Monthly Archives: October 2018

Vancouver, Canada’s Marijuana Capital, Struggles to Tame the Black Market

VANCOUVER — In the pot-friendly city of Vancouver, illegal marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks outlets, and among the most popular is Weeds, Glass and Gifts. There, in a relaxed space reminiscent of the coffee chain, jovial “budtenders” sell coconut chocolate bars infused with marijuana and customers smoke powerful pot concentrates at a sleek dab bar.

When Canada legalized recreational marijuana, on Oct. 17, one of the central aims was to shut down the thousands of illegal dispensaries and black market growers dotting the country. But taming an illegal trade estimated at 5.3 billion Canadian dollars is proving to be daunting.

Many of the products sold at Weeds, Glass and Gifts are banned under the new law, which restricts licensed retailers to selling fresh or dried cannabis, seeds, plants and oil. Yet the retailer’s owner, Don Briere, an ebullient 67-year-old and self-styled pot crusader, has no intention of shutting down his four Vancouver stores or changing his product lineup.

He even has plans for expansion with a new line of outlawed canine marijuana treats, which purport to reduce pet anxiety.

“We’ll keep selling what we are selling,” said Mr. Briere, who in 2001 was sentenced to four years in prison for being one of British Columbia’s most prolific pot producers.


The Canadian government faces many challenges in stamping out the illegal marijuana industry. For one, there are too many black market shops like Mr. Briere’s for the government to keep track of.

And as sluggish provincial bureaucracies struggle to manage a new regulatory system, licenses to operate legally are hard to come by, giving illegal sellers added impetus to defy the law.

At the same time, the police and the public have little appetite for a national crackdown.

“The government taking over the cannabis trade is like asking a farmer to build airplanes,” Mr. Briere added.

Canadian policymakers say legalization is a giant national undertaking that will take years to be enforced. Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety, argued that civic pressure and market forces would help gradually diminish the illegal trade.

“It’s a very Canadian way of doing things,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.” There will, he added, be no mass raids, “guns and head-bashing.”

Nevertheless, he noted, newly created “community safety units” in British Columbia, staffed by 44 unarmed inspectors, have been given the power to raid dispensaries without a search warrant, seize illegal products and shut them down.

In the week since legalization took effect, there are signs of a chill, if a modest one.


In Toronto, police raided five illegal pot retailers, two days after the law went into effect. Dozens of others in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa have voluntarily closed their doors to avoid being shut out of the legal market.

Even Mr. Briere, who once owned 36 shops across Canada, is applying for government licenses for his stores, and has shuttered nine shops, including in Ottawa, Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is steering those customers to his illegal online shop instead.

Yet hundreds of black market pot outlets remain defiantly open, abetted by provincial governments slow to implement the new law.

On Oct. 17, only one legal government pot retailer opened in British Columbia, in the city of Kamloops, nearly a four-hour drive from Vancouver. That assured that Vancouver’s illicit trade would continue to thrive.

And that day, none of the roughly 100 illegal pot dispensaries in the city had the provincial licenses they needed to operate legally, even those that had applied for one.

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In Ontario, where the government’s online Ontario Cannabis Store has been overwhelmed with soaring demand, some pot smokers unwilling to wait five days for delivery are reverting to their illegal dealers instead.

“Definitely going to use my dealer from now on his business is going way up because of your crappy service,” one frustrated customer wrote on Twitter.

In Montreal, some underground dealers, who do home delivery, are challenging the new legal market by offering two-joints-for-the-price-of-one deals.

As cities across the country grapple with a new national experiment, Vancouver offers a striking cautionary tale about the challenges of policing the illegal trade.

In this picturesque multicultural port city less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, marijuana is as much a recreational drug as a state of mind. Young professionals toke before work, take pot-fueled hikes and chat about strains of vaunted “BC bud” — grown illegally near snow-covered mountains in the southeast of the province — as if discussing fine wine.


For decades, cannabis has been so deeply embedded in the social fabric of the city that illegal pot shops operated with impunity as so-called compassion clubs for those seeking medical marijuana, with the police largely turning a blind eye.

But in 2015, City Hall officials, fed up with the proliferation of black market dispensaries, including some selling to minors, passed tough regulations stipulating, among other things, that shops must be about 1,000 feet from schools, community centers or other outlets.

After dozens of dispensaries brazenly flouted the new rules, the city in 2016 began fining transgressors, issuing 3,729 tickets amounting to more than $3 million in fines. But the dispensaries mostly ignored them; only $184,250 has been paid.

Then the city began trying to shut down illegal operators with injunctions.

In March of this year, 53 dispensaries banded together to file a constitutional challenge, saying closing the operators would breach Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying patients access to medical marijuana they purchased at the black market stores.

“The City is using legalization to try and impose Prohibition,” said Robert Laurie, the lawyer representing the dispensaries.

The case is before British Columbia’s Supreme Court.

Kerry Jang, a left-leaning councillor on the Vancouver City Council who is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and who helped develop the 2015 rules, said the injunctions were necessary to root out “a wild West” of illegal dealers.

Today, those who want to operate legally must pass rigorous criminal background checks and apply for a $30,000 license from the city.

