Monthly Archives: November 2018

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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One-third of cannabis buyers still using illicit dealers, according to IPSOS poll

One month into pot legalization, an IPSOS poll looks at what has changed for Canadians including consumption levels and the legal marijuana shopping experience.

One of the Canadian government’s chief aims in legalizing marijuana was to eliminate the black market.

And yet, one month after legalization came into effect on Oct. 17, a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News reveals that of those who have purchased cannabis in the last month, 35 per cent went back to their pre-legalization sources. In other words, they skipped legal avenues in favour of their old dealer.

Whether that’s the beginning of a good or bad news trend depends on who you ask. At this early stage it’s “much ado about nothing,” says Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president with Ipsos.

“It’s kind of like Y2K where we’re expecting this big change overnight and we haven’t seen it.”

So what can you expect to see moving forward? Legalization hasn’t exactly been a smooth road, from legal retailers turning away would-be buyers on Day 2 after running out of stock to delivery mishaps and critiques over pricing to concerns about Quebec’s plan to raise the legal age for smoking pot to 21, and medical marijuana shortages.

WATCH: Cannabis supply shortage predict to improve by the new year


Legalization is a process not an act, says Allan Rewak, executive director with the Cannabis Council of Canada.

“We are competing against very well established, very robust and very wealthy illicit market places serving Canadians for almost a hundred years.”

Rewak is heartened by the Ipsos figures. Nearly three-quarters of the 2,402 Canadians surveyed said they had tried to purchase or did purchase cannabis after legalization. However, where they got it varied:

  • 28 per cent used online, government-run websites
  • 28 per cent used government-run stores
  • 22 per cent visited licensed privately run stores
  • 16 per cent shopped at a licensed privately run website
  • 35 per cent just stuck with their old, non-government approved dealers

That it’s only a third of Canadians sticking to the black market is actually lower than Rewak thought it would be one month in — a good news story.

“We thought this process would take more time,” he says.

WATCH: Canada’s cannabis companies are gambling the world will want our weed


But while Rewak expects more Canadians will abandon the black market as regulatory kinks get worked out, Ian Dawkins, co-founder and principal at Althing Consultancy, is not convinced.

“It’s indicative of a much broader set of problems,” he says.

A slim majority of Canadians surveyed by Ipsos, 54 per cent, believe legalized cannabis costs too much money. To Rewak, that’s expected.

“I think you’ll always get a response that says it’s too expensive,” he says, noting people are always inclined to say products they use recreationally, like cannabis and alcohol, are too expensive.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see a poll that says, I think beers are too cheap.”

To Dawkins, price concerns are a harbinger of problems to come.

Look at Alberta, he says, where fights over tight cannabis supplies prompted Alberta regulators to change the rules. Then, think about January and February when the crop supply is lower.

“It’s just going to get worse,” he says.

Indeed, while the Ipsos poll indicates the legal cannabis market in Canada could possibly double, it lists concerns over price as a mitigating growth factor.

“Only time will tell,” Macey says. “I don’t think the black market is totally going to disappear but it’s still early days.”

WATCH: Alberta changes way it divvies up tight cannabis supply


Macey says she suspects that part of the reason a substantial number of Canadians haven’t switched over to the legal market is the difficulty in accessing the products legally that they’ve long been able to access illegally with little discomfort. Edibles, for instance, are not yet legal.

“Those people are absolutely going to go back to the black market because they’re not going to sit around waiting,” she says.

Other people are probably sticking with their dealers because they like the product they were getting and aren’t yet able to get that particular product legally, Macey says. The Ipsos poll found that while 58 per cent of people found legal cannabis easy to purchase, the rest disagree: 16 per cent said shortages meant they couldn’t purchase it legally at all.

Product issues and supply shortages are a problem Dawkins lays firmly at the federal government’s door. Producers could only apply for micro-licenses the same day legalization became official, he says, meaning they won’t necessarily be able to put product to market any time soon.

“Customer satisfaction will go down as product shortages stretch out into the next year,” Dawkins says.

It’s worth focusing on the appetite for legal cannabis, says Jenna Valleriani, a postdoctoral fellow in medicine at the University of British Columbia.

“I see where those disheartening thoughts or experiences really come from,” she says, but Valleriani notes that even the transition to a medical cannabis market was quite “turbulent.”

