Last Week in Weed Issue 55

Last Week in Weed

(10/1/22)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed. We’ll be looking at Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a potential cannabis possession diversion scheme in London for under 25s. California cannabis brand Cookies announce a partnership to open stores in Austria and the UK and Drug Science’s Project 21 40% price increase.

Image: Cannabiz-africa.com

Overzealous Legacy Media Falsely Report on Drug ‘Decriminalisation’ Scheme in London

The main story that we’ll be looking at this week involves the Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and his election pledge to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis in London. It was falsely reported last week that the newly re-elected Mayor was intending to ‘decriminalise’ all drugs/substances that carry a class B penalty in the nation’s capital for under 25s. 

Initial reports from the UK legacy press proclaimed that ‘Sadiq Khan to decriminalise Class B Drugs in southeast London’ sparked outrage from prohibitionists across the country. The Telegraph seems to be the first to print about this story using ‘leaked documents’. Its piece contained the usual ignorant and intentionally misleading information about cannabis alongside several factual inaccuracies about Mr. Khan’s proposed pilot scheme. 

The Telegraph story claims that the Labour Mayor intends to offer under 25s caught in possession of a controlled substance that carries a class B penalty, including Amphetamine, Cannabis, and Ketamine, a ‘speeding course-style class’ or ‘counselling’ instead of being prosecuted. 

A similar approach to the checkpoint diversion schemes currently being run in Durham, the West Midlands, and Thames Valley as well as several other forces. The story was quickly picked up by the usual tabloid properties and regurgitated until the office of the Lord Mayor of London issued a statement to clarify the situation later in the day.

This limited trial, which is still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall, would involve three of London’s 32 boroughs and would only apply to 18 to 24-year-olds found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. It would not apply to any other drug.”

The idea of the scheme, which is already used by other police forces across the country, would be to divert young people who are found with a small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and instead provide help and support. This has been shown to reduce reoffending.”

Reducing crime is the mayor’s top priority and he will continue to explore and implement the most effective solutions to help to divert young people away from drug use and crime for good.” – Spokesman for the mayor of London.

During the lead-up to the Mayoral election, Sadiq Khan pledged to set up a ‘London Drugs Commission’ to review the legal status of cannabis with a view to potentially ‘decriminalising’ it in the nation’s capital. When asked to comment on The Telegraph article Labour Party leader Keir Starmer reiterated his position that he is “not in favour of changing the law to decriminalise drugs”. 

On the drugs legislation, I’ve said a number of times and I will say again, I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. “I’m very clear about that. “I haven’t seen the detail of the proposals that you’ve reported on. “As I understand it they are early measures, they are some sort of pilot. “Obviously we’ll look at those, but I’m very clear that we’re not in favour of changing the drugs laws.” – Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer

We have seen similar diversion schemes be successful in reducing the criminalisation of cannabis consumers. However, these schemes continue to be successful in my opinion because they aren’t limited to an arbitrary age group, geographical area, or social class. 

We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good.” – Spokesperson for The Lord Mayor of London

It is believed that the current London Borough of Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan will lead the initiative. Although it is currently being reported in the Metro that “the funding for the pilot has not yet had final approval from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.” The details of this pilot program are expected to be announced later this month. 

The point of this scheme isn’t to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis or liberate consumers from personal, professional, and political persecution and punitive prosecutions. It is to propagandise and politicise its consumption, demonise those that consume it, and further perpetuate the modern myth that our cannabis is a ‘dangerous street drug’ and theirs is a sanitised, whitewashed, and gentrified medicine. 

Cookies announce partnership with InterCure to open stores in Europe in 2022

Cookies Planning to Open Stores in the UK and Europe

Cookies the Berner and Jigga Californian cannabis brand behind the iconic cannabis cultivar Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) has announced that it will be opening a physical store in London and Vienna in 2022. However, do not get too excited. This announcement doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to lawfully buy packs of Gary Payton or Gelatti in the city just yet. 

So if it won’t be a dispensary, what will it be? This new venture will see Cookies partner will Israeli-based ‘prescription cannabis’ company InterCure, a company that claims to be ‘the leading, profitable, and fastest-growing cannabis company outside of North America.’ 

The partnership will see the opening of what is being billed as the UK’s first dedicated physical ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacy. What exactly this means is still unknown at this time. However, what is known is that the two companies have entered into a multi-year deal to establish ‘Cookies’ branded stores and ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacies in Austria and the UK.

“As we focus on new territories, it’s vital our customers continue to count on the quality Cookies is known for, which is a value we share with our partners at InterCure. We look forward to reaching audiences in Austria and the United Kingdom and establishing Cookies as a mainstay in each community.”- Parker Berling, President of Cookies.

InterCure already cultivates, manufactures, and distributes Cookies branded products through the Cookies ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacy storefront in Tel Aviv, Israel. The middle eastern company’s year-on-year sales shot up 170% in the third quarter of 2021, an impressive growth rate that it believes will continue into the fourth quarter and beyond due to ‘growing demand’ in its primary domestic market.

“Cookies is already one of the most internationally recognized cannabis brands. With our mutual success in Israel, it’s logical for us to further expand into Europe by duplicating our winning model. As European markets evolve and regulations continue to become more favorable for cannabis companies, we expect to expand into new territories and provide our customers with the highest quality pharmaceutical grade cannabis products.” – InterCure CEO Alexander Rabinovitch

The fact that it is such a globally recognised brand like Cookies making the first major move from the US into Europe is indicative of the evolving landscape across the continent. We are now into the fourth year since the UK laws changed allowing the prescribing of cannabis. Yet less than 10,000 patients have been able to afford and secure a private prescription.

