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Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, on of the world’s preeminent medical cannabis experts, has announced a hunger strike until Germany sufficiently opens up the medical cannabis program to all patients in need. –

franjo

German Cannabis Expert Announces Hunger Strike

Germany has made great strides improving its cannabis laws in recent years, but there is still so much work to be done, as too many patients are still without safe access to a safe medicine. There was understandably great hope that Germany would start treating marijuana the same as any other medicine, after the country implemented an expansion of the burgeoning medical program, but too many bureaucratic hurdles remain. Hoping to fulfill the practical notion that cannabis should be treated the same as any other prescribed medicine, Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, on of the world’s preeminent medical cannabis experts, has announced a hunger strike until Germany sufficiently opens up the medical cannabis program to all patients in need.

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Grotenhermen when he spoke at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin last year, and the man’s dedication to the cause, and expert knowledge, were evident to all in attendance. I hope when the ICBC returns to Berlin in 2018, that Dr. Grotenhermen can reflect on how his efforts have successfully brought medical cannabis fully into the medical mainstream.

Below is a press release sent out by Dr. Grotenhermen announcing his hunger strike: 

Cannabis expert starts hunger strike

Rüthen: On August 17, 2017, the German cannabis expert Franjo Grotenhermen entered an indefinite hunger strike. The objective of refusing to accept any food is to decriminalize all citizens who need cannabis to treat their serious diseases.

On March 10, 2017, a much-debated law on cannabis as a medicine went into effect in Germany. It was the declared aim of the legislature to allow all patients who need a therapy with cannabis medicines to do so. The law, however, proves itself in practice as too bureaucratic. Therefore, treatment with cannabis and cannabinoids is unattractive for doctors who in principle support such therapy. Many patients do not find a doctor who allows them legal access to the needed treatment.

“The legislature has taken a great step into the right direction,” explains Grotenhermen. “However, many patients are still dependent on a still as illegal regarded treatment. They face criminal sanctions. This is no longer acceptable. Therefore a basic clarification in the narcotics law must be established. The prosecution of patients to whom a doctor has certified the need for a therapy with cannabis must end. ”

Already today, the German Narcotics Law allows prosecutors to stop a criminal case in the case of a “minor debt”. This possibility is mainly applied in cases of possession of small amounts of cannabis. Grotenhermen urges that criminal proceedings should in principle also be stopped if accused citizens need cannabis for medical reasons. “The need for a cannabis therapy should not be judged by the judiciary, a government agency or a health insurance company, but, as with other medical treatments, also by a doctor,” explains Grotenhermen.

He also strongly supports the uncomplicated access of patients to standardized preparations from the pharmacy. In this respect, it is necessary to improve the existing law. However, the prosecution of the remaining losers of the legal situation must also be ended. “I am not aware of a convincing argument by which patients’ prosecution can be maintained,” adds Grotenhermen. A corresponding amendment to the Narcotics Act is, therefore, logical and unavoidable.

From 7 pm a 21-minute video will be presented on a special website (www.cannabis-hungerstrike.de), in which Grotenhermen explains in detail the background and goals of his hunger strike. On May 12, 2017, he had already begun a short 8-day “warning hunger strike”, by which he wanted to draw attention to a problem associated with the new law.

Franjo Grotenhermen, born in 1957, studied medicine in Cologne. Medical practice in Rüthen (NRW) with a focus on therapy with cannabis and cannabinoids. Grotenhermen is the chairman of the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM), Executive Director of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) and
Chairman of the Medical Cannabis Declaration eV (MCD), as well as author of the IACM-Bulletin, which is available in several languages on the website of the IACM. Grotenhermen is an associate of the Cologne nova-Institut in the department of renewable resources and author of numerous articles and books on the therapeutic potential of the hemp plant and cannabinoids, their pharmacology and toxicology. Among others, since 2008 he has been an expert on debates in the
Health Committee of the German Bundestag on the medical use of cannabis products, most recently in September 2016.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon’s cannabis le 

http://marijuanapolitics.com/german-cannabis-expert-announces-hunger-strike/


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Canadian exports of medical marijuana soar as producers seek overseas toehold

(This is the third article of a four-part series examining how Canadian cannabis companies are expanding globally. Part I was published Aug. 9 and Part II on Aug. 10. Part IV will publish Wednesday.)

By Matt Lamers

Canadian medical cannabis exports are surging, driven by licensed producers that are using overseas shipments as a way to establish local partnerships and gain a foothold in foreign markets.

In particular, exports of dried medical marijuana and MMJ oil products from Canada have soared since 2015.

And they are on pace to double this year from 2016 levels, according to data obtained by Marijuana Business Daily. Analysts expect this trend to continue in the near future as more countries legalize medical cannabis.

While exports remain a sliver of overall medical marijuana sales in Canada, licensed producers (LPs) have moved to capitalize on burgeoning overseas MMJ markets such as Germany, Australia and South America.

According to data from Health Canada, the government body responsible for issuing cannabis export permits:

  • Just over 45 kilograms (100.3 pounds) of dried cannabis and 94.7 kilograms of cannabis oil were exported through July 20 of this year.
  • For all of 2016, 44.8 kilograms of dried cannabis and 100.8 kilograms of cannabis oil were shipped overseas.

