Last Week in Weed Issue 21

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 21)

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

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at the UK’s largest cannabis cartel being honoured by the Queen, UK ‘medical cannabis’ and ‘hemp’ heavyweights calling on the government to do more, and finally, the Prohibition headshop’s fight to end Quebec’s unjust ban on the sale of cannabis-themed merchandise.

GW ‘honoured’ by the British Queen

The first story that we’ll be looking at this week is the news that the UK’s largest ‘legal’ cannabis cartel GW Pharmaceuticals has been ‘honoured’ by the antiquated British figurehead of state – the Queen. 

It was announced last week that GW was awarded ‘The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation’ for ‘leadership in cannabinoid science and development of prescription cannabis-based medicines.’ 

The award which is now in its 55th year is awarded ‘to products or services that have been available on the market and can demonstrate outstanding innovation and commercial success for at least two years’. It may of gained so-called commercial success through sales but the efficacy of its products Sativex and Epidiolex would struggle to earn the same designation from their consumers. 

GW was founded in 1998 after a Royal Commission report on cannabis recommended that the UK government ‘decriminalise’ cannabis and begin researching its therapeutic benefits. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t ‘decriminalised’. GW was founded within weeks of the Royal Commissions’ report being buried and its recommendations ignored. 

Just a few months later and GW was granted an exclusive monopoly on research by the UK Home Office. They maintained this cartel for two decades by being the only ones that were legally allowed to cultivate cannabis under license from the government. They even managed to get the law changed with the passing of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This gave them legal protection to sell their highly profitable patented products without having to address the ‘no accepted medical value’ wording of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

During that time they secured numerous patents for cannabis to treat cancer, epilepsy, mental health disorders, arthritis, and neuropathic pain to name but a few. Now ask yourself how many people have gone to prison for growing their own cannabis to treat one of those same conditions while this company has known it can help them. How many people have needlessly suffered and died to protect their intellectual property? Ultimately, GW’s gain is not just the entire country’s loss but the world’s.

We are honoured to receive such a prestigious award for British businesses. When Dr. Brian Whittle and I founded GW 23 years ago, our mission was to improve the lives of seriously ill patients by unlocking the potential of the cannabis plant through rigorous scientific investigations and extensive clinical trials in order to obtain regulatory approval for such medicines to benefit patients” 

Much of what is known about the medical uses of cannabis was discovered by GW. We have led the way in understanding cannabinoid science and how, if harnessed correctly and taken through the regulatory approval pathway, it has the potential to improve the lives of patients and their families” – Dr. Geoffrey Guy, GW Founder, and Chairman 

Wow, what a truly repugnant and pompous thing to say;“Much of what is known about the medical uses of cannabis was discovered by GW” The arrogance and sheer ignorance shown in this statement is truly unbelievable. It is emblematic of the ongoing whitewashing, gentrifying, and erasure of our global cannabis culture and history by neo-liberalistic capitalists and the ‘medical cannabis’ industrial complex.

Collectively humanity has known about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and its potential to alleviate and treat myriad conditions for thousands of years. From the cultures of ancient China to that of the Mesopotamians there is hard historic evidence that they utilised cannabis as an everyday therapeutic aid. 

Regular consumers of my content will be aware that I am anti-monarchy and believe that this decaying, draconian, and antiquated relic should be confined to the annuals of history. So this announcement brought together two of my biggest hates in this world, the unchecked greed, and villainy of capitalists, and the idea of subservience to a monarch.

Ultimately, this is just another sad tale in the long sordid history of cannabis prohibition and the transition to prohibition 2.0. It will serve as evidence to future generations just how backward and illogical our thinking was during this time. 

UK ‘Medical Cannabis’ heavyweights co-sign new report

Last week saw the release of a new report from Maple Tree Consultants and Mackrell.Solicitors. The paper titled ‘UK Medical cannabis & CBD Market – Ten Recommendations for Government’ was co-written by former The Simpa Life Podcast guest Professor Mike Barnes. 

The report highlights the absurdity that currently 100% of the ‘medical cannabis’ being prescribed is being imported to the UK and that no one with a low-THC license is authorised to extract from the flowers. The authors also state that currently the global ‘medical cannabis’ industry is worth £16.5 billion and is projected to be worth £55 billion by 2027. 

The report lays out 10 recommendations for the UK government including simplifying the cultivation licensing system, increase THC cap on ‘hemp’ to 1%, allow domestic extraction from flowers, amend human medicines guidelines to allow CBD companies to make wellness claims, and allow GPs to be prescribers.

This new report is being pushed by the newly created Cannabis Industry Council (CIC). A new UK ‘medical cannabis’ and ‘hemp’ trade body offering a ‘collective voice for a new sector’. It’s just such a shame that their new sector won’t include a voice for the UK adult consumption market. 

“We need a voice to represent the industry as a whole – that is everyone; clinics, dispensaries, patients’, groups, lawyers, licensed producers, educators, charities, researchers, professional bodies, the trade groups, and others” – Prof Mike Barnes (Businesscann Interview)

So far the CIC has over 60 members including Alta Flora, Althea, Alto Verde, APPG on Drug Policy Reform, British Hemp Alliance, CanCard, Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, Clear, Access Kaneh, European Industrial Hemp Association, Scottish Hemp Association, CannaPro, Cannabis Trades Association, Drug Science, Eaststones, Grow Biotech, Khiron, Little Green Pharma, Lyphe Group, Mackrells Solicitors, MG Health, PLEA, Sativa Learning, Towergate Insurance, and Unyte. 

Their website states there are more that will be made public soon. The cost of membership to the Cannabis Industry Council varies. There is a mechanism for a ‘pay what you can afford’ approach, though generally, membership costs £1000. A bargain when compared to the eye-watering £25,000 charged by the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) or The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) 

Interestingly, the CMC and ACI were not invited to join the CIC. A move that I believe indicates their distrust in the Conservative party-affiliated trade groups. A feeling I echo deeply, as I would argue that it is their cronyism, corruption, and unfettered capitalistic greed that are the reason the CIC needs to now exist.

I would say our aim is to be the voice for the industry as a whole; so if the Government has any particular issue I would like to see them come to us first, as we will have the expertise to talk to them across all of the sectors”

The second aim I would say, is in relation to lobbying and, going with that, we need to counteract the negatives that come in the press in relation to cannabis; so the media, marketing and PR-side is really important, too. 

And, of course, one of the main roles of the CIC will be to push for prescriptions on the NHS. To make it widely available to all those who need it. – Prof Mike Barnes (Businesscann Interview)

If I am honest here I’m torn here. On one hand the existence of the CIC impedes the CMC/ACI cartel which I applaud. However, on the other, their expressed aims are only to “bring together all those disparate organisations, businesses, and groups working in many different ways to promote the cause of medicinal cannabis and hemp CBD” 

I mean notice the distinct absence of the word cannabis there. I cannot help but feel that is just another party that we simply are not invited to attend. It deeply saddens me that so many are happy to be spoon-fed the new narrative and regurgitate on demand the terminology, world view, and ideals of the oppressor. 

Also this week the conservative ‘drug policy think-tank’ Volteface finally launched its ‘Pleasant Lands’ project that I first warned about in my call to arms letter last August. This public launch being just a month after the FSA took over regulating the UK CBD industry and the release of this report is no coincidence. 

The conservative cabal they represent have destroyed the UK CBD market and now they’re going to step in and ‘save the day by lobbying to get the current regulations updated to further benefit their ‘big money’ clients in the ‘hemp’ and ‘medical cannabis’ industry.

Prohibition Counter-culture Club headsop.
Image: Prohibition Counter-culture Club

Canadian headshop challenges ban on cannabis-related words and images

On October 17th 2018 Canada became the second country to ‘legalise’ cannabis bypassing The Cannabis Act. This act of ‘legalisation’ brought with it a whole host of new rules, restrictions, and regulations. Some of those new laws prohibited the promotion of cannabis and any products or packaging that ‘might appeal to children’. This was done in an attempt to discourage youth consumption of cannabis, which remains a prosecutable offence in Canada.

Since ‘legalising’ Canada has granted its various individual providences the power to apply additional restrictions and regulations. One such instance is in Quebec, where since ‘legalising’ cannabis there has been a ban on the sale of any products bearing words or images that are associated with cannabis and cannabis subculture. Well, except for the cannabis itself which must be purchased from a state-licensed dispensary.

Recently a Quebecer named Christopher Mennillo, the co-owner of Montreal-based retailer and lifestyle brand ‘Prohibition Counter-Culture Club’ has been rather vocal about these restitutions. Under current law in Quebec private retail shops are prohibited from selling anything with slogans, images, or words associated with cannabis. They may only sell paraphernalia that is explicitly used for the consumption of cannabis. Something that I highly suspect violates various articles of the Canadian Human Rights Act

While the federal government’s partial ban on cannabis promotion makes sense from a public health perspective, Quebec’s total ban “eliminates all possible references to cannabis,” including everything from books to clothing to candles, and infringes on certain freedoms” – Christopher Mennillo

The first Prohibition headshop was started by Mr. Mennillo’s father as a small stall at a market in Montreal in 1984. The brand which now operates 25 physical stores across Quebec has said that when cannabis was legalised in 2018, they didn’t expect to have to reevaluate their entire inventory and pull products off the shelves. Prohibition claims that over $100,000 in t-shirts alone had to be removed from their stores.

Prohibition’s Vice President of Operations Brian Demers estimates the annual loss from the prohibition of cannabis-themed products to be at least $1.5ca million. It’s a significant amount of money for a small family-run business, but it’s even more intense when you recognize that there are small mom-and-pop shops that have been part of advocating for cannabis for so long” says Mr. Mennillo. 

The Prohibition headshops began legal proceedings to challenge the legislation shortly after the law change in 2018 but it took until a few weeks ago, on April 15th for their case to be heard. Representatives of Prohibition argued that such a blatent infringment of freedom of expression is not proven to protect children from being exposed to cannabis.

The state’s legal team argues that it is simply following a similar rationale to the way tobacco is now regulated. Going on to claim that images of cannabis would encourage kids to want to try it. We currently do not the Justice Marc St-Pierres verdict, regardless it will take a lot of fight to clear the stigma from cannabis’ good name.

It’s kind of ironic that it was in large part thanks to the activism of Marc and Jodie Emery that Canada has ‘legalised’ cannabis. They were persecuted and prosecuted for selling cannabis books, seeds, and other weed-themed goodies from their Cannabis Culture stores.

Yet they are banned from the industry they helped build and now carry life-long convictions for daring to be pioneers in the Canadian cannabis space. I sincerely hope the same fate doesn’t await Christopher Mennillo and the Prohibition Counter-Culture Club.

