Last Week in Weed Issue 6

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, we look at a top cop calling for weed in UK prisons, Amsterdam coffeeshop ban on foreign customers, and Molson Coors entering the CBD market.

Last Week in Weed (Issue 6)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In issue 6 of Last Week in Weed, we look at a North Wales PCC calling for cannabis to be trialed in British prisons, Amsterdam coffeeshops looking to ban foreign customers, and Carling brewer Molson Coors entering the US cannabis market with a CBD-infused sparkling water drink.

Foreigners face a ban from Amsterdam coffeeshops

Every year we see a similar story appear in the media warning that Amsterdam, arguably the mecca of cannabis consumers will soon stop non-residents from frequenting their Coffeeshops. This year is no exception, but do they actually mean it this time?

In previous years I’d be proclaiming this a marketing ploy to drive custom and tourism. “last chance to go, I better book that flight now” kind of thing. However, between the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the cities new radical reformist mayor I suspect they might just be serious.

Femke Halsema, the former leader of the Dutch national green party and first female was appointed mayor in June 2018. Since then she has quietly overseen a campaign to reform the image of the city and to tackle the consequences of a laissez-faire drug trade and prostitution industry left under-regulated by a protectionist attitude towards the cities traditional tolerant views.

The Mayor of Amsterdam, who actually helped in the legalising of prostitution in Holland when she was a member of the Dutch Parliament is now taking fire from locals for proposed changes to the cities historic and world-famous red-light district.

The proposals include relocating sex workers from the well-known red-light windows into “sex hotels” or install paid turnstiles to force patrons to pay to enter the district. As for closing the area down, she said: “I don’t think it is very realistic as it is also a very profitable district, so it would be very expensive to do that.”

I am still in favour of accepting prostitution as a legal profession because I think the only way we can go to emancipate sex workers is to acknowledge that it is a market, there is supply and demand. But the red-light district has a sentimental flavour around it from the past – the idea of a sailor coming in and strong Dutch women telling him what he wants and doesn’t want” 

But if you look at the actual situation in the red-light district, most women working there are foreign, in a very vulnerable legal status. And we do not know much about their backgrounds” -Mayor Femke Halsema

Once again the Dutch Mayor has annoyed potential tourists, and some residents and businesses. This time by proposing radical changes to the city’s notorious cannabis coffeeshop system as part of a campaign to reduce drug tourism and the consequences of increased organised crime on the city.

“The cannabis market is too big and overheated. I want to shrink the cannabis market and make it manageable. The residence condition is far-reaching, but I see no alternative.” -Mayor Femke Halsema

The plan that the mayor hopes will be adopted by 2022 at the earliest stipulates that only Dutch residents would be allowed to purchase and consume cannabis from the city’s 166 coffeeshops. This restriction on custom would reduce the number of coffeeshops required to service the domestic market dramatically to 68 according to a government study.

The plan is supported by local police and prosecutors alike, who believe it will help reduce the flow of harder drugs linked to the cannabis trade. This announcement comes as the Netherlands trials a government scheme to cultivate cannabis for the coffeeshops to sell. An attempt to finally resolve the “backdoor supply” issue and a potential good omen for the countries likelihood of relegalising in the future.

“We can be an open, hospitable, and tolerant city, but also a city that makes life difficult for criminals and slows down mass tourism” -Mayor Femke Halsema

Well, it looks like it may just be the end of an era for Amsterdam. If this dramatic change does come into effect it is highly likely only to be a few years between the reigning in of coffeeshops and the complete relegalising of cannabis across Europe.

That being said, when we are allowed to travel again I imagine there will be a lot of Brits flying to the triple x city to experience it for themselves in its current state one last time.

PCC calls for trial of free cannabis in UK prisons

North Wales PCC calls free cannabis to be trailed in UK prisons

This week North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Arfon Jones called for British prisons to trail free cannabis replacement treatment for drug-dependent inmates to determine whether it could help tackle the growing problem of drug dependency, violence, and overdose deaths in prison populations.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian newspaper, Arfon Jones said that supplying cannabis to drug-dependent inmates could help reduce the prevalence of potentially lethal psychoactive substances like synthetic cannabinoids (spice) and opioids that are rampant in modern prisons.

if justice authorities were serious about reducing harms and violence in prisons, “they should be addressing the causes” such as the cheap synthetic cannabinoid spice that is rife and can be deadly, as opposed to cannabis”-Arfon Jones

We’ve known for quite some time now that synthetic cannabinoids have the potential to be lethal and have a seriously detrimental effect on consumers’ mental health. The continual consumption of these compounds can result in psychosis, abnormal, and violent behaviour.

Both spice and opioids can cause a quite severe physical dependency and withdrawal cycle. Dependent individuals will often go to extraordinary lengths to acquire their next fix/hit simply to make the cravings cease and the pain stop.

The prevalence of these substances has led to an increase in self-harm as well as bullying and abuse by prison dealers and fellow inmates exploiting the most vulnerable while profiting from the systems warped belief that prisoners should suffer instead of being rehabilitated while inside.

