Last Week in Weed Issue 36

Last Week in Weed

(16/8/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at Weed Maps taking in-app payments on the Apple store, UK rapper caught importing cannabis, and finally, singer Beyonce launching her own CBD brand.

Weedmaps now available on Apple’s App store

Weed Maps taking in-app payments on the Apple store. 

First up this week, Weed Maps launches in-app payments for cannabis products in US states that have ‘legalised’ cannabis for adult consumption. The move comes after a decision by Apple to update its policy around the trade of controlled substances on the App store.

Apple’s previous policy banned all vaping and cannabis apps in November 2019 as they “encourage the consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol,” as well as those that facilitate the sale of “controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies), marijuana, or tobacco.”

Earlier this year on June 7th the silicon valley giant announced that it had changed its terms of use for the app store. The update creates an exception for “licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries” to be downloaded from the app store. 

A month after that announcement, on July 8th Eaze, a California cannabis delivery app with 2 million registered customers, became the first company to gain approval from the tax-dodging mobile manufacturer. Several other apps have since found a home on the app store including BetaCaliva, and Pineapple Express.

“It’s hard to overstate how important this is to our company and the industry,” “It’s deeply gratifying to launch the Apple Store’s first fully-functional cannabis delivery app” –Rogelio Choy, CEO, Eaze

Last week, however, saw the arrival of one of the biggest players on to the App store. Weed Maps was originally founded in 2008 as an online place “where medical marijuana patients can connect with other patients in their area, to freely discuss and review local cannabis co-operatives and dispensaries

The company has since grown to be one of the main providers of dispensary information such as location and up-to-date menus and reviews. They are also quickly becoming one of the biggest names in cannabis delivery in the United States.

Weed Maps have been rather smart here. They do not facilitate the delivery of cannabis to the consumer, instead, they use their app to showcase the goods and services of licensed dispensaries. This helps the company avoid a whole host of issues and limitations caused by varying states regulations.

Our ability to enable ordering functionality through our mobile iOS app is a game-changer that will improve accessibility for both our customers and business partners alike. We commend companies like Apple that work with industry leaders to find solutions that drive innovation in our space. It’s encouraging to see policies and attitudes toward cannabis shift in a way that promises remarkable growth, and we look forward to introducing an even simpler way to order cannabis from retailers through our platform” – Justin Dean, CTO, WM Technology Inc

The Californian cannabis tech company recently went public through a massive $1.5 billion SPAC deal with Silver Spike Acquisition corps. This most recent move will no doubt be putting some rather large smiles on the faces of its investors and backers.

Image: Nines Facebook page

UK Rapper arrested for importing 28kg of cannabis

Courtney Freckleton aka ‘Nines’ has been charged as part of a conspiracy to import 28kg of cannabis into the UK from Spain and Poland. The British hip hop rapper and Mobo award winner was arrested back in June after coordinated police raids in London, Borehamwood, and Hertfordshire. 

The raids resulted from the infiltration of the now hacked encrypted messenger app Encrochat by UK police. The encrypted app has been used by various policing authorities around the world to target organised crime following the successful hacking of the app during a French investigation in 2020.

Nines and a co-conspirator had allegedly completed one successful importation of cannabis and had attempted to make another before being caught up in the operation. Appearing in court last week The Warner Bros and XL Recordings signed artist pled guilty to conspiracy to import ‘the Class B drug’ into the UK and conspiracy to transfer criminal cash between March and July 2020.

The singer who topped the UK album chart in 2020 with ‘Crabs in a bucket’ denied two further charges of conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply cannabis and the CPS have stated that they do not intend to seek a trial on those charges. Sentencing was since been adjourned and the pair were remanded into custody. 

The police operation that took over EncroChat was sophisticated and sly. They quietly observed and targeted its high-level dealer users and began dozens of operations in Norway, UK, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Since December 2020 there have been over 1,000 arrests connected to the breaking of EncroChat. 

I cannot help but feel that if Nines were an American rapper, he would be signing brand deals and establishing legal companies to sell cannabis, not facing prison time. Until the fascistic, classist, and draconian war on drugs is over, stay safe out their folks. 

Remember that no digital conversation is ever truly encrypted, Authorities can now get fingerprints from your product shots that you post on socials, and do not ever use your voice or any other identifiable part of yourself while recording in grow rooms or promotional videos for products. 

Image: Cover of Harper’s Bazaar featuring Beyonce

US singer Beyonce to launch CBD brand

In 2019, Maxim announced that ‘CBD is officially more popular than Beyonce.’ Well, it looks like the multi-award winner is set to get her own back on the cannabinoid, as the former Destiny’s Child singer has announced that she is launching her own CBD brand. Speaking to US magazine Harper’s Bazaar, the singer said that she first tried CBD on her last tour to help with anxiety and insomnia. 

“I discovered CBD on my last tour, and I’ve experienced its benefits for soreness and inflammation. It helped with my restless nights and the agitation that comes from not being able to fall asleep. I am now building a hemp and honey farm – I even have beehives on my roof! I’m so happy that my daughters receive examples of those rituals from me” –Beyonce Knowles-Carter

This is the first venture into the world of ‘legal’ commercial corporate cannabis for Beyonce, However, on the other hand, her long-time partner and husband Shawn Carter AKA ‘Jay-Z’ is quickly becoming one of the US industry’s biggest players. We covered the launch of Jay-Z’s Monogram brand and the monumental SPAC deal back in issue 2 of Last Week In Weed

The dirt off your shoulders singer’s fortune recently surpassed $1billion and Beyoncé’s was estimated at $420million. This new venture and the likely inclusion of Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s new company into ‘the parent company’s portfolio will make them both a lot of money.

Beyonce is just the latest in an increasingly long line of celebrities queuing up to cash in on the so-called ‘green rush’. Every time a celebrity creates a cannabis brand or company it potentially locks out dozens of individuals from the legacy market and further leads to the installation of a two-tier industry and the creation of prohibition 2.0.

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 35

Last Week in Weed

(9/8/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

This week in Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at Seattle-based cannabis website Leafly preparing to go public via a SPAC, GW Pharmaceuticals flagship product Sativex being trialed on Glioblastoma in the UK, and finally, a former NFL player launching a synthetic CBD ‘wellness’ brand named ‘Peels’ that is made from orange peel.

Leafly set to go public via SPAC

First up this week is the news that Leafly, the Washington-based online cannabis education and retail website founded in 2010 is set to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). The cannabis-focused media outlet was founded in 2010 by three California engineers seeking to create a central resource hub for cannabis consumers and the emerging industry.

The company was bought by the private equity group Privateer Holdings in 2012, the 76% majority owners of Tilray retained ownership of the company until 2019 when Leafly became a wholly independent business. The founders left the business shortly after the acquisition by Privateer Holdings to start a new rival company called Headset

The SPAC looking to take Leafly public by floating it on the Nasdaq later this year is a blank-cheque company called Merida Capital Holdings. A company named after the Aqueduct of the Miracles, one of the most innovative infrastructure projects in human history. A rather grandiose naming decision, if you ask me.

Merida Capital Holdings is a private equity firm ‘that targets fundamental growth drivers underpinning the rapid development of the cannabis industry.’ So basically they’re true-blooded capitalist opportunists attempting to cash in on the so-called green rush. No different from many of the other SPAC’s exploiting the ignorance and excitement of the current climate to profit from the golden age of cannabis. 

Leafly is certainly an attractive prospect for Merida, as half of all US dispensaries now use the platform for e-commerce, advertising, and other services in some way. The company now boasts 220 million unique views a year, up 12% in 2019. Since the company began it has completed over 4 million orders, published 1.3 million reviews, and compiled a database of over 5,000 unique cannabis cultivars. Well, ‘strains’ according to Leafly, but that’s a different conversation for another blog.

If the deal goes through it would see Leafly worth a staggering $530m. The newly restructured company would retain its current CEO but would have to place at least one member of Merida on the company’s board. I do not doubt that the floating of WeedMaps on the Nasdaq earlier this year will be a strong motivator for Leafly to complete this deal in good time. 

Image: Royal Queen Seeds blog ‘What is Sativex’

GW’s Sativex in UK brain tumour trial

It was announced last week that GW Pharmaceuticals flagship product, Sativex would be used in a ‘world first’ trial. The trial is to see if the decades-old drug can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy to help treat Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain and spinal cancer.

The announcement that a phase two trial would take place followed the publication of the ‘successful results’ in the phase one study earlier this year. The phase one trial was considered to be a success because more of the Sativex group than the placebo group remained alive after 1 year of observation and treatment.

The new phase two trial, which is curiously named ‘ARISTOCRAT’ will run for three years. The study will be conducted by the University of Leeds, funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, and coordinated by Cancer Research UK Clinical Trial Unit at the University of Birmingham. Should the trial be able to raise sufficient funds, 230 patients with Glioblastoma from around the UK will be selected to take part in the trial in early 2022.

Speaking to Cannabis Health Magazine Professor Susan Short, the principal trial investigator and Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-Oncology at the University of Leeds said. “The treatment of glioblastomas remains extremely challenging. Even with surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, nearly all of these brain tumours re-grow within a year, and unfortunately, there are very few options for patients once this occurs. 

Glioblastoma brain tumours have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surfaces, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide. 

Having recently shown that a specific cannabinoid combination given by oral spray could be safely added to temozolomide chemotherapy, we’re really excited to build on these findings to assess whether this drug could help glioblastoma patients live longer in a major randomised trial.”

Glioblastoma is considered to be the most aggressive type of cancer that starts in the brain. The typical duration of survival for Glioblastoma is between 12 – 15 months, with fewer than 5% surviving beyond five years. This makes it a prime candidate for researching the effects of cannabis on cancer. Why they have decided to include chemotherapy alongside it is truly beyond me.

Chemotherapy kills healthy cells in the body and according to a 2016 study published in The Lancet “patients dying within 30 days after beginning treatment [with chemotherapy] are unlikely to have gained the survival or palliative benefits of the treatment, and in view of the side-effects sometimes caused, are more likely to have suffered harm”

We know from cancer survivors and healthcare professionals that surviving cancer with chemotherapy drugs can cause some horrific and devastating consequences and life-long side effects. We have also known for quite some time that THC can causes apoptosis in cancer cells and that it can be an effective treatment and prophylactic for a variety of different types of cancers.