No medical marijuana was exported in 2015 under the former Conservative government, which did not share the pro-MJ views voiced by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cam Battley – a member of the board of directors of Cannabis Canada, the industry association for licensed producers – sees exports as a means to an end.

“We’re going to see exports to multiple new legal medical cannabis markets soar,” he said, “but ultimately the real game is going to be building and owning capacity in new markets.”

How it breaks down

Over the past two years, Canadian LPs have exported cannabis oil to Australia, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. Dried cannabis has been sent to Australia, Brazil, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands, according to Health Canada.

No cannabis export permits were issued in 2015, while 43 were handed out last year and 75 as of July 20 this year.

Of the 75 permits issued this year, 11 were for dried cannabis and 64 for cannabis oil products.

In total, 118 export permits were issued by Health Canada as of July 20 under federal guidelines established between 2013 and 2016.

The data also shows that most export applications were approved.

In 2016, Health Canada received 11 export applications for dried medical cannabis and issued nine permits.

So far this year, Health Canada has approved 11 of 13 export applications submitted for dried MMJ.

Though growing quickly, exports still represent a tiny fraction of overall MMJ sales by the country’s licensed producers.

In the first three months of 2017, slightly less than 6,000 kilograms of dried medical cannabis were sold to 129,876 registered clients across Canada for medical use, meaning exports accounted for less than 1% of all sales.

Examples of Canadian exporters

To give their marijuana sales a shot in the arm, several Canadian licensed producers have turned to the export market:

More export growth anticipated

Looking ahead, analysts expect exports will continue to rise as Canadian LPs service niche markets and establish localized operations abroad.

Khurram Malik, a partner with financial advisory firm Jacob Capital Management, sees exports spiking to certain nations and regions before coming back down once Canadian LPs set up operations in those markets.

“Exports will be larger from where they are today, but I don’t think they will be a large part of the revenue mix (for Canada’s LPs) going forward,” he said, owing to the high costs of growing cannabis in Canada. “Canada won’t be cost competitive with markets overseas for exports.”

Battley, the Cannabis Canada board member, sees exports climbing in response to new markets coming online. Twenty-three countries have active medical cannabis laws, while another 14 countries have pending laws, not counting the United States.

“What we’ve seen thus far is a trickle,” he added. “Germany’s intention, for example, is to have licensed producers from other jurisdictions supply the market until 2019, hoping that by then there will be sufficient domestic capacity. But building and licensing high-quality capacity takes time.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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Cannabis And The Elderly: A Neurophysiological And Pharmacological Review

by Gaurav Dubey

The elderly population, a term which is generally agreed to mean any individual age 65 or older, is a uniquely diverse and often complex demographic to treat

The aging baby boomers now include many frail and elderly individuals, as Knickman and Snell put in their 2002 review discussing, among several items, “the potential burden an aging society will place on the care-giving system and public finances” (Knickman & Snell, 2002).

Devastating neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well illnesses such as cancer and chronic pain are more prevalent in older populations and require a multimodal treatment approach. Such treatment can involve hospice care when patients are diagnosed as “prospectively dying” and are the often given very high doses of narcotics, such as morphine, to help ease this pain (Ber-sala et al., 2013) (Scitovsky, 2005).

However these powerful comfort drugs carry serious side effects that can be incredibly detrimental to one’s quality of life (Meier, 20111). A study by Ber-sala and colleagues, however, is one among several emerging studies that also indicate significant alleviation of symptoms in the elderly upon cannabis consumption (Ber-sala et al., 2013). I have discussed previously works that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of various disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Chronic Pain, conditions with a high prevalence in the elderly population. To this end, this article will focus on a new 2017 study by Katz and colleagues that demonstrably shows the utility and efficacy of cannabinoids in the elderly while using other related and supporting data (Katz et al., 2017). Providing safe, effective and therapeutic care for our senior citizens and adequate end of life care for hospice patients is the hallmark of a successful healthcare system and compassionate society. As such, further investigation into cannabis and cannabinoids for the elderly population is a vital responsibility for the medical community and it’s healthcare providers.

The elderly population, which is steadily increasing in numbers, is the demographic with the highest prevalence of disease and suffering (Parker et al., 1997). The need for adequate care and allocation of resources to treat this diverse population presenting with an even more diverse palette of pathologies is a critical one. Elderly patients typically consume a large amount of prescription drugs, all with varying risk and side effect profiles (Katz et al., 2017).

“Comfort Drugs” used in hospice care, such as hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl, while generally effective at treating pain, can cause significant drowsiness and even respiratory depression, leading to death, upon overdose (Chau et al., 2008). Chau’s study also describes how normal physiologic aging can significantly alter the pharmacokinetic mechanisms of such drugs in the elderly population, which requires even greater care by the prescribing physician (Chau et al., 2008). With the mounting clinical evidence regarding the efficacy of cannabis to treat a wide variety of pathologies, including many that significantly affect the senior population, special attention should be given to the potential of adding cannabis to the arsenal of drugs to help treat the elderly.

