arrived at their statistics. So I thought I would do a little digging to see exactly what that means.

There are currently 10,320,811 full and part-time school pupils in the UK. 8,890,357 in England, 469,176 in Wales, 794,364 in Scotland, 341,402 in Northern Ireland according to the latest data from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). So that’s an estimated 825,665 school pupils who have tried cannabis and just 1.6% of them ‘needed treatment’ according to the Mail

I take issue with this rather ambiguous language. It tells us very little about what that ‘treatment’ entailed. Did they have to attend an A&E department at their local hospital, did a concerned parent, relative, or care have to ring 111, did they attend or notify their doctor’s surgery.

I would sure be interested to know who many of these ‘interventions’ were only caused by over-protective and paranoid guardians scared into believing decades of government-sponsored propaganda, mainstream media misinformation, and the regurgitation of reefer madness in pop culture. 

Now, let’s compare those numbers with the nation’s favourite intoxicant and neurological poison, alcohol. In 2020, there were nearly 1.3 million estimated hospital admissions where the primary or secondary reason for their visit was alcohol. This represents an increase of 20% compared to a decade previous

In the same year, excessive alcohol consumption caused 7,423 premature deaths in the UK, up 19% from the previous year. This is likely a dramatic underestimation as deaths from the various forms of cancer caused by alcohol consumption aren’t included in those statistics. Now let’s look at cannabis, which still has caused 0 deaths in human history. However, Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) or synthetic cannabinoids have. They are listed as the primary cause of death on at least 143 death certificates between 2012 and 2019 in England and Wales alone.

Recent data from the WHO shows 5.3% of all annual deaths are the result of alcohol consumption, that’s right 1 in 20 deaths globally are caused by alcohol consumption. Alcohol is causal and co-morbid in over 200 diseases and injury conditions including cancer, especially cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx, breast, bowel, and liver. Whereas cannabis has been shown in various clinical trials to help fight cancer and put it into remission. Its also been shown to help manage and reduce the symptoms, as well as treat myriad chronic health conditions and diseases.

The piece continues on to state that unnamed ‘experts’ have informed them that ‘as early as 2014, one in four sales were made online’ and that ‘the proportion is now believed to be far higher.’ I cannot prove or disprove this claim. However, selling cannabis online isn’t anything new so it wouldn’t surprise me. 

After all the first online transaction was for cannabis. When back in 1972 between two computer science students from Stanford and MIT used the Arpanet network to sell other students small amounts of cannabis.

One of the other main factors overlooked here is the cultural inclinations of cannabis consumers. I and hundreds of thousands of others first began consuming cannabis as a young teenager with no negative health consequences. That isn’t to say there isn’t any risk at all in consuming cannabis.

There is a rather small percentage of consumers that could potentially have an adverse reaction and potentially develop a dependency. This number is smaller than alcohol, tobacco, and arguably even caffeine. Ultimately, it remains infinitesimal when compared to the percentage of consumers that suffer permanent psychological damage as a result of prohibition.

The Mail asserts that 16 and 17-year-olds consuming cannabis is inherently dangerous for all of them and will harm their mental health, increase their risk of suicide, promote future criminality, and increase their risk of committing violent acts. This is in my opinion a load of crap. It is a deliberate attempt to misinterpret the data and situation. These consequences are for the most part the result of complex socio-economic factors, pre-existing mental health issues, and cannabis prohibition – not its consumption.

This is juxtaposed with the UK’s hardcore alcohol culture which is so popular that it managed to create various laws to perpetuate and protect its own prevalence in society. This has led to some rather unusual laws being enacted.

For example, it is illegal to purchase alcohol for a minor but a 16/17-year-old can legally consume alcohol with a meal on a licensed premise, they simply cannot legally purchase it. However, the weirdest one is that it’s legal to supply a child aged 5 and above alcohol at home or at a licensed premises.

Where is the media uproar about five-year-olds consuming alcohol? Could it be absent because they actually understand that there are subtle nuances at play here? I do wonder if it’s got something to do with what happens when you remove the taboo and demystify a substance to the youth. I truly believe that we inherently and culturally know that it is one of the best ways to promote the development of a healthier substance relationship to alcohol. So why not try it with cannabis too?

The evidence about how alcohol affects the developing brain is vast and well-established. Yet we allow our youth to periodically imbibe in it. The jury is still out on how cannabis and its component cannabinoids affect the development of an adolescent brain, the go-to mantra of the prohibitionist. However, we do know that there are various patents already held around the world for cannabinoids as neuroprotective agents and treatments against degenerative brain diseases.

I find it difficult to see how they could harm the developing brain given that endo-cannabinoids are present in breast milk in very high quantities. We know that phytocannabinoids mimic endogenous ones and they are responsible for the healthy functionality of the majority of human regulatory systems. So again I cannot see how they could be harmful, especially more so than a recognised neurological toxin like alcohol which we now know 5-year-olds are allowed to drink legally.

The piece finishes with a recapping of an older story about ‘The Devil’ a violent Albanian gangster living in London. The article documents the violent and criminal disregard the man shows to all authority and the lavish grandiose lifestyle it has afforded him. It goes on to in detail recount how the man tortured another man. I cannot help but feel like the republishing of this earlier piece in conjunction with this ‘investigation’ is to tacitly imply and create an association between regular cannabis consumers and dealers and violent criminal thugs.

Despite what ‘journalists’ like Peter Hitchins and others would have you believe cannabis consumption isn’t associated with increased violence. The same, however, cannot be said of alcohol. A 2020 Alcohol Harm Commission report found that alcohol consumption fuels an estimated 40% of all violent crime and 50% of domestic violence cases in the UK. Such statistics do not currently exist for cannabis, but if they did I highly doubt they would be in any way comparable to those above. However, this hasn’t and won’t stop the mainstream media from pushing their pro-alcohol/ anti-cannabis narrative.

Another article from the week before that appears to be connected to this investigation is an attempt to name and shame prominent UK rapper, Professor Green. While monitoring one of the accounts for the investigation, it shared an image of the mental health advocate appearing to smoke a joint. The hit piece was published without comment from the rapper’s publicist, who was contacted by the Mail but did not respond.

Professor Green’s Instagram response to the Daily Mail article.