We hope this trial could pave the way for a long-awaited new lifeline that could help offer glioblastoma patients precious extra months to live and make memories with their loved ones. “With so few treatments available and average survival still so heartbreakingly short, thousands affected by a glioblastoma in the UK each year are in urgent need of new options and new hope” –Dr David Jenkinson, CEO, The Brain Tumour Charity

While I applaud and admire the passion and commitment of the individuals involved in these trials, I cannot help but feel this is little more than a publicity stunt for the new owners of GW PharmaceuticalsJazz Pharmaceuticals are after all an oncology and neuroscience specialist biopharmaceutical company.

When Jazz acquired GW for £5.2billion earlier this year they also purchased its intellectual property and patents. Some of those patents are for;

So if they already have patents and proof in animal models for the application of cannabinoids to treat cancer going back over a decade, why is The Brain Tumour Trust having to raise £450,000 to fund this trial. Shouldn’t the main player set to benefit from any proof of concept and the patent holders of the drug pay for the trial?

Synthetic CBD brand ‘Peels’ launches ‘CBD’ made from orange peels.

Former NFL star launches synthetic CBD made from Orange Peel

A former NFL player in the US has launched a synthetic CBD ‘wellness’ product that is derived from orange peel. Peels, the brand founded by 11-year NFL veteran Chris Hetherington hopes to exploit the current limitations in the ignorant legislation and public skewed perception by providing a fully synthetic CBD analog that mimics Cannabidiols effects in the body.

As our CBD is made from orange peels, we have a tremendous opportunity to reach target audiences and potentially enter channels our competitors cannot, thus expanding the existing CBD market and improving the lives of more people” – Chris Hetherington

The former fullbacks business model is to attempt to dominate potential consumer bases that cannot risk even the smallest amount of THC finding its way into their system. Be they athletes, police, first responders, military personal, or any other individual that are subjected to random drug tests as part of their employment.

Peels uses a ‘proprietary process to derive premium-quality CBD from orange peels’ called Cyclic Terpene Assembly, a process that combines organic molecules without solvents protecting the compounds within. During the mixing process terpenes derived from the orange peel are mixed with Olivetol, a naturally occurring compound, then the mix is then heated and pressurised along with a catalyst. Once refined the result is a crystalline synthetic CBD analog that Peels claims is ‘unmatched in purity and consistency.’ 

There are so many benefits to this amazing herbal supplement and we’re excited to finally offer 100 percent certified THC-free and Pesticide-free products for those who’ve been reluctant to try CBD in the past. “With Peels, we’re taking all of the impurities and inconsistencies out of the equation. We believe our CBD products deserve a spot right next to your vitamins as part of your daily wellness ritual” 

Our priority will always be putting our consumers first by continuously innovating and developing data-driven and science-based products to meet their wellness needs. We’re extremely proud of our CBD Oil and we know Peels is going to revolutionise the way people view and use CBD” – Chris Hetherington

The creation of synthetic cannabinoids is nothing new, big pharma has been creating and researching these compounds for decades. In fact, some of the most popular ‘strains’ of ‘Spice’ were created in the laboratories of various pharmaceutical companies around the world.

Synthetic cannabinoids are less effective than phytocannabinoids. They have also been shown to have a far higher likelihood of developing dependency issues and presenting unwanted side effects. The dangers that synthetic cannabinoids pose are evident in the current mental health crisis affecting various prison populations in the UK.

So why are so many companies trying to discover and patent new novel ways of synthesising cannabinoids? One word, Profit! You cannot patent nature, but you sure can patent synthetic compounds and their production and extraction processes.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 34

Last Week in Weed

(2/8/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona under threat of closure, US powerhouse CuraLeaf launches second ‘medical cannabis’ flower on the UK market, and Tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) banking on cannabis for future prosperity.

Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona under threat

It has been a tough couple of years for your average cannabis tourist. First came the pandemic and then the lockdown of most countries effectively ended global travel. Then the new mayor of Amsterdam announced earlier this year that she intends to end cannabis tourism to the world-renowned city. 

Now comes the latest blow to the international cannoisseur, the threat of closure for the infamous cannabis clubs in Barcelona, Spain. The first clubs opened in Barcelona 12 years ago and over the last decade, the Mediterranean city has become home to 225 ‘official’ associations, around 70% of all Spanish clubs. Making Barcelona a must-visit destination for any cannabis enthusiast. 

The Barcelona associations are a pioneering model in Europe and the rest of the world, they point toward the application of new drugs policies that focus on the individuals health and balanced usage” – Statement from the Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (CatFac)

The Cannabis clubs in Spain have until now operated in a legal grey area. The ambiguous language in Spanish law and a legal president set by the Superior court means that the possession, cultivation, and consumption of cannabis in private is protected under basic human rights and the right to privacy.

In 2016 the Catalonian Parliament passed a new by-law ‘legalising’ the cannabis associations by creating restrictive regulations and requiring clubs to apply for a municipal license to continue to operate. The Parliament stated when announcing the law that “Private consumption of cannabis by adults is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience” 

The restrictive measures put in place to regulate the clubs have ended up becoming the potential death nail in the coffin of the associations. A case was brought forward by the manager of a club who claimed that the requirements for extraction to be on the roof of a club discriminated against his ground floor premises. 

The court agreed with the man and annulled all of the regulations set out by the 2016 by-law. The local authority appealed the decision but a tribunal recently ruled that they do not have the ‘competence to legislate on matters governed by the state’ so do not have the authority to regulate the cannabis associations. 

Unable to appeal this decision the Barcelona local government has released this statement; “Associations are prohibited from promoting the consumption, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. Now we will send a letter to all the clubs to inform them of the new situation, and later, we will carry out safety and inspection campaigns. We will see what happens in each case.”

Scary times if you’re a club owner in Barcelona right now. The local authority has stated that ‘under its interpretation of the ruling cannabis can neither be bought nor consumed in these spaces’  but The Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (CATFAC) disagrees. 

Eric Asensio, spokesperson for CATFAC argues that the ruling only prohibits the ‘promotion’ of cannabis, not its consumption. “What happens inside a cannabis club is not promotion, but rather an economic contribution of members in exchange for a service” 

They push us to a darker place every time, we try to get out, but we keep taking steps backward. The Majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down” – Eric Asensio, CATFAC

The local authorities have announced that they intend to start enforcement on larger clubs in tourist areas like Las Ramblas first. The local authority is doing this to target ‘The ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales.’ We all know who they’re talking about here.

The City of Barcelona and the local police authorities have openly admitted that the associations are a highly effective way of reducing street dealing and consumption in public places and that they’re not opposed to the associations. Whether they will support them against this ruling remains to be seen.

So unfortunately for those not lucky enough to have already experienced the unique and welcoming atmosphere of the Barcelona clubs, it may already be too late. This latest ruling places Barcelona’s status as the ‘weed capital of Europe’ under serious threat.

CuraLeaf International launches second ‘medical cannabis’ flower in the UK 

Last week saw CuraLeaf International, formerly EMMAC Life Sciences announce that it has launched its second ‘medical cannabis’ flower product on the UK market. The company’s statement claims that the product ‘will be manufactured in the UK’ and ‘will be an extension of the company’s existing range of medical cannabis flowers and oil products. A rather ambiguous statement that actually conveys little information.

From my investigations, it appears that CuraLeaf International imports ‘raw material’ ‘through its integrated supply chain’ to a facility in the northeast of England and then ‘produces’ ‘medical cannabis’ flower from the ‘raw material.’ So they trim it and package it? I know a lot of dealers that do the same damn thing.

We are very pleased to extend our range of medical cannabis products for the UK market. As a market leader, Curaleaf International is focused on solving the key patient and physician challenges relating to the price, accessibility, and sustainability of medical cannabis products. Our vertically integrated supply chain and GMP manufacturing facilities here in the UK allow us to scale rapidly to meet growing patient demand.” – Antonio Costanzo, Curaleaf International

EMMAC Life Sciences was Europe’s largest vertically integrated ‘medical cannabis’ company before it was purchased by CuraLeaf in March 2021. We covered this acquisition in issue 14 of Last Week in Weed and how it would give them GMP-certified processing and distribution capabilities in Europe. The deal worth $286m also gave the new parent company CuraLeaf access to EMMAC’s subsidiaries, including Rokshaw Laboratories.

Rokshaw Laboratories are the Sunderland-based family-owned laboratory that imports the above-mentioned ‘raw material’ and processes it into ‘medical cannabis’ flowers. What this process entails is beyond me at this point. 

Last month CuraLeaf International secured its second GMP-certified European facility in Medalchemy, Spain by securing approval from the Spanish Health Authorities to import, manufacture and export ‘medical cannabis’ flowers. 

Most recently the company celebrated its first importation of ‘medical cannabis’ flowers from its primary facility in Terra Verde in Portugal to Israel. The shipment of over a ton of cannabis flowers was comprised of two proprietary cultivars and completed in partnership with BOL Pharama

The company’s recent successes are a testament to the power that CuraLeaf wields. The world’s largest cannabis company by revenue operates 107 cannabis dispensaries in 23 US states and has over 20 million square feet of cultivation capacity. This makes it nearly impossible to compete for small to medium businesses trying to make it in the cannabis industry.

Image: Evening Standard

British American Tobacco banking on cannabis long-term

Our final story this week is the UK’s largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT) moving further into the cannabis industry. The powerhouse behind cigarette brands like Lucky Strike and American Spirit has been slowly moving into the industry over the last 12 months.

First came the announcement on Capital Markets Day in November 2020 that the company was to launch ‘the world’s first truly global vaping company’ and “expand our portfolio of products into new areas ‘beyond nicotine’ as we continue to drive a step-change in our business.” 

Then in January, the company’s VUSE CBD Zone brand CBD vaporiser pilot scheme began in Manchester. The company hopes to use “this pilot launch to gain key learnings about consumer and retailer experiences, combined with our extensive expertise and knowledge of vaping, to help inform plans for a potential nationwide roll-out of VUSE CBD Zone later in the year.” Loosely translated that means to dominate the CBD vape sector.