But Professor Jang conceded that the restrictiveness of the new federal cannabis law posed enforcement challenges. “If you make cannabis legal but restrict where you can use it, it will just go underground.”

The challenge of enforcement is all too visible on Vancouver’s gritty downtown east side, an epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis. Hundreds of addicts sit sprawled on the pavement every day, shooting Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid that Professor Jang said killed, on average, seven people a week in Vancouver.

Traffic is periodically interrupted by the sound of sirens as police officers break up drug deals.


Chief Constable Del Manak, police chief of Victoria and president of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, noted that the police had to grapple with Fentanyl overdoses, violent crime and sex offenders, and must prioritize resources according to public safety.

Investigating whether British Columbia residents are violating the law by growing more than four pot plants per household is not a priority, he said.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington State and Uruguay, he added, has shown that “it is naïve to think that just because cannabis is legalized, the criminal will walk away from a highly lucrative industry.”

Nevertheless, as the government floods the market with legal cannabis, prices are falling, squeezing out illegal growers. Black market growers who were able to fetch more than $3,000 United States dollars for a pound of cannabis five years ago complain that today they can barely get $1,000.

The new legal marijuana supply chain was in full force on a recent day outside of Vancouver at Pure Sunfarms, where immigrant workers in surgical masks were trimming buds from cannabis plants next to a sprawling greenhouse that once housed tomatoes.

Rob Hill, chief financial officer of Emerald Health Therapeutics, a licensed producer which owns part of Pure Sunfarms, predicted that it was only a matter of time before black market growers went out of business as consumers demanded the purity of government-approved pot, free of contaminants found in some street marijuana.

“We expect a new consumer market of women age 35-45 who will smoke pot instead of drinking chardonnay,” he said.

But Dana Larsen, owner of several illegal dispensaries in Vancouver, countered that underground cannabis cultivation remained deeply entrenched.

Legalization is doomed to fail, he added, because there is so little will to enforce it.

He said he had accumulated heavy unpaid fines from City Hall, had no intention of applying for a license, and was far more concerned about being able to provide cannabis to the elderly and ill customers who relied on him. “In Vancouver,” he said, “you have to make an effort to get busted.”



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World first clinical trial – impact of medicinal cannabis on Australians with malignant brain tumours

The phase 2 trial will examine whether high THC medicinal cannabis* can be tolerated by people with glioma (a type of brain tumour) and if it can affect tumour growth when taken with standard treatment, according to lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss, the Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health. (*THC is the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis)

“This will be the first clinical trial worldwide to examine tolerability and tumour effect from orally ingested medicinal cannabis in humans with cancer of any type,” Dr Schloss said.

“Our Endeavour College research team will collaborate with Professor Teo to examine the impact of medicinal cannabis when it is used alongside standard treatment for cancer.

“As well as tumour impact, we’ll be looking at whether medicinal cannabis can improve quality of life, by reducing common symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting.”

Dr Schloss said glioma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour that often proves resistant to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“This resistance means it’s vital for researchers to develop new therapies to treat this disease, which is one of the reasons why the clinical trial is important,” she said.

“Recent studies have shown that the active agents in cannabis may slow tumour growth and we believe further research is essential. If we can establish dosage guidelines and understand whether medicinal cannabis can assist standard treatment, this could be life-changing for glioma patients and their families.” (see page 2 for glioma details)

Coming together for better patient outcomes

Professor Teo, a former Australian of the Year, will be an Associate Investigator for the trial and will lead patient recruitment through his clinic at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital.

“This is a great example of complementary medicine researchers working in conjunction with the medical fraternity to bring about better outcomes for our patients,” Professor Teo said.

The clinical trial is funded by BioCeuticals, Australia’s leading provider of nutritional and therapeutic supplements, who have invested more than $500,000 as part of their commitment to provide practitioners with evidence-based solutions for health conditions.

BioCeuticals Director of Research, Development and Emerging Markets, Belinda Reynolds, said: “There is increasing public, political and practitioner awareness of medicinal cannabis, and it’s important that we have credible research into any health benefits”.

About the world-first trial

The trial has ethics approval and NSW ministry of health approval. Endeavour’s research team will assess the suitability of volunteers from among Professor Teo’s patients and other glioma patients who meet the inclusion criteria. The team will then administer the liquid medicinal cannabis and coordinate MRI, blood and other testing.

Patients will continue to see Professor Teo, his colleague Dr Mike Sughrue, or their medical specialists for treatment during the trial, while being monitored by Dr Schloss’ team during the three months of taking medicinal cannabis. The team will then follow patients for up to two years after the trial.

While medicinal cannabis is classified as a medicine, it is actually a plant. The herbal medicine expertise of Endeavour’s Office of Research, and their experience leading robust empirical research, makes them ideally placed to bring this world-first trial to fruition.

The clinical trial aims to strengthen complementary medicine’s evidence-based research and explore how it can impact on patient care and outcomes.

Dr Schloss said she hoped the trial’s findings would be valuable in guiding policy change, given the growing public demand for safe, reliable and legal access to medicinal cannabis through authorised doctors.