Professor Green did, however, respond on Instagram. In a post addressed to the ‘Investigation Unit’ the ‘Just be good to green’ and ‘jungle’ singer corrected the article saying that “I didn’t promote the ‘dealer’, I wasn’t ‘caught’ doing anything, and I don’t even praise the fucking Lord let alone a dealer, the video is older than my gran.”

He then goes on to question the rag’s credibility and ethics by saying “what’s happened to all of the actual journalism, it’s now not a wider article that you’ve referenced me in, it’s just a pop at me.” Going on to name the journalists as Tom Kelly, saying “it’s got so bad they hide behind ‘units’ – What does this hope to achieve?” 

He finishes the post by saying “Diddums… little bit unhappy with the momentum I’ve been building up with all the good I’ve been doing? – Bye bye @dailymail – Please don’t contact my agent again. Im off for a zoot 😘”

So what can we take from this piece of journalistic gold? Well, we now know how woefully uninformed the UK mainstream press are about the size of the UK cannabis community and the scope and scale of its online presence.

Learned that over 98% of under 18s that consumed cannabis in 2020 did so with no need to seek ‘ treatment.’ We also found out that the vast majority of alleged online vendors will not sell to under-18s but are at risk of this kind of pernicious journalism.

Ultimately, the purpose of this piece was clearly not to produce any sincere insight into the issue it highlights. Indeed it is not designed to provide facts to create a reasoned and rational discourse and debate. It’s meant simply to fortify the ignorant view of its readership and to ensure the continuation of the socio-economic, political, and corporate status quo.

Written for The Simpa Life by Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 48

Last Week in Weed

(8/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, the UK Home Office hiding stop and search figures, J.P. Morgan restrict trading in cannabis stocks and securities, and the US state of Illinois increases monthly sales year on year 64% yet still has not one black, Latino, or minority-owned dispensaries.

UK Home Office delays releasing Stop and Search figures till Nov 18th

UK Home Office hiding ‘Stop and Search’ figures

Last week should have seen the UK Home Office release its annual ‘stop and search’ figures for the year ending April 2021. The government department has said that it will require additional time to “resolve data quality issues” due to a “record level” of data that has been gathered and has ultimately delayed its release until November 18th. 

The reason given for delaying the annual stop-and-search dataset implies that a record number of street searches took place in 2020/21. This holds a special irony when you consider that crime levels fell during this period primarily because of lockdown rules that mandated the nation to stay indoors. The government seems committed to helping the police avoid scrutiny over the effectiveness of their actions while increasing their stop-and-search powers.” – Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at StopWatch 

The previous year’s data was the highest in 6 years and showed massive disparities between the policing of ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups. There were a total of 559,973 stop and search procedures conducted between March 2019 and April 2020. Police used drugs 63% and weapons 16% of the time to justify and excuse their detention and search of citizens. This resulted in just 1 in 4 (24%) leading to further action. 40 of the 43 English and Welsh police constabularies increased their usage of stop and search during this period.

The figures also revealed that black people were 8.9 times more likely to be targeted victims of stop and search by police. While for other non-white ethnic and racial groups are was 4.1 times. Regardless of what police spin doctors may have said this does represent a systemic bias and disproportional application of this too often abused and excessive policy.

This comes at the same time as the UK government is taking heat for two controversial and archaic pieces of legislation. The ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ and the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill.’ The latter was recently found to be in violation of at least 10 domestic and international laws and heavily criticised by human rights campaigners. 

The UK government is not just delaying these figures it has also refused to release the results of its own researching into this contentious border policy. The newly proposed legislation is described as “the cornerstone of the government’s New Plan for Immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.” Yet its implications could be far-reaching and rather socially destructive.

There were more than 7,500 public responses to the publication of the proposed immigration legislation. Despite their objections and concerns, the government has refused to publish them. It has even gone as far as utilising Freedom of Information exemption rules to prevent disclosure stating that the “balance of the public interest lies in withholding the information.” Which does beg the question what exactly is it trying to hide? 

Although it does concede in the same statement that “Disclosing the full reports would increase public awareness of the issues, accountability and transparency.” The passing of these two bills would greatly compound and increase the same problems that this data will likely highlight upon its release later this month. 

Transparency over the use and abuse of police powers is critical, yet this government has shown time and time again that it will do anything to evade scrutiny and undermine accountability.” – Emmanuelle Andrews Human Rights Group Liberty

Another issue to consider here is the controversial and continually increasing use of stop and search under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Using this power police do not need to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In the most recently available data (2019/2020) the use of section 60 increased 35% with just 4% resulting in further action or arrest. A hideous overreach and abuse of power.

It’s highly likely that the government’s desire to quietly pass its latest pernicious, authoritarian, and dehumanising legislation has motivated this delay in releasing the latest stop and search data. It would seem that its self-preservation and self-interests trump its obligations and commitment to the public that elected it.

So therefore I imagine that it will likely use this time to massage the numbers and further workshop its official response to the figures to placate an increasingly enraged and disenfranchised public. Either that or it will simply find another excuse in a few week’s time to continue to dither, delay, and deny disclosing this damaging dataset.

Image credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

JP Morgan to restrict cannabis stocks and securities

America’s largest bank ‘JP Morgan Chase & co’ announced last week that it would no longer allow its brokerage clients to purchase cannabis-related stocks and securities as of November 8th, 2021. The banking giant has said that after the deadline it would no longer allow new purchases or short positions in cannabis-related businesses, but would allow clients to liquefy their existing positions.

The new restrictions apply to any company that has a “direct nexus to marijuana-related activities,” including ones that aren’t currently traded on major markets like the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange. An internal letter from the bank to its brokers seems to reveal the motivation for the decision. 

It stated that “J.P. Morgan (JPMS) has introduced a framework that is designed to comply with U.S. money laundering laws and regulations by restricting certain activities in the securities of U.S. Marijuana-Related Businesses.”

This move comes after a similar one made in May by the global investment firm Credit Suisse Group. A decision motivated by losses the bank was making by acting as a ‘custodian’ for cannabis trades “That led to a significant selloff.”

