In the twilight of prohibition, as these final weeks burn down toward legalization, you might think Canada’s longest-serving cannabis prisoner would have something to say.
On Facebook or Twitter. On TV or on your phone, even. You might expect at least a few tellings of the nearly forgotten yet jaw-dropping exploits of Robert “Rosie” Rowbotham, who spent decades of his life in a defiantly pitched battle against the law that is about to expire Oct. 17.
No one person can claim martyrdom for Canadian marijuana reform. But when it comes to audacious cannabis crime resulting in brutally hard time, nobody took bigger chances with sheer tonnage, nor paid a heavier price for it, than Toronto’s Rowbotham.
Where others involved in the hippie-era drug trade laid low, the flamboyant Rowbotham was defiant to a fault. With each life-altering bust he would take his punishment with explosive speeches to the court, declaring the law an ass and vowing to carry on upon his release.
At his peak as a world-class smuggler based in Toronto, Rosie had big names on his side — two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer, in 1977, and singer/songwriter Neil Young in 1985, each stood in the witness box speaking in his defence as sentencing loomed.
Mailer described Rowbotham as equal parts swashbuckling Errol Flynn and for-the-people Robin Hood, saying locking him up would be “bad for the cosmos.” Young, whose brother Bob was among the co-defendants in ’85, stressed that Rowbotham’s Toronto network drew a “moral line” of trading only in cannabis. And the only thing wrong with that, said Young, is that “the government’s not getting its share.”
And what a share it would have been. Rowbotham’s last bust involved a staggering 15,500 lbs. of high-grade Lebanese hashish, smuggled from the Bekaa Valley in the midst of a civil war, cloaked by crates of dates and sailed out of a naval blockade of Beirut. And eventually brought by stealth to Canada. Street value: $50 million.
And what a share it would have been. Rowbotham’s last bust involved a staggering 15,500 lbs. of high-grade Lebanese hashish, smuggled from the Bekaa Valley in the midst of a civil war, cloaked by crates of dates and sailed out of a naval blockade of Beirut. And eventually brought by stealth to Canada. Street value: $50 million.
It all added up to 20 years in prison — five times longer than Vancouver activist/entrepreneur Marc Emery, who is routinely referred to as Canada’s “Prince of Pot.”
Even as former police and politicians switch sides, assuming executive positions intent upon harvesting a soon-to-be-legal Canadian cannabis market that one StatsCan analysis estimates will be worth $6 billion annually, Rowbotham is off the radar.
This week we found out why: it turns out Rowbotham, now 67 and very much a free man, is not on Facebook or Twitter. Or anything else. He doesn’t even have an email address. After so many years under police surveillance, he values privacy foremost. He is artfully unplugged.
But Rowbotham made an exception when the Star came knocking. Over the course of three hours at his modest bungalow in North Toronto, he pulled back the veil on how he feels now, on the cusp of a change that consumed much of his life.
“The first thing I want to say is I absolutely am not interested in sympathy. Nobody owes me anything. I never backed down from a fight and that’s all on me.
“As far as regrets go I have only one — my children. I failed them. I wasn’t there. And I wasn’t able to provide. Eventually, I was able to reach them and explain my part in this cannabis war.”
Life throws curveballs when you least expect it. Rowbotham and his partner Meaghan have a cosy home now bursting with the infectious smile of a nine-month-old baby girl, Mia Rose. The children he sired as a younger man — two girls and two boys — survived and eventually thrived in his absence and he is grateful to have grown closer to them as adults. But his new daughter offers a second chance at full parenthood — and so now he finds himself watching his sugar intake, drinking tea and making doctors’ appointments, determined to be there for the girl as long as he can.
“Look at me now — drinking tea! I’m a teetotaller. But I love it.”
Rowbotham’s still close to Neil Young’s brother Bob, who drops by several times a week to visit the family. He picked up the nickname Rosie as a boy and says he’s looking forward to the word games he can play with the baby when she starts talking. “Hey Mia Rose — Me A Rose, too!”
If it all seems a world removed from the one he once knew, Rowbotham shrugs. He still remembers. He’s willing to share — albeit with a tinge of caution, because there are some things he knows from back in the day that perhaps could still do him harm. With a baby on board he warns that “whatever you write, don’t put a bull’s-eye on my forehead.”
Long story short, Rosie was born and raised in Belleville to a family of devout Anglicans. His dad and grandfather fought in the first and second world wars — conflicts Rowbotham learned more about when he spent part of his second long imprisonment as a student, earning a history degree.
But his war was cannabis. And it was at Toronto’s Rochdale College — epicentre of the Toronto hippie scene — where he first did battle. Long hair, free love, no rules. Small bags to start. And then, just like that, huge amounts. He struggles today to even explain how easily he came to oversee a network that at one point was able to import and distribute as much as 1,000 lbs. of hashish a week, coast to coast.
“Honesty was key — people were getting scammed with garbage and they soon learned they could come to me and it was the real thing. I guess I just had a knack. It’s almost like I’m savant or something. I don’t know why I was so good at it.”
Partly it was luck — and, dear reader, you can decide whether good or bad. Rowbotham recalls a pivotal moment in the early ’70s, he was standing with a friend in front of A&A Records’ flagship store on Yonge St. when he was approached by a man in a tidy suit and fedora, asking, “Are you Rosie Rowbotham?” The man then pointed to a car where two other men, similarly attired, stood waiting. “We have business to discuss,” one said.
They were Lebanese businessmen and already they knew everything there was to know about Rowbotham. They handed him a key to a car they said was parked outside Varsity Stadium. The trunk was filled with a ton of hashish. “We know you can do this. Sell it for us.” He asked how to contact them. “You won’t find us — we’ll find you.”
With that, Rowbotham entered through the rarest of portals, into a world of serious tonnage. His ability to secure, smuggle and distribute in ever increasing quantities continued for the better part of a decade until 1982, when the Toronto Police drug squad unleashed “Operation Rose” — a $6-million effort, all told, that ended with Rosie and nearly 60 others in custody, awaiting the trial that would see Neil Young arrive in a plea for clemency.
At his first trial, just before he was sentenced to 14 years in prison, Rowbotham heaped scorn upon the court in blistering remarks that lasted well over an hour, accusing the Canadian authorities of meekly falling in line with U.S. drug policy and insisting that the only moral stand is open defiance against a law that does more harm than the weed it is intended to suppress: “I didn’t break God’s law and you people spend millions of dollars over a plant that grows out of the ground … through my culture I tried to make the new world. Remember the Beatles’ songs. Maybe we’re dreamers, maybe we’re idealists.”
Though Rowbotham has told this story a few times before, there’s new information in circulation. Rowbotham’s primary stateside partner, Richard Stratton, who spent eight years in a U.S. prison for his part in the gigantic 15,500 lb. shipment of Bekaa Valley hashish, two years ago told his version of events in Smuggler’s Blues: A True Story of the Hippie Mafia.
Stratton details how he first came to Rochdale and fell in with Rowbotham as a brother-in-arms and how together they were responsible for vast amounts of high quality Lebanese hashish entering North America. It was Stratton who was on the Beirut end of that fateful final shipment, arranging payments so soldiers would turn a blind eye at checkpoints and allow the load to make its way from the plantations in the Bekaa Valley to the port.
In that moment, Stratton was a peacenik in a Lebanese civil war. One especially audacious twist, all the slabs of hash had “the Stratton/Rosie freak family imprint all over it — our telltale stamp, both marketing contrivance and slap in the face to authorities.”
Stratton, like Rowbotham, presents theirs as the decidedly non-violent end of the business. They traded only in cannabis and never with guns. But in Smuggler’s Blues,Stratton, a Boston native, describes how he was confronted by the New York mafia with an ultimatum — share or be killed. He further claims he was rescued from the crisis by none other than “Whitey” Bulger, the boss of Boston’s Winter Hill crime gang, who extended his protection, effectively saving him.
Rowbotham cautions not to believe it all. “I love Stratton — but I think there’s a bit of creative licence happening there. I will say this — the mafia part I believe is true. And I will say, we never had anything like that on the Canadian side of the family.
“There were a few tensions in those days but nothing serious. When you are successful of course others want to take what you have. We were able to stand up to the few challenges that came. I do remember one time, the Vagabonds (motorcycle club) pulled up outside my place. It was my birthday — four bikes in the front and four in the back with a limousine in the middle. The door opened and the club president stepped out with a birthday cake. ‘We just want to pay our respects. We have no problem with you. Happy birthday.’ That was it, they got back in and rode away.”
Stratton describes himself as addicted to the adventure of the smuggle as much as anything. The cat-and-mouse games with police, trying to stay one step ahead of their world caving in. But he describes Rowbotham as driven by something else besides — a compulsion to stand up loudly against an unjust law.
“Rosie — got to love that man, the marijuana martyr, done more for the herb than anyone else in the history of the nation. He glories in the role, loves to rub his defiance in their faces,” Stratton writes.
“(But) he’s too f—— flamboyant. It’s like he needs to get caught to validate who he is and what he does.”
That flamboyance — and the sheer scale of what he was smuggling — comes up when talk turns to amnesty. Rosie is resigned to the likelihood that while the Trudeau government now is making sounds about expunging the records of those convicted of minor possession, he is the last man on a Canadian cannabis conviction list that numbers as many as a half-million.
“Expunge all the possession records immediately. Stop the suffering all these people have endured, the shrunken lives,” said Rowbotham, who still enjoys smoking pot, though in nowhere near the amounts he imbibed in his youth.
“And if that should extend to me, wonderful. But I don’t see it. There were police and prosecutors that made their careers on me. They needed a bogeyman and I was handy. I was made out to be the monster, pure evil, in order for it all to fit together.
“If they let me, I’d love to be put in charge of the government’s legal sales. It would delight me to pay every tax dollar. It would delight me to have a Canada Revenue person right inside the accounting office. I’d do it right because I’d love to show the people on the other side that despite everything you’ve heard I care about society too. Our kids all go to the same schools. It matters to me just as much.
“My message to the people who went out of their way to put me behind bars is: I forgive you all and I sentence you to be yourselves for the rest of your lives. Any of us can learn to do better with the time we have left. Everyone has lessons to learn.”
Cannabis users will drive into murky territory when they get behind the wheel
For the millions of Canadians who use cannabis, there are just 64 days left until they can light up a joint, inhale and breathe easy knowing that they are staying comfortably within the confines of the law.
But even after Oct. 17, when cannabis becomes legal, marijuana users who get behind the wheel will find themselves veering back into murky legal territory. While there may be new drugged driving laws on the books — and saliva testing devices heading soon to a police cruiser near you — critics say the legal landscape is still hazy for marijuana users who drive, with the potential to criminalize people who are not actually impaired.
The first drug-testing device being considered for Canadian approval is the Draeger DrugTest 5000, which has received early criticism for requiring an internal temperature of at least 4 C, putting its effectiveness during the Canadian winter into question.
The first drug-testing device being considered for Canadian approval is the Draeger DrugTest 5000, which has received early criticism for requiring an internal temperature of at least 4 C, putting its effectiveness during the Canadian winter into question. (Martin Meissner / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO)
Canadian regulators have now introduced legal limits for blood concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana — even though researchers say there is no direct relationship between impairment and specific levels of THC in the bloodstream. Critics have also pointed to potential issues with roadside saliva testing devices, which were not designed with Canadian winters in mind and require internal temperatures of at least 4 C to work.
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Civil liberties advocates now worry the government has adopted a “zero tolerance” approach based on inconclusive science. They fear that sober people will end up receiving criminal records — and those at greatest risk will be medical cannabis users and racialized communities that are already over-policed, said Rob De Luca with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“It’s going to criminalize a host of individuals who are basically going about their day, thinking they’re doing completely legal behaviour,” said De Luca, director of the CCLA’s public safety program. “The impact of bringing the full weight of the state and the criminal justice system against someone who may not have been impaired behind the wheel — that’s a remarkable thing.”
Critics like De Luca do not question the dangers of drug-impaired driving or the importance of taking public safety into account. Studies have shown that cannabis can negatively impact cognitive and psychomotor performance and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have come out strongly in support of Canada’s new impaired driving laws.
Studies have also shown a higher risk of car crashes after cannabis use, with some papers suggesting a near-doubling of the risk. A recent Statistics Canada survey also found that one in seven cannabis users with a driver’s licence admitted to getting behind the wheel within two hours of consuming the drug.
But regulating cannabis is a much trickier proposition than regulating alcohol, which has now been thoroughly studied for decades. Alcohol is a simple molecule that eliminates from the body at a constant rate; cannabinoids like THC have complicated metabolic pathways and get stored in fat, releasing at different rates.
Frequent, chronic users — such as medical cannabis users — can also develop tolerance. And they can test THC positive for much longer periods than occasional smokers; one U.S. study, which looked at 30 men who were daily cannabis smokers, found that two people were still THC-positive 30 days after their last toke, albeit at low blood concentrations.
There is plenty of evidence that a person with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08, Canada’s legal limit, is clearly impaired. But cut-off points are harder to generalize for cannabis users because THC affects everyone so differently, depending on a variety of factors — everything from a person’s history of cannabis use to the amount of fat tissue they have in their bodies.
“It makes it very complex to evaluate what a blood concentration means in terms of someone’s performance or behaviour,” said Dayong Lee, a toxicology manager with the Houston Forensic Science Center who has studied cannabis and impairment.
But Canadian regulators have decided to impose blood concentration limits for THC, even while acknowledging that “science is unable to provide general guidance to drivers about how much cannabis should be consumed before it is unsafe to drive or before the proposed levels would be exceeded.”
It is now illegal for Canadian drivers to have blood THC concentrations of five nanograms (ng) per millilitre or more — a crime that carries mandatory penalties of $1,000 and jail time for repeat offenders. Drivers with at least 2.5 ng/ml of THC in their blood, combined with low levels of alcohol, will also be charged.