The scale of this investment and the strategic location of the stores in London and Vienna is rather telling of the partnership’s confidence in this venture. It is also indicative of its hopes that those foreign markets will relax rules about producing and providing cannabis on prescription in the same way as it did in the controversial and contested nation of Israel. 

Although we have already seen large brands and companies hedging their bets on the UK CBD, Hemp, and prescription industries unsuccessfully in the past. A brand of this scale making a move like this signifies that either it knows something we do not or deeply believes that something is going to change across Europe soon. What that will be, we must wait and see. 

Drug Science increase cost of flower and oil on its Project 21

Drug Science Increase Cost of Project 21 Participation

The final story of the week concerns the price of participation in the observational study Project 21, the prescription cannabis access scheme created by David Nutt’s Drug Science. Which was launched back in 2019 to create UK-based evidence for the efficacy and tolerance of cannabis on prescription.

The project was due to end last year but it was extended till the end of 2022, largely down to issues caused by the global pandemic. Initially, it had hoped to sign up 20,000 participants by the end of 2021, but currently only has around 1,000 patients registered to the service according to a recent interview in Canex.

That was a very ambitious task, which was originally set pre-pandemic time. There have been a lot of challenges and obstacles along the way, but I’d say that the ambition of 20,000 patients is still there.” – Mags Houston, head of Project 21

Drug Science announcing updates via its Facebook page.

In a recent statement, the project claims to be “proud that Project Twenty21 has brought down the exceptionally high price of private prescriptions for so many patients” before then going on to announce that it will be ‘ditching its capped pricing model for all medicines in the formulary.’ Instead replacing it with a set price for flower and oil of £7 per gram/millilitre will commence from the 1st February 2022.

News of this intended 40% price increase caused some major backlash across various social media platforms including FacebookReddit, and Twitter. With growing speculation online that the price increase is down to some of the partners involved in the project rather than those in charge of the project itself.

Drug Science appreciates the concerns raised over the change in price strategy for Project Twenty21 and genuinely does empathise with patients. We also understand that this will affect some patients more than others depending on an individual’s prescription costs. This decision was made in consultation with the project’s partners.” 

The price model changes means that the project can continue for the foreseeable when it was originally only planned to run until the end of 2021. We hope that the public acknowledges that making this change and running Project Twenty21 for at least another year is better than having no project at all. 

The longer-term objective is that we move closer to allowing people in the UK to access medical cannabis via the NHS, and that is what the project sets out to do and will keep driving towards.” – Mags Houston, Head of Project 21

This situation is likely to leave some patients feeling betrayed, deceived, and helpless I imagine, and will see many either returning or entering the legacy market for the first time. If nothing else this should renew unified calls from the public and the community for the ‘legal’ cannabis industry to get its shit together. 

Until then and beyond, I dare say it’s time to start back up those compassion networks and social clubs folks. Pandemic or no pandemic. This clearly shows us what we have known all along, that we can produce superior, cleaner, cheaper, safer, and more consistent quality cannabis than these institutions. It is time for cannabis for the people, grown by the people! 

Quick update on Cancard

The Cancard story from last week. The defense solicitors have requested and been granted an adjournment until the end of February as they wish to take the case to be tried at Crown, not Magistrates court.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 54

Last Week in Weed

(3/1/22)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In the first issue of Last Week in Weed of 2022. We’ll be looking at that Germany Taliban cannabis deal, A Brazilian study that shows cannabis consumers report having a higher quality of life, and Cancard is being put to the test in a court on the Isle of Wight.

Cpharm Taliban deal contingent on regime gaining international recognition.

As we reported in issue 51 last November, a German cannabis company called Cpharm was revealed to be in discussions with the newly installed Afghani Taliban regime. These negotiations were a continuation of previous attempts with the now-ousted government to secure a deal to build infrastructure to cultivate ‘pharmaceutical cannabis’ exclusively for exportation.

At first, the legacy media incorrectly associated a small family-run pharmaceutical medical advice company in Australia with the deal. Further confusion was created when it was reported that the deal would be worth $450million and not the $45million Cpharm was discussing. However, the confusion was quickly cleared up when the German-based ‘cannabinoid-based medicine’ company publicly confirmed that it is indeed in open negotiations with the Taliban. 

Although initially caught off guard, the company recently issued the following statement;

CPharm is waiting for inter-governmental negotiations between the current Afghan Government and the importing countries. Also, in order to proceed with investments in medical cannabis facility, it is essential for the current government to receive approval from the United Nations’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)” – Cpharm spokesperson

The company’s CEO has claimed that the company has been in Afghanistan since 2017. Yet it had failed to establish meaningful commitments from the US-backed government not because of religious objections or regime repression, but due to US corruption. 

We started talks with Afghanistan in 2017 when their parliament passed a medical cannabis law, In November 2020, we started to establish infrastructure near Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country, bringing in experts to build a laboratory. But the former government put in place by the Americans was very corrupt.” – Cpharm CEO Werner Zimmerman 

Since the fall of the US-backed regime in August 2021, Cpharm CEO Werner Zimmerman believes that the company now has a better chance of securing the deal it wants under Taliban rule. “The new government loves us very much because we are their voice to show the world how the old government betrayed everyone.”

This deal would establish a similar system to the arguably rather exploitative one currently undertaken by Cpharm in Morocco. The north African nation that ‘legalised’ the cultivation of ‘industrial and medical’ cannabis for exportation in May 2021Cpharm will build the infrastructure, supply the genetics, and provide the equipment for local farmers to cultivate cannabis to the company’s standards for exportation from Afghanistan to Europe and beyond. 