JPMorgan’s new policy is regressive and at odds with the majority of Americans, who want legal, regulated cannabis. What’s more, it’s self-defeating. The end of federal cannabis prohibition is within site [sight], and the industry is already growing rapidly. I imagine more than a few JPMorgan customers will take issue with being blocked from one of the hottest industries on the market today. JPMorgan is on the wrong side of history on this and will come to regret its decision.” – Steve Hawkins, CEO U.S. Cannabis Council

It is likely that both decisions are connected to the volatility created in the markets in February by Reddit and retail investors. The then record-breaking GW/Jazz sale forced them to turn their attention away from Gamestop and AMC to light up the US and Canadian cannabis stock markets.

The markets in Israel, Australia, and the US are continuing to grow and over £50million has already made its way onto the London Stock Exchange this year following the FCA’s volte-face in policy. So why is America’s largest bank restricting trading in the market now? Could it be related to the recent leak that there is a republican-led congressional cannabis legalisation bill, only time will tell.

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

Illinois increases monthly adult sales year on year 64% yet still has no black, Latino, or minority-owned dispensaries.

Our final story this week comes from the Midwestern US state of Illinois. New figures released last week show that its adult cannabis sales increased 64% in October compared to October the previous year. The same data revealed that adult-use sales have surpassed $1.12billion since the year began, an increase of 121% on its inaugural sales last year. 

Sales to non-residents continue to represent a high and increasing percentage of overall sales, reaching a previous year’s high of 34.2%. Of its five neighbouring states, none are fully ‘legal’ and only one has decriminalised and created a medical access program. So this rather high percentage of sales to out-of-state residents is understandable and to be expected.

We also learned that ‘medical cannabis’ sales in Illinois have reduced by 3.5% in October compared to the previous year. A common trend in markets that allow adult sales after previously establishing a ‘medical’ industry. A wider choice of products, less red tape, and better knowledge seem to make the adult market too attractive for patients to not just get what they need there.

While these figures are encouraging as they represent increased state revenues, more social programs, and more people participating in the market – well, at least at the consumer level. The fact that two years after ‘legalising’ there isn’t a single black, Latino, or minority-owned cannabis business, rather changes their meaning. 

Illinois has a slightly higher black population than the national average and is the third most populous city in Chicago. It’s racial demographic is 31.4% White, 29.9% Latino, 28.7% Black, and 6.9% Asian according to the 2020 US Census. Yet all businesses in the region and state are white-owned. 

This same bias and prejudice are evident in the city’s arrest figures since the state ‘legalised’. In 2020, three times the number of black people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses than all other ethnic/racial groups combined.

According to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Police Department by the Chicago Tribune. Black people accounted for three-quarters of all arrests last year with a total of 2,311. Latinos were the next largest group with 506 arrests. While white people made up just 4% of arrests at 117.

The fact there still isn’t a single racial/ethnic minority-owned cannabis business in the state of Illinois highlights one of the glaring flaws in the current system. Black American’s make up around 13% of the national population yet they only make up 1.2 – 1.7% of cannabis company owners according to the 2021 Leafy Jobs Report

There are now 19 US states plus Washington D.C and Guam that have access to a ‘legal’ adult-use cannabis market. Yet under-representation remains a massive problem for ethnic and racial groups in the US including Indigenous, Pacific Islanders, Asian, Latino, and Hispanic Americans. Collectively their share of executive positions within cannabis companies reduced by more than half from 28% in 2019 down to 13.1% in 2021. 

Although this brings it in line with the national average across the wider US economy it still represents a failure to capitalise on a golden opportunity to empower and enable those most harmed by cannabis prohibition. All of this without even mentioning class which seems to be an even more pervasive issue when it comes to participation in the modern cannabis industry. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 45

Last Week in Weed

(11/10/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s Last Week In Weed, Justin Bieber partners with Palms to launch his line of cannabis pre-rolls, a UK prison guard locked up for smuggling cannabis, and a wife in the UK calls police to help find her vulnerable husband and ends up getting them both busted for cannabis cultivation.

Image: www.palmspremium.com

Justin Bieber partners with Palms to launch pre-rolled ‘Peaches’ 

The Canadian singer announced last week to his 199 million Instagram followers that he was partnering with the LA-based cannabis brand Palms (Tres Palmas Inc) to launch his own line of pre-rolled cannabis joints called ‘Peaches.’

Bieber’s new ‘Peaches’ brand is produced in partnership with Tres Palmas Inc, a specialist pre-roll cannabis brand based in LA, California. The limited-edition collaboration pack contains 3.5 grams of total flower in seven 0.5g joints and comes with a custom Bic lighter. 

I’m a fan of Palms and what they are doing by making cannabis approachable and helping to destigmatize it –- especially for the many people who find it helpful for their mental health” – Justin Bieber

The brand, which is cleverly named after one of the singers’ recent hit songs that features the chorus “I got my peaches out in Georgia. I get my weed in California” is available now in California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Although financial details of the brand deal are being kept secret we do know that the profits from the sale of the Peaches pre-rolls will go towards two projects. 

Those projects are The Last Prison Project – A US non-profit ‘fighting criminal injustice and reimaging drug policy’ that ‘will not rest and will not stop until the last cannabis prisoner is set free.’ The second is Veterans Walk and Talk, a US veteran community group that advocates for the outdoors, psychedelic therapy, and cannabis. 

Image: Last Prisoner Project

While I applaud the gesture and the move by Bieber to support these causes, I cannot help but feel it misses a much larger point here. Why should celebrities and corporations be made into community champions, why aren’t we allowed to grow ourselves out of the mess this kind of greedy corporate cannibalism caused in the first damn place.

Last year Justin Bieber opened up about his battle with drug dependency issues in the YouTube documentary series ‘Justin Bieber Seasons.’ In the series, Bieber candidly discusses drugs, his mental health and first consuming cannabis when he was 12 or 13 and becoming dependant on it. Bieber also discusses his relationships with other drugs like prescription pills, codeine lean, and MDMA which he regularly utilised to help manage and mitigate the stresses and anxiety of such a high level of fame.

The first time I smoked weed was in my backyard here — got super-stoned, and then I realized I liked weed a lot. That’s when my desire to smoke weed started, and then I started smoking weed for a while. And then started getting really dependent on it, and that’s when I realized that I had to stop. I don’t think it’s bad. It’s just that for me, it can be a dependency.” – Justin Bieber, ‘Justin Bieber Seasons’

Justin Bieber is just the latest in a long line of celebrities partnering with brands to create cannabis products and lines. Like it or not celebrity cannabis brands and endorsements are here to stay, well at least for the foreseeable future.

