Last Week in Weed Issue 34

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, Clubs in Barcelona under threat, CuraLeaf launches new product in UK, & BAT banking on cannabis.

Last Week in Weed

(2/8/21)

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 Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona under threat of closure, US powerhouse CuraLeaf launches second ‘medical cannabis’ flower on the UK market, and Tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) banking on cannabis for future prosperity.

Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona under threat

It has been a tough couple of years for your average cannabis tourist. First came the pandemic and then the lockdown of most countries effectively ended global travel. Then the new mayor of Amsterdam announced earlier this year that she intends to end cannabis tourism to the world-renowned city. 

Now comes the latest blow to the international cannoisseur, the threat of closure for the infamous cannabis clubs in Barcelona, Spain. The first clubs opened in Barcelona 12 years ago and over the last decade, the Mediterranean city has become home to 225 ‘official’ associations, around 70% of all Spanish clubs. Making Barcelona a must-visit destination for any cannabis enthusiast. 

The Barcelona associations are a pioneering model in Europe and the rest of the world, they point toward the application of new drugs policies that focus on the individuals health and balanced usage” – Statement from the Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (CatFac)

The Cannabis clubs in Spain have until now operated in a legal grey area. The ambiguous language in Spanish law and a legal president set by the Superior court means that the possession, cultivation, and consumption of cannabis in private is protected under basic human rights and the right to privacy.

In 2016 the Catalonian Parliament passed a new by-law ‘legalising’ the cannabis associations by creating restrictive regulations and requiring clubs to apply for a municipal license to continue to operate. The Parliament stated when announcing the law that “Private consumption of cannabis by adults is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience” 

The restrictive measures put in place to regulate the clubs have ended up becoming the potential death nail in the coffin of the associations. A case was brought forward by the manager of a club who claimed that the requirements for extraction to be on the roof of a club discriminated against his ground floor premises. 

The court agreed with the man and annulled all of the regulations set out by the 2016 by-law. The local authority appealed the decision but a tribunal recently ruled that they do not have the ‘competence to legislate on matters governed by the state’ so do not have the authority to regulate the cannabis associations. 

Unable to appeal this decision the Barcelona local government has released this statement; “Associations are prohibited from promoting the consumption, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. Now we will send a letter to all the clubs to inform them of the new situation, and later, we will carry out safety and inspection campaigns. We will see what happens in each case.”

Scary times if you’re a club owner in Barcelona right now. The local authority has stated that ‘under its interpretation of the ruling cannabis can neither be bought nor consumed in these spaces’  but The Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (CATFAC) disagrees. 

Eric Asensio, spokesperson for CATFAC argues that the ruling only prohibits the ‘promotion’ of cannabis, not its consumption. “What happens inside a cannabis club is not promotion, but rather an economic contribution of members in exchange for a service” 

They push us to a darker place every time, we try to get out, but we keep taking steps backward. The Majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down” – Eric Asensio, CATFAC

The local authorities have announced that they intend to start enforcement on larger clubs in tourist areas like Las Ramblas first. The local authority is doing this to target ‘The ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales.’ We all know who they’re talking about here.

The City of Barcelona and the local police authorities have openly admitted that the associations are a highly effective way of reducing street dealing and consumption in public places and that they’re not opposed to the associations. Whether they will support them against this ruling remains to be seen.

So unfortunately for those not lucky enough to have already experienced the unique and welcoming atmosphere of the Barcelona clubs, it may already be too late. This latest ruling places Barcelona’s status as the ‘weed capital of Europe’ under serious threat.

CuraLeaf International launches second ‘medical cannabis’ flower in the UK 

Last week saw CuraLeaf International, formerly EMMAC Life Sciences announce that it has launched its second ‘medical cannabis’ flower product on the UK market. The company’s statement claims that the product ‘will be manufactured in the UK’ and ‘will be an extension of the company’s existing range of medical cannabis flowers and oil products. A rather ambiguous statement that actually conveys little information.