Afghanistan has a long and rich history of cannabis and hashish production.

Due to the geographical location of Afghanistan, 4 times larger medical cannabis harvest can be brought in per [meters squared] than, for example, in Morocco, the largest cannabis growing area in the world.” – Cpharm report

If the Taliban could find international recognition the deal would be legally permitted under the country’s current laws. As the previous Afghan government quietly ‘legalised’ the production, processing, transport, and export of ‘pharmaceutical cannabis’ back in 2017. However, it is again claimed by the Cpharm CEO that widespread corruption prevented the establishment of a meaningful domestic cannabis industry producing exclusively for exportation. 

The previous government was in bed with criminals who wanted to keep a monopoly on illicit cultivation and blocked our contract. Why has the law existed since 2017 and they never proceeded? America has been propping up a corrupt government.” – Cpharm CEO Werner Zimmerman 

Cpharm has recently received some criticism and backlash for pursuing a deal with the oppressive religious regime after the US-backed government fell last year. It has responded by releasing its 21 page ‘confidential’ presentation. In which the company’s outlines its goals as; “to build an ecological, sustainable value chain in agriculture and pharmaceutical industry in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to provide a highly profitable alternative to the current No. 1 and 2 of the Afghan economy, mining and illegal poppy and cannabis industries for the international drug market.”

Historically the Taliban have been rather anti-drugs within the territories it controls. However, during its decade-long insurgency of Afghanistan, the group is widely suspected to have financially benefited from the illicit production and trade of heroin and hashish both in and out of the country. Using the sale of illicit drugs to fund warfare is a tactic the Taliban adopted from their predecessors in the region, the CIA-backed Mujahideen. 

So what is going on here? Well, on the surface Cpharm is pitching its $45million dollar Afghanistan investment as a social good and a way to help rebuild the country. However, its business model reveals that Cpharm, foreign investors, and the Taliban would benefit most from this deal, not ordinary Afghani citizens. 

The other issue here is the ethics of allowing European investors to profit from the domestic cultivation and exportation of cannabis in a middle eastern country knowing its sale will directly fund and solidify the Taliban’s power base in Afghanistan. This is rather well articulated by Transform Drug Policy Foundation UK senior policy analyst Steve Rolles when speaking to MarijuanaMoment.net.

In many respects we can see the same exploitative colonial structures that have played out through the drug war being replicated. There is also the obvious concern that an injection of capital will enrich and empower the highly problematic Taliban regime—which is the reason why traditional aid donors have been very reluctant to return to Afghanistan since the allied withdrawal, despite the obvious needs of Afghani people.” – Steve Rolles

With the regime once again taking over the middle-eastern nation there has been an increase in the repression of women and an increase in alcohol and drug raids in the region. There have also been reports of ‘addicts’ being rounded up and placed in forced sobriety rehabilitation programs against their will. 

The situation is confusing and grows ever more complex now that the new German ‘Traffic light government’ is set to ‘legalise the sale of cannabis in Germany.’ This could mean that Cpharm faces some competition in the middle east as other businesses seek to exploit Afghanistan’s geography, cheap labour, cannabis cultivation expertise, and its extensive history of hashish production.

Germany’s decision to ‘legalise the sale of cannabis to adults’ may detrimentally impact their domestic ‘pharmaceutical cannabis’ industry, which is currently Europe’s largest ‘medical’ market. After all, countries that allow both an adult consumption market and a prescribed/therapeutic one seem to be dominated by the former. 

Cpharm Afghanistan Report (click to view)

Image: Bright Magazine – ‘Should Brazil legalise marijuana?’

Cannabis consumers report a higher quality of life in a new study.

new cross-sectional study from Brazil reveals that regular or habitual cannabis consumers self-reported having a higher quality of life than those who didn’t consume cannabis. In the paper published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The team of researchers used an online survey to select 7405 individuals for their research.

The subjects were selected from the survey respondents. Their data obtained during the questionnaire was then correlated to produce standardised measures to assess their subjective well-being and quality of life. Subjects’ mental health was assessed using depression and anxiety scoring systems and their cannabis and other substance use history and prevalence were documented. 

This resulted in 6620 respondents being identified as cannabis consumers and the remaining 785 as non-consumers. Among the cannabis group, 17.1% identified themselves as occasional consumers, 64.4% as habitual consumers, and 7.7% as dysfunctional consumers. The majority of the subjects were employed, childless, high-school educated young men.

The highest scores for quality of life were observed among habitual cannabis users, followed by occasional users, while both non-users and dysfunctional users presented less favorable scores. Subjective measures of well-being were higher among habitual and occasional users than among non-users, whereas dysfunctional users were the most affected. Poor quality of life, depression or anxiety were more prevalent among dysfunctional users, but non-users of cannabis reported more depression or anxiety symptoms and less quality of life than both occasional and habitual users” 

The results obtained in this study are particularly relevant because they refer to a sample predominantly composed of habitual cannabis users from the general population, a rarely represented group in other surveys. The fact that cannabis use is generally associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes was not observed in this study” – Brazilian study

Given that it is rather difficult to contextualise and quantify the meaning of well-being or quality of life. Then the results from this study at best suggest that individuals that have a healthy relationship with cannabis at least perceive themselves to have a better quality of life than those that do not. I know cannabis improves the quality of my life and that’s while ill keep consuming and defending it.

Cancard due to be tested in UK court for the first time.

Cancard is being put to the test on the Isle of Wight.