Regulators have also made it a summary offence to have concentrations of between two and five nanograms per millilitre of blood. Offenders receive a maximum fine of $1,000 and a criminal record, which they can apply to suspend only after five years.
“The government should take every public safety approach that’s appropriate, but they shouldn’t take it when the scientific foundation is not clear,” said Kyla Lee, a Vancouver lawyer who defends impaired driving cases. “Meanwhile, people (will be) getting criminal records for drugs, which will render them inadmissible to the United States and have all sorts of consequences for employment, families, life insurance, etc.”
According to Dayong Lee, the cut-off points of two and five nanograms per millilitre are based on a handful of studies in which the majority of people showed some cognitive impairment at these concentrations. But these studies are based on relatively small populations and “it’s hard to generalize” their results, she said.
“I can think of less than 10 studies that support the five nanograms being impaired,” Lee said. “It’s really critical that drug blood concentration itself is not being used solely to demonstrate that this person is impaired.”
Forensic toxicologist Marilyn Huestis agrees. During her two decades with the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, she conducted numerous studies looking at cannabis impairment and was “amazed” to find that in one small study of chronic cannabis users, she could still detect signs of impairment even three weeks after their last usage.
But she has yet to see a significant correlation between specific blood drug concentrations and impairment. “My philosophy for identifying impaired driving … the first thing is that you show the person is really impaired. Because some people might have five (nanograms) or two (nanograms) and maybe they’re not impaired,” she said. “Then you do the biological sample to point (out) which drugs are causing the impairment.”
Yet, Canadian laws do not explicitly require drivers get tested for impairment before they can be charged with drug-impaired driving.
The Canadian government is also introducing new roadside devices that act as a kind of breathalyzer exam for drugs, including THC. But instead of blowing, drivers provide saliva samples that are tested on the spot using the same immunological technology as pregnancy sticks.
These devices can reveal whether specific drugs might be present, but further tests are needed to confirm blood concentration levels. The first device being considered for Canadian approval is the Draeger DrugTest 5000, which has received early criticism for requiring an internal temperature of at least 4 C. “Lots of Canada, lots of the time, is below four degrees Celsius,” Kyla Lee said.
In an email, Draeger Canada said its technology is “well suited to Canada, with internal temperature control functionality that helps ensure optimal performance in a broad range of conditions” but was unable to respond to followup questions by press time.
Huestis said she’s tested the Draeger DrugTest 5000 and it “works very well.” The device is already in use in countries like Australia and Spain, and in Norway, police apprehensions of DUI drivers more than doubled after the device was introduced, according to a 2018 study.
But other jurisdictions have reported lacklustre experiences with the device. According to tender documents, the Irish government anticipated that 50,000 tests would be performed with the device every year. Last year, however, police only used it on 612 drivers, with 90 testing positive for drug use.
A senior police officer told the Irish Times that the length of time required to use the device — at least 10 minutes — was a deterrent for officers, who opted to focus on alcohol detection instead. He said some officers also struggled to get usable saliva samples from nervous drivers, whose mouths would dry up.
According to a federal Department of Justice spokesperson, the Draeger DrugTest 5000 was recommended for approval by the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which is also evaluating a number of other drug screeners. The device is now undergoing a 30-day “public comment period” that closes on Aug. 18, after which the attorney general will decide whether or not to approve it for use in Canada.
Jennifer Yang is a Toronto-based reporter covering identity and inequality.
See story here – Toronto Star
Why stop at weed? Kamloops doctor wants to see more drugs made legal
A Kamloops emergency room doctor predicts after the legalization of marijuana, the government will move on to magic mushrooms — and he’s in favour of it.
There is a push in Ontario to start a legal Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to see it happen in Canada.
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California wanted to hold a vote on the issue, the emergency-room doctor and expert on naloxone’s use in opioid overdoses said, but the push for seeing it on a ballot failed to get the required 265,680 signatures.
There are similar movements in Oregon and Denver, where marijuana is legal. Oregon’s goal is to see it allowed only with the approval of a physician and under the supervision of a registered therapist. Denver wants a similar situation limited to that city only.
The groups promoting it say research shows psilocybin, the active drug in the mushrooms, can alleviate depression and anxiety.
Dr. Ian Mitchell, who works in the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital, said there are other studies showing it also works on some people who have cluster headaches.
“There are more calls now for decriminalization,” Mitchell said.
“Medical officers of health are calling for it across the country now.”
One of them is Dr. Ken Tupper, who goes one step further, saying “decriminalization of drugs doesn’t go far enough.”
A senior member of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use who researches creating healthy public policy addressing illegal drugs, Tupper said the reality is enforcement on the supply side of drugs coming into the province isn’t working.
Both look to the path Portugal took in 2001. It didn’t legalize drugs but did decriminalize them and instituted as penalties fines or being referred to dissuasion panels composed of legal, social medical and psychological experts who can work with the person on their lifestyle issues.
Basically, Mitchell said, these panels ask “What can we do to help?”
He called it a more enlightened approach that could see the person access housing, counselling or other services. It might also see the person walk away, only to be brought back again after another instance of being found with a drug.
Tupper also sees the Portugal model as providing some guidance on how Canada should move forward dealing with not only the opioid crisis but the issue of illicit drugs.
Contrary to those who say harm reduction isn’t working, Tupper says it not only works but is present throughout society.
“We require people who go mountain biking to wear helmets,” he said.
“And we learned we needed to put seat belts in cars.”
Other harm-reduction mandates Tupper pointed to include things like requiring clean drinking water and vaccinations, putting air bags into vehicles, warnings on medications, the Food and Drug Act or specifications for making parachutes.
There are steps that can be taken to ensure drugs also meet standards, Tupper said
Prohibition won’t work, both doctors said. Rather, there are lessons to be learned from it that speak to how to proceed with drugs.
Giving users a safe, regulated source would impact the illicit market, he said, and would have a significant impact on the opioid overdose crisis that has spread throughout the country.
Mitchell said such a move would also have an impact on crime, perhaps ease the transient issue and could start making people who buy decriminalized and controlled drugs more likely to have a point of contact with a service provider who might help them move to an improved lifestyle.
“We need to get them to not just be looking for drugs or money to get the next fix,” he said.
History of cannabis in Canada: A timeline of the legalization movement
Canada is one of the few countries in the world with fully legal cannabis, an expertly organized medical program, and a promising recreational market that is soon to be initiated. But what was the journey like?
It’s safe to say that cannabis made a full circle in Canada in less than a 100 years.
It was outlawed after the Director of the Federal Division of Narcotic Control returned from League of Nations meetings where the international control of the drug was discussed.
At that time the League of Nations was the predecessor of the United Nations organization.
Industrial hemp was also thrown aside as it was seen to be equally as bad as cannabis itself.
Nearly 15 years after it was outlawed, the first seizures of cannabis started happening in Canada.
Just like in the United States, the popularity of cannabis started growing in the ’70s and ’80s with the help of the hippy movement.
Cannabis use in Canada increased significantly during the ’90s, which also coincides with the second wave of cocaine popularity and the introduction of amphetamines such as speed, MDMA, and similar uppers.
The biggest increase in cannabis consumption happened in Ontario between 1996 and 2000, as statistics indicate that use among 18-29 year olds increased from 18% to 28%.
After a couple major court victories the federal government worked with the people of Canada on establishing the universal medical marijuana system which after a lot of reform turned into the ACMPR.
Another 15 years later and the PM of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced that Canada will have legal cannabis for personal use by the end of his term no matter what.
History of cannabis in Canada visualized
Some of us just aren’t that good with remembering years and numbers, which is why today we’ve got something special just for you.
You can familiarize yourself with the good and bad days of cannabis in Canada on the infographic below, which takes you on a journey from 1923 and the age of prohibition to modern times, where we expect to welcome recreational cannabis on our shelves in just several months.
See Story here – History of Cannabis in Canada
A biography of cannabis
In the end, all this fuss comes down to a plant.
The media frenzy about the legalization of cannabis in Canada on Oct. 17, the pumping and dumping of stocks, small craft cannabis growers versus $6-billion weed factories, the black market or the legal one, how the provinces will and won’t sell it, the vast claims (cures cancer!), the endless complaints (edibles won’t be legal for a year?) − is finally, in the end, about our strange and bottomless obsession with a saw-leaved weed.
Where did it come from? How does it grow? Why was it forbidden fruit for such a long time? What does it really do to us? And why are we so obsessed with it? Herewith, a short biography of the cannabis plant.
But you don’t have to be a clever grower. The Mary.ag, a slick grow-box that sits in your living room and looks like a stereo speaker, controls watering and fertilization and odour electronically, via cellphone. The Mary produces 45 grams of smokeable flower every seven weeks. It costs US$499.
In general parlance (and exacting taxonomists have continuing objections to this), there are two widely accepted psychoactive variants of cannabis: harder-to-grow sativa, which is taller and skinnier and looks slightly hapless; and indica (shorter, bushier, tough guy). Neither plant wins beauty contests. The two subspecies are marketed in dispensaries, respectively, as energizing (sativa) and narcotic (indica). But − breaking news! a small scandal in the small world of cannabis research! − according to Vancouver’s Jonathan Page, a world expert on the cannabis genome and CEO of Anandia Laboratories Inc. (acquired two weeks ago by Aurora Cannabis Inc. for $115-million): “We’re having a lot of trouble showing that they’re genetically different. And also that there’s different chemistry between the two types, dopey-sleepy versus uplift.” For all the media attention cannabis gets, research on the plant is still in its infancy − as you might expect of a shrub that has been illegal in one form or another since the 1920s.
Cannabis evolved 65 million years ago. It was one of the earliest plants to be domesticated by humans, who have cultivated it for at least 10,000 years, starting with Neolithic man. (It was the Stone Age, dude). In 2008, a team of researchers in northwest China uncovered the grave of a Caucasian shaman buried 2,700 years ago with 700 grams of quad (high-grade AAAA cannabis indica) − “the good shuzzit,” as Louis Armstrong and his long-time dealer, Milton Mezzrow, called such stuff, and also the earliest physical evidence of human use of the psychoactive form of the drug. The earliest medical evidence of cannabis dates to the same era, also in China, where cannabis tea was recommended for a hundred ailments, including constipation, “female weakness” and absent-mindedness. One early Chinese doctor said cannabis in moderation lets users speak to spirits; in excess, he added, they become demons. Apparently, the advice to have “just one hit” has been ignored for centuries. The first cannabis plants grew wild − so say Robert Clarke and Mark Merlin, in their door-stopping Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany − in the valleys of the Hindu Kush mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. From there, cannabis was traded and cultivated across Europe and Asia. Herodotus writes of Scythians (they were early horsemen, and established the Silk Road) “howling with pleasure in their hemp vapor baths.” As Martin Lee observes in Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana (another excellent book upon which this article relies heavily), “Something about the herb resonated with humankind.”
“What is our society missing that we are so keen to bring cannabis back into it? What is it in the DNA of our society that puts cannabis on the front page of our newspapers every day?”
— Jonathan Page, world expert on the cannabis genome and CEO of Anandia Laboratories Inc.
The weed that went west and north, into Europe, tended to be hemp − that is, the leggy cannabis subspecies low in THC but excellent for rope, sails, clothing, paper, “hempcrete” and at least 3,000 other known uses that hemp fanatics will happily list. (Henry Ford built a hemp car that ran on hemp oil in the early 1940s). The plants that moved south into tropical India and Africa tended to be the psychotropic cultivars employed as medicine and for spiritual yayas. Daga has been used in Africa for at least 2,000 years: Zulus smoked it to relax and before battle, while pygmy tribes inhaled it through a mound in the earth and called it “earth smoking.” Today, Canadians vaporize cannabis oil through a water pipe and refer to it as dabbing. We’ve all been doing this a long, long time.
Most marijuana smoked in North America before the 1970s was grown in Mexico. When Mexico (under pressure from Ronald Reagan’s state department) sprayed its marijuana crops with the toxic plant killer paraquat, North Americans began to grow their own − indoors, to avoid detection. The war on drugs created a botanical revolution of historic proportions. Cannabis sativa, which produced a lighter, brighter, “talkier” high, was harder to grow in colder climates; the more narcotic and stonier indica subspecies could be grown everywhere, but it tended to induce couch lock. Growers (many of B.C.’s earliest were U.S. draft dodgers) soon combined the best of both worlds and produced seedless (hence sensimilla) hybrids of the two.
Indoor growing really took off in the 1980s with the invention of metal-halide and sodium grow lights. In 1982, U.S. law-enforcement agencies learned with alarm that the record tonnage of marijuana they seized was 38 per cent larger than the government’s estimate of the entire U.S. national crop that year. Cannabis plants that averaged 5 per cent to 8 per cent THC before the war on drugs were now capable of producing flowers with THC levels of 30 per cent and more.
The first crop of hemp cannabis in Canada was planted in Port Royal (now Nova Scotia) in 1606 by an apothecary accompanying Samuel de Champlain. France pressured the colonies to grow hemp for its navy, exempting the crop from the tithe paid to the Catholic Church, which in turn made the Catholic Church a sworn enemy of cannabis.
William Brooke O’Shaughnessy helped introduce cannabis to modern medicine after encountering the drug in Calcutta as an agent for the British East India Company. Upon his return to London in 1842 with a large stash of cannabis indica, he commissioned the manufacture of Squire’s Extract. Sir William’s chronic tonic actually relieved pain from rheumatism, quelled infant convulsions and calmed the spasms brought on by rabies and tetanus. Queen Victoria’s physician prescribed it for her menstrual cramps, and to others for what we would call Alzheimer’s.