“Trying to undo purchasing patterns that people have had for decades, I think that takes time.”

Frankly, Valleriani says she’s surprised the number of people who say they’ve stuck with their old weed avenues isn’t higher given the issues that have dogged the newly-legal industry.

“There has been a lot of problems with supply and access,” she says.

Think of people on fixed or limited incomes who can’t afford to cover the cost of packages and shipping or don’t have a permanent address or credit card that sites like the Ontario Cannabis Store demand, Valleriani says.

“What do you do?”

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Weed woes: Canada struggles to meet huge demand for legal cannabis

Numerous stores dealing with empty shelves and disgruntled customers, with fears many consumers will turn to black market

When Trevor Tobin opened one of Canada’s first legal cannabis stores last month, he had high hopes of playing a small part in a historic national experiment – and of making a tidy profit.

Brimming with optimism, he and his mother Brenda pooled $100,000 in savings to create High North, one of the few private retailers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

But the pair quickly found themselves staring at empty shelves – and watching the money they had invested slip away. Day after day, staff at Labrador City’s only cannabis shop have had to turn away customers due to scarce inventory and have even gone as far as temporarily shutting down the store.

“After a week of 100 apologies [to customers] each day, we’re tired of just saying sorry,” said Tobin. “We were told there would be bumps in the road. This isn’t a bump in the road. This is a pothole.”

Two weeks after Canada became the first G20 country to legalize cannabis amid much fanfare and celebration, numerous stores – both physical and digital – are struggling to meet unexpectedly high demand and in much of the country, the legal supply of marijuana has dried up.

“There is not enough legal marijuana to supply all of recreational demand in Canada,” said Rosalie Wyonch, a policy analyst at the CD Howe Institute. “The shortages are happening faster than I would have expected, but our research suggested quite strongly that there would be shortages in the first year of legalization.”

A mix of regulatory frameworks, retail chain distribution and logistical kinks – including rolling postal strikes across the country – have created fertile ground for the shortages.

When Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, it took three years for supply to finally catch up to demand, and Canada could expect a similar delay, said Wyonch.

In Quebec, the Société Québécoise du Cannabis – a government entity overseeing sales – has opted to close three days per week in order to better ration its limited supply.

Online sales make up a large component of the recreational cannabis market. In Ontario, where there are no physical retailers, residents are required to purchase products through a government-run web site.

Within the first 24 hours of legalization, the Ontario Cannabis Store website processed 100,000 orders – but few of them have been shipped to customers.

Because Ontario only allows online sales of cannabis, many residents have been left waiting two weeks for orders to arrive – and some report random cancellations of their orders.

University student Curtis Baller found out that his order had been cancelled after seeing a charge disappear from his credit card – not a notification from the OCS.

“The most frustrating part to me is that the government forced a monopoly on both the supply and delivery on cannabis products, then failed to deliver,” Baller told the Guardian. Ontario’s ombudsmen has received more than 1,000 complaints about the site since it launched on 17 October.

Supply for retailers, either private or government, is dictated by contracts between the government and licensed suppliers, making shifting to new sources of cannabis to fill supply gaps a lengthy process.

“Health Canada is still licensing producers, existing producers are expanding facilities and at the end of the day, marijuana is a plant. It takes a certain amount of time to grow, process and package, ship and get tested,” said Wyonch.

The shortages are also likely to be costly for provincial and federal governments. In a policy paper developed with colleague Anindya Sen, Wyonch argues that the government could lose $800m in revenues to the black market – far outpacing the anticipated tax revenues of $300m-$600m in the first year of legalization.

For Tobin and his mother, one of the few private retailers with a retail licence, the shortage has turned what seemed like a lucrative business into a temporarily losing venture.

“I’m paying staff members to sit around with fingers crossed that we’ll receive [new stock]. We never do,” said Tobin. “I can’t keep operating the shop, losing money everyday paying staff with no product.”

Some see a potential silver lining to the shortage: the bottlenecks likely mean a large number of people have tried to shift from the black market to the legal space at a faster rate than anticipated.

But the risk remains that the move may be reversed if supply problems are not resolved.

“The government will likely be successful in eliminating the black market, as long as the legal supply comes online quickly. Otherwise, we risk potentially entrenching a black market,” said Wyonch.

