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UK regulatory landscape: import and export of medical cannabis

In this article, Eleri Williams, Associate at Hill Dickinson Life Sciences team, sets out an overview of the current legal and regulatory position on the import and export of medical cannabis to and from the UK.

While doctors are now allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis in certain circumstances, many patients, particularly those who seek prescriptions through the NHS, still face an uphill struggle in obtaining this medicine, which can effectively treat or alleviate the symptoms of some medical conditions.

One of the many hurdles to overcome is the slow and bureaucratic process of importing medicinal cannabis, which runs paradoxically to the UK’s position as the world’s largest exporter. In recognition of this difficulty and the detrimental effect on patients, in March 2020 the UK government alleviated some of the import restrictions to allow patients easier access to medical cannabis once medically prescribed.

Legal overview

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 prohibits and criminalises various activities relating to controlled drugs in the UK, including the importation and exportation, production, supply and possession of cannabis and associated products. These activities can, however, be undertaken with an appropriate licence from the Home Office.

A definitive list of the different types of licence available is contained in the Misuse of Drugs (Licence Fees) Regulations 2010, which sets out the fees to be paid in respect of the different types of licence. Individual licences for the importation and exportation of cannabis can be obtained, though applicants may also be required to hold a domestic licence. Home Office guidance is available to applicants on the process for applying for import/export licences – National Drugs Control System – Guide for Users (October 2017).

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Maine hemp producers caught between different state, federal rules

The USDA signed off on an extension of Maine’s fledgling hemp program beyond late October, but state agriculture specialists are at a loss as to how the sector can move forward.

Hemp producers across Maine must adhere to new federal guidelines, which state horticulturalist Gary Fish stresses are written differently from current state rules. Fish said that could be problematic for those who harvest after Oct. 31, the original sunset date for the industry.

Under one new federal rule, a hemp strain’s THC level could determine whether it remains legal.

Fish said everyone in the business will be in for quite a learning experience.

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House vote on marijuana legalization bill postponed after backlash from moderate lawmakers

Democrats in the House of Representatives postponed a planned vote next week on marijuana legalization following a backlash from moderate Democrats.

The legislation, the MORE Act, would legalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge some marijuana-related criminal records, though it left the decision on the sale of marijuana up to the states.

According to a senior Democratic aide, lawmakers in tough re-election contests wanted the House to first pass COVID-19 relief before acting on marijuana legalization.

Another senior Democratic aide said a group of moderate Democrats had made the case to party leadership that they wanted to focus on legislation other than pot legalization given the risks posed at the ballot box – and their argument won over party leaders. 

The MORE Act would probably not come up until after the election, according to twoaides.  

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Medical cannabis in Colombia: the law and the future

Medical cannabis expert Dr Sandra Carrillo details the history and future of medical cannabis in Colombia.

Dr Sandra Carrillo is a medical doctor and renowned expert in the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids, with certifications in cannabis medicine from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Pharmacology and Oaksterdam University in California.

She is a leading advocate of cannabis legalisation in Panama, where she has appeared as an expert witness at several sessions of the government’s Health Commission responsible for devising and implementing policy and regulation on medical cannabis. In Colombia, she is President of the Medical Colombian Association of Medical Cannabis (ASOMEDCCAM), which advocates evidence-based education on the medical applications of cannabis for doctors and patients. Dr Carrillo details the history and future of medical cannabis policy and education in Colombia.

Regulation and licensing

On 6 July 2016 the Congress of the Republic of Colombia approved Law 1787, under which a regulatory framework was created that would allow safe and informed access for the medical and scientific use of cannabis and its derivatives. This law was driven by former Senator Juan Manuel Galán, to open new health and wellness options for patients. It further promoted the creation and development of a new industry in the economic sector of the country, thanks to the unique advantages that Colombia offers through its privileged geographical location, climatic conditions, skilled labour, and agricultural traditions.

Through Decree 613, enacted in 2017, a regulatory framework was set out for the beginning of this new industry. The decree stipulated guidelines for the appropriate evaluation, monitoring and control of the cultivation and processing of cannabis and its derivatives, for medical and scientific purposes.