The final story that we’ll be looking at this week involves the controversial Cancard being tested for the first time in a UK court. A Cancard patron on the Isle of Wight is set to be the first to challenge an attempted conviction for cannabis possession on the grounds the card grants him medical dispensation to possess and consume cannabis therapeutically. 

The forty-year-old man did not enter a plea when he appeared at the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court on December 21st for the alleged offence which took place a few months early in September. When the man presented the card to the CPS prosecutor, Ann Smout stated that she ‘had never seen such a card in any case before.’ This resulted in the CPS asking for an adjournment so that a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer could ensure the card is authentic and can form a part of a valid defense in law.

This isn’t the defendant’s first cannabis possession offense having previously appeared in court for possession in 2020. A guilty plea was entered on that occasion but the man’s counsel stated that he consumed cannabis to help him manage his anxiety, but accepted that it still remains illegal. The man was ordered to pay a £40 fine, a £34 surcharge, and £40 court costs

We are supporting the patient and his family and will do our best to ensure a positive result for him. Drug laws on the Isles are usually pretty harshly policed, certainly more so than the mainland, but a positive result here could set a brilliant precedent. We don’t have permission to disclose much about the case as of yet, and we certainly need to be mindful that this is a particularly vulnerable patient, but we will update you as and when we can.” – Carly Barton, Cancard founder.

I’m not a betting man but I’d say there are pretty good odds that this case will be dismissed by the judge. Unlike the Crown Dependency Islands that have some autonomy, the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England is under complete jurisdiction from Westminster. This means that any ruling made here would be applicable to other UK Magistrates courts on the mainland too.

The court will reconvene on January 11th to complete the proceedings. So hopefully by next week, we’ll have an idea of what the judiciary thinks of the concept of Cancard and its validity as a defense in court.  

As for Cancard, a positive outcome, in this case, would by extension validate the premise of the card and effectively grant it a big stamp of approval from the UK judicial system. This would further boost its already impressively high member numbers. Which as of May 2021 stand at over 25,000 registered service users

So let’s wait and see what happens. Have a great week folks! 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 53

Last Week in Weed

(13/12/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s Last Week in Weed. We’ll be looking at a series of Lawsuits in Oregon involving mislabelled CBD and THC, The Isle of Guernsey granting 4C Labs the island’s first cannabis cultivation license, and finally, Fingerprints from a ‘product shot’ photo identify dealer on ‘hacked’ encrypted messenger app.

Image: MJBizDaily

Lawsuits filed in Oregon over mislabelled CBD

A series of lawsuits in the US state of Oregon resulting from the mislabelling of high THC oil as zero THC CBD oil has come to light recently. So far nine lawsuits have been filed in the state by the same attorney against the licensed oil-producing defendant’s parent company CuraLeaf Holdings. 

A tenth suit involving a wrongful death complaint is likely to join the other plaintiffs in the coming days. Michael Fuller, the Portland-based attorney who markets his service as ‘Under Dog Lawyer’ claims that his clients experienced ‘confusion, dizziness, fear of death, and psychosis after they consumed a product that was mislabeled as a CBD-only tincture.’

We’re going to have individual trials for each person because each person’s experience and injuries are a little bit different. We’re going to try to settle as many as we can. See, a lot of my clients are elderly, in their late 70s; they have no interest in prolonged litigation.” – Micheal Fuller

So what happened? Well, it appears that at least one batch of Cura Cannabis Solution’s ‘Select’ brands CBD and THC tinctures may have switched labels. In September, The Oregon Liquor Control Commission recalled hundreds of CBD tinctures from sale as they contained “undisclosed levels of THC.” A few days later the agency recalled hundreds of THC tinctures for drops for not having any THC in them.”

A team member confused two containers during the filling and packaging process, one containing CBD and one containing THC. This resulted in a single batch of CBD tincture being labelled as THC Drops and vice versa. The amount of THC was within the regulatory limit for a normal batch for our THC drops, but we understand that some customers may have consumed multiple doses.” – CuraLeaf statement

‘Select’ CBD tincture that was recalled

Cura Cannabis solution has said that it has implemented new stricter controls to prevent future mix-ups. In a written response statement the company said; “We have also added a new Quality Technician position to Oregon, and have removed the individual responsible for the error during the filling and packaging process”

In 2020 Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Holdings, the world’s largest cannabis company by revenue acquired ‘Select’ brand manufacturer Cura Cannabis Solutions. CuraLeaf’s current market capitalisation on the Canadian Stock Exchange is estimated to be $8.4 billion. So I think it’s safe to say that it’ll take more than a few lawsuits to worry the international canna-giant.

Image: Guernsey Press

Isle of Guernsey grants 4C Labs first cannabis cultivation license

The second-largest channel island Guernsey has issued its first license to cultivate ‘prescription cannabis.’ The license has been issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency (BGCA). The body was established by the Committee for Health and Social Care to regulate the cultivation and production of ‘prescription cannabis’ products in Guernsey.

The application process began back in July 2021 following the finalising of an agreement between the island and the UK mainland government. The deal established a ‘licensing framework with the UK that is the same as Jersey’s and the Isle of Man’s, via a Memorandum of Understanding’The Memorandum of Understanding with the Home Office forms an agreement between the Committee for Health & Social Care (CfHSC) and the Home Office to meet the terms of the [1961 UN] Convention.

There were a total of seven applications, with the 4C Labs being the only successful one. It is understood that there were concerns about security at the facilities of the other unsuccessful companies. As such the Guernsey government is encouraging them to reapply for their license once they have shored up security on site.

