Last Week in Weed Issue 55

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, London Mayor’s cannabis pilot scheme, Cookies to open London store, & Project 21 price increase trigger backlash

Last Week in Weed

(10/1/22)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed. We’ll be looking at Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a potential cannabis possession diversion scheme in London for under 25s. California cannabis brand Cookies announce a partnership to open stores in Austria and the UK and Drug Science’s Project 21 40% price increase.

Image: Cannabiz-africa.com

Overzealous Legacy Media Falsely Report on Drug ‘Decriminalisation’ Scheme in London

The main story that we’ll be looking at this week involves the Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and his election pledge to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis in London. It was falsely reported last week that the newly re-elected Mayor was intending to ‘decriminalise’ all drugs/substances that carry a class B penalty in the nation’s capital for under 25s. 

Initial reports from the UK legacy press proclaimed that ‘Sadiq Khan to decriminalise Class B Drugs in southeast London’ sparked outrage from prohibitionists across the country. The Telegraph seems to be the first to print about this story using ‘leaked documents’. Its piece contained the usual ignorant and intentionally misleading information about cannabis alongside several factual inaccuracies about Mr. Khan’s proposed pilot scheme. 

The Telegraph story claims that the Labour Mayor intends to offer under 25s caught in possession of a controlled substance that carries a class B penalty, including Amphetamine, Cannabis, and Ketamine, a ‘speeding course-style class’ or ‘counselling’ instead of being prosecuted. 

A similar approach to the checkpoint diversion schemes currently being run in Durham, the West Midlands, and Thames Valley as well as several other forces. The story was quickly picked up by the usual tabloid properties and regurgitated until the office of the Lord Mayor of London issued a statement to clarify the situation later in the day.

This limited trial, which is still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall, would involve three of London’s 32 boroughs and would only apply to 18 to 24-year-olds found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. It would not apply to any other drug.”

The idea of the scheme, which is already used by other police forces across the country, would be to divert young people who are found with a small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and instead provide help and support. This has been shown to reduce reoffending.”

Reducing crime is the mayor’s top priority and he will continue to explore and implement the most effective solutions to help to divert young people away from drug use and crime for good.” – Spokesman for the mayor of London.

During the lead-up to the Mayoral election, Sadiq Khan pledged to set up a ‘London Drugs Commission’ to review the legal status of cannabis with a view to potentially ‘decriminalising’ it in the nation’s capital. When asked to comment on The Telegraph article Labour Party leader Keir Starmer reiterated his position that he is “not in favour of changing the law to decriminalise drugs”. 

On the drugs legislation, I’ve said a number of times and I will say again, I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. “I’m very clear about that. “I haven’t seen the detail of the proposals that you’ve reported on. “As I understand it they are early measures, they are some sort of pilot. “Obviously we’ll look at those, but I’m very clear that we’re not in favour of changing the drugs laws.” – Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer

We have seen similar diversion schemes be successful in reducing the criminalisation of cannabis consumers. However, these schemes continue to be successful in my opinion because they aren’t limited to an arbitrary age group, geographical area, or social class. 

We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good.” – Spokesperson for The Lord Mayor of London

It is believed that the current London Borough of Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan will lead the initiative. Although it is currently being reported in the Metro that “the funding for the pilot has not yet had final approval from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.” The details of this pilot program are expected to be announced later this month. 

The point of this scheme isn’t to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis or liberate consumers from personal, professional, and political persecution and punitive prosecutions. It is to propagandise and politicise its consumption, demonise those that consume it, and further perpetuate the modern myth that our cannabis is a ‘dangerous street drug’ and theirs is a sanitised, whitewashed, and gentrified medicine. 

Cookies announce partnership with InterCure to open stores in Europe in 2022

Cookies Planning to Open Stores in the UK and Europe

Cookies the Berner and Jigga Californian cannabis brand behind the iconic cannabis cultivar Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) has announced that it will be opening a physical store in London and Vienna in 2022. However, do not get too excited. This announcement doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to lawfully buy packs of Gary Payton or Gelatti in the city just yet. 

So if it won’t be a dispensary, what will it be? This new venture will see Cookies partner will Israeli-based ‘prescription cannabis’ company InterCure, a company that claims to be ‘the leading, profitable, and fastest-growing cannabis company outside of North America.’ 

The partnership will see the opening of what is being billed as the UK’s first dedicated physical ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacy. What exactly this means is still unknown at this time. However, what is known is that the two companies have entered into a multi-year deal to establish ‘Cookies’ branded stores and ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacies in Austria and the UK.