When used simultaneously with opioids, “cannabinoids have been shown to successfully lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain” leading to patients using fewer opiods and experiencing fewer side effects (ref). Perhaps more fascinating from a neuropharmacological standpoint is the fact that cannabinoids seemed to also “prevent the development of tolerance to and withdrawal from opiates” and is even able to essentially cause a weaker dose, that wasn’t working as efficaciously for pain relief for the patient before, to become effective once again (Lucas, 2012). The reduced side effect and high safety profile both present cannabis as a compelling alternative or adjunct to these drugs as well.

In a new 2017 review analyzing clinical evidence for the utilization of cannabinoids in the elderly by Katz and colleagues, the beneficial effects of cannabis in the elderly is implicated by just some of the major conditions cannabis is known to effectively treat in the elderly: Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Cancer (Katz et al., 2017).

pensioner cannabis

Image credit- Mass Roots

Furthermore, in discussing the safety of cannabis, Katz and colleagues state, “Cannabinoids present a relatively safe profile of action in elderly patients. Hence, cannabinoid treatment should be considered more readily when other options fail, even in cases of scarce data” (Katz et al., 2017). In fact, I strongly believe that due to the relative safety of cannabis (no reported overdoses/deaths), it should often be considered a first line treatment if possible, over the use of an opioid analgesic, for instance, which carries significantly greater risks. In a population that is often already overmedicated, the possibility of using cannabis, a compound known to be relatively safer than some of the other drugs used to treat chronic pain and illness, should be seriously considered as a mainstay treatment as more data becomes available (Katz et al., 2017).

Indeed, my article regarding cannabis use reducing the individual consumption of prescription drugs speaks to this point well.

As mentioned above, cannabis has been identified to have beneficial and therapeutic properties for several diseases with high prevalence in the elderly. One such condition that cannabis has been indicated for is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Indeed, Volicer et al. demonstrated in a placebo-controlled crossover-designed study that treatment with a THC analogue (Dronabinol) attenuated behavioral disturbance in Alzheimer’s patients (Volicer et al., 1997).

While critics of this study claim the lack of quantitative data make the results difficult to adequately validate, a systematic review by Woodward and authors, reporting on “the largest studied cohort of dementia patients treated with Dronabinol to date”, was able to confirm these findings. They reported that Dronabinol could serve as an efficacious “adjunctive treatment for neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia” (Woodward et al., 2014).

Furthermore, Katz and colleagues, in reviewing this clinical data, concluded that cannabinoids seem to be a safe and effective treatment for therapy “to manage behavioral disturbances in patients” (Katz et al., 2017). Neurodegenerative disorders such as AD are debilitating and often require a multidimensional approach to treatment. Similar challenges arise when considering Parkinson’s disease, another common neurodegenerative illness prevalent in the elderly.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is another illness commonly associated with elderly patients and is primarily characterized by death of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra. It often presents with symptoms such as: tremor, rigidity, gait abnormality and non-motor related clinical symptomology (Katz et al., 2017).

While the etiology of PD is still largely unknown, emerging research has uncovered that our own endocannabinoid system seems to play a significant role in the mechanism of the illness (Katz et al., 2017). This is pharmacologically fascinating as there is a lack of CB1 receptors (one of two main cannabinoid receptors in the body/brain) in the dopaminergic nigostriatal (this is spelt correctly?) neurons that are being damaged due to this serious illness.

canada cannabis

It’s currently presumed this occurs due to the fact that the endocannabinoid system modulates GABA and glutamate transmission (two other major neurotransmitter systems in the brain not part of the endocannabinoid system) (Katz et al., 2017). The ability of our own intrinsic endocannabinoid system to play a key role in the mechanisms of this disease holds promise for the future treatment of PD with cannabis.

A common feature of both PD and AD along with other neurodegenerative disorders prevalent in the elderly is dementia, a debilitating phenomenon that has shown significant receptivity to the therapeutic applications of cannabis (Walther & Halpern, 2010). In regards to PD, cannabis has been shown to provide “significant amelioration also in rigidity, tremor, bradykinesia, pain and sleeping problems with no significant adverse effect” (Lotan et al., 2014). Furthermore, a small cohort of 22 PD patients treated with cannabis and surveyed 30 minutes after use reported “a significant improvement of 9.9 points in the mean score Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (P<0.0001)” (Katz et al., 2017).

Another common morbidity and co-morbidity among the elderly population is cancer. Chemotherapy is a common mainstay of cancer treatment and is well known to carry seriously averse side effects that are difficult to manage for patients. A recent 2016 review by Dr. Abrams states “Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression” induced by chemotherapy (Abrams et al., 2016).

In a study with 211 patients, of which 131 had a second, follow-up interview, “all cancer or anticancer treatment-related symptoms showed significant improvement (P < 0.001). Aside from memory lessening in patients with prolonged cannabis use, “no significant adverse events” were reported (Ber-sala et al., 2013). Having worked in an oncology ward for 4 summers and in my training as an EMT in Miami-Dade, I’ve personally witnessed the immense suffering of cancer patients. It’s difficult not to want to provide anything and everything to assist them, especially if they are in their final years and moments before the inevitable. Narcotics such as morphine for pain and adderall to combat the drowsiness from the morphine are common balancing acts in regards to hospice care medications.