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 20

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 20)

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

In this twentieth issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at how the UK celebrated 420, The US House of Representatives passing the SAFE Banking Act, and the southern African Kingdom of Lesotho exporting its first batch of ‘medical cannabis’ to Europe.

Crowds gather in London’s Hyde park
Image credit: REUTERS

How the UK celebrated 420

First up this week, we’ll look at how the UK celebrated the annual global cannabis culture holiday, 420. This year saw the UK spend its second consecutive 420 under Covid-19 social distance restrictions and regulations. This meant that once again the UK cannabis clubs, organisations, and campaign movements haven’t been able to organise large-scale cannabis protest events or gatherings this year.

The main concerns for organisers were the ever-changing Covid regulations and the optics of holding such an event during such unprecedented times. There was the odd exception such as Cornish Haze’s event down in Cornwall but generally speaking, the other gatherings that took place were not coordinated or organised by the usual individuals or groups within the UK Cannabis Community.

Nevertheless, thousands turned up to the usual locations in Leeds, London, Bristol, and Manchester to name but a few. The vast majority of these organic gatherings occurred without any negative or disruptive incidents. However, a 15-year-old girl was allegedly stabbed in the leg during a brawl that was captured on video at the unofficial London’s Hyde park gathering.

A rather large amount of rubbish and litter was also reportedly left by revelers in Leeds. This is usually tackled at these gatherings by the event organisers and their volunteers. Unfortunately, as the gatherings were unplanned so was the management or clean-up of such a large-scale gathering.

Regardless of official organisation there is no excuse to leave litter after the park and police have been so chill with you openly breaking the law in the first place. Especially when they’re this cool about it.

“It is hugely disappointing that a large amount of litter was once again left on Woodhouse Moor yesterday. Our message to those who visit Woodhouse Moor and indeed all our parks and green spaces across the city is very clear. Please take some personal responsibility and bring bags with you to take your rubbish home or dispose of it in an appropriate manner.” – Spokesperson.

Their statement doesn’t demonise or stigmatise cannabis consumers. They don’t call for future gatherings to be banned or further criminalised they simply ask that park users take personal responsibility by bringing a bag and not being a twat by littering.

Although we all celebrated the day in our own way on 420. I wonder how many of us paused to think about how across the country there are still raids happening to countless grows, thousands are still in prisons, and how millions of consumers still face the threat of being criminalised for consuming a plant far less harmful than sugar.

US House of Representatives passes the SAFE Banking Act

On 420 eve (April 19th) the United States House of Representatives passed the cannabis banking reform act known as SAFE. The US House voted 321 – 101 in favour of the measure. The Act would finally allow banks and other financial institutions to provide banking services to businesses in legal states without the risk of being prosecuted under federal law.

“Members on both sides of the aisle view SAFE Banking as a fundamentally sound policy for job growth and economic opportunity, equity, and public safety” – David Mangone, Liaison Group

The SAFE Act is the first piece of cannabis legislation to be approved by the newly Democrat-controlled House. Last December the House passed the MORE Act but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, the Democrats took power in January after the last election so the process will be started all over again and will likely this time pass.

“As we continue to push forward with full legalization, addressing this irrational, unfair, and unsafe denial of banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses is a top priority. This is a critical element of reform that can’t wait, and I urge our cannabis champions in the Senate to take up this legislation as soon as possible” – Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat

The SAFE Banking Act will now proceed to the Senate to be debated and voted on again before it would be passed up to the President to be signed into law. Its passing would be huge for the industry as it would finally allow cannabis businesses to access traditional banking services like checking accounts, payroll, and loans. This would greatly help the smaller businesses and hopefully help promote more social equity in the US industry too. 

Cannabis stocks responded positively the next day on April 20th as news of the SAFE Act passing its first major hurdle on its journey to Joe Biden’s desk in the Oval Office broke. While consumer traffic at dispensaries on 420 was up 10% as many Americans enjoyed their first 420 in a newly ‘legalised’ state.

It is not all a bed of roses in the US right now, as last week the Florida Supreme Court blocked a constitutional ballot aimed at ‘legalising’ adult consumption of cannabis in the state. This has forced the ‘legalisation’ movement in Florida back once again to the ballot drawing board. There are only a handful of states that remain firmly opposed to passing or introducing state measures to ‘legalise’ cannabis but their impact on the wider conversation can still be far-reaching.

The debate about whether to end the federal prohibition of cannabis in the US rages on in the halls of power while the average American citizen has already made up their mind about it. The majority now think that it should be ‘legalised’ according to data analytics from YouGov and Cresco Labs.

The same data revealed that a quarter of Americans admitted consuming cannabis in the last year. A rise of 56% since 2018. The data also found that a whopping 44% of American’s believe that 420 should be recognised as a national holiday. (something I greatly agree with)

The US cannabis market is set to triple from $30billion in 2020 to $90billion in 2025 without federal ‘legalisation’. So you can just imagine the scale of the financial incentive the government has to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

So with more American’s consuming cannabis than ever before and companies like Uber ready to enter a federally ‘legalised’ cannabis market. I think it’s SAFE to say that federal cannabis prohibition in the US won’t last much longer and who knows the US may just have seen its last ‘illegal’ 420.

Kingdom of Lesotho becomes first African nation to export ‘medical cannabis’ to Europe.

Lesotho becomes first African country to export ‘medical cannabis’ to Europe

MG Health a ‘medical cannabis’ company based in the independent Southern African kingdom of Lesotho has announced that they are the first Africa company to receive a license to export ‘medical cannabis’ to Europe.

The country’s largest cultivator made the announcement last week that it had received the license after meeting the European Union’s Good Manufacturing Practices standards (GMP) granting them the ability to export flowers, oils, and extracts as an ‘active pharmaceutical ingredient’ to Europe.

The company will export its first crop to Germany later this year. The accreditation was intended to be complete last year but due to the Covid-19 outbreak inspectors could not travel to the independent nation to verify the accreditation. The company hopes this move will invite further international trade, having already received inquires from France, the UK, and Australia about importing their cannabis.

“We want to be known internationally as the best cultivator of medical-grade cannabis anywhere in the world. We can only see this improving the lives and the health of the people of our great country” – Dr. Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, spokesman for the Lesothan PM

MG Health’s facility is located high in the mountainous region just outside of the capital Maseru. This is where the company employs 250 locals on its 5,000 sq metre farm. The company is hoping to increase the workforce significantly to 3,000, which as noted by one of the MG Health team is “almost the entire population of the community.”

“Corporate social responsibility developmental projects will also take off and eventually reduce crime and poverty among the villagers” – Nthabeleng Peete, community liaison manager MG Health

In 2017 Lesotho became the first African country to grant a commercial ‘medical cannabis’ cultivation license to Verve Dynamics, a Lesothan and South African-owned company. US Rhizo Sciences then immediately announced a partnership with MG Health to create a 38,000 sq metre cultivation facility in Lesotho. Later that year the country issued licenses to five other Lesothan companies including MG Health.

The above-mentioned Verve Dynamics is now 30% owned by Aphria. Daddy-Cann is now owned outright by Canopy Growth Corp, who also now owns 10% of MG Health after purchasing fellow Canadian producer Supreme Cannabis a few weeks ago.

The US, UK, and Australia are among the big international players currently seeking to exploit the average 300 days of sunshine in the mountainous regions of Lesotho, the low cost of labour, and capitalise on the potential for Lesotho to become a powerhouse in the emerging African cannabis industry.

“We are sitting in a rural area where there is hardly any income. More business for the company will create a knock-on effect on the locals too because we also acquire some products and services from the villagers. Some supply us with vegetables, milk and beans, among other [products]. An increase in the workforce means an increase in the villagers’ income, too.” – Andre Bothma, CEO MG Health

Lesotho is an enclaved country landlocked within the borders of South Africa. The majority Christian nation became independent in the 1960s after nearly a century of British rule and colonialism. Cannabis has always been a cash crop in the region with some estimates suggesting that Lesotho supplies up to 70% of the cannabis available in South Africa – a region that recently decriminalised cannabis or ‘Dagga’ as it’s known locally.

Cannabis is illegal for all uses in Lesotho but it is discretionarily de-facto decriminalised for personal possession as the law is rarely enforced. However, trading, smuggling, or selling cannabis could still land you in prison for 20 years and/or a fine of 1.000.000 loti (£50.000) under the current law.

The judicial system can and often does reduce the sentence to house arrest or community service minor offences. A farmer who uses the money from selling her crop to send her children to school told the BBC that she only experiences the occasional raid which usually only results in the confiscation of her crop.

“This is how we earn a living. The few jobs that are available are for educated people. So, we rely on marijuana because we don’t have an education” – Mampho Thulo Cannabis farmer in Mapoteng

The situation in Lesotho’s is emblematic of the ‘neo- colonialism’ of corporate cannabis that is pillaging the developing nations of the world. Venture capitalists and the ‘medical cannabis industrial complex are ‘exploring new emerging international markets’ around the world seeking to harvest and exploit the riches of nations already deeply scarred by a long history of colonialism, racism, and genocide.

These huge international corporations proclaim to be using their money and power to enrich the countries they’re now exploiting for cheap labour, landraces, and traditional knowledge. In reality, they are using their influence and wealth to shape the country’s policies to profit them and deny those nations the opportunity to build their own thriving domestically owned and controlled cannabis industry.

If these companies truly wanted to help the millions of economically disadvantaged people around the world that depend on the cannabis trade to live then they would use their billions to influence the UN and other international bodies to once and for all finally end this racist, classist, and colonialist war on drugs by destroying the 1961, 1971, and 1988 conventions on narcotic drugs.

The relative poverty of the majority of the population means that few individuals can afford to ‘legally’ grow cannabis through acquiring a costly license in Lesotho. The unemployment rate is 23% and there is no domestic ‘hemp-cannabis’ industry or CBD industry in the country despite their reliance on the trade of cannabis being one of its top three economic sources and traditional medicine.

We cannot let the end of the war on drugs be the start of a new form of social and individual oppression and exploitation. We must not let the same institutions and individuals that benefited from the criminalising of these countries and communities now enrich themselves from them too.

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 19

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 19)

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 an American man arrested for a positive urine test in Dubai, The BMA, and RCGP voice concerns about Cancard, and finally an all-party group of 100 MPs and peers call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Image credit: Joe.co.uk

US tourist faces prison is Dubai for testing positive for THC

An American man who flew to Dubai has been arrested after doctors treating him in hospital following the sudden onset of Pancreatitis ran blood and urine tests. During the routine treatment, the police were called after tests on the man’s urine revealed he had trace levels of THC in his system. 

Peter Clark, 51 flew from Las Vegas to Dubai looking for recording studio space to utilise out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mr. Clark has claimed that he consumed cannabis back home in the US long before even boarding the plane. 