The United States, so rabidly anti-drug for so long, was as keen on cannabis in the past as states such as California, Oregon and Washington are today. Mary Lincoln used it as a sedative after Abe’s assassination. The first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. According to Dana Larsen’s Cannabis in Canada, F.W. Goodwin gave a lecture in 1897 that touted cannabis as a remedy for a raft of ailments, and also recommended it recreationally: It stimulated the appetite; induced sleep; gave users a sense of well-being “as if he had heard good tidings of great joy.” It also enhanced sexual pleasure, inducing a “powerful erection when the necessary mental stimulus is at hand,” which is an interesting way of putting it. However, it reduced the sensitivity of the member, which in turn lessened “premature discharge.” Dr. Goodwin was president of the Nova Scotia Medical Association.
“No one had a problem with cannabis then,” the legendary California cannabis activist Steve De Angelo told me recently. “Because it was being used by white people.”
How did such a popular plant become an object of hysterical hatred? The answer is no surprise given the current standoff at the U.S.-Mexico border: Cannabis became associated with immigrants and foreign labour during what Mr. Lee calls “an early twentieth century upsurge of nativism, scapegoating and political repression.”
Manias take hold of entire nations. Cannabis has inspired some notable developments in human culture − from Louis Armstrong’s improvisational jazz and Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing and the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper album to Jack Kerouac’s novels and Tommy Chong (a Canadian) and a good part of Woody Harrelson’s acting career. But Canada banned cannabis under the Opium and Narcotic Act as early as 1923. The prohibitionist frenzy didn’t abate until 70 years later, when the medical cannabis movement, in the form of compassion clubs, turned up in B.C., partly in response to the AIDS crisis.
By then, in the United States, Mr. Lee maintains, fifty separate government agencies were dedicated to inhibiting research into the therapeutic use of pot. Even in 2003, when Mr. Page took a job in Saskatoon at the National Research Council to study cannabis, he wasn’t allowed to buy or grow any: The NRC was an arm of the government, and it focused on the illegality of cannabis. Recent polls say a quarter of Canadians are still against legalization.
The problem is that prohibition has never worked. In 1937, 50,000 Americans smoked pot. By 1947, the number had doubled. In 2005, the year before California licensed its first six medical-marijuana clinics, more than 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana-related charges, most for simple possession, and most of them not white. In all, roughly two million people have been arrested for growing and selling pot in Canada; as recently as 2013, more than 59,000 people were arrested for possession. And yet somewhere between 183 million and 238 million people worldwide have tried or are users of cannabis. In the meantime, the governments of the United States and Canada have spent an estimated US$60-billion a year on the war on drugs. “Thirty years from now,” the writer and anthropologist Wade Davis has said, “the entire war on drugs will be seen as one of the greatest acts of folly in the history of public policy.” Meanwhile a third of Canadians plan to use cannabis when it goes legit on Oct. 17. People are already planning their parties. Big ones.
Cannabis is the only plant known to manufacture THC. It does this by siccing a series of enzymes upon a fatty-acid molecule and transforming it into an acid form of THC that, when it is heated or smoked, becomes psychoactive. (You can eat the leaves raw and not feel a thing.) All this action takes place in the trichomes on the surface of the resin-heavy flowers.
Things get even more interesting once THC is ingested into the human body by smoking or vaping or eating. It turns out − this is a fairly recent discovery − that the human body has its own (very ancient) set of endocannabinoid receptors in our central and peripheral nervous systems. These receptors bind to (among other agents) a neurotransmitter called anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid − that is, one produced by our bodies. (Anandamide derives from the Sanskrit word “bliss.”) THC binds to the same receptors anandamide does, and does the same general thing anandamide does, except that it does it in a much blunter and more aggressive and more discombobulating way.
And what is that? That’s a question researchers are still answering in full. Like its in-house double, the retrograde anandamide, THC is a signal inhibitor − what Mr. Page refers to as “a kind of presynaptic dimmer switch that reduces the excitation of the neurons.” To put it (too) simply, cannabinoids such as THC (in conjunction with CBD and terpenes and many other cannabinoids, all of which work on one another to produce an “entourage effect”), slow down the messages barrelling back and forth through our synapses. This accounts for many of cannabis’s indicated medical effects − because cannabinoids reduce inflammation and pain, lower blood pressure, can stop seizures and relax muscles and quell epilepsy (and maybe migraines and fibromyalgia), seem to reduce spasticity and stiffness in people with multiple sclerosis, help with cramping, improve sleep, reduce nausea and calm PTSD. They may even be useful in weaning people off harder drugs. Opioids take pain away from patients, along with most alertness; cannabis, as one user once said to me, “takes you away from the pain.”
Or, to put it psychoactively, in addition to lowering the body’s pent-up physical pressures, cannabis spaces out the messages the mind and body send to each other incessantly, which in turn gives us time to notice what’s going on − that sense one has, using pot, that everything is happening for the first and most remarkable time. Michael Pollan, in his astonishing book The Botany of Desire, called it “the italicization of experience.”
Some researchers speculate that anandamide and other cannabinoids may be implicated in helping us forget − the short-term memory problem pot smokers experience − but in ways that are necessary and clarifying. Mr. Pollan thinks the main attraction of THC may be, in fact, the disarray and short-term memory loss it creates in the human brain. “The cannabinoid network appears to be part of that mechanism, vigilantly sifting the vast chaff of sense impressions from the level of perception we need to reach if we’re to get through the day and get done what needs to be done. All depends on forgetting.”
Cannabis does the same thing, just harder and faster. Cannabis makes it impossible to remember all the details that threaten to drown us, and lets us concentrate on them one after the other, laterally and forgetfully. It impairs us, but in doing so allows us to experience the world not as masters of the entire universe but as liberated goofball bystanders, freed from the world’s and our own blinding compulsions and expectations. Physiologically, cannabis disarms the bully Time, quiets its insistent tattoo of tick tick tick − leaving us to respond to the mere moment, possibly while laughing. And not just to respond to it, but to feel it, emotionally. It’s as if THC were a converter that transforms the matter we see and hold and hear and smell and taste into the wow of a more − for lack of a more comprehensive word − spiritual experience. At the very least, THC lets us be in the here and now, and experience the moment not as something to be rushed past but as something worth paying attention to.
The last time I spoke to Mr. Page, he ended our conversation by asking me a question. “What’s so special about cannabis?” he said. “What is our society missing that we are so keen to bring cannabis back into it? What is it in the DNA of our society that puts cannabis on the front page of our newspapers every day?” I thought about that for a while. Then he said “Someone characterized cannabis to me recently as the cure for the human condition.”
Maybe we can’t take our eyes off the cannabis plant because it serves a purpose. Maybe the evolutionary purpose of humanity’s ancient obsession with cannabis is that it can free us (momentarily) from the job of evolution − or at least from the relentless grind of it, of trying to survive with the fittest − which in turn allows us to simply be who we are, briefly, without regret, while high. Maybe it’s a spur to keep going. If cannabis is the cure for the human condition, which is that we are born to die, that we live only in order to sadly leave, cannabis may be all about forgetting. But it might also be a way to repeatedly forgive ourselves for our unwitting part in the calamity of being human.
Activists & Musicians Launch “Music for the King” to Honour Fallen Advocate
I’VE HAD THE PLEASURE of knowing Brad Hails for most of my adult life. I first met him as a musician, then we became business partners in an annual music showcase in Burlington, Ontario called Burly Calling, which we’ve co-produced for over 10 years together.
As long as I’ve known Brad he’s been a vocal cannabis advocate and most of my early experience with cannabis advocacy were through conduits he provided through his many musical endeavors. It’s through similar conduits, Brad, met well known and beloved cannabis advocate Shane King, who, tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident while in Mexico with his family this past March.
When news broke here in Canada about Shane’s death, social media exploded with condolences from all spectrums of the cannabis industry. If there was any positives to such a tragedy, it became remarkably clear how much love exists between those who have long participated in Canadian Cannabis advocacy. A side of the industry that brought Canada into being a global, progressive, industry leader that has the potential to guide other G7 countries through the “green renaissance”.
After the news of Shane’s death, Brad, Shane’s family, friends and cannabis advocates alike announced a Go Fund Me Campaign and benefit concert taking place May 6th in Burlington. Both efforts focused on raising money for Shane’s family. The ladder sold out in a day.
Brad took the time to chat about Shane with me in hopes to raise awareness of the King families Go Fund Me campaign, and to shed some further light on what he and Shane had been collaborating on.
BR: You’ve been active in cannabis advocacy for quite sometime, through performing, writing and video. Can you tell me when and how you got involved?
BH: I would say my involvement in Advocacy was completely accidental. All of my young bands, I’m sure you know, were heavily influenced by recreational cannabis smoking. Getting stoned, hanging with friends and jamming. The first real eye opener we had was when my old band Pail Face Boogie was asked to play Hempfest in Northern Ontario back in 2004. We had a budding friendship at the time with fellow federal cannabis advocate, Alison Myrden. Alison connected us with the organizers. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into (laughing). We packed up the van and headed north never realizing the band or our direction would ever be the same again. After a nine hour journey towards Sault Ste Marie combined with some backwoods driving, we finally found the Hempfest grounds. We were expecting to see Giant inflatable Pepsi cans, concessions and your usual festival commercialism. What we found was an old crumbling cabin, a huge mud pit we had to drive through, and the most beautiful group of misfits we could have been invited into. I think that year, there was around 800 people camping in the valley and they welcomed us into their family. We played and became a huge part of Hempfest over the next 9 years and through our new friendships and experiences, we learned so much about Cannabis. Much more than just a doobie between friends before jamming. We saw its healing effects on our friends, learned about how it could be used to save our environment, and soaked up the love of a kind hearted community that could party together for days in the woods, peacefully celebrating one of nature’s gifts. During those years, Pailface Boogie evolved into The Killin’ Time Band. Our creative experiences in this community began to change. Our outlooks and the music we were writing, we were uplifted by the Community and given the honour of being a voice for them. I would say the song “It Doesn’t Make sense” has had the biggest impact on me and my Canna friends. So many people have taken the time to reach out with their thanks and to let me know how much the song has meant to them, and given them strength or comfort when they needed it. To be able to help someone by writing and singing a song is an amazing feeling. We hosted a fundraiser for Hempfest at a bar in Burlington in maybe 2007. Alison Myrden was in attendance, as always she has been one of our biggest supporters. During the show she was given a hard time by security for medicating outside of the venue. Alison is always so kind and well spoken, tried to educate them by showing her license, but was asked to leave. I couldn’t believe that a venue would not realize that they have agreed to host a “Hempfest” Fundraiser with a bunch of Canna bands, and not realize someone may medicate. Right after this event, I went home and wrote “doesn’t make Sense” For Alison.
BR: A few years ago, you launched Puff Jam in Ontario, can you tell us how this came to be?
BH: Puff Jam began in 2014 when I partnered with my good friend, “Puff Mama” who runs an awesome comedy club in Toronto called “The Underground Comedy Club”. Puff Mama has been an activist and an amazing, inspiring person to me from the first time I met her at Hempfest. Together, Puff Mama and I wanted to start up a party closer to home for all of our “Hempfester” friends and Canna community. This summer will be our 5th year and I can’t wait. Puff Jam is a kind gathering of friends to celebrate music, comedy, medicine, education and friendship. It runs the second weekend of August every year and we will be announcing this years location soon. Everyone who loves a kind environment and a great party should check it out!www.puffjam.ca
BR: How did you meet Shane King?
BH: I think the first time I met Shane was when KTB was playing the TY expo at Toronto Convention Centre. Shane was in charge of the sound and bands amongst a million other jobs so he was our “go to guy” for the gig. After that, Shane and his family were everywhere we were, Hempfest, Global, Marijuana March, 420 at Yonge and Dundas Square. The Kings are beautiful, kind, magnetic people and friendship was inevitable. Shane and I share the same “Unique” Sense of humour and love of life. We are fortunate enough to have been welcomed into The King’s lives and love them like family. Shane loved his family, his friends, and his music. Generous to a fault and fearless. What I would give to hear that big outrageous laugh again while we get into some Shenanigans.
BR: In your own words, can you tell us what motivated Shane about cannabis?
BH: Shane just loved his community & believed very strongly in Cannabis as a medicine. Shane was my friend.
BR: The two of you were planning a festival in Mexico prior to his accident, can you tell us the state of that project?
BH: Yes, “Isla Got Soul” was a dream of Shane’s. His family had an amazing party every summer in Canada called, Burnt Up Fest, that was always a highlight of the year. Shane wanted to bring the same thing to Mexico “like a Burnt up South” he said to me one time. I have been fortunate enough to spend some time in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, hanging, playing some music and loving life thanks to the Kings. Shane’s introduced me to my new friend Penny, who is behind Isla Got Soul. Penny is a Canadian now in Mexico and she has one of the coolest bars on the island called, The Joint Reggae Bar & Grill. I have had the pleasure of being able to perform there for a few weeks this year and it was amazing. Anyways, Shane, Penny & I have been working on Isla Got Soul for about a year and it will be taking place this year on 420 (April 20th 2018) at 4:20 and runs until Sunday April 22. The festival features Roots, Rock & reggae music from international and local musicians on various stages around Isla Mujeres, and on a sunset Catamaran cruise. This festival meant a lot to Shane, so we have pushed forward with it and will be dedicating it to our friend. Shane loves music and celebration so there is no better way to show him our love then to make his vision come true. www.islagotsoul.com
BR: Your upcoming fundraiser has been sold out for weeks, but people can still donate to your cause through a go fund me, correct? Can you tell our readers what your raising money for and how they can get involved?
BH: “Music for The King” will be taking place at The Boston Manor in Burlington on May 6th. So many amazing bands have donated their time for the event. All the bands have performed for the King’s at Burnt up fest and have been embraced by their love and energy. It is all of our pleasure to be playing this show, and again, to celebrate a great friend, husband, father and activist the way he loved to do.