As stated by Nersesyan & Slavin, “Stimulants such as methylphenidate or caffeine can increase alertness in patients who are experiencing somnolence on a dose of morphine that provides sufficient pain control” (Nersesyan & Slavin, 1998). With cannabis having a significantly lower side effect profile and a lower chance of adverse drug events as mentioned above, it is time to seriously consider easy access of cannabis to elderly patients suffering from these conditions, especially those in hospice care. Perhaps the pharmacokinetic mechanisms of the drug are not completely understood, however, enough compelling data exists, combined with the fact there has never been one singlepurported overdose/fatality from cannabis that serious consideration need be given to this modality of treatment.

cannabis weight loss

The safety profile of cannabis next to some of the other drugs used to treat this patient population isn’t even comparable when considering potential for fatalities (that already occur every day) from opioids alone. For this and so many other reasons, it’s time to make a change.

So why restrict access to cannabis if it is beneficial for elderly and it improves their quality of life? Ber-sala, in his study, states that cannabis induced relief of symptoms in their study may in part be due to its euphoriant properties. He points out that, “from a medical point of view, the general improvement in the level of distress is important as an end-point for palliative studies, and the cause is less important (Ber-sala et al., 2013).

There is no doubt that the use of potent narcotics such as morphine and hydromorphine create powerful and potentially addicting “highs” as well, but their use is often times warranted in this situation. Thus, holding cannabis to a different standard due to this side effect is in fact holding a double standard and disrespecting science and evidence. In fact, if you’re sick and dying of cancer on your deathbed, the idea of “feeling good” is a powerful one I think many people, especially those in the medical profession, can relate with.

Another reference in regards to cannabis in popular culture is the “munchies”, essentially, the appetite-stimulation effects of cannabis use. While the data is scarce on this topic in the elderly, preliminary findings show promise (Katz et al., 2017). A few small studies (<40 people) using Dronabinol as a treatment found small changes in weight gain or increased consumption of food over shorter time intervals (Katz et al., 2017). Furtherore, when considering the “entourage effect” (define that) and the beneficial effects of, for instance, Sativex (a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio, whole plant cannabis formulation) over other synthetic cannabinoid compounds such as Dronabinol and Marinol, it begs the question about whether whole plant cannabis formulations would be even more beneficial to patients over synthetics compounds (Russo, 2008).These results call for further investigation as proper nutrition is vital to this population of patients.

The stigmatization of the “high” of cannabis and the social satire of the “muchies” can often detract from the medical necessities of these effects for cancer patients, many of whom report as truly depending on these characteristics of cannabis to help them through such illnesses (Waissengrin et al., 2015). Overwhelming data shows this population could potentially benefit greatly from cannabis use and only more research and more science can help change public perception.

The elderly population is one that suffers from an increased prevalence of a variety of severe pathologies, not the least of which including neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and chronic pain. A recent 2016 study found that “medical expenses more than double between ages 70 and 90” and that “ the government pays for over 65 per cent of the elderly’s medical expenses” (De Nardi et al., 2016). If the effects of cannabis can be reproduced in bigger trials, FDA approved treatments and therapies that are efficacious and successful can be implemented, healthcare costs and the benefit to society overall could improve. With a healthcare crisis already underway in our country, perhaps a paradigm shift such as this one is a promising one. Maybe the question we should be asking is not “can we afford to do this?” but rather, “can we afford not to?”

[Featured image credit- Endoca]

Gaurav Dubey | August 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Tags: Cannabiscannabis elderlyCannabis studyMedical Cannabis studyPensioners | Categories: FeaturedHealth | URL: http://wp.me/p8nEcz-H9
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“It’s California in 1995 All Over Again, Man” – Opportunities and Problems Piling Up in the European Cannabis Market – from Cannabis Business Executive magazine / Philip J. Cenedella IV

“It’s California in 1995 all over again, man.”

That was a comment I overhead during a conversation between an American and a German entrepreneur at the Mary Jane Berlin event held in Berlin in the second week of June, 2017.

Indeed, there may not be a better way to sum up the current state of the state here in Europe’s most populous country. Having been on the frontlines of the grassroots efforts in San Diego last century, it is fun to see how our industry is now growing in Germany and throughout Europe.  And like California back then, or now, the struggle is not always easy.

Here’s another interesting quote of the month:

“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.”

-Benjamin Ward, CEO, Maricann Group, Inc.

As of August, 2017 starts, the medical marijuana patients in Germany are experiencing “sold out” conditions nationwide, and the two exclusive importing countries (Canada and the Netherlands) are anticipating further bottlenecks as their in-country supply needs change. This is a significant problem – but also an opportunity for GMP-certified growers to fill the gap. If, and how, the German government opens up alternative supply to support their medical patients will be the top story in Germany this year.