About gliomas

• Glioma is the most common form of primary brain tumour and among the most malignant cancers, often not responding effectively to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

• Median survival time is one year. Gliomas remain a major medical challenge due to the tumour’s location, aggressive behaviour, rapid growth and low survival rate.

• Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the bulk of the tumour, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Prognosis for patients is bleak, with only half surviving for 15 months and less than 5% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

• Gliomas can affect any age group but are more common in older people (average age of diagnosis is 64). 1000 Australians are diagnosed each year.

• Common symptoms are memory and speech difficulties, weakness on one side of the body and changes to vision.

Lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss is Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research. She has dedicated her career to supporting cancer patients and expanding the body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine and its ability to assist people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Dr Schloss has coordinated and conducted clinical trials for more than 8 years on a variety of research topics involving cancer, chemotherapy and chronic disease.

She has 19 years’ clinical experience in the field of oncology and complementary medicine, and collaborates with many oncologists around Australia. She also currently practices at the Mater Private Breast Cancer Centre and Body Organics, alongside medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and related health professionals.

Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research is dedicated to strengthening professional practice for complementary medicine professionals through an expanded body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine in Australia. It works to disseminate and critically examine all aspects of contemporary complementary medicine practice through the application of non-partisan, rigorous, and robust empirical research. The Office of Research is an arm of Endeavour College of Natural Health, Australasia’s largest degree conferring tertiary institution offering qualifications in complementary medicine and natural health. It has six campuses in Australia and two in New Zealand, five Bachelor degrees, four Honours degrees, 5,000 students, 350 staff and leading academics in the field.

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The five best U.S. senators on marijuana policy

With the 2018 election almost upon us, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about why Congress has never passed a bill legalizing marijuana.

Despite overwhelming public support for both medical marijuana and regulating it like alcohol, our government has been incredibly slow to turn that into policy.

There are many reasons for this, but 535 of the biggest reasons are the members of Congress themselves — debates in the legislative branch aren’t just abstract concepts, but conversations between real people with their own beliefs and priorities. I started this series with the five best U.S. House Reps on marijuana policy, and followed that up with the five worst House members. This week, I’m turning my attention to the Senate, and once again I’ll lead with the best. My team at 4Front and I looked at senators’ voting records, public statements, committee positions, and other factors to see who ranks as the top champions of reform in the legislature’s upper house.

Despite having fewer members to choose from, narrowing down the top five leaders in reform was even harder in the Senate than in the House. This is because there are far more than five champions in the Senate, with multiple strong champions on both sides of the aisle. In NORML’s 2016 Congressional Scorecard, 38 Senators got a B or higher. The CARERS Act of 2015, which would have legalized medical marijuana, got up to 19 sponsors. The STATES Act of 2018, which would allow states to legalize marijuana for adults, currently has 10 sponsors.

After putting this list together, I did notice one major trend: Jeff Merkley, first elected in 2008, is the most senior senator in our top five. Since he is only the 44th most senior senator overall, this reflects the generational nature of marijuana reform. Politicians who just got elected did so at a time when marijuana legalization outpolls most candidates, while those who entered public service decades ago came of age when supporting legalization was taboo. Some candidates have updated their views, but sometimes they hold onto their prohibitionist beliefs until they’re voted out of office.

Another trend that sticks out is that, while this remains a largely bipartisan issue, it has become one that Democrats with national aspirations now must embrace in order to be viable in a Democratic primary. Between those who made the list and the honorable mentions, it includes most of the Democratic Senators largely considered front runners for the 2020 party nomination. Even former prosecutor Kamala Harris (D-CA) who didn’t quite make the cut has recently embraced legalization in her rhetoric. As Republicans like Cory Gardner from states with legal cannabis have started coming around on legalization, supporting prohibition has become an untenable position for anyone seeking elected office as a Democrat, a notable shift in the party’s dynamics over the past few years.

1: Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Senator Booker was first elected in a 2013 special election, and then won a campaign for a full term in 2014. As a member of the Judiciary Committee he quickly became a champion of marijuana policy reform, either introducing or sponsoring nearly all of the major reform bills considered by the Senate.

In 2015, he was one of three senators to introduce the CARERS Act to legalize medical marijuana (he also re-introduced it this Congress). In 2017, he introduced his own Marijuana Justice Act to end federal marijuana prohibition and provide incentives for states to legalize, going further than other bills by attempting to correct some of the worst injustices of marijuana prohibition. And he’s one of the 10 Senators who are sponsoring the STATES Act, which is the main bipartisan vehicle for legalizing marijuana under the Trump Administration.

Booker’s term is not over until 2020, but it is unclear whether he will seek re-election since he is commonly discussed as a contender for the Democratic nomination for President. Whether he remains in the Senate or seeks the Presidency, it’s clear that Booker will run on a platform that includes marijuana legalization.

2: Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Senator Gardner and Senator Booker have a lot in common: they were elected to their first full terms in 2014, they’re both named Cory, and they’re leading their parties on marijuana reform. However, they approach the issue from very different perspectives. Booker strongly believes in marijuana legalization, with a focus on the racial and social injustices of prohibition.