Then earlier this year in March it announced that it has acquired a 19.9% stake in Canadian LP Organigram. (We cover this acquisition in Issue 14) The investment worth £126m reflects the company’s ongoing expansion into ‘reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, as well as go beyond nicotine products’ or put simply cannabis. They’re moving into the cannabis industry.

BAT is not the only big tobacco company investing in cannabis. Altria, the makers of Marlboro now owns 45% of Cronos and Imperial Brands have invested $75m into an R&D partnership with Auxly cannabis.

BAT’s intentions were revealed a little more last week as executive Kingsley Wheaton told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Program that “As we think about our portfolio for the future, certainly beyond nicotine products are interesting for us as another wave of future growth” 

It’s no secret that traditional Tobacco is a dying industry, but nicotine on the other hand is still a thriving business through vaporisation. The latest revenue reports from the company revealed that 12% of its annual sales were non-combustible. This represents a 50% growth in the area on last year’s total sales. With that kind of growth, you can see why they’re accelerating investment into the sector.

The relative wild-west of vaporising regulation and monopolistic practices over the last several years means that companies like BAT are now best placed to truly dominate what will soon become an over-regulated CBD vape market here in the UK.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 33

Last Week in Weed

(26/7/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at Hypocrisy at the Olympics with the perpetuation of the CBD Good/THC Bad industry sales pitch and false dichotomy, Israeli vaporiser company Kanabo set to become Europe’s largest public cannabis company, and finally the story of a man falling 20ft from a roof while trying to escape police at a cannabis grow in the UK.

Image:www.confuzine.com

IOC hypocrisy and the artificial cannabinoid dichotomy

The first story we will be looking at this week is the clear and overt hypocrisy around cannabis and the Olympics by the IOC. In a piece released last week, Forbes proudly declares that ‘Cannabis takes the world stage at the Tokyo Olympics’ while doing little more in the editorial than to advertise a US-based ‘Hemp-derived’ isolate CBD brand called Mendi

In this industry fluff piece, the various CBD isolate products that the company provides are promoted through quotes and testimonials from athletes espousing the brand’s claimed ethicality and efficacy. The marketing heavy piece is interspersed with a rather fake feeling social justice narrative that seems little more than insincere virtue signaling to capitalise on current cultural issues and trends.

The societal effect in terms of social justice that weed has had on this country is just absurd. There are so many, mostly Black and Brown, people sitting in jail for 10 or 20-plus years for weed, and it’s completely unnecessary. From a social perspective, we’re long overdue for the legalization of cannabis” – Megan Rapinoe 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the prohibited substances list in September 2017 but chose to continue to prohibit THC and other cannabinoids. Since this policy change, there has been a global race to create slick CBD ‘wellness’ and ‘lifestyle’ brands that produce bespoke THC-free products that work around current legislation for the Sporting industry. 

Interestingly, because of Japan’s current strict regulations on CBD and other cannabinoids, there will be little CBD at this year’s Olympics despite the removal of CBD from WADA’s banned substances list. That being said it will of still likely been a staple of many of the Olympian’s daily routines.

Although cannabis is on the world stage for the first time ever, we’re not saying that it’s there in Tokyo, what we’re saying is, ‘we’ve been there on the journey to get these athletes to the world’s biggest stage, and they’ve been taking our products every day for the past year or two years to help them with marginal gains.’ Every time you get a better night’s sleep, every time you recover better from the last batch of exercise, then your performance is going to be better the next time” – Rachael Rapinoe, Mendi

In issue 30 of Last Week In Weed, we discussed the disqualification of US gold medal hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson. The world’s sixth-fastest woman was barred from this year’s late-run 2020 Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for THC. Not that she should have to justify her consumption of a plant to anyone, but the champion sprinter said she consumed cannabis to manage her anxiety and stress during a difficult period.

Sha’Carri Richardson, unfortunately, wanted to use a healthier alternative to manage the stress that was going on in her life, and now she’s banned from this year’s Olympics. Every athlete should have the same access that every other Americans do to deal with the stresses of life”

We really believe there is a movement and a flood of people wanting healthier alternative medications. They don’t want what we typically have been prescribed in this country, whether it’s over-the-counter meds, prescription opiates, sleeping pills, or various tools to help with stress and anxiety. So, we want to give people the healthiest option to stay on top of their game longer, specifically positioned with athletes.” – Rachael Rapinoe, Mendi

These are unusual times we live in, cannabis has gone from being an underground plant protected by first-world nations, interconnected sub-cultures, and diverse multi-generational advocates to being the best thing since sliced bread.

It is no longer about getting others to believe what the hippies and herbal healers have known for decades, about the therapeutic properties and benefits of cannabis. It’s now all about patents, intellectual property, and proprietary technologies. As cannabis goes mainstream so does its appeal to the vulture capitalists that forever circle the global economy looking for fresh industries to pick devour. 

Their money has already unfortunately financed a lot of ‘hemp’ and CBD companies that are now benefiting greatly from continual delays to the inevitable end of global cannabis prohibition. They are content to profiteer and perpetuate bad science to sell isolated and therapeutically restrained products. They polarise cannabinoids and hamper the conversation about cannabis by demonising THC to protect their CBD-only business models.

Those short-sighted opportunists may be ahead now, but their greed, flashy advertising gimmicks, and their pay-to-play lobbying will only get them so far. When the shackles of global cannabis prohibition and propaganda-fuelled ignorance are finally removed the divide will be bridged and the financial motivation to hide or manipulate data and knowledge will lessen. 

Kanabo set to become Europe’s biggest public cannabis company

Our second story this week features a company that we have covered a few times in Last Week in Weed. Kanabo, the Israeli vaporiser company has announced that it intends to acquire Canadian ‘wellness’ and ‘medical cannabis’ producer Materia.

Acquiring Materia will give Kanabo access to Germany, which is currently Europe’s largest ‘medical cannabis’ market. With the German market making over €200m in 2020 and being expected to reach a value of €3.2bn by 2025, you can see why it is an important strategic move by the company. 

This acquisition would allow Kanabo to provide its own in-house production, extraction, and distribution through Materia’s GMP-certified subsidiaries direct to European pharmacies. At the time of publishing, this blog Kanabo shares on the LSE are up 9.6% 

Materia’s unique innovative supply chain will provide strong distribution channels in the German market and offer new strategic partnerships with premium cultivators around the world. Together with Kanabo’s R&D and commercialisation capabilities, we will be able to develop new innovative delivery methods opening up an even bigger market potential. 

The enlarged group will become the biggest public cannabis company in Europe and will put us in a unique position as the multi-billion pound medical cannabis market starts to accelerate.” – Avihu Tamir, founder and CEO Kanabo

Kanabo also announced earlier this month that they completed its first shipment of its VapePod cannabis oil vaporiser to the UK for those prescribed ‘medical cannabis’ through the LYPHE Group. 

Earlier in the year in issue 8 of Last Week In Weed, we covered Kanabo’s unsuccessful attempt to become the first ‘medical cannabis’ company to float on the LSE. The honour, if it could be called such a thing, went to Australian-based MGC Pharmaceuticals, who are now dual-listed on the LSE and Australian Stock Exchange. 

I bring this up because I wanted to highlight how language can and will be manipulated by capitalists to frame their brand or business in whatever way they wish. Check out this quote from Materia CEO Deepak Anand.

We are excited at the prospect of joining forces with Kanabo’s team. As the first medical cannabis company approved to list on the London Stock Exchange, Kanabo’s ambition to be a market leader matches our own and we believe that our combined infrastructure will generate significant value for our shareholders, partners, customers and patients” – Deepak Anand, CEO Materia

Did you notice it? A rather subtle and clever, but ultimately negative and pernicious practice that is exploited at all levels of modern advertising and marketing. Despite the collective hope of the hippies, fight of the activists, and best intentions of ‘mom & pop’ shops international corporate cannabis is here. 

Suspected cannabis grower injured in 20ft fall trying to escape police in Walsall,UK

The final story that we’ll be covering this week is that of a man who fell of a roof when trying to escape police in the UK. A man attempted to flee a suspected cannabis grow in Walsall, West Midlands, UK by climbing onto a steep-slated two-story house roof. 

The man fled to the roof when police acting on intelligence entered the property just before lunchtime on Friday. The police searched for the man, instead, they found an estimated 70 cannabis plants. 

The footage of the man slipping and crashing through the guttering before hitting the floor went viral over the weekend after a student across the road filmed the moment the man fell off the roof narrowly missing a police officer below. 

Witnesses at the scene reported hearing the man screaming for help and an ambulance. The man attempted to stand up but quickly hit the ground again before officers kept the man face down for 45-minutes before an ambulance could attend the scene. An air ambulance was seen circling but it didn’t land. 

A police spokesperson said that ‘He has been taken to hospital with injuries which are not believed to be life-threatening. ‘He has been arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis and will be questioned when considered medically fit.’

The point I wanted to raise here is the disproportionate nature of the perceived harms between what consuming cannabis can do to you and you getting caught with it. This man was in such fear of being caught by the police that he’d rather potentially risked his life to try and avoid detection. 

The relative potential harm that cannabis could pose to a significantly small percentage of consumers versus the damage caused by the ubiquitous and institutional persecution of millions of cannabis consumers daily is incommensurable and reprehensible at best.

Although we are still waiting for further details to be released, it is still a source of great frustration to me that not one of the media outlets that covered this incident thought to inquire further about the man’s health or situation. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 32

Last Week in Weed

(19/7/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at the draft Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in the US, Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen suing over cannabis billboard, and finally an activist group in Illinois who are fighting for reparations for people with previous cannabis convictions.

Click to read the draft bill

The US releases draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

The first story that we’ll look at this week is the release of the first draft of the new Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The new draft was made public last Wednesday by US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-Or).

The days of federal prohibition are numbered. It is time for legislators to comport federal law with the laws of the growing number of states that have legalized the plant, and it is time for lawmakers to facilitate a federal structure that allows for cannabis commerce so that responsible consumers can obtain high-quality, low-cost cannabis grown right here in America without fear of arrest and incarceration.” – Erik Altieri, Executive Director at NORML

This discussion-draft bill comes seven months after the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunities and Reinvestment Expungement Act) was approved by the US Congress, but sadly died in the Senate. This new bill borrows much from its predecessor and even goes further on some crucial points. 

