Last Week in Weed Issue 20

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, How the UK celebrated 420, US House passes SAFE Banking Act, & Lesotho exports first ‘medical cannabis’ to Europe

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.

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