Image: HMP Stocken

Prison guard locked up for smuggling cannabis resin into prison

A prison guard at a category C men’s prison in Rutland, England has been locked up after being paid to smuggle cannabis resin into HMP Stocken. The guard who was paid to smuggle several large bars of cannabis resin before being caught back in 2019 was sentenced last week.

The conspiracy was brought to light when a sniffer dog indicated that he may have contraband in his vehicle. A subsequent search revealed two blocks of resin in his glove box, that were wrapped in cling film ready to be smuggled into the prison in his trousers. A further 100g of resin linked to the guard was also discovered hidden in a prison cell on the grounds

During the police and internal investigation, it was revealed that the 29-year-old guard had originally started sneaking in tobacco to help him cover personal debts. It quickly escalated to being paid £4000 by an inmate to smuggle in the resin. The price of ‘illegal’ drugs in UK prisons is currently about 10 times that of ‘street price’ making it a rather attractive proposition to an individual on low pay and in debt.

The resin found during the investigation

On the street, this haul was worth just over £3,055, but behind bars, drugs are much more valuable. We estimated these men could have made in excess of £30,000 from the blocks we seized and not just that, the rivalry that can come from the vying for such illicit commodities by inmates can have serious repercussions for the stability of the prison environment” – Detective Inspector Dan Evans

There were five men in total involved in procuring the resin from a dealer in Liverpool, transporting it to the East Midlands, smuggling it into the prison, and organising the various money transfers. All five men plead not guilty during their trial at Leicester Crown Court last week and all five were found guilty by the court. 

The prison guard was sentenced to one year and four months for ‘conspiracy to supply class B drugs’ ‘Possession with intent to supply class B drugs’ and ‘Conveying a prohibited item into prison.’ The other four men received sentences ranging from twenty months to three years for their part in the cannabis conspiracy. 

HMP Stocken will not tolerate corruption in any form and works in partnership with the police to bring to account all those who attempt to supply contraband into our prisons. ‘The sentence imposed by the court today will be welcomed by our hardworking and courageous staff, whose safety is undermined by the dishonest actions of a small number of corrupt individuals’ –Prison governor Neil Thomas

A further investigation and hearing to determine if there are any grounds for seizure of any criminal gains made by the men as per the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 will happen in due course. This case highlights just how the economics of supply and demand work in a microcosm like a prison. Most people imagine prisons to be drug-free when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. 

2020 Guardian investigation found that the number of drugs seized in UK prisons rose 18% to 21,575. The same article highlighted that since 2015 over 200 HMP and non-direct HMP contractors have been dismissed for smuggling contraband into HMP facilities. This led to 88 subsequent convictions and 10 police cautions being given. 

There is no such thing as a drug-free prison no more than there could ever be such a thing as a drug-free world. The existence and prevalence of drugs in society is a fact, however, there continued prohibition is very much a choice. A choice that our leaders continue to make again and again despite the ever-mounting evidence that their draconian policies cause far more harm than these substances ever could.

Wife calls police to help find vulnerable husband, ends up getting them both busted for cultivation

Last week saw the conclusion of a trial in Lancashire, UK that has been nearly four years in the making. Back in 2018, the wife of a man with a ‘history of mental health issues’ from Ormskirk, West Lancashire called the police to report him missing. A few hours later they were both arrested for the ‘illegal’ cultivation and possession of cannabis.

The discovery of their cultivation setup happen on May 15th 2018, after the husband had gone missing from the family home. His wife clearly concerned for his health and well-being rang the local police to report him missing. Unfortunately, the woman isn’t too wise to police procedure and didn’t realise that they would have to search her property for the missing man.

When officers arrived to take a statement and search for her husband, who would later be found at a local hospital, she told them ‘I can’t deal with this’ and ‘can you come back in an hour?’. They explained they needed to conduct a thorough search of the property. This led to the discovery of 30 plants in the couple’s garage, confronted with this evidence the wife admitted there was a further 150 plants in the cellar.

The police described the couples set up as a ‘professional’ with a potential to produce a yield of 4.2 – 12.6kg of dry flower, worth an estimated £84,000 – £126,000. Initially, the couple claimed that they were tricked into allowing others to grow in their garage before being ‘threatened’ into allowing it to continue. This defence was wholly dismissed by the prosecution as ‘nonsense’, with Judge Richard Gioserano speaking directly to the couple at Preston Crown Court saying The two of you couldn’t even come up with the same nonsense as you couldn’t get your stories straight.”

The husband pleaded guilty to the ‘production of a Class B drug’ while the wife admitted to the lesser charge of ‘allowing premises to be used for the production of a class B drug.’ The Judge took into consideration the length of time it took to get them to trial and their lack of offending since their arrest. He subsequently spared them any jail time giving the man a two-year suspended sentence, a 12-month curfew, and an order to complete 20-days in a rehabilitation facility. The woman was given a 122-month community order and is subject to the same curfew as her husband.

Speaking during his summation, Judge Gioserano explained his decision saying that “I’m dealing with you three-and-a-half years after the event and very little of that delay is of your making. It took 18 months just for the two of you to be charged and then the Covid pandemic has caused further delay. Both of you have been in no further trouble in that time.”

This is another unfortunate case where instead of being the public’s protector, the police are their persecutor. It does make you wonder how many cannabis growers and consumers are forced to go without such a vital public service unable to call the police in an emergency for fear of being arrested for minor cannabis offences. Ending the war on drugs makes communities safer, stronger, and less in need of uniformed intervention in the first place.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

The Rise of Synthetic Cannabinoids

The Rise of Synthetic Cannabinoids 

Image: CNBC

Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 154 (September 2021)

2021 will go down in cannabis history as the year of the synthetic cannabinoid. This year has seen exponential growth in interest around these new, novel, and potentially therapeutic or lethal man-made cannabis mimicking compounds. Before we go any further into this discussion, we must first define exactly what is meant by the term ‘synthetic cannabinoid.’ Unfortunately, there is currently no real consensus on what exactly the term ‘synthetic’ means concerning cannabis. 

