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European Cannabis News Roundup 2017 And Predictions For 2018 By Marguerite Arnold

Germany, Poland, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal and Greece have made considerable efforts to legalize cannabis.

Europe saw big developments on the cannabis front all year. This includes country-by-country developments that include legalization of medical use and even plans to begin domestic production, no matter how delayed such plans have turned out to be.

By far the most interesting market developments were in Germany all year. The Teutonic state has entered some interesting territory – even if its potential is still in the development rather than rollout status.

Elsewhere, however, medical acceptance is clearly starting to bloom across the continent in a way that is more reminiscent of American state development than what is about to happen in Canada.

One of the most interesting aspects of European reform however, that is in marked difference to what has happened in the U.S., is that grow facilities are being slowly established with federal authorization, even before further reform comes (see Turkey, Slovenia, Germany and even Denmark).

How reform will continue to roll out and shape the discussion however, is still a matter very much left up to individual European states. Cannabis legalization may become the first uniting issue of the new Deutsch ruling parliamentary coalition, whatever that is. In Spain, the cannabis question might yet be a play in simmering separatist tensions. Across the continent, legislatures are, for the first time in two generations, reconsidering what cannabis is, how it should be used, and what the penalties should be for those who use the drug either medicinally or recreationally.

Change is still all over the map. And it is still very, very slow.

Germany

The country’s federal legislators voted unanimously to mandate medical coverage of cannabis under public health insurance (which covers 90% of the population) on January 19th. Since then, however, forward movement has been stymied by a combination of forces and politics. While the legislation became law in March and the government established a cannabis agency, other developments have not been so clear cut. Yes, import licenses are being issued. And yes, there is a pending tender bid. However announcements of the finalists have been delayed since August due to lawsuits over qualifications of the growers, among other things. The new German government (whatever it will be) plus apparent CETA (EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement)-related complications have all added to the drama. That said, when the cannabis opera moves into its next act, as of probably early next year, expect to see domestic medical grow go forward. Importing medical supplies, even from across the continent (which is what is happening now) is ludicrously expensive. Rumours are already flying out of Berlin that further cannabis reform is one of the few things that all parties can agree to as a new government forms.

Holland

Sadly, the biggest cannabis-related “development” this year was the decision by all major health insurers to stop covering the drug, just as the German government changed its mind about the issue. Greater regulation of coffee shop grows coupled with this lack of insurance coverage means that patients are being forced into a coffee shop culture which is also commoditizing and commercializing into a high-volume affair, particularly in Amsterdam. While this might just be the new face of an old business, the laid back “coffee shop” culture of yore is an endangered species.

Barcelona, capital of Catalonia
Photo: Bert Kaufmann

Spain

Catalonian independence made headlines globally this year. So did the associated bid for other freedoms of a cannabis sort – particularly in Barcelona. Club grows were set to become more regulated as of this summer. However the massive Catalonian bid for independence has further muddied the waters. Given the fact that cannabis reform appears to be at the forefront of finding political compromise elsewhere in Germany, perhaps givebacks about taxes for this industry might be one way to temper down the still-raging separatist forces afoot.

Poland

The Polish government surprised everyone this fall, and legalized the drug for medical purposes (at least in theory) in November. What this actually means for patients is another story. There are no plans to cultivate on the radar. Patients under the new law are allowed to travel to other countries to seek their medical cannabis. How they might afford it is another question. Not to mention how they will escape prosecution from personal importation if checked at a border.

Warsaw, Poland
Image: Nikos Roussos, Flickr

Polish pharmacists will however be trained on how to make medicaments from imported cannabis. They will have to be registered with the Office for the Registration of Medical Products. This means that pharmacists must be pre-registered with the government – in a move much like the early days of the Israeli medical program. The medicine is expected to cost about $460 a month. How well this will work in serving the country’s more than 300,000 already eligible patients is another story.

Greece

Cannabis economists have long said that what the Greeks really need to heal their economy is a vibrant cannabis injection. And as of mid-November early investors in the nascent market had already staked close to $2 billion in cultivation opportunities. Senior ministers in the government have also publicly backed plans to move Greece into a strategic position to claim a piece of a global cannabis market estimated to reach 200 billion dollars a year by the end of the next decade. It means jobs. It means capital infusions. Exactly, in other words, what the Greek economy desperately needs. Expect to see further formalization of the grow program here in 2018 for sure.