My Son The Hurricane, Mob Barley, The Killin’ Time Band, LO-FI, Kevin Foster, Dan Walsh, Peg & Willy, and Cory Zakk’s will all be performing. Plus, we have some amazing silent auction items that have been kindly donated. The show sold out almost the minute tickets were released, so many people want to support the family and repay the kindness the King’s have shown. I wish we could have sold another 1000 tickets. Every penny is going to Amber and Shane’s kids, so if anyone couldn’t get a ticket but still wants to help out, please visit the go fund me page https://ca.gofundme.com/dxbnb-help-the-king-family
Or please contact me of you can donate an item for the silent auction.
Long Live The king!
Locations of Ontario’s first four recreational cannabis stores announced
The Globe and mail – THE CANADIAN PRESS
The locations of Ontario’s first four provincially run cannabis stores have been announced.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Ontario Cannabis Store say the shops will be in Guelph, Kingston, Toronto and Thunder Bay.
The agencies say the locations comply with local zoning rules, minimize proximity to schools and factor in where illegal dispensaries are currently operating.
Ontario was the first province to announce a detailed plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana and will set the legal age to purchase it at 19.
Room to grow: Legalization means opportunities for pot companies big and small
Tori Floyd, Yahoo Finance Canada Thu, Mar 22 9:23 AM EDT
When recreational cannabis is legalized in Canada later this year, the country is going to be facing a “welcome problem.”
“We have a unique and welcome problem in this industry,” says Allan Rewak, Acting Executive Director of the Cannabis Canada Association. “We will not have enough cannabis to supply the industry post July.”
In Sept. 2017, Mackie Research Capital Corp. issued a report estimating that Canada would require approximately 795,000 kg of marijuana in order to meet demand in 2018, The Financial Post reports, but estimated the capacity of producers at the end of 2017 to be at about 100,000 kg.
“The amount of invested capacity today and that is expected to be built up for the foreseeable future, that will not catch up to demand for another two years,” says Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, an online platform that allows for medical marijuana users to share reviews about cannabis products, and educates consumers about their cannabis purchasing options.
“We’re expecting say until 2021, 2020, a healthy two years after July, during which demand will outstrip supply.”
Olaru says that while the apparent “arm’s race” for producers and retailers to lock down supply chains appears to favour big companies like Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis and Aphria Inc., the demand will benefit everyone.
“It’s evident that the larger players are being rewarded because they’re the most stable,” says Olaru. “The government is saying they want to secure the largest players because they want to be prepared for this scenario they know nothing about.”
“It’s important to understand that these [large producer agreements] are simply the beginning,” says Rewak.
Just like Canada’s $22.1 billion-alcohol industry, the recreational marijuana market is poised to be made up of larger producers that retailers can turn to for a stable supply of product, and smaller ones that will help cater to a niche, craft range of tastes and lifestyles. With the recreational marijuana market in Canada expected to be worth between $5 billion and $10 billion, there’s a wide array of business opportunities for companies who seek them.
In February, Ontario held a “supplier prep day” in Toronto, open to all 90 currently-licensed producers from across the country. The event, hosted by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and its marijuana subsidy the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., helped to show that there is space for companies of all sizes in Canada’s upcoming recreational marijuana market.
“The process for procuring cannabis supply for the OCRC will be open to all Canadian licensed producers,” LCBO spokesperson Nicole Laoutaris told The Financial Post. “The OCRC has not yet entered into any supplier agreements.”
While Ontario, as well as Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and Manitoba have opted for government-run liquor control board stores, other provinces including B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan will sell through private licensed retailers.
The diversity of approaches has meant that startups like Canwe Growers, an Ontario marijuana producer that is in the process of getting their production license, will be able to find retail space for their product. Operated by New Maple Holdings, Canwe applied for a license last July, received their security clearance this past January, and are now in the final stages of the review process.
Co-founder of New Maple Karim Nehme says that smaller companies will be able to stand out against the big players just like in the booze industry.
“If you look at beer, there’s something like 1,500 beer companies, all the larger players and all the craft brews,” says Nehme. “But they all came along, they did something different, and managed to grow.”
“We’re trying to focus on quality, no matter the size of the company,” adds New Maple CEO Tegan Adams. “To set ourselves apart, we’re focusing on the quality of the grow, and the quality of the team.”
New Maple and Canwe are currently in the process of developing their product lines, but part of their strategy will be focusing on lines targeting women, and products that would appeal to a broad female audience as well.
Hiku Brands is also focusing on a niche customer experience, targeting the sophisticated and refined cannabis consumers.
“I think the high quality experience will win,” says Allan Gertner, co-founder of Tokyo Smoke, which formed Hiku Brands alongside DOJA Cannabis in January. “I think ultimately consumers pick their products based on brands.”
The vertically-integrated Hiku produces its marijuana through DOJA in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, sells through its Tokyo Smoke stores (and holds one of four retail licenses in Manitoba through that brand), and operates the cannabis digest Van der Pop. Gertner says that offering tailored experiences to consumers is critical in these early days, as dedicated recreational brands and retail experiences begin to evolve.
“Consumers are still searching for information and education, so the in-store experience will be critical in helping teach consumers,” says Gertner.
Supplying the demand
While the dearth of cannabis growing capacity in Canada is good news for the companies trying to find their place in the market, it’s a source of worry for licensed producers who are trying to plan distribution for their limited supply.
“The anxiety is will we have enough capacity to meet demand, not whether we’ll be in the market,” says Mike Gorenstein, CEO President and Chairman of Cronos.
Cronos, which was founded in 2012 ahead of the 2013 medical marijuana legalization in Canada, also grows cannabis in the Okanagan Valley, and operates under several brands, including the medical marijuana brand Peace Naturals. Gorenstein says that his biggest concern is making sure the medical users are taken care of ahead of the recreational ones.
“If there’s a limited amount of building material when you’re building a new community, you should probably build a hospital before you build a bar,” says Gorenstein.
“What I’m very cognizant of is what happens if we overcommit to recreational and suddenly our medical patients don’t have access.”
Gorenstein stresses that the strains produced for the medical market won’t necessarily be the same ones produced for the recreational one, but there’s still a finite amount of space in which to grow plants, regardless of the intended use.
“Most of the announcements you’ve seen, these aren’t binding supply amounts, and they’re significantly lower than the anticipated demand,” says Gorenstein.
“There is a huge shortage, and the issue is getting the capacity.”
“There are a lot of well-funded producers that have been around since 2013, and they’re not producing that amount today,” he adds. “The idea we’re going to suddenly get to 100,000 kilos is a little farfetched.”
Even with supply issues looming large, producers across the country are eager to be involved in the burgeoning industry.
“This is our chance as a country to define an industry and a social movement that will take off around the world,” says Gertner.
“I’m excited about the chance to be part of that. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change people’s lives.”
Toronto judge rules drug law constitutional at time of Project Claudia pot raids
The judge was asked to consider whether the marijuana laws were valid in May 2016 when Toronto police conducted raids on pot dispensaries as part of Project Claudia.
The crackdown on city pot dispensaries in May 2016 was on solid constitutional ground, based on a Toronto judge’s decision released Friday.
The decision means the case of a compassion club owner charged with marijuana trafficking will be heading back to court this fall, when the drug will be legal across the country.
Justice Heather McArthur was asked to decide whether the laws were valid in May 2016 when Toronto police conducted raids as part of Project Claudia.
Lawyers representing Marek Stupak, one of more than 90 people charged, argued his charges should be dismissed because Sect. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the law under which he was charged, breached his charter rights because a valid program making medicinal pot readily available did not exist in 2016.
He was charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime.
The judge summarized numerous legal decisions relating to medical pot dating back to 2000, including a February 2016 court ruling that found the federal marijuana regime violated the charter and was therefore “of no force or effect.” However, the judge suspended the declaration of invalidity for six months. New medicinal pot regulations came into force on Aug. 24, 2016, before the suspension period expired.
The suspension had the effect of extending the life of Ottawa’s medicinal marijuana program, McArthur wrote. So, “individuals charged with marijuana offences during this time frame can be … prosecuted and convicted. That finding is sufficient to dispose of this application,” she said Friday reading from her eight-page ruling.
Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young, who argued the application with co-counsel Kendra Stanyon, said there is no avenue for appeal so the next stage will be for the court to hear whether the accused, and others, were legitimate medical providers and exempt from the law.
“I would much prefer not to use the administration of criminal justice for that purpose, but that’s probably where we’re headed,” Young said outside the courtroom.
A silver lining is that the ruling “gives us an opportunity to show Canada what some of these people were doing to help sick people in the absence of a government program that was working efficiently. Some of these people should be proud of what they’ve done, not criminalized.”
The strange times in which we live means the case is scheduled to return to court in October when marijuana will be legal.
“This whole thing can be seen as a supreme waste of time, I would have said the raids were a supreme waste of time,” Young said. “There’s a real disconnect between government policy and what’s actually happening in terms of enforcement of criminal law.”
Stupak, who operates Social Collective (So Co), said Friday while he’s disappointed by the decision he will continue his legal battle. He said he has been catering to the medical marijuana market for more than 20 years, selling pot to patients at an affordable price.
The Toronto Star Story – Click Here
Trudeau government avoids defeat on key pot bill vote
Senators voted 44 to 29, largely along partisan lines, to send bill to 5 committees for further study
By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Mar 22, 2018 4:24 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018 8:05 PM ET
The Liberal government avoided a disastrous result for its marquee marijuana bill Thursday, as the legislation to legalize recreational cannabis passed a key stage in the Senate. It’s now headed to five separate committees for further study.
Senators voted 44 to 29 to pass the bill, largely along partisan lines, at second reading. A defeat would have killed the bill, forcing the government to start over again in the House of Commons with new legislation, all the while jeopardizing plans for full legalization by summer.
All 28 Conservative senators present in the chamber voted against the bill. Virtually all Independent senators — most of them appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — sided with the government.
Independent P.E.I. Sen. Mike Duffy was the lone hold-out and voted with the Conservatives. And, in a rare move, Speaker George Furey, who usually refrains from voting, voted to move the bill to committee.
“I think it’s an important statement by the majority that this bill must advance,” Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, told reporters after the vote.
“This is a bill that is of high interest to the Senate. There are many issues to be dealt with, and it’s important that second reading passed tonight so the Senate could get on with its study, meeting with experts, and deciding if the bill can be improved in any fashion.”
Independent Ontario Sen. Tony Dean, the bill’s sponsor in the Red Chamber, said he’s happy the “exceptionally unusual” move by Conservative senators to block the bill failed.
“I’m happy that we have the decision I think Canadians expect of us. We’re here to do work, examine the legislation, hear from experts, provide our advice and judgment,” he said.
Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate, said his caucus stood against the bill on principle, adding it’s “not our job” to support government legislation. He said the Tories plan to move amendments to address some of their key concerns.
Some in government were worried about the prospect of a loss because two Senate committees are out of town this week, meaning some Independent and Liberal senators who support the bill were not scheduled to be present for the crucial vote.
But some senators flew back to Ottawa late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning so they could be on hand to back the bill and stave off an embarrassing defeat for the Liberal government.
Non-affiliated Alberta Sen. Grant Mitchell, the government’s liaison — who works as a whip without some of the same coercive powers normally afforded to a partisan caucus — and Independent Quebec Sen. Marc Gold, the liaison for the Independent Senators Group, were busy working the phones encouraging senators to show up in Ottawa Thursday.
“They are making a special effort to fly back here if they need to, so they can be here and vote according to how they believe the vote should go,” Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, the leader of the Independent Senators Group, told reporters earlier Thursday.
“As soon as we heard that there was a possibility of a blocked vote on the part of the Conservatives and that there was the possibility that they, the Conservatives, might run the risk of defeating a bill at second reading — which would be extraordinary — we wanted to communicate that with our members so they could make their own decision about coming back and be part of this historic decision.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had urged senators to pass the bill, saying illegal cannabis use — a $7 billion industry that funnels funds into the hands of organized crime, according to government figures — will continue unabated without the benefit of federal regulations.
“It does not protect our young people, and it sends billions per year to organized crime and street gangs. We need a new system,” he said. “That’s why we are pushing forward with legalization and control of marijuana and I’m confident that all Canadians, including the senators, will understand that.”
Harder, the Liberal government’s point-man in the Senate, said Thursday morning he simply wasn’t sure he had the votes to get the bill over the line today.
When asked after the vote if he was relieved the result went his way, Harder said, “I always breathe a sigh of relief when the Senate acts responsibly.”
Scathing reviews of cannabis bill
Conservative senators have delivered scathing condemnations of the legislation that will legalize the recreational use of cannabis in this country.
Tory senators say they worry the legislation will endanger youth, increase smoking rates, complicate the work of police officers, lead to a backlog of court cases for possession offences and do little to curb black market sales of the drug.
“It’s a piece of shit. It doesn’t protect people, it will not exclude organized crime from the production. So, most senators say this bill was written badly,” Conservative Quebec Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu told reporters Thursday ahead of the vote.
“We have to rewrite the bill. It will be a good exercise for us. Every article must be amended.”
Smith balked at Independent Quebec Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain’s claim that the Conservatives’ opposition is motivated strictly by partisanship.
“I think that is inappropriate. The issue is, it’s up to the government if it wants to progress its legislation. It has to get its members to come and vote,” he said. “They have to get their troops organized to make sure they get the vote they want.”
Conservative Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, the caucus whip, said government efforts to marshal Independent senators — and fly them back to Ottawa for a vote — prove that the ‘Independent’ label is a farce.
“Justin Trudeau’s biggest problem is his independently appointed senators have been told they’re independent for so long that now some of them are starting to believe that,” he said.
“Tell me how they are not whipped. Senators were out of the province and they were flown home today for the vote. That’s what I would call being whipped. You check the definition of what a whip does and that’s exactly what they do, and that’s exactly what they did.”
We should treat heroin like other prescription drugs
Every morning, Kevin Thompson takes a short stroll from his apartment to the Crosstown Clinic, where he signs in, gets his prescription medicine, then sits in a small room and injects it before heading off to work.
