Last Week in Weed Issue 28

Last Week in Weed

(21/6/21)

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

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at Connecticut becoming the 18th ‘legal’ adult consumption US state, TIGGR recommending an overhaul of the UK ‘Hemp’ and ‘medical cannabis’ industry, and a UK solicitor tells a magistrates court his client will continue to consume cannabis despite prosecution.

image: TheRealDeal.com

Connecticut set to become 18th US state to ‘legalise’ adult consumption

Last week saw the announcement that Connecticut is likely to become the 18th state to ‘legalise’ adult consumption of cannabis. The New England state joins its neighbour New York who also ‘legalised’ cannabis earlier this year. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIGGR recommend changes to UK ‘Hemp’ Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Dutch Passion

UK solicitor tells court client will continue to consume cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 27

Last Week in Weed

(14/6/21)

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

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

Portugal to consider ‘legalising’ cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultivation licenses come to the Isle of Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

An example of mould on cannabis flowers.

‘Medical cannabis’ recalled due to mould contamination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 26

Last Week in Weed

(7/6/21)

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

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at online retailer Amazon announcing its support for federal ‘legalisation’ of cannabis in the US, the UK gets its first cannabis education advertising campaign, and a Welsh man avoids prison after postman discovers 50+ cannabis packages after noticing “strange” smell.

Amazon announces active support for the MORE Act

Amazon announces support for US federal legalisation of cannabis

In a blog post released last Tuesday (1/6/21) Amazon’s head of global consumer division Dave Clark announced that the international e-retail giant will be ‘actively supporting’ the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE Act) Amazon also announced that the company would no longer ‘disqualify US employees’ for testing positive for cannabis.

In the blog, the company says that it has ‘evolved its thinking’ around cannabis as 17 states have now ‘legalised’ and 30+ states have access to ‘medical marijuana’ in one form or another. In the blog titled ‘Update on our vision to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work’ Amazon states;

In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use” – Amazon blog post

The company has said that it will continue to perform ‘impairment checks’ on employees and will test for alcohol or drugs following an accident or incident. Amazon is currently the second-largest employer in the US and one of the largest companies to come out in support of federal cannabis reform so far. With the US adult cannabis market expected to reach $100 billion by 2030, you can see why it finally caught the attention of one of the world’s largest online retailers.

We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law” 

The international retailer employs more than 1.3 million people globally and is aggressively expanding into a multitude of industries and markets including pharma, data, and groceries. Amazon has previously dipped its toe into the alcohol market but didn’t find the same successful monopolisation and domination that it had previously shown in the literary space. 

There are a lot of people concerned about Amazon’s announcement that it supports federal legalisation. They are worried that the already existing infrastructure the company possesses would give them a hell of an advantage when the US inevitably fully federally ‘legalises’ cannabis.

Time will tell if this is just posturing or a sign of things to come. Either way, we can all do our bit by supporting small independent local cannabis cultivators, vendors, and businesses. 

Photo credit: Endo Agency
Endo cannabis campaign on London Bus

The UK gets its first Cannabis education advertising campaign

Last week the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) & Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) approved a cannabis educational advertisement in the UK public domain. The advert launched last week in several prime locations in London including Westminster, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Street. 

The education campaign will be visible on the side of buses, on the underground, and on billboards across London for the next week. The campaign was created by Endo agency, a branding and digital cannabis design solution specialist. 

“For years cannabis companies have struggled to make any footprint through paid advertising, with very few brands able to have their campaigns cleared even globally. Confidence is starting to grow however, with the ASA & CAP allowing us to officially submit, and challenge old restrictions currently stopping the rest of the industry, we are confident of a new wave of growth for the space” – Marwan Elgamal from THC & Endo agency

The advert features a human body broken into 4 sections on a grey backdrop with the words “If you are reading this, you have an Endocannabinoid system.” “To learn more about the Endocannabinoid system please visit Endo.Agency” The monochrome design isn’t overly appealing with its lack of colour, but it does create a sense of intrigue and provokes curiosity.

The ‘legal’ cannabis industry in the UK was valued at £690 million in 2021 and is expected to grow exponentially over the coming years. Campaigns like this are an effective way to increase public awareness and hopefully spark interest from the general population in cannabis and the emerging industry. 

