Last Week in Weed (Issue 9)
In this issue of Last week in Weed, we look at Jazz Pharmaceuticals buying GW Pharmaceuticals, one of the worst years for cannabis cultivation in Jamaica, and the potential federal legalisation of cannabis in the United States of America.
Jazz Pharmaceuticals to acquire GW Pharmaceuticals
This week saw the surprise announcement that Irish-based pharmaceutical company Jazz Pharma is to acquire the British OG ‘medical cannabis’ company GW Pharma. The deal is set to be the largest so far in the global industry – nearly doubling the merger of Aphria and Tilray that we discussed in issue 2 of Last Week in Weed.
The merger will cost Jazz an eye-watering £5.2 billion. The premium price tag is an indicator of the changing tides in the medical world. The pharmaceutical industry has been quietly trying to move away from ‘traditional’ medicines and treatment models for some time now. This merger is perhaps a signifier that the industry is finally ready to move on from its legal opioid cartel and on to the creation of a cannabinoid one.
It’s an acquisition that will surely play a role in how international cannabinoid markets develop over the next year” – Kyle Detwiler, CEO Clever Leaves
It is an interesting time for the sale given the lawsuit that GW are currently tied up in with Canopy Growth over alleged patent violations with regard to C02 extraction of cannabinoids. Although, we did learn recently that the British CBD industry is to be effectively regulated by The ACI – potentially signaling the end of GW’s monopoly in the UK’s ‘medical cannabis’ industry.
Regardless, it is still a smart play by Jazz, who now gain proprietary control of all of GW’s products, patents, research, and their political connections. This means that the Irish drug-maker will now own Epidiolex and Sativex – GW’s extortionately priced CBMP’s.
“We are joining two teams that share a passion for, and track record of, developing differentiated therapies that advance science and transform the lives of patients. This will help facilitate a successful integration and bring added capabilities to Jazz. Given the strength of our balance sheet and the meaningful financial drivers of the transaction, we are confident in the value we can deliver to both companies’ shareholders and patients. We look forward to welcoming the GW team to Jazz to build an even stronger company.” – Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd
One such patent that will be invaluable to Jazz Pharma is the 2010 GW patent for using phytocannabinoids as a treatment for cancer. That’s right, a decades old patent for using cannabis to treat various forms of cancer. Jazz Pharma are specialists in oncology (the treatment of cancer) so this patent will help them corner the market of CBMP’s to treat various types of cancer.
“This invention relates to the use of phytocannabinoids, either in an isolated form or in the form of a botanical drug substance (BDS) in the treatment of cancer. Preferably the cancer to be treated is cancer of the prostate, cancer of the breast or cancer of the colon”- GW patent for treating cancer with cannabis.
The development of CBMP’s or BDS’s for the treatment of cancer will net them a tidy profit through exclusive distribution rights and a seemingly never ending supply of cancer patients seeking legal life-saving treatments.
They’ll also profit massively form Epidiolex as more and more of the global Epilepsy community see the benefits of cannabis to help treat their condition. Epidiolex is currently the only FDA (Food and Drug administration) and EMA (European Medicines Agency) approved CBMP.
This has allowed the $32,500 a year product to rack up profits of $296 million in 2019 and $526 million in 2020. With sales forecast to nearly double this year to $940 million according to the pay to play document ‘The Pharmaceutical Cannabis Report’ published by Prohibition Partners. If this trajectory was to continue the deal would pay for itself with in a few short years off the back of sales of Epidiolex alone.
“We are excited to add GW’s industry-leading cannabinoid platform, innovative pipeline and products, which will strengthen and broaden our neuroscience portfolio, further diversify our revenue and drive sustainable, long-term value creation opportunities.” –Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd
This acquisition marks the beginning of the buy out of the ‘medical cannabis’ industry by ‘big pharma’ and the start of the end to cultivated cannabinoid based CBMP’s. The co-opting of the cannabis industry by the ‘medical industrial complex’ is inevitable, but what isn’t is our compliance in their cannibalistic capitalism, cronyism, and corruption.
The entire medical industry is reworking their entire medical model to include the endocannabinoid system and CBMP’s – but the development of phytocannabinoid-based CBMP’s will only last so long. After all you cannot patent nature – but you sure can patent synthetic CBMPs.
Many pharmaceutical companies are now desperately scrambling to secure patents, proprietary technology, and research to future-proof their businesses against the changing industrial, cultural and political attitudes towards cannabis.
GW’s founder and chairman Geoffrey Guy – who pocketed £5.8 million as a salary in 2019 alone – launched the company back in 1998 following a royal commission in to the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis and a £10 million start-up donation from the British government. Two decades later and he gets to pocket another £65.9 million from the sale of GW while millions of British consumers still face a criminal record for cultivating, possessing, and trading cannabis.