From the patients perspective, there are two bad things about the current state of affairs: Little to no choice in their required medicine and their insurance companies are now refusing to cover the costs for the medicine as stipulated in the federal law.

Of course, lawyers are now getting involved and insurance companies are starting to be forced into approving valid claims from their policy-paying customers. But it is a silly, slow process to say the least.

The solution the German government is pursuing is to award 10 grow licenses to companies that will then produce 200 lbs. cannabis ​each within the country. The first bud from those plants are not scheduled to be picked until sometime in 2019, which is simply too long for patients to wait.

Some of the companies that have been publicly mentioned as potential winners of a grow license are Spektrum Cannabis, which is the Canopy Growth company formerly known as MedCann; Maricann GmbH, which is the new German subsidiary of its Canadian parent, Bedrocan, that has been a leader in the industry but recently run into a dispute with their Canadian licensee, Bedrocan International; Aurora Cannabis from Canada, which recently acquired the German firm Pedianos adding an EU-wide, medical marijuana distribution capability; and ABCann of Canada, which touts the “Father of THC” Dr. Raphael Mechoulam as a key member of their board of directors.

Homegrow options in Germany are currently not permitted, and existing indoor/outdoor farm operations are not yet able to be registered, licensed and taxed.

The black market continues to win, and patients continue to lose.  Cannabis business executives worldwide need to effectively work with the German government to develop the solutions we all know exist.  Three organizations that are key to this effort are the BfArM (www.bfarm.de )  the DHV (www.hanfverband.de )  and the GTAI ( www.gtai.de )

My personal comment is the government, politicians and regulators here in Germany need to listen to their constituents who support our industry by over 60 percent nationwide, according to a recent poll. The total quantity of flower to be delivered by the 10 licensees is probably less than what my buddy Butch has in his building back in California to handle his patients which live within five miles of the office.

Yes I am joking, Butch usually has less, but the point is – ​it simply is not enough for a population twice the size of California.

With all the talk about Germany, it is also important to remember that it is one of 18 countries within Europe that currently allow for some form of medical marijuana.  Besides Germany, there are provisions for the distribution and use of medical products in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and, the most recent addition, Poland.

This is an interesting list that, again, shows these are historic times here in Europe.

Sadly missing from the list above is the United Kingdom, and that has affected people we know. Our friend Vera Twomey, and her entire family had to leave the U.K. last month just to take care of their young daughter with Dravet’s Syndrome. In the U.K. their daughter suffered from up to 30 grand mal seizures a day while taking a regimen of pharmaceutical drugs.

Think about that for a moment – 30 grand mal ​seizures a day.

Now living as “medical refugees” from their homeland, the Twomey’s and their daughter are now dealing with zero grand mal seizures a day thanks to her medical marijuana.

30 grand mal seizures a day, now zero a day – everyday for the past 3-4 weeks.

The United Kingdom calls medical marijuana illegal. Patients and advocates call that thinking arcane, unjust, and possibly criminal itself. They are now petitioning the Human Rights Commission of the European Union in Brussels for help. I am positive their efforts will be successful – it is just a matter of time.

Vera and her family hope it comes within her daughter’s lifetime. That is all for now. Have a successful rest of the summer, rest up and get ready because I believe that Q-4 of 2017 is going to be a busy one for our industry and your company.

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Cannabis Shows Great Promise in Treating Cancer—Let’s Not Wreck It With Hyperbole

DR. DAVE HEPBURN – LEAFLY

There’s no topic like cancer to inspire cacophonous claims of a cure, pegged to everything from the rinds of fruits nobody has ever eaten to powders drawn from Micronesian beaches no one has ever visited. As such, claims of miracle cures for cancer typically cause the medical establishment to roll their eyes and avert their attention.

This is why it’s so important to eschew such cure-related hyperbole when discussing the cancer-treating components of cannabis, which could all too easily be lumped into the same National Enquirer“wonder cure” category.

RELATED STORY
Government-Run Cancer Institute Quietly Acknowledges That Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells

Such talk is especially counterproductive given that there is little doubt that cannabis plays a very important role as a treatment option for cancer—a fact even government agencies are ready to acknowledge, issuing statements on cannabis and cancer that are profoundly encouraging.

The National Cancer Institute has said that “Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.” (Presumably it does something similar outside of the laboratory, but taking cannabis from lab to bedside is an exercise in Schedule-I bureaucratic frustration.) In addition, the NCI states that “[c]annabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their non-transformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

Anecdotes of success in treating cancer with cannabis can’t be ignored—they’re what’s driven the medicalization of cannabis for a long time.

This is because cannabis is what’s known as “pro-apoptotic.” Apoptosis means that a cell commits suicide. Cannabis encourages this in some cancer cells while protecting non-cancer cells from the same fate. As any oncologist will tell you, killing cancer cells while not affecting normal tissue is one of the Holy Grails of treatment. Cannabis can also prevent cancer cells from further dividing, spreading, and growing.

Even the National Institute of Drug Abuse—an organization historically devoted to vilifying cannabis—has gotten on board, stating that “marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others.” Not even they can ignore the science.