Endo Campaign on London Underground

“Allowing these new forms of advertising media helps the communication of complex ideas to become ‘intelligible and comprehensive’, by breaking the psychological shackles disallowing potential consumers the right to make well-informed decisions” – Helaku Whyles, Endo Agency

It is going to be interesting to see how this campaign is received by Londoners and tourists. It is my sincere hope that this will not just work to increase CBD and Hemp sales, but will actually highlight the absurdity of criminalising something so profoundly fundamental to a healthy and happy life. 

Photo credit: Heddlu Police
‘Cannabis shop’ discovered by police

Welshman avoids prison after postman sniffs out orders

It was reported last week that a man from Llanbadarn, Wales narrowly avoided a prison sentence after a postman delivering parcels from Aberystwyth to a sorting office in Chester noticed a ‘strange smell’ coming from one of the post sacks. The postman reported the smell and a subsequent search revealed 52 padded envelopes containing a total of 215g of cannabis flowers. 

10 days later, a large parcel was intercepted at the International mail hub in Coventry from Canada addressed to the same man. A search of the parcel labeled as ‘a speaker for audio system’ revealed 4.5 kilograms of cannabis. 

The police executed a warrant on the man’s property shortly after and discovered what they described as “a pot distribution centre” with 18 glass jars containing various cannabis cultivars in one of the bedrooms. In total police removed more than 5kg of cannabis from the property.

During the raid, the police discovered that the defendant was using PayPal and cryptocurrencies as payment. Over the next year, the defendant gave four “no comment” interviews with the police before eventually admitting possession of cannabis with intent to supply, attempting to supply cannabis, and an importation offence. 

When sentencing the man Judge Huw Rees said that it was clear that he had been running a “considerable operation” buying cannabis from Canada and packaging it into small quantities for onward supply in the UK. He went on to say that this sort of activity would typically result in immediate custody, but he was mindful of the lengthy delay in the case. 

The initial arrest happened in September 2017 but it wasn’t until February 2020 that he was charged by postal requisition. The court heard that the man had since started an open university course, an action that was a great source of pride for him and his family. The Judge gave him credit for this before sentencing him to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months. 

It’s such a shame that this man is a criminal in this country but would be an entrepreneur in others. The law and the culture in the UK desperately needs to catch up with the times and stop ruining the lives of people just trying to get by in this world.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 24

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 24)

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

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies planning to launch on the LSE, EU intergroup to tackle ‘medical cannabis’ stigma, and the DEA set to finally end the monopoly on ‘medical cannabis’ research supply.

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies to launch on LSE

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies the biotech firm that is developing synthetic cannabis-based drugs that emulate the painkilling effects of raw cannabis announced last week that it is to float on the London Stock Exchange.

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies was founded four years ago with venture capital to research the therapeutic effects of cannabis at Oxford University. The company hopes to raise £16.5 million from its heavily oversubscribed IPO, which is expected to be worth £51.5 million once trading begins.

Don’t get confused by its origins, OCT was paying for research at Oxford University on a ‘fee for service’ basis which means that OCT retains all intellectual property or discoveries made in the prestigious university facilities. Oxford University has no financial stake in the company.

OCT plans to use the money from its IPO to fund clinical trials on its two most promising drugs in the third quarter of 2022. They also plan to have two more compounds begin trials in 2023 and 2024.

The company was set up by Kingsley Capital but now has some interesting investors and backers. 47.8% of the company is owned by rather wealthy individuals, Kingsley Capital retains 32.2%, Tobacco company Imperial Brands owns 16.9%, and the remainder is owned by Snoop Dogg’s investment firm Casa Verde.

The company is targeting neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage or disease which they believe represents a £7 billion a year market. They hope to create novel synthetic cannabinoids that act as raw cannabis does to reduce and manage neuropathic and chronic pain.

The move follows several other companies that have already found a home on one of Europe’s largest stock markets. These including; Kanabo, Cellular Goods, and MGC Pharmaceuticals who were the first to float on the LSE back on Feb 9th, 2021.

These companies can trade on the LSE thanks to changes made by the FCA last September which allows for ‘medical cannabis’ companies that do not have ‘recreational’ exposure to sell shares on the LSE. To trade companies must have a market capitalisation of at least £700,000, put up at least 25% of the company’s shares, and have their prospectus rigorously vetted.

There are currently several other ‘medical cannabis’ and CBD companies eagerly awaiting their chance to float on the LSE, which now looks set to become the capital of the European ‘medical cannabis’ market.

EU intergroup to tackle ‘medical cannabis’ stigma

Some good news out of the EU last week seems to indicate that a new cross-party of European politicians has been formed to help tackle the stigma and taboo of ‘medical cannabis’ in Europe.

