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Patient Advocate since 1977.


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Tommy Chong rumored to be re-appearing at ICBC Berlin

ICBC Berlin - The BERLIN PEACE ACCORDS...putting an end to the world war on Cannabis!

ICBC BERLIN will be held April 12-13, 2018 in Berlin Germany.

Tommy Chong and his CHONGS CHOICE offerings http://chongschoice.us/ were well-received by the international cannabis executives this year and rumor has it he will be there again in 2018.

For more information on this HIGHLY RECOMMENDED event, please go to:

http://internationalcbc.com/berlin-home/


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Canada expecting widespread shortage of cannabis within a year…exports expected to be impacted.

An official with a large Canadian producer of medical cannabis is confident consumers will be adequately supplied come next July, but says production will need to be increased.

“Right now, the existing capacity and what is already envisioned will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the adult consumer market,” Cam Battley, executive vice-president of Aurora Cannabis Inc., said in an interview Monday.

He has urged other companies to ramp up their production ahead of next July 1, when recreational marijuana is expected to be legalized.

“We need to expand our capacity right away simply to meet the demands of the rapidly growing medical cannabis system,” Battley said. “When the demand of the adult consumer system is layered on top of that, it’s a rush to build as much capacity as possible.”

Battley made the comments on the same day that Aurora began trading common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Alberta-based Aurora, one of several producers now listed on the TSX, is building what it describes as the world’s largest cannabis production facility at Edmonton International Airport.

Battley said Canada has a well-developed and successful medical cannabis system.

“This is a coming of age, not just for Aurora, but for the cannabis sector and what we’re seeing now is that Canada has established itself as the world leader in a brand new emerging industry that we are literally inventing in real time,” he said.

Battley added that officials from around the world have been coming to his facility in Alberta to visit and to learn how Canada has been so successful both on the medical side and on the consumer side.

Marijuana leaf Tweed

Health Canada says there are more than 60 authorized licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes in Canada. (Photo courtesy of Allan Ziolkowski)

“There’s something very big happening and it’s a global movement and it is being led out of Canada.”

Jordan Sinclair, director of communications for Canopy Growth Corp., another major medical cannabis producer, agrees.

“There’s no doubt that we already are …that Canada is the global leader in cannabis on the medical side certainly,” he said.

“The demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down on the medical side of things and then with recreation, obviously that’s a massive market opportunity.”

Sinclair pointed out that Canopy, whose headquarters are in a former Hershey chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, southwest of Ottawa, was first listed on the big board of the TSX in July 2016.

“We’re very proud to have done that before anyone else in the country,” he added. “It does seem like now the pace is speeding up with other companies following in our footsteps (and) it signals that there is credibility across the sector.”

On its website, Health Canada says there are more than 52 authorized licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes.

Ontario has issued 29 licences, followed by British Columbia with 12.

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/business/cannabis-consumer-demand-1.4219753?mc_cid=12994fc045&mc_eid=cd290ff91e


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BREAKING NEWS: GERMAN PHARMACIES SOLD OUT OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA….limited supply not available until September at the earliest.

The Cannabis Shortage Plaguing German Pharmacies

At present, Germany is experiencing massive delays in the delivery of medical cannabis. The supply at most pharmacies is limited to three or four of the 16 available medical strains. More than 10 of Germany’s medically-approved strains originate from the Canadian medical cannabis program, but currently, only smaller stocks of Pedanios’ 18/1 are available — the other five Pedanios Strains are sold out. None of the five strains produced by Tweed are available in German pharmacies.

Due to the lengthy import and export process, Canadian cannabis could return to the German market in September, at the earliest. Shortages from Canada are not the only problem, Dutch producer Bedrocan has not been able to deliver all of its six available medical strains.

On July 17th, medical patients in Germany reported that all wholesalers are currently sold out, posting on self-help network Cannabis as Medicine (SCM) and the German Hemp Federation’s (DHV) forums. Only a few pharmacies that pre-stocked the sought-after medicine can still provide for patients. Patients must, therefore, call their pharmacy before visiting the doctor, ask which of the few strains are available, and then request to have their medicine placed on hold. If a pharmacy can not fill the order of a prescribed strain, the patient’s prescription is effectively invalid. The patient then must revisit the doctor to obtain a valid prescription for an available strain.

The Number of German Patients Has Exploded

The current law for cannabis as medicine has been in existence for four months. In that time, the number of medical cannabis users has risen unpredictably fast. In the case of two of the largest health insurance companies, by mid-July, more than 3,100 patients had applied for reimbursement of medical cannabis prescribed by their doctor. The insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) published the only concrete figures on these applications.