Synthesis is defined as ‘the production of chemical compounds by reaction from simpler materials.’ So technically all compounds in the universe are in some way a product of some form of synthesis between similar or ‘parent’ compounds. Using this interpretation it could be taken to mean that a ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ is simply a natural derivative of cannabis that has been produced in a larger quantity than is found in nature. However, the issue here surrounds, as always the use of language by prohibitionists, regulators, and individuals with vested interests in the fledgling industry.

The above interpretation argues that producing products such as ‘K2’ or ‘Spice’ is the same as the ‘synthesising’ process that THC-A goes through when it decarboxylates into Delta-9 THC. However, the results of this natural process at least produce a compound whose effects are well-researched, widely enjoyed, and known to be highly beneficial to the human endocannabinoid system (ECS)

There are two main ways to produce ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ with the first being by far the most popular. Abundant phytocannabinoids such as CBD or Delta-9 THC are converted into other branch cannabinoids through a chemical reaction using an acid or solvent. This is done to either produce isomers of existing naturally occurring cannabinoids such as THC or CBD or new novel ones that aren’t found in the plant but do bind to receptors in the ECS.

The most popular conversion being conducted is CBD into ∆8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8 THC). Delta-8 is an isomer of Delta-9 THC and is reported to have a similar but ‘milder’ ‘intoxicating’ or ‘euphoric’ effect on the consumer as Delta-9 THC. The cannabinoid that most of us will have the most experience with. Structurally speaking, the only real difference between the two is the location of a double bond between two carbon molecules. 

So how did it become so popular? The passing of ‘The Hemp farming Act 2018’ created a boom in the US low-THC cannabis (hemp) market that caused a massive oversupply of CBD and biomass. This inevitably led to a massive reduction in price and thus profits for producers, who were previously dominating the intentionally limited market space. Using a simple chemical process that was discovered in the 1960s producers began converting their cheap excess CBD isolate into much more profitable and quasi-legal Delta-8 THC and other ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ products. 

The reason this particular conversion and its resulting compound are being marketed as ‘the next CBD’ is ironically down to the ‘success’ of the US CBD industry. A legal grey area in US cannabis legislation means that as Delta-8 is ‘legal’ under federal law as long as its ‘derived’ from ‘hemp’ (low-THC cannabis) Technically the end product is ‘derived’ from CBD which was in turn ‘derived’ from cultivars of low-THC cannabis (hemp) so I can see the argument they are trying to make here. 

Since the explosion in popularity of Delta-8 in the US, 18+ states have now banned its sale and others are rushing through legislation that has a lot in common with the UK’s failed ‘Novel Psychoactive Substances’ bill in 2017. One of the most spectacularly disastrous and dangerous pieces of drug policy to emerge so far in the 21st century. 

These conversions and the marketing hype that currently surrounds them in the US are a direct result of the antiquated and draconian war on drugs. The legal confusion here isn’t helped by the rather ambiguous language used in legislative bills and acts that seek to ‘control’ and prohibit cannabis around the world. 

Interestingly, there has developed a rather stark difference in the way ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ are viewed in the UK versus the United States of America. The UK media has spent the best part of a decade demonising ‘spice zombies’ and sharing scare stories of prison guards collapsing due to inhaling the ‘toxic fumes’ of ‘new more potent synthetic cannabis’ consumed by inmates.

‘Synthetic cannabinoids’ have a much higher associated risk of dependency and adverse side-effects than traditional cannabis. Its consumption has been observed to cause temporary psychosis, hyper-violence, and extreme sedation and can have devastating long-term effects on consumers’ mental health.

The main group associated with the consumption of ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ in the UK are homeless people. Subsequently, the pre-existing stigma and prejudice towards homelessness amplify the negative and ‘sub-human’ attitudes of ‘normal’ society towards their struggle for subsistence. 

Why is there such a difference in attitudes between the close nation allies? Well, as usual, it seems to comes down to money. The US market is so well-established and profitable that it has joined the lobby and marketing game. Using the above interpretation of the definition of ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ and the gapping wholes in policy to market what the UK would call ‘spice’ as a safer, healthier, and ‘legal’ way to get high.

So is Delta-9 THC really ‘milder’ than traditional Delta-9 THC? Well, a known by-product of converting CBD into Delta-8 is a compound called ‘Olivetol.’ This precursor of THC is patented for its ability to ‘inhibit intoxication’ from THC. This is theorised to be the reason ‘Delta-8 doesn’t get you as high as Delta-9.’

The chemicals used in the process to produce these ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ including Delta-8 can result in some rather toxic and cancerogenic compounds being produced. If they are not correctly filtered and distilled the end product can contain any amount of these potentially lethal compounds.

There is growing research and concern about the safety and side effects of these trace chemicals. A recent study found that the majority of Delta-8 products on the US market contained other ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ other unidentified compounds and leftover solvents or acids from the conversion process.

It does make you wonder why they are allowed to proliferate if they are not being regulated or have any evidence to prove its safety or effects on the consumer. Well, I guess it would be easy to just chalk it up to the continued prohibition of Delta-9 THC and people wanting to ‘legally’ get high. I would, however, also suspect that it might have something to do with the ever-increasing power and global influence of the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex.’ 

We have seen the ‘rise of weed’ coincide with ‘the fall of opium.’ Globally the pharmaceutical industry is having a tough time right now. There are numerous US states and a host of countries filing lawsuits against some of the biggest ‘legal dealers’ on the planet. Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the creators of Oxycotin, a synthetic opioid pain medication in the US, are currently entangled in multiple lawsuits accusing the multi-billion dollar company of intentionally ‘flooding the US with pain pills’ incentivising over-prescribing, and knowingly misleading health care professionals about the likelihood of consumers forming dependency issues. 

This has caused many companies that have traditionally produced opioid medications to research and patent suitable alternative replacements such as ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ traditional entheogenic substances, and new novel psychoactive compounds. The recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan could also be viewed as evidence for what appears to be a global reduction in reliance and consumption of opium-derived and synthetic opioid medications. 

The rise of compounds like Delta-8 THC in the United States has accelerated the development and awareness of ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ and the legal grey area regulating their production, possession, and consumption. In the last few years alone we have seen the ‘discovery’ or creation of oxidised-CBD (CBD-HQ) CBD-P, THC-P, and THC-O to name but a few. 