The police arrived at the hospital while Mr. Clark was still under the effects of drugs administered during the treatment that had left him disorientated from dehydration and a lack of food over the previous few days. The police handcuffed and removed him from the hospital before placing him in a holding cell with three others at Al Barsha police station.

”I was absolutely stunned to learn that I was being charged for having residue ‘marijuana’ in my system. ”I smoked it legally back home, long before I ever even got on the plane.” – Peter Clark

Mr. Clark was then arrested for, of all things DRUG POSSESSION and taken by the country’s anti-narcotics unit and caged alongside 10 other men in a small, cramped, and dirty cell. During processing, Mr. Clark was Hyperglycaemic and suffering respiratory alkalosis and had a blood sugar level tenfold usual levels due to pancreatitis.

Mr. Clark has expressed frustration and confusion as to why he was arrested as he didn’t buy, consume, or bring any drugs into the country. A few days later Peter was released and told to wait at his hotel and wait for further instructions.

”I knew about the country’s strict drug laws, but never for a moment did I consider that I could be thrown in prison over something I did in America. I tried to explain it to the police and be as cooperative as possible, but I’m just being thrown through the system.’The moment I went to the hospital, my time in Dubai was ruined, but I didn’t realise that was only the start of the nightmare” -Peter Clark

Now over a month later, Mr. Clark is still stuck in his hotel room in Dubai, potentially looking at several years in a foreign prison where he doesn’t speak the language, know the culture, or even deserve to be there in the first place. That’s got to be a daunting thought to be locked in a hotel room with for weeks on end. 

The founder of Detained in Dubai, an internationally recognised authority on UAE law, Radha Stirling is representing Mr. Clark. Radha says that visitors to the UAE who have consumed cannabis legally in other countries can face prosecution for possession if traces of THC are found in their blood or urine weeks and potentially months after last consuming cannabis. 

”The UAE’s arbitrary enforcement of laws and lack of predictable legal outcomes means that Peter potentially faces years in prison for legally smoking marijuana. Even if found innocent, he can be dragged through a slow and costly legal process. Visitors to Dubai who have planned for a short stay holiday can end up embroiled in a system that will easily cost them $50,000 – $100,000 in hotels and legal fees but some outcomes are even worse. ”Corrupt police informants have been used by the prosecution to upgrade possession cases to that of drug dealing, which carries a life sentence” – Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai

If no outside pressure is excreted then Mr. Clark is potentially looking at a harsh and lengthy prison sentence. As such Radha Stirling has said that “the US State Department needs to revise travel warnings to Americans who could end up arbitrarily detained.”

The UAE creates the illusion of being a modern party place and although visitors accept that certain behaviours are illegal, it is very easy to be confused when police only randomly enforce the law. ”On the one hand, prostitution, homosexuality, and indecent behaviours are unlawful, and yet they are seen more blatantly in Dubai than most other world cities. ”It is easy to see how visitors might be trapped into believing that anything goes and the police will turn a blind eye” 

The UAE should not be prosecuting visitors for acts committed outside their country. Peter has committed no genuine crime within Dubai. ”It is clear that the UAE must alter the technical wording of their drug laws to ensure foreigners are not unnecessarily persecuted” 

We’ve seen foreigners arrested for drugs taken outside of the UAE, specs of almost undetectable marijuana ‘dust’ at the bottom of belongings, a poppyseed from a bread roll consumed at the airport, pharmaceutical and prescription medicine, and even a glass of wine served onboard Emirates airlines. ”Arresting someone for smoking marijuana in their own country, weeks before they even entered the UAE, is unfairly persecuting tourists who have behaved well within Dubai itself. ” – Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai

This is such a tragic but not unfamiliar tale. The ‘legalisation’ of cannabis in various regions around the world has led to a false sense of security. There are still many places like the UAE that can and will lock you up for having THC in your system. 

GP’s express concern about use of Cancard

In our second story in this week’s Last Week in Weed, we’ll take a look at a recent article that came out on PuleToday.co.uk, a leading publication for GPs in the UK which launched back in 1960. In the article, the authors warn against British medical patients purchasing the new Cancard ‘medical cannabis’ discretion card. 

The piece is written by two of the most respected and well-established health institutions in the country, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

In the article the organisations express concern and worry about Cancard and say that they do not support or endorse the scheme. This stance is rather counter to the narrative being portrayed by Cancard, who has previously claimed to of “designed the card in collaboration with GP’s.” Something that doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in their other claims and the system as a whole. 

The Cancard UK website states that the Cancard has been designed in collaboration with GPs but as far as we are aware there is no formal endorsement from the Royal College of GPs, nor has the BMA, as your trade union, been consulted’ 

Whilst we sympathise with patients who struggle to pay a private prescription charge, we do not believe that this is a justifiable reason to encourage the purchase of unregulated unlicensed cannabis products from unregulated or illegal dealers.’ – Statement by the BMA and RCGP

The Cancard costs £19.99 a year, plus an additional ‘one-off’ £10.00 admin change. For their money the consumer is provided with a holographic credit card-sized bit of plastic that the creators have claimed will help you to avoid prosecution for possession of cannabis without a prescription. The idea is that you show the card to a detaining police officer and they’re supposed to click through to a website, read a few documents and simply let you walk away with your cannabis.

The concept that Cancard sold itself on was that it provided discretion and protection to those that qualify for ‘medical cannabis’ but who cannot afford to access it via a rather costly private prescription. Recent articles in pro-Tory rags claim that Cancard has sold 20,000 cards, at £30.00 a pop, that’s £600,000 raised from some of the most vulnerable and sick individuals in society. Individuals that should be receiving their cannabis subsidised on the NHS anyway. 

In order to obtain a Cancard a ‘patient’ must first meet strict qualifying criteria before applying, far stricter than that of the private clinics. First, the ‘patient’ must have an active diagnosis confirmed by their GP and have tried at least two other forms of medications or ruled out those options due to concerns about side effects or potential dependence issues. Once these criteria are met a ‘patient’ can then ask for a copy of their summary care record which they would then send to Cancard to ‘verify’ their eligibility. 

In their joint statement, the BMA and RCGP stated that although they support the use of ‘cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans’ (CBPMs) under supervision or when prescribed a MHRA- authorised product by a specialist. They “cannot support the use of Cancard or the suggestion that UK registered GP’s sign a declaration confirming a diagnosis in order for the card to be issued.”

In order to verify the patient has a condition there is the option for a patient to submit a summary of care, or, we can confirm with their GP that they have a diagnosis listed. ‘This is in no way implicating a doctor in the recommendation of using or not using a medicine, it is simply a way of confirming the patient has a condition.”

The feedback from GPs so far has been incredibly positive, it is very much being seen as a harm reduction tool in order for their patients to feel less stress over possible criminalisation simply for maintaining their health.” – Carly Barton, Founder of Cancard

It boggles my mind as to why you have to be sick first to be concerned about “maintaining your health” surely if more ‘well’ people consumed cannabis prophylactically then we would have a hell of a lot less disease, illness, and mental health problems pervading our society today. 

MPs call for ‘greater access’ to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

100 MPs call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Our final story this week focuses on a cross-party group of MPs and Peers that are calling for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK. The group chaired by Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi wrote a letter to PM Boris Johnson expressing their outrage and concern. They state that nearly three years after ‘medical cannabis’ was ‘legalised’ in the UK only three prescriptions have been fulfilled by the NHS.

“We sympathise with every patient and every family courageously confronting life with hard-to-treat conditions.” – Spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care

In November 2018 the UK government created a new classification called ‘medical cannabis’ under schedule two of the 2001 Misuse of Drugs act. This ‘legalised’ limited prescribing of ‘medical cannabis’ which was defined under the act as ‘cannabis-based product for medicinal use in humans’.

In the letter, the group calls for ‘compassionate funding’ to be made available for the families of sick children that are currently forced to pay up to £2,000 a month to access cannabis-based products on private prescriptions. The funding would be temporary until either the private sector is allowed to finish the NHS or MPs step up to save the NHS by funding it through cannabis cultivation and in-house product production and distribution.

In the letter signed by 100 MPs and peers, Ms. Antoniazzi said that “Parents were having to fundraise up to £2,000 a month to pay for the treatment privately. In any circumstance, this is a severe financial burden for families already having to cope with very sick children and Covid restrictions have rendered most fund-raising impossible.”

“The reasons for the lack of NHS prescriptions appear to be complex and will inevitably take time to resolve. However, the families to which we refer simply do not have time. They are emotionally and financially broken and their children are at risk of being without their life-transforming medicine within weeks.” – Cross-party group letter

The cross-party group is supported by the campaign End Our Pain, one of the groups that helped to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’ back in 2018. Their director Peter Carroll said to the BBC that “When the law was changed, we thought as campaigners ‘job done’, there will be prescriptions – but it didn’t happen.” 

“We are in this crazy situation where it is totally legal, but hardly any specialist doctors will prescribe it” – Peter Carroll, director of End Our Pain

Juxtaposed to this letter is the recent news that the UK is still the world’s largest producer of ‘legal cannabis’. A recent report by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board estimates that the UK produced 320 tonnes of ‘legal’ cannabis in 2019 – more than triple that of 2016s 95 tonnes. This accounts for 75% of all global trade, which in 2019 stood at 468.3 tonnes of ‘legal’ cannabis

Now just imagine if the NHS cultivated and profited from all that ‘legal’ weed. Instead of private companies exporting it, forcing the public to have to pay ridiculous sums to import cannabis grown in other countries. 

Think about it there would be no more overinflated ‘NHS funding crisis’ headlines, no more hollow slogans like ‘protect the NHS’. We could finally afford to fully fund every vital operation, treatment, and drug needed by the British population. We could more than adequately pay our front-line health staff and key workers. 

We could be at the forefront of discovering and developing new exciting innovations, applications, and novel products for cannabis that could help save countless lives. If only the UK wasn’t so corrupt and capitalistic. 

If nothing else this shows that it isn’t a case of if cannabis prohibition will end, it is now simply a matter of when it will end and who will be the ones to prosper and profit.

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 18

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 18)

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 Mayor of London considering cannabis decriminalisation in the city, Canopy Growth acquiring Canadian Supreme Cannabis, and a cannabis dealer tells a UK judge that he sold weed to cover his low income on Universal Credit.

Sadiq Khan announced that if re-elected he would consider ‘decriminalise’ cannabis

London Mayor to consider ‘decriminalising’ cannabis

First up this week, we will be looking at the London Mayor announcing that if re-elected he would set up an independent ‘London drugs commission’ to look at the potential health, socio-economic, and criminal justice benefits of decriminalising cannabis in the English capital.

Last week the former MP for Tooting and current Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced that if re-elected he plans to create a ‘London Drug Commission’ to investigate the benefits of decriminalising cannabis within London.