If passed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would end the federal prohibition of cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and subsequent scheduling system. It would automatically expunge all non-violent convictions handed down in federal courts and allow those currently incarcerated to petition for a new sentence based on current legislation.

The draft bill would currently protect states-rights to prohibit cannabis possession, cultivation, and sale. It would also give individual states the right to decide how they would ‘legalise’ cannabis if they choose to do so. 

It would include three major grant programs designed to help those most disproportionately affected by the failed war on drugs, those living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, and a fund for the expungement of all federal non-violent cannabis convictions.

Grant programs would also be created to fund NGOs to provide access to services for individuals most adversely impacted by the government’s previous drug policies. Aid programs would also be established to pushing for equitable licensing and to give small businesses access to loan schemes. 

It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs” – Senator Booker

These programs will be funded by a new federal excise tax of 10% rising to 25% by year five of adoption. Smaller companies with a turnover of less than $20m would be able to apply for a tax credit that would effectively half the rate, nevertheless, it would remain a hefty price to pay to play.

If adopted the new bill would allow sales to anyone over the age of 21, however, retail sales would be capped at 10 oz of flower or the equivalent in extracts, oils, edibles, etc. This would be a vast increase on even the most liberal of states ‘legalisation’ models.

Should the US finally end federal prohibition it would cease the arbitrary persecution of cannabis consumers in housing, financial aid, and employment. It could also lead to a golden era of academic research and scientific discovery in the public arena as the archaic laws preventing it would be repealed. 

So what happens now? The draft discussion bill will go through a kind of consultation process between the senators, lawmakers, and the general public. This process will last until September 1st, at which point and modifications and adjustments will be made before it is formally submitted to congress. 

This comes at the same time the US Surgeon General is quoted as saying that there is ‘no value to locking people up for marijuana’ Ultimately, I feel that this is the best shot yet that the US has at ending federal cannabis prohibition. It is far from perfect and the fight will need to continue for ubiquitous and equitable justice to be served to the American people.

You can read the full draft bill here

Image: NY Post

Sacha Baron Cohen sues overuse of Borat on cannabis billboard

Our second story this week is the news that British actor, writer, and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is suing Massachusetts-based Solar Sustainable Cannabis over its use of his Borat Sagdiyev character and his infamous catchphrase, “it’s nice!” 

The company who markets itself as ‘America’s first energy-independent cannabis cultivation facility with retail dispensaries’ found itself in hot water last week when representatives of the actor who played the fictional Kazakh journalist filed a lawsuit against them.

Borat’s ‘subsequent moviefilm’ was released last year to much fanfare and critical acclaim recently appeared towering over motorists on the interstate in Somerset, Massachusetts. 

Last week papers were filed in the US by attorneys representing the Ali G star seeking damages of at least $9m (£6.5m) for alleged copyright infringement and false advertising. In the documents filed last Monday, Cohen’s legal counsel claim that Solar Sustainable Cannabis ‘took a gamble’ by using the star’s likeness ‘thinking that he would never see it’

By use of the Billboard, the Defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr. Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business. To the contrary, Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.” – Attorney for Sacha Baron Cohen, David Condon

The statement goes on to say that ‘In fact, Baron Cohen notes he’s never taken any corporate brand deal despite receiving “countless opportunities” because he thinks it would undermine his credibility as an actor and social activist’ 

Baron Cohen is also a practicing Orthodox Jew and “doesn’t wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules.” This puts him at odds with a growing number of Jewish leaders who are backing Israel’s bid to become a world leader in the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex’.

The Golden Globe-winning actor has however allowed the Kazakhstan tourism board to use his likeness and catchphrase to help promote and entice tourists to come and visit the world’s largest landlocked nation. Perhaps a way of defusing tensions between Cohen and the Kazakh government surrounding pending legal action against the Bruno star.

I am aware of the allegations made against Solar Therapeutics, Inc. (Solar). Upon receipt of the cease and desist letter from Mr. Cohen’s legal counsel Solar immediately requested that the sign company remove the billboard in question. As there is an active case before the court, we have no further comment at this time” – Nicholas J. Hemond, an attorney for Solar Therapeutics 

It has been apparent for some time that Cohen is anti-cannabis having openly mocked cannabis culture and cliched ‘stoner’ stereotypes through one of his most infamous characters Ali G. Cohen donated $500,000 to Save The Children and The International Rescue Committee to support victims of the conflict in Syria in 2015. So I guess his compassion for the victims of civil conflicts doesn’t extend to the victims of the disastrous, draconian, and deadly war on drugs.

I find it rather ridiculous that Sasha Baron Cohen, a man with such a high level of intellect and education ‘does not believe cannabis is a healthy choice’ especially given his championing of various social justice and equity campaigns. 

Image: ECCSC protesting outside of CuraLeaf in Chicago, Illinois

Cannabis activists in Illinois stage sit-in To highlight the inequities and injustice of the cannabis industry

The final story we’re going to cover this week involves a group of activists from the US state of Illinois staging a sit-in outside of a cannabis dispensary. The group hopes to raise the issue of reparations for historic cannabis convictions, that despite expungement still prevent black and ethnic minorities from entering the newly ‘legalised’ cannabis industry.

The group Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change (ECCSC) are staging a week-long sit-in outside a franchise of CuraLeaf in Chicago. CuraLeaf is the perfect location for this protest given that they currently operate 107 dispensaries in 23 US states. The group is protesting the disparities in their state’s‘ legal’ model which means that there are still no minority/black-owned dispensaries in the state, despite there now being over 100 individual dispensaries.

The group’s founder Tyrone Muhammed said ahead of the planned protest that “Although weed is legal now, ex-cons still cannot work in the cannabis industry or dispensary; can’t apply for a license, although we paid our debt to society” It has been 26 months since ‘legal’ sales began and the industry is booming in Illinois, yet individuals like Tyrone Muhammed are still left with the burden and legacy of prohibition in Illinois. 

There are no automatic barriers to people with convictions from owning or working in the cannabis industry in Illinois. Licensure may be denied under certain grounds detailed in the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.” – Statement from The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

There is an amendment currently sitting on the desk of Governor JB Pritzker that was approved by the state’s House and Senate. It would create an additional 100 licenses and level the playing field for black and minority businesses. At the time of writing this, it remains unsigned. 

Expungement alone doesn’t deal with 20, 30, 50 years of incarceration and destruction to our communities by taking black men off the streets. Ex-cons who were taken away for marijuana need to see our fair share of profit after all we and our families have been through. It’s an injustice we must stand [against] right now. If we don’t fight, who will?” – Tyrone Muhammad, founder of ECSC 

The group ECCSC wants more than just token social equity through licensing programs and grant schemes. They want financial restitution in the form of reparations paid depending on the length of incarceration or inconvenience caused by the state’s historic cannabis prohibition. This is something that I agree with wholeheartedly. Those most affected by the war on weed should be the first to profit from its peacetime. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 31

Last Week in Weed

(12/7/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at a billion-dollar cannabis bust in California, new figures showing that UK police are seizing cannabis every 4 minutes, and Tilray completes the first harvest of GMP ‘Medical cannabis’ in Germany.

Largest cannabis bust in Los Angeles Country history

$1.19 billion ‘illegal’ cannabis bust in California

The first story that we’re going to look at this week is a billion-dollar weed bust in California. Last Wednesday Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department announced that it had seized 16 tons of cannabis. Nearly 375,000 plants and 33,480 pounds (15,187kg) of cannabis flower with an estimated value of $1.2 billion.

The eye-watering haul was found following a 10-day sting operation across 200 locations in Southern California. The operation began on June 8th and resulted in 22 felony arrests, 109 misdemeanor arrests, and 19 arrests by the water theft enforcement team. 65 vehicles and 180 animals were also seized by authorities during the operation.

Local officials have stated that they believe ‘International cartels’ are responsible for setting up and maintaining these large-scale ‘illegal’ farms. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Narcotic Bureau detectives have identified over 500 unlicensed cultivation sites in 2021, up from 150 in 2020. They also found the average size of these clandestine grows has nearly doubled from 8 greenhouses to 15 in the last 12 months.

“We’re talking about the cartels, we are not talking about mom and pop people selling marijuana that they grew in their backyard. This is the cartels. We are very very close to driving down the freeway and seeing bodies hanging from the overpasses. That is what’s coming.” – Mayor Rex Parris , Lancaster, California

The scale of this unregulated operation shows that there is still a huge hole in the ‘legal’ supply chain. The regulated market in California was worth $4.4 billion in 2020, up 57% from the previous year – with a billion dollars being collected in various state taxes. However, this is only a minuscule amount compared to the unregulated legacy market that is estimated to of supplied 80% of cannabis consumed in California in 2020.

“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing an illegal operation in the high desert: Your days are over and we’re coming for you” – Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

The vast void created by the arrogance, ignorance, and greed of ‘big weed’ is inevitably going to be filled by entrepreneurial individuals, organised groups, and yes, unfortunately, international cartels. The vapid and vain vulture capitalists riding high atop the ‘green wave’ fail to understand the wants and needs of the existing legacy market and as far as I can see always will. After all corporate greed doesn’t make for good weed. 

“This illegal activity is impacting the quality of life for residents and businesses and if left unaddressed will have long-lasting and devastating effects in the region. This is an issue that is plaguing, and will continue to plague, if we do not make it very uncomfortable and one way to make it uncomfortable is to prosecute” – Kathryn Barger, LA county supervisor 

The language used in statements made by LA officials is highly reminiscent of the ‘tough on drugs’ approach of former US Presidents Nixon or Reagan. Hyperbole statements and the use of keywords and phrases to instill a sense of fear and dread – classic reefer madness tactics. 

The unregulated legacy market in the US was estimated to be worth $63 billion in 2020 and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Isn’t it time the ‘legal’ market acknowledges that they have built their fiefdom on the back of the legacy market? 

The ‘legal’ regulated cannabis industry must respect and fight for those victimised and terrorised by decades of its prohibition. They must seek above all else to accept their place in pushing for social equity, social justice, and to attempt to right the wrongs created by criminalising what they now sell freely.

The roots, history, and legacy of millions of individual lives ruined by prohibition must be addressed. The racist, classist, and villainous motives for its creation and perpetuation have to see the light of day. Ultimately, we are not free until we are all free to grow, possess, and consume as much cannabis, however, and whenever we choose. 