Gardner actually opposed marijuana legalization when it was being considered by Colorado voters in 2012, but after it was passed and implemented, he decided it was his responsibility to protect the will of his constituents from federal intervention. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was revoking the Cole Memo, Gardner led a blockade of DOJ nominees that ended with President Trump agreeing to support reform. To follow up on this commitment, Senator Gardner teamed with Senator Warren to introduce the STATES Act, which would let states make their own marijuana policies.

Gardner is not up for re-election until 2020. Being from a purple state like Colorado that has trended blue in recent years, Gardner could hardly afford to be seen as anti-legalization in a state with that continues to lead the nation on cannabis. His transformation on this issue may have been less about a change of heart and more about protecting his electoral future. Whatever the reason, we are thankful for his recent work and advocacy on this issue.

3: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Senator Warren was first elected in 2012, and spoke in favor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative that was also being voted on in Massachusetts that year. The initiative passed, and Warren became a leader on medical marijuana policy in the Senate, advocating for cannabis as a way to help combat the opioid overdose crisis.

And while she did not publicly endorse Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana initiative approved in 2016 (although she claimed to have done so after the fact), she did vote in favor of it. Since then, she has also led on legalizing marijuana for all adults, most notably as the lead Democratic sponsor of the STATES Act.

Warren is up for re-election this year, and faces a Republican opponent who has fought against marijuana reform in the state legislature. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like we need to worry about losing this champion in 2018, since polls show her with a 26-point lead. But Warren might not finish that term, as she is also discussed as a contender for the 2020 presidential race.

4: Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

As mentioned above, Merkley is the most senior senator who made it into our top five. He has been able to use this seniority, as well as his position as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, to fight for major changes to U.S. marijuana policy.

He’s led the fight for his namesake Merkley Amendment, which would have blocked federal regulators from going after banks for working with marijuana businesses. While it has passed in committee multiple times, unfortunately the amendment has not yet made it into law. He also is a leader on the Daines/Merkley Amendment, which would allow doctors within the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal. No wonder NORML gave him an A.

Senator Merkley is not up for re-election until 2020.

5: Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senator Paul, first elected in 2010, is the second-most senior member of our top five. Despite representing conservative Kentucky, which doesn’t even allow for the medical use of cannabis, Paul has a strong libertarian streak and has advocated for reform since long before it was popular.

He’s following in the footsteps of his father Ron Paul, who for many years was the only Republican member of the House to sponsor marijuana reform legislation.  Rand Paul was the lead Republican on the CARERS Act, and is now one of five Republicans sponsoring the STATES Act. Like Senator Gardner, Senator Paul’s party identification is particularly important while Republicans control both the Senate and the presidency.

Senator Paul is not up for re-election until 2020.

Honorable mentions

The lawmakers above deserve recognition as the five best in the Senate, but there are many others who have also done great work to advance the cause of marijuana legalization. We can’t list them all, but here are a few quick highlights:

  • Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    • Senator Sanders is the only member to receive an A+ gradefrom NORML, and his advocacy during the 2016 presidential primary demonstrated the issue’s popularity among Democrats.
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
    • Senator Leahy is the most senior member of the entire Senate, ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
  • Steve Daines (R-MT)
    • Senator Daines serves on the Appropriations Committee, and is the lead Republican sponsor of the Daines/Merkley amendment.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
    • Another potential Democratic Party 2020 nominee, Senator Gillibrand was the original sponsor of the CARERS Act with Senators Booker and Paul, and also joined as a sponsor of Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
    • To be clear, the current Senate Minority Leader has not traditionally been a friend of marijuana reform. But he had a major change of heart this year, introducing the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act to legalize marijuana at the federal level. A party leader introducing reform legislation earns a place on this list despite his past transgressions on this issue. Your move Mitch McConnell…

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Cannabis jobs in Canada: What are they, and how do I get one?

Recreational marijuana legalization may have happened Oct. 17, but job postings for the cannabis industry— and interest in them— is still blooming. According to an August report from job site Indeed, openings from the cannabis industry have more than tripled since last July, and searches for terms like cannabis, marijuana, and dispensary have more than quadrupled.

‘A candidate market’ for jobs

Jennifer Ellis, human resources manager at medical marijuana company Cronos Group, told HuffPost Canada “it’s really a candidate market as opposed to an employer market.”

It’s unclear how many jobs will be created and what the skills shortage will be now that marijuana is legal. But Ellis said though she’s received a lot of resumes for jobs at Cronos, it’s been difficult to find candidates with cannabis experience because it’s such a new industry.

But many skills in other fields are transferable, such as horticulture or working in a greenhouse.

Quality assurance for a food manufacturer would also give a job-seeker transferable skills, she said, because that type of work is also done under strict regulations set by Health Canada.

“It’s a lot more challenging for employers right now,” she said.

Ellis recommends putting a high-level summary on resumes or writing strong cover letters so employers can see what transferable skills candidates have.

A company in Toronto is hiring part-time workers to smoke marijuana, but most jobs don’t necessarily involve cannabis consumption.

Many of the administrative jobs are typical of any emerging or rapidly growing industry, such as marketing or sales. But of course, production jobs are aplenty.

Professionals in the cannabis industry say the main jobs in demand (as echoed by the Indeed report), are for workers to grow marijuana and for others to sell it.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance workers for cannabis companies can be hard to find, as they need to not only be able to work with growers, but also follow proper procedure, fill out paperwork, and operate under a government framework.