“As we focus on new territories, it’s vital our customers continue to count on the quality Cookies is known for, which is a value we share with our partners at InterCure. We look forward to reaching audiences in Austria and the United Kingdom and establishing Cookies as a mainstay in each community.”- Parker Berling, President of Cookies.

InterCure already cultivates, manufactures, and distributes Cookies branded products through the Cookies ‘prescription cannabis’ pharmacy storefront in Tel Aviv, Israel. The middle eastern company’s year-on-year sales shot up 170% in the third quarter of 2021, an impressive growth rate that it believes will continue into the fourth quarter and beyond due to ‘growing demand’ in its primary domestic market.

“Cookies is already one of the most internationally recognized cannabis brands. With our mutual success in Israel, it’s logical for us to further expand into Europe by duplicating our winning model. As European markets evolve and regulations continue to become more favorable for cannabis companies, we expect to expand into new territories and provide our customers with the highest quality pharmaceutical grade cannabis products.” – InterCure CEO Alexander Rabinovitch

The fact that it is such a globally recognised brand like Cookies making the first major move from the US into Europe is indicative of the evolving landscape across the continent. We are now into the fourth year since the UK laws changed allowing the prescribing of cannabis. Yet less than 10,000 patients have been able to afford and secure a private prescription.

The scale of this investment and the strategic location of the stores in London and Vienna is rather telling of the partnership’s confidence in this venture. It is also indicative of its hopes that those foreign markets will relax rules about producing and providing cannabis on prescription in the same way as it did in the controversial and contested nation of Israel. 

Although we have already seen large brands and companies hedging their bets on the UK CBD, Hemp, and prescription industries unsuccessfully in the past. A brand of this scale making a move like this signifies that either it knows something we do not or deeply believes that something is going to change across Europe soon. What that will be, we must wait and see. 

Drug Science increase cost of flower and oil on its Project 21

Drug Science Increase Cost of Project 21 Participation

The final story of the week concerns the price of participation in the observational study Project 21, the prescription cannabis access scheme created by David Nutt’s Drug Science. Which was launched back in 2019 to create UK-based evidence for the efficacy and tolerance of cannabis on prescription.

The project was due to end last year but it was extended till the end of 2022, largely down to issues caused by the global pandemic. Initially, it had hoped to sign up 20,000 participants by the end of 2021, but currently only has around 1,000 patients registered to the service according to a recent interview in Canex.

That was a very ambitious task, which was originally set pre-pandemic time. There have been a lot of challenges and obstacles along the way, but I’d say that the ambition of 20,000 patients is still there.” – Mags Houston, head of Project 21

Drug Science announcing updates via its Facebook page.

In a recent statement, the project claims to be “proud that Project Twenty21 has brought down the exceptionally high price of private prescriptions for so many patients” before then going on to announce that it will be ‘ditching its capped pricing model for all medicines in the formulary.’ Instead replacing it with a set price for flower and oil of £7 per gram/millilitre will commence from the 1st February 2022.

News of this intended 40% price increase caused some major backlash across various social media platforms including FacebookReddit, and Twitter. With growing speculation online that the price increase is down to some of the partners involved in the project rather than those in charge of the project itself.

Drug Science appreciates the concerns raised over the change in price strategy for Project Twenty21 and genuinely does empathise with patients. We also understand that this will affect some patients more than others depending on an individual’s prescription costs. This decision was made in consultation with the project’s partners.” 

The price model changes means that the project can continue for the foreseeable when it was originally only planned to run until the end of 2021. We hope that the public acknowledges that making this change and running Project Twenty21 for at least another year is better than having no project at all. 

The longer-term objective is that we move closer to allowing people in the UK to access medical cannabis via the NHS, and that is what the project sets out to do and will keep driving towards.” – Mags Houston, Head of Project 21

This situation is likely to leave some patients feeling betrayed, deceived, and helpless I imagine, and will see many either returning or entering the legacy market for the first time. If nothing else this should renew unified calls from the public and the community for the ‘legal’ cannabis industry to get its shit together. 

Until then and beyond, I dare say it’s time to start back up those compassion networks and social clubs folks. Pandemic or no pandemic. This clearly shows us what we have known all along, that we can produce superior, cleaner, cheaper, safer, and more consistent quality cannabis than these institutions. It is time for cannabis for the people, grown by the people! 

Quick update on Cancard

The Cancard story from last week. The defense solicitors have requested and been granted an adjournment until the end of February as they wish to take the case to be tried at Crown, not Magistrates court.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

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