Shoppers Drug Mart granted licence to sell medical marijuana online

Health Canada’s list of authorized cannabis sellers and producers has been updated to reflect that the pharmacy can sell dried and fresh cannabis, as well as plants, seeds and oil.

Health Canada’s list of authorized cannabis sellers and producers has been updated to reflect that the pharmacy can sell dried and fresh cannabis, as well as plants, seeds and oil.

A website has been set up by the company, which says that patients “with a valid medical document will soon be able to purchase a wide selection of medical cannabis products” from Shoppers.

A spokesperson for Shoppers’ parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it’s too soon to say when people will be able to start making orders.

She says the company is still working through a “technical issue” with Health Canada.

The company was granted a medical marijuana producer licence in September, after initially applying in October 2016.

Shoppers has said that it has no interest in producing medical cannabis, but the licence is required in order to sell the product to patients.

Under the current Health Canada regulations for medical pot, the only legal distribution method is by mail order from licensed producers direct to patients.

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Marlboro Company Fuses $1.8 Billion Into Cannabis Company Cronos

Big Tobacco Makes First Official Foray Into Cannabis as Tobacco Sales Continue To Fall

Phillip Morris USA’s parent company, Altria, the guys responsible for producing world-famous cigarettes from the Marlboro brand, have officially become the first tobacco company to invest in cannabis.

The investment injected a whopping $1.8 billion for the Canadian cannabis company, Cronos Group, reports CNN. This makes Altria owner of a 45% stake in the cannabinoid company, but and although that isn’t so surprising, what’s even more shocking is the revelation that they will be discontinuing their cigarette vape brands Green Smoke and MarkTen. Altria will also be dropping their oral nicotine, Verve, and are still on the fence about investments in a leading e-cigarette company Juul.

Cigarette sales have steadily been declining, and former cigarette consumers are now turning to other forms of safer recreational products including e-cigarettes as well as cannabis. This change of heart with cannabis consumers is showing that slowly but surely, cannabis is going to topple cigarettes eventually. From one vice to another (safer) vice, although it only makes sense because cannabis has been proven to be healthy while cigarettes have not – and we’ve known this for a long time now.

“The proceeds from Altria’s investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in R&D and brands that resonate with our consumer,” Mike Gorenstein, Cronos CEO, disclosed in a statement. The move also helps “make sure we’re getting in front of regulators,” Gorenstein told CNBC.

“Altria is the ideal partner for Cronos Group, providing the resources and expertise we need to meaningfully accelerate our strategic growth,” he added.

Risky Moves For Altria?

Although this isn’t the first time an American vice company is engaging in long-term romances with Canadian cannabis firms, it’s pretty easy to see why this could be a risky move.

The first was Constellation Brands, parent company of Corona beers, who pumped up their investments in Canopy Growth for a 9.9% stake in the firm. Then within the same month, Hexo, Canadian cannabis producer announced that they were engaging in a joint venture with Molson Coors to create a line of “non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market.” This business, known as Truss, revealed to be a successful JV and they are soon going to be releasing their products in the Canadian market by 2019 once the country legalizes cannabis-infused beverages.

This deal is definitely good news for shareholders of Cronos, because it catapults them to rock star Canadian cannabis company status thanks to the massive investment, with the support of one of the most powerful cigarette producers in the entire world. But what does this mean for Altria, who paid a very steep price for what is now still a mid-size Canadian cannabis producers. Moving forward, Cronos could benefit from Altria’s proficiency in navigating extremely regulated markets. Additionally, it could take Altria another several years to benefit from this deal, so while it initially does seem like a risky move for Altria, it could take a while for this to play out to both sides’ benefits but it isn’t impossible.

Altria’s stock fell by 25% this year so far, but after they announced they would be tying the knot with Cronos, their stocks jumped 2% on Friday after early trading, while it sent Cronos shares soaring around 30%.

“Importantly, Altria shares our vision of driving long-term value through innovation, and we look forward to continuing to differentiate in this area,” Gorenstein says. “As one of the largest holding companies in the adult consumer products sector, Altria has decades of experience in regulatory, government affairs, compliance, product development and brand management that we expect to leverage, particularly as new markets for cannabis open around the world.”