The new cross-party group is made up of 40 lawmakers from various European political parties – including representatives from countries that already have established access to ‘medical cannabis.’

It has been created to help end the stigmatisation of ‘medical cannabis’ and to increase access to those most in need of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

One of the group’s leaders Maltese MEP Agius Saliba told the website EURACTIV that;

It does not make sense to keep treating patients who direly need these prescriptions as second, third, or fourth class patients.” Adding that “the group would include a number of MEPs from countries where medical cannabis is widely accessible (Germany and Malta, for example), and also if he had to choose, he would like a more structured system like Germany.”

These colleagues could bring good practices from their countries, and we can see whether their models can be replicated horizontally in the EU. “The biggest problem is that we cannot pick and choose between the pilot project system and the structured one, as we are starting from scratch at the EU level.” First, the group will need to have to work hard on the basics. The first questions should be to determine what medical cannabis exactly is.” 

While there are some countries where medical cannabis is no longer a “taboo”, the group will aim to “advance the demands of a resolution that the European Parliament adopted in 2019 in which MEPs called on the EU executive and national authorities to provide a legal definition of medical cannabis.” He said: “That resolution was very important and carried a strong message. But, frankly speaking, nothing has really changed since 2019 when it comes to definitions, harmonisation, and better access to medical cannabis.”

The new intergroup has said that they will start working with EU umbrella organisations, NGOs, and the industry immediately to be representatives of patients and their rights in Europe. Just how effective or how pro-whole plant they will be remains to be seen.

We want to have wider representation and more contact with NGOs representing patients’ voice while collaborating with the industry when it comes to research and legislative harmonisation” –Maltese MEP Agius Saliba

DEA to finally end the monopoly on ‘medical cannabis’ research supply

Finally this week, we’ll take a look at some news coming out of the offices of the DEA, The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency in America. It was announced a few weeks ago that the DEA was to finally end the monopoly on the supply of cannabis for federal research and trials by allowing other companies to become license holders.

Since the DEA was founded in 1973 it has only allowed one manufacturer to cultivate cannabis for federal cannabis research. The University of Mississippi grows cannabis under contract for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and with DEA approval. This monopoly created a difficult situation for researchers that were limited to using the poor quality, low-grade, and often moldy cannabis in their studies.

A study in 2019 found that the cannabis being cultivated by the University of Mississippi is closer to that of the industrial ‘hemp’ cultivars being used in fibre and seed production than that of the cannabis sold in the countries dispensaries. This discrepancy has long been argued to be one of the ways the DEA is seeking to prevent federal ‘legalisation’ of cannabis from ever happening in the US. 

During the Obama presidency in 2016, it was announced that they would allow for other companies and researchers to apply for a research cultivation license from the DEA. However, no applications or licenses were granted during either Obama’s or Trump’s time in the oval office. 

This lack of competition leads to a lawsuit by Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in 2019 and another by Dr. Cracker in 2020. Both companies were amongst several dozen others that had applied for a license under the DEA to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. 

SRI filed another lawsuit against the DEA in March 2021 claiming that the agency had used a secret document to delay the approval of manufacture applications. They say this is evident in the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel document, which was released last year as part of a settlement in the original case. It also revealed that even the agency itself feels that its current licensing structure for cannabis cultivation has violated international treaties for decades.

Then last week the New York Post broke the story that the DEA had notified several companies that they are moving towards processing their applications for research cultivation licenses. It is not yet known how many companies were contacted or how many will get final approval.

DEA is nearing the end of its review of certain marijuana grower applications, thereby allowing it to soon register additional entities authorized to produce marijuana for research purposes. Pending final approval, DEA has determined, based on currently available information, that a number of manufacturers’ applications to cultivate marijuana for research needs in the United States appears to be consistent with applicable legal standards and relevant laws. DEA has, therefore, provided a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to these manufacturers as the next step in the approval process” – DEA statement

Time will tell if these MOA’s materialise into actual licenses or not. After all, this could be just another attempt by the antiquated agency to retain some semblance of control and relevance in the twenty-first century. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 23

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 23)

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 23

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at Florida-based cannabis company Trulieve acquiring Arizona-based Harvest Health and Recreation, Spain finally looking to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’, and finally Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan from heavy metal band Slipknot launching his own ‘Clown Cannabis’ brand.

Trulieve acquires Harvest to create one of America’s largest cannabis companies.