According to the TK’s reports, 863 applications for reimbursement had been received by July 7, 522 of which were approved and 341 were rejected. Germany’s largest health insurance fund, the AOK, received roughly 2,300 applications by the same date but did not publish figures on approved or rejected applications.

The number of individuals who have applied for reimbursement from the two other large and numerous small insurance companies is not yet known. In view of the total number of insured persons in Germany, experts estimate there are several thousand unreported cases of pending reimbursement applications. In addition, there are no statistics available on patients who have received a cannabis prescription without applying for reimbursement. Maximilian Plenert, a member of the board of directors of the Federal Association for Accepting Drugs and Human Drug Policy (akzept.e.V.), was invited as an expert on medical cannabis to several German Bundestag hearings. On request from Marijuana.com, Plenert said he estimates that on the basis of the numbers and feedback received, about 10,000 patients have obtained medicinal cannabis flowers from pharmacies since the introduction of the law in March.

Due to these unforeseen developments, many cannabis patients are currently confronted with a shortage of supply. The German Hemp Association (DHV) has received numerous reports of affected patients who are currently waiting for their medicine. After all, those affected simply do not need “Cannabis Flos,” but one or more strain varieties, each with a specific active ingredient profile.

Currently, German patients are completely dependent on imported cannabis. They only receive what is not needed by the Dutch and Canadian cannabis programs. The imminent legalization in Canada will only exacerbate this problem, as bottlenecks are already expected in Canada by July 2018. In addition, it is far easier and less bureaucratic for Canadian producers to use the domestic recreational market instead of struggling with lengthy export- and import-licensing procedures.

The German Pharmacists Rejoice

While many health insurance companies continue to oppose cannabis for reasons beyond the exorbitant costs, pharmacists appear to be enjoying their new role. As the Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung reported recently, the majority of German pharmacies welcome the new law. Three out of ten pharmacists said the new law had a positive impact on the demand. However, the additional examination of the medicine represented a considerable effort, and 98 percent of pharmacists surveyed complained. This is probably why they charge almost 10 Euro per gram for the high effort of checking, repacking, and labeling cannabis medicine. The survey found that 30 percent of pharmacists have no opinion on the new regulations, while one in five oppose it.

Home Cultivation Remains a Political Issue

The production of medical cannabis in Germany could begin much faster if the licensing of the producers was a less bureaucratic than the current procedure. According to the recently founded Cannabis Agency, the earliest date to supply pharmacies with medicinal cannabis products is mid-2019. Allowing patients to grow cannabis could mitigate the problem of supply bottlenecks. But this solution, much like under ex-Premier Harper in Canada, is not politically viable in Germany. The federal government still carries out numerous trials against patients who have applied for the cultivation of a few plants to meet their medical needs. If the supply remains inadequate through 2019, the German Health Ministry will continue to losethese trials against cannabis patients.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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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Isodiol and Canopy Growth sign agreement re: Pot.o.Coffee

Isodiol International Inc. Signs Definitive Licensing Agreement With Canopy Growth Corporation for Canadian and International Distribution

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, July 20, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Isodiol International Inc. (CSE:ISOL) (OTC:LAGBF) (Frankfurt:LB6A.F) (the “Company” or “Isodiol”) a global cannabis innovator specializing in the development of pharmaceutical and consumer products is pleased to announce it has signed a licensing agreement with Canopy Growth Corporation (“Canopy”) (TSX:WEED) (https://www.canopygrowth.com). 

Canopy Growth is the world’s premier cannabis company that operates a collection of diverse brands and curated strain varieties, supported by over half a million square feet of indoor and greenhouse production capacity. Under this licensing agreement, Canopy Growth will have the right to manufacture and distribute the Company’s “Pot-O-Coffee” and “Pot-O-Tea” branded marijuana infused single serve K-Cup products in Canada and certain other markets internationally as federal regulations allow. Licensed products include caffeinated and de-caffeinated product lines as well as Isodiol’s single serve “Pot-O-Coco”. In addition to the Canadian rights, Canopy Growth shall have the right of first refusal to sell the “Pot-O” brand products in any territory outside of the US, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

“This distribution agreement has us positioned to increase our global footprint with the largest cannabis company in the world. We will continue to develop our Pot-O-Coffee product lines with ready to drink and cold brew products while working with Canopy Growth for international distribution channels. The Pot-O-Coffee brand is well recognized, and adding additional products to this line will continue to strengthen its market presence,” stated Isodiol’s CEO Marcos Agramont.