But Tobin fears that the recent shortages have already pushed consumers away from the legal markets. Both new and prior cannabis users have expressed frustration that they can’t buy from his store, or any other retailer in the region.

“Now that we can’t supply them, they’re still going to find it,” he said. “There’s no shortage of weed in Labrador City. Just the legal stuff.”

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What Legal Cannabis Means For Canada’s Economy

Canada is buzzing after the legalization of recreational cannabis, with long lines at the few retailers already open, a supply shortage, impaired driving fears, people taking to the streets in joy …

But what does legalization mean for the Canadian economy? How much is the market potentially worth?

“The federal legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis has positioned Canada to be the global leader of this new emerging industry on both fronts and provides significant economic opportunity, as Canadian firms are leading funding of this industry worldwide,” said Aras Azadian, CEO of the Canadian cannabidiol biotech Avicanna.

Canadian biotechs and medical institutions are poised to lead medical and intellectual property development for cannabinoids, which represents a long-term economic development opportunity, Azadian said.

The Numbers

Estimates from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce indicate the legal cannabis market will be worth $6.5 billion by 2020.

On a longer time horizon, New Frontier Data projects the domestic legal cannabis market will reach $6 billion by 2025, up from $1.3 billion in 2018.

“Legalization will result in a boost to local economies and instigate job creation,” said Jeff Siegel, managing editor of Green Chip Stocks. “There’s no doubt about this. We’ve already seen evidence of this in the medicinal cannabis space in Canada as well as over the past year or so as the country has been gearing up for legalization.”

If the legal cannabis indeed reaches $6.5 billion by 2020, it would outpace Canadian spending on alcohol, Siegel said.

Beth Stavola, COO and president of U.S. Operations at MPX Bioceutical Corp MPXEF 2.63%, seems to agree.

“With 43 percent of the Canadian population having tried cannabis and with it becoming more mainstream, it could be a big windfall for Canadian economy. But some products will be phased in over time, so the revenue stream will be gradual. Its potential is in the tens of billions of dollars.”

Canada’s Significance ‘Difficult To Overstate’

Green Chip Stocks’ Siegel expects countries such as the U.S. and Mexico to follow suit with legalization in the next 10 years.

“The value of the Canadian market is likely going to be much higher today than it will be in 10 years, when exports won’t be paramount to the viability of non-Canadian markets and capital will be able to flow into markets outside of Canada. At some point, the Canadian cannabis market will reach a plateau and level out. But in the meantime, the value of the Canadian cannabis market today should not be trivialized. This is an incredibly lucrative market,” he said.

Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics are optimistic as well. In their latest “State of Legal Marijuana Markets” report, the firms estimate sales of $5.4 billion by 2022, with Canada capturing 17 percent of total global legal consumption.

“The significance of Canada paving the way for major western economies is difficult to overstate,” said Tom Adams, BDS Analytics’ managing director of industry intelligence.

The six U.S. states with functional adult-use cannabis markets point to shrinking illicit sales and teenage use, he said.

“A legal market will also generate a tax windfall with few negative effects on public health and safety. This impact is likely to encourage other countries to move toward legalization at a more rapid pace.”

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Trump is setting the stage for cannabis legalization after midterms

Reports that President Trump is planning to push for legalized marijuana are becoming more often as we approach the midterm elections.

President of the United States Donald Trump hasn’t been very popular so far, even though he ran on a populist platform.

That platform was based on feelings of fear, anger, uncertainty and most of all—hatred. Hatred towards Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants.

It is sufficient to say that he isn’t the most beloved president ever, but there’s a chance he could sneak his way in the top 10 list.

Trump’s plan for the second half of his presidency may revolve around getting cannabis federally legalized by the end of his first term.

Reports of President Trump planning to legalize recreational marijuana have been circling the news.

Many Americans thought that the legalization would have to wait for Democrats to have the full control of the Congress.

However, so far we’ve noticed that Trump isn’t a classic partisan president. Going for cannabis legalization seems like a total Trump move.

So, let’s take a look at the few important things that happened in the last couple days.

DEA releases 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment

The Drug Enforcement Agency released a new assessment on drugs, in which it called for an immediate and undivided offensive against opioids and prescription medicine.

Opioid prescriptions in the United States have been on a steady rise for years, and president Trump declared it a national crisis earlier in the year.

The DEA reports that heroin-related deaths almost doubled between 2013 and 2016.