The announcement was met with immediate suspicion and skepticism by his opponents, the PM, and even his own party leader. We all know that most politicians are about as trustworthy as a dog guarding a steak dinner, but could there actually be any substance to this policy pipe dream?

The mayor of London is a big role with big responsibilities. But legalising cannabis is nowhere in the remit. Sadiq Khan should focus on his actual job – not on policies he has no control over.” – Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey

Technically speaking Shaun Bailey is right, the mayor of London doesn’t have the power to actually change the law or ‘legalise’ cannabis, that is the government’s responsibility. However, they do have the power to control policing policies in the capital.

Sadiq Khan or whoever is successful in the upcoming election could instruct the head of the MET police in London to no longer criminalise those who break cannabis laws. A move similar to the checkpoint diversion scheme set up by the late Ron Hogg and Mike Barton, Durham constabulary’s former Police Crime Commissioner, and Chief Constable.

We can do that within the law as it stands. We have the discretion to deal with offenders. If we want to divert them, we can do that. We are beyond decriminalisation. We are already doing that.” _North Wales PCC Arfon Jones

If Sadiq Khan is successful in winning re-election and implementing the recommendations put forth by the new commission it could mean that the other 23 mayors would have a roadmap to follow suit. However, to achieve any meaningful change an agreement would need to be made with the local constabulary to ensure the full de-facto decriminalisation of low-level cannabis offences.

Last year the Independent Office for Police Conduct recommended that forces should no longer conduct stop and searches based on the smell of cannabis. Sian Berry the Green Party candidate who is challenging Sadiq Khan for his mayoral seat backs those recommendations and wants more movement around ending the criminalisation of cannabis consumers. Interestingly, the Green party is the only party to currently have ‘decriminalisation’ of cannabis in their manifesto.

Those recommendations have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears as just shy of 110,085 people were criminalised due to antiquated and draconian drug policies in England and Wales during 2019/20 according to a new analysis from House of Commons researchers.

It’s estimated that drug prohibition costs society around £19billion a year according to the London mayors office. A bargain when you consider that Alcohol consumption costs the UK an estimated £21 – £52 billion a year according to Public Health England or the equivalent to 1.3 – 2.7% of the country’s total GDP.

It is estimated by the Treasury department that ‘legalising’ and regulating the sale of cannabis in the UK could generate over a billion pounds a year in taxation, a rather conservative estimate if you ask me. It would also save a great deal of the above-mentioned £19 billion wasted on criminalising cannabis consumers.

The closest rival for the London mayorship is Conservative Shaun Bailey who recently stated that “’legalising’ cannabis would create more issues, rather than solve them.” A truly ignorant and outdated sentiment echoed by the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour leader spoke a few weeks ago about who his party had no plans to even consider ‘decriminalising’ cannabis. Demonstrating just how wilfully oblivious and out of touch the ‘political elite’ in this country really are with the people they purport to represent.

“Cannabis is a gateway drug. Legalising it won’t fix our crime epidemic or save lives. In fact, it will compound so many of the problems we already face. I’ve seen first-hand the misery that drugs cause. I was a youth worker for twenty years, and I know that no one ever turned their lives around while still on drugs. “More personally, my brother suffered from addiction issues. In the end, those issues took his life. Legalising cannabis would have done nothing for him” – Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey

Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed this antiquated and archaic ideology by issuing a press statement after Sadiq Khan revealed his proposals. Stating that;

The prime minister has spoken about this on many occasions – illicit drugs destroy lives and he has absolutely no intention of legalising cannabis, which is a harmful substance. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, will know that the policy on controlled drugs is a matter for the UK Government. It’s not a matter for his office.” – PM press secretary Allegra Stratton

So is this just another cynical ploy by a mayor stuck held captive on a sinking ship being steered by an elitist establishmentarian or could there be some truth to his word? Only time will tell if Sadiq Khan retains his seat and keeps his election promises, but if history is any indicator then you should take this announcement and any statements with a rather large fist full of salt.

Canopy Growth Corp buys Supreme Cannabis for £250 million

Canopy Growth acquires Supreme cannabis company

Canopy Growth Corp announced last week that it was continuing its streak of recent acquisitions by purchasing fellow Canadian company Supreme Cannabis. The deal worth around £250 million was announced last week on April 8th and is expected to be finalised by the end of June this year.

The Canadian powerhouse also announced the previous week that it was to acquire Toronto-based Ace Valley, a company that specialises in producing vapes, gummies, and pre-rolls in a somewhat desperate attempt to attract more Gen Z and millennial customers to the company.

This acquisition will add Supreme brands 7Acres, Sugarleaf, and Hi-way to Canopy’s Tweed, Tokyo Smoke, Houseplant, and Martha Stewarts CBD brands. This would potentially make them the largest company in Canada well, until the Tilray and Aphira merger goes through later this year.

“Our supply is in balance with our demand, so we just view this as a win on the brand side and a win from a production asset side. It also bolsters our path to profitability in Canada, which then positions us to hold that strong set of financial statements for our entry into the U.S. market.” – Canopy chief executive, David Klein 

The deal will also see Canopy take control of Supreme’s extensive consumer database, market insights, and R&D capabilities. Shares of Supreme Cannabis jumped 50% on the announcement but Canopy didn’t fair as well with the share price dropping 5% after news of the buyout broke.

“This is a bit about how do we strengthen ourselves in our home market, so that we can be prepared to really make our mark in the U.S. when we can”  – Canopy chief executive David Klein

The moves made recently by Canopy and other Canadian companies are all about positioning themselves ready for the inevitable federal ‘legalisation’ of cannabis in the United States. When you consider that Canada only has a population of 38 million compared to the US which has 328 million, it becomes clear why they’d want to be the ones making those initial deals and sales.

UK dealer tells judge Universal Credit isn’t enough to feed family

UK dealer tells judge Universal Credit isn’t enough to feed family

Our final story in this week’s Last Week in Weed is that of a 32-year-old father from Manchester who was recently convicted of dealing cannabis which he claimed was to top-up his Universal Credit payment to support his family.

It was reported in the ‘Manchester Evening News’ (a Reach PLC property) last week that a man was stopped by non-uniformed officers in the Skelmersdale, Lancashire area last May. The officers stopped the man in a black VW Passat after witnessing “what appeared to be a suspicious exchange at the driver’s window before the vehicle drove off.” 

The officers tailed the car before performing a stop and search procedure on the driver and the vehicle. In the car, police found 10 deals worth an estimated £215 and around £3,000 on the driver. The man claimed that around half of the cash came from the legal sale of another car and the rest was made from dealing to help cover his bills as he had recently lost his job. He was released on bail pending further investigation. 

A month later the same man was pulled over again by police who claimed that they had spotted him “acting suspiciously.” The subsequent stop and search again led to the discovery of cannabis valued at £120 and extensive messages advertising and arranging other deals. The man once again gave the same defence and informed the officers that he was already on bail for the previous month’s arrest. 

The man was candid and forthcoming at every step along the way within the ‘justice’ system and explained that he dealt to subsidise his low income on Universal Credit. The additional income helped top-up the UC payment which only provided £135 a week for him and his family to live off. An amount he quite correctly claimed was not enough to support his family. 

Legal counsel for the defendant David Lacide argued in court that “his client had been unusually candid and co-operative both with the police and the court” and admitted that “there was an ‘element of immaturity’ about why his client decided to get involved in crime but said he now regretted it” He finished by stating that his client was now back in ‘legitimate’ work and argued that a suspended sentence would be more beneficial”

Despite the defendant’s candour he was still sentenced to 12 months in prison. When delivering the verdict last week the judge said that he was ‘at the end of the road.’ 

Well, by removing him from his family home and ensuring that he cannot continue to earn a ‘legitimate’ living you certainly have forced him down a dead-end road. The court’s decision to send him down condemns his already struggling family into further financial hardship and creates the perfect environment for the cycle to repeat itself all over again.

Ultimately, it was his history of offences dating back to 2004 and a near-identical conviction in 2017 that was the final nail in his coffin so to speak. This conviction is emblematic of the postcode lottery that is cannabis law enforcement across the 43 constabularies in England and Wales. In some you will be ignored in others you will be actively targeted and sought out for prosecution.

If this man’s arrest had occurred in one of the more lenient constabularies he may have only faced a caution or a small fine if he was not eligible for the checkpoint diversion schemes mentioned in the main story of this blog. 

Let’s face it prohibition doesn’t work, it cannot work. There is no punishment harsh enough, no risk large enough to prevent people from utilising the trade and sale of cannabis or other drugs to earn enough money to live day-to-day. 

We need to immediately end the criminalisation of the pre-existing community, culture, and industry and work towards legitimising, regulating, and normalise the already well-established and highly criminalised market. They deserve a seat at the table when deciding the future of any kind of ‘legalised’ or ‘decriminalised’ cannabis market because without them we wouldn’t even be able to have these kinds of discussions. 

We must ensure that the thousands of other individuals in this same position are no longer criminalised and can be allowed to make a living in the emerging UK cannabis industry. All while building the industry of the future, providing for their families, and paying tax along the way. 

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 17

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 17)

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

In This week’s issue of Last Week In Weed, we will be looking at the US state of New Mexico pushing through legislation to ‘legalise’ cannabis, a British police force issuing an incredibly vague PSA about ‘gummies’ containing CBD, and finally, we’ll look at Northern Leaf raising capital for an IPO on the London Stock Exchange later this year.

US State of New Mexico set to ‘legalise’ cannabis

In the previous issue of Last Week in Weed, we covered New York state ‘legalising’ cannabis – the Bill was subsequently signed into law and came into effect immediately last week. This week we’ll be looking at another ‘new’ state, this week it’s New Mexico. The southern border state announced last week that legislation that has been some five years in the making will finally be sent to the Governor to sign into law. 

A special session of the New Mexican State Legislature was convened on March 31st That ultimately approved bill HB2 to ‘legalise’ adult consumption cannabis in the Mexican border state. 

As of writing this blog the Governor has not yet signed the legislation. New Mexico has been in this position before in July 2019 when a similar bill stalled, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case here given the Governor’s positive reaction to the announcement.

This is a significant victory for New Mexico. Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions” – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Once this new legislation is signed New Mexico will become the 16th US state that has ‘legalised’ adult consumption or so-called ‘recreational marijuana.’ As with other states, the bill sets out how the state plans to limit possession, cultivation, and trading of cannabis. 

New Mexico was actually the first US state to enacted a ‘medical marijuana’ law on February 21st, 1978. Thanks to the activism of a cancer patient named Lynn Pierson. A bill that allowed for the use of cannabis as a ‘research program’ approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), using cannabis supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse was proposed by the state.