The announcement saw GW’s stock price rise 46% on Feb 3rd when the news broke. Jazz Pharma have also announced that the deal will deliver $200 in cash plus $20 in Jazz stock per share for GW Pharma shareholders. A nice little profit if you were in the right place at the right time – but for the rest of us its just another fuck you from the establishment.
Jamaica suffering Cannabis drought
When most people think of Jamaica, they think of reggae and dance hall music, beautiful landscapes, Bob Marley, and of course cannabis. This week, however it was revealed that a combination of severe weather, increased consumption, and corporate opportunism has seen the Caribbean nation’s cannabis supply dwindle to its lowest levels in many years.
In what locals are describing as a ‘cultural embarrassment’ last years terrible hurricane season and drought along with tight Covid-19 restrictions has contributed to the Atlantic island running extremely low on ganja.
Recent changes to Jamaican law and the on-going global pandemic have increased public consumption greatly in the last 12 months. In 2015 Jamaica decriminalised possession of up to two ounces of cannabis – making it a ticketable offense with fines averaging about US$3.
‘Medical cannabis’ is legal in Jamaica with a doctors note or a valid ‘medical cannabis” prescription/card from your home country. They allow its citizens to cultivate up to five plants, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke marijuana for sacramental purposes.
Jamaica has decided against a corporate take over of the adult consumption market by decriminalising low level possession and allowing social, cultural, and religious consumption of cannabis. However, with the majority of the islands supply still coming form illegal grow operations and those growers being subject to movement restrictions during the countries lockdown has meant that they simply couldn’t tend to their crops during the unusually chaotic weather last year.
The Jamaican governments Cannabis Licensing Authority – which has already authorised 29 ‘medical cannabis’ cultivators and issued 73 licenses – has stated that there ‘is no shortage of cannabis’ in the countries ‘regulated industry’.
Activists and consumers have said that the legal “herb houses” that have been established on the island sell cannabis at 10 times that of street vendors. Pricing out the average Jamaican from the market and squeezing out poorer farmers that cannot meet the entry requirements to produce legally on the island.
Although, the country choose decriminalisation over legalisation to prevent against the gentrifying and white-washing of their cannabis industry – they still might find themselves a victim to the vultures of the corporate cannabis industry.
Unfortunately, I doubt that the government will be stepping into help the thousands of farmers that are now likely to never recover from this devastation. Only time will tell in what direction the Jamaican industry will go and if it will actually benefit the countries population.
US hints at implementing federal legalisation of cannabis
In our final story this week, we’ll take a look over the pond to our American cousins and check in with their efforts to push the new administration into backing federal legalisation. Since the swearing in of Joe Biden into office on Jan 20th there has been a stream of news coming out about a possible move to relegalising cannabis in the United States.
It was announced at the start of the month that three democratic Senators, Cory Booker (NJ), Ron Wyden (OR) and Chuck Schumer (NY) would be working together to release ‘a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations’.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs”
“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies” – Joint statement by Booker, Wyden, and Schumer
This powerful statement blustered by the fact that the US House and Senate are now democratic is a good omen for those hoping to see the federal legalisation of cannabis in America. A recent Gallup poll from last November also showed that a record high 68% of Americans are now in favour of federal legalisation.
Out of the 50 US states, 15 and the District of Columbia have legalised adult consumption and 36 states allow ‘medical cannabis’ to be prescribed and consumed. Leaving only a handful of hardliners states to attempt to sabotage efforts at federal reform.
The main opposition to federal legalisation was former majority senate leader and now minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – who blocked attempts at previous reform according to Oregon’s Democratic representative Earl Blumenauer. So with Mitch being ditched it looks likely that any new legislation seeking to end cannabis prohibition would ascend the House and Senate with little resistance.
“To finally have the active leadership of the new Senate majority leader, rather than being stuck in Sen McConnell’s legislative graveyard, makes all the difference in the world.”- Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
There have been some other good signs recently that indicate that the US war on weed may finally be winding down. Looking at the stock market, we can see investor confidence is gaining as some of the big players are starting to make sizable investments in to the industry.
Newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris supported last year’s MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act), a bipartisan bill that was approved in the US House but killed of by Mitch McConnell in the US Senate.
Despite her shocking history on prison reform Kamala Harris’s support for the bill indicates that she will likely support future cannabis bills and hopefully even talk old Joe into backing federal legalisation of cannabis during their Presidential term.
The final omen I feel is worth mentioning is that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced in August 2020 that they would increase production of cannabis for research from 444kg to a whopping 1,700kg of flower and increasing their THC extracts from 385kg to 1,000 kg.
Evidence of wider changing attitudes within the US establishment and government or just an attempt to remain relevant in a post-prohibition world. Only time will tell if the US does federally legalise, but one thing is for sure a fully legal cannabis industry in the US would be obligated to use its influence to see that the fascistic 1961 Single convention on Narcotic Drugs was torn up.
Thanks for reading!
Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com