Trulieve Cannabis, Florida’s largest cannabis retailer and cultivator announced last week that it will acquire Arizona’s largest cannabis operator Harvest Health and Recreation. The deal worth $2.1 Billion will make Trulieve one of America’s and the world’s biggest cannabis companies. 

The deal is still to be approved by US regulators but the acquisition is likely to go through. Once approved the deal would see Trulieve expand its reach to 126 dispensaries and 22 cultivation facilities across 11 US states. The deal would see Trulieve become the biggest player in Florida and Arizona with a significant presence in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

It’s a significant moment for both of our companies as we create the most profitable cannabis company in the largest market in the world,” – Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers

The combined revenue of the two companies appears to mean that Trulieve will have a slightly larger adjusted profit than that of Curaleaf, which is currently considered America’s largest cannabis company. Analysts at Needham estimate that the acquisition would make Trulieve “slightly larger than Curaleaf by revenue and believes that it will be transformative for the company.”

News of the acquisition sent Trulieve stock down 2.3% and Harvest Health and Recreation shares rose 17% after the announcement. Harvest stockholders will receive 0.117 shares of Trulieve for each share they own. This represents a premium of around 34% on the closing trade price of Harvest shares based on the share price at the end of trade before the deal was announced. 

As America, inches ever- closer to ‘federal legalisation’ expect to see many more of these kinds of deals going being announced and completed. There is after all quite a lot of individuals invested in this space purely for the short-term fiscal return. So the US going ‘full legal’ would likely start a selling frenzy as investors seek to capitalise on the stock market.

Keep an eye on Connecticut and Minnesota as either one of them could be the next US states to ‘legalise’ cannabis. Connecticut is the most likely to ‘legalise’ this year with Minnesota expected to get cannabis on to the ballot in 2022. 

Spain to consider ‘legalising’ ‘Medical Cannabis’

Although it was one of the first European countries to ‘decriminalise’ personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, Spain still doesn’t have an established ‘medical cannabis’ market. For individuals wanting to be prescribed cannabis in Spain, the options are incredibly limited. It is only possible to get drugs like GW’s Sativex and Epidiolex products as under current rules they must be approved licensed medications.

The Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC) have for many years been the best place for Spanish citizens to access cannabis for therapeutic consumption. They provide flowers, concentrates, and in some cases FECO oil for their members to purchase and use as they see fit. This may be coming to an end as last week it was announced that Spain is looking to finally consider ‘legalising’ ‘medical cannabis’ across the country.

The announcement was made after Congress voted to create a subcommittee to examine the policies of other countries that have already ‘legalised’ ‘medical cannabis’ with a view to creating a bespoke domestic legislative framework. The committee was first proposed by the Grupo Parlamentario Vasco (Basque Parliamentary Group) and passed in the Spanish Congress with a vote of 20 votes for and 14 against. 

The proposal includes a commitment to analyse the experiences of other governments that have already regulated ‘medical cannabis’ and a six-month time frame to produce a report for ‘the Comisión de Sanidad y Consumo’ (Spanish Congressional Health and Consumer Affairs Commission) to review before it would then be considered by the Spanish Parliament. 

Spain already allows for the cultivation of ‘medical cannabis’ in the country just not its use by its citizens. There are currently 19 companies operating in Spain, with a few rather large-scale international commercial grows that export their products around the world. These include a few of the usual names like Canopy Growth and CuraLeaf who have both bought out companies in the region recently.

A recent survey conducted by The Center for Sociological Research found that a massive 90% of respondents supported ‘legalising’ ‘medical cannabis’ in Spain. Prohibition Partners estimate that Spain could see 30,000 ‘medical cannabis’ patients by 2025 if the country adopts a similar prescription system to that of the UK in 2022.

Until the situation is resolved and likely after too, the CSC’s will remain most Spaniards primary access point to consistent quality cannabis for their therapeutic consumption. Watch this space to keep up to date as the situation unfolds.

Slipknot’s Clown launches his own Cannabis brand

Coming Soon – Clown cannabis!

In the final story that we’ll cover this week, we look at ‘The Clown’ from popular American heavy metal band Slipknot launching his own line of cannabis products called ‘Clown Cannabis’ 

Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan the percussionist from the Iowa-based band best known for donning rather unusual masks announced that the ‘Clown Cannabis’ range would be dropping soon. A link to their website was shared on social media where you can sign up to receive updates, news and find out in which states it will be stocked. 