Lithuania

It appears that quite a few countries in Europe are pushing for real cannabis reform by the end of the year, and this little EU country is joining the list. With a unanimous agreement in Parliament already to change the country’s drug policy, Lithuania’s legislators could vote to legalize the drug on December 12th of this year. All signs look promising.

Slovenia

MCG, an Australian-based company, made news in the fall by announcing a new cannabinoid extraction facility in the country, on track for completion this year. The company also ramped up domestic production operations in August. Real reform here still has a long way to go. However with domestic production underway, greater medical use looks promising.

Denmark

The country signed a production agreement to open a new facility in Odense, the country’s third largest city with Spektrum Cannabis, the medical brand of one of the largest Canadian producers (Canopy Cannabis) now seeking a foothold in Europe late this fall. What this means for ongoing reform in Denmark is also positive. The company will import cannabis via Spektrum Denmark until all the necessary approvals are ironed out for cultivation.

Portugal

While “reform” here is less of an issue than it is elsewhere (since all drugs are decriminalized), Portugal might yet play an interesting role in cross-European legalization. Tilray, another large Canadian-American firm with interests in Europe, announced the construction of a large medical cannabis facility in the country earlier this year. That plant could easily ship medical supplies across Europe as new countries legalize but do not implement grow facilities.

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VERA TWOMEY – Person of the Year 2017

VERA TWOMEY would do anything for her sick child,…even walking 200 miles to the Irish Parliament, in the middle of February, if that’s what it took to get her daughter relief from the daily ravages of childhood Dravet’s Syndrome.

vera

This Irish mother, and her wonderful husband and family, spent the entire year of 2017 working to get Irish government approval for the THC/CBD-based therapy which reduced their daughter’s seizures from 30+ a day,…to zero.

Gaining support from 10,000’s of people throughout the world, but still not getting the approval needed from their government, Vera and the family fled Ireland as medical refugees and moved to Holland.

The epileptic seizures stopped, but their fight back home continued.

Finally, in late November of this year, the Irish Minister of Health granted the approval needed and the family will be back together, at home in Cork, in time for Christmas.

A happy story about a “mother willing to do anything for her sick child” …which blazes the trail for many other patient families in the future.

For youtube videos of Vera’s fight:
https://www.google.de/search?q=youtube+vera+twomey&rlz=1C1CHFX_enDE743DE743&oq=youtube+vera+twomey&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l3.4444j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/vera.twomey

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US – German Cannabis Producers Can’t Do Business Together, Here’s Why – by Michael Knodt @ marijuana.com

US, German Cannabis Producers Can’t Do Business Together, Here’s Why


BY MICHAEL KNODT ON

Bureaucratic hurdles and an unexpectedly high demand for medical cannabis in Germany have created a bottleneck that’s plagued cannabis patients and producers alike. It would seem as though working with the United States could alleviate some of the pressure, but the federal government in Germany has avoided working with the country’s producers for fear of violating the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Until Germany can develop a robust cannabis cultivation industry, its patients will continue to receive their medicine sporadically from Canada or the Netherlands. While 18 varieties of cannabis are supposed to be available, patients are lucky to find four strains at their local pharmacy — a significant issue when German doctors are required to prescribe a specific strain for patients. If that strain’s not available, the prescription is worthless.

Once the Israeli government has defined their guidelines for cannabis export, their medical cannabis will find its way into German pharmacies to help alleviate the recent bottlenecks. Israel is expected to develop a cannabis export system in the next couple of years.

Cannabis farmers in the U.S. West Coast, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska might welcome the opportunity to expand into international markets, and patients in Germany could benefit from the new, highly effective selection of U.S. cannabis strains. But the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs labels cannabis on par with cocaine and opium — therein lies the problem for Germany doing business with U.S. cannabis producers.

The Single Convention on Narcotics and Drugs of 1961 is still the foundation of worldwide drug legislation. It includes the coca, opium poppy, cannabis, the opium plant’s raw materials, opiates, heroin, and some synthetic opioids such as methadone. The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of Feb. 21, 1971 extended the list of controlled substances to include psychotropic substances such as amphetamines, barbiturates, and LSD and came into force on Aug. 16, 1976.

Only the medical use of narcotics for pain relief is excluded from the Convention but has to be enacted in compliance with the measures deemed necessary by the United Nations (UN). Member nations must report their produced, exported, stored, and used narcotics to the Narcotic Control Council.