In much the same way that banning the smoking of opium ultimately led to the creation of Fentanyl and Carfentanil. I cannot help but feel concerned at what kind of ‘legal’ ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ monster awaits us in the not too distant future if we do not simply end the failed war on weed. The US is potentially about to experience its own ‘legal high’ pandemic if it doesn’t pull its finger out and finally push through federal cannabis reform. 

Ultimately, the debate will continue to rage and greedy self-interested capitalists will inevitably try to reframe the debate, workshop the language, and lobby to protect and benefit their bottom line. The opportunity here lays in using science and common sense to advocate for the right to cultivate, consume, and utilise cannabis in its raw and natural form. No one has ever died from Delta-9 THC or the consumption of raw cannabis, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for ‘synthetic cannabinoids.’

Ending this classist, fascist, and outdated war on drugs is the only way to protect consumers from the potential dangers of ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ while giving them access to a safe non-toxic euphoriant, a powerful therapeutic tool for individual healing, a highly nutritious food source, and the ultimate renewable resource to repair, rebuild, and regrow what a century of ignorance and lies has stolen from us.

Written for Weed World Magazine by Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 44

Last Week in Weed

(4/10/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at a new UK study that claims cannabis consumers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, Research shows European cannabis use up 27% since 2010, and finally, Ireland set to receive its first fully-funded ‘medical cannabis’ product under the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’

Image: CBDTesters.co

UK study claims cannabis consumers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

First, up this week, let’s look at a new retrospective study released last week in the ‘Psychological Medicine Journal’ published by Cambridge University Press. In this new study researchers from the University of Birmingham’s ‘Institute for Mental Health’ and ‘The Institute for Applied Health Research’ explored the ‘Associations between primary care recorded cannabis use and mental ill health in the UK’ 

Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalised globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.” – Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston

For the study, the team used primary care data taken over 23 years between 1995 – 2018 from 787 English and Welsh GP Practices from the IQVIA Medical Research Database (IMRD-UK). The researchers then selected 28,218 patients that consumed cannabis and compared them to 56,208 non-consuming patients.

After adjusting the data for sex, age, ethnicity, and other control variables the team concluded that after a patient’s ‘first recorded cannabis use’ they were three times more likely to report experiencing a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. They also claim that the same metadata analysis showed a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of being diagnosed with a serious mental health condition such as psychosis or schizophrenia.

The research reaffirms the need to ensure a public health approach to recreational drug use continues to be adopted across the UK. We must continue to progress measures to improve the prevention and detection of drug use as well as implement the appropriate supportive measures in an equitable manner to prevent the secondary negative health consequences.” – Dr Joht Singh Chandan

It is clear from the above statement and this paper as a whole that the team has approached this with a certain intrinsic bias towards the idea that cannabis is bad. They have not taken into consideration a multitude of other factors and fluctuating variables here. Firstly, they fail to consider the detrimental impact on the consumer’s mental health by being shunned, demonised, and ultimately risking serious criminalisation for their personal choice. 

Secondly, the negative impact of being vilified and ostracised for acting in accordance with one’s own morals and ethics can, and too often does lead to a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression. It is also worth noting here that individuals who score higher on cognitive aptitude tests are more likely to experience depression. In other words the more aware of your reality you are, the more likely you are to feel saddened by it. 

They have not considered the effect on the consumer’s mindset, mental state, and worldview after consuming cannabis. A substance that increases cognitive functionality promotes neural plasticity, meta-cognition, neurogenesis, and allows new, novel, and unique thoughts to flourish. 

The impact of ‘conscious cannabis consumption on the consumer’s default mode network and their installed and learned behaviour cycles should not be underestimated or discounted during research. The consumption of cannabis helps to erode the standardised and homogenised educational indoctrination inflicted on all of us under our current neo-liberalistic society. 

Ultimately, I feel that this study isn’t of much use in understanding the impact of cannabis on its consumer’s mental health. It finds a correlation between two events in its metadata and presents it in such a way as to lead the reader to believe the link is causal. 

In their conclusion, the researchers state that “these findings point to the potential need for a public health approach to the management of people misusing cannabis.” A sentence I am somewhat happy to see included, usually it is simply termed ‘cannabis use.’ This at least shows some acceptance that there is a such a thing as ‘correct’ consumption of cannabis. Albeit more than likely ‘medical cannabis’ and not the ‘dangerous’ ‘street weed’ that millions of us, myself included consume everyday.

Image: Green-Hempire.com

Research shows European cannabis use up 27% since 2010

A new study titled “Public health monitoring of cannabis use in Europe: prevalence of use, cannabis potency, and treatment rates” was published in The Lancet last week. It found an increase in European past-month cannabis consumption of 27% since 2010

To reach their conclusions the researchers used data from the ‘United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,’ ‘The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’, and ‘The Global Burden of Disease study.’ The team focused on four key cannabis data points, the potency of various cannabis products, the prevalence of consumption, prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder,’ and treatment/intervention rates.

In the past decade, cannabis use, treatment rates, and potency levels have increased in Europe highlighting major concerns about the public health impact of cannabis use. Continued monitoring and efforts to improve data quality and reporting, including indicators of high-risk use and cannabis-attributable harm, will be necessary to evaluate the health impact of international changes in cannabis regulation” – The reports conclusion 

Analysis revealed that in half of the 26 countries surveyed, one in five consumers reported consumption that was classified as ‘high-risk patterns of cannabis use.’ Which is classified as daily or near-daily consumption of cannabis for more than 20 days out of the last month. It also showed that the prevalence of past month consumption has increased in 92% (24 of 26) of the surveyed countries.

The table below breaks down the country’s individual rates of daily or near-daily consumers.

Their data also revealed that over the same observed period the average potency of ‘herbal’ cannabis increased from 6.9% to 10.6% THC. While the median rate, the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, showed a tripling of THC in cannabis resin from 7.6% to 24.1% In light of their findings, the authors are calling for greater regulation of the international cannabis trade. 

Notice the subtle change in the language used by the authors, they say regulation instead of restriction. A progressive move that will greatly help further an honest and open debate about cannabis and its place within our global society. 