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How did a CBD testing lab get into the hand sanitizer testing business?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now maintains a lengthy and growing list of hand sanitizer brands that consumers should avoid, having confirmed they contain as much as 81% methanol and other impurities including potentially deadly 1-propanol. "While hand sanitizers and associated claims are regulated by the FDA, the agency now has a waiver program due to the unprecedented time of COVID-19 which doesn't require manufacturers to substantiate label claims. This was in an effort to allow hand sanitizers to get on shelves quickly, under the assumption manufacturers would continue good manufacturing practices," explains Mike Sandoval, President of Santé Laboratories, a bio-hemp pharmaceutical contract research organization (CRO).

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Long-term cannabis use doesn’t increase pain sensitivity: study

Though opioids can be useful medications that provide strong relief, their negative side effects can outweigh their positives, contributing to opioid addiction. Unlike opioids, though, a new study out of B.C. found cannabis doesn’t increase pain sensitivity when used over long periods of time.

The study was conducted by the psychology department of University of British Columbia, Okanagan and sought to highlight the differences in pain tolerance that exist between people who useCannabis has long been used as medicine for pain. In recent years, data has shown that pain management is one of the principal reasons why people consume medicinal cannabis.

“This study should come as good news to patients who are already using cannabis to treat pain,” explains Zach Walsh, a study co-author. “Increases in pain sensitivity with opioids can really complicate an already tough situation; given increasing uptake of cannabis-based pain medications, it’s a relief that we didn’t identify a similar pattern with cannabinoids.”

Authors of the study initially speculated that frequent cannabis users would demonstrate greater pain sensitivity, but this wasn’t the case.

Frequent opioid users run the risk of developing hyperalgesia. / Photo: Igor Vershinsky / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Photo: Igor Vershinsky / iStock / Getty Images Plus


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Hemp industry urges Gov. Cuomo to release regulations

It’s been over nine months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Hemp Extract bill into law and businesses are wondering where the regulations are.

Those with Beak & Skiff in Lafayette, along with reps from the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association, held a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Businesses have not only invested in equipment but workers have as well. They are all looking on the state to see where to go from here.

“So we can have a framework to operate our businesses effectively, safe and continue to produce the crops and produce the products that our customers and people throughout New York have come to love,” said Eddie Brennan, president at Beak & Skiff.

Companies said that the regulations are needed to ensure a fair playing field for all involved.

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Cannabis in the NFL: Is Marijuana the Key to Athletic Success?

If you haven’t heard, this weekend was big for football. Not only did it mark the first football season since the pandemic, but also the first season since the National Football League amended its labor agreement to cease the suspension of players who test positive for marijuana.

For a historically conservative league, the decision (made this spring) was a surprise, but one that made a lot of sense. Former players Nate Newton, Shaun Smith, and Mark Stenoski of the Dallas Cowboys, along Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Stealers, Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns, and many others associated with the league admit to using cannabis before and after games, and former Denver Broncos star Nate Jackson has taken an outspoken stance against the NFL’s dismissal of the drug, writing an op-ed on the subject in the New York Times and working with the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition. In a 2018 interview with the Bleacher Report podcast, “The Lefkoe Show,” former tight end Martellus Bennett estimated as many as 89 percent of current NFL players use cannabis to decrease pre-game anxiety, ease the effects of concussion, and alleviate pain as an alternative to opioids.

“There are times of the year where your body just hurts so bad,” Bennett told Bleacher Report. “You don’t want to be popping pills all the time. There are anti-inflammatory drugs you take so long that they start to eat at your liver, kidneys and things like that. A human made that. God made weed.”

And it’s not just NFL athletes who have gone green. In 2014, snowboarding company executive Jim Alpine founded the 420 Games, an annual series of athletic events for those who use cannabis to reach their fitness goals, and at San Francisco’s Power Plant Fitness, gym trainers are working cannabis into their recommended fitness regimens. In his early career as a bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a habit of smoking before pumping iron, a part of his past that likely influenced his progressive marijuana policy as Governor of California.