At the end of the day, cannabis remains to be perhaps the most volatile and unpredictable industry. Just look at the supply shortages that are threatening Canada’s industry, while other countries around the world continue to entertain the possibility of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. It will be interesting to see how this deal will pan out in the next 6 months or so, and which “sin company” ties the knot with cannabis next.

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The Next Gold Rush Is the $22 Billion CBD Business–and This Florida Company Is Ready to Win

Green Roads is cashing in on the demand for products with cannabidiol while preparing for changes in the law that could soon transform the industry.

Ready, set …

That pretty much describes the status of an entire industry–the makers of products containing cannabidiol, or CBD. The compound, added to everything from skin cream to ice cream, can be derived from hemp or marijuana and has been touted as a treatment for ailments ranging from anxiety to cancer. The catch: “It’s still in a legal gray area,” says Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group, which studies the cannabis and CBD industries.

Marijuana is subject to a patchwork of state regulations. But the 2018 farm bill would remove hemp from the list of controlled substances, opening the floodgates for hemp-derived products. “Everyone and their mother is starting a CBD line right now,” says Gomez. “It’s absolutely a gold rush.”

With about 6 percent of the market, Davie, Florida-based Green Roads is the largest private company specializing in hemp-derived CBD, according to Brightfield. The company sells CBD-infused products such as tinctures and balms, online and in 6,000 stores and 2,000 doctors’ offices. Green Roads now has about 100 employees, and co-founder Arby Barroso estimates 2018 revenue at $45 million.

Barroso, 48, became interested in CBD after being introduced to it by a friend in Colorado. He had long taken painkillers for a crushing football injury he sustained when he was 23. When his real estate business collapsed during the financial crisis, he invested in a pain-management clinic. Barroso describes that decision as “the worst thing ever,” as he soon became addicted to opiates. Then his friend suggested he try CBD gummies, which helped him stay clean.

The CBD in Barroso’s gummies was derived from marijuana plants, so it contained another compound, THC, which is illegal in many states. Barosso needed something without THC–he’d been jailed for drug use, and testing positive for THC would violate his parole. In 2012, he approached a compounding pharmacist, Laura Fuentes, about making a hemp-derived CBD product that could alleviate his pain and help keep him off opiates. She came up with an oil.”I could have gotten cleaner quicker if I’d had CBD every day,” he says.

Fuentes and Barosso soon became business partners and the co-founders of Green Roads. Barroso went door-to-door to smoke shops, leaving bottles of CBD oil on consignment. “In the beginning, no one would give us the time of day,” Fuentes says. Then she started hearing that grandmothers were going into vape shops to find CBD. “I was like, we have to do something about this,” she says. “Grandmas are not comfortable in vape stores!”

Green Roads’ CBD Fruit Bites.CREDIT: Courtesy Green Roads

The cost of doing CBD business

Unlike some producers of CBD, Fuentes and Barroso never intended to grow their own hemp, which was outlawed in Florida when they began anyway. At the time, Barroso says, it was almost impossible to buy an oil containing only minimal amounts of THC. It’s easier now, but supply can still be tricky: “We can’t always get 10 55-gallon drums of oil,” he says. Green Roads products use a blend of four to five different cannabinoids, using both oils and isolates (concentrated CBD extract in the form of a powder), designed by Fuentes.

There are other, unexpected, costs. Green Roads lost four banks when their risk-management teams decided that Green Roads wasn’t a business they wanted to be supporting. The company’s Instagram account has likewise been shut down four times, because of legal restrictions on marketing CBD products. Instead of paying standard credit card processing fees of less than 3 percent, Green Roads pays closer to 6 percent.

Fuentes says she has to deal with “tons” of shady people in the industry. She says vendors have offered to sell her extract that contains specified levels of CBD or other compounds. They send her samples, which she sends to her lab. The samples check out fine, so she orders a kilogram–but when she sends a bit of that order to the lab, “it’s not the same thing they sent me as a sample. And there is no recourse.” Green Roads spends $30,000 to $40,000 a month testing their raw materials for pesticides, solvents, and metals, and it requires certificates of origin from their suppliers as well.