DEA also noted that the increase in opioid abuse led to a direct increase in heroin abuse and heroin-related deaths.


After almost a century of prohibition, Canada has become the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to fully legalize the use of cannabis.

Accounting firm Deloitte estimates legal marijuana is expected to become more than a $6bn business in Canada in 2019, with up to $4.34bn coming from the legal recreational market and as much as $1.79bn from medical sales.

The global legal medical cannabis market alone could be worth more than $50bn by 2025.

The dizzying numbers surrounding Canada’s ‘green rush’ has triggered interest across Asia as hardliners soften their attitudes towards cannabis use, incentivized by the potential economic impact of legalizing the weed in their countries.

Here is some of what’s happening in Asia;


Sri Lanka will begin cultivating cannabis for medical purposes later this year.

Health minister Rajitha Senaratne said he plans for cultivation to take place across 100 acres of designated cannabis plantation land in the north-central Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts. This is estimated to produce 25,000kg of the drug annually, which will be used for domestic Ayurveda – a South Asian system of medicine – and for export to North America.

Farmers will be hired by the state to cultivate the cannabis, and production will be overseen by the military. Cannabis prohibition was initiated by British colonizers in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) in the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth century.


Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is currently drafting a new bill to remove marijuana from the Category 5 Narcotics list. But it will only apply use for medical purposes.

The law is expected to be passed as law in April 2019, making Thailand the first Asian country to legalize medical cannabis and they will be competing in the market led by the US and Canada.

The country’s Governmental Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) has also begun researching mass-producing medicines from the drug. While 72% of Thais support the move to legalize weed for medical purposes, a Nida poll found half said it should be restricted to hospital use. Back in the 1980s, Thailand used to be the world’s top exporter of illegal cannabis.


The challenge for Malaysia, which still imposes strict punishment for some drug trafficking offenses, is how to draft new laws that are specific enough to differentiate marijuana for medical as opposed to recreational and other uses. The Ministry of Health, which has the final say, remains skeptical about the medicinal value of cannabis. The country’s cabinet was reported to have “very briefly” discussed its medical value last month. Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar described getting cabinet support for medical marijuana use as an uphill battle. “My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by Ministry of Health for prescription purposes,” he said.


Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that claimed the lives of thousands since mid-2016, the Philippines committee on Health in March last year endorsed the use of medical marijuana. House Bill 180 prescribes the rules for the proper use of medical marijuana, including the designation of a qualified medical cannabis physician, a medical cannabis patient who shall be issued an identification card, a qualified medical cannabis caregiver and a qualified medical cannabis compassionate centre. Lawmaker Rep. Seth Jalosjos believes legalizing marijuana for medical use, has the backing of the Philippine Cancer Society, “will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases”. Medical marijuana has been frowned upon by Filipino leaders in the past, but Albano feels confident that his Bill will pass with Duterte in power.


The usage of marijuana is rooted in ancient literature and Hindu mythology.  Despite its illegality, it is well documented that marijuana is grown in many parts of the country, especially in villages in Himachal Pradesh and in the Indian Himalayas. Cannabis cultivation and trade are partially restricted in India. While its cultivation for industrial purposes (i.e. obtaining fibre such as industrial hemp or for horticultural use) is allowed, consuming it could lead to a jail term of six months or a hefty fine. Earlier this year Uttarakhand became the first State in the country to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crop. Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, whose Patanjali company, has already made a fortune selling ayurveda-based face cleansers, toothpaste, and detergents is now looking to cannabis as a growth avenue. “There exists a huge market for cannabis in India. A lot of scientific research needs to be done, especially for those who are framing the laws,” said Yash Kotak, founder and director of Mumbai-based startup, The Bombay Hemp Company, which is backed by industrialist Ratan Tata.


While cannabis remains illegal in the People’s Republic of China, the country itself produces 50% of the world’s supply. China’s crops are largely hemp, and thus the non-psychotropic and fiber-rich variety of cannabis. As of 2017, Chinese companies have 309 out of the 606 patents filed around the world that relate to cannabis. So while cannabis remains illegal in the People’s Republic of China, its massive economic potential poses a threat to cannabis interests around the world. In Hong Kong, manufacturing cannabis or any other drug included in the city’s Dangerous Drugs Ordinance is deemed the most serious of all drug-related offenses. Any person who cultivates any plant of the genus cannabis faces an HK$100,000 fine and 15 years in prison. For China’s pot to make a significant impression on the Western canna-economy, there must be state-approved logistics for global distribution and permissive banking regulations, experts say.