He follows this routine up to three times a day, and has done so virtually every day for more than a dozen years.
The medicine is diacetylmorphine, the medical term for prescription heroin.
“It saved my life. No question, it saved my life,” Mr. Thompson, 47, says emphatically.
Mr. Thompson has been a heavy user of street drugs such as cocaine and heroin since his early twenties. He was at college, studying hairdressing, when he was robbed and lost all his money, and ended up homeless. To get by, he started selling drugs, and soon became his own best customer.
“I’m not sure exactly how I got into drugs, but I sure did get into them,” Mr. Thompson says with a laugh.
He became addicted not only to drugs, but to the “hustle” – the high-octane, high-risk lifestyle of dealing, stealing, and shooting up over and over again.
In 2005, Mr. Thompson was recruited to participate in an academic study known as the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), which tried to determine if diacetylmorphine worked better than methadone. NAOMI morphed into SALOME (Study to Access Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness) and eventually into a special-access program run out of the Crosstown Clinic.
Along the way, the former Conservative government tried to shut down the initiative, resulting in lengthy court battles, but a small program remains.
Mr. Thompson is one of 91 people prescribed diacetylmorphine, while another 24 get hydromorphone, and a couple of dozen others have transitioned to oral drugs such as methadone, Suboxone and slow-release liquid morphine.
The philosophy behind the program is simple: It reduces harm – to drug users and to the community.
Heroin substitution is designed for intractable users who have failed repeatedly at rehab and other harm-reduction measures such as methadone.
Mr. Thompson, who was getting up to 400 milligrams of diacetylmorphine three times daily – “enough to kill a horse,” in his words – has never overdosed, nor has he had complications that are common with street drugs.
He also gave up the hustle, meaning he long ago stopped shoplifting, breaking into cars and other things he did to afford his next hit.
“I went to jail a lot, but I haven’t been to jail in eight years,” he says.
Nor does he make regular visits to the emergency room, which were common when he lived on the streets and suffered routinely from violence, infectious disease and other health problems that accompany addiction.
“I’ve got my own place. I’ve got a scooter. I’ve got a full-time job. I even have a five-year relationship,” Mr. Thompson says.
“If I was your neighbour, you wouldn’t know I was on dope.”
The “dope” he takes now is a prescription drug supplied by the state. It costs approximately $25,000 a year per person – $10,000 for the drug itself and $14,750 for the operation.
It’s expensive for Crosstown Clinic to operate because the rules are onerous. Diacetylmorphine is imported from Switzerland and prescribing, dispensing and storing it requires elaborate paperwork and tighter security than some banks. Prescription heroin users must come at specific times, receive a precise dose, inject in the supervised facility, and the unused product is destroyed.
That cost would be a fraction if we were more pragmatic and treated heroin like other prescription drugs and expanded the program, allowing economies of scale.
It is estimated that about 500 people in Vancouver alone could benefit from heroin-substitution.
The research that has been carried out over the years shows this harm-reduction approach saves money because long-time drug users such as Mr. Thompson previously used an average of $48,000 annually in health-care and criminal-justice services.
Those base economic calculations don’t take into account that people are kept alive and lead productive lives.
Mr. Thompson, for example, oversees an overdose-prevention site on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Working at the coal-face of the opioids crises, he has lost track of how many people he has had to revive with naloxone and how many friends he has lost because they used contaminated street drugs.
“I kind of feel guilty sometimes because I’m getting help and others aren’t. It makes me sick to know we could be saving lives and we’re not.”
The federal health minister says the government is working with a variety of organizations and levels of government to find solutions to the opioid crisis. Ginette Petitpas Taylor says Ottawa will boost treatment options for drug users.
America Is Giving Away the $30 Billion Medical Marijuana Industry
Why? Because the feds are bogarting the weed, while Israel and Canada are grabbing market share.
The NIDA license, Doblin says, is a “monopoly” on the supply and has starved legitimate research toward understanding cannabinoids, terpenes, and other constituents of marijuana that seem to quell pain, stimulate hunger, and perhaps even fight cancer. Twice in the late 1990s, Doblin provided funding, PR, and lobbying support for physicians who wanted to study marijuana—one sought a treatment for AIDS-related wasting syndrome, the other wanted to see if it helped migraines—and was so frustrated by the experience that he vowed to break the monopoly. That’s what led him to Craker.
In June 2001, Craker filed an application for a license to cultivate “research-grade” marijuana at UMass, with the goal of staging FDA-approved studies. Six months later he was told his application had been lost. He reapplied in 2002 and then, after an additional two years of no action, sued the DEA, backed by MAPS. By this point, both U.S. senators from Massachusetts had publicly supported his application, and a federal court of appeals ordered the DEA to respond, which it finally did, denying the application in 2004.
Then, in August 2016, during the final months of the Obama presidency, the DEA reversed course. It announced that, for the first time in a half-century, it would grant new licenses.
Doblin, who has seemingly endless supplies of optimism and enthusiasm, convinced the professor there was hope—again. So Craker submitted paperwork, again, along with 25 other groups. The university’s provost co-signed his application, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) wrote a letter to the DEA in support of his effort.
He’s still waiting to hear back. “I’m never gonna get the license,” Craker says.
Pessimism isn’t surprising from a man who’s been making a reasonable case for 17 years to no avail. Studies around the world have shown that marijuana has considerable promise as a medicine. Craker says he spoke late last year at a hospital in New Hampshire where certain cannabinoids were shown to facilitate healing in brain-damaged mice. “And I thought, ‘If cannabinoids could do that, let’s put them in medicines!’ ” He sighs. “We can’t do the research.”
Another sigh. “I’m naive about a lot about things,” he says. “But it seems to me that we should be looking at cannabis. I mean, if it’s going to kill people, let’s know that and get rid of it. If it’s going to help people, let’s know that and expand on it. … But there’s just something wrong with the DEA. I don’t know what else to say. … Somehow, marijuana’s got a bad name. And it’s tough to let go of.
Back in 1990, Ethan Russo was a practicing neurologist who’d grown frustrated with his pharmaceutical options. “It occurred to me I was giving increasingly toxic drugs to my patients with less and less benefit,” says Russo, now one of the world’s leading experts and advocates for research in marijuana medicine. “It caused me to go back to a childhood interest in medicinal plants and see if there were alternatives.”
In 1996, when California became the first state to allow the use of marijuana by prescription, Russo saw an opening. With the support of—who else—Doblin and MAPS, he wrote a protocol and prepared for what he hoped would be a formal clinical trial using cannabis to treat migraines. Obviously, he’d need to use NIDA-supplied marijuana. You can’t do research acceptable to the FDA with marijuana grown illegally, as is all marijuana not grown at Ole Miss.
NIDA twice rejected his applications to use its pot, but then the FDA assumed oversight of what it calls “investigational new drug” applications, and Russo got his approval. In the eyes of the FDA, his study was promising enough to warrant a clinical trial. “With any other drug, I would have been able to begin work on the trial the next day,” he says. But the use of cannabis, and only cannabis, required a second “public health service review,” according to a rule instituted in 1998 to, ostensibly, facilitate more research. In reality, it did the opposite. NIDA denied Russo access to its cannabis. “Despite the fact that the FDA had approved it,” he says.
Around the world, cannabis research was a growing field. Russo began to write and publish on the subject, and in 1998 he was recruited as a consultant by a British startup, GW Pharmaceuticals Plc, founded by two physicians who’d been granted a license to cultivate cannabis by the U.K. Home Office, which oversees, among other things, security and drug policy.
Doblin’s ultimate goal isn’t to compete with GW Pharmaceuticals. Should the NIDA monopoly ever end, he says, a number of companies will surely want to grow marijuana “to make extracts in nonsmoking delivery systems that can be patented”—that is, pharmaceuticals. This is a good thing, in his estimation. “But MAPS is focused on developing a low-cost generic plant in bud form,” he says. In other words, he wants specific varieties of marijuana, not derivatives thereof, to be FDA-approved.
Many people expect the Republican-controlled Congress to follow its recent tax overhaul by looking for ways to slash costs in Medicaid and Medicare. Legitimate research into the medicinal properties of marijuana could help. Studies show that opioid use drops significantly in states where marijuana has been legalized; this suggests people are consuming the plant for pain, something they could be doing more effectively if physicians and the FDA controlled chemical makeup and potency. A study published in July 2016 in Health Affairs showed that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative “fell significantly,” saving hundreds of millions of dollars among users of Medicare Part D.
“The marijuana plant in bud form, if we can get it available by the FDA, is going to be incredibly cheap,” Doblin says. His Israeli partners, Better by Cann Pharmaceuticals, can produce organic, high-potency trimmed marijuana for roughly 65¢ a gram, or $18 or so per ounce. “When you’re talking about kicking people off of health insurance and reducing Medicare and Medicaid costs, we better find a way to provide medical relief to people at a low cost,” he says.
Russo agrees. He now lives in Washington state consulting for several biotech startups working on cannabis projects. “Let’s face facts: This is a very technologically advanced nation with a great deal of talent. There is no way, shape, or form that the dangers of cannabis warrant this kind of control,” he says. “There are issues. There are side effects. Anyone who tells you differently is simply inaccurate. However, the kinds of problems related to cannabis administration are totally controllable. And it is a much safer drug than many, if not most, pharmaceuticals that are currently being approved.”
He’d just returned from an industry conference in Medellín, Colombia. “I think that there’s a greater chance of significant clinical cannabis research coming out of Colombia in the coming years than there is in the U.S.,” Russo says. “Why would people allow this loss of business in a situation where, clearly, Americans could be preeminent?”
Among those who’ve advised Craker is Tony Coulson, a former DEA agent who retired in 2010 and works as a consultant for companies developing drugs. Coulson was vehemently antimarijuana until his son, a combat soldier, came home from the Middle East with post-traumatic stress disorder and needed help. “For years I was of the belief that the science doesn’t say that this is medicine,” he says. “But when you get into this curious history, you find the science doesn’t show it primarily because we’re standing in the way. The NIDA monopoly prevents anyone from getting into further studies.”
Coulson blames the Obama administration for not acting sooner, creating a situation in which the decision on granting new growing licenses was passed down to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has publicly declared his belief in the dangers of marijuana. The NIDA monopoly is now his to change. “Sessions has a 1930s Reefer Madness view of the marijuana world,” Coulson says. “It’s not realistic, and it’s not what rank-and-file DEA really are concerned about. DEA folks have moved beyond this.”
“I guess I take a nationalist approach here,” says Rick Kimball, a former investment banker who’s raising money for a marijuana-related private equity fund and is a trustee for marijuana policy at the Brookings Institution. “We have a huge opportunity in the U.S.,” he says, “and we ought to get our act together. I’m worried that we’re ceding this whole market to the Israelis.”
Which doesn’t mean there’s no intellectual property left to grab. Research into the chemical makeup of marijuana is still new, but there are at least 160 cannabinoids and as many as 500 terpenes and flavonoids in the plant, all of which can be separated out, mixed, and matched. CBN is thought to aid sleep. CBG may have anticancer potential. One Israeli researcher has synthesized 22 different versions of THC to treat specific neurological conditions. “There’s reason to believe there’s a cornucopia of medicines in there,” Kimball says—medicines that, in theory, are patentable.
At foreign labs, and even at state-licensed operations in Colorado and Washington, plant scientists are growing genetically modified varieties that optimize for certain properties. The majority of their work is focused on increasing potency for recreational use—getting people high—but these companies are learning how to cultivate and engineer plants using increasingly sophisticated methods.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Marijuana Project at Ole Miss, is growing limited varieties, outdoors, while trying to keep undergrads from breaching his security. (At one point, students were caught using fly rods to cast over the fence and steal buds.) It took ElSohly three years to get DEA permission to grow a strain high in CBD, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid thought to have many healthful properties. The key ingredient in GW Pharmaceutical’s epilepsy drug, it may have promise as an anti-inflammatory and antipsychotic.
“I am the most restricted person in this country when it comes to production of cannabis and different varieties,” ElSohly says. “In Colorado and Washington or any other state where people don’t have to get any approval from anybody, they just do it. They have the freedom to experiment. I don’t have that freedom. My hands are tied. It’s ridiculous.”
It appears that none of the 25 applications to grow marijuana for purposes of medical research have gone anywhere. (The DEA won’t comment on this or release the names of the applicants.) Craker has yet to get a single call or email about his methods or motivations. No agent has come to inspect his facility or ask questions about security.
He marvels at the power of bureaucratic inertia: “The federal government can be so stubborn. To me they’ve closed their minds.” Craker can’t grow marijuana, but he does lecture about it in his plant medicine classes. “I go through the scenario of what we’ve tried to do,” he says. Ultimately, he says, some of those students may have to do the work he’s been wanting to do for 20 years. “My generation has passed, and we haven’t made it. But it’s going to happen. I just can’t believe it’s going to be forever.”
Senate deal on cannabis bill timeline means no sales before August
Leaders in the Senate have reached a deal on a timeline for the legalization of cannabis — a schedule that pushes the start of retail sales past July 1, the date that has been floated in the past as the government’s target.
Peter Harder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s point-man in the Senate, and Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the upper house, have agreed on a path forward for Bill C-45, CBC News has confirmed.
While Harder had wanted a vote at third reading in May — the last legislative stage before a bill receives royal assent — that vote will now be held on or before June 7.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told members of the Red Chamber last week that it will take 8 to 12 weeks to get the retail system up and running after the legislation receives royal assent. That means Canadians probably can’t expect to buy legal weed before early August.
“There’s no exact date but, if you do the math, you’ll see it won’t be July 2018,” Petitpas Taylor told reporters Thursday. “Cannabis legalization is not about a date, it’s about a process … We want this process done as seamlessly as possible.”