In my opinion, the statistical increases observed in this study are simply further evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis. For example, a 50% increase in the prevalence of use was observed among 35 – 64-year-olds, yet there has been no spike in any singular physical or mental illness or condition amongst this group. 

Ireland approves MGC Pharma’s CannEpil under Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS)

Ireland set to receive its first fully funded product under ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’

Last Wednesday (Sept 29th) saw the announcement of the first phytocannabinoid-derived therapeutic drug to be fully covered by the Republic of Ireland’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS). The drug was one of, if not the first cannabis-based medication to be approved by the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’ (MCAP) in Ireland back in 2019.

CannEpil, produced by MGC Pharmacuticals it is the first EU-GMP certified ‘medical cannabis’ drug to get fully funded in Ireland under the PCRS scheme and available under the MCAP. This makes it free to all qualifying Irish patients, however, in order to obtain a prescription a patient must have one of only three qualifying conditions; Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and Severe refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.

There are currently four cannabis products on the schedule and two more to be added to schedule one of the regulations in the coming weeks. I understand that one of the products in the schedule namely CannEpil is expected to be available in October, subsequent to the introduction of the necessary legislation” – Morris O’Connor, assistant national director of primary care reimbursement

CannEpil is an oral solution comprised of carrier oil and a cannabinoid ratio of 20/1 CBD to THC. It is already being prescribed in the UK and Australia to treat epilepsy with some success. The drug’s producer hopes to make it available on prescription for a host of other conditions including Anxiety, Chronic Pain, and PTSD soon.

Assistant director at the PCRS, Morris O’Connor confirmed that there has been a total of 192 ‘ministerial licenses’ issued for 67 to access ‘medical cannabis’ products from the Netherlands. We also learned that 34 applications have been made for cannabis-based medical products since the introduction of the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’ (MCAP) in June 2019. These include two herbal products and four oil products that have been placed in schedule one of the regulations pending ministerial approval. 

Movement around this issue has been made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of campaigners and activists across the Emerald isle. They have spent the past several years struggling and fighting to keep their heads above water as their government buried its head in the sand. The great work of activists like this week’s Podcast guest Vera Twomey has highlighted the urgent need for reform in Ireland.

In the latest episode of The Simpa Life Podcast Vera talks about the fact that Ava’s Bedrolite oil isn’t included in MCAP and tells us about her battle earlier this year to get her daughter’s and other medications paid for upfront and fully covered under the PCRS program.

It is no coincidence that while there has been some small progress around the subject of prescribed ‘medical cannabis’ in Ireland, there have been several large backward steps in the CBD wellness, lifestyle, and supplement markets. 

The ramping up of raids on shops like Little Collins CBD and others selling CBD-rich cannabis flowers has even allegedly resulted in some customers having their homes raided by the Gardai. This intensifying crackdown could be interpreted as the authorities clearing the ‘riff-raff’ ready for the big boys to come out and play. After all, we are seeing the same pattern play out time and time again across Europe as ‘the medical cannabis industrial complex’ tightens its stranglehold on cannabis.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

Last Week in Weed Issue 43

Last Week in Weed

(27/9/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week In Weed, We’ll be looking at cannabis brand Cookies launching a non-psychoactive mushroom product, Smartphones potentially have enough data to detect cannabis intoxication, and ‘Synthetic cannabinoid Receptor Antagonist’ withdrawal symptoms shown to be more severe than cannabis in the latest research.

Berner's Cookies Launches Products Combining Cannabinoids, Terpenes And  Mushrooms
Image: Forbes
Caps by Cookies Clarity range with CBD

Cookies to launch non-psychoactive mushroom product

The Berner-led cannabis brand ‘Cookies’ announced the debut of its latest products last week. The new line called ‘Caps by Cookies’ is a CBD and THC-rich ‘night-time’ and ‘daytime’ capsules containing a blend of in-house derived cannabinoids, cannabis-derived terpenes provided by Blue River, and organic non-psychoactive mushrooms produced by Nammex.

The products that are branded and marketed as ‘Bed Head’ and ‘Clarity’ are available in a CBD rich and THC rich version, likely a move to allow for sales in states and regions that currently have less progressive cannabis laws than its native California. Also, a smart move to capture the newer cannabis consumer and provide a ‘soft introduction’ to consumers that may for whatever reason still be nervous about consuming THC products.

We are always looking to elevate consumers’ well-being in new ways and focus on dropping innovative products. A THC formulation was the obvious next step in building out our Caps lineup. The natural health properties of mushrooms and cannabis have been known for thousands of years, and they play off each other perfectly. I hope this new line provides Cookies’ customers another wellness option as it does for me” – Berner, Co-Founder, and CEO of Cookies.

The ‘Clarity’ range is a ‘daytime’ mix of Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps mushrooms with either CBD or THC combined with CBG and complimentary cannabis-derived terpenes. The description claims that these products will ‘center the mind, boost energy and expand cognitive well-being.’

Brand artwork – Caps by Cookies ‘Bed Head’

The ‘Bed head’ capsules are a ‘night-time’ mix of Chaga, Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail organic mushroom powders combined with Valerian Root, CBN, and complimentary cannabis-derived terpenes. These caps are claimed to ‘promote relaxation and restful, restorative sleep.’

The launch of these products adds to Cookies’ already rather vast and impressive portfolio of over 150 proprietary cannabis varieties and product lines. It also marks the companies first venture into the field of ‘medical mushrooms.’ A kind of ‘gateway industry’ between the venture capitalists that are now investing in psychedelic research hoping it’s the ‘next green rush’ and the same group of self-interested lobbyists that gave us the global ‘medical cannabis industrial complex.’

Cookies are not the first company in this space to start selling mushrooms, earlier this year Silo Wellness Inc‘A legal psychedelic & functional mushroom company focused on your mind, body and spirit’ launched the Marley One brand in collaboration with the family of the late Bob Marley. Given the heritage and the proven efficacy of combining mushrooms with cannabinoids, I don’t think it will be too long before Marley One launches a similar product line to Cookies. 

Image: Forbes

Smartphones potentially have enough data to detect cannabis intoxication

The second story that we’ll be looking at this week comes from New Jersey, USA. Researchers from Rutgers University’s Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research have published a paper investigating whether current-era smartphones could become mobile cannabis intoxication detection machines. 

