Last Week in Weed Issue 21

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, GW ‘honoured’ by Queen, Report calls on UK Gov to change ‘hemp’ laws, & Quebec headshop fight to sell weed-themed merch

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.

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