The announcement was made after a recent visit by the UK Home Office to assess the crown dependency island’s capabilities, infrastructure, and security. This marks a major turning point in the development of the island’s cannabis sector. Prior to the ‘memorandum of understanding,’ only CBD-rich cultivars of cannabis could be grown under license on the island.

We’re delighted to have been able to approve one businesses’ application. The granting of the first license represents a significant success, not only for the company itself, but also for the regulatory framework we put in place and agreed with the UK. We have had seven applications, and that in itself is incredibly encouraging, and I would encourage them to reapply if they feel able to make the adjustments needed.” – Deputy Al Brouard, president of Health and Social Care

So what does this mean for the island nation and its cannabis-consuming population? Well, the granting of this license will allow the company to establish 4C Health Clinics. ‘A telehealth platform that makes access to medical cannabis simple.’  This new platform is a ‘virtual clinic’ that the company claims can provide online consultation and prescribe cannabis products to be delivered the next day. 4C Labs are hoping to have the clinic operational from July 2022. 

You can read more about the infiltration of EncroChat in this MotherBoard piece from vice.

Fingerprints from ‘Product shot’ help identify dealers on ‘hacked’ encrypted messenger app.

The final story that we’ll look at this week is a reminder of the power of technology when applied by prohibitionists authorities to the war on drugs. This latest bit of tech-scare comes from the recent news about the conviction of a pair of drug smugglers caught out by evidence found on the ‘busted’ EncroChat app. 

EncroChat was a Europe-based encrypted communications network and service provider that was predominantly if not exclusively used by organised criminal enterprises and gangs to coordinate and communicate in confidence. Indeed, criminal activity was so rife on the application that the ‘French National Gendarmerie said that 90 percent of its subscribers were criminals and the British National Crime Agency (NCA) claimed it found no evidence of non-criminals using it.

The network was infiltrated between March and June 2020 as part of a coordinated Europe-wide investigation. It had approximately 60,000 subscribers at the time of its closure on June 12th, 2020, when the company decided to cease operations. Police across Europe have made so far made over 1000 arrests as a result of the evidence gathered from the hack. There are still a ton of backlogged cases pending and being processed using this evidence so there are still important revelations coming out. 

The trial of two dealers in Liverpool Crown Court last week revealed that police had identified one of the men from a fingerprint taken from a photo of him holding cannabis buds. The two men initially plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply £1.5 million worth of Class A and B drugs before changing their plea on the day. 

“In this instance, the evidence was so overwhelming that both men changed their plea to guilty, so they didn’t have to face trial and potentially face even longer behind bars. “Today’s sentencing is further proof that crime does not pay – we will work with other agencies to stay one step ahead of these criminals, tirelessly pursuing anyone who seeks to break the law and exploit vulnerable people in our communities to line their own pockets” – Detective Inspector Mike Dalton of Merseyside Police

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 52

Last Week in Weed

(6/12/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last week in Weed. We’ll be looking at UAE relaxing its laws on cannabis for tourists, Scientists discover the origins of the ‘skunky’ smell of cannabis, and new research suggests that cannabis drug-driving laws are flawed, outdated, and unscientific.

Image Credit: CannaConnection.com

UAE relax rules for cannabis for tourists

Last week saw the United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan announce what is being called ‘the biggest change to UAE laws in its history.’  The news revealed that the Arab nation would be reforming its drug laws and shifting focus from punishment to rehabilitation.

These updates to the country’s drug laws will come into effect on January 2nd, 2022. They include reducing mandatory minimum sentences for first-time offences, ending mandatory deportation of foreigners caught with/on drugs, and a shift in focus from punitive incarceration to rehabilitative incarceration in ‘secure detention centres’ that offer ‘treatment’ and ‘education’.

We can clearly see a recognition of the need for a coordinated approach that considers criminal justice and public health in regards to using drugs. While justice is at the heart of the new law, we can also see how the issue of using drugs is being looked at as an illness rather than a crime.”  – Dr. Hasan Elhais, Al Rowaad Advocates

The announcement was made as part of the country’s celebrations marking half a century since its formation. In the hopes of boosting tourism and making the oil-rich nation a more attractive prospect to international investors. 

The UAE has slowly been reducing the penalties for drug possession over the last several years. Five years ago the minimum sentence for first-time small-scale possession of drugs like cannabis was four years in prison. This was reduced down to two years in 2016 and under these reforms will reduce further to three months.

This is quite a U-turn in policy for the UAE. Until these rule changes, even trace amounts of cannabis could see a traveler who is simply passing through an airport in the country incarcerated in prison for several years. The new rules will see cannabis-infused products forfeited or seized at the border and destroyed by customs instead of detaining and prosecuting the traveler. 

These wide-ranging reforms are actually rather progressive for the middle eastern monarchy that has previously arrested people for simply having THC in their system. Unfortunately, these reforms come a little too late for British man Billy Hood. Who was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for possession with intent to supply four small bottles of a Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonist SCRA).

His sentence has since been reduced by 15 years at the start of this month after a somewhat successful appeal. The court in Dubai acknowledged and accepted that he “unintentionally possessed” and had no intention to supply the oil to others. Hopefully, these law changes will allow for further appeals and ultimately his timely release back to the UK and his family.

Science discovers the source of the ‘skunky’ smell of cannabis

Scientists discover the ‘skunk’ smell of cannabis

We have so far identified over 200 different aromatic compounds in cannabis. Yet for years now I have sensed (see what I did there?) that there was a common smell that pervaded all cannabis. That pungent skunky smell that emanates from our favourite plant has long been put down to an expression of a cultivar’s particular terpene profile. However, new research published by the American Chemical Society claims to have finally cracked the root of this evasive aroma. 