Anecdotes of success in treating cancer with cannabis can’t be ignored—they’re what’s driven the medicalization of cannabis for a long time. But anecdotes aren’t enough to support touting cannabis as a miracle cure. As always with cannabis and its 144 cannabinoids, the range of effects and variations is vast. Medical cannabis is still the wild west. One size simply does not fit all. There are just too many permutations.

So let it be said, loudly and often: Cannabis is not a cure for cancer. It is not a panacea that has been evilly suppressed by greedy pharmaceutical corporations.

Exaggerations such as these do nothing but sabotage the potential of cannabis. T-shirts emblazoned with “Cannabis Cures Cancer” and assorted leafy greens simply give the appearance of Rastafarian snake oil.

Let’s not further embolden biased clueless conservatives, who look for reasons to further vilify cannabis and stigmatize cannabis users. Now is the time for common sense and reason rather than common screech and rhetoric. Overcoming stigma means reversing ideas that are all too often loosely formed yet firmly held.

Progress in cannabinoid science is truly exciting and packed with great promise If we are to advance, the focus needs to be on objective science and studies. Let’s keep it that way.


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Legal, regulatory obstacles preventing Canadian ‘Big Cannabis’ from diving headfirst into U.S. – from MJBiz Daily

August 10, 2017

Legal, regulatory obstacles preventing Canadian ‘Big Cannabis’ from diving headfirst into U.S.

(This is the second article of a four-part series examining how Canadian cannabis companies are expanding globally. Part I ran Aug. 9, and Parts III and IV will be published on Aug. 15-16.)

By Matt Lamers

Canadian cannabis companies eyeing U.S. medical and recreational marijuana markets can encounter a host of legal and regulatory pitfalls, prompting most of the big licensed producers to shun America altogether – at least for now.

“The rule right now is ‘no.’ You cannot do business in the United States,” said Aaron Keay, CEO of Ottawa-based ABcann Global, a licensed producer (LP) that trades on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker symbol ABCN.

In particular, the company doesn’t want to jeopardize its listing on the TSX Venture Exchange, given the stipulations laid out by the exchange’s parent company.

On its face, the United States is an attractive market:

  • Thirty states – plus Washington DC – have legalized medical marijuana.
  • Eight states also have legalized sales of recreational cannabis.

Canadian licensed producers seem poised to invade the U.S. industry, as many are spreading their wings to gain a first-mover advantage in newly legalized marijuana markets globally.

Most of these companies ultimately want a slice of the U.S. market, which could generate up to $9 billion in retail sales next year, according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017.

But several issues have made the United States off limits for some Canadian companies – notably the biggest players.

Hurdles aplenty 

Catch No. 1: MMJ exports to the United States are a nonstarter. Health Canada won’t issue an export license without an import certificate from a foreign counterpart – which can’t happen in the United States, because marijuana is illegal in the eyes of the U.S. government.

To get around the need for an export permit, some Canadian cannabis companies are investing directly in licensed producers based in the United States.

Catch No. 2: You’ll have a hard time listing on either of Canada’s two largest stock markets. TMX Group – the parent of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) and the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) – mandates that its listed companies comply with relevant laws and regulations where they do business.

And because MMJ is illegal in the eyes of Uncle Sam, listed cannabis companies on Canada’s two biggest exchanges are technically not supposed to do business in the United States.

In fact, only one of the five cannabis companies on the TSE has cannabis-related assets in the United States, while around a dozen of the 47 cannabis stocks on the smaller Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) have U.S. holdings.

Catch No. 3: You might have a limited ability to raise capital. While the CSE is a respected exchange, it doesn’t have nearly the clout, exposure to institutional investors, or access to capital that firms listed on the TSE and TSXV enjoy.

Big Canadian companies kept at bay

Ironically, U.S. prohibitions blocking the development of the cannabis industry on a national scale are shielding the country’s state-sanctioned cultivators from competing against well-capitalized and more experienced Canadian peers.

Most of the biggest licensed marijuana growers in Canada, behemoths compared to their under-capitalized American counterparts, are holding off on any U.S. expansion plans to avoid breaking laws in either country – and to stay in good standing with TMX Group regulations.

A case in point: The United States is a no-go zone for Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis (TSE: ACB).

“It has to be federally legal. We’ve got to make sure that everything we do is kosher with the exchange,” said Cam Battley, executive vice president of Aurora. “We will not touch anything in the U.S. while it’s federally illegal.”

Two years ago Aurora had a “growth strategy south of the Canadian border” – it agreed to build a production facility in Washington state – but the plan was superseded by the 2015 Canadian election. That plan is no longer in the cards.

“I’m very interested in the U.S. market, but I’m not going there until it’s federally legal, and we are not going to jeopardize our relationship with the TSE,” Battley said.

Saskatoon-based CanniMed Therapeutics (TSE: CMED) says it has a facility in the United States, but it’s not producing cannabis to avoid running afoul of regulators. But “when regulations change it’s something we can and will ramp up extremely quickly,” a company spokesperson said.

According to the company’s website, CanniMed’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SubTerra LLC of White Pine, Michigan, “is a key strategic asset in the Company’s longer-term strategy to service a potential medical cannabis market in the United States.”