Police seizing cannabis every 4 minutes in England and Wales

New figures show that Police are confiscating cannabis 358 times a day in England and Wales.

New figures released by the UK Home Office show that cannabis is once again the most commonly confiscated drug by police in England and Wales. During the year ending March 2020, cannabis was found in 71% of all drug seizures in the UK nations. 

During that period there were 130,751 seizures of cannabis – an increase of 21% from the preceding year. Seizures of cannabis flower increased 22% and seizures of cannabis resin rose by 20% last year.

A total of 8,984 cannabis farms were discovered across England and Wales, with 490,254 plants being seized and destroyed – an increase of nearly 25% compared to 2019. UK Border Force also stopped over 5,000 packages containing cannabis flowers from entering the UK – the highest number in 24 years.

Cannabis production not only feeds a multi-million-pound illicit market, but cannabis is also an increasingly potent and harmful drug and a key driver in other serious criminality. Police continue to see a number of significant cannabis cultivation operations, often linked to serious and organised crime networks, and we work closely with other law enforcement agencies to target those responsible. 

We will continue to focus efforts on the criminals and organised gangs who are destroying lives and fuelling the violence we’re seeing on our streets. Our tactics are already showing some success, with a 21 percent increase in the overall amount of cannabis seized by police” – Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin, The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Drugs

The National Crime Agency (NCA) released a recent assessment on serious organised crime that reveals that cannabis is now the largest single drug market. The agency estimates that £2.4 billion of cannabis is consumed annually in England and Wales. It has been a record-breaking year for forces across the country with West Midlands police finding more than 6,000 plants in just one bust. The massive operation was spread over 40 rooms in a property in Walsall. 

The authorities in this country are celebrating these figures as if they actually reflect a reduction in the availability of cannabis in the UK. The removal of small-time growers and dealers over the past 50 years has cleared the way for increasingly violent gangs to take over the production and supply of cannabis in most major cities in England and Wales. 

The latest manifestation of the systemic failings of consecutive governments is ‘CountyLines’ and the deliberate targeting and exploiting of impoverished youth. This is a symptom of a far sicker society than any of us realised we’re living in. One whose pathology can be traced back to decades of divisive and destructive governmental policies, racism, and classism. 

With one hand, the state is destroying billions of pounds of cannabis and with the other denying some of the most vulnerable and sick in our society access to desperately needed cannabis on the NHS. We produce the most cannabis in the world on this little island, isn’t it time the people we’re afforded the same opportunity for fiscal, physical, spiritual, and mental liberation?

The ‘medical cannabis industrial complex’ argues they are the only ones capable of providing consistent quality cannabis for use as a therapeutic medicine in the UK. The recent product recall of Noidecs flower for dangerous toxic mould heavily contradicts this assertion. One way to settle this debate for good would be to test all of those seized products and compare them to the products being produced by the Pharma cartels. Unless of course, they’re scared of what the results would tell us. 

Tilray completes first GMP harvest in Germany

Tilray completes first GMP harvest in Germany

In our final story this week, we’ll be discussing one of the monoliths of the ‘legal’ cannabis industry. We have covered this Canadian powerhouse extensively throughout this blog series as I feel, for better or worse highly influential on the international stage. The latest act performed by Tilray is the completion of its first harvest of GMP-certified pharmaceutical-grade cannabis in Germany. 

Our harvest in Germany represents an important milestone in granting access to high-quality and trustworthy medical cannabis to patients and healthcare professionals in Germany. It is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of our team that, despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we remained on track as the first licensed producer to cultivate medical cannabis in Germany. –Denise Faltischek, Chief strategy officer at Tilray

Aphria RX GmbH a German subsidiary of Tilray, announced last week that it had completed its first harvest of its GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified ‘medical cannabis’ in the country. The crop was produced at the companies new 6,000 square foot facility in Neumünster, Germany. 

The European Union represents a powerful growth market for us and, among its constituent markets, Germany possesses the greatest potential. We look forward to leveraging our strong medical platform and our multifaceted international operation, which combines in-country cultivation, importation, and large distribution infrastructure, to increase access and availability to high-quality, consistent medical cannabis for all European patients.”

Tilray’s achievement in Germany serves as a strong affirmation that we are competitively differentiated by scale and proven execution skills. As a result, we are poised to transform the industry globally with our highly scalable footprint, portfolio of diverse medical cannabis brands, and compelling products that respond to a wide range of patient and consumer needs. The E.U. is central to our worldwide distribution network, and we look forward to accelerating our progress.” –Irwin D. Simon, Tilray CEO 

The pharmaceutical-grade cannabis flower produced at this new GMP-certified facility will be sold to the now estimated 100,000, and growing ‘medical cannabis’ patients in the EU-member nation. Germany ‘legalised’ ‘medical cannabis’ back in March 2017, but since the law change has suffered much the same fate as the UK – plenty of demand but little domestic production and access. This has made German patients and pharmacies dependant on imported cannabis from countries like Canada and the Netherlands. 

Tilray was the first international cannabis company to export a ‘medical cannabis’ product to the European Union back in 2016. They quickly followed this up in 2017 with a multimillion Euro facility in Portugal. Its continued steamrolling of foreign markets is something that I expect to continue deep into this decade. 

This latest milestone for the company comes off the back of another recent success in another foreign market for Tilray. The launch of its first Canadian craft cannabis brew in the US, through its subsidiary SweetWater Brewing Company in partnership with Canada’s Broken Coast Cannabis Ltd. 

So as Tilray looks poised to take over the world by diversifying its products and portfolio, I cannot help but wonder how all of this connected to the formation of a British think tank and the 2018 campaign to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 30

Last Week in Weed

(5/7/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at the Mexican Supreme Court ‘decriminalising’ cannabis, The US Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson being banned from the Olympics after testing positive for THC, and finally, the UK Home Office granting a research license for the cultivation of high-THC cannabis in Lincolnshire.

Mexican Supreme Court ‘decriminalises’ low-level personal possession of Cannabis

Mexican Supreme court ‘decriminalises’ low-level cannabis possession

The first story that we’ll cover this week is one that we have looked at a few times now in this blog series – The fight to end cannabis prohibition in Mexico. Last week saw the latest development in the Central American nation’s battle to once and for all end the unwinnable war on weed.

In an 8-3 decision, the Mexican Supreme court ruled last Monday that several sections of the country’s general health law that prohibit the personal consumption and home cultivation of cannabis are unconstitutional.

The new decision means that adults wanting to cultivate their own cannabis plants can now apply for a permit from the Health Secretariat to ‘legally’ possess up to an oz (28g) of cannabis. Until now individuals had to petition the court for an injunction to consume and grow cannabis without being criminalised.

The Mexican Supreme court first granted an injunction to four citizens back in 2015, creating the mechanism for others to do the same. Several cases later and the court ruled in 2017 that the government must draft legislation to ‘legalise’ adult consumption and cultivation of cannabis in Mexico.

The Mexican Congress has since asked for several extensions to the court-mandated deadline. Twice sighting that there are ‘technical aspects of the bill which require more time’ and most recently blaming the global Covid-19 pandemic for delaying progress.

The courts decision comes after a proposed bill to ‘legalise’ possession of up to an oz (28g) and cultivate up to 8 plants stalled in the countries Senate. This ruling ultimately still criminalises personal possession over 5 grams, any form of sales, and personal cultivation without a license. You know all of the things required to consume cannabis without potentially supporting the perpetuation of other criminality.

So in a lot of ways, this is exactly what the congress and the government have been hoping for, an easy way for them to obfuscate their responsibilities and obligation to enact a new law ‘legalising’ cannabis in Mexico.

I worry that this will placate enough of the grassroots movement in Mexico and lead to a reduction in the pressure being placed upon the state. I now fear that the masses will be appeased by this ruling to such a degree that the current Mexican government will be able to simply shelve any further reform with little to no objection from its citizens.

Image: http://www.confuzine.com
Olympic suspensions for banned THC

US Sprinter banned from Olympics after THC found during drug test

100 metre US gold medal hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from competing in the late-run 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan later this month. The 21-year-old track and field sprinter was suspended last week after failing a drug test following her win at the US qualifying trails.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Champion tested positive for THC after she won the US trials last month. After completing a mandatory counseling program Sha’Carri accepted a one-month suspension that disqualifies her from competing at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Image: The Guardian
Sha’Carri Richardson suspended after testing positive for THC

“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels. Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her.”- USADA CEO Travis Tygart

It is such a shame for this athlete as in April 2021 Sha’Carri Richardson became the world’s sixth-fastest woman and the fourth fastest in US history. Speaking after her suspension Sha’Carri said that she had started smoking cannabis after a reporter had publicly informed her of her biological mother’s death a week before the qualifying trials began in Oregon last month.

The Texan sprinter said that “hearing such intensely personal news from a complete stranger was definitely triggering and shocking” and that it sent her into a “state of emotional panic”. The red-headed runner later Twitted that “Don’t judge me, because I am human.”

There is another case closely linked to this one that has emerged recently. A Chilean weightlifter has also just been suspended after failing a drug test for THC. Arley Mendez sprang to prominence in 2017 with a surprise victory in the former 85kg category at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships.

The South American athlete has launched an appeal to WADA because the drug was consumed ‘recreationally’ and not to enhance sporting performance. If successful the 27-year-old would be eligible to compete in the Olympics this year.

Image: Panama Sport
Chilean weightlifter Arley Mendez suspended after testing positive for THC

This is a rather interesting situation when you look at the contradiction in messaging here. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) along with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) classifies cannabis as a ‘performance-enhancing drug’ yet the US government and International bodies classify cannabis as a ‘drug of abuse’. How can it be both?

WADA will prohibit a drug if it meets two of the following criteria;

– The substance is considered a performance enhancer

– The substance potentially pose a health risk to athletes

– Its use violates the ‘spirit of sport’

We know cannabis isn’t a health risk so the other two criteria used to ban THC are that it is a performance enhancer and that its consumption violates the ‘spirit of sport’ set out by WADA. They define the ‘Spirit of Sport’ as “the celebration of the human spirit, body, and mind,” adding that it reflects the values of sports, such as character, teamwork, and “fun and joy.”