Last week a paper titled ‘Identification of a New Family of Prenylated Volatile Sulfur Compounds in Cannabis Revealed by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography’ was published. In it a team of academics and researchers claim to have discovered a new class of chemical compounds present in cannabis that is responsible for its iconic and unmistakable smell.

In their research, the team analysed 13 different cannabis cultivars to attempt to identify what gave each of them their distinct smell, taste, and effect. The cultivars selected were; Bacio Gelato, Clone Guy OG, Gelatob, Area 41, Jetlag OG, Gushers, Wifi Cak, Apple Fritter, Chem 91, GelatoB (Listed twice in the paper – likely a secondary chemovar) Cali Berry, Gouda Berry, and Black Jack.

During their study a new class of Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VSC) never before seen in nature was detected and cataloged, although these compounds do closely match similar ones found in garlic. The team identified several of these unique VSC compounds in the cultivars they tested and labeled them as; VSC3, VSC4, VSC5, VSC6, and VSC7. 

The team’s research suggests that these compounds develop at a similar time to terpenes during the plant’s production schedule. Its production also intensifies closer to the end of the flowering cycle, as with terpenes. The team found that the measurable levels of VSCs began to drop after just 10 days in storage compared to a much longer window for certain terpenoid compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes.

“The structural similarities between VSCs in cannabis and garlic thus warrant further investigation to determine if the former possess similar health benefits to those of the latter” – Research Authors

Although they are all classified as ‘Volatile Sulphur Compounds’ (VSC) cannabis VSCs seem to volatilise a lot faster than those found in Garlic and other flora. It is already known that the similar compounds found in garlic are not just responsible for its great taste and aroma. They are also believed to be the source of its associated health benefits such as improving immune and cardiovascular function. As well as fighting infection. Indeed garlic is such a powerful antibacterial agent that it was called ‘Russian Penicillin’ during WW2. 

We’re still in the early days of research when it comes to cannabis and the myriad other mysterious compounds and benefits it has yet to reveal to us. So I’d say it’s not too far of a leap to say that once understood these compounds could hold great potential therapeutic application in the future. 

Read the full paper here.

Image Credit: AMA Insider

New research confirms that cannabis drug-driving laws are outdated and unscientific.

Research conducted by the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, Australia’s ‘first in the field’ research project investigating the medicinal applications of cannabinoids suggests that drug-driving laws are not fit for purpose.

University researchers conducted a metadata analysis of ‘all available data’ relating to driving performance and cannabis compound concentrations in blood and saliva. Their results indicated that both secretions are poor indicators of intoxication or impairment. 

Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users. This suggests that blood and oral fluid THC concentrations are relatively poor indicators of cannabis-THC-induced impairment.” – Lead author Dr Danielle McCartney

To conduct their investigation the team studied 28 relevant publications relating to cannabis consumption and then collected and correlated blood/saliva sample data for analysis. They used this data to categorise consumers into frequent (weekly or more often) and infrequent (less than weekly) groups. 

They observed that the infrequent group showed ‘some significant correlations between blood and oral fluid THC concentrations and impairment.’ Although the team did clarify that the majority of ‘these relationships were “weak” in strength.’ When observing the frequent consumers they found that ‘no significant relationship between blood THC concentration and driving performance.’

THC concentrations in the body clearly have a very complex relationship with intoxication. The strong and direct relationship between blood-alcohol concentrations and impaired driving encourages people to think that such relationships apply to all drugs, but this is certainly not the case with cannabis”

A cannabis-inexperienced person can ingest a large oral dose of THC and be completely unfit to drive yet register extremely low blood and oral fluid THC concentrations. On the other hand, an experienced cannabis user might smoke a joint, show very high THC concentrations, but show little if any impairment.”

We clearly need more reliable ways of identifying cannabis impairment on the roads and the workplace. This is a particularly pressing problem for the rapidly increasing number of patients in Australia who are using legal medicinal cannabis yet are prohibited from driving. “The increase in legal recreational use of cannabis across multiple jurisdictions worldwide is also making the need for reform of cannabis-driving laws more urgent.” – Professor Iain McGregor, Academic director of the Lambert Initiative 

This research raises a lot of questions. Not least about the efficacy, legitimacy, and legality of drug-driving laws around the world. Unlike alcohol, the presence of THC in your blood isn’t an accurate indicator of intoxication/ This relationship makes classification of impairment rather difficult through conventional means. Something I doubt will surprise any cannabis consumers. 

This complex relationship led the UK government to simply change the law in 2015. They removed the legal requirement to prove impairment, instead replacing it with an arbitrary and rather low THC-blood level limit of 2ug per litre. This unscientific and idealogical decision was highlighted in October by UK Cannabis law reform organisation Seed Our Future.

Read the Seed Our Future Cannabis and Driving – The Facts document here

The report ‘Cannabis and Driving: The Facts’ produced by Seed Our Future founder Guy Coxall shows how even ‘legally’ prescribed patients can fall foul of the law. The group is now calling for 

THC to be moved back from section five to section four of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA). This would reintroduce the need for impairment to be proved not just an arbitrary THC blood level detected.

It’s great to see so many global academic reports confirming and expanding upon the findings of Seed our Future’s report in that saliva and blood tests for THC do not correspond to driving impairment. “The Road Traffic Act is clearly wrong in relying wholly on blood tests to secure a conviction where there is no evidence of impairment nor a road safety risk. 