Betting on the farm bill

Because CBD currently operates on the boundaries of legality, it’s tricky to figure out how big the industry is and how much bigger it could get. Brightfield pegs the market for hemp-derived CBD products at about $591 million in 2018, growing to $22 billion by 2022. Other analysts, while nowhere near as bullish, are still very positive on the sector. Hemp Business Journal says the market for hemp-derived CBD was about $190 million in 2017, and will grow to $646 million by 2022.

Experts expect the market for CBD to balloon if and when the farm bill passes, which could happen this month. That means the biggest challenge for Green Roads is yet to come. “I’m not worried about the companies that are in the market today, I’m worried about big companies,” Barroso says. “We can’t compete with those guys. I think about it every day.”

So for now, Green Roads, like other private businesses in this market, is girding for the day when it will have to compete–or collaborate–with the larger players they are sure will enter the fray. (Even Coca-Cola is rumored to be developing a CBD product.) Green Roads, for example, is involved in a pilot program with the University of Florida to bring hemp farming back to the state to bolster its profile, connections, and potentially, supply. Another CBD company, Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, joined together with three manufacturing facilities to create a larger entity that would interest investors; they raised $15 million.

“The day the farm bill passes, the day we’re allowed to spend $50,000 a day on marketing on Facebook, on Google Adwords, on Instagram–I don’t know if there’s enough product in the country” to fulfill demand, Barroso says. “We’re not at our full potential today, not even close.”

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In Canada, you can study marijuana production for college credit

The country is facing a pot labor shortage, now that the sale and cultivation of cannabis is legal.

Beleave Kannabis Corp. wants to grow more than just pot.

The Ontario marijuana company aims to build an empire of plant scientists, regulatory experts and security personnel in a nascent industry with exploding demand. But there’s a shortage of experienced staff members in Canada, which became the first industrialized country to fully decriminalize pot in October, said Beleave’s chief science officer, Roger Ferreira.

So Beleave, like dozens of other licensed producers, is pressing local universities for help.

“I’m going to pillage the top of your class,” Ferreira said. “All your 4.0 GPAs, send them this way.”

Nearly a dozen colleges nationwide are adding or expanding courses designed to train the next generation of marijuana producers, often at the nudging of area employers. Some of the classes count toward two- and four-year degrees. Other schools offer certificates.

Although the use of medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, the rise of recreational toking has fueled a hiring boom as growers rush to scale up production of smokable buds and oils. Openings have tripled over the past year and now represent 34 of every 10,000 job postings, according to Indeed Canada, an employment site.

“The green rush,” Alison McMahon, founder of web recruiter Cannabis At Work, called it.

Educators have seized on the moment, pledging to equip students for greenhouses and laboratories and storefronts.

In January 2020, McGill University in Montreal will offer a graduate degree in cannabis production, open only to students with botany backgrounds or bachelor’s degrees in related fields.

The school’s new focus on marijuana may seem edgy, but studying pot cultivation requires a grasp of hardcore science, said Anja Geitmann, dean of McGill’s faculty of agricultural and environmental sciences.

“Genetics, breeding — there are multiple strains that have a different chemical composition,” she said.

Durham College in Ontario, meanwhile, unrolled its Cannabis Industry Specialization program this fall, promising to launch careers in the “rapidly expanding cannabis sector,” according to its website. GrowWise Health Limited, a private firm nearby, helped design the curriculum.

And Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver now offers a Retail Cannabis Consultant certificate, the school announced this year, which educates future pot sellers on “compliance, customer service, and competence in a complex and evolving industry.”

The need for skilled cannabis labor is expected to further intensify next year once lawmakers authorize the sale of edible products. Marijuana-laced brownies and other mood-altering treats are projected to account for half of the legal industry’s sales, according to Canadian forecasts.