Image: Lynn Pierson
New Mexico was the first US state to enacted a ‘medical marijuana’ law on February 21st, 1978

Lynn was ultimately successful in getting the state to enact the ‘Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act’ by a significant margin. Although the bill passed The federal government blocked and obfuscated the state-ran program and Lynn Pierson died in August 1978 having never received a ‘legal’ supply of cannabis. The state has not forgotten him though. 

In 2007 when the state passed its ‘medical marijuana’ program they renamed it “The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act” This new act used state-grown cannabis for the program to prevent the federal government from blocking access to those most in need.

This new bill will see the state regulate commercial sales from 2022 and cap the tax on the sales of ‘recreational cannabis’ to 20%. The bill would also see the elimination of taxes on ‘medical marijuana’ and impose an initial excise tax on adult consumption sales of 12% rising to 18%. 

As for social justice, there will be no limit on the number of licenses given to people with previous convictions for cannabis possession and other low-level offences. They will also have their records expunged. Personal possession would be in line with most other states at 2 ounces and home growing would be allowed but limited to 6 per person and 12 per household.

Communities of color have faced the brunt of the war on drugs, and legalization removes some restrictions based on marijuana convictions. However he adds, it’s important to give those communities “market opportunities, for business ownership and employment in this new market space” – DeVaughn Ward, The Marijuana Policy Project.

With two states going ‘legal’ in just a few weeks don’t be surprised to see more following suit soon. 

The three that I think will be next to fall will be Virginia, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. As each state enacts its own version of ‘legalisation’ we move ever closer to an inevitable federal ‘legalisation’ bill that will signal the beginning of the end for global cannabis prohibition.

Cumbria Police issue nonsensical ‘warning’ about CBD ‘gummies’

A Police force in the North West of England issued a confusing and nonsensical warning about young people eating “gummies containing CBD oil” last week. The Cumbrian Police forces child-centred policing team and partners issued the rather vague warning after reports of several separate incidents across Cumbria’ were “Young people are ingesting the “sweets” known as “gummies” containing ingredients believed to include CBD oil.”

This story came to my attention because it was reported in a couple of local online newspapers the ‘News and Star’ and the ‘Times and Star’ last week. The identical articles are poorly written and actually contain little in the way of substance or actual information. 

After a little digging, the two sites are part of a media group that owns some 185 local online newspapers. Newsquest is another one of these mass media conglomerates that ‘localises’ national corporate and neo-liberalistic propaganda to make it more palatable to the people. 

So what is it that the police are trying to warn the public about here? It seems that this piece is simply to scaremonger the uninformed into supporting over-regulation of CBD products by implying that they’ll be ‘contaminated’ or adulterated by THC or other unregulated substances and compounds.

This seems evident to me in the seemingly unsubstantiated claim that a “teenager from Cumbria, has been reported to have been hospitalised, having suffered adverse reactions after consuming ‘gummies’” What were those adverse effects? How much had they consumed? I mean come on, we all know young people are smart enough to say it’s CBD rather than THC to try and avoid getting into trouble with their parents or the authorities. 

These reports are concerning, recreational cannabis use in children and young people is increasing both locally and nationally, especially in ‘gummie’ or vape form. Drugs from unregulated sources are dangerous and may contain other harmful substances.” – Dr. Mike Schofield Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Paediatric Emergency Medicine

I agree with Dr. Schofield here “Drugs from unregulated sources are dangerous and may contain other harmful substances” that’s why we so desperately need to deschedule cannabis and all drugs to create a responsible, regulated, and rigorous marketplace that prevents the sale of substances to minors, reduces the risk of adulteration and contamination while maximising safety, efficacy, and consumer education.

Ultimately, if we want to limit under 18s from accessing cannabis or any other drug we have to end prohibition, regulate and require ID for sale and consumption. We do it with alcohol and tobacco so why not cannabis?

Northern Leaf raising capital for an IPO on the London Stock Exchange.

The ‘medical cannabis’ cultivator Northern Leaf has announced that they raised £14m in an oversubscribed offering over the last month. This includes five institutional investors ahead of its London Stock Exchange debut later this year. 

The Jersey-based company Northern Leaf is the only other company to have secured a commercial cannabis cultivation license from the UK Home Office other than GW Pharmaceutical. The company was first granted a ‘low-THC’ or ‘hemp’ license to cultivate in October 2019 before being approved for a ‘High-THC’ or ‘cannabis cultivation’ license in December 2020. The license is only for ‘medical or scientific purposes’

The company has said that they intend to use the money to build an extraction plant to process the ‘medical cannabis’ flower that it intends to cultivate at its 75,000 square foot facility on the channel isle. The fact that it was oversubscribed speaks to the level of appetite and interest there is on the crown dependant islands for cannabis investment. 

Northern Leaf is likely to soon be accredited with EU GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and GACP (Good Agricultural and Collection Practice) qualifications. This, along with strategic partnerships places the company in a great position to capitalise in the UK and European ‘medical cannabis’ industry. All while their citizens remain criminalised for growing their own or utilising the legacy market that helped build this now thriving sector.

This announcement is emblematic of the multi-tiered system that ‘pay to play’ policies are having on access to cannabis in the UK and Europe. The preference of ‘medical cannabis’ over cannabis is having a devastating, divisive, and disruptive effect on the existing community and culture of cannabis consumers across Europe. 

Within the ‘medical cannabis industrial-complex,’ there is a war waging between regulators, speculative investors, and ‘medical cannabis’ companies seeking to become the gatekeepers, wholesalers, and main financial beneficiaries of any legislative changes to national and international policies and laws. 

In my opinion, ‘Medical cannabis’ actively criminalises the legacy market while profiteering from the foundations laid by the decades of dedication and countless lives lost in a centuries-long war on cannabis consumers. These companies will continue to flourish and devour the ‘industry’ until the millions of consumers stand up and say enough is enough, if this plant is so beneficial then why can’t we be left to cultivate and consume it in peace. 

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 16

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 16)

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

In this week’s issue of last week in weed, we look at the Big Apple finally agreeing on legislation to ‘legalise’ cannabis, IASP questioning the efficacy and safety of ‘medical cannabis’ for the treatment of chronic pain, and finally, a consortium of British ‘Hemp’ and CBD associations/ organisations speak out against ACI/CMC recommendations to limit THC in ‘hemp-based’ CBD products in the UK.

New York is finally set to ‘legalise’ cannabis after several failed attempts to pass legislation in recent years.

New York agrees on legislation to ‘legalise’ cannabis

After several failed attempts over the last few years, the US state of New York finally looks set to ‘legalise’ cannabis after agreeing on how to regulate and tax the adult market through the creation of new legislation. 

The new so-called “Cannabis Law” would seek to end the disproportionate policing of minority groups for low-level cannabis offences. It would also ring-fence a proportion of the tax revenue raised from cannabis sales to be invested in those same communities that were marginalised and left deprived by the failure of cannabis prohibition.

The passing of the law would create a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) that would be responsible for regulating and taxing the ‘legal’ adult consumption market in New York state. Governor Andrew Cuomo estimates that the tax revenue taken in by the agency could reach $350 million annually while potentially creating 30,000 to 60,000 jobs in the state’s newly ‘legalised’ cannabis industry. 

“When this bill is finally voted on and signed, New York will be able to say we have finally undone damaging criminal justice laws that accomplished nothing but ruining people’s lives.” – Liz Krueger Democratic state senator

The new law would create a two-tier approach to licensing. It would create a diverse range of producers by preventing growers and processors from owning retail stores or dispensaries. There would also be licenses required for producers and distributors to ensure strict quality control, product safety, and consumer protection rights.

New York will also implement a socio-economic equity program to help facilitate the participation of those individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Their goal is to have 50% of licenses held by minority or women-owned enterprises. 

One of the more subtitle bits of legislation contained in the law is the proposal to change the tax regulation, replacing the currently universally used ‘weight-based tax model’ with a ‘total THC content tax model’ at the point of sale to the consumer. There would be different rates for THC from flowers than those of extracts. Is this not just a stealth sin-tax on THC? 

Under the new law, all tax would be deposited into the ‘New York state cannabis revenue fund’ The money would be utilised to fund the continuation and enforcement of the regulations. The remaining tax would be split into three categories; Education receiving 40%, Community grants reinvestment funds receiving 40%, and finally, Drug treatment would get 20% of tax revenues.

So what does this mean for the average consumer in the big apple? Well, the personal possession limit when outdoors would be a generous (when compared to some other states) 3 ounces (84 grams) of flower or 24 grams of concentrates. Homegrown would be allowed but only three mature and three immature plants per person.

New York will also follow several other states by expunging previous cannabis convictions and reduce the penalties for violating the law by being in ‘over-possession’ or dealing. The move comes just a month after neighbouring state New Jersey also ‘legalised’ cannabis for adult use. 

The exact wording and fine print are yet to be penned, but it is expected that the bill could be voted on as early as this week. That being said if it were to pass it is unlikely to come into effect until the start of 2022. 

New York’s adult consumption market is estimated to be worth a whopping $4.6 billion by 2023 and $5.8 billion by 2027, according to analysis by the advisory firm MPG Consulting. Watch this space for more information and updates. 

IASP questions the efficacy of cannabis to treat chronic pain

International Pain institute IASP questions the efficacy of ‘medical cannabis’ to treat chronic pain

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) has raised questions about the efficacy of cannabis to treat chronic pain. In a statement published on their website, the IASP states that they have completed a comprehensive review of research on the use of Cannabinoids to treat pain. 

Their conclusion found that due to a lack of sufficient evidence the association could not endorse the general use of cannabinoids for the treatment of pain. IASP also published a list of research priorities that need to be explored to correctly determine the efficacy and prove the safety of using cannabis for the treatment of pain to a level that satisfies the institution.

In the statement published on the IASP website, they link to a series of 13 published scientific articles that they say comprehensively review all of the relevant clinical research and lab data.

IASP states that these reviews took two and a half years to conduct and represent the total work of 

their ‘Presidential Task Force on Cannabis and Cannabinoid Analgesia’ that ultimately informed their final decision. 

While IASP cannot endorse the general use of cannabinoids for treatment of pain at this time, we do not wish to dismiss the lived experiences of people with pain who have found benefit from their use” 

This is not a door closing on the topic, rather a call for more rigorous and robust research to better understand any potential benefits and harms related to the possible use of medical cannabis, cannabis-based medicines, and synthetic cannabinoids for pain relief, and to ensure the safety of patients and the public through regulatory standards and safeguards.” – Andrew Rice chair of the IASP’s Presidential Task Force on Cannabis and Cannabinoid Analgesia.

This announcement comes at the same time that the ‘Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists’ have published their updated guidelines and recommendations for health care professionals in the two south pacific nations. They recommend that newly ‘legalised’ ‘medical cannabis’ products should not be prescribed to patients suffering from chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) unless they are part of a randomised control trial. 