Neil Closner, CEO of Markham, Ontario-based MedReleaf (TSE: LEAF), told Marijuana Business Daily the company only considers markets that are regulated at a federal level.

MedReleaf’s vice president of strategy, Darren Karasiuk, acknowledged the “substantial” potential of the U.S. market, but said “the company is not currently considering making any investments in the cannabis industry there, and would only consider doing so in the future after consideration of the impact on the company of all laws affecting any such investment and in compliance with all applicable guidance and requirements of the TSE.”

For Smiths Falls-based Canopy Growth Corp. (TSE: WEED), the United States is not currently on its radar.

“International expansion for CGC is only going to be done in jurisdictions where it’s federally legal to do so,” said a spokesperson.

Keay, the CEO of ABcann Global, said he’s keeping an eye on opportunities south of the border and communicates on a regular basis with executives in the country.

But “right now we cannot go down that path because we’re listed on the TSX,” he said. “You can’t right now. But I have my eye on it. It’s the land of some of the biggest consumer products in the world.”

Some undeterred 

Still, some analysts and Canadian executives are bullish on the U.S. cannabis sector’s potential – and a few licensed cannabis producers have entered the American market.

Vahan Ajamian, an analyst at Canada’s Beacon Securities, sees great potential in the U.S. market as more states legalize medical and adult-use cannabis, but notes “it’s really 50 separate markets” owing to the plant’s illegal status at the federal level.

“We are big believers in the U.S. opportunity,” he said.

Among the five cannabis companies trading on the TSE, only one is actively involved in the U.S. marijuana market.

Leamington, Ontario-based Aphria (TSE: APH), which boasts a “U.S. expansion strategy,” has business interests in Arizona and Florida, and belongs to a partnership vying for a license to grow medicinal cannabis in Ohio.

Through Aphria (Arizona) Inc., Aphria owns 18.5% of Copperstate Farms Investors, which in turn has a 95% interest in Copperstate Farms – a licensed medical cannabis producer in Arizona.

In Florida, Aphria’s stake in Liberty Health Sciences gives it a financial interest in an MMJ company operating in a state poised to become a major market for medical cannabis.

Liberty Health Sciences CEO George Scorsis told Marijuana Business Daily his company is focused exclusively on the United States “because of its tremendous opportunity.”

Scorsis’ strategy involves going into markets that are “completely medical. That’s one premise we will never deviate from. Second, we look at states that do not have canopy restrictions, because that permits us to grow at a scale of greenhouse that allows us to be the lowest cost producer. We also like states that have high barriers to entry.”

With a market cap of CA$100 million ($79 million), Ottawa-based CannaRoyalty (CSE: CRZ) is one of the larger companies on the CSE with investments in the United States.

Marc Lustig – CEO of the marijuana-focused investment company – told Marijuana Business Daily that, regardless of the federal policies, the United States “is the largest opportunity and will be for some time.” 

CannaRoyalty has financial stakes in cannabis companies operating in Washington state, Oregon, California and Arizona.

It’s also indirectly involved in Florida, where one of its investee companies, AltMed, agreed to combine its Florida operations with Plants of Ruskin. It’s also looking at Nevada, Massachusetts and Maryland.

“Our whole strategy is surrounding producers with the whole toolbox that they need,” Lustig said. “We’re building a diversified company across different product segments, and across multiple geographies.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com.


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Medical marijuana companies in Canada capitalizing on ‘insane’ growth abroad – by Matt Lamers

https://mjbizdaily.com/canadian-medical-marijuana-companies-tap-insane-growth-overseas/

(This is the first article of a four-part series examining how Canadian cannabis companies are expanding globally. Part II will be published Thursday and Parts III and IV on Aug. 15-16.)

By Matt Lamers

Canadian medical cannabis companies are primed to tap what one industry executive calls “insane” growth overseas.

Flush with capital and largely free from American competition, Canadian licensed producers (LPs) are spreading their wings to gain a first-mover advantage in new markets as more countries legalize marijuana for medical use.

Fueling the overseas push is the vast amount of funding the companies have accumulated: During the first half of 2017, Canadian cannabis companies raised more than 1 billion Canadian dollars ($790 million), up more than 1,700% from the same period last year.

“One of the big advantages that Canadian companies have internationally right now is that we have access to capital that companies in no other country can match,” said Cam Battley, a member of the board of Cannabis Canada, the industry association for licensed cannabis producers.

“In addition to our expertise and the credibility of having operated successfully under rigorous government regulation in Canada, we have access to the level of capital required to make significant investments in equity and also in capital projects.”

The potential is significant. A recent analysis by Toronto-based Eight Capital, a full-service investment dealer, pegs the potential international medical cannabis market at CA$180 billion ($142 billion) over the next 15 years.

“We believe the path to global expansion for the LPs starts by partnering through medical-focused opportunities, and that in the longer term, international medical markets could be major upside opportunities,” the report states.

Germany and Australia have been the early focus for nearly a dozen Canadian MMJ companies tapping international markets through exports of flower and oils, licensing arrangements, distribution deals and acquisitions. Others have accumulated interests in South America.