In the paper published in the US Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal the team from America’s Eighth-oldest university states that they were motivated to research to see if they could develop a proof-of-concept for their idea of ‘passive detection of when someone is under the influence of marijuana.’ A scary concept to the average cannabis consumer reading this, I am sure.

I imagine at this point that a lot of you are audibly exclaiming ‘why the hell do we need this kind of technology?’ and ‘What will it be used for?’ Don’t worry that was my reaction too. The researchers behind the paper state that they are concerned about the ‘adverse effects of acute cannabis intoxication.’ I’m not sure, but I do believe they’re talking about being high, right? 

“Adverse effects of acute cannabis intoxication have been reported by young adults, with associated consequences such as poor academic and work performance, and injuries and fatalities due to driving while ‘high’ on cannabis” – research authors

Just how they made the giant leap from having potentially valid concerns about individual well-being when stoned to the idea to create an authoritarian technological spy tool through the weaponisation of our ubiquototus dependence on our smartphones is beyond me.

To test their theory the authors designed an experiment utilising 57 participants that self-reported cannabis consumption at least twice a week. The participants completed three surveys over 30 days and reported each time they consumed cannabis, the quantity, and ‘how high they were feeling at any given time’. This resulted in 451 ‘episodes of cannabis use’ across the participants according to the authors

During the research period, the participants were told to download an app onto their phones that monitored, reported, and analysed data from GPS, phone logs, accelerometer, and other sensor and usage data. 

“Using the sensors in a person’s phone, we might be able to detect when a person might be experiencing cannabis intoxication and deliver a brief intervention when and where it might have the most impact to reduce cannabis-related harm” – Paper co-author, Tammy Chung

When considering only ‘the time of day’ the teams’ algorithm was able to accurately detect an ‘episode’ with 60% accuracy. Utilising just the smartphone data the algorithm scored an accuracy rating of 67%. However, when they combined the data sets the accuracy shot up to 90% across the board. The team said that the most important data was the GPS data as they found that participants predictably traveled less and shorter distances while high. 

The idea, concept, and outcome of this project are rather similar to another project that some of the authors were involved with back in 2018, that was researching whether smartphone data could detect heavy drinking episodes in alcoholics. The algorithm that the team used in that research measured typing speed, screen-on duration, and time of day data to produce a success rate of 91% accuracy.

I must admit that I do worry about the potential future application of such applications and algorithms. If Edward Snowden has taught the world anything it’s that technology no matter how well-intentioned will inevitably end up in the hands of the powerful and be utilised to coerce conformity, root out dissent, and cultivate a collective commons solely reflective of their limited world view, ideals and goals. 

‘Synthetic cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists’ withdrawal symptoms more severe than cannabis

New research from the University of Bath, UK suggests that synthetic cannabinoids are ‘more harmful than cannabis’ and likely to cause ‘more severe withdrawal symptoms’ than consuming cannabis. The research was conducted by the Addiction and Mental Health Group (AMHG) at Bath University’s Department of Psychology and is thought to be the largest study of so-called ‘spice’ withdrawal in the world.

In the study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the team from Bath was comparing the experiences of cannabis and ‘SCRA’ consumers across various measures to learn more about the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on its consumers.

Throughout their research, the team use the colloquial term ‘Spice’ as a stand-in for ‘SCRAs’, which stands for Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists. Commonly known these days as ‘synthetic cannabinoids.’ There are currently over 200 different chemical compounds classified as SCRA’s and this number is growing. These synthetic compounds are typically then sprayed onto herbal material like dried marshmallow leaves to be combusted like cannabis. 

Although SCRA’s are designed to mimic THC and act as an ‘agonist’ to endocannabinoid receptors, they have a much higher binding affinity with, in particular the CB1 receptor. This affinity means that the effects of the compound are much more potent and powerful on the consumer and their endocannabinoid system (ECS) than cannabis ever could be. 

The consumption of SCRAs can cause some rather unpleasant and dangerous side effects in consumers including; heart palpitations, paranoia, intense anxiety, nausea, vomiting, confusion, poor coordination, temporary psychosis, and even seizures.

Although originally produced as a legal alternative to cannabis, our findings show that Spice is a far more harmful drug and people attempting to quit are likely to experience a range of severe withdrawal symptoms. It’s therefore important that greater effort is made to ensure that Spice is not used as a substitute for cannabis, or any other drug, and people experiencing problems with Spice should be supported with treatment.” – Sam Craft, lead author

The researchers discovered that the experience of withdrawal caused by abstaining from the consumption of ‘SCRAs’ was deemed more severe by the majority of the studies participants. The conclusions of the study also suggest that withdrawal can occur at a much lower rate of consumption, regardless of quantity or consistency in consumption.

67% of the participants reported at least three of the following symptoms when trying to quit the drug. These included sleep issues, irritability, low mood, heart palpitations, and general craving for the drug. A much higher percentage than the cannabis consumers also seeking to abstain from consumption.

These findings identify severe withdrawal symptoms as a key clinical problem among people using Spice, and highlight the urgent need to develop effective treatments to help people quit” – Dr. Tom Freeman, Senior Author and Director of AMHG at Bath Uni

Synthetic Cannabinoids and biosynthesised cannabinoids are a bi-product of good old prohibition. Without the continual demonisation and criminalisation of cannabis consumers for the better part of a century these novel and lethal compounds wouldn’t be so widely available on the open market. 

While I agree that these compounds have a place and function within academic/scientific research and the development of new novel therapies and treatments for terminal and chronic conditions. They cannot and should not come at the expense of everyday cannabis consumers liberty and basic human rights.

In its natural and traditionally extracted form cannabis has never killed anyone, the same cannot be said of SCRAs. Unfortunately, the situation is only set to get worse as the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex’ and ‘big weed’ continue to look for new ways to circumvent legislation, exploit the ignorance of the status quo, patent nature, and draft bills that benefit themselves and their investor’s bottom line.

Without a consorted, compassionate, and conscientious effort to cultivate understanding, unity, and utility in the global cannabis community and culture, we risk falling into the trap of creating a world in which you can buy cannabinoids, but still be criminalised for using cannabis.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.