How they can say that cannabis isn’t an aid to “the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind” is beyond me. So with recent rule changes allowing CBD and ‘medically prescribed’ cannabis to be consumed by athletes, it is just a matter of time before we see THC and cannabis in general removed from sporting banned substances lists across the globe.

Home Office issues high-THC research license

UK Home Offices grants THC research license

Our final story this week concerns the UK Home Office issuing a high-THC Cannabis cultivation research license. The announcement was made last week that the London Stock Exchange-traded cannabis investment firm, Ananda Developments had secured a license from the Home Office to cultivate cannabis in the UK for research purposes. 

DJT Plants, a subsidiary of Ananda Developments will cultivate 13 cultivars for use on large-scale in-house research into the efficacy of cannabis for the conditions that are currently being privately prescribed here in the UK. 

The team will pop a selection of seeds from the 13 high-THC, high-CBD, and one for one cultivars and keep 5 of each for ‘pheno hunting’ making a total of 65 sub-cultivars for research. 

All the material that we currently have in the UK is imported, and quality and consistency seems to be variable. “I think there’s a huge opportunity to provide a UK source of medicinal cannabis for both UK and international patients. 

Our aim is to have our own unique strains that will be suitable for the indications that are being treated in the UK, and will be plants or chemovars that thrive in UK conditions. Stabilising these 65 strains is about getting the genetics to the point where plant after plant after plant, you’re getting exactly the same cannabinoid profile. 

We’re also very focused on terpenes which is fairly cutting-edge in terms of where medicinal cannabis is at the moment. “While the research is thinking about terpenes, there isn’t much focus on the terpenes when it comes to the flower that is being offered.” 

Growing sustainably DJT Plants will use the UK’s natural growing season, during which the facility will benefit from long hours of light and its greenhouses will create the right temperature to avoid having to rely on artificial light and heat. Its material will then be sent to Israel for cannabinoid and terpene analysis. 

When you grow under artificial conditions of light and heat, the power that is consumed is astronomical, so whilst we talk about this natural product, we’re ignoring the fact that actually it can be really damaging”

Patients and prescribing doctors will know they’re getting a UK product, which hasn’t traveled very far, meaning it’s probably going to be fresher, hasn’t chewed up power or transportation costs coming from the other side of the world and it will be consistent and of a high-quality.” – Ananda Developments CEO, Melissa Sturgess

The company has previously worked with GW Pharmaceuticals on sustainable cultivation techniques. If the company secures further licenses they intend to move to commercial cultivation, domestic sales, and exportation to mainland Europe. 

DJT Plants are expected to break ground on their new £300,000 purpose-built Lincolnshire facility later this month. The new facility will include two greenhouses, a breeding area, a laboratory, and a clean room to handle and package mature flowers. The site will be kept secret and secured and monitored by private security. 

This seems like a thinly veiled attempt for Ananda to best position itself ahead of what very much feels like an impending policy change in the UK. The Labour Drug Policy Reform Group and the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group are both currently pushing heavily for corporate-first drug policy reform here in the UK. So it is looking ever more likely that there will be some form of movement on this subject either this year or early into 2022. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 29

Last Week in Weed

(28/6/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week In Weed, We’ll be looking at a new study from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that suggests there is a link between young adult cannabis consumption and suicide ideation, a UK man who suffered a violent psychotic episode after consuming some ‘laced’ cannabis, and finally, the UK cannabis industry expresses concerns over TIGRR recommendations. 

New study suggests a possible link between young adult cannabis consumption and suicide ideation in the US

A new study titled “Associations of Suicidality Trends With Cannabis Use as a Function of Sex and Depression Status”  published last week on the JAMA Network Open suggests a possible link between cannabis consumption and suicide ideation in young Americans. 

The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the US federal National Institutes of Health. 

They examined 286,650 adult participants between the ages of 18 – 34 of the US National Surveys of Drug Use and Health data from 2008 – 2019.

The study purports to “of found associations of past-year cannabis use disorder, daily cannabis use, and non-daily cannabis use with higher prevalence of past-year suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt in both sexes, but significantly more in women”

This data suggests that “cannabis use was associated with higher prevalence of suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt among US young adults with or without depression, and the risks were greater for women than men.”

This meta-data analysis study attempts to take so-called cannabis use disorder (CUD) and major depressive episode (MDE) into consideration by adjusting for them within their published findings. Their analysis of the selected data revealed that cannabis consumers have a higher propensity to report suicidal thoughts or suicide ideation.

The study claims that suicide ideation remains regardless of whether the individual has been diagnosed with depression or not. According to their findings, the average American not suffering from depression has a suicide ideation prevalence of 3% compared to 7% of non-daily cannabis consumers, 9% of daily consumers, and 14% for those diagnosed with CUD.

This rises considerably when MDE is comorbid. In those diagnosed with MDE suicide ideation is prevalent in 35% of non-consumers, 44% non-daily consumers, 53% of daily consumers, and interestingly 50% amongst those diagnosed with CUD. The same sort of figures is presented for suicide planning and attempts.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among young adults in the United States, and the findings of this study offer important information that may help us reduce this risk. Depression and cannabis use disorder are treatable conditions, and cannabis use can be modified. Through better understanding the associations of different risk factors for suicidality, we hope to offer new targets for prevention and intervention in individuals that we know may be at high-risk. These findings also underscore the importance of tailoring interventions in a way that take sex and gender into account.” – lead author Beth Han

Interestingly, the study revealed an abominably in their data, it seems to show that women who use cannabis, at any rate, have higher levels of suicide ideation than men. This study provides some insight into suicide ideation in young Americans but it is greatly let down by its design. The study is too limited in its scope and doesn’t take into consideration the myriad of other factors that are detrimentally affecting the generation of individuals selected for their analysis.

This generation of young adults is more informed than any before them. They are acutely consciously aware of the impending climate crisis, They are witnessing socio-economic collapse and the final phases of late-stage capitalism. They were born into a new digital age and given all knowledge and information in the palm of their hands, but no way to utilise it constructively – and we expect them not to be at least a little bit fucking suicidal?

This study also does not take into consideration that during the period that was examined the prevalence of cannabis use amongst adults in the US doubled from 22 million in 2008 to 45 million in 2019. A number that will continue to rise as more and more US states ‘legalise’ adult consumption of cannabis.

So ultimately I believe that all we are seeing here is proof that young American adults who are conscious of the misery and suffering around them are choosing to relieve that anxiety and existential crisis by consuming cannabis, instead of the far more socially acceptable traditional drug that is highly prevalent in our society and has a far higher associated risk of suicide.

It has long since been established that there is a strong link between alcohol consumption and suicide attempts. One study of 58,000 US suicides found that 1 in 5 suicide victims had an elevated blood alcohol level. This increases to nearly 1 in 4 when focusing on male-only suicides.

Interestingly, unlike cannabis consumption women are associated to have fewer issues with suicide ideation than men. This study titled “Acute alcohol intoxication and suicide: a gender-stratified analysis of the National Violent Death Reporting System” also revealed that this seems to be an issue far more prevalent in younger Americans than the older generation. Whether this is due to different generational philosophies or ethics or down to some of the factors we discussed above is still up for debate. 

Further reading material: “A closer look at substance use and suicide” and “Suicidal behaviour and Alcohol abuse”

UK man suffers a violent psychotic break after consuming ‘laced’ cannabis

This week’s second story is another propaganda hit-piece from our favourite UK local media conglomerate, Reach PLC. The piece we’ll be looking at is from the Manchester Evening News. It’s titled; “’Kind and gentle’ vegan who ‘abhors violence’ attacked mum with knife after using ‘laced’ cannabis”

Immediately, you can feel the tone of the piece in the words that were chosen for its title. ‘Kind and gentle vegan who abhors violence’ juxtapose to ‘attacked mum with knife’ attempts to make the reader sympathise with the man who consumed the ‘laced’ cannabis. A tone you do not often see from mainstream media outlets, especially Reach PLC properties. 

The initial incident happened in August 2020 when a man from Wigan in his late 40s consumed cannabis suspected to be laced with a synthetic cannabinoid after returning from work to his mother’s house.

He told his mother that he was going upstairs to bed, before coming down 10 minutes later while ‘shaking’ and ‘crying’, saying he was ‘sorry’ before he told his mother that ‘he had met someone who was the ‘messiah’ who told him he was ‘the devil’ and that he had to kill her’ He apologised and left the room before returning with a knife and violently attacking her. 

The man’s octogenarian mother ‘struggled’ with her son suffered cuts to her hands and neck. Fortunately, she was able to escape and raise the alarm with neighbours that had already heard ‘loud screams’ coming from the house. 

When police arrived on the scene the man was holding a large fork and knife, before being tasered by police for non-compliance. Luckily the woman only suffered minor superficial wounds to her hands, neck, and ear. She has since made a full recovery. 

Further, still, she not only forgave her son for the incident but also recently attended court to support him during the trial which saw him convicted and sentenced to 20-months in prison. 

When the man was asked later by health care professionals why he had attacked his elderly mother, he said it was ‘impossible to explain’. Police searched the man’s room after the incident and found five bags of cannabis in his bedroom weighing a total of 5.64g. 

Their toxicology reports confirmed that he had used cannabis during the attack. Unfortunately, no tests were conducted on the cannabis for adulterants or contaminants by the police, so we will never know what synthetic cannabinoid or other compounds that could have caused this extremely rare and unexpected violent reaction to the consumption of cannabis.

During the recent trail, the court accepted that the cannabis the man consumed was likely adulterated or ‘laced’ with an unknown synthetic cannabinoid which would explain the ‘wholly unexpected effect’ on the man’s state of mind. Perhaps the reason the charge was reduced from attempted murder to the lesser charge of section 20 assault. 

To describe this as out of character is to make a gross understatement. Fortunately, your mother’s injuries were not as serious as they could have been. She forgives you absolutely and simply wants you to return home. If nothing else, this case serves to illustrate in perhaps the starkest of terms the dangers of consuming illegal drugs” -Judge Hilary Manley

Following a lengthy pre-trial detainment the man will soon be up for release from prison having served his sentence on remand. His mother has expressed that she wants him to move back home when he is released from prison. His defence solicitor Philip Clemo has said that “He is never going to take cannabis again, because he has just had the worst year of his life” 

If nothing else this makes an excellent argument for the urgent need to create a regulated adult consumer market here in the UK to prevent adulteration and any risk of similar incidents occurring in the future. 