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Cannabis in Canada: Big banks are missing a boom

KushCo Holdings, a company that sells packaging and supplies to the cannabis industry, would love to borrow money from a real bank.

CEO Nick Kovacevich wants to secure up to $30 million in revolving credit, so he can hire more employees and build new warehouses.
But a line of credit or loan of that size isn’t an option because traditional banks are not willing to lend to marijuana businesses.
Even though Canada legalized recreational marijuana and opened the door to a flurry of business activity, big banks in the United States and Canada are keeping the industry at arm’s length because of pot’s muddy legal picture in the United States.
“Nothing [has] changed,” said Mark Zekulin, president and co-CEO of Canopy Growth (CGC), a cannabis company based in Toronto. “It takes time and dialogue for banks to see this as a legitimate sector.”
Cannabis, while legal for recreational use in nine US states, and Washington D.C., remains illegal under US federal law. American banks have largely stayed away from providing services to the industry because federal regulations prohibit lenders from working with any business that deals in illegal drugs. Lenders could face money laundering charges in the United States if they do.


Big money. Big opportunity

But banks could be missing out on a bonanza. The marijuana industry is expected to grow substantially in the next five years, with sales in the United States expected to hit $23.4 billion by 2022, according to cannabis market research group Arcview. Canadian sales are expected to hit $5.5 billion.
The size of the sector could eventually entice major banks to get in the game for fear of missing out on lucrative fees or lending agreements, or cash from deposits.
“It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but a question of ‘when,'” said Daniel Yi, a spokesman at MedMen (MMNFF), a chain of marijuana dispensaries based in Los Angeles.
Still, most of the largest banks remain on the sidelines for now — even in Canada, where banks have to worry about potential compliance issues abroad. TD Bank (TD), the Royal Bank of Canada (RY) and Bank of Montreal (BMO), all of which have an international presence, declined to comment for this story.
“It hasn’t, at this point, seemed to create a change in practice,” said Seth Goldberg, an attorney at Duane Morris who advises clients in the cannabis industry.
The American Bankers Association, the US industry’s powerful lobby, has said it wants Congress to resolve the conflict between federal and state laws so banks aren’t stuck in the middle, though it doesn’t have a position on legalization itself. Right now, banks that do decide to take a chance and quietly work with marijuana businesses are expected to file suspicious activity reports for every transaction related to those accounts — a huge and potentially expensive logistical headache.


How pot companies do business

The stasis has been disappointing for cannabis companies, many of which have to develop special, under-the-radar relationships with banks or credit unions so they can have somewhere to park their money. Borrowing is effectively off the table.
Canopy Growth uses the credit union Alterna for deposits. Bank of Montreal, a larger player, helped the company issue$500 million in convertible debt in June. Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona beer, took a large stake in Canopy Growth over the summer.
KushCo has a line of credit worth $4 million from New York lender Gerber Finance, according toKovacevich, but would like to borrow a more substantial amount at a more affordable interest rate.
KushCo, which sells cannabis products such as child resistant bottles and vaporizers, but not the drug itself, had a relationship with Wells Fargo starting in 2015, according to Kovacevich. The bank cut ties in 2017, he said.
“It only takes one person in compliance to say, ‘No, you’re not fine,’ for you to lose your account,” Kovacevich said.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo (WFC) said the bank doesn’t comment on situations related to specific customers.
“As a national bank that is federally regulated, Wells Fargo must comply with federal law on the topic of marijuana, even in instances where state laws may differ,” the bank said in a statement in August. “Since federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, national banks like Wells Fargo may not knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for related activities.”
KushCo has since set up checking and savings accounts with a different “large national bank,” Kovacevich said. He declined to identify the bank out of concern that publicity would cause the institution to terminate the relationship.
MedMen’s Yi said that the company works with a collection of regional banks and credit unions that did not want to be identified at this time.
Zekulin of Canopy Growth said that while legalization in Canada hasn’t immediately changed the state of affairs when it comes to marijuana banking, he expects that conversations with banks will continue to get easier.
“This has been a process,” he said.
For now, it’s business as usual — or, for most major banks, no business at all.



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