Tories are ‘quite pleased’ with new timeline
The delayed timeline is a victory for Conservatives, who have demanded more time to study the implications of legalizing a drug that has been outlawed for more than 100 years. A senior Conservative source, speaking on background to CBC News, said they were “quite pleased” they secured more time from the government through these negotiations.
“The table has been set for what we’ve asked for all along — a thorough examination of the bill,” the source said. “There’s lots in the legislation that is of concern to us.”
The Conservative source said a “handful” of amendments to the bill are expected in the intervening months.
“It’s not a matter of what’s being done. It’s a matter of how it’s being done.”
- Tory senators not inclined to rush debate on bill to legalize cannabis
- Research lacking on medical marijuana, new prescription guideline suggests
Conservative senators are worried the legislation will endanger youth, increase smoking rates, complicate the work of police officers, lead to a backlog of court cases for possession offences and do little to curb black market sales of the drug.
Defenders of the bill — including its sponsor in the Senate, Independent Ontario Sen. Tony Dean — say the government does not have the luxury of time. They say illegal cannabis use — a $7 billion industry that funnels funds into the hands of organized crime, according to government figures — will continue unabated without the benefit of federal regulations.
This week, Harder floated the idea of invoking time allocation to shut down debate and force a vote if Conservatives stalled the bill’s passage beyond a reasonable date. That option is off the table now that all sides have agreed to this timeline.
“This should give stakeholders, governments, businesses, law enforcement agencies and other Canadians a timeline for how and when the bill will be ultimately dealt with by the Upper Chamber,” Harder said in a statement Thursday.
The legislation will be sent to five different Senate committees for further study — an unusual move.
The Red Chamber’s social affairs committee will take the lead and review the legalization framework in its entirety, while the Aboriginal peoples committee will look at how the bill affects Indigenous peoples. The legal and constitutional affairs committee will focus on criminal measures; much of the bill deals with changes to the Criminal Code.
The Senate agreed Thursday to send parts of the bill to the national security and defence committee to review the bill’s implications for the country’s police, and to the foreign affairs committee to review how the bill will affect Canada’s international obligations, including changes required at the border after cannabis becomes legal.
A Gram a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.
73.7% of people successfully replace or reduce intake of pharmaceuticals with medical marijuana
In a recent report by Doctor Francis D’Ambrosio, medical marijuana patients most successfully replaced medication with marijuana for a variety of different conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Medical marijuana is utilized by a wide variety of patients, and 40 different conditions were named. With prescription opioid abuse costing US citizens an estimated $78.5 billion per year, could medical marijuana be the answer not only for patients’ health but for the economy?
The report surveys patients from the Francis D’Ambrosio medical practice, where we find out more about what conditions patients use cannabis for, their preferred ingestion methods, the feeling they seek when using cannabis, and if they have used cannabis to replace or reduce their intake of any other prescription medications. In total 4,276 people were surveyed who live in and around California.
You can read the full report here.The key findings from the report are summarized below.
- Cannabis is most often used to replace/act as an adjunct to opioids and antidepressants.
- Men and women use cannabis in almost equal amounts – 53.7% vs. 46.3%
- For those who answered the question, women tended to prefer using CBD-heavy products & strains and edibles.
- Most people get their cannabis from a dispensary
- Delivery was the next most common access point for cannabis,
- followed by “Friend”. Home growing is not common.
- Blue Dream and OG Kush were definitely the most popular strains.
- Girl Scout Cookies, Grand Daddy Purple (GDP), Gorilla Glue #4, Jack Herer and Sour Diesel were also very popular.
- Most medical marijuana users tend to be in their 30s. For CBD, however, the median and mean age is 41.8 and 44.0 years-old respectively.
- Most patients use less than 3 grams a day.
- Most patients use cannabis daily.
- Smoking cannabis was by far the preferred method of ingestion – 41.7% chose this method. Edibles and vaping were the next most common, with 28.0% and 27.9% of users preferring this method
- Many people appear to use cannabis in order to relieve pain and anxiety, as well as to relax and get to sleep.
- Indicas are used more frequently across the board and are used to relieve pain, anxiety, depression, relax the muscles and so on.
About Doctor Frank:
Dr Frank D’Ambrosio is one of the US’ leading voices for medicinal cannabis policy reform. Through his medical practice, he aims to empower and educate people on the benefits of the substance for countless ailments.
Five years ago, Dr Frank became fascinated with the science of cannabis and it’s success in relieving medical conditions such as depression and head trauma. He began to explore the possibilities of marijuana as medicine. After 30 years of treating and operating on patients, many of whom would never find relief from their chronic pain, Dr Frank decided to dedicate his practice to helping patients through medical cannabis. His practice now counsels patients all over the country, daily, on the use of marijuana to manage pain.
Dr Frank has been featured in The Independent, LA Weekly, Civilized Magazine and Cannabis Culture amongst other media titles.
Stay connected at:
Doctor Francis D’Ambrosio said “Cannabis/marijuana is one of the most misunderstood and underutilized medications. Even though cannabis has been used for over 15,000 years by a wide variety of different cultures it’s not been given its due in the world of medicine.”
Granny Storm Crow Lists Updated
Updated Lists Go here – Granny Storm Crow Lists
Legalization will be delayed … August?
Read more go to – IN THE NEWS
House passes pot legalization bill — but Senate could be a ‘wild card’
Medical marijuana has NO public health risks and should not be withheld from patients, WHO declares after months of deliberation
- The WHO has declared medical marijuana is beneficial for cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases
- The organization found the drug is not addictive and holds no public health risks
The World Health Organization has declared that CBD – the relaxant property of cannabis used in medical marijuana – should not be a scheduled drug.
As legalization of cannabis has spread rapidly across the United States and around the world, health officials have cautioned that we do not have enough research to rule out any down sides.
But today, after months of deliberation and investigation, the WHO has concluded that cannabidiol (CBD) is a useful treatment for epilepsy and palliative care, and does not carry any addiction risks.
While the organization is set to run a fuller review of cannabis next year, assessing all cannabis-related substances, physicians and the cannabis industry have been poised awaiting this decision to deny scheduling for months.
Had the WHO chosen to schedule the drug, it could have hamstrung physicians from prescribing medical marijuana globally.
The report, published today, also recommended imposing the strong restrictions available on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which has killed thousands of people in America’s drug addiction epidemic.
‘There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care,’ the report said.
‘Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components.’
In conclusion, the authors wrote: ‘Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.’
They added that ‘current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol’, and declared that taking medical marijuana will not lead to addiction to THC, the psychoactive property of cannabis that induces a ‘high’.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, Raul Elizalde, the Mexican father who became an unlikely face for cannabis as he fought to get his epileptic daughter treatment, said he was overcome with emotion.
He is responsible for driving the Mexican government to legalize medical marijuana so his first-born daughter Grace, who once suffered hundreds of seizures a day, could access CBD. Now, she suffers a few seizures a day.
‘I’m ecstatic that these international health leaders agree that CBD is a substance that should not be scheduled and has therapeutic value for a variety of medical conditions,’ Elizalde, founder and president of HempMeds Mexico, told Daily Mail Online on Wednesday.
‘We look forward to continuing our conversation about its many benefits in 2018.’
Speaking last month about his family’s experience venturing into the world of medical marijuana, Elizalde admitted he had never considered the medical benefits of a drug which has caused mayhem and agony in his country.
But after medications and surgeries proved futile for Grace, he and his wife, from Monterrey, a conservative and traditional region in the north of Mexico, decided to try CBS.
‘It has changed our life,’ Elizalde told Daily Mail Online.
‘I never thought I would be doing this, that cannabis would be part of our life. But Grace changed everything. Now I know that just taking CBD is like taking a health supplement. It is not a replacement for her treatment, but it has changed her life.’
Story from Daily Mail UK Click here – Daily Mail UK
Cannabis could prevent mental decline in up to 50% of HIV sufferers, study finds
- Marijuana reduces the inflammatory white blood cell count in HIV patients
- Up to 50% of patients are at risk of mental decline due to ongoing inflammation
- The drug makes sufferers have inflammatory cell levels close to a healthy person
- More than 1.1 million people in the US have HIV but one in seven are unaware of it
- Some 29 states legalize marijuana for medical use and seven recreationally
Cannabis could prevent mental decline in up to 50 percent of HIV sufferers, new research reveals.
Patients who use marijuana have fewer inflammatory white blood cells, which are involved in the immune system, a study found.
This could save infected people from mental decline, which affects up to 50 percent of sufferers due to ongoing inflammation in the brain as a result of the immune system constantly fighting the virus.
Lead author Professor Norbert Kaminski from Michigan State University, said: ‘Those who used marijuana had [inflammatory cell] levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV.
Study author Mike Rizzo added: ‘This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer.’
More than 1.1 million people are infected with HIV in the US, of which one in seven are unaware they carry the virus.
Some 29 states in the US have legalized marijuana for medical use, of which seven also allow the drug to be taken recreationally.
How the research was carried out
The researchers analyzed blood samples from 40 HIV patients, some of which were cannabis users.
They isolated inflammatory white blood cells, which are involved in the immune system, from the blood samples.
The researchers then assessed the effect of a chemical in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives the drug its hallucinogenic effect, on the aforementioned cells.
‘Those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person’
Results reveal HIV patients who use cannabis have fewer inflammatory white blood cells, which could slow the mental decline that affects up to 50 percent of patients.
Professor Kaminski said: ‘The patients who didn’t smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use.
‘In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV.
Mr Rizzo added: ‘This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer.’
The researchers believe their findings could also help to treat other conditions related to inflammation in the brain such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The findings were published in the journal AIDS.
Liberals reach deal with the provinces on sharing pot tax revenue, with price pegged at about $10 a gram
Agreement gives provinces 75% of tax revenues from legal cannabis sales, caps federal share at $100M
By Kathleen Harris, David Cochrane, CBC News
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has worked out a deal on sharing pot tax revenues, and says marijuana will be competitively priced at about $10 a gram to shut down the black market.
An agreement announced Monday gives the provinces and territories 75 cents of every dollar collected in excise tax levied on cannabis for the first two years. That’s a significant increase from the 50-50 split the federal government had proposed last month.
Liberals reach deal with provinces on sharing pot tax revenue
Under the deal reached during a meeting in Ottawa with Morneau and his provincial and territorial counterparts, the federal portion of tax revenues will be capped at $100 million a year. That figure is based on a projected $400 million a year in total tax revenue, with any dollars collected above and beyond that shared by the provinces.
“After two years, it’s time to rethink the approach to make sure we’re getting it right,” Morneau said.
Finance ministers agreed on a plan to keep the price low to drive out the illegal black market and move to a legal, regulated one. With one dollar, or 10 per cent taxation per gram, the expectation is that legal marijuana will be priced at about $10 a gram with all taxes included.
- How the provinces are planning for pot legalization
- Legal pot could see justice costs climb, not drop, Notley says
Startup costs for implementing the regulated regime will be shared by all levels of government for public health and safety, and Morneau projects that the federal government will spend at least $700 million a year to try to get the legal program off to a strong start.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said there is already a large demand for illicit cannabis, and he expects the legal market will grow “substantively” after the first few years. But the primary focus right now is not on generating revenue, but on recovering costs for the required upfront investments to set up distribution networks and public health and safety measures.
“We want to take the appropriate measures now to combat the illicit market, get it out of the system, then go forward to see how we can deal with revenue,” he said.
Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitão said his province will likely take in about $60 million in tax revenue annually, but that will not cover the expected costs of implementing the program.
‘Getting the balance right’
Heading into the meeting with Morneau in Ottawa, provincial ministers had insisted on a greater portion of tax revenues because the provinces and municipalities will shoulder the majority of costs for police enforcement, health care and education programs once marijuana becomes legal in July.
Asked about the deal this afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated that the objective is to restrict access to young people and to remove profits from criminals.
“That means getting the balance right in terms of both pricing and the ability to properly monitor it in our communities,” he said.
Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said the provinces are assuming the bulk of costs, risks and responsibilities, from roadside testing and police training to dealing with mental health issues.
“We’ve never seen this through the lens of revenue generation. For Manitoba, the focus has always been on safety,” he said. “This is a federal policy on a federal time line.”
‘A lot of work ahead before July 1, but this formula is a good start’
Morneau said the finance ministers also made strides in other areas, including a commitment to ensuring authorities know who owns which corporations in Canada and to harmonize corporate record requirements between jurisdictions, and to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan for parents who lose income due to the birth or adoption of a child, and those with disabilities or spouses who are widowed at a young age.
CBC Full Story Click Here – $10 a Gram
Canada Just Passed The Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Canada made history last night after passing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, which puts Canada on track to become the first G7 country to repeal cannabis prohibition. The bill — which was introduced last April by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government — passed by more than a two-to-one margin as 200 members of parliament voted in favor of the legislation while only 82 opposed it.
Supporters included Trudeau’s Liberals as well as the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party.
Canadians won’t be able to celebrate by lighting up just yet though. The bill won’t come into law until the Senate has signed off on it. And if you’re getting impatient with the process, you’re not the only one. Prime Minister Trudeau’s point-man on pot has told the upper chamber not to drag their feet on the legislation.
“The Senate will bring its sober reflection to this bill and I think it’s really important to help us get this right,” Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair told CTV earlier this month. “But we also expect to work as diligently as everyone else in the country has and in recognition that delay is unacceptable.”
That’s because the status quo is bad for public health, Blair explained. While campaigning for legalization during the 2015 election, Trudeau repeatedly stressed that prohibition had failed to eliminate the black market for marijuana and to keep cannabis away from kids. The prime minister echoed those remarks again yesterday after the bill was passed.
We’re one step closer to legalizing & regulating marijuana. #BillC45 means less money for organized crime and harder access for our kids. Tonight, it passed third reading in the House and it’s now headed to the Senate.
His government hopes to accomplish both of those goals through legalization, which will take effect by July 2018 if the Senate is onboard.