Alison McMahon is the co-founder of Cannabis At Work, an organization with a website for jobs in the cannabis industry, and provides training to workplaces on how to deal with marijuana.

McMahon said the highest volume of jobs she sees is in quality assurance for licensed cannabis producers, who need to be able to work under a combination of government regulations.


The number two spot in the Indeed report, budtenders are retail workers at private dispensaries or Crown corporations, depending on the province.

Growing, cultivation, and production

As more licensed medical marijuana producers shift into the business of growing recreational pot— not to mention the new entrants to the business— the demand for growers, preferably with experience, is rising.

“In terms of demand, where there’s a shortage of talent, then we’re talking more on the cultivation side, especially more senior growers who do actually have experience within the regulated framework,” McMahon said.

Marketing and sales

Marketing and sales are a key role for companies in the cannabis industry. After legalization, they’ll need to be able to get their names and products out to larger retailers and bigger brands— a shift from working with smaller dispensaries or head shops.

Sasha Kadey is the chief marketing officer at Greenlane, a distributor that supplies products like bongs and vaporizers to smoke shops and dispensaries. He told HuffPost Canada that cannabis culture and the way consumers make purchasing decisions “doesn’t exactly resemble anything else out there.”

“Understanding how that 20 per cent of consumers that consume 80 per cent of the cannabis make their purchasing decisions and develop an affinity for a particular brand, can be pretty hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the culture, because it’s a little unique,” he said.

Kadey said there’s a lot of people out there who have a lot of marijuana product knowledge and many people with conventional business experience, but “not a huge, easily accessible population of people who have both.”

“The sort of sought-after skills— that are actually quite hard to find in the right combination— are people who have the traditional business acumen and experience, but can couple that with sort of intricate knowledge of cannabis culture and the way cannabis consumers make their purchasing decisions.”

The ideal candidate

McMahon told HuffPost Canada that finding someone with the right traits to work in the field can sometimes be more challenging than finding the right credentials. She said the perfect candidate is entrepreneurial and can work in an environment that’s constantly changing.

“It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry..even if you think you’ve been in some other industry that’s fast-paced, this sector is really, really, really demanding in terms of people’s time, but also just the pace at which they can work.”

Ellis said she’s also looking for people with a long-term commitment to a company.

“You want people to have the right attitude and come in because they want to see how the industry’s going to evolve, not just someone who necessarily comes in for a paycheque,” she said.

“Because it is such an exciting time, you want those people who are passionate about it, and who believe in it. It’s really important to the product as well.”

There’s a ton of opportunities to learn new things, and to kind of make your own little specialty area in terms of skill set within the industry. Alison McMahon, Cannabis At Work

McMahon said because cannabis is “one of the most prominent growth sectors over the next number of years,” working in the field is “an opportunity to get it still kind of early in the game.”

“It’s a really interesting way to take whatever your skill set is and transfer that into a new industry where it is very exciting,” she said.

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Mexico may be next to legalize cannabis: incoming FM

Mexico “absolutely” could follow Canada’s lead in legalizing marijuana as a way to reduce violence generated by a war on drugs that “doesn’t work,” its incoming foreign minister said Tuesday.

Marcelo Ebrard, who will become foreign minister when Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office December 1, said he discussed Ottawa’s experience Monday with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Asked whether Mexico might follow Canada’s example, Ebrard told reporters, “Sure, absolutely.”

“We think it is a very interesting option in the short term for Mexico,” he said. “We think there are two options: the Canadian model or the Uruguay model.”

“It doesn’t make sense to have a law forbidding the possession or production of cannabis and we have 9,000 people in jail for that, we have a huge amount of violence in the country,” Ebrard said.

“You spend a huge amount of money (on policing), you cause suffering for a lot of people and it doesn’t make sense.”

Prohibition, he added, “doesn’t work, you have the cannabis anyway.”

Canada legalized cannabis on October 17, becoming the first major economy to do so. Uruguay legalized recreational use of the drug in 2013.

Mexico has long been a major supplier of marijuana and other illegal drugs to the US market, spawning powerful drug cartels and violent struggles for control of drug routes.

Since 2006, when the government deployed the army to fight the cartels, more than 200,000 people have been murdered, including a record 28,702 last year.

Another 37,000 people are reported missing.

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UK and Canada Legalizing Cannabis

There’s a lot of hype this week about Canada becoming the second and largest country to legalize recreational marijuana. The first was Uruguay.

But the bigger news for the pain community may be in the United Kingdom, which has some of the strictest marijuana laws in Europe. Home Secretary Sajid Javid made a surprise announcement last week that medical cannabis products would be rescheduled on November 1 and become available by prescription to treat chronic pain, epilepsy and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Javid agreed to review the scheduling of medical cannabis in June, after a public outcry over the seizure of CBD oil flown into Heathrow Airport for a 12-year old boy who has epilepsy. Although the oil primarily contained cannabidiol – the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – it was still technically illegal under UK drug laws.

“I stressed the importance of acting swiftly to ensure that where medically appropriate, these products could be available to be prescribed to patients,” Javid said in a statement.