The benefits of weed on athletic performance are little researched, but would make a lot of sense to anyone who’s tried cannabis before. Dr. Leigh Vinocur, Board-Certified Emergency Room Physician and Member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, says there are several well-known effects of cannabis that some believe benefit a workout: 1) inflammation reduction, 2) anxiety reduction, and 3) protection of the brain (though, until further research is conducted on the subject, she does not recommend exercising or participating in sports high.)

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U-M Study: Marijuana Usage Among Young Adults In U.S. At Four-Decade High

(WWJ) A new University of Michigan study shows more young adults are vaping marijuana now than any time in the past four decades.

The annual Monitoring The Future (MTF) Panel Study shows the percentage of young adults (19 to 22 years old) who vaped marijuana at least once in a month’s time has jumped from 5% in 2017 to 14% in 2019 among full-time college students.

It has more than doubled from 8% in 2017 to 17% in 2019 among young adults not in college, according to the study.

The study revealed marijuana use among both groups is currently at 43%, the highest it has been since the early eighties.

Principal investigator of the study, John Schulenberg, said this is an extremely “worrisome” trend, considering the health risks that come with vaping and smoking, such as severe complications from COVID-19 and the addictive properties of the substances.

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Mothers rally for medical cannabis outside UK Health Authorities

A number of mothers, each with a severely epileptic child, are today holding a vigil outside the offices of the Department of Health & Social Care, the London headquarters of NHSE, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly.

The mothers are protesting as medical cannabis is the only medication that works for managing their children’s symptoms but they have been denied NHS prescriptions despite medical cannabis being legalised in November 2018.

No help for families

Private prescriptions, which can cost thousands of pounds, are the only option available to the families, which are unable to obtain medical cannabis through the NHS. The UK Government has told them that it will not offer financial support, despite the devolved administration in Northern Ireland recently stepping in to supporting a family there.

A spokesman for the End Our Pain Campaign said: “Everyone involved from the Government and NHS side says they want to help, but the months drag on and these families have not had any help. Some of the doctors in the leading medical professional bodies constantly say that they want more evidence that medical cannabis works and is safe. What they fail to acknowledge is that these families have got the best evidence of all that it works for their child.

“They have been securing and administering it for months now with dramatic improvements in their children’s wellbeing. Some of the children have gone from being exceptionally ill to going a year seizure free. Given what appears to have happened in Northern Ireland we are pleading with Matt Hancock and the health ministers Jeane Freeman MSP in Scotland and Vaughan Gething MS in Wales to find a way to make this work in their jurisdictions.”

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This Presidential Election Could Change The Game For Marijuana Stocks

Will These States Legalize Cannabis in 2020?

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A budding product: Jamaica cannabis dispensary touts 'world class' experience

High-end cannabis has made its way to Jamaica's west coast, although that's not new news to anyone familiar with the destination.

Hedonism II, the iconic adults-only playground -- a clothing-optional, lifestyle-friendly, party-hardy resort in Negril -- opened its newest guest amenity earlier this summer.

HedoWeedo is its medicinal marijuana dispensary located within the resort although is independently owned and operated and not part of Hedonism's all-inclusive experience.

Hedonism II joins several other ganja-friendly resorts in Jamaica offering access to weed, including six properties near Negril and one near Port Antonio, under the GanjaVacations umbrella.

In the case of GanjaVacations, the marketing positions it thusly: "Looking for a cool holiday destination to chill, soak in some sun, get a little sand between your toes and score some righteous legal weed?"

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If Pennsylvania Is Going to Legalize Adult-Use Marijuana, This Is How It Should Be Done

Experts have been predicting marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania since at least as early as 2013, more than a year after the first few states in the U.S. legalized recreational adult use. The state didn’t make medical marijuana legal until 2016 and patients didn’t gain full access to medical marijuana in dispensaries until two years after that. All in all, it’s been a long journey, that some now believe may come to an end with recreational marijuana being legalized in the state thanks to the life-disrupting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While several Pennsylvania legislators have fought against or failed to get marijuana legalization passed, current governor Tom Wolf was the one who ultimately signed medical marijuana into law in 2016, making Pennsylvania one of 33 states to legalize medical cannabis. This is why, in August, when Wolf called on the legislature to legalize recreational marijuana, our ears perked up a bit.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult use. Could the man who garnered enough support for medical marijuana do the same to finally eliminate the prohibition of adult recreational use?