Beleave, which runs three Ontario grow operations and recently acquired the retail chain Medi-Green, plans to open two more greenhouses in 2019. The expansion will practically double its workforce to 120 or so workers, Ferreira said.

He needs people who can nurture different strains of marijuana, masters of soil and light and pest control. He needs scholars of Canada’s health and safety regulations — the government requires producers to keep a record of every individual who comes in contact with the plants. He needs someone to maintain that access log and monitor the cameras.

“These are skill sets that have only recently been well-characterized and defined,” Ferreira said, adding that applicants who have merely grown marijuana in their basement don’t make the cut.

Hearing from employers who struggle to fill vacancies inspired Ontario science professor Bill MacDonald to create Niagara College’s Commercial Cannabis Production program. More than 300 people, he said, applied for this year’s inaugural 24 spots. (People with business, science or agricultural degrees are welcome to take the year-long class.)

“I had licensed producers come to the college and say, ‘We need highly trained personnel,’ ” MacDonald said. “The demand is just huge.”

His students include flower farmers, a former chief information officer and a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. They take field trips to pot laboratories and intern at grow sites. Salaries in Ontario start around the equivalent of $60,000, he said, “but can move up very quickly.”

Producers are scrambling to meet consumer interest, but a lack of ready talent is slowing growth (and sparking concern among some businesses that buyers will turn to illicit sources).

“I’ve heard several times over just the last month: ‘Don’t you have any students? We are looking for qualified people,’ ” said Geitmann, the McGill dean. “They’re happy to have someone with a plant background at all and often train people on-site.”

Students view the new crop of courses as an adventurous career twist or a way to earn more money.

Laurie Zuber, 39, enrolled in Niagara’s cannabis production program two months ago after her mother saw a commercial on television. “She called me like, ‘You should apply for this! Do it!’ ” Zuber said.

Zuber, who has spent the past 16 years as a grower at a plant nursery, figured: Why not? The program was a $10,000 investment — but it could potentially double her earnings.

Zuber doesn’t smoke marijuana. Tending to greenery, she said, is her favorite part of the work.

“They’re my little babies,” she said. “I love watching them from the seeds.”

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CBD Companies Prepare For Hemp Legalization In Farm Bill

Despite the delay in this year’s farm bill, one thing is clear: hemp and hemp-derived CBD is likely to become federally legal in the U.S.

Hemp, CBD and the FDA

Sen. Mitch McConnell has advocated for removing hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances in the upcoming farm bill.

He championed for the provision in the 2014 bill that distinguished industrial hemp from marijuana, based on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. This made it legal to grow and study hemp through agricultural programs and universities.

Industrial hemp is considered any part of the cannabis plant with no more than 0.3 percent of THC on a dry weight basis, according to the National Law Review.

The 2014 provision will be repealed, allowing even wider growth of industrial hemp. Nineteen states grew more than 25,000 acres of hemp in 2017, a 163 percent increase since 2016, according to the Non-GMO Report.

Though both derived from hemp, cannabidiol (CBD) does not produce a psychoactive effect like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It does not produce “a high.”

Still, the FDA currently considers all CBD a drug — and an illegal food ingredient. Hemp seed oil has been deemed “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS), but the FDA needs more scientific evidence for CBD.

In June, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD treatment for epilepsy, and the US Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cleared it for prescriptions in September, classifying it as a Schedule V substance. It’s currently available by prescription in all 50 states.

Growing CBD Sales

The CBD market will likely grow 40 times its current size by 2022, according to a report by Brightfield Group.

For CBD companies, federal legalization is great news. But how will they prepare, and what do they hope to see?

Leila Mafoud is founder and owner of Green Witch, a CBD company based in New York, with a current popup at Canal Street Market. She studied global public health before discovering CBD’s benefits.

CBD binds to different receptors than THC, delivering pain and anxiety relief without psychoactive effects, according to a recent McGill University study. It’s lauded for fighting pain and anxiety and administered through tinctures, which can be added to food and drink, lotions and creams and other beauty products.

“We are making the same compound as the plant, which is why we’re so receptive. That’s one of the most important facts about how this all works,” Mafoud said. “It’s the reason why the pharmaceutical companies are open to it.”