“I have been clear that this should be achieved at the earliest opportunity whilst ensuring that the appropriate safeguards were in place to minimise the risks of misuse and diversion.”

Javid was also clear he has no intention of supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana in the UK. Smoking cannabis in any form will also remain illegal. Even so, it was a big step forward for marijuana supporters..

“This is a major victory for our campaign and will mean a lot of people will have a much better quality of life,” Clark French, a multiple sclerosis patient and cannabis activist, told Leafly.

“It does look that this could be the most open, accessible medical cannabis policy in Europe, if they get it right and we keep guiding them in the right directions,” said Jon Liebling of United Patients Alliance, a medical marijuana advocacy group.

The rollout of CBD-based medicines in the UK will go slowly. It could take up to a year before the National Health Service comes up with guidelines to govern the distribution of CBD-based products. Initially, only medical specialists will be allowed to prescribe cannabis, although the guidelines are expected to eventually include general practitioners.

Activists are urging the Home Office to allow medical cannabis for all patients, not just those with pain, epilepsy or nausea.

“We do believe that everybody should have access,” said Liebling. “When you’re talking about cannabis as a medicine, you really do have to compare the risks associated with cannabis that we’re aware of versus the risks of those drugs that patients are already taking.”

Legalization Worries Canadian Medical Association

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001 and about 330,000 Canadians are registered and already have access to it.  But some health officials are less than enthused about the October 17 legalization of recreational cannabis.

“Given the known and unknown health hazards of cannabis, any increase in use of recreational cannabis after legalization, whether by adults or youth, should be viewed as a failure of this legislation,” wrote Dr. Diane Kelsall, interim Editor-in-Chief, in an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Kelsall points to the stampede of Canadian and American companies looking to get into the cannabis industry and predicts many will brazenly advertise their products to young people.

“Cannabis companies may initially focus on attracting current consumers from black-market sources, but eventually, to maintain or increase profits, new markets will be developed as is consistent with the usual behaviour of a for-profit company. Marketing efforts may include encouraging current users to increase their use or enticing a younger demographic. The track record for tobacco producers has not been encouraging in this regard, and it is unlikely that cannabis producers will behave differently,” Kelsall warned.

Kelsall said the Canadian government needs to carefully track cannabis use and should have the courage to amend the law if problems arise.

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GOP congressman visits cannabis store with busload of senior citizens


Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) issued a memo to his party’s leadership laying out a step-by-step process for how they can pass marijuana legislation in 2019 should they control one or both chambers of Congress.

The congressman is also filing legislation addressing border-related cannabis issues in light of Canada’s legalization law going into effect on Wednesday.

In less than a week, the Food and Drug Administration has already received more than 2,000 submissions in response to its request for cannabis rescheduling comments. Marijuana Moment compiled some of the best (and worst).

New North Dakota campaign finance filings show that supporters of the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure are being heavily outraised by prohibitionists.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a statement celebrating Canada’s marijuana legalization policy going into effect.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) took time to accompany a literal busload of senior citizens on their trip to a marijuana dispensary.


Customs and Border Protection official said that a Canadian move to grant pardons for past marijuana offenses wouldn’t necessarily shield those individuals from being denied entry into the U.S.

The head of the U.S. Consulate in Calgary met with local business leaders to discuss Canada’s legalization of marijuana.

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop standards for devices police can use  test drivers for drug impairment on the roadside.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) tweeted, “Reason #6 why you should vote: to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Too many lives have been ruined because of our regressive policies.”

Rep. Dan Donovan (R) and Democratic challenger Max Rose debated marijuana policy reform.

Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) said he’s hopeful for the prospects of marijuana law reform if Democrats take control of Congress.


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation prohibiting marijuana-infused alcoholic beverages.

New Mexico gubernatorial candidates debated marijuana policy reform.

Rhode Island regulators added autism spectrum disorders as medical cannabis qualifying conditions.

Four New York Assembly committees held a joint hearing on marijuana legalization.

Vermont’s Opioid Coordination Council said it is “virtually impossible” to open a safe injection site for illegal drug consumers due to legal obstacles.

Louisiana’s first medical cannabis crop is being harvested this week.

Utah Democratic lawmakers will hold a town hall meeting on medical cannabis next week.

Ohio regulators extended the deadline for medical cannabis processor license applicants to submit clarifications on their plans.

Arkansas regulators met to discuss scoring of medical cannabis dispensary license applications and a change in ownership by a cultivation licensee.

Guam regulators made medical cannabis license applications available.

Kentucky regulators held an informational session about applying for industrial hemp licenses.


Chicago, Illinois Democratic mayoral candidate Paul Vallas said the city should demand half of the tax revenue from any marijuana sales in city after legalization.


The Canadian government will launch a process to grant pardons to people with past convictions for simple possession of marijuana under 30 grams. Separately, a former Canadian army captain who was in the U.S. waiting to get a green card after marrying an American woman has spent the past 75 days detained because of a decades-old marijuana conviction for which he was pardoned in Canada.

Thai lawmaker said that the vast majority of members of the public who have weighed in on potential marijuana legislation support reform.