From my investigations, it appears that CuraLeaf International imports ‘raw material’ ‘through its integrated supply chain’ to a facility in the northeast of England and then ‘produces’ ‘medical cannabis’ flower from the ‘raw material.’ So they trim it and package it? I know a lot of dealers that do the same damn thing.

We are very pleased to extend our range of medical cannabis products for the UK market. As a market leader, Curaleaf International is focused on solving the key patient and physician challenges relating to the price, accessibility, and sustainability of medical cannabis products. Our vertically integrated supply chain and GMP manufacturing facilities here in the UK allow us to scale rapidly to meet growing patient demand.” – Antonio Costanzo, Curaleaf International

EMMAC Life Sciences was Europe’s largest vertically integrated ‘medical cannabis’ company before it was purchased by CuraLeaf in March 2021. We covered this acquisition in issue 14 of Last Week in Weed and how it would give them GMP-certified processing and distribution capabilities in Europe. The deal worth $286m also gave the new parent company CuraLeaf access to EMMAC’s subsidiaries, including Rokshaw Laboratories.

Rokshaw Laboratories are the Sunderland-based family-owned laboratory that imports the above-mentioned ‘raw material’ and processes it into ‘medical cannabis’ flowers. What this process entails is beyond me at this point. 

Last month CuraLeaf International secured its second GMP-certified European facility in Medalchemy, Spain by securing approval from the Spanish Health Authorities to import, manufacture and export ‘medical cannabis’ flowers. 

Most recently the company celebrated its first importation of ‘medical cannabis’ flowers from its primary facility in Terra Verde in Portugal to Israel. The shipment of over a ton of cannabis flowers was comprised of two proprietary cultivars and completed in partnership with BOL Pharama

The company’s recent successes are a testament to the power that CuraLeaf wields. The world’s largest cannabis company by revenue operates 107 cannabis dispensaries in 23 US states and has over 20 million square feet of cultivation capacity. This makes it nearly impossible to compete for small to medium businesses trying to make it in the cannabis industry.

Image: Evening Standard

British American Tobacco banking on cannabis long-term

Our final story this week is the UK’s largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT) moving further into the cannabis industry. The powerhouse behind cigarette brands like Lucky Strike and American Spirit has been slowly moving into the industry over the last 12 months.

First came the announcement on Capital Markets Day in November 2020 that the company was to launch ‘the world’s first truly global vaping company’ and “expand our portfolio of products into new areas ‘beyond nicotine’ as we continue to drive a step-change in our business.” 

Then in January, the company’s VUSE CBD Zone brand CBD vaporiser pilot scheme began in Manchester. The company hopes to use “this pilot launch to gain key learnings about consumer and retailer experiences, combined with our extensive expertise and knowledge of vaping, to help inform plans for a potential nationwide roll-out of VUSE CBD Zone later in the year.” Loosely translated that means to dominate the CBD vape sector.

Then earlier this year in March it announced that it has acquired a 19.9% stake in Canadian LP Organigram. (We cover this acquisition in Issue 14) The investment worth £126m reflects the company’s ongoing expansion into ‘reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, as well as go beyond nicotine products’ or put simply cannabis. They’re moving into the cannabis industry.

BAT is not the only big tobacco company investing in cannabis. Altria, the makers of Marlboro now owns 45% of Cronos and Imperial Brands have invested $75m into an R&D partnership with Auxly cannabis.

BAT’s intentions were revealed a little more last week as executive Kingsley Wheaton told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Program that “As we think about our portfolio for the future, certainly beyond nicotine products are interesting for us as another wave of future growth” 

It’s no secret that traditional Tobacco is a dying industry, but nicotine on the other hand is still a thriving business through vaporisation. The latest revenue reports from the company revealed that 12% of its annual sales were non-combustible. This represents a 50% growth in the area on last year’s total sales. With that kind of growth, you can see why they’re accelerating investment into the sector.

The relative wild-west of vaporising regulation and monopolistic practices over the last several years means that companies like BAT are now best placed to truly dominate what will soon become an over-regulated CBD vape market here in the UK.

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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