Though Green Witch been well-received in New York City, Mafoud has seen some hurdles. Facebook and Instagram have removed ads. Getting print ads has been difficult. Payment processors for credit cards have been removed, and bank accounts have been closed.

“The time, the effort and the exhaustion that that’s taken obviously has been a huge barrier to business, more than just the geographic location,” she said.

But she’s inspired by NYC’s enthusiasm for natural wellness and engaging with customers, especially since CBD is a form of medicine or prevention, she said. She asks customers to share feedback once they’ve tried their products, and all feedback is recorded. Her CBD-only products are available online.

“I love meeting people and actually connecting with them in person, but nobody in 2018 can turn their back on online sales and how much that can actually cause your brand to grow,” she said. “I would be very excited to sell more online. The moment I know everything I’m selling is federally legal, I’m really going to be pushing online and focus my efforts there.”

Brittany Carbone, founder of Tonic, a CBD company, also owns a hemp farm, Tricolla Farms in upstate New York. She worked with Cornell as part of New York’s Industrial Hemp Research Initiative and saw the value in controlling her supply chain, she said.

Like Mafoud, Carbone also experienced issues with credit card processors and bank accounts due to the current CBD laws. With legalization comes better access to these crucial sources, which could be a great opportunity for farmers, she said.

“The industry is becoming restrictive to people with deeper pockets,” Carbone said. “It’s an industry that they see to be very lucrative, whereas this could be something that really revitalizes the cultural economy of upstate New York, [giving] opportunities to farmers who are struggling and can’t make ends meet.”

Cindy Bencosme, founder of Terrestrial Roots, started creating tinctures and salves for herself, her husband and friends before launching the company one year ago. With legalization, she looks forward to discoveries of new ways to grow and use hemp.

“It opens a whole new bottle of opportunity,” Bencosme said.

But despite a sunny horizon ahead, she wants a more inclusive industry.

“It’s something we have to come back to every time we’re talking about the industry: the people in prison that were arrested for things relating to cannabis,” she said. “People are really interested in this green rush we’re having with hemp and with cannabis, and I think that it’s great, but it has to be more inclusive.”

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Marijuana Legalization On Ballot Would Drive 2020 Voter Turnout, Says Michael Moore

According to the documentarian, the strategy worked in Michigan

Influential documentarian Michael Moore has an idea for Democrats to win the 2020 election—put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Moore’s reasoning springs from his home state in Michigan, which legalized recreational cannabis this month amidst the largest voter turnout in the state in 56 years.

Moore also believes adding other litmus issues like free college tuition and banning gerrymandering will raise the Democratic chance of victory, in addition to cannabis legalization. This is particularly true in key swing states, driving voters who “don’t vote that much” or “don’t like politicians” to the polls.

“This is what we did in Michigan two weeks ago—we had a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana,” Moore said on MSNBC last week. “Largest turnout of young people in we don’t know when came out to the polls.”

Moore used Michigan as an example. While the state legalized recreational cannabis, it also elected Democrats to high-profile roles in the state’s gubernatorial, attorney general and U.S. Senate races. Putting key issues on the ballot that voters care about, like cannabis legalization, is Moore’s explanation why.

Research has backed up Moore’s proposal, at least when it comes to cannabis. Myers Research polled Wisconsin voters in October, and found that 56 percent were more likely to cast their ballots if it included a cannabis question. The biggest boost in voters more likely to turn out, though, was for self-identified Democrats.

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Mastering the art and science of cannabis through Canada’s first cannabis sommelier course

CannaReps has brought the course to Calgary, Vancouver and, most recently, Toronto

If one looks to industries like beer, wine or even coffee—each has its own exams and series of certifications to test one’s own sensory realms. Those who clear these high hurdles are called things like sommelierscicerone or Q-graders.

It seems only natural, then, that the cannabis industry would make and develop its own testing to evaluate a person’s practical experience with the plant—assessment skills, tasting prowess and the ability to differentiate varieties and terpene profiles, just to name a few.