The Michigan Republican Party criticized Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer for supporting marijuana legalization and greater restrictions on tobacco.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico tweeted, “It’s important to remember that this future billion dollar industry was opposed by Republicans like Susana Martinez because they couldn’t understand the difference between hemp and marijuana.”

The Marijuana Policy Project published new voter guides for Illinois, South Carolina and Vermont.


Almost half of the most popular hip-hop and R & B music videos depict marijuana or tobacco consumption, a new study found.


A poll found that Utah voters narrowly support the state’s medical cannabis ballot measure, 51%-45%.

A poll found that U.S. likely voters support drug testing lawmakers in their state, 65%-26%.


Terra Tech placed ads in the Wall Street Journal and on Fox & Friends urging President Trump to support marijuana reform.

Acreage Holdings is adding former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to its board of directors.

The CEO of Starbucks Corp. said the company has no plans to enter the marijuana industry.

Poynter looks at parts of the marijuana media landscape.

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Canada now world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace

TORONTO (AP) — Ian Power was among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana in Canada but he has no plans to smoke it. He plans to frame it.

Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland. Power was first in line at a store in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall. I’m not even going to smoke it. I’m just going to save it forever,” Power said.

Cannabis store

And there was more good news for pot aficionados: Hours before a handful of retail outlets opened in the country’s easternmost province a federal official told The Associated Press that Canada will pardon all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the now-legal threshold.

A formal announcement was planned for later Wednesday. The official, who was not authorized to speak public ahead of the announcement, said those who want to take advantage of the pardons will have to apply.

Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include recreational marijuana. The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.

Uruguay was first was the first country to legalize marijuana.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, hundreds of customers were lined up around the block at the private store on Water Street, the main commercial drag in the provincial capital, by the time the clock struck midnight. A festive atmosphere broke out, with some customers lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support as they drove by the crowd.

“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”

Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, was among the first to make a legal sale in Canada when his store opened at midnight local time in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. He made the first sale to his dad. A crowd of 50 to 100 people waited outside and cheered him.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Clarke said. “I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border.”

Clarke, whose middle name is Herb, has been called THC for years by his friends. His dad, Don, said he was thrilled he was among the first customers of legal pot.

Cannabis store

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never,” he said.

The Newfoundland stores are among at least 111 legal pot shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people on Wednesday, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces.

Canadians also can order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn’t expect stores until next spring.

Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it’s about time.

“Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever,” he said.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.

Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.

Nine U.S. states have legalized recreational use of pot, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana. California, the largest legal market in the U.S., earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offenses that no are longer illegal.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said it’s time for the U.S. government to follow Canada’s lead.

“Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” he said in a statement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law and that those who are caught at the border with pot are subject to arrest and prosecution.

As Canada welcomes legalization, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some U.S. states when legalization arrived.

Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them Wednesday.

“We’re aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months,” Fencott said.

Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their pot shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis. Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.

“We are just ecstatic,” she said.

She doesn’t expect to make much money off the pot itself, noting Newfoundland’s eight per cent cap on retail pot profits. She hopes to make money from pipes, bongs and marijuana paraphernalia.

“There’s no money in the product itself,” she said. “You got to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That’s not even paying someone’s salary.”

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Trump signals support for legislation lifting federal ban on marijuana

President Donald Trump says he’s inclined to support a bipartisan effort in Congress to ease the U.S. ban on marijuana.

Asked Friday about a proposal that would reshape the nation’s approach to pot, Trump said he would “probably end up supporting that.”

The federal ban has created a conflict with more than two dozen states that have legalized marijuana in some form.

The legislation would ensure states have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders. Some U.S. restrictions would remain, including recreational sales to people under 21.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is co-sponsoring and Trump said he supported him.

When asked about the measure, Trump told reporters in Washington that “we’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

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Cannabis health products are everywhere – but do they live up to the hype?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is now available in the UK in everything from skin creams to beers. But don’t set your hopes too high

This has been the year medical cannabis hit the mainstream. The government has announced that it is relaxing laws on when cannabis medicines can be prescribed by doctors, following high-profile cases such as that of Billy Caldwell, the 13-year-old boy hospitalised by his epileptic seizures after he was denied legal access to the cannabis oil that helps control them. Meanwhile a new generation of cannabis medicines has shown great promise (both anecdotally and in early clinical trials) in treating a range of ills from anxiety, psychosis and epilepsy to pain, inflammation and acne. And you don’t have to get stoned to reap the health benefits.

Caldwell’s medicine was illegal because it contained THC, the psychoactive compound that smoking weed socks you with. However, the new treatments under development use a less mind-bending cannabinoid known as CBD (or cannabidiol).

Natural, legal and with no major side effects (so far), CBD is a marketer’s dream. Hemp-based health products are launching left, right and centre, cashing in while the research is in its first flush of hazy potential. As well as ingestible CBD (also sold as hemp or cannabis oils or capsules) the compound has become a buzzword among upmarket skincare brands such as CBD of London. Predictably, Gwyneth Paltrow is a proponent of the trend, and has said that taking CBD oil helps her through hard times: “It doesn’t make you stoned or anything, just a little relaxed,” she told one beauty website.

