Last Week in Weed Issue 27

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, Portugal considers ‘legalising’, IOM kicks of licensing applications, & Mouldy ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK

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.

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