This is where Vancouver-based CannaReps, a private education program founded by cannabis expert and headmaster Adolfo Gonzalez, comes into play.

Recently, CannaReps started delivering its very own Cannabis Sommelier Course, which provides attendees with the chance to practice academic and sensory skills with interactive activities, labs, tastings and discussions while also learning responsible product guidance by discussing plant botany and breaking down buds. The idea behind the course is to attract professionals from all walks of life who are interested in the cannabis industry and need mentorship and professional development support.

While Gonzalez explains the program previously offered a similar course, which specifically trained dispensary workers, the most recent iteration has been on offer for just six months.“It just had to morph a bit because of the laws, and also because we realize that we designed the course originally to train dispensary workers, but then when we actually started running the company, it was an incredibly broad section of the public that was attending, not only retail workers,” he says.

Since then, CannaReps has brought the course to Calgary, Vancouver and, most recently, Toronto.

Julie Domingo, CEO of CannaReps, says many of the cities selected to host the course largely depend on whether or not the municipalities will have government-run stores only. “We like to ensure that we can maximize the potential of us being there, and so when Ontario announced that they would allow some private retail, too, that was the perfect opportunity.”

Held at the Lifford Cannabis Solutions office in downtown Toronto, the Toronto course was sold out with a diverse group of 35 registrants and others on a waiting list. “We know that there’s hunger for this knowledge in Toronto, and we want to bring the same program back,” shares Domingo.

Over its history, the course has attracted a range of people, she says, including people who are patients, entrepreneurs, dispensary managers and owners, growers, medical professionals, researchers, career-seekers and students.

Gonzalez, with more than 15 years of hands-on experience in everything from cultivating cannabis to frontline patient advocacy, lead the two-day event. Jars of various cannabis strains lined each of the tables. Equipped with a pocket-sized microscope and medical gloves, each registrant was instructed to pluck a single bud from the jar. Many in the classroom would marvel at its size and beauty.
But as part of the “cannabis sommeliers” education, Gonzalez wanted participants (both as individuals and as a group) to challenge themselves to cut through the sensory noise and observe things such as extraneous aromas, flavours, shapes, colour and crystal residues to identify the essence of whatever bud was being presented. “It’s just the tools you need to practise because it’s like any sensory skill or understanding any culture,” Gonzalez notes, citing the value of truly immersing oneself in that culture.

Over the course of two days, people appeared to feel safe asking questions revolving around varieties and terpene profiles they have seen, the stigma they have faced and how best to handle specific customer service interactions. These discussions not only provided a deeper education beyond the course objectives, but also helped showcase the rich ancestry of cannabis’ roots.

Gonzalez admits the course is not just about education; it is about trying to destigmatize cannabis on a global level. “I really just want to take the opportunity to affect people’s way of thinking on a fundamental level,” he says, adding he wants to highlight that, beyond the medical dimension, there is a significant cultural dimension.

Sommeliers, cicerone or Q-graders employ a standard and universal language for evaluating wine, beer and coffee at the export level and at the consumer level. Domingo and Gonzalez say they believe the CannaReps program is the first of its kind that provides a fulsome related experience.

For the recent two-day course in Toronto, attendees were instructed by Gonzalez that they would receive a multiple-choice, test post-course, which would then qualify them for certification.

Between the course and test, attendees would gain access to an education portal, including resources for review and mentorship (in some form) from cannabis industry experts. Upon successfully completing the test and tasting (evaluated on-site in Toronto), certification would be provided.

While many other exams and boot camps in wine, beer and coffee can range from two days to one week, Domingo believes the course is the real deal: offering the experience to look, touch, smell and then, of course, taste. “If you’re going to be someone that wants to work in the industry, you want to be ahead of the curve.”

At the beginning of the two-day course, Domingo acknowledges the issues covered in that timeframe will not make a participant a full-fledged expert. Rather, it is a skill learned over time with plenty of practice.

That said, whatever people’s education level or wherever they are at in their cannabis journeys, the course will set them on the pathway to learning, much like a WSET Level 1, the beginner level introduction to wine.