Some argue Republican and Democratic leaders are still too divided on the issue to see anything passed. Others say the one thing that makes the conversation different this time is COVID-19. The pandemic has left the state with a gaping $4 billion budget shortfall. Filling that budgetary hole has become a priority for lawmakers across party lines and revenues from taxes on legal marijuana sales could mean an influx of tax dollars to help make up the shortage.

“In challenging times like these, foregoing the chance to boost small business, minority entrepreneurship, employment and state tax revenue can hardly be passed up. That is true now more than ever,” executive vice president of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses Mark Gorman said in a recent statement.

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The Fight For Medical Cannabis In Nebraska Continues

Celebrations for medical cannabis access being added to Nebraska’s ballot in November turned out to be very short-lived. But the fight goes on.

There is no medical marijuana program in Nebraska currently and no other allowances for patients. That may have changed after the November election.

Late last month we reported Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana had announced its amendment supporting patient access to medical marijuana would appear on the November ballot. More than 182,000 petition signatures were delivered to support the initiative. However, the group expected a legal fight to keep it there and certainly got one.

Late last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion to remove the constitutional amendment from the ballot. Five judges ruled against the amendment’s inclusion and two supported it.

The amendment being dropped was based on a constitutional requirement that all proposed initiatives must be a “single subject”, to avoid voter confusion and attempts to have two separate and different issues being rolled into one to get something over the line. It appears the amendment was viewed to have multiple subjects, the right to access medical marijuana for medical purposes – and supply. But you can’t really have one without the other.

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The Fight For Medical Cannabis In Nebraska Continues

Celebrations for medical cannabis access being added to Nebraska’s ballot in November turned out to be very short-lived. But the fight goes on.

There is no medical marijuana program in Nebraska currently and no other allowances for patients. That may have changed after the November election.

Late last month we reported Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana had announced its amendment supporting patient access to medical marijuana would appear on the November ballot. More than 182,000 petition signatures were delivered to support the initiative. However, the group expected a legal fight to keep it there and certainly got one.

Late last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion to remove the constitutional amendment from the ballot. Five judges ruled against the amendment’s inclusion and two supported it.

The amendment being dropped was based on a constitutional requirement that all proposed initiatives must be a “single subject”, to avoid voter confusion and attempts to have two separate and different issues being rolled into one to get something over the line. It appears the amendment was viewed to have multiple subjects, the right to access medical marijuana for medical purposes – and supply. But you can’t really have one without the other.

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Medical cannabis trial underway for Australian football players with chronic pain

For Australian football player Ryan Gale, his previous years of athletic glory have been replaced by a harsh new reality.

Gales lives with chronic pain due to his injuries and required a hip replacement at just 33-years-old.

“I don’t think I ever went one week without pain somewhere,” Gale told 7NEWS.

Now Gale and other ex-athletes are hoping to benefit from a medical cannabis trial that is underway at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne and Emerald Clinics in Perth.

The trials are being conducted by Zelira Therapeutics, a medical cannabis company, and seek to demonstrate the efficacy of medical cannabis for patients who traditionally rely on opioids for chronic pain.

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Why Aren’t There Any Standards For Grow Rooms?

Just as the cannabis industry has grown at a rapid rate over the past five years, the grow room environment has also experienced significant evolution.

Growers are seeking to produce massive harvests and secure a place in the market, and in doing so are coming up against some major challenges associated with producing at scale.

This is a new frontier for many and a new field that requires different ways of thinking.

The “Secret Sauce” Mentality

One of the top challenges with scaling up cannabis production is the lack of standards in place.

It’s seriously hurting the industry right now by contributing to an information vacuum, especially as it relates to HVAC systems.

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Millennials Or Boomers? A New Study Tells Which One Uses Marijuana More Frequently

One subject on which the generations definitely agree, however, is their mutual appreciation for and enthusiastic use of cannabis, according to a new study by U.K.-based Verilife, which hosts dispensaries n six U.S. states.