Clown is by no means the first musician to release a cannabis line. In recent years we have seen 

Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Method Man, Redman, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Julian Marley, Post Malone, B-Real, and Die Antwood (to name just a few) all release cannabis products. 

As we discussed in Last Week in Weed Issue 2 Jay-Z signed a deal with TCPO Holding Corps (the Parent company) earlier this year to bring artists from his Roc Nation entertainment management company into the cannabis industry. With artists like Dj Khalid, Rihanna, and Alicia Keys on their books it is likely we can expect to see them launching their own brands soon.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 22

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 22)

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

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at chewing gum giant Wrigley’s suing several cannabis brands for copyright infringement, Tilray and Aphria completing their planned merger, and a UK worker winning thousands from an employment tribunal after being unfairly dismissed following a failed drug test.

Skittles manufacturer suing Terphogz over Zkittlesz brand

Wrigley’s files lawsuits against cannabis brands for copyright infringement

The first story that we’ll cover this week is one you may of seen coming. It was announced late last week that Wrigley, the makers of Wrigley’s chewing gum, Skittles and Starburst have filed several lawsuits in Chicago and California.

The confectionery giant is suing the three small cannabis companies Terphogz LLC, Packaging Papi LLC, and 2020ediblez. In the case against Packaging Papi Wrigleys alleges that they were selling ‘medicated’ Skittles, Lifesavers (Polo mints), and Starburst lookalike ‘Cannaburst’.

Terphogz – the promoter of the Zkittlez cultivar and merchandise brand is also being sued by Mars Wrigley in Chicago over infringement of their sweet brand Skittles. The chewing gum manufacture is claiming for false designation of origin, unfair competition, trademark dilution, trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and other related claims.

“At Mars Wrigley, we take great pride in making fun treats that parents can trust giving to their children and children can enjoy safely. We are deeply disturbed to see our trademarked brands being used illegally to sell THC-infused products” – Mars Wrigley spokesperson 

The billionaire confectioner is claiming that the Zkittles brand has been so successful that it commands a 20% premium over other similar brands in the cannabis industry “But those ill-gotten gains have come at the expense of the public which believes that Wrigley approves the ZKITTLEZ goods” claims the sweet maker. Wrigley’s also alleges that the Zikkles tag line ‘Tazte the Ztrain bro’ is a rip off of their skittles tag line ‘Taste the Rainbow’ a violation of their intellectual copyright and trademark.

Wrigley commenced this action to protect the public from Terphogz’s deceptive and dangerous business practices and to safeguard the goodwill and reputation of Wrigley’s renowned SKITTLES Marks” – Lawsuit documents

This isn’t the first time that a cannabis brand has gotten into trouble with the ‘legit’ brand that they are copying or imitating. Back in 2017, the makers of the adhesive brand Gorilla Glue sued the cannabis company GG Strains LLC for trademark infringement

The case was settled in the adhesive brand’s favour and although no money was exchanged it still forced GG Strains to shut its website and remove the word Gorilla from all branding. The suit and subsequent rebranding were estimated to cost the company $250,000.

Terphogz , who has since changed the name of Zkittlez to ‘The original Z’ stated in a post on Instagram that “We have never even done any candy/edible collab ever with any company. We have never made candy. We have no connection or companies in or with Illinois or Canada.”

That doesn’t mean you can use an existing brand name, particularly one that is associated with a children’s candy product to identify your marijuana strains.” A rather valid point raised by trademarking expert Shabnam Malek when speaking to Leafly about the case recently. 

This defence isn’t likely to succeed, especially against the sheer weight and might of Wrigley’s legal department. Worse still for Terphogz, unlike the GG lawsuit where no recuperation of revenue was sought, the fact Wrigley’s brought up the profits made from the sale of Zkittlez suggests they may go after Terphogz bank account too.

Tilray and Aphria complete merger -creating the world’s largest cannabis company.

In our second story this week, we look at the news that Tilray and Aphria have completed their planned merger. We covered this in issue 2 of Last Week in Weed, so I won’t cover too much old ground. The announcement brings relief to investors that were beginning to worry the deal may fall through as the previous one with Aurora had. 

The combined profits for the two companies in 2020 was estimated $500 million. This means that the finalising of the merger now makes the ‘new Tilray’ Canada’s and the world’s largest cannabis company based on pro forma revenue. Its new market capitalisation is estimated to be around $8.2 billion.