The Cannabis Sommelier Course is offered for $680 + tax, with the next course taking place in Calgary on Nov. 24-25, 2018.

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South Korea first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis

South Korea became the first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis, marking a significant milestone in the global industry and a potential turning point in how the drug is perceived in traditionally conservative societies.

The country’s National Assembly voted to approve amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs to pave the way for non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis prescriptions.

Medical marijuana will still be tightly restricted, but the law’s approval by the central government is seen as a breakthrough in a country many believed would be last – not among the first – to approve any use of cannabis, even if it is just low-THC to start.

To receive medical cannabis, patients would be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government body established to facilitate patient access to rare medicines in the country.

Approval would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Patients would also need to receive a prescription from a medical practitioner.

South Korea’s cannabis law overcame a major obstacle in July when it won the support of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which said at the time it would permit Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for conditions including epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

The ministry said a series of amended laws passed in a National Assembly session will expand the treatment opportunities for patients with rare diseases.

A number of other countries had been vying to join Israel as the first countries in Asia to allow medical cannabis, including Thailand and Malaysia.

“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space.

“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

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Cannabis-savvy nurses help Canadians explore medical marijuana

Following the legalization of recreational marijuana, a growing number of Canadians are looking to experiment with cannabis for its medicinal properties. But with some doctors unwilling to prescribe the once-illicit drug, many patients are seeking clarity in the hazy world of weed by turning to nurses.

Like thousands of other Canadians, Gordon Bennett was prescribed opioids to ease his arthritis pain. But the problem, the 96-year-old says, was that they just didn’t work.

“I could hardly get out of bed,” Bennett told CTV News from his Ottawa home. “It was hell… I had pain in my back, I had pain in my neck, I had pain in my legs — every part of my body suffered.”

Wanting to see if medical cannabis could be more effective, Bennett hired registered nurse Susan Hagar of Nurse on Board — a group that bills itself as a “nurse-led health care navigation and patient advocacy service” — to help him find the right strain and dose.

“I thought it may have been possibly addictive, but I had the courage to go through it and I found that it was not in the least bit addictive,” Bennett, who is currently using cannabis oil, stated.

Having previously resided in a nursing home, Bennett has now regained much of his independence.

“I’m living again,” he said. “Right now, I am looking after myself in a big home, I have no trouble getting around, my walking has improved and I have no pain whatsoever.”

Cannabis has been legal for medical use in Canada since 2001. And while Health Canada warns of the negative side effects of smoking marijuana, patients have reportedly successfully used products like cannabis oils, edibles and vaporizers to treat everything from arthritis to anxiety to epilepsy.

But some doctors are still uncomfortable with medical marijuana and its limited scientific backing. That’s why nurses like Hagar are increasingly taking time to learn about how marijuana works to help guide cannabis-curious patients like Bennett.

“Nurses are on the frontline with cannabis these days because we are situated closest to the patients… We have that little bit of extra time to spend with them, to help them,” Hagar told CTV News from Ottawa.

“It is my sincere hope that cannabis and the use of cannabis becomes normalized, that we sort of get over the hangover that I believe people have from the past.”

Replacing opioids with cannabis

Anita Rosenfeld of Ottawa also hired Hagar to help her get off opioids and treat the “unbearable” pain she experiences from arthritis and spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.

“The pain was excruciating to the point where I was in bed crying all day long,” the 59-year-old told CTV News. “Basically, I did nothing. I was housebound… It was totally encompassing and I had discussed medically-assisted death.”

With the help of Hagar, Rosenfeld — who had never dabbled with marijuana before — was eventually turned on to cannabis oil.

“As I started to take it in the proper fashion and up to the appropriate level, then I just started getting better and better and better,” Rosenfeld said.

“I’ve done more in the last two weeks than I probably did in two years. I have a fuller schedule. I have a life. I have happiness. I have joy… I am able to enjoy my life I am able to contribute in a way that I haven’t been able to for five years.”

Nurses are also behind a new online service called O Cannabis, where nurse practitioners can authorize medical cannabis use and offer patients ongoing guidance and support via video link or telephone from the comfort of their homes.