According to a piece that recently appeared in The Guardian there have been plenty of studies looking at Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a combination of THC and Cannabidiol (CBD) yet the IASP will not accept the studies as they have determined that the overall “quality, rigour, and transparency of reporting” of the benefits and harms needs to be improved across the board. We would require higher quality data, for example through randomised controlled trials, to determine the safety and efficacy of using medicinal cannabis for pain”

Last week also saw the Sapphire Medical Clinics being authorised by the Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to open its first Scottish clinic to prescribe cannabis flower and oil predominantly for the management and treatment of chronic pain. So if it doesn’t work why are so many people using it to relieve chronic pain, both legally and illegally daily?

Well, the issue comes down to the way the medical establishment conducts trials and ‘proves’ the efficacy and safety of drugs and treatments. The traditional randomised placebo-controlled studies do not fit with the way that cannabis interacts with the body and its Endocannabinoid system (ECS). Blind trials will not reveal the true potential of cannabis to treat chronic pain, however listening to the millions of daily consumers that have ceased opioids and other treatments in favour of cannabis, just might. 

The treatment of chronic pain is by far the most dominant reason for patients seeking a prescription for ‘medical cannabis’ in Europe according to Prohibition Partners. With 1 in 3 people likely to suffer from chronic pain in their lifetime, the unregulated use of cannabis will continue to provide them relief until the establishment finally catches up with the culture, the science, and the times. 

These are not the first such organisations to come out against cannabis and they won’t be the last. The potential diverse therapeutic benefits of cannabis make it a real threat to the maintenance drug paradigm and sickness industry perpetuated by big pharma and the medical-industrial complex.

Read the full statement from IASP here

BHA, CTA, NI-Hemp, and SHA pen open letter opposing the ACI/CMC recommendations

A consortium of British ‘Hemp’ and CBD organisations speak out against ACI/CMC recommendations

A consortium of British ‘hemp’ (cannabis) and CBD organisations and associations have penned an open letter to voice their protest to proposals put forward by the ACI and CMC on the ‘acceptable limit’ of THC in ‘hemp-derived’ CBD products. The letter echoes points that I made in my Call to Arms letter last year and my recently updated CBD Blog. the letter laments the idea of creating yet more red tape and needless bureaucracy. 

The letter opens with “We write on behalf of over 1000 domestic hemp and CBD businesses in the UK, whose members are from the associations and organisations listed below. We cannot support a number of the recommendations laid out by the ACI and CMC in their new report ‘Health Guidance Levels for THC in CBD products: Safety Assessment & Regulatory Recommendations’”

They go on to state that the proposed 0.03% THC limit in ‘hemp’ and CBD products would be a ‘disaster for the burgeoning domestic UK ‘hemp’ Industry’ and further create more red tape and hinder the development of a domestic ‘hemp’ industry with unnecessary bureaucracy and restrictions.

In the letter, it is stated that global temperatures are forecast to increase causing the levels of THC in currently approved ‘hemp’ cultivars with less than 0.2% THC to naturally increase cannabinoid production and increase its THC content. Many of the approved European varieties are already producing illegally high levels of THC – coming in at around 0.35% THC. 

This is a problem faced by ‘hemp’ farmers around the world where THC limits are kept arbitrarily low. In this letter, the consortium suggests that the UK join the so-called ‘1% club.’ Many countries and regions around the world are currently lobbying to create a global ‘hemp’ industry that is defined as less than 1% THC but one that still ultimately criminalises the adult cannabis consumer through arbitrary legislation and regulations.

Toward the end of the letter, they state that CBD as a food supplement should be available to anyone and that all ‘hemp’ extracts and foods up to 0.2% THC should be completely removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act (MODA 1971) and exempt from controlled drug handling licenses.

While we support a maximum daily limit for THC consumption in ‘hemp’ products, we cannot support 0.03% as a maximum in food supplements, nor of the idea of Schedule 5 cannabis medicines for products containing 0.03-0.2% THC’

We are now just two days from the FSA deadline for novel food applications, so we will soon see how all of this plays out. I cannot help but feel that this is a somewhat short-sighted move that only furthers the division of cannabis consumers. 

They could have taken this opportunity to fight for the whole cannabis plant and not just a handful of its cultivars. The proposed changes in this letter are to benefit the ‘hemp’ industry and not aid in the fight to finally end cannabis prohibition and return the plant to the people.

This ‘canna-lite’ consortium claims that the implementation of the ACI recommended 0.03% THC limit to import flowers and leaves would be incredibly restrictive and destroy a domestic industry worth up to £300 million annually. A number that is eclipsed by the potential tens of billions the UK could make if organisations like this were to put their weight behind a campaign to fully deschedule cannabis in the UK. 

You can read the letter in full here

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 15

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 15)

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

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at capital-backed start-up Dutchie earning a $1.7billion market valuation, The US White House sacking staff over historic cannabis consumption, and London’s Metropolitan Police to review stop and search for cannabis possession.

Image credit: TechCrunch.com
Ross Lipson and Zach Lipson founders of Dutchie

Dutchie earns a valuation of $1.7 billion valuation

Founded in Bend, Oregon in 2017 by Ross Lipson and Zach Lipson Dutchie is a cannabis ordering platform that connects consumers with retailers. They provide a service that creates and runs websites for cannabis dispensaries as well as processing and tracking orders for pick up. A service that has gained greatly in popularity during the on-going global Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

The Capital-backed start-up has recently earned a market valuation of a whopping $1.7billion after raising an additional $200million through its series c funding to become one of the most valuable venture start-ups in the cannabis industry, so far.

It has only been just over 6 months since the company completed its series B funding, raising $35million. This resulted in Dutchie being valued last August at $200million, the exact amount raised in this round of fundraising. Which in turn resulted in the company earning that massive $1.7Billion valuation.

Longer term, this is a retail-first model. The nature of this industry lends itself to a hyperlocal model largely because of the way that plants are cultivated and processed, so I believe retail will remain intact and continue to be successful” – Dutchie co-founder and CEO Ross Lipson

So what changed in such a short amount of time? Well, Dutchie recently acquired two US cannabis companies. GreenBits and LeafLogix make enterprise resource planning and point-of-sale software, respectively. The acquisition of which will allow Dutchie to more easily become an all-in-one cannabis tech platform for its growing customer base.

They are also benefiting from an overall resurgence of excitement and interest in the cannabis investment space that has seen various mergers already this year, further stimulating interest in the emerging sector. Several of Dutchie’s previous investors returned including Thrive Capital, Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, Gron Ventures, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

This most recent round of financing was also the largest so far for a cannabis startup. Dutchie hasn’t disclosed the price it paid for either company but what we do know is that GreenBits was valued at $58million last year and LeafLogix was valued at $13.9million in 2019. The companies collective employees will now effectively double the size of Dutchie as an employer.

Speaking with online platform TechCrunch.com Dutchie co-founder and CEO Ross Lipson answered a question about whether the company is looking to go public via a merger with a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) he said;

[Dutchie] Isn’t engaged in those talks right now,” but adds that the company will “weigh out the business opportunities as they come. We look at how does this decision bring value to the dispensary and the customer. If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

The involvement of growth equity funds and high-level investors in the cannabis start-up space is a sure sign that cannabis investment is becoming ever more palatable to traditional investors and institutions.

So with the Biden administration set to federally ‘legalise’ cannabis during this first 4-year term and an impending bill to regulate federal banking of cannabis profits, we can expect that this record-breaking valuation won’t be the last.

US White House fires staff for historic cannabis consumption.

US White House staff fired for historic consumption of cannabis

Five members of staff at the US White House have been let go for their historic consumption of cannabis. The announcement was made last Friday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki. The move comes as the new administration seeks to try and balance federal law and hiring guidelines with state legislation. 

“We announced a few weeks ago that the White House had worked with the security service to update the policies to ensure that past marijuana use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House. As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”

“The bottom line is this, of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy” – Jen Psaki White House press secretary

It is being reported that several other people with a history of consuming cannabis are now being asked to remotely work while the White House conducts suitability reviews into their backgrounds. These are a rather small number when compared to the overall intake of new staff under the new administration, but still nevertheless remains an issue of discrimination.

This issue was first highlighted by NBC News last month. In their report, they spoke with an official that stated after intensive consultation with security officials and the personnel security division at the White House – that they would consider wavering the requirement for all potential appointees in the executive office of the President to be eligible for the highest level clearance, on a case-by-case basis. 

The exception would only be considered to be granted to appointees who had only used cannabis on a ‘limited’ basis in the past and who agreed to cease its usage. This will be enforced by random drug tests for the entirety of their service at the White House. 

They will also have to meet the criteria by not requiring a top-secret security clearance. They would then commence their employment by working remotely for an unspecified time following their last time-consuming cannabis. 

Speaking to NBC news in that same report, a White House official stated that this will “effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people” These comments angered at least one West coast representative who said that;

What’s happening now is a vivid illustration of unrealistic, unfair, and out-of-touch cannabis policies. There is confusion across the country because of out of date laws and the fact that the American public is not waiting for the federal government to get its act together.” – Earl Blumenauer Democratic Rep Oregon

The optics of this look rather bad at a time when the Biden White House is meant to be considering the federal legalisation of cannabis. The White House has stated that hard drug use or more extensive cannabis consumption would remove eligibility for clearance and thus ban them from employment. 

Three of the last five presidents including the current president’s former boss have admitted to consuming cannabis. The idea that past use would make a person unfit for service in the White House or ineligible for a security clearance is laughable” – Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association

As Aaron Smith highlights wonderfully above the level of hypocrisy here is monumental. Every other day we see a story of a budding cannabis entrepreneur making millions in the ‘legal cannabis industry’ while everyday people are denied employment opportunities and a right to participate in the industry in an attempt to advance their station in life. 

If the rumours are to be believed then the US will federally ‘legalise’ cannabis in the next year or two. The question then becomes how do we make sure that the emerging industry is equitable to those whose criminalisation and oppression were the foundations of the modern ‘legal cannabis industry?

Image credit: Complex
MET police to review stop and search on suspicion of cannabis possession

MET Police to review the use of stop and search for cannabis possession

London’s Metropolitan Police (MET) have announced that they are reviewing the use of the controversial section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) known as ‘Stop and Search.’ The move is part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s attempt to help ease the systemic and historic racial bias of antiquated, draconian, and failing policing policies that disproportionality target black and ethnic individuals.

Statistically speaking you’re NINE times more likely to be stopped and searched if you’re black in the UK. When you are stopped you will be told it’s on suspicion of drug possession, the most common justification given by police for stopping and searching black individuals. 

The results speak for themselves 4 out of 5 of these searches yields no drugs or evidence of criminality at all. So you can see why black and ethnic communities feel disproportionately targeted and harassed by police -it’s because they are!