A State Must Purchase All Medical Cannabis Crops

Article 23 of the Single Convention states:

A Party that permits the cultivation of the opium poppy for the production of opium shall establish, if it has not already done so, and maintain, one or more government agencies (hereafter in this article referred to as the Agency) to carry out the functions required under this article.

Article 23 (2) (d) says: “All cultivators of the opium poppy shall be required to deliver their total crops of opium to the Agency. As soon as possible, but not later than four months after the end of the harvest.”

According to Articles 26 and 28 of the Single Convention, the same control system applies to coca and cannabis. Health Canada is in violation of Article 23, paragraph 2d for allowing producers to sell directly to patients. Unlike the Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) in the Netherlands, the Canadian agency does not purchase and sell the licensed producers’ crops.

The establishment of such an agency is independent of whether government institutions or licensed private providers take over the cultivation. Such agencies only exist in the few states where opium, coca, and cannabis are grown legally: The Turkish Grain Board (for Opium in Turkey), Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances, the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the U.S., the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) in Germany, the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, the Office of Medicinal Cannabis in the Netherlands, the Czech State Agency for Medical Cannabis, and the Medical Cannabis Unit in Israel.

The U.S. government would have to recognize the medical benefits of cannabis and remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the narcotics act before the NIDA could offer medical cannabis for export to the German BfArM.

Ways Around the Single Convention

It is almost impossible for a member of the United Nations to legalize cannabis without coming into conflict with the international community. Uruguay, Bolivia, and Canada have already had to deal with the issue and have each taken different approaches to reconciling new national policy with existing international agreements.

Out and Back In

In 2009, the Bolivian government proposed deleting some provisions regarding the coca leaf, but the proposal was rejected by the other member nations. On June 29, 2011, Bolivia withdrew from the Single Convention through Jan. 1, 2012 and rejoined with an objection to Article 50 on Jan. 10, 2012.

Bolivia stated that it would allow the cultivation, trade, and consumption of coca leaves in its country. Within one year, 15 contracting nations filed an objection, well short of the one-third quorum required to reject Bolivia’s objection. Bolivia was reclassified as a contracting party on Jan. 11, 2013.

Ignore the Issue

Uruguay was reprimanded shortly before the legalization of cannabis by the UN Drug Administration’s International Narcotic Control Board (INCB). The former INCB-president Raymond Yans accused Uruguay’s then-president Jose Mujica of having an “attitude of a pirate” because his government legalized cannabis. Mujica fiercely resisted the allegations repeatedly made against his country and publicly responded to the criticism of the former INCB chairman:

“Tell the old man to stop lying. We can meet whenever he wants in Uruguay. […]. He sits in a comfortable position on the International stage and believes he can tell nonsense.”

Despite the dramatic exchanges, the international community has not sanctioned Uruguay for being the first country in the world to legalize cannabis. Incidentally, a similar complaint was addressed to the United States after the legalization ballots in Colorado and Washington State. In November 2012, Yans stated the legalization of the cultivation and possession of cannabis in Colorado and Washington violated the treaty and asked the U.S. government to restore conformity with the single convention.

Recreational cannabis is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and the international community is far from sanctioning the U.S. However, ignoring the treaty also means missing out on access to the international market and the opportunity to take part in international research efforts.

Don’t Comply, Justify

At the 59th meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2016, Undersecretary for Health of Canada Hilary Geller expressed Canada’s interest in international cooperation and made it clear, “the Government remains committed to strong international cooperation to combat the world drug problem and wherever possible, will seek to align its objectives for a new marijuana regime with the objectives of the international drug control framework and the spirit of the Conventions.”

Canada is the first to take the position of “non-compliance.” With Geller’s announcement, Canada has laid the foundation for an ongoing debate on how to regulate cannabis at the national level without violating international legal obligations.

Change

Even if the 1961 Single Convention could be amended, that would involve a complex, years-long process.

Canada could set a precedent in July 2018, by forcing the U.N. to rethink the position of cannabis for the first time since 1961. The aim of the process would be to give all member nations the opportunity to regulate recreational and medical cannabis in the future. Legislation in international agreements is never set in stone, it can be changed any time the democratic will of the member nations demands it.
ABOUT AUTHOR
Michael Knodt is an expert on cannabis politics and cannabis culture across Europe. Born in North Germany, Michael has been living in Berlin since 1990. He initially studied history and journalism before receiving his certification as a carpenter. Since then, Michael has made regular visits to countries where cannabis is cultivated, such as Jamaica and Morocco. He has worked as a freelancer for Weedmaps, Vice Magazine Germany, Sensi Seeds and numerous German-language cannabis magazines since 2004. From 2005 to 2013, Michael was the Editor-in-Chief of Germanys biggest cannabis periodical. He also is the face and presenter of the most popular program on cannabis prohibition and just launched a new channel called “DerMicha.” Aside from his journalistic work, Michael is a cannabis patient, activist, sought-after speaker on conferences and congresses, and a father of two.