The Cannabis Act
In its current form, Bill C-45 (‘The Cannabis Act’) would repeal prohibition for adults, setting the minimum age to buy marijuana at 18, but each province and territory will get the final say over the legal age in their jurisdiction. The bill allows individuals to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana at a time. And they can grow up to four plants in their dwelling (as long as the province okays home growing).
The provinces and territories will also determine where and how dried marijuana and cannabis oil is sold in their jurisdictions. Selling cannabis edibles like brownies and cookies isn’t part of the current bill, but it is expected to be brought into the legalization framework within a year of repealing prohibition. Each region will also get to decide their own tax scheme, although the federal government plans to impose an excise tax of $1 per gram of cannabis on sales up to $10, and a 10 percent tax on sales over $10.
Bill C-45 also contains numerous penalties aimed at eliminating the black market for marijuana. Selling marijuana without a license, exceeding the possession limits, advertising cannabis and buying illicit cannabis products are all violations of the law that come with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. And any crime involving a minor is subject to some of the harshest punishment. Adults caught selling marijuana to minors face a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
For more on the bill, click here.
Bill C-45 makes Canada the second country to legalize recreational marijuana (after Uruguay). Although the law isn’t expected to go into effect until July 2018, most provinces have already released draft regulations for what their regulations and retail markets will look like. Here’s a breakdown from coast to coast.
British Columbia: B.C. hasn’t announced its regulations yet, but it’s expected that they adopt a hybrid model that allows private cannabis retailers to operate alongside a crown corporation, which is the same way the province handles alcohol sales.
Alberta: Alberta plans to sell recreational marijuana at privately operated stores that will be overseen by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. The province will control online sales through a government website. The legal age will be set at 18 — the minimum age for purchasing alcohol in the province.
Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan is expected to release their regulations sometime during the winter of 2018.
Manitoba: Manitoba will also sell recreational marijuana at privately owned stores overseen by the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp. The province hasn’t decided on a legal age yet.
Ontario: Canada’s most populated province plans to open 40, provincially-operated cannabis stores next year, which will grow to 150 crown outlets by 2020. They have no plans to allow private retailers. The legal age will be set at 19, which is the same minimum to buy alcohol in Ontario.
Quebec: Le belle province plans to sell recreational marijuana at the Société Québécoise de Cannabis (SQC), a provincially-owned corporation that will be overseen by Quebec’s liquor control board (the SAQ). The legal age will be set at 18, which is the same minimum to buy alcohol in the province. And unlike other regions, Quebec plans to prohibit home cultivation.
New Brunswick: New Brunswick plans to sell recreational marijuana in provincially owned retailers overseen by NB Liquor. The legal age will be set at 19, which is the same minimum to buy alcohol in New Brunswick. The province will allow residents to grow marijuana at home, but the government’s proposed bill would require them to keep their plants and the rest of their stash locked up in a container or a room — much like with firearms.
Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia plans to release their regulations by the end of 2017.
Prince Edward Island: PEI plans to review input from the public and local stakeholders while developing regulations over the winter of 2018.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Canada’s easternmost province plans to license private retailers that will be regulated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). People living in remote regions of the province will also be able to purchase recreational marijuana online or at select NLC locations. The legal age will be 19, which is the same minimum to buy alcohol.
Yukon: The Yukon plans to have at least one, provincially run cannabis store open for business by July 1, 2018. But most Yukoners will likely have to order their cannabis online. The territory’s government plans to oversee the importation, warehousing and transportation of marijuana, but they are considering allowing private retailers to distribute it alongside a crown corporation. The legal age will be set at 19, which is the same minimum age to purchase alcohol.
Northwest Territories: The Northwest Territories plans to let individual communities decide whether to uphold or repeal marijuana prohibition through public plebiscites, which are also used to determine whether or not to allow alcohol in their jurisdictions. Retail sales will be handled by the NWT Liquor Commission, which will stock marijuana alongside liquor at outlets while offering an online mail-order service for remote regions. The legal age will be 19, which is the same minimum for purchasing alcohol in the territory.
Kirk Tousaw’s statement on Ontario’s cannabis monopoly scheme
by Sep 22, 2017on
As you know, the Ontario government recently released its plans for retail cannabis distribution in the province. In effect, that plan sets up a government monopoly on all retail sales. Ontario intends to open 150 cannabis stores throughout the province and to implement an in-province mail order system separate and apart from the existing LP direct-to-consumer mail order system that is currently in place.
The choice of a government monopoly largely though not completely (alcohol can and is sold by private stores in the province) mirrors Ontario’s approach to alcohol. It is also decidedly unlike virtually all other jurisdictions that has legalized cannabis for adult recreational consumption.
In addition, the Ontario government threatened to crack down on those operating outside its monopolistic system. It is unclear whether this crackdown will come by way of law-enforcement utilizing the CDSA or the criminal law power retained in the upcoming Cannabis Act to raid, arrest, and prosecute those operating, for example, private cannabis dispensaries.
Another tool at the Province’s disposal is the use of the civil courts, and the city of Toronto and Hamilton are already attempting to use the court system to shut down dispensaries. Tousaw Law Corporation is actively defending cases in both jurisdictions on Charter grounds as well as arguing that doing so is outside the jurisdiction of the municipal governments. We have had one success and were able, in Hamilton, to rebuff the city government’s attempt to obtain an interlocutory injunction (an injunction granted prior to the end of a trial) against a medical cannabis dispensary.
I believe that Ontario’s plan is misguided and doomed to fail for a variety of reasons. This memorandum attempts to illustrate some of the problems with a monopoly approach in the context of an existing and vibrant cannabis industry coupled with existing lawful supply chains by licensed producers who sell currently via mail order direct to medical consumers in Ontario.
First, it is decidedly unlikely that there will be sufficient supply in the lawful production system to meet consumer demand when legalization is implemented. Even if every licensed producer in the country, including those licensed between now and July 1, 2018, were to devote its entire production capacity to servicing only the government of Ontario, there would still be insufficient amounts of cannabis on the shelves. Several of the larger licensed producers have already indicated that they will prioritize their existing medical consumers over the recreational market. Two of the largest (Canopy Growth and Organigram) have signed Memorandums of Understanding promising to supply New Brunswick with cannabis post-legalization. This dramatically limits the possible supply available to Ontario residents.
Related to these chronic supply shortages is a simple economic reality. It is clear that Ontario seeks to cash in on the upcoming recreational cannabis market. This is likely because Ontario has one of the largest sub-sovereign government debts in the entire world. Putting aside questions about how that debt was accrued and whether the Ontario government is even capable of running a recreational cannabis industry profitably, if it does seek to increase its revenue, it will of necessity use its purchasing power to attempt to obtain cannabis at significantly lower prices than retail. It will then tax and markup that product before sale to the consumer.
There appears to be no real financial incentive for existing licensed producers to sell cannabis to the Ontario government at wholesale pricing when they currently have enough customers in the medical side to sell every gram produced at a retail price point. Furthermore, the federal government has signaled that in provinces that do not implement their own retail distribution systems, the licensed producers will be permitted to sell direct-to-consumer via mail order as they have been doing for medical patients. Again, there appears to be little economic incentive for licensed producers to sell at wholesale pricing to the Ontario government when they are at capacity meeting the demand at retail pricing to their mail order clientele.
Another significant issue is the potential that residents of Ontario will be faced with higher price points for the purchase of cannabis in Ontario’s monopoly stores than they would if they were medical patients obtaining from licensed producers directly. This could lead to a situation, such as that alleged to be occurring in California and elsewhere, in which there is widespread participation in the medical system by persons who are not necessarily consuming cannabis for medical purposes. If insurance begins to cover medical cannabis this problem will be exacerbated. An individual consumer able to find a supportive physician might be able to access cannabis at significantly reduced cost via mail order instead of purchasing from Ontario’s stores.
Another significant problem with the Ontario model is it simply does not contemplate enough stores. At the height of the dispensary boom in Toronto there were in excess of 100 dispensaries operating and they had lines out the door. That was just one city. Granted, the largest city in Canada, but that demand is not going to decrease after legalization. If anything, it will increase. The idea that 150 stores are sufficient in a province as vast and populous as Ontario is absolutely ludicrous. By comparison, there are 650 LCBO operated alcohol stores in the province of Ontario.
Ontario may respond to the criticism of not enough physical storefronts by pointing to its mail order system. However, there are currently dozens if not a hundred or more online dispensaries operating in Canada. There are 50 licensed producers selling via mail order direct-to-consumer today. With this range of choices available to the consumer, there appears to be no reason why any consumer would purchase from the Ontario mail order system, particularly when that system is likely to be charging the highest prices.
Of course, because the Cannabis Act currently does not include edibles or other derivative cannabis products, the Ontario system will also not include those products. While this is a flaw of the federal government’s program, the ripple effect will undoubtedly impact Ontario’s intended market. Again, with so many other options available to consumers, it is fundamentally unclear why anyone would prefer to purchase at a CCBO with a limited range of products at higher prices than what one can obtain in the gray or black market.
Furthermore, because the province plans to ban advertising and require plain packaging, the consumer will not be exposed to the range of products available from the government stores. The purchasing experience will be boring. Product knowledge will be limited and any CCBO employees with cannabis sales experience will need to disclose participating in the unlawful industry, because that is currently the only way to obtain storefront cannabis sales experience. The cannabis industry is vibrant, colorful and exciting now. Ontario’s plan to make it boring and generic can only backfire as consumers seek out interesting and fun experiences rather than plain packaging and industrial stores.
In terms of enforcing its monopoly, given the massive failure of repeated police raids and special project files in the city of Toronto to put an end to the illegal dispensary industry there (and similar failures elsewhere), it is significantly unlikely that anything that occurs post-Cannabis Act will eliminate that existing consumer pathway. To enforce its monopoly, then, the province will need to engage in police state tactics that are incredibly draconian and destroy lives and infringe the liberty of the citizens of the province.
Any dispensaries which continue to exist in Ontario once the Wynne government’s plan comes into force will likely only have a viable defense to CDSA or Cannabis Act criminal charges on medical and compassionate grounds. At present and after the Ontario plan comes into force there is still a powerful argument to be made on behalf of storefront medical cannabis dispensaries. If the ACMPRs are ruled unconstitutional insofar as they have failed to implement Justice Phelan’s (of the Allard case) vision of ‘reasonable access’ then it may be possible to force government to license and regulate private storefront medical cannabis dispensaries. To be able to best make out medical cannabis arguments if necessary to do so, dispensaries should take steps to have policies in place to demonstrate restriction of clientele to medical consumers. One way to do so is, for example, to improve compliance with the medical cannabis guidelines set forth by the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, though that is not the only method.
The Ontario plan has drawn significant criticism from pundits, industry leaders, some Ontario municipal leaders and Ontario’s other political parties. Ontario is conducting provincial elections on or before June 7, 2018. I urge interested persons, particularly those operating dispensaries in the province, to increase political advocacy and organizing efforts. Encourage your clientele to become or increase their political participation.
Critical to this effort are (a) joining local riding associations; (b) voter registration drives; (c) attending all-candidates meetings; (d) voter turnout efforts on election day.
In addition to political advocacy, Tousaw Law Corporation, spearheaded by our Ontario primary counsel Jack Lloyd, will be exploring all possible legal avenues. We have filed intervention pleadings in a case called R v Comeau, currently pending in the Supreme Court of Canada. That case involves a challenge to interprovincial trade barriers in the alcohol industry and is the first major challenge to these trade barriers in almost 100 years. While the effect of Comeau may not directly impact Ontario’s plan, if neighboring provinces enact working recreational retail systems, Ontario may feel market pressure to liberalize its current approach. Other legal challenges may exist, and we are exploring various options should it become necessary to litigate these issues in the criminal or civil courts of Ontario.
Mysterious symptoms and medical marijuana: Patients are looking for answers
Globe and Mail – August 19th, 2017 – Grant Robertson
Scott Wood had been losing weight for weeks, and it was starting to scare him. His skin developed strange blistering rashes, his muscles ached constantly, and his lungs burned. He couldn’t stop coughing, and he was spitting up gobs of thick, clear mucous that looked like Vaseline.
But the worst day came in October when Mr. Wood, 53, a family man and military veteran, collapsed at the grocery store. “I walked about five feet, and I couldn’t get a breath,” he said. “I was down on my hands and knees in the parking lot.”
He ended up in the emergency room that week – the first of seven trips to the ER over a span of six months – but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It was only later that he began to suspect what was really going on.
Mr. Wood, a former military police officer, had been consuming medical marijuana that, unbeknownst to him, was contaminated with several dangerous pesticides banned by Health Canada.
A doctor had prescribed the marijuana from a federally regulated drug company in September to treat a serious back injury Mr. Wood suffered while serving. At first, it was a godsend, allowing him to stop taking opioid painkillers and get on with his life.
Then, suddenly, in a matter of weeks, “my health went sideways,” he said.
He stopped taking the marijuana soon after the mysterious symptoms began. It wasn’t for another few months that the company supplying his prescription, Organigram Inc., revealed a problem: nearly all of its products from the previous year were unfit for consumption, and were being recalled due to chemical contamination.
The company, one of about 50 federally licensed medical marijuana producers in Canada, had been caught selling products tainted with two banned pesticides: myclobutanil, a chemical used to kill mildew, and bifenazate, an insecticide prohibited for use on certain types of plants, including cannabis.
The recall has impacted thousands of people, and raised questions about oversight and quality control inside Canada’s new federally regulated medical marijuana sector – particularly as the government prepares to legalize the drug for recreational use next year, creating a multibillion-dollar industry. It is one of the most sweeping new policy decisions the federal government has undertaken in years, ending nearly a century of prohibition on cannabis.
In a bid to minimize concerns about the recall, Organigram told its customers there was nothing to be concerned with: the risk of adverse health consequences, it said, was “remote.” The company, which grows the product at an indoor facility in Moncton, N.B., said it had no idea how banned pesticides got into its products.