This month will see the MET start collecting data and researching to examine how effective the forces pursuit of cannabis possession is at tackling violent crime and its effects on public relations with the police. If you think of Neil Woods’s analogy of an arms race between dealers and police then it becomes rather obvious that cannabis prohibition increases all crime, not just violent crime by criminalising and marginalising those that cultivate, consume, and trade cannabis.

It is crucial that our communities feel they are properly listened to and concerns about the disproportionate use of police powers acted upon if we are to improve the trust and confidence among all Londoners.” – Sadiq Khan 

The announcement of the review comes off the back of a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) last month. The report was put together after a series of high-profile cases caught the mainstream media’s attention last year and the force’s aggressive response to protests following the death of George Floyd in America last May. 

In the report, the body highlighted that the most common answer for an officer stopping and searching an individual was suspicion of possession of drugs and questioned why so much police time and resources are being dedicated to simple possession when so little is ever found.

The report goes on to state that drug searches of black individuals in the UK are far more likely to be conducted without intelligence, the office recording much weaker grounds for stopping and searching, and the majority of detainees being released with no drugs being found. 

The body accepts that cannabis is currently unlawful but questions why so much police time and energy is being used to target possession rather than supply – which carries a much harsher sentence. If they truly believe prohibition works then why aren’t they targeting the producers and dealers not just the end consumer? 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) released a report last October criticising the MET for its excessive and heavy-handed use of stop and search, routinely handcuffing suspects that are found to be innocent, and using the alleged smell of cannabis as the sole grounds for stopping and searching – something they are not supposed to do anymore.

The legitimacy of stop and searches was being undermined by a lack of understanding about the impact of disproportionality, poor communication, consistent use of force over seeking cooperation, the failure to use body-worn video from the outset, and continuing to seek further evidence after the initial grounds for the stop and search were unfounded.” –IOPC Report conclusion

The MET is by far the biggest users of Stop and Search powers with almost half of all stop and searches in England Wales being carried out in their constabulary. So curbing the practice in London could have a great knock-on effect on other forces around the country. It is already being reported by The Guardian that they believe another English force is considering similar changes to its stop and search procedures.

Ultimately, ending the war on drugs would greatly help to end social injustice, reduce institutional racism, classism, and wealth inequality, reduce crime, increase social mobility, rebuild community relations, empower and enrich the marginalised, and finally give everyone the freedom to explore their consciousness free from persecution and oppression at the hands of their government. 

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 14

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 14)

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

In this week’s last week in weed, we look at British American Tobacco taking a 20% stake in US cannabis company Organigram, Mexico’s lower house of Congress passing a new bill to ‘legalise’ cannabis, and the US cannabis giant CuraLeaf purchasing British-based EMMAC Life Sciences.

British American Tobacco takes stake in British cannabis company

UK-based producer of Lucky Strike and Newport cigarettes British American Tobacco (BAT) have announced that they will be taking a 20% stake in the Canadian cannabis company Organigram Holdings Inc

The investment is worth around £126million and represents a market share of 58.3million common shares in Organigram at a price of c$3.79 a share. The announcement saw the stock price of Organigram rise more than 30% from c$1.45 to c$5.07 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

As part of the transaction, the companies will enter into a Product Development Collaboration (PDC) and establish a ‘centre of excellence’ located at Organigram’s New Brunswich indoor facility. The site will handle R&D activities conducted by scientists and researchers from both companies to develop ‘next-generation adult cannabis products” with an initial focus on creating CBD products.

“Now there’s a significant injection of capital so that’s a key for us to expand our own research and development efforts and for potential market expansion as we prepare to look at international markets” –Greg Engel Chief executive Organigram 

The deal allows BAT to add its own members to Organigram’s board and time will only tell just how much influence they will have over the direction and decisions made by the Canadian cannabis producer. We do know that BAT has previously stated that they are ‘committed to providing adults with a wide range of enjoyable and less risky products’ As well as increase the number of its non-combustible product consumers to 50 million by 2030.

This isn’t the first big Tobacco and cannabis company investment. Back in 2018 US rival Altria (Marlboro) bought a 45% stake in Cronos Group for $1.8billion and more recently in 2019 UK-based Imperial Brands took a 20% stake in Canadian company Auxly worth £75million. 

Big Tobacco along with the Alcohol industry is now rather heavily invested in cornering the production and distribution of vaporised, combustible, and drinkable cannabis products. They’re seeking to utilise their vast facilities and extensive networks to outmaneuver their rivals that have emerged from the cannabis industry to supply an ever-increasing demand for cannabis and cannabis-based products. 

While this is an encouraging sign pointing towards a potential accelerating of the inevitable end to the global prohibition of cannabis. It also means that the giant corporations of the world that have for far too long had a stranglehold on many major industries will have first dibs to dominate and monopolise the emerging global cannabis industry.

Mexico inches closer to ‘legalising’ cannabis

Mexico adult-use bill passes lower house of Congress

The second story that we’ll cover this week is one we covered in the very first issue of Last Week in Weed, Mexico’s attempts to finally end the criminaliastion of cannabis consumers and create a legal and regulated adult consumption market. 

Various attempts have been made by the Mexican government to uphold the 2018 Supreme Court decision which triggered a binding precedent. That precedent is meant to force the government into creating legislation to end cannabis prohibition and provide its citizens legal access to cannabis.

In Mexican law, if the supreme court votes the same way on any given subject five times it becomes a “binding precedent” that then becomes the precedent used by all Mexican judges. Last week on March 10th we finally saw some meaningful progress on a bill as the lower house of congress passed new legislation.

The bill passed by 316-127 votes and will now be passed to the countries Senate, where the final vote will happen ahead of the revised deadline later this year. Although the government has been dragging its heels and already missed several deadlines. The Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has expressed that he is confident that the bill will be successful and signed into law.

Should the bill be passed by the Senate, a population of nearly 130 million would have access to the largest adult cannabis consumer market in the world. The passing of the Bill would also create ‘The Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis’ that would be responsible for issuing the proposed five different types of licenses required to cultivate, transport, import, export, and sell cannabis products. 

Under the proposed bill over 18’s would be allowed to consume and possess up to 28 grams of flower or equivalent purchased through licensed businesses. The bill also allows for the creation of cannabis clubs and is likely to follow the Spanish model and require the same public desecration and lack of commercial advertising. 

The cultivation of up to 6 cannabis plants at home by the individual will, however, require a permit from the government. The bill allows for the large-scale cultivation of cannabis by the nation’s farmers and includes a provision meant to prioritise indigenous groups and smaller farmers in an attempt to promote social equity. 

That being said, the combination of a great climate, cheap labor, and inevitable capitalistic greed makes Mexico a very attractive prospect for the major players from the US, Canada, and other emerging markets to monopolise.

The bill is flawed in the same way that all previous attempts to ‘legalise’ cannabis have been. It doesn’t fully remove criminal punishments for breaking arbitrary rules such as ‘over possession’ or cultivation without a license. Mexican citizens will still face fines and exploitation by the state, so it doesn’t really legalise cannabis does it? 

Ultimately, we cannot legalise cannabis, we can only end the criminalisation of individuals undertaking actions with the plant without a license or expressed governmental permission. We shouldn’t have to ask permission to access any part of nature. We should be free to cultivate whatever relationship we desire with one of our oldest plant companion species.

CuraLeaf buys EMMAC Life Sciences for $286 Million

Curaleaf enters UK market by buying EMMAC Life Sciences

The deal worth $286million was announced last Tuesday as London-based cannabis company EMMAC Life Sciences was acquired by Massachusetts-based US giant Curaleaf. At a time when many North American cannabis producers and companies are slowing their investments and roll out into Europe, Curaleaf is hedging its bets on EMMAC.

The deal will see Curaleaf buy EMMAC with just 15% cash and the remaining 85% in CuraLeaf stock – with an additional $57million will be paid upon EMMAC hitting certain performance targets. 

“This is no criticism of and Canadian companies. I know they were hampered by not being able to get into the U.S. and so they were looking for anywhere to go outside of Canada in order to grow. So they went to Europe because Europe was making noises about getting into legalizing cannabis. But timing is incredibly important and I think they were too early.” – CuraLeaf founder Boris Jordan

Curaleaf is already America’s largest cannabis company with an impressive footing in 23 US states where they have over 100 dispensaries and employ 3,800 individuals. EMMAC is an attractive buy for Curaleaf given that they were recently chosen along with five other companies to supply ‘medical cannabis’ to the French trial. 

EMMAC also has a strong position in several major European countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the UK. As well as a growing presence in Israeli, where they intend to increase production capabilities significantly going forward. 

We said where’s the growth going to come from as the U.S. starts to get more penetrated?’ Growth rates will fall from triple-digits to double-digits which is still very good, but nonetheless, I wanted to see where the next frontier for growth is” – CuraLeaf founder Boris Jordan

Curaleaf has stated that they were monitoring EMMAC for about a year before negotiating a deal to buy the ‘medical cannabis’ company. They do not expect to see any ‘material revenue’ until 2023 and are happy to ‘wait five years until the European market is better established.’

The European cannabis market is predicted to skyrocket over the next few years according to research by Prohibition Partners. They estimate that the European market could be worth $2.5billion a year by 2024. A massive increase from the current one of $300million a year in 2020.

As Canopy Growth and others scale back their moves in EuropeCuraleaf will benefit from the premature entry into the market by its rivals and gain a strong footing as now most of the major European nations are now looking at finally ending cannabis prohibition. We can expect to see more companies conglomerating and consuming each other as the industry matures and new markets come on board.

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 13

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 13)

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

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, we look at Canadian funnyman Seth Rogan launching his cannabis brand ‘Houseplant’ in California, the US hitting record cannabis sales in 2020, and Thailand allowing families to grow 6 plants at home under new rules governing cannabis in the south-east Asian nation.

Seth Rogan’s Houseplant launches in the US

Image: Forbes – Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg
“Houseplant was born out of our love and passion for cannabis, design, and art” – Seth Rogan

The Canadian cannabis brand ‘Houseplant’ was created by the childhood friend duo behind the smash-hit comedies Pineapple Express, Super Bad, and This Is the End – Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. The brand was first launched in Canada in 2019 after the North American nation ‘legalised’ cannabis following a vote in 2018.

Evan and I also recognize that our lifelong dream of starting a cannabis lifestyle brand like Houseplant comes with a commitment to changing the unjust and racist cannabis laws that still exist in today’s society. We understand our responsibility to help right those wrongs and are dedicated to creating a more diverse, equitable cannabis industry.”  Seth Rogan

The flower that is used in their products is produced by Canadian powerhouse cultivator Canopy Growth, who retain a minority stake in the company. Canopy will continue to be Houseplant’s licensee in Canada, but they are not involved in the new U.S. launch of the brand next week.

Houseplant’s beautifully designed packaging.