Morgan Toombs, who serves as the company’s CEO, says they have already helped nearly 10,000 Canadians.

“The feedback that we’ve been getting is just extraordinary,” Toombs told CTV News from O Cannabis’ Oakville, Ont. headquarters

“This is really why we all do the work that we do. People are getting better with medical cannabis and it’s so rewarding to hear their stories. It’s incredible!”

Finding the right product

Nurses like Hagar and Toombs insist their forays into the field of medical marijuana are by no means a bid to replace physicians, but a way to fill a gap created by a new medical tool and serve the patients who want to try it.

“Patients who have tried everything, and they’ve had a really hard time finding the right medicine for them, will have often approached their doctors and are not able to get access,” Toombs claimed. “Many physicians are uncomfortable prescribing medical cannabis and so they’ll come to a clinic like ours and they’ll get the care and the help that they need.”

What’s more, Toombs added, is that nurses can take the time to help patients sort through the myriad cannabis products to find one that works best for them.

“With medical cannabis, there is a lot of follow-up care that’s required for a patient to find their right dose, to find the right products for them,” Toombs added. “And so we all know how busy doctors are… We can help take the load off the physicians.”

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It’s a great time to be part of the cannabis culture and industry, and it’s an even better time to be a woman in the Cannabis space! Earlier this month, three more American states welcomed cannabis legalization, and the anti-cannabis Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been a thorn in the industry’s side, resigned from office.

Then, this past week while hundreds of industry professionals visited Las Vegas for the annual MJ Biz Conference, there was another event happening in Vegas that brought women in cannabis from around the world together for an empowering and educational event!

Stacy Thompson hosted the first ever Women in Cannabis Conference and featured speakers such as Wanda James, Larisa Bolivar, Dr. Dina, and Renee Gagnon.

Stacy is a female cannabis entrepreneur from the state of Michigan who is also the founder of Canna Closet. Canna Closet is an at-home educational option for individuals looking to learn more about cannabis products, consumption methods, and devices for ease of utilization in the comfort of their own homes. The company has grown across the U.S. employees across the country.

The first ever Women of Cannabis Conference was attended by hundreds of women in cannabis from around the world. The event allowed for extensive networking and educational opportunities amongst attendees. I had the chance to speak with a few attendees of this event and MJ Biz Con. Here is what they had to say about the event and what it meant to them!

“Bringing together women from around the globe for a day of connecting, bonding, collaborating the day before the MJBiz Conference was my idea to help build bridges in this industry!

We brought together trailblazers and those interested in just getting started and really started a ripple effect that I look forward to seeing what happens next! We are looking to do this again in Toronto in the spring!”

– Stacy Thompson – Founder and Coordinator


 “With the downwards trends in women leadership making the news, this gathering (The Women of Cannabis Conference) is a sign of good things to come.”

– Renee Melodie Gagnon – Speaker


“It was nice to see all the women in the industry come together and support one another. This is how we grow. Women helping women. Sharing education will help end the stigma associated with cannabis.”

– Katree Saunders – Attendee


“MJBizCon grows substantially each year showing how fast we are legitimizing ourselves as an industry. My favorite part is reuniting with so many of my beloved Canna-fam.”

– Larisa Bolivar Speaker/Attendee

Cannabis is coming out of the closet, and it is being welcomed with a warm embrace by millions of women, men, and children around the world. As this community and industry grows, we are seeing and embracing our role as women in this space more and more each day.

The medical cannabis nurse

One of my (s)heroes is Cathleen S. Graham, also known as Cannabis Nurse. She is a registered nurse and certified hospice/palliative care nurse who is well-versed in the scientific and medical aspects of cannabis. Through her work as Cannabis Nurse, she is bringing cannabis education to the masses in the state of Michigan.

Learn more at

Are you a woman in cannabis? If so, I would love to learn more about your story and what events such as this mean to you! There are thousands of women that are standing up against prohibition and creating future generational wealth for their families thanks to the legalization of this plant. It is a great time to be on the right side of history, and I would love to help share your story with the world!

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