But to Mr. Wood and others who had become seriously ill, something was wrong.
“When I heard that response, I thought, ‘Come on – you have almost a year’s worth of marijuana, and you don’t know?’ As a former police officer and investigator, when you give an answer like that, it doesn’t sound very credible. Especially when you’re in a business that is dealing with people’s health,” Mr. Wood said.
“Basically, my thoughts were, okay, let’s see if that’s true or not.”
So Mr. Wood gathered his remaining prescriptions, and those of a military colleague whose health had also taken a turn for the worse. Instead of returning them in the recall, he reached out to The Globe and Mail, which arranged for the prescriptions to be tested at a federally licensed laboratory that is among the most experienced facilities in the country at screening for pesticides.
The results of the tests shocked him. Mr. Wood’s prescriptions not only contained the two banned pesticides that triggered Organigram’s original recall eight months ago, the samples also contained three additional pesticides that are outlawed by Health Canada for safety reasons.
In addition to the myclobutanil and bifenazate that were previously known, Mr. Wood’s samples contained significant amounts of imazalil, tebuconazole, and a carbamate pesticide.
Imazalil is used to eradicate root rot, and is not to be inhaled. Tebuconazole attacks fungi outbreaks, but can damage the endocrine system in humans. Carbamate pesticides kill bugs by targeting and disrupting their nervous systems.
But the number of banned pesticides found in the product wasn’t the only problem.
In one of Mr. Wood’s samples, the level of bifenezate detected was nearly double the amount Organigram claimed was present in the recall – back when the company told patients there was nothing to worry about.
The results have called into question the inner workings of Canada’s booming marijuana sector since Health Canada began doling out highly coveted production licences four years ago, while reassuring consumers that companies in the lucrative new industry would not be allowed to put profits ahead of safety.
The tests have also ignited a bitter war of words between Mr. Wood and the company, which disputes his findings.
Organigram sent product samples from its own archives to be screened at a lab of its choosing, and said those tests showed no signs of any additional pesticides.
Not satisfied with that response, though, and growing increasingly concerned about the problem of illicit pesticide use inside a supposedly quality-controlled industry, Health Canada conducted an unannounced inspection of Organigram’s facility, and gathered archive samples of its own to have screened.
Those tests, completed in August, also did not find the additional pesticides contained in Mr. Wood’s samples, raising questions about the discrepancy between the results.
The company believes the new allegations are false. Mr. Wood believes customers aren’t being told the truth about what they were exposed to – that the archive samples kept in storage at Organigram have been whitewashed, and don’t match up with what people like him actually consumed.
Through social media, Mr. Wood has assembled a database of hundreds of people across Canada who are all reporting the same mysterious health problems: searing abdominal pains, fatigue, blistering rashes, painful aching muscles, lung problems, constant nausea, and – curiously – coughing up a strange clear, thick, mucous.
“You’ve got all these people, they don’t know each other, they all have the same symptoms,” Mr. Wood said. And while there has been no determination, “Something’s not right. Somebody needs to look into this.”
Organized crime’s interest in the illegal pot business is going up in smoke
There wasn’t much need to smuggle pot into the country when Canadian cannabis connoisseurs liked the homegrown stuff better, experts say.
Once a relatively safe, profitable business for outlaw bikers and mobsters, organized crime is moving away from the marijuana market because legalization and home-grown pot are making any gain not worth the risk, experts say.
The market share in the pot business for organized criminals has already slid as pot-loving “disorganized criminals” perfected their horticultural skills. There wasn’t much need to smuggle pot into the country when Canadian cannabis connoisseurs liked the homegrown stuff better, experts say.
The days when Hells Angels and mobsters enjoyed a strong hand in Canada’s marijuana trade will be just a hazy memory by the time pot is to be legalized next year, according to some experts.
“A pretty small part of the marijuana industry today is what I call organized crime,” said criminologist Neil Boyd of Simon Fraser University — a change from a few decades ago, when big-league criminals thrived in the pot trade.
That’s a major shift from the mid-2000s, when outlaw bikers worked with traditional Mafia groups to move into exporting Canadian marijuana, according to Kash Heed, former B.C. solicitor general, minister of public safety and West Vancouver Police chief. Most of that product was exported to the U.S., Heed said.
Rick Ciarniello, a Canadian spokesperson for the Hells Angels, politely brushed off questions about whether the world’s largest outlaw motorcycle club has a position on legalized marijuana.
“Some are prone to believe all the police hype and propaganda,” Ciarniello said. “If that is to be believed, the Hells Angels must have such a position. The fact is; the hype and propaganda is wrong. As such, the short answer is no.”
The efforts of organized crime to control the pot trade have been undermined for the past three decades by “disorganized crime,” according to Alan Young, an associate professor at the Osgoode Hall law school. Many of these are green-thumbed potheads growing marijuana for friends.
Others are in it for the money but don’t resort to traditional organized crime hallmarks of corruption, collusion and violence, Boyd says: “They’re really just business people.”
Legalization of marijuana in some American states has cut the demand to smuggle it south. In Colorado and Washington State, where marijuana was recently legalized, pot prices have dropped almost 50 per cent over the past year, Boyd says, and lower prices mean less incentive to break the law.
“I suspect there’s not going to be much money in cannabis at all,” Boyd said. “I think things are changing.
“I think they (organized criminals) already have been withdrawing from the market.”
A veteran says organized crime is entering a period of readjustment — and potential new opportunities — regarding marijuana in Canada. “They’re all trying to get into the legal side of it,” says the officer. “They have so much money they can manipulate the stock. Any criminal wants to legitimize his business.”
Small-scale cultivation of pot would likely be allowed, much like it’s now legal to make limited amounts of beer or wine for personal use. Amateur enthusiasts should be allowed to grow four plants per household, according to the Final Report of The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.
Former Toronto police Chief Bill Blair is the Liberal’s point man in shaping marijuana legislation. He declined to be interviewed for this article.
In Toronto, police will continue to crack down on illegal marijuana dispensaries until the law is changed, spokesperson Mark Pugash said, adding that marijuana at some pop-ups has been found to contain pesticides, mould, rat feces and insecticide.
Experts agree it will be a mistake for the government to overtax pot and drive the price up, as this will create an opening for criminals.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly supports the push to regulate illegal pot pop-ups. In a meeting with the Star’s editorial board in December, Trudeau said: “We haven’t legalized it yet. Yes, we got a clear mandate to do that. We’ve said we will. We’ve said we’re going to do it to protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.”
Toronto Star July 22, 2017
From Canadian MAP INC
LEGAL AGE FOR POT USE LIKELY TO BE SET AT 19
EDMONTON – Ontario is on track to set the legal age for recreational marijuana use at 19, Premier Kathleen Wynne says.
Wynne told the Star the age of majority should be the same for pot as it is for booze once the federal government legalizes cannabis next July 1.
“I have a hard time imagining Ontario will have a lower age for pot than we do for alcohol,” she said in an interview at the close of the annual premiers’ conference here.
The legal age for drinking beer, wine and spirits has been set at 19 in Ontario since 1978.
It’s impractical for the province to have a higher legal age for consuming cannabis than for alcohol, the premier added.
“I think that would be a challenge,” Wynne said, as a smoky haze from British Columbia forest fires blanketed Alberta’s capital. Her comments came as Ontario holds online consultations at Ontario.ca/cannabis, where citizens can fill out a survey until July 31, and through public hearings as the province develops its strategy.
As other provinces have, Ontario must decide where cannabis will be sold and where it can be used; set an age of majority and protect both road safety and public health.
The online survey asks participants a number of questions: if they support 19 as the age of majority for marijuana; if landlords and condo boards should be able to restrict pot smoking on their premises; whether cannabis should be sold through government or private retailers or a mixture of both, and whether stronger penalties are needed for drug-impaired driving.
Wynne said she is keeping a close eye on what standards Quebec will set, given that the two provinces share a boundary easily crossed by thousands of people every day, particularly in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
“It must be the case,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said at the premiers’ conference, when asked if Ontario and his province should establish the same age of majority for cannabis.
Couillard quipped “imagine the traffic” imagining the circumstances if the ages were different, in light of the fact that several bridges connect the nation’s capital to Quebec across the Ottawa River.
Quebec’s legal drinking age is now set at 18, a year lower than Ontario’s and that of most other provinces. Alberta and Manitoba have also set 18 as their age of majority for alcohol.
A federal task force last year recommended 18 as the minimum legal age for recreational cannabis product and said Ontario and other provinces may want to set the age to 19 to match its age of majority for alcohol.
The Canadian Medical Association called for a minimum age of 21 for legal consumption of marijuana, saying its use at younger ages can damage teenagers’ brains.
CBC News May 26, 2016
Toronto police raid pot shops suspected of trafficking
CTV News May 25, 2016
Police Crack down on marijuana dispensaries across the GTA
Huffington Post article: Quito Maggi
Why did the chicken cross the road? goes the old joke, with the obvious answer being, to get to the other side. Sadly, not all of lifes questions have such simple and obvious answers.
We recently learned that the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, sent a letter to the Licensing and Standards department asking them to study and make recommendations on regulating medicinal cannabis dispensaries in Toronto. This came just a day after Mayor Tory visited a dispensary himself to get a first hand look at the operation.
So, why did the mayor visit and ask city officials to study this, and then immediately begin issuing warning letters from Licensing and Toronto Police ahead of any report all ahead of even letting the standards committee to weigh in on the issue? I wish the answer were simple.
We learned yesterday that Cannabis Canada, the trade association that represents Canadas Licensed Producers of medical marijuana, has been lobbying the city quite extensively. But these efforts have been ongoing now for some time why the urgency to crack down now? Again, the answer is not as simple as wed like it to be.
Cannabis Canada has been providing any media outlet who asks with the following facts:
The legal pot industry got its start in 2014, when Ottawa introduced legislation requiring medical marijuana patients had to buy their product from licensed producers. There are currently 31 companies with licenses, 18 of which are in Ontario.
The truth is that the legal pot industry started long before 2014. It started in 2001when Health Canada instituted the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) which was replaced by the current Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) regulations. MMAR licenses are still legally recognized as valid due to ongoing litigation, most recently the Allard decision.
The Allard Decision
On Feb. 24, 2016, Justice Phelan of the Supreme Court of Canada in B.C released his decision on the Charter challenge commonly referred to as The Allard Decision. Justice Phelan concluded as follows:
The Plaintiffs liberty and security interest are engaged by the access restrictions imposed by the MMPR and that the access restrictions have not been proven to be in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
About dispensaries, the Court says the following;
Although dispensaries were not a focus of the parties submissions, I find Ms. Shaws evidence to be extremely important as dispensaries are at the heart of cannabis access.
Justice Phelan in his ruling gave Health Canada and the Government of Canada six months to replace MMPR regulations or amend existing MMPR regulations to fall in line with his findings. On March 24 2016, the health minister announced that the government would NOT appeal the decision.
So, here we stand with current regulation being deemed unconstitutional, with new regulations expected to be unveiled by Aug. 24, 2016 and the Mayor of Toronto is asking staff and Toronto Police to enforce an unjust law. The law, the regulations for medicinal marijuana, are still in force until such time as the new regulations are in place, mind you they are legally defensible, just not morally so.
The law is fluid, and what is legal one day may be illegal the next or vice versa. What does not change is right and wrong, justice and injustice. Sometimes it takes society a very long time to recognize an injustice. Once an injustice is recognized, defence of what was legal prior to a determination of justice is morally reprehensible.
So Cannabis Canada lobbies the mayor, the law is only in force until August (when its likely access to medical marijuana will expand beyond the current MMPR mail-order) and a 1,000-per-cent markup model will be instituted. The 31 licensed producers are worried about competition, as many hundreds of millions of dollars in future business are at stake billions once a legal recreational model is brought in.
So, why did the Mayor cross the road? Why is he asking city staff and police to enforce a law that has been deemed unconstitutional? Why is he not recognizing the authority of the Supreme Court or his duty to uphold the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
The money, of course. It was simple after all.
Group calls on Ottawa to puff $25M into medical marijuana research
TORONTO — A group comprised of doctors, patients, health charities and scientists is urging Ottawa to invest $25 million over the next five years for research into the health effects and potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana.
In a report released Wednesday, the Medical Cannabis Research Roundtable highlighted the lack of reliable, peer-reviewed Canadian-based research into marijuana as a potential treatment for a variety of diseases and conditions.
As our country embarks on a debate about the legalization of recreational marijuana, we should not lose sight of the need to invest in medical science and proper trials to better understand the impacts and effects of medical cannabis, roundtable chairman Dr. Jason McDougall, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said in a statement.
Physicians and patients are left with uncertainty about the potential therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis and particularly the potential to bring relief to those living with chronic pain.
The group identified three priorities for funding:
— Basic science: To have a better understanding of how medical cannabis affects disease progression, physiological function and is processed by the body.
— Clinical science: Peer-reviewed studies that focus on safety, efficacy, dosing and administration of medical marijuana.
— Health services and policy: Exploring issues such as equitable access to medical cannabis; how to manage and market medical marijuana in the context of legalization; transferring knowledge about the product to health providers and the public; and its social and economic impacts.
The Arthritis Society, a member of the group, also announced the creation of the Medical Cannabis Strategic Operating Grant, an annual commitment of at least $120,000 towards research into the effects of medical marijuana.
The charitable organization is also doubling its commitment to medical cannabis research to $720,000 over the next three years.
Patients with chronic conditions seeking relief face unfair barriers due to the lack of proper medical research (into cannabis), said president and CEO Janet Yale.
The election of a new government that has voiced its support for science and evidence-based policy-making creates an ideal opportunity to commit to the sort of rigorous understanding of medical cannabis that should have occurred long ago.
From Metro News