We will campaign for the law to be reverted back to Section 4 of the Act, where evidence of impairment is required, and for a National education campaign to inform those who use cannabis responsibly to self assess their ability to drive safely. Unjust laws must be corrected to serve the public interest.” – Guy Coxall, Seed Our Future

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 51

Last Week in Weed

(29/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed. We will be looking at Malawi appointing former boxer Mike Tyson as the country’s ‘Cannabis ambassador.’ The global mainstream media spread an inaccurate story about the Taliban making a $450million deal with Australian company Cpharm and finally this week. Uber enters the cannabis industry as its subsidiary Uber Eats agrees to deal with Tokyo Smoke to facilitate cannabis sales in Ontario, Canada.

Malawi flag

Mike Tyson becomes Malawi ‘Cannabis Ambassador’

The first story we’ll look at this week involves the Southeast African nation of Malawi and former world heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson. The news broke early last week that the Malawi Agriculture Minister Lobin Low had sent a letter to Mr. Tyson inviting him to become the country’s official ‘cannabis ambassador.’

In the letter, Minister Low invites ‘The bite fight’ boxer to become the official face of the country’s ‘medical cannabis’ industry to attract investment and promote tourism in the African nation. Last year Malawi ‘legalised’ the licensed cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal purposes and certain cultivars of low-THC cannabis for industrial applications.

The offer was quickly accepted by ‘Iron Mike’ who has since 2016 profited from his investment in the US cannabis industry. Last week also saw the announcement of the launch of his own line of cannabis flower under the brand name Tyson 2.0.

The appointment of 55-year-old Tyson has sparked a backlash from opponents keen to bring up his previous criminal conviction for the 1991 rape of Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington. The acting director of the Malawian think-tank the Centre for Public Accountability (CPA) Kondwani Munthali has voiced his concerns at the appointment of the former boxer. 

Responded to this news in a statement sent to CNN he said that ‘Appointing a convicted rapist would be wrong’ going on to say that Yes he paid his debt three years he was in jail, but we are saying to be the face of a nation is something beyond reformatory. We would want (a) less controversial character than Tyson.”

“The CPA is failing to comprehend why Malawi would want to have a convicted rapist as its brand ambassador, more especially, at this time, when efforts to curb violence against women are part of the government agenda” – Kondwani Munthali, CPA acting director

I am aware that some of you will argue that he shouldn’t have the role due to his previous convictions, however, while I do believe in the redemptive power of repairing, rebuilding, and rehabilitating the human psyche and spirit. I cannot help but disagree with his appointment to be Malawi’s international Cannabis ambassador on different grounds.

The justification given in the first instance is indicative of the potential naivety of the Agricultural Minister and the Malawian government. The region is famed for its legendary illusive landrace Malawi Gold. This ‘nearly-pure’ subspecies Cannabis Sativa is thought to be one of the rarest cannabis cultivars and produces a mild banana and coffee aroma. 

We have already seen what international investment does to developing nations’ cannabis industries and I fear that international investment from the current industry will see the nation become another ‘cheap-hub’ to produce bulk cannabis for international export to more profitable markets.

Without immediate action, the world is in danger of allowing a few billionaire-funded investment vessels the legal right to rape, pillage, and effectively colonise the emerging cannabis industries of sovereign nations. In lieu of the rifle, the pen may be used to seal the fate of a nation and the sanction of corporate global domination through trade deals and ‘helping’ to establish internationally-focused industries.

Image: Yahoo Austrilia

MSM spreads inaccurate Taliban/Australian firm deal

Last week saw a rather interesting bit of ‘fake news’ make its way around the world. A story about the Taliban in Afghanistan agreeing on a deal with a small ‘Australia-based firm’ to create a ‘hashish processing plant’ in the newly recaptured middle-eastern nation.

On Wednesday stories started appearing on western media sites reporting on the news first broke by the Pajhwok Afghan News. In the story, journalists announced a deal to cultivate and process cannabis between the Taliban and an Australian firm named Cpharm worth an eye-watering $450million. Only there was a problem they named the wrong company as financing the deal.

The whole thing seems to have started after a tweet from an account connected with the repressive religious regime’s government. This led to Pajhwok Afghan News publishing its story about the deal. In which they quote the Afghan Interior Ministry spokesperson Qari Saeed Khosti as saying “the Taliban wanted to set up a legal framework to allow the country to benefit from the currently banned agricultural product. Despite the ban, it was alleged that Cpharm already has 10,000 acres of land in Afghanistan for growing cannabis.”

Quite the contradiction to the news that is being reported about the Taliban’s tough crackdown on drug consumers. In recent months there have been reports of forced imprisonment, violent raids, and even torture.

Evidently and unsurprisingly few of the mainstream media outlets that covered the story carried out any due diligence or adequate research into the authenticity or legitimacy of the post and alleged deal. They didn’t discuss the above news, they simply copied and pasted the details from other internally respected sources. Worse still several of them incorrectly named the company involved in the deal as a small Australian company of the same name.

The tiny family-run business Cpharm employs just 17 people and specialises in offering medical advice about pharmaceutical products in New South Wales, Australia. They have no international business dealings and are in no way currently involved in the cannabis industry in Australia let alone Afghanistan.

We DO NOT manufacture or supply anything. We provide a medical advice service to the pharmaceutical industry within Australia. We have no products on the ARTG. We have no connection with cannabis or the Taliban. We have no idea where the Taliban media release has come from and want to assure everyone that it should not be connected to Cpharm Pty Ltd Australia” –Cpharm public statement

This false association triggered a deluge of calls to the company that is now considering whether to file against the media outlets that posted the story if the company suffers any reputational damage or lost revenue.