Spice has already become a serious problem within certain vulnerable populations, we do not need to risk it spreading into the estimated 5 million+ cannabis consumers in the UK. 

Unlike most other drugs the consumption of cannabis isn’t associated with an increase in violent behaviour. There are a small number of individuals that may have an adverse reaction, suffer the early onset of a pre-existing mental health condition, or even have a temporary psychotic episode but generally speaking, cannabis is still globally regarded as one of the safest so-called ‘recreational drugs’ for most individuals. 

UK cannabis industry expresses concerns over TIGRR recommendations

Our final story this week is the UK cannabis industry expressing concerns about number 10’s plans for the ‘Hemp’ (Industrial cannabis) and CBD industries. As covered previously in last week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, the new TIGRR task force has published recommendations for the UK’s cannabis industry. 

This week the industry is responding with far less fanfare having taken the time to digest the consequences of adopting such restrictive recommendations. The ‘Hemp’ and CBD industry are now responding with a mix of confusion and annoyance at the either ignorant or corrupt TIGRR proposals. 

The report and its advisors demonstrate a complete ignorance of the law and the industry as the only medicinal products available in the UK are those made by GW Pharmaceuticals. The CBD industry is a food supplement industry not a medicinal one.” – Steve Oliver, Director at The Canna Consultants

It is worth mentioning up front that the TIGRR’s recommendations are incredibly similar to those presented by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) Both bodies co-founded by Steve Moore, who is a long-term contact of George Freeman MP, one of the three TIGRR report authors. 

Knowing this it becomes a lot easier to see why their recommendations seem so restrictive and stymieing. The companies that pay their £25,000 a year membership fee to the ACI and the CMC don’t want an under-regulated or free-market preventing them from medicinalising, pharmaceuticalising, and monopolising the entire UK CBD and ‘Hemp’ industry.

Tailoring regulations to support research into the medical benefits and risks of cannabis is right in line with the spirit of the UN rescheduling of cannabis last December, as well as the repeated calls from national institutes such as NICE who have stated that more research into medical cannabis is needed. Our hope is that these statements will be translated into regulations in the near future” – Barbara Pastori, Consulting Services Director at Prohibition Partners

These recommendations have caused much confusion and anger within the domestic CBD industry as companies have spent the past few years preparing for regulation under the Food Safety Authority (FSA) following the 2016 declaration that CBD was a novel food supplement and not a medicine. The industry feels this is an unnecessary move that would only further hinder the growth of the domestic CBD and ‘Hemp’ (Industrial Cannabis) industry. 

If these recommendations are adopted the entire CBD industry could find itself reclassified as a medicine. This would immediately create several insurmountable obstacles to most of the small to medium-size producers and sellers here in the UK that simply wouldn’t be able to afford to pay to play in the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex.’

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 28

Last Week in Weed

(21/6/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at Connecticut becoming the 19th ‘legal’ adult consumption US state, TIGGR recommending an overhaul of the UK ‘Hemp’ and ‘medical cannabis’ industry, and a UK solicitor tells a magistrates court his client will continue to consume cannabis despite prosecution.

image: TheRealDeal.com

Connecticut set to become 19th US state to ‘legalise’ adult consumption

Last week saw the announcement that Connecticut is likely to become the 19th state to ‘legalise’ adult consumption of cannabis. The New England state joins its neighbour New York who also ‘legalised’ cannabis earlier this year. 

The bill would ‘legalise’ personal possession of up to 1.5 oz and up to 5 oz at home from July 1st, 2021. It would allow for homegrown but not until July 1st, 2023, with 6 being the allowed total. Three mature and three immature per person. 

The bill would also expunge low-level and petty convictions and direct most of the tax revenue towards communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Just as they have done in New York, half of the state’s adult-use licenses will only be issued to social equity applicants.

The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs” – Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont

Once passed into law, New Hampshire and Rhode Island would be the only states left in the northeast peninsula yet to ‘legalise’ adult consumption. Although, I expect that by the time the May 2022 deadline set for adult sales to start in Connecticut comes around, that these two will be finalising their adult consumption bills. 

The states surrounding us already, or soon will, have legal adult-use markets, by allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale …we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states” – Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont

With neighboring states set to launch commercial sales in the coming years, it simply makes sense to be at the forefront of reform and innovation than lagging behind it. Connecticut’s market is expected to be worth $725million by the end of 2025 and contribute an additional $600million in tax revenue over the first five years. 

This year has shown us that state legislatures are capable of rising to the challenge to end cannabis prohibition. A supermajority of Americans have made it clear that they favor a system of legalization and regulation rather than the status quo. This victory will add to the momentum towards cannabis policy reform in other states and at the federal level” – Karen O’Keefe Marijuana Policy Project

The ‘legal’ cannabis industry in the US is estimated to grow to be worth over $43billion a year, and that is without any form of federal reform, decriminalisation, or the passing of the MORE ACT. An estimated 43% of American’s now have access to legal adult-use cannabis. The momentum around cannabis reform in the US House and Senate has never been higher, so expect to see more states turning green real soon.

TIGGR recommends changes to UK ‘Hemp’ and ‘Medical cannabis’ regulations

TIGGR recommend changes to UK ‘Hemp’ Industry

Last week saw the release of the final 140-page report by The Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) The task force was set up by the current Conservative government to explore ways they could boost the economy by exploiting new regulatory loopholes and blind spots created by the chaos and confusion surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. 

In their report they make a hundred recommendations around UK industry, two of which pertain to the cultivation of Low-THC cultivars of Cannabis Sativa colloquially known in the UK as ‘Hemp.’ These Low-THC cannabis varieties have been grown in the UK for their rather strong and durable fibres and highly nutritious seeds for hundreds, if not thousands of years. 

Unfortunately due to licensing limitations the extraction of Cannabinoids such as CBG and CBD from these cultivars isn’t economically viable or sustainable here in the UK. This is because low-THC cannabis cultivation licenses forbid the extraction of desired compounds from the flowers and leaves of the plant, you know the part that contains the most trichomes and thus the most cannabinoids and terpenes.

The current regime makes it very difficult for scientists in the UK to conduct pharmaceutical research on potential medical benefits of cannabinoids and medicinal CBD. International examples and leading scientists working in this area have shown that sensible, but limited, reforms to the current licensing process could unlock significant investment into UK medical research into cannabinoids for pain relief” – TIGGR report

TIGGR is seeking to end this limitation, well partially for the ‘hemp’ and ‘medical cannabis’ industries at least. They are recommending that the UK government change the licensing system and move the regulation of ‘medical cannabinoids’ and ‘medicinal CBD’ (whatever that is) from the Home Office to the DHSC / MHRA (Department of Health and Social Care and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) “to create a regulatory pathway for assessment and approval based on patient benefit”

Whilst there is in the UK a fast-growing, legal and well-established consumer market for medicinal CBD for a range of pain and neurological conditions, current Home Office rules make it impossible for them to be produced here. This means that domestic consumers are relying on imported products and the UK is losing out on a £1 billion medicines industry” – TIGGR report

At present, this is prevented because the rules governing CBD medicines are not properly separated from the criminal law on banned substances derived from cannabis. ‘Our recommendations cover legal-to-use CBD medicinal products only. This report has focused on potential medical usage and does not recommend decriminalisation for recreational use.’

UK PM Boris Johnson welcomed the report saying that: “Your report shows what a fully sovereign United Kingdom can achieve given sufficient ambition and vision on the part of its government. I look forward to drawing on your work in the months and years ahead as we build back better than ever before” 

A spokesman for the PM has said that he will consider and respond to the report’s recommendations in due course, but I highly doubt that this is currently that high up on his agenda. This debate comes at the same time that Hannah Deacon and other relatives of severely epileptic children continue to pressure the UK government for changes to allow for ‘medical cannabis’ products to be prescribed on the NHS. Last Week the 9-year-old brother of a boy with epilepsy hand-delivered a letter to Boris Johnson at Number 10 Downing Street, asking the PM to help fund his brother’s care and the care of hundreds of other vulnerable children in a similar potion.

Last week also saw a back-bench debate about the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which turned 50 this month. The debate was co-chaired by Jeff Smith and Crispin Blunt the MP figureheads for the Labour and Conservative Drug Policy Reform Groups, respectively. 

The debate was relatively short and focused primarily on shifting the legal focus from criminalising the small percentage of drug consumers that may develop a dependency issue to pathologising their excess consumption instead of attempting to understand it as a consequence of a toxic and systemically unfair society. (Read the debate minutes here

While there was discussion on ‘decriminalising’ the personal possession of all drugs there was still little discourse about the vast majority of consumers of all drugs that consume their substance of choice without any personal or social consequences, bar getting caught possessing it, of course. 

There is a lot of momentum building around drug reform in the UK but it is all heavily skewed to a medical paradigm and perspective and not a human rights one. 

If the ill and infirm have a right to alleviate pain then so do the well have a right to escape the harshness of daily reality or to explore their own vast and infinite consciousness in peace. 

Image: Dutch Passion

UK solicitor tells court client will continue to consume cannabis

Finally this week a solicitor has told a court in South Tyneside that his client will continue to consume cannabis despite his conviction for possession. The solicitor said that his client, a twenty-year-old man from Silksworth, Sunderland consumes cannabis as it helps with his diagnosed Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD. 

A local newspaper reported that ‘the young man smoked cannabis as he thought the drug had a positive impact on his health condition.’ After being charged the man’s legal counsel, Greg Flaxen told the court that his client “used cannabis to boost his health and not for getting high.”

I would have thought a cannabis warning could have been offered at the police station. “He does smoke cannabis on a daily basis. He has Tourette’s, he has the ticks, he has outbursts. One positive of cannabis is the calming effect that it has. He says that it helps with his ADHD. He says that he doesn’t smoke it to get high.”

You can consider a discharge, either absolute or conditional. He’s made full admissions and has explained that he smokes it every day. I would be wrong to say that he is not going to continue with it. If it’s a choice between health or breaking the law, health seems to take precedence.” –Greg Flaxen, defence solicitor

Ultimately, the magistrates fined the man £80 with additional charges of £85 court costs and a £34 victim surcharge. There is no estimate provided on the cost to the court or the legal system as a whole to establish that this man will continue to prioritise his health over obeying outdated, draconian, and harmful laws. 