Let’s be honest here, the idea that most people have of prison being a dangerous, hyper-violent, and institutionally corrupt place are correct. Hundreds of prison staff have lost their jobs for passing on contraband such as mobile phones, drugs, and even weapons.

At the end of the day, opioids are a damn sight more dangerous than cannabis. It would be an improvement on the illegal spice smuggled in by corrupt prison officers too.-Arfon Jones

So if a small-time cannabis dealer or grower – who is selling to reduce their personal expenses, supplement their income, and gain larger access to supply and variety – suddenly finds themselves facing a hefty prison sentence, then you can understand why they might just admit guilt and throw themselves on the “mercy of the court” in the hope of a slap on the wrist.

For the unfortunate few that play and lose the postcode lottery that is British cannabis policing the consequences are life-changing. They’ll be incarcerated and the only access they’d have to cannabis would cost them sevenfold what they would pay on the street and consuming it would also be rather risky, given the lingering smell and the fact they test for cannabis routinely in British prisons.

Their best option for a familiar high and to alliterate the devastating lows of being locked up, is to try spice. Synthetic cannabinoids are rife on the inside as they can be sprayed on all manner of combustible things, even a child’s drawing passed on visiting day. So accessing it wouldn’t be much hassle.

“The bird killer” as it is sometimes known is the ideal class of disassociating compounds available to prisoners to escape their spiritual, mental, and emotional torture of being incarcerated in such a wild west of a world. Prison officers also find it hard to target synthetic cannabinoids because they have no aroma and the testing used by most prisons does not detect them. The perfect incentive for prisoners to pass their time in a hazy blur of muted senses, thoughts, and emotions.

Unfortunately, the UK has yet to officially recognise the potential for cannabis and cannabinoids to help alleviate drug-dependency, despite there being rather a lot of positive research on the matter. This is insane when you know that they regularly prescribe heroin substitutes such as Methadone and Buprenorphine to reduce the usage of opioids in prisons.

The use of powerful analgesics like Pregabalin and Gabapentinoids has also become commonplace, both of which are now scheduled drugs on the outside due to their “dependent nature” and the market place that evolved from prison abuse – much like the criminalising of spice and other legal highs in response to rising violence in prisons. In reality, all this did was to increase the profit margins and force legal trade underground.

Arfon Jones announced recently that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection as PCC this year. Which is a blow considering he is the last high-level cop still in office that understands that prohibition is doing more harm than the substances it seeks to cease.

APrison Service spokesperson said“We have a zero-tolerance approach to drugs and work closely with healthcare to support offenders through treatment and recovery.”

Whether the system takes Mr. Jones seriously, only time will tell but if the above response from the prison service is anything to go on then this idea will, unfortunately, amount to little more than a pipe dream of an out-going policeman.

This news is juxtaposed to the reality that the UK is still spending billions locking up cannabis offenders every year. Ending the war on drugs would be far more effective at reducing violence, drug-dependency, and overall criminality in the UK all while enriching, rebuilding, and reconnecting the communities destroyed by decades of drug prohibition.

Carling brewer enters US cannabis market

Image: Fool.com
Molson Coors enters the US cannabis industry with “Verywell” CBD sparkling water

Molson Coors, the brewer best known in the UK for its brands Carling, Coors, and fosters has entered the US cannabis industry this week with the launch of “VeryWell” “a hemp-derived, adaptogenic, CBD water with a crisp taste, zero calories, and zero sugar”. Each coke can sized sparkling water drink comes with just 12mg of hemp-derived CBD. 

They’re marketing the way the product makes you feel rather than any potential health benefits or as a “recreational” product. The three flavors they produce are “Focus” Grapefruit Tarragon, “Mind and body” Strawberry Hibiscus, and “Unwind” Blueberry Lavender. There is no mention as to whether these effects are created by added terpenes or not. Tbf there isn’t much information period.

The beverages are produced by Truss CBD USA, which is a joint venture between Hexo Corp and majority owned by Molson Coors. The two companies have partnered before back in 2018 in Canada with another joint venture called Truss Beverages. A company that sells non-alcoholic cannabis-infused drinks with THC for the federally legal adult consumption market. 

“This is part of the strategy to revitalize Molson Coors and grow beyond the beer aisle with wine and spirits, non-alcoholic drinks, and cannabis beverages. CBD beverages are a growing segment within the non-alcoholic beverage category, and this joint venture provides us an opportunity to build capabilities in Colorado,” -Jane Armstrong Hockman (Truss USA General Manager)

The team stressed upon launch that the two companies are independent entities and that they wouldn’t be pursuing a “recreational” beverage with THC as an active ingredient in the US anytime soon. But me thinks they doth protest too much in this regard. 

The global cannabis beverage market is set to explode this year as more major breweries and alcohol manufactures read the writing on the wall and cast their sails to follow the changing winds of our times. Cannabis is the future of recreational intoxication not alcohol it’s just a matter of whether we’re smoking it or drinking it. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com 

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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