We’re just trying to work out what we’re going to do to stop it,” he added. “We’ve had probably 40 or 50 calls today. It’s just out of control and it’s just all lies, media guys… not doing any due diligence on what they want to publish. Most of the companies we deal with would look at that article and laugh.” – Cpharm chief financial officer, Tony Gabites

The story has since been updated on Pajhwok Afghan News to claim that Cpharm is German, not Australian, however, there is no statement notifying the reader of the correction or update to the story. I doubt most of the outlets that covered the story will publish a correction and the narrative will continue that terrorism and cannabis are connected, at least in the eyes of the ruling class.

Uber Eats signs deal with Tokyo Smoke in Canada

Uber enters the cannabis industry in Canada

The final story we’ll look at this week comes from Ontario, Canada where Uber has just announced that it will be moving into the countries cannabis industry. The news broke last Monday that its subsidiary food delivery service Uber Eats would become the first delivery App to facilitate the sale of cannabis in an exclusive partnership with cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke.

Tokyo Smoke is a subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corp one of Canada’s and the world’s largest cannabis companies. They currently operate 69 stores across Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario – where the new deal will be rolled out first.

Under the partnership, which has already begun, customers in Ontario can now use a dedicated section of the App to shop for cannabis and cannabis products stocked by Tokyo Smoke stores. The rideshare subsidiary then promises its customers that orders will be fulfilled and be ready to collect within an hour of purchase.

“Tokyo Smoke is thrilled to partner with Uber Canada on this innovative offering for our customers, bringing them high-quality products and the very best customer experience. As a market leader in innovation and a platform used by so many Canadians, we believe this is the ideal next offering that can be done safely and conveniently on the Uber Eats app” – Mark Hillard, VP Operations, Tokyo Smoke. 

This partnership is being marketed as a way to help tackle the ever-pervasive legacy market and tackle the scourge of ‘drug-drivers.’ Even though the latest research suggests that as few as 14% of cannabis consumers get behind the wheel within the recommended two-hour‘ intoxication window.

“We are partnering with industry leaders like Tokyo Smoke to offer safe, convenient options for people in Ontario to purchase legal cannabis. By combining a streamlined ordering process through the Uber Eats app with Tokyo Smoke’s in-person pickup service, we’re creating a new end-to-end experience for responsible cannabis ordering across the province.” – Lola Kassim, GM Uber Eats Canada. 

In reality, this deal is about three things; first movers advantage, capitalising on an emerging market, and cold hard cash baby. After all, this move comes several months after the rideshare CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was quoted as saying;

We think, obviously, food, grocery, pharmacy, and alcohol are part of that category,” but cannabis also holds potential. “When the road is clear for cannabis when federal laws come into play, we’re absolutely going to take a look at it. But right now with grocery, with food, with alcohol, et cetera, we see so much opportunity out there and we’re going to focus on the opportunity at hand”

Although Uber will benefit from first-mover advantage in the sector, it does beg the question why has no one attempted to integrate cannabis and home delivery services before? Well, three words ‘Proceeds of crime.’ The complex nature of national and international drug laws make processing digital transaction rather difficult as any CBD seller can tell you at length.

However, Uber has found a way around this, well, at least in Canada. An Uber spokesperson said that; “Uber’s in-house payments specialists, working with our trusted external banking and payments partners, implemented proprietary measures to ensure full payments compliance.” 

I do wonder if these ‘proprietary measures’ will help them in the US where the international ride-share company also now owns the Boston-based billion-dollar alcohol delivery service Drizly. The company also owns a cannabis delivery service called Lantern., although Uber specifically stated that this wasn’t included in the deal. 

Until the days of ‘legal’ cannabis arrive here in the UK most of us will have to make do with our cannabis being delivered by the Royal Mail or from a youth on a bicycle.

Updates from last week’s issue.

Here’s a quick update on two stories that we covered in the previous issue of Last Week in Weed. The new German coalition has now officially formed a government. This brings legitimacy to their pledge to ‘legalise’ the sale of cannabis in Europe’s most populous and wealthy nation.

The other story from last week involves the tragic death of a young woman. The man suspected of having a psychotic break and killing his then GF has been sentenced to 8 years and 8 months for the lesser charge of manslaughter. The court found that he met the criteria for diminished cognitive capacity and culpability in this case due to suffering a psychotic episode.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 50

Last Week in Weed

(22/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

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

Image: Dinafem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychotic break murder being blamed on ‘cannabis brownie’

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

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

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

Stafford Crown Court where the case is being heard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: OST Twitter page

Oregon police seize 250 tons of ‘illegal’ cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 49

Last Week in Weed

(15/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

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

Image: InvestmentU.com

Cannabis stocks rally in the US and Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSNI logo

PSNI officer disciplined for not reporting cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 48

Last Week in Weed

(8/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

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

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

UK Home Office hiding ‘Stop and Search’ figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

JP Morgan to restrict cannabis stocks and securities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 48

Last Week in Weed

(8/11/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

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

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

UK Home Office hiding ‘Stop and Search’ figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

JP Morgan to restrict cannabis stocks and securities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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

Last Week in Weed Issue 45

Last Week in Weed

(11/10/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

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

Image: www.palmspremium.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Last Prisoner Project

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

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

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

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

Image: HMP Stocken

Prison guard locked up for smuggling cannabis resin into prison

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

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

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

The resin found during the investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


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