Even that appreciation, however, dissolves into generational differences, Mehul Patel, COO of Verilife’s parent company PharmCann, told LeafReport. “Cannabis bridges the generational divide,” Patel said. “Our recently commissioned Verilife study shows baby boomers are twice as likely as millennials to look to cannabis for medical purposes; and relaxation is the top reason for consuming recreationally for both generations.”

The study surveyed 1,000 millennials ages 24 to 39 and 1,000 boomers ages 56 to 74, from late May through early June. Among its more findings:

49 percent of millennials consume for recreational purposes versus 28 percent of boomers. Boomers however are twice as likely to use marijuana solely for medical reasons.In the medical category, uses have age distinctions. Millennials’ main purposes are to combat chronic pain migraines and nausea while boomers use medical marijuana for arthritis, chronic pain and cancer.In the recreational category, relaxation, anxiety and social reasons are the motivations cited by both groups.For time of day, boomers are twice as likely to use cannabis in the morning, while millennials more likely to choose the evening.Both generations spend an average of $76 a month on cannabis but in this current Covid-19 era that monthly expenditure on average has increased by $27.Also during Covid, 44 percent of boomers say they’ve been using more cannabis, while 36 percent of millennials report such an uptick.

In terms of the differences in uses cited, medical use broke down to 22 percent for millennials, versus 50 percent for boomers.

Percentages of use by the two groups included: millennials and chronic pain, 27 percent, as well as migraines, 13 percent; and boomers and arthritis, 15 percent, and chronic pain, 13 percent. Boomers (60 percent) were much more likely than millennials (46 percent) to talk to a doctor before embarking on usage.

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The FDA is killing Kentucky’s most promising crop

A year before the Declaration of Independence was signed, pioneers planted the first hemp crop at Clark’s Run Creek in Danville. Fast forward to 2018, which looked to be one of the most momentous years in the history of this storied crop. That’s because President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, and in doing so legalized hemp for the first time in 60 years.

It was a big victory for the commonwealth and for the man who delivered it, Senate Majority Leader McConnell. He had reopened the market for a crop that was cultivated by the great Kentucky statesman, Henry Clay.

Fellow Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) also hailed the bill for giving “certainty and predictability to rural America.”

Twenty months on, no one would describe the hemp industry as “certain” or “predictable.” The price of hemp has plummeted 70-85% since May as long-anticipated food supplement regulation has failed to arrive from the Food and Drug Administration. This despite Congress’s clear intent to make hemp-derived products fully legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.

With upwards of 92% of Kentucky hemp grown for cannabidiol, or CBD, the ongoing market fallout has been ugly. A leading extractor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing hemp CBD’s ongoing residence in an FDA-imposed “regulatory purgatory.” In an early 2020 letter to the Kentucky federal delegation, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles wrote, “the bureaucratic paralysis … is hurting this new space in Kentucky agriculture.” He went on to presciently warn, “we are going to have a lot of hemp without a market to sell it in, and many farmers will struggle financially in part to the bureaucratic inaction in Washington, D.C.”

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Breeding cannabis strains with more desired cannabinoids could advance medicinal treatments

Focusing on novel traits of cannabis plants, a partnership among CannaPacific, Xing Technologies and Newcastle University, seeks to develop “one of the most advanced medical cannabis genomic breeding programs in the world,” notes a statement from CannaPacific.

It is hoped that engineering novel cannabis varieties with less variability and more productivity will lead to new low-cost medicinal formulations and improved delivery of products.

“There is over 100 cannabinoids in the plant, and many are still yet to be exploited,” says CannaPacific chief executive Joshua Dennis, according to the Newcastle Herald. “THC and CBD are there in the highest quantities, but there is a whole gamut of other cannabinoids in the plant in really low quantities,” Dennis says.

Minor cannabinoids, some of which have been shown to have medicinal benefits or promise, are present in strains. The trick will be identifying the new varieties with more of them.

By developing genetic markers, it will be possible to identify specific significant parts of the plant genome and “select which plants to incorporate into our breeding program in order to combine desirable traits such as specific cannabinoid profiles and yield,” Professor Christopher Grof, director of the university’s Centre for Plant Science, says in the CannaPacific release.


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