It is painful to me that as the mountains of evidence continue to build showing that cannabis can help treat and manage a multitude of mental health disorders and conditions such as Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, Anxiety, depression, and PTSD. That individuals like this are still being dragged through the legal system and then ordered to pay a ‘Victims surcharge’, despite being a victim themselves of decades of state-sponsored propaganda, prohibition, and ideological terrorism.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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 27

Last Week in Weed

(14/6/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at two Portuguese political parties that have revealed bills aimed at ‘legalising’ adult consumption of cannabis, Cultivation license applications now open on the Isle of Man, and batches of ‘medical cannabis’ recalled in the UK due to mould.

Portugal to consider ‘legalising’ cannabis

Last week saw the Portuguese political parties of Left Bloc and The liberal Initiative put forward similar bills that would ‘legalise’ adult consumption of cannabis in the southern European nation. The bills outline each party’s position of how they believe that cannabis should be cultivated, regulated, and sold in Portugal.

Cannabis possession has been decriminalised in Portugal for the last two decades thanks to a law change that decriminalised the possession of small amounts of all drugs for personal use back in 2001. There have been a few opportunities over the years to ‘legalise’ cannabis but none have found any real momentum until Portugal ‘legalised’ ‘medical cannabis’ in 2018.

The personal possession limit for cannabis is set as ‘10-days worth’ which is currently considered to be 25 grams of cannabis flower or 5 grams of hashish. A threshold that campaigners have been arguing for many years now is far too low and that decriminalisation does nothing to help protect consumers from adulterated and potentially dangerous products on the unregulated market.

The two bills were revealed during a debate last Wednesday (June 9th) that resulted in both bills being sent to The Health Committee (THC, a good omen, no?) to consider. Over the next 60 days, they must conduct public hearings and debate and negotiate any amendments before voting can occur in Parliament.

A spokesperson for the Portuguese Parliament told Prohibition Partners that; “due to the timing of the debate and the 60-day period of negotiations, the bill more than likely won’t go for final voting before the end of this legislative session” The current Parliamentary session will end in Late July and not begin again until Mid-September.

The prohibitionist policy is not a solution, in fact, it is part of the problem and enhances its aggravation by protecting the clandestine nature of trafficking and jeopardising of public health. Legalisation and subsequent regulation will promote conscious, free and informed consumption” –Bill 859 proposed by Left Bloc.

So what’s in these bills? Well, interestingly enough both parties are proposing a regulated commercial market that sets limits on the amount you can buy, the levels of THC, and where you can consume it. They also both back the right to grow your own with Left Bloc’s bill proposing a cap of 5 plants and The Liberal Initiative seeking a 6 plant limit per person.

The major differences between the two bills come down to how the system would be owned and operated. The Left Bloc bill 859 would see a state-owned system that allows the government to control all commercial cultivation, production, and distribution. This would also include a rather authoritarian approach to register all cannabis consumers on a national database.

In contrast, the proposals put forth by The Liberal Initiative bill 862 would see a market that has little-to-no state intervention and one that keeps in line with the ‘culture of freedom’ that is associated with cannabis. Their bill would also allow for the sale of synthetic and processed products like edibles and drinks – a move that doesn’t seem to be supported by Left Bloc’s bill.

In Portugal, currently, cannabis is widely distributed and consumed, and it [possession and consumption] no longer has criminal consequences. However, the decriminalisation that took place in Portugal in 2001, considered exemplary in the world panorama, was not a liberalisation because cannabis continued to be clandestine, and continued to expose consumers to criminal underworlds and adulterated [unregulated] products” – Bill 862 proposed by The Liberal Initiative

The final major difference between the two proposals is a maximum price suggested by Left Bloc to allow for state-run operations to compete directly with the unregulated and currently criminalised market economically. This idea is not shared by the authors of the other bill, they believe that free-market principles should regulate and dictate the price and value of products in the new market.

This news firmly places Portugal amongst other European countries that are seeking to be the first European nation to fully ‘legalise’ cannabis for adult consumption – such as Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands.

Isle of Man opens applications to cultivate ‘medical cannabis’ for exportation.

Cultivation licenses come to the Isle of Man

Last week saw the government on the Isle of Man open license applications for the cultivation of ‘medical cannabis’ for export. This comes after proposed changes to the Island nations Misuse of Drugs Act 1976 were unanimously backed in January 2021. The changes to MoDA now allow for the cultivation of ‘medical cannabis’ for export under license from the IOM government.

Licenses will be issued by the Islands Gambling Supervision Commission and are expected to be priced between £250 and £45,000 depending on the specific type of license required. This move will make the majority of residents rather happy as a public consultation in 2019 showed that 95% of respondents were in favour of cultivating ‘medical cannabis’ on the island.

We have worked carefully to apply the best of that framework to the risks in the new sector and we have educated ourselves in the technical areas that are new to us. What we now have will ensure that all stakeholders will be competent, crime-free and capable of building a sector that is safe, trusted and efficient.” – Mark Rutherford, director of policy and legislation at the GSC. 

The Isle of Man’s cannabis sector is expected to create some 250 new jobs and add £3 million to its economy annually in the coming years. The government is also hopeful that the new cannabis sector will help support other industries on the island like construction and lead to the development of new businesses.

I am delighted to welcome licence applications and look forward to attracting quality businesses to the Island, transforming the cannabis export sector into a key contributor to the Isle of Man’s post-Covid economic recovery” – Laurence Skelly, Minister for enterprise

The Isle of Man isn’t the only British Crown dependency seeking to exploit its unique legal position. The Isle of Jersey has also been allowing applications for the cultivation of ‘medical cannabis’ recently and is one of the smaller markets to keep an eye on over the coming years.

An example of mould on cannabis flowers.

‘Medical cannabis’ recalled due to mould contamination

A supplier of ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK has had to issue a product recall over two batches of its cannabis flower lines due to toxic mould being discovered by consumers. The company responsible for the mouldy flower supply cannabis on prescription through private cannabis clinics.

The two products that have so far been recalled for having ‘toxic mould contamination’ are Noidecs T20/C4 (THC 20%; CBD <4%) Indica Cannabis Flower and Noidecs T20/C4 (THC 20%; CBD <4%) Sativa Cannabis Flower.

The importer and distributor of the above products (Eaststone Limited) has informed us of reports that two affected batches may be contaminated with mould. Therefore, these batches are being recalled as a precautionary measure. This recall is being issued as a company-led recall due to the limited number of packs distributed, and Eaststone Limited have full traceability of the onward distribution by their customers” – UK Government website statement

Recently pictures began to circulate on social media showing mouldy cannabis flowers. This led one ‘medical cannabis’ prescription holder to say that “These headaches are so bad, this is supposed to be medicine, but it has made me sick. What am I going to do now? How can I trust the next batch? I have been taking cannabis for 30 years, I have never gotten mouldy product from my dealers” 

Another described their experience with the product saying “[I] feel I’ve been robbed. I have gone through nearly 20g in the week its done nothing, it’s so hard staying on the script when I know there is good cannabis out there”

The MHRA is currently conducting an investigation into the two batches and are expected to announce their results in the coming weeks. This is a major blow to the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex’ that has sold itself to the naive public, policymakers, and investors as the only ones capable of providing consistent quality cannabis products for medical consumption.

CanCard was quick to jump on the story to highlight the need for ‘patients’ to be ‘legally’ allowed to grow their own cannabis at home. They argue that it is much easier for an individual to oversee and control the cultivation of a few of their own plants compared to the logistics of trying to grow on a large industrial scale. 

This is such a disappointing situation. Many patients in the UK have spent thousands of pounds to become legally protected from prosecution for taking the medicine that helps them, they do so in the belief that these products would be safer. The fact that patients who live with chronic debilitating illnesses are now suffering from mould toxicity simply for choosing the legal route is unforgivable. 

Realistically small grow operations that are currently illegal in the UK have better quality control, this is difficult with large-scale operations where the required care and attention isn’t as viable. Many patients have returned to the illicit market this weekend and have lost faith in the private clinics. This is the result of a profit-driven model. There is space for a more community cantered approach – with a health centre and dispensary that comes from a more genuine place with rigorous testing” – Cancard statement

The team at Dispensary Green Pharmacy then released a statement about the product recall and subsequent media attention surrounding the story. 

Our team at Dispensary Green pharmacy are working around the clock to call all patients that have received medicine from these two batches and can provide support as needed. We are requesting that all patients discontinue use if they have medicine from these two batches, and return all packs in their possession. This includes unopened packs and opened packs”

There is minimal risk for any patients that have taken the affected medical cannabis products, highlighted by the “precautionary” recall from the MHRA. Our priority at Dispensary Green has always been the welfare of our patients and we shall continue to act transparently and closely with patients to resolve this matter”

It is deeply concerning that some grow-your-own activists are using this event as an opportunity to degrade the hard work of the medical cannabis community and push an agenda focused on the illegal consumption of product sourced from clandestine black market cannabis growers. The legal medical market is priced competitively and built to safeguard patients so we can rid the country of black market dealers” – Dispensary Green Pharmacy statement

This is the same spiel that they have been selling us for years now. The idea that big pharma is the only one who can save us from the villainous scourge of illegal ‘black market dealers’ you know, the same ones that have for decades provided quality cannabis to the most vulnerable and most in need in our society. 

The fact that they have the nerve to attempt to minimise the potential harm their mouldy products could cause is rather telling of their unwavering need to prioritise profit over the patient. Toxic moulds found in cannabis can cause a whole range of symptoms and illnesses. Moulds like Aspergillus, Mucor, and Cryptococcus can cause serious and even deadly infections in the lungs, central nervous system, and the brain in people with compromised immune systems – like ‘medical cannabis patients’.

They end their statement by saying; “As always, it’s important to ensure that medical cannabis is stored correctly by patients. For natural flower products the direction is for pouches not to be opened until consumed, and then kept in the sealed pouch and stored away from light at room temperature.” 

How is this not an attempt to shift blame onto the consumer and obfuscate their responsibility as a supplier? We will see when the MHRA makes its statement in the coming weeks exactly how this unfolds, until then it is pretty safe to say that many ‘medical cannabis patients’ will be giving their old dealer a ring this week. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

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.