Under the terms of the agreed merger, Aphria shareholders will receive 0.8381 shares of Tilray for each Aphria common share they own. Aphria’s chairman and CEO Irwin Simon will now lead the newly combined firm.

Our focus now turns to execution on our highest return priorities including business integration and accelerating our global growth strategy. Covid-19 related lockdowns have presented unique challenges across Canadian and German markets. As these markets begin to re-open, Tilray is poised to strike and transform the industry with our highly scalable operational footprint, a curated portfolio of diverse medical and adult-use cannabis brands and products, a multi-continent distribution network, and a robust capital structure to fund our global expansion strategy and deliver sustained profitability and long-term value for our stakeholders.” – Irwin Simon Tilray CEO

Tilray was the first North American cannabis company to gain European GMP accreditation back in 2016. They have since expanded into several European countries including France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Portugal, and Germany where they now have 70% of the country’s ‘medical cannabis’ import market. Tilray also recently secured a deal with Grow Pharma in the UK to import and prescribe their ‘medical cannabis’ products

The growth in these international markets and ambitious cost savings in cultivation and production, cannabis and product purchasing, sales and marketing, and corporate expenses are estimated to generate $81 million of annual pre-tax cost synergies within the next 18 months. 

Until European countries prioritise domestic cultivation companies like the new Tilray will continue to dominate the ‘medical cannabis’ industry in Europe. 

British man sacked for failing cannabis drug test wins thousands at tribunal

The final story that we’ll be looking at this week is an update to a story we first covered in issue 7 of Last Week in Weed here on TheSimpaLife.com. In April 2020 a ‘drivers mate’ at a recycling centre in East London was fired after he failed a random drug test at work.

Carl Pamment failed a random drug test at work after testing positive for cannabis. His employer immediately dismissed him. Mr. Pamment took his employer to tribunal for unfair dismissal and won. The judge agreed that the company had not taken his impeccable record or legitimate medical need into consideration before firing him. 

What is undoubted is that Mr. Pamment’s back problem was entirely genuine he had frequent visits to the doctor. He was due to have an epidural injection. He was given various different medications to help the pain, including morphine patches. None seemed to work for him. In December 2019 a friend told him that cannabis helped, and he bought some from a friend.”

It worked for him, and helped him sleep, the pain being a problem preventing him sleeping well. Eventually his medication, perhaps with the cannabis, was effective enough for him to return to work” – Judge Housego

This week the judge returned a verdict and awarded £33,766 in compensation to Mr. Pamment. The judge also stated that “There is, in my judgement at this point, no reason why it is not practical to reinstate him.”

The judge concluded the proceedings by stating that “I conclude that the objections put forward are all manifestations of reluctance to have Mr. Pamment back, based on the use of illegal drugs in the past, and not a genuine loss of trust in him”

I considered that Mr. Pamment had made every reasonable effort to find employment in this most extraordinary of times. He is a person without qualifications, who happened into a job he liked and was good at”

It is hard to see him getting another such job easily, particularly given the reason for dismissal and his history of back problems, when his work is of a physical nature. ‘It is unfortunate that Renewi did not think it relevant that Mr. Pamment had a long-standing and acute back pain problem and that this was the reason why he had taken cannabis…. his motivation was not hedonistic.”

Whether Mr. Pamment will regain his previous position is yet to be seen. Regardless this case sets a great precedent in tribunal case law and serves as a testament to just how far the movement has come in the UK over the last few years.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 21

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 21)

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

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

GW ‘honoured’ by the British Queen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK ‘Medical Cannabis’ heavyweights co-sign new report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian headshop challenges ban on cannabis-related words and images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 20

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 20)

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

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

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

How the UK celebrated 420

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US House of Representatives passes the SAFE Banking Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 19

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 19)

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

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at an American man arrested for a positive urine test in Dubai, The BMA, and RCGP voice concerns about Cancard, and finally an all-party group of 100 MPs and peers call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Image credit: Joe.co.uk

US tourist faces prison is Dubai for testing positive for THC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP’s express concern about use of Cancard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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

Last Week in Weed Issue 18

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 18)

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

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at the Mayor of London considering cannabis decriminalisation in the city, Canopy Growth acquiring Canadian Supreme Cannabis, and a cannabis dealer tells a UK judge that he sold weed to cover his low income on Universal Credit.

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

London Mayor to consider ‘decriminalising’ cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canopy Growth Corp buys Supreme Cannabis for £250 million

Canopy Growth acquires Supreme cannabis company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

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