You might remember us discussing Canopy in early issues of Last Week in Weed, where we looked at the launch of Martha Stewart’s new CBD products. The company also now produces Snoop Dogg’s CBD line called “Leafs by Snoop” which is marketed to reduce anxiety in dogs.

The brand will initially launch with three flower cultivars: two ‘Sativas’ and one ‘Indica’ to use the same rather antiquated terminology as the brand. They will also be releasing a Block Table Lighter, a Vinyl Box Set, and an Ashtray Set designed by Seth himself, which will be available to buy in all 50 states. With additional products being launched every few weeks according to the pair.

Introducing Houseplant in the U.S. has been a long time coming and we’ve taken a disciplined approach to set ourselves up for long-term success, We have spent years obsessing about the underserved cannabis consumer, researching and ideating what the holistic Houseplant experience should look like. We are proud to share this beautiful collection of Housegoods and cannabis strains with the public.” – Michael Mohr, Co-founder and CEO of Houseplant

Houseplant will be available for home delivery from their website in California from March 11. They intend to have their rather unique and boldly designed products available in selected dispensaries across the land of milk and honey by the spring and hope to expand to other states as soon.

US cannabis sales hit a record high in 2020

US ‘legal’ cannabis sales reach a record high in 2020

At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, several US states announced that their cannabis industries would be classified as ‘essential business’ and be allowed to stay open during the statewide shutdown orders. This designation allowed for record sales of cannabis last year, $17.5billion was spent across the 14 adult consumption and 36 states that allow for the use of ‘medicinal cannabis’ – greatly helping the struggling US economy avoid further damage.

So while most industries were seeing record losses and unprecedented levels of unemployment the cannabis industry saw record growth and sales. Demonstrating, to me at least that the future is really is green, if you know what I mean.

The majority of the sales came from adult consumption in well-established markets like Colorado and Oregon – which saw their sales rise 26% to $2.2billion and 29% to $1.1billion respectively according to a report by the cannabis sales data platform, BDSA.

‘The land of Lincoln’ Illinois, which expanded its ‘medical cannabis’ market to include adult consumption saw the largest market gain of 2020 with sales growing by $784million. The countries largest market at $3.5billion in California, also saw its sales rise by an additional $586million.

Cannabis delivery companies saw a massive uptake in service as million of Americans stayed home to avoid violating Covid rules and regulations. The same BDSA report found that the number of Americans using cannabis delivery services had increased by 25% in 2020.

The majority of the US cannabis market is still unregulated and estimated to be a more than $100 billion a year criminalised industry. The ‘legal’ or regulated market is slowly catching up but is still only expected to be worth a mere $41billion by 2026.

Ultimately, with more American’s than ever before now having access to ‘legal’ cannabis it is inevitable that the US market will continue to grow year on year for many more to come. So expect this record to be beaten again this year as things hopefully start to get back to some sense of normality soon.

Families allowed to home grow in Thailand

Thailand will allow families to cultivate upto six plants to boost income.

Households in Thailand will now be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants to help them supplement their income announced the countries Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul last week. Under the new rules, families will be able to form grow communities and trade their crops to public hospitals, state facilities, or produce food and cosmetic products to sell from the legal parts of the plants.

Marijuana and hemp are both economic crops and it provides a new option for locals to generate revenue, We are trying to ease restrictions to allow the public easier access to the plant, but please cooperate and use it correctly.” – Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul

Thailand became the first country in the region to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’ back in 2018 but adult consumption remains illegal in the south-east Asian nation. This is similar to Sri Lanka which allows limited growth of the plant by state-licensed growers, but only for medical purposes.

Any flowers and seeds that are produced by the cultivation of these ‘not hemp’ cannabis plant community grows must be sent to registered state medical facilities as they remain illegal under the countries drug legislation due to ‘the high levels of psychoactive compounds found in the plants.

The leaves, branches, and fibre of the ‘not hemp’ plants and all parts of ‘hemp’ cannabis are decriminalised and allowed to be produced into cosmetics and food since Anutin became Health Minister in 2019 following his party’s victory in the country’s election.

‘Hemp’ is classified in Thailand as cannabis cultivars that contain less than 1% of THC. This rather generously high limit should allow for a robust domestic cannabis industry to flourish within Thailand. Let us hope that this new approach will be adopted by other countries in the region where trafficking cannabis can still get you the death penalty.

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 12

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 12)

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

Last week in Weed Issue 12, we look at a US company that is effectively trying to patent the ‘auto-flowering’ traits in cannabis genes, New Jersey beginning its adult consumption market, and Morocco announcing that they intend to ‘legalise’ ‘industrial’ and ‘medical’ cannabis in the African coast nation.

Is genetic engineering the future of cannabis cultivar creation?

Has the Autoflower trait in cannabis just been patented?

The first story we’ll look at this week is that of a new deal between NRGene and Kayagene to grant the pair a world-wide exclusive license to commercialise the auto-flower trait and DNA markers of Cannabis.

By editing the genes of existing cultivars the team hopes to be able to create auto-flowering versions of any cultivar of cannabis. Currently, the cultivation of cannabis requires that the environment be manipulated or simulated to ensure that the light cycle triggers the right stage of development and growth at the right time.

Cannabis cultivars that possess day-neutral genes or Auto-flowering traits will go through a growth cycle and then begin to automatically flower after 3-4 weeks of growth. This would increase the number of crop cycles per year. As well as reduce the energy requirements needed during cultivation.

Day-length insensitivity, like the ‘auto-flower’ trait, was an important milestone in the domestication and cultivation of many crop plants, and its identification in Cannabis is a significant step towards creating commercially viable varieties of hemp and marijuana” – Dr. Christopher Hohn Kayagene director of R&D

NRGene, the AI gene specialist will be responsible for the development of DNA markers for the day-neutral traits for breeders and growers. Whereas Kayagene, the Californian-based ‘hemp’ cannabis specialist will deal with the delivery and distribution of the modified seeds and pollen containing the desired traits.

The team at NRGene believes that they can use their technology and techniques to integrate the auto-flowering trait into any cannabis cultivar within 12 – 18 months. From cannabinoid dense cultivars to industrial ‘hemp’ cannabis. This could revolutionise the cultivation and production of industrial cannabis greatly increasing R&D around new technologies and applications.

So what does this mean for other Auto-flower breeders? It seems the deal isn’t the same as a patent, neither company will actually ‘own’ the rights to the auto-flowering genes. They have the right via the deal to ‘commercialise’ the traits but as far as I can tell they do not have proprietary ownership of the genes.

This should prevent a range of lawsuits against breeders and cultivators that have been breeding auto-flowering cultivars for many years now. There is still a worry that if the company was to modify enough of the everyday cultivars we regularly consume that they could end up with an unfair advantage and monopoly.

Although I applaud the development of this technology, I still lament the fact that it is for private corporate gain rather than for that of all communities. To me, this is just another example of the gentrifying and whitewashing establishment seeking to control, privatise, and profit from cannabis while millions of our kin around the world still face daily persecution, stigma, and incarceration for their consumption of cannabis.

New Jersey finally starts its ‘legal’ cannabis market

New Jersey finally ‘legalises’ adult cannabis market

Three months after overwhelmingly voting in favour of ‘legalising’ cannabis, New Jersey’s new rules come into effect last week. The original date for decriminalisation to commence was January 1st, 2021 but disagreements between state governor Phil Murphy over criminal penalties for minors caught with cannabis meant it was delayed several weeks.

“Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model” – Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy

During this period the state police continued to arrest people for cannabis offenses. Which kind of doesn’t make sense when you consider New Jersey signed a Bill in December 2019 allowing for the expungement of criminal records obtained through low-level cannabis offenses. So whether those charges will stick or not remains to be seen.

The new legislation aims to provide a ‘legal’ adult consumption market, decriminalise cannabis, and provide much looser penalties for underage consumption. The Jersey model removes penalties for low-level cannabis offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions.

It also provides ‘critical employment protections’ for those individuals that choose to engage with cannabis lawfully in the state. The ‘possession limit’ in Jersey is a generous six ounces, compared to the usual two. This makes Jersey one of the most attractive models for US federal ‘legalisation’ to be trialed so far.

New Jersey has created the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) which will oversee the licensing of cannabis businesses and commercial ventures. The garden-states legislature will seek to use cannabis tax revenues to reinvest in ‘impact zones’ areas that were disproportionately detrimentally affected by decades of cannabis prohibition. The CRC is to promote diversity and inclusion through licensing and regulation.

It is expected to take another six months before physical brick-and-mortar shops are open in New Jersey. One of those shops will belong to Jersey legends, Jay and Silent Bob!

Cannabis plants soaking up the sunshine in the Rif mountains of Morocco

Morocco announces plans to ‘legalise’ ‘medical’ and ‘industrial’ cannabis

Legislation expected to be passed next week by the Moroccan government would create a legal market for the cultivation, sale, and export of cannabis for ‘medical’ and ‘industrial’ use. The proposed legislation would still keep so-called ‘recreational’ cannabis illegal.

Although still illegal to grow cannabis in Morocco they are one of the main exporters of unregulated cannabis according to UN statistics on the global drug trade. The majority of cannabis cultivated in Morocco comes from the Rif mountains in the north of the country.

The move comes off the back of last December’s UN vote to remove cannabis from schedule 4 of the UN single convention on narcotic drugs 1961. A move that was supported by Morocco when they voted to back the removal of the archaic designation.

Cannabis has been a contentious issue in Morocco for over a hundred years. In 1890, Sultan Hussan I, implemented strict limitations and regulations on the cultivation and trade of the plant. While at the same time still allowing several Rif mountains tribes the right to cultivate and trade cannabis.

When Morocco gained independence in the 1950s the new king Mohammed V prohibited cannabis across the country. The influx of westerners looking for hash and adventure saw the country become an illegal hub for the production and trade of hashish. This grew exponentially to such a degree that in the early 2000s 70% of hash consumed in Europe was from Morocco.

There have been several previous attempts to pass similar laws, but they have always been blocked by the countries conservative Justice and Development Party (PJD) party. However, it is believed that they stepped aside to allow the legislation to pass.

The bill that is expected to be voted in next week proposes that farmers be organised into cooperatives. They would then in turn sell their crop to local and international processing companies for preparation, extraction, and exportation.

Currently, Moroccan cannabis farmers only earn about half a billion dollars of the estimated $15billion that is made by criminal organisations annually through unregulated trade. This bill hopes to address that disparity, but I cannot help but wonder just how fair and accessible this new system will be to those farmers that desperately rely on cannabis to feed themselves and their families.

Morocco was not the only country announcing its intention to create a domestic cannabis market last week. The government of the small island nation of Bermuda has published a draft of the Cannabis Licensing Act 2020. A proposed legal framework to ‘legalising’ cannabis on the island for both medicinal purposes and adult consumption.

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.