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The sisters who make CBD

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Nestled in the Central Valley, California, is not your typical convent, but the women there are no less dedicated to their cause. Meet the nuns on a mission to heal the world through plant-based medicine.

When the US congress passed a bill in 2011, which – to some interpretations – declared pizza a vegetable, an outraged Kate Meeusen, declared herself a nun. She didn’t realise at the time what she was signing up for.

Kate had a high-flying career, travelling Europe as a business consultant in deregulating industries, but after a devastating divorce a few years earlier, had moved to California as a single mother-of-three.

Feeling let down by the men in her life, she craved the peace and quiet of a life in the country, somewhere she could ‘heal’. But equally determined to create work and leadership opportunities for other women, she turned to the most promising deregulating market in her new home state – the cannabis industry.

Kate founded a non-profit cannabis collective in 2010, delivering cannabidiol medicine to terminally-ill patients and developing teas and tinctures so they could experience its effects without needing to smoke it.

The calling came soon after.

“I thought I was just being sarcastic and sort of giving a finger to the establishment, to how messed up things were,” Sister Kate says, talking to Cannabis Health from the Central Valley.

“I had no idea the journey it was going to take me on, at the time it was just a costume I had pulled out.”


The Sisters of the Valley was formed in 2014, with a mission statement to help as many people in the world access their medicine, as responsibly as possible.

She explains: “In 2014 I started to form the principles of what this new-age religion would look like.

“We decided we would be religious about women in business ownership. Women have been used for free labour for thousands of years, so we don’t allow volunteers or any unpaid work to happen under our roof.”

The Sisters of the Valley CBD now has franchises – or enclaves – in countries across the world, including the UK [Brother Matt is based in Southampton], with 22 active sisters and seven Brothers.

The colourful journey of how Sister Kate learned how to grow cannabis from black market dealers – and was shot at protecting her crop – has even featured on a Netflix documentary Breaking Habits.

Today there are eight Sisters based in California, of which three or four will live at the ‘convent’ at any one time.

“The women come to me,” says Sister Kate.

“My philosophy was that I would take in whoever came and I’ve been very successful in attracting women – many of whom already have a healing calling in them.

“Our message is a holistic one, we’re not doctors or scientists. We believe CBD is good for you.”

They might not be religious in the traditional sense, but the Sisters live a spiritual life, following the six basic principles, Solace:  Service, Obedience to the Moon Cycles, Living Simply, Activism, Chastity, Ecology and wearing veils to ‘protect their energy’.

They live and work around the cycles of the moon with all the products handmade by the women, set on the new moon, and bottled under the full moon.

They eat meals together and take part in communal prayers, but most of their work is carried out individually; from growing the crop, to making the medicine, to marketing and delivering their range of CBD-infused products worldwide.

“We believe in a depth of power that is greater than what we see,” says Sister Kate.

“We believe that the energies around the medicine have to be protected and that we’re here to protect them.

“In this day and age there is so much over communicating. Our number one thing is that we want a harmonious place to work, we value a quiet environment and separate solo work.

“We do everything we can to keep a monastery-like feeling in place.”

But she adds: “We do a lot of fun stuff too, because we don’t want to be working all the time.”

In their free time they might be out hiking, on bike rides, or taking part in group art or music sessions (during the coronavirus lockdown they all took up learning a musical instrument).

“We’re all aspiring to the six-hour work day and aim to spend our late afternoons doing art or music together,” she says.

The women come from a variety of backgrounds and vary in age, from Sister Kate who is 60, to Sister Quinn, who at 24 is one of the youngest.

She joined the enclave just over a year ago and now works with them part-time alongside her job as an analyst at the University of California Merced.

“When I first heard about the Sisters I thought it was amazing that they were here in the Central Valley,” says Sister Quinn.

“After I graduated I was so broke I reached out to them on Instagram and started working as Sister Kate’s assistant – I started wearing the veil soon after, they didn’t even have to convince me.”

Sister Quinn had begun using cannabis as a teenager, to help manage the symptoms of her ADHD but now uses it to treat anxiety, insomnia and chronic back pain, among other ailments saying she never uses anything else.

But it was the community that the Sisters have created that really won her over.

“It’s amazing to have people love you unconditionally,” she continues.

“My family did their best but they didn’t really give me what I needed emotionally.

“Being young, I’m not used to people being interested in my ideas, but the Sisters have helped me grow as a person, I’ve gained a lot more self-respect and self-awareness.”

Despite some surprise at first, her friends and family were mostly supportive about her decision to join the enclave, she says: “I’ve always paved my own way and I’m never going to fit in with the status quo, so most of my friends support me because they know how I am – I think they’re happy that I’ve found a home.”

She seems sure she’s found her ‘forever home’ and is even dreaming up a retirement plan in which she will lead her own enclave one day

“We’ve built a community here, where we are all really trying to better ourselves and the world around us, it’s amazing” she adds.

“I’ve been a lone wolf for a long time, so it’s nice to finally have a pack. I never realised how much I was missing.”

Find out more at www.sistersofthevalley.org

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What are the benefits of