Europe, where about a dozen countries permit sales of MMJ, is the big prize.

Battley said Canadian companies are going overseas to capitalize on their advantage while it exists.

“There are no significant American competitors right now on the international stage, so the best opportunities are open to well-capitalized Canadian producers,” he said.

Vahan Ajamian, an analyst in Beacon Securities’ Toronto office, said Canadian cannabis firms are driven by opportunity overseas rather than competition at home.

“There are all sorts of opportunities in foreign jurisdictions,” he said. “Germany is a hot one. Other countries in Europe are going medical. Mexico legalized medical cannabis. The world is slowly but surely going that way.”

“These are opportunities you’re looking to exploit, because of your size and capability in Canada,” he added.

The race to Germany

After Germany agreed to greatly expand its medical cannabis program earlier this year, a number of Canadian companies quickly established a foothold in Europe’s largest economy.

Germany became the first country to cover the cost of medical cannabis through its national health insurance system for any therapeutic application approved by a doctor.

The country is conducting an application process to select 10 licensed producers to cultivate 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of medical marijuana annually from 2019 to 2022. The 10 licensees could be announced in September, according to industry officials.

Until domestic producers are operational, imports will be needed to meet German demand.

Among the Canadian companies vying for one of the coveted licenses is Vancouver, British Columbia-based Aurora Cannabis, which lists as ACBon the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In May, the licensed MMJ cultivator acquired Germany-based Pedanios, an importer, exporter and distributor of medical cannabis in the European Union. It’s the largest medical cannabis distributor in Germany.

Pedanios passed the first stage of the application process.

“Demand in Germany is expanding at an insane rate,” said Battley, who also serves as executive vice president of Aurora. “Not only is Germany creating a very well-thought-out medical cannabis system, they’re reimbursing medical cannabis under the national health system.”

“We see Germany as our anchor in Europe, and that’s a market of 500 million people in the EU,” added Battley. He said Aurora is making “very considered and select investments that are anchoring us in markets that we see as very attractive future markets for medical cannabis. The good opportunities that come along are available at attractive prices right now.”

Ottawa, Ontario-based ABcann Global (TSX Venture: ABCN), another licensed producer, also is pursuing opportunities in Germany, and its common shares trade on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

CEO Aaron Keay said ABcann Global sees Germany as a gateway to broader European opportunities.

“We’re absolutely at the forefront,” he told Marijuana Business Daily. “We look at Europe as a significant part of our strategic plans for expansion, in addition to what we’re doing domestically.”

Keay confirmed that ABcann expects to acquire a distribution license and start exporting MMJ to Germany in the third quarter. He also said ABcann is “very interested to continue to pursue the cultivation in Germany.”

Canopy Growth (TSE: WEED), a licensed producer based in Smiths Falls, Ontario, established a foothold in the country with exports to Germany and its acquisition of MedCann, a Germany-based pharmaceutical distributor, in late 2016.

“Frankly, it’s growing very, very quickly,” Canopy Growth spokesman Jordan Sinclair said of the German market. “It’s very important.”

“There’s a lot of things that happen in the German market that are going to mirror what happens in Canada. So from a positioning perspective, and with the experience we bring to the table, we think we’re going to excel,” he said.

Other Canadian players in Germany (and nearby) include:

Australia bound

Australia, with a comparable population and demographic makeup to Canada, is receiving considerable interest from international cannabis companies.

The country legalized medical marijuana last year for patients with chronic or painful illnesses.

In May, CanniMed (TSE: CMED) marked its first shipment of commercial cannabis oil to Australia with the sale of 3,600 milliliters of oil to Health House International, a medical cannabis wholesaler in Perth.

A CanniMed spokesperson said the current focus is on the global medical market, rather than the Canadian and U.S. recreational markets, “because the opportunities allow for international expansion faster.”

Canopy Growth wants to use the lessons it learned in its early days in Canada to help AusCann Group Holdings (Australian Securities Exchange: AC8) in Australia. Canopy Growth will offer its expertise to AusCann in exchange for an initial 15% ownership stake in the company. AusCann’s strategic partner has been granted two cannabis licenses from Australia’s Office of Drug Control.

AusCann will import MMJ from Canopy until it’s capable of supplying locally produced medicine.

“Over the past year or so we have been supplying them with some of our intellectual property so they can come out of the gate strong. In exchange for that, they gave us a small stake in the business,” a Canopy spokesperson said. “We’re not exporting actual cannabis to Australia, we’re only exporting intellectual property.”

Aurora Cannabis entered the Australian market by taking a 19.9% stakein Cann Group Limited (Australian Securities Exchange: CAN). Cann is the first Australian company licensed to conduct research on and cultivate medical cannabis.

Aurora will also be exporting its intellectual property under an agreement with Cann.

ABcann Global is also actively looking at opportunities in Australia, CEO Keay told Marijuana Business Daily.

Canadian licensed producers have also done business in ColombiaCroatiaSouth AfricaNew ZealandChileCyprusBrazil, the Cayman Islands, Israel, Spain, Uruguay and the Netherlands.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com.