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Regulation in Germany….and we aren’t talking about soccer :)

The current regulation in Germany made it difficult for German companies to apply to get a license for Cannabis cultivation.

** And that is why the process is now held up in litigation in the German court system. One of the unsuccessful bidders has sued over the requirements and the entire application process is on hold, with any potential awards being made in Q1 or Q2 2018 at the earliest.

What is the most popular model for cannabis cultivation in Germany, so far?
The cultivation in Germany is currently not legal, done outdoors and indoors and hidden from sight and smell as best as possible.

There is no legal German cultivation currently allowed, even for patients with valid medical approvals.

There is small cultivation being done as part of R+D projects in Universities and Scientific companies.

Regarding joint ventures: How do foreign cannabis companies usually work together with German companies?

In various ways, based on their business objectives and strategy. Three examples are:

Canopy Growth Corporation purchased a German firm Medcann, which became Spektrum Germany. They are considered by many to be the premier cannabis firm in Germany today.

Maricann of Canada purchased a former cargo facility in Dresden for 3€ million and is ramping up their European operations, adding staff, and building out their new European headquarters.

An international firm is currently in discussions with a German startup, to establish a joint venture partnership which will make news around the world. This partnership should be made public in early 2018 and will be ground-breaking.

To cover the demand of medical cannabis Germany is importing from other countries. Supply is coming especially from Canada. Which other countries might be relevant cannabis suppliers in the future?

Canada and The Netherlands are currently the only authorized countries to import into Germany. Supplies are seriously constrained and with Canada becoming a legal recreational country in July 2018, the supply bottlenecks are expected to be exacerbated well into 2019.

Tilray has announced plans to establish a cultivation facility in Portugal to supply the German, and European market in the future.

The governments of Greece, Israel, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Uruguay, and others are currently working with private sector companies to establish their own cultivation and export capabilities.

Germany, with twice the population of California, is a key market for any serious player in the global cannabis industry.

What is your personal opinion about the current German regulation. What will be the next major steps?

Regulation and taxation is always better than the illegality and violence of the black market. Always.

Thank God for the German court system which has brought legalized medical marijuana to the people, if it were up to the politicians, we would still be waiting.

Now the intelligent implementation of recreational laws need to be established to legalize the plant which has been used for thousands of years.

Reducing opioid deaths, helping certain people with their medical conditions, and enabling super-straight people to enjoy jazz music are just some of the benefits of a world where ganja is regulated, safe, and profitable.

The flower of cannabis will always have a place in the market, but in the next years we will see an increase in other forms of cannabis that are more easily consumed….edibles, oils, salves and the like. As a result, GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) certification is going to become very important for those wanting to establish a quality product in the German and European markets.

And if we look at the European Cannabis market. Which major market trends do you identify?

1- Everyone seems to be focusing on cultivation, but this segment is expected to become a commodity item in the near term. Companies may want to look at establishing a product line including “finished products with GMP certification” to become a leading force in this market.

2- At some point the insurance companies are going to become true partners in providing cannabis therapies to the German pharmacies. This will happen as a result of cost-savings and health-benefits realized vs. the current pharmaceuticals offered to patients.

3- In the words of Peter Tosh:
“Legalize it.”

The Berlin Peace Accords (attached) calls for an end to the 80 year World War On Cannabis, and we agree. Legal, regulated, safe and non-violent recreational marijuana markets have already been established in the US and Uruguay, with Canada and others joining the party in 2018.

Pharmaceutical companies don’t like it, Beer companies don’t like it (although the owners of Corona beer just invested $250 million in Canopy Growth’s cannabis business last month) and some short-sighted politicians don’t like it. But “We the People…” have made our opinions known and the calls for a rational, legal, safe and non-violent cannabis market is just a few moments away here in the center of Europe.

These are historic times, Germany is leading the world in many ways, 2018 will be an interesting year.

peace,
Phil