The availability of the various licensed products in Canada and elsewhere will differ depending on applicable laws and regulation. While Canadian law does not yet permit the manufacture and sale of marijuana infused products, the Company anticipates that such products will be permitted in the near future. Furthermore, currently proposed regulations which would permit the sale of infused products, would not allow such products to contain both marijuana and caffeine. As such, the specific product offerings in Canada and elsewhere may be limited. The Company will provide additional updates as regulations are adopted and as product roll-out plans are developed.

About Isodiol International Inc.

Isodiol International, Inc. is the market leader in pharmaceutical grade cannabis compounds and the industry leader in manufacturing and development of consumer products. Isodiol’s nutraceutical division is the pioneer of many firsts for Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), including 99% pure crystalline isolate, micro-encapsulation, and nano technology for the highest quality consumable and topical skin care products.

Isodiol’s growth strategy includes the development of over-the-counter and pharmaceutical drugs, seeking joint ventures and acquisitions to expand its portfolio of brands and subsidiaries and will aggressively continue International expansion into Latin America, Asia and Europe.


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The Five Biggest Marijuana Myths and How To Debunk Them – by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and a Senior Policy Advisor at Freedom Leaf

MYTH 1: Legal Cannabis Is Responsible for the Opioid Epidemic

Recent claims by the Trump administration that marijuana use is leading to the alarming rise in opioid abuse are not supported by the available evidence. In reality, numerous studies have found just the opposite.

Specifically, researchers have linked legal marijuana access to lower rates of opioid use and of hospitalization and mortality from it. A 2016 study by the University of Michiganreported that chronic-pain patients reduced their opioid use by 64% when cannabis became available.

In Israel, researchers found similar results in a cohort of patients with treatment-resistant pain, reporting a 44% reduction in participants’ opioid consumption after medical cannabis was introduced. That substitution can result in saved lives. In March, the authors noted in Drug and Alcohol Dependence that medical-marijuana legalization was associated with significant reductions in opioid-related hospitalizations.

Similarly, a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine determined that legalizing medical cannabis is associated with a reduction of as much as 33% in deaths attributable to the use of prescription opiates and heroin.

marijuana mythsMYTH 2: Consuming Marijuana Lowers Intelligence

The source of this often-repeated claim is a 2012 longitudinal study by Madeline Meier and colleagues that associated the persistent use of cannabis prior to age 18 with lower IQ in middle age. However, a separate review of that data, published in the same journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, , disputed any direct link between cannabis use and declining IQ. It argued that Meier’s team had failed to properly control for potential confounding factors, such as subjects’ socio-economic status. After accounting for those variables, the author theorized that the true effect of early-onset cannabis use on IQ “could be zero.”

More recent longitudinal studies also dismiss the notion that cannabis use impairs IQ. A 2016 British study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology assessed IQ and educational performance among a cohort of 2,235 marijuana-using teens and non-users. “[T]he notion that cannabis use itself is causally related to lower IQ and poorer educational performance was not supported in this large teenage sample,” the authors concluded.

In 2015, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota evaluated whether marijuana use was associated with changes in intellectual performance in two cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages nine to 12, before they had any involvement with marijuana, and again at ages 17 to 20. Investigators found no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline. They also saw no significant differences in performance between marijuana-using subjects and their non-using twins.

“In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change… we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline,” they concluded. “[T]he lack of a dose-response relationship and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”

marijuana myths freedom leafMYTH 3: Cannabis Smoke Exposure Is More Damaging to the Lungs Than Tobacco Smoke

While some studies have linked chronic marijuana-smoke exposure to higher instances of cough, phlegm and bronchitis, science has refuted claims that cannabis inhalation causes the sort of serious respiratory diseases commonly associated with smoking tobacco.

Specifically, the largest case-controlled study ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana-smoking reported that it was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among subjects who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints over their lifetimes.

“We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” the study’s lead researcher, UCLA pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin, stated in 2006. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect” among marijuana-smokers—who had lower incidences of cancer than non-users.

Cannabis consumers can mitigate their exposure to the toxic gases produced by burning plant matter by using a vaporizer, which heats marijuana flowers to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion. Clinical studies assessing vaporization report that these devices all but eliminate subjects’ potential exposure to gaseous toxins and are “an effective and apparently safe vehicle for THC delivery.”

marijuana myths freedom leafMYTH 4: States with Regulated Marijuana Markets Experience Surges in Violence

Contrary to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim that “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” states that license the production and distribution of marijuana have not seen an uptick in violent crime. In fact, many jurisdictions have had less violent crime since legalization.

2014 study published by researchers at the University of Texas reported that the enactment of “medical-marijuana laws precedes a reduction in homicide and assault…. In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”

A 2012 federally funded study published by UCLA researchers also reported that the proliferation of medical-cannabis retailers in urban areas “was not associated with violent-crime or property-crime rates.” It speculated that the dispensaries might actually reduce neighborhood crime, since many hire their own door security, have security cameras and take other steps to deter would-be criminals.

Data from states that regulate recreational marijuana sales yield similar results. In Washington, after voters legalized adult use in 2012, violent crime declined 10% statewide. In Colorado, which legalized adult use the same year, rates of violent crime and property crime dropped in Denver afterwards. Crime rates have similarly decreased in Portland, Ore., according to the libertarian Cato Institute. (Oregon legalized adult use in 2014.) Overall, Cato’s researchers concluded that concerns about legalization leading to more crime have largely been exaggerated.

marijuana myths freedom leafMYTH 5: Cannabis Legalization Is Linked to a Rise in Traffic Fatalities

While some studies have found that THC-positive only drivers have a slightly higher risk of motor-vehicle accidents than drug-free drivers, it’s still significantly lower than the risk of accidents associated with driving after consuming alcohol. According to a study of 2,000 fatal crashes published in Injury Epidemiology in March, drivers who tested positive for alcohol were more than 10 times likely to have an accident than drivers who tested positive for THC. (Drivers who tested positive for both were more than 15 times as likely.)

Most importantly, data from states that have liberalized marijuana’s legal status show no uptick in motor-vehicle crashes. “[O]n average, medical-marijuana law states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states,” researchers at Columbia University reported in the December 2016 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. “Medical-marijuana laws are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44…. It’s possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”

A 2011 assessment of traffic-fatality data from Colorado yielded a similar conclusion: Legal medical marijuana was “associated with a nearly 9% decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely due to its impact on alcohol consumption.”

In March, a Congressional Research Service report, “The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward,” concluded that there was “no trend identified in the percentage of drivers testing positive for marijuana,” either by itself or in combination with other drugs/alcohol, “for those involved in traffic fatalities and who were tested for drugs or alcohol” in Washington state after legalization. A similar review of motor-vehicle crash data by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, issued in December 2016, noted that the “risk of crashes while driving under the influence of THC is lower than drunk driving.”

If you enjoyed this Freedom Leaf article, subscribe to the magazine today!

About Paul Armentano

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and a Senior Policy Advisor at Freedom Leaf. He also serves on the faculty of Oaksterdam University. Mr. Armentano’s writing and research on marijuana policy have appeared in well over 750 publications, scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journals, as well as in more than two dozen textbooks and anthologies. He is the co-author of the book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (2009, Chelsea Green), which has been licensed and translated internationally, and more recently, The Citizens’ Guide to State-by-State Marijuana Laws (Whitman Books, 2015). Mr. Armentano is the 2013 Freedom Law School Health Freedom Champion of the Year and the 2013 Alfred R. Lindesmith award recipient in the achievement in the field of scholarship.

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Commentary about Western Europe – by Ben Ward CEO of Maricann – on CNBC

Forget the US. Here’s where medical marijuana is really taking off

  • There is a global shift in cannabis towards Western Europe.
  • That’s where the action in medical marijuana is really heating up.
  • Investor’s focused solely on the U.S. are missing the huge potential overseas.
Benjamin Ward, CEO of Maricann Group Inc.
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David McNew | Getty Images

There’s a groundswell of support for cannabis legalisation in the United States, with 29 states, as well as Washington D.C. approved for medicinal cannabis, and eight for lifestyle use.

Things are farther ahead in Canada. Regulations for production and sales have been in place for over three years, and the federal government has introduced a timeline to full federal legalisation for lifestyle use in July 2018. Capacity in Canada for lifestyle alone is projected to reach “5 billion dollars per year to start,” according to a recent report from Deloitte.

Yet, while many investors focus on opportunities stemming from Canada’s upcoming legalization – plus the longer-term investment potential in what will likely be a growing number of American states – they are missing the global shift in cannabis towards Western Europe. That’s where the action is really heating up.

The population of the United States is approximately 325 million. There are 35 million living in Canada. But compare that to the European Union’s population of 510 million. Germany, with more than 80 million people alone, legalized medicinal cannabis in January of this year. Add that to Italy’s nascent existing medicinal cannabis program.

“European markets are increasingly important to the cannabis sector. Each has a well-funded medical system, residents who seek natural and complementary therapies, and a government-supported mandate to stop the rising tide of opiate addiction related to chronic pain treatment.”

These European markets are increasingly important to the cannabis sector. Each has a well-funded medical system, residents who seek natural and complementary therapies, and a government-supported mandate to stop the rising tide of opiate addiction related to chronic pain treatment.

Taken together, these and other European examples show that we’re seeing traditionally conservative attitudes shift as medicinal cannabis is legalized.

That also means investors in cannabis who focus solely on North America are missing the huge potential found across the Atlantic.

Those investors restricting their cannabis investments to this side of the ocean – and in the United States in particular – are left navigating an array of legislation on a state-by-state basis, prohibitive out-of-state investment regulations, and a prohibitive tax code. These investors miss the boat as they churn through such choppy water.

In Germany, cannabis will be produced by licenced producers and distributed to pharmacies like any other medication, with each prescription eligible for full reimbursement from health insurance.

In their patient-driven markets, Germans, Italians and other Europeans are demanding the alternative of cannabis over opiates.

In our view, people who think opiates are the only answer to pain relief have a similar mis-perception as people who still think medicinal cannabis is nothing more than smoking up with their doctor’s permission.

They are both wrong.

In short, medical cannabis is about personalized and effective medicine. It’s not about getting high.

The Europeans know that, as we do in North America.

As Germany moves smartly down this path of medicinal cannabis, the rest of Europe will soon follow. And to ignore 500 million people in a stable economy is a mistake.

We’re at the start of the global revolution. We all need to be looking to Europe next.

Commentary by Benjamin Ward, CEO of Maricann Group Inc., a vertically-integrated greenhouse producer and distributor of medical cannabis. Toronto, Canada-based Maricann is now building global teams in rapidly expanding European markets as well.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.


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Leafly Investigation: Why Are CBD Prices So Confusing?

Last summer I was hit with a nasty illness called gouty arthritis which caused my toes to swell to the size of gherkins. Walking was torture. Each step felt like a hot knife stabbing into the joints of my bloated digits. Even the weight of a single cotton sheet bearing down during sleep was unbearable.

Why the price disparity? Some products offer CBD at 5 cents per milligram. Others charge four to ten times as much.

I am an active, healthy man, but this condition left me feeling hobbled, unhappy and unfashionable. The only shoes I could comfortably wear were Birkenstocks, which just look wrong with a suit. I spent thousands of dollars on dozens of blood tests only to be told by the specialists at NYU’s Langone Medical Center that my best treatment option was Advil.

That was not a welcome prescription. Advil and other NSAID anti-inflammatories can, over time, can lead to damaged liver, kidneys, and, in extreme cases, death. An estimated 16,500 Americans die each year from complications related to these drugs.

The bigger problem for me was that NSAIDs offered spotty and unreliable relief.

So I looked into a cannabis-based solution.

On my next trip to Colorado, I bought some cannabidiol (CBD) tinctures, pills and salves. While CBD is no cure for arthritis—nothing can replace the joint lubricating synovial fluid once it diminishes—one 25 ml dose of tincture twice a day under the tongue, plus the occasional puff of CBD oil in a vape pen and the obligatory Omega 3 oils (which, I subsequently learned, optimize the cannabinoid receptors in the body) has noticeably reduced my pain. I am steadier on my feet and back in shoes.

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CBD vs. THC: Why Is CBD Not Psychoactive?

But the fact is, when it comes to CBD medications I, like most patients, am groping in the dark. There are no reliable dosage guidelines for specific conditions, nor are there standard measurements, which is confusing when attempting to compare products. Most patients don’t understand which delivery system is optimal: Capsule? Tincture? Flower?

What’s more, the complete absence of federal safety regulations means the purity of CBD is always in question.

The most confusing and frustrating aspect, though, is the vast disparity in price. Some products offer CBD at 5 cents per milligram. Others charge four times as much—20 cents per mg. One company charges 60 cents per mg!

Here are the latest prices I could find online:

Consider this: Pine Tsunami, a low-THC (4.5%), high-CBD (15.3%) strain of cannabis flower, sells at Vela in Seattle for $184 an ounce. Chanel No.5 Grand Extrait perfume retails online for $276 an ounce. An ounce of HP printer ink goes for about $75 at Staples. A bar of .999 percent pure silver costs $18 an ounce. Most medicinal dried herbs retail for under $4 an ounce.

Pure CBD, at 10 cents per milligram, carries a consumer cost of $2,835 an ounce—more than twice that of pure gold.

If you scatter plot the prices of CBD for sale online, you get a sense of the helter-skelter nature of the market:

 

What gives? Are some producers turning this medicine into the “weed of greed? Or is the still-lingering weight of prohibition driving prices skyward?

As a journalist with piqued curiosity, and a patient seeking reliable medicine at a reasonable price, I decided to investigate.

Are some producers turning CBD into the ‘weed of greed’?

Hard to Know What You’re Getting

Even as public awareness of CBD’s healing potential has grown, it remains difficult to assess the quality, safety, and, importantly, the origin of most CBD products, thanks to the 80-year federal prohibition of cannabis and the resulting lack of both research and regulation.

“God knows what toxins are in the hemp processed in countries like China or Romania.”

Dr. Ethan Russo, leading cannabis researcher

Even though the law does not classify CBD as a Schedule I narcotic, the DEA claims that it is. (CBD, unlike THC, is not psychoactive.) That discrepancy leaves a lot of gray area when it comes to knowing how to operate. “It’s why some manufacturers don’t list CBD on the label,” says Heather Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Realm of Caring, a patient research and advocacy nonprofit in Colorado. “They may list ‘hemp extract,’ which is code for the entire cannabinoid content, but not necessarily CBD.”

Until recently, hemp growing and production was banned in the United States. As a result, much of the CBD being used today is extracted from hemp grown in Europe, or in some cases, China. (Google “CBD powder” and Alibaba and see what comes up.) This is troubling. Hemp has an extraordinary ability to absorb toxins from polluted soils—it’s a natural soil remediator. After the 1988 Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, hemp was planted around the contaminated disaster site for exactly that reason. Oils extracted from plants grown near soils contaminated by pesticides or industrial effluents may contain those impurities in concentrated amounts. In today’s CBD market, manufacturers are under no obligation to tell consumers where their hemp was grown or to test it for contaminants.

Caveat emptor: Chinese-sourced CBD powder can be ordered in bulk for less than 2¢/mg on Alibaba.com.

“God knows what toxins are in the hemp processed in countries like China or Romania, which don’t have the same laws about pesticide use that we have,” says Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist, ethnobotanist, and one of America’s leading researchers into medical cannabis. “I don’t trust any of it and I don’t think anyone else should either.”

It’s a tough choice for patients: $200/month for CBD or $11/month for Advil.

The good news is that it’s increasingly possible to source higher-quality, laboratory-tested CBD derived from organic hemp grown in Western European countries—Austria, Germany, the Netherlands—with strong environmental regulations. High-quality hemp oils from Europe now wholesale for 0.5 cents to 1 cent per milligram. If encapsulating, bottling, and labeling that oil doubles the production cost, a manufacturer filling a pill bottle with 30 20-mg capsules (a standard dose) and selling that bottle online for $60 (8 cents/mg) is realizing at least a 400% markup. 

While that may suit American manufacturers, it’s challenging for financially strapped patients who must cough up $200 to $300 a month—the equivalent of a monthly car lease—for CBD meds. In a rational world, health insurance would cover much of that cost. But the federal government still refuses to treat cannabinoid medicine with any sort of rationality. For people on fixed or low incomes, CBD isn’t a sustainable option, especially compared to an NSAID like Advil, which clocks in at about 6 cents per pill, or about $11 per month.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, the renowned Harvard psychiatrist who wrote the 1972 best seller Marihuana Reconsidereddubbed medical marijuana “the people’s medicine,” precisely because it could be made economically or grown at home. But at this price, CBD is more of a luxury product than an affordable treatment, less for the people and more for the pashas.

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The Price of Risk

I’m a patient, but I’m also a small business owner. I understand the challenge of conducting business in the cannabis space, which in many states is still considered a criminal activity. The media crows about “marijuana millionaires,” but the weight of prohibition can often be crushing to a small business with high startup costs, low revenue, and a fair amount of risk.

Federal law doesn’t directly address the status of CBD. But the DEA claims it’s illegal.

CBD producers shoulder a greater risk than the maker of any “normal channel” medicine. With the Trump administration sending mixed signals on hemp oil—the DEA’s notorious December 2016 Federal Register rule had manufacturers fretting that the government would ban it outright—the risk could suddenly turn hazardous.

Still, it’s difficult to fathom why CBD, derived from an easily grown and processed weed, is ten times more expensive than a precious metal.

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New DEA Rule Says CBD Oil is Really, Truly, No-Joke Illegal

Is Green the New Silver?

Prohibition imposes a criminal risk factor, certainly. But cocaine carries a far greater risk factor than CBD. And at $100 per gram, cocaine sells for the same exact price—$2,835 per ounce. So legal risk can’t be the only reason.

As I asked industry manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and researchers to explain the high price of CBD, five answers were consistently floated: inefficient farming and production, the costs of introducing a new product into an unregulated market, insufficient consumer information, limited patient access, and greed.

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Wanted: Better Hemp Farming

Modern hemp farmers say that hemp cultivation methods in the United States are antiquated and inefficient. “Farmers spend way too much money using outdated methods on something which grows quite simply,” says Jacob Goldstein, co-founder of two-year-old Green Mountain CBD in Vermont.

Green Mountain CBD co-founders Jacob Goldstein, right, and Alejandro Bergad.

Goldstein, who counts Seventh Generation founder Alan Newmanas one of his primary investors, sells one of the lowest-cost CBD products on the market.

Growers “are cloning plants before transferring them to soil, which requires massive manpower and expensive real estate and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Goldstein told me. “We don’t do clones, so we don’t need $1000/square foot climate-controlled grow rooms and we don’t need all the manpower required to get them into the ground.”

Instead, Green Mountain breeds its own high-CBD seed crops indoors, which, Goldstein says, makes for stronger roots and heartier plants. Green Mountain then cultivates the plants on its small, 14-acre farm. Medical marijuana is legal in Vermont, so Green Mountain has fewer concerns about state law enforcement officials raiding the farm. Some hemp farmers in other states haven’t been so fortunate.

Other hemp producers use pricey extraction processes, often with harsh solvents such as butane or hexane that require further processing to remove. Green Mountain pares its costs by extracting with coconut oil, which Goldstein claims has the added benefit of enhancing the bioavailability of the CBD in each dose.

That all sounds good. But Green Mountain doesn’t employ scientists to test its products and guarantee consistent and reliable dosing. That may be another way to minimize production costs, but it means consumers are essentially trusting the Green Mountain brand to deliver the 600 mg of CBD it promises on the label—and deliver them without pesticide residues or other adulterants.

The Stanley Brothers’ CW Hemp Capsules.

CW Hemp, the Colorado makers of the oil that successfully treated Charlotte Figi, does test its products through a third-party lab. The company also has a staff microbiologist test regularly for molds and other microbes. CW Hemp’s revenues allow the company to voluntarily follow CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) methods, even though it’s not required. “That’s the gold standard, and it adds costs,” says Jesse Stanley, CW Hemp co-founder and vice president.

The company grows its own famously CBD-rich plants. Patients registered with Realm of Caring, the nonprofit group created by the Stanley brothers, can purchase its CBD oil in bulk for as little as 5 cents per milligram. If you’re not registered with Realm of Caring, CW Hemp will ship its CW Simply capsules anywhere in the United States for 6 cents per mg. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting, though, because CW Simply says each capsule contains 15mg of “Charlotte’s Web extract oil.” Does that mean each capsule contains 15mg of CBD? We’re meant to infer it, as Charlotte’s Web is synonymous with low-THC, high-CBD cannabis. But we can’t know for sure. The company may be skittish about actually listing CBD due to federal legal concerns—but that doesn’t do a patient any favors.

Brand Assurance

Green Mountain was founded about two years ago. The company sells its products exclusively online and does very little marketing. When I told a fellow patient about the company’s products, he was skeptical. “I’ve come to know and trust some of the pricier manufacturers precisely because they’ve invested millions in establishing that brand,” he said. “They’re less likely to cheat me, because they have more at stake.”

Well… possibly. It’s true that the costs of building a trustworthy brand, while unseen by consumers, are not insignificant. In an industry where the usual markers of quality assurance (FDA approval, state-mandated testing) simply don’t exist, brand equity becomes an important indicator of quality.

In the absence of an authority to police the brands, though, consumer awareness guarantees nothing. Reputations can be built on unsubstantiated claims. In 2015, the FDA tested 26 CBD products produced in California, Washington, and Arizona and discovered that many contained miniscule amounts of CBD—or none at all. One year later the FDA repeated the test on 22 CBD products from other states: same result.

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Botanical Bells and Whistles

Here’s another way to command a high price: Create sophisticated formulations, package them beautifully, and sell them for a premium. The beauty industry was built on this formula. Most of the $300 potions on the shelves at Sephora cost about $2 to make, according to Perry Romanowski. Romanowski is a cosmetic chemist and co-founder of BeautyBrains.com, a site that educates consumers about the science behind the cosmetic industry.

CBD companies know this strategy well.

“Not all CBD products are created equal,” says Kurt Forstmann, hemp category manager for Colorado-based Dixie Brands, one of America’s largest and best-known cannabis companies. “The vast majority are just squirting CBD in coconut oil and calling it medicine. Our products have synergistic ingredients that potentiate the medicinal qualities, and many of them are as expensive as CBD.”

Dixie’s Aceso brand: CBD only, in a beverage powder.

A year and a half ago, Dixie created the Aceso brand, which offers THC-free CBD products to consumers around the country, regardless of the legal status of their state. Aceso’s “Calm” formulationcombines L-theanine (a Green Tea extract), plus two pharmaceutical-grade terpenes: linalool, which is found in lavender; and limonene from grapefruit. It’s packaged as a beverage powder, with 7.5 mg of CBD per sachet, at a price of 22 cents per mg. (The company’s CBD capsules, offered under the Dixie Botanicals brand, offer CBD at about 20 cents per mg.)

Aceso Calm certainly smells luxurious. But are those terpenes an integral part of a medically effective entourage effect, working in harmony with the CBD—or do they just please the olfactory sense? They jury’s still out, again, due to the lack of scientific studies. We do know one thing for sure: The addition of terpenes do enhance the cost.

Even if those supplementary ingredients equal the costs of CBD, though, Dixie’s products are still three to four times the price of Green Mountain’s. To give Dixie its due, the company spends a lot of money double-testing every batch of imported CBD oil for heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and solvents—once when the oil arrives at their facility, and again after the final product is assembled. “We don’t trust anyone in this business,” Forstmann says.

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Hemp-Sourced Vs. Cannabis-Sourced

Another way of judging the value of hemp-derived CBD is to compare it to the CBD extracted from more expensive cannabis flowers.

Unlike the other manufacturers surveyed in this article, Aunt Zelda’s, a small patient collective based in Bodega Bay, CA, makes its CBD tinctures and balms using cannabis flower, which is usually about two to four times more expensive than hemp. Their CBD oils, which are typically blended with THC, cost 2.25 cents per mg to manufacture, and that cost includes lab testing, tinted bottles, packaging, compliance, labor, rent, and utilities.

Unlike most CBD manufacturers, Aunt Zelda’s posts its independent lab test results online. A 600-mg bottle of their CBD-THC oil costs $13.50 to produce. It wholesales for $27. California distributors tack on another 30%, which ratchets the price up to $34. Dispensaries double that—a typical markup in any retail business—to about $70.

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Aunt Zelda’s delivers CBD to the patient at 11.6 cents per mg—but only in California. Because their oils contain more than 0.3% THC, they sell only to authorized California medical cannabis patients. And it’s not easy for patients to find; retail partners listed on Zelda’s website do not actually list Zelda’s CBD on their own menus. Aunt Zelda’s might make some of the highest-quality CBD in America, but it’s extremely difficult for most patients buy.

Today’s CBD market is young and unnaturally warped by prohibition. As it matures, prices will stabilize—and hopefully decline.

Aunt Zelda’s is a nonprofit patient-based service. Revenue is important, but it’s not the sole driver of the operation. That raises a question. If Zelda’s meticulously crafted, high-end cannabis-sourced product sells for 11.6 cents per mg, how can a bottle of CBD tincture made from cheap imported hemp oil, of unknown quality and purity, sell online for two to five times the price?

The answer can be found in a complicated mix of factors. Today’s CBD market is young. Four years ago it was practically nonexistent. It’s also unnaturally warped by cannabis prohibition, legal uncertainties, the absence of FDA regulations, and insufficient consumer information and access. Some companies are producing high-quality, locally sourced, lab-tested, and toxin-free CBD. Others are importing cheap hemp oil of unknown quality and slapping a CBD label on a bottle. It’s extremely difficult for patients to know the difference. Aunt Zelda’s produces excellent CBD guaranteed by lab results—but almost nobody outside California can buy it.

Manufacturers are rushing in with products and tossing out prices to see what sticks. If you believe in market efficiency, a middle price zone will eventually emerge when today’s massive inefficiencies subside. Companies will learn how to increase their quality and decrease their prices and still turn a profit.

That occurs, however, only when markets mature. Right now, “there are a lot of snake oil salesman trying to profit off people in need,” Jesse Stanley told me. “It’s unfortunate, but those dynamics are very real.” In the long run, though, Stanley believes the scamsters and low-quality manufacturers will be driven out, and the promise of this theoretically affordable plant-based medicine will have its due. “CBD is a new product that is revolutionizing the way we treat disease,” he said, “and I think we’ll see amazing things in the future.”

Gordon Baker, a medical cannabis researcher and patient advocate, contributed to this report.