Meanwhile, so-called wellness drinks infused with CBD are gaining traction. The UK’s first has been launched by Botanic Lab, promoted as “Dutch courage with a difference”. Drinks giants Coca-Cola, Molson Coors Brewing Company and Diageo are all considering launching their own versions, while UK craft breweries such as Cloud 9 Brewing and Stockton Brewing Companyare offering cannabis-oil laced beers, and mixologists are spiking their cocktails with CBD mellowness. The fancy marshmallow maker, The Marshmallowist, has added CBD-oil flavour to its menu, promising that “you feel the effects immediately upon eating”, without specifying what those effects might be.

While THC can make you feel edgy, CBD does the opposite. In fact, when used together, CBD can temper the negative effects of THC. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much CBD in recreational cannabis strains such as purple haze or wild afghan; it is far richer in hemp plants.

Whether any of these CBD products will do anyone any good (or bad) is moot. “Cannabidiol is the hottest new medicine in mental health because the proper clinical trials do suggest it has clinical effects,” says Philip McGuire, professor of psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience at King’s College London. “It is the No 1 new treatment we’re interested in. But although there’s tons of stuff in the news about it, there’s still not that much evidence.” Large, long-term studies are needed; a 2017 review paper into the safety profile of CBD concluded that “important toxicological parameters are yet to be studied; for example, if CBD has an effect on hormones”.

McGuire doesn’t advise buying CBD products. You need to differentiate, he says, between the extremely high doses of pharmaceutical-grade pure CBD that participants in the handful of successful studies were given and the dietary supplements available over the counter or online. “These may contain quite small amounts of CBD that might not have large enough concentrations to have any effects,” he says. “It’s the difference between a nutraceutical and a pharmaceutical.” These supplements aren’t allowed to make claims of any effects. “If you’re making creams or sports drinks with CBD, you can say anything you like as long as you don’t say it will do such and such,” he says.

Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the UK, are licensed for prescription but only for very specific uses. Sativex has been available in the UK since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. And a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in the US to treat rare childhood epilepsies, with a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and the UK.

Another concern with non-pharmaceutical products, says McGuire, “is that people try them and find, ‘Oh, it doesn’t seem to work.’ Or they get side-effects from some other ingredient, because, if you buy an oil or cannabis product, it’s going to contain all kinds of other things which may have different effects.”

You only have to read the reviews under a CBD product on the Holland & Barrett website to see the extent to which anecdotal reports cannot be trusted. More than 100 customers gave Jacob Hooy CBD+ Oil five stars, with a few saying they always noticed if they missed a dose (presumably this made them less relaxed, although they did not reveal what they were taking it for), while 93 people gave it one star, saying it did nothing, or was too weak. One couple even said it gave them palpitations and a sleepless night. All these people had different conditions, expectations and situations. “And,” says McGuire, “you have to remember that anything can have a placebo effect.” While it looks unlikely that the recommended doses of these products will do any harm, McGuire’s guess is that doses are so small “that it’s like homeopathy – it’s not going to do anything at all”.

McGuire published his own study in August, in which CBD was shown to reduce psychotic episodes in people with schizophrenia. The daily dose was 1,000mg of pure CBD. And a study in which CBD seemed to ease anxiety, published in Nature in 2011, administered a single dose of 600mg, an hour and a half before giving participants a public speaking task. These larger doses contrast with that found in, say, Botanical Labs’ CBD drink. Rebekah Hall, the company’s founder, says her drink is for recreational rather than medicinal purposes and “the amount of CBD per batch is constant and precise, at 2mg per bottle”. A daily dose of two hemp capsules made by Nature’s Plus offers 15mg of mixed “plant cannabinoids” without a specific CBD count.

One of the strongest nutraceutical CBD oils is called Charlotte’s Web, with a 50mg dose. Charlotte’s Web is produced in Colorado by the Stanley Brothers, and named after Charlotte Figi, a girl who became famous in the US after her frequent seizures, brought on by the rare Dravet syndrome, were greatly reduced when she started taking CBD oil aged five. The company makes THC products too and is extremely successful, having just offered shares on the Canadian securities exchange, raising about $100m.

Cloud 9’s High Flyer beer – with cannabis oil

“Among the many benefits that Charlotte’s Web customers experience are: a sense of calm and focus; relief from everyday stresses; help in recovery from exercise-induced inflammation; and support for healthy sleep cycles,” says co-founder Jesse Stanley. But he is obliged to point out that the product is a dietary supplement, and no clinical claims can be made for it.

He emphasises that the company’s products are “whole-plant extracts that include a variety of phytochemicals, not just CBD. These beneficial compounds include a range of phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that work together.” This isn’t necessarily seen as a positive by researchers, with McGuire saying: “They muddy the water.” However, Sativex is also a plant extract containing other cannabinoids and substances. David Potter, chief botanist at GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug, says the evidence at the time the drug was developed “suggested there was a synergy between these active ingredients”.

The truth is that no one knows precisely what any of these molecules are doing to us. It is a case of finding the effects first and working backwards to understand the mechanisms. “There are a number of possible transmitter systems that CBD could act on,” says McGuire. “And it’s not 100% clear which ones are critical for anxiety, or psychosis or schizophrenia. But [the antipsychotic effect] is a different mechanism from existing treatments, which is a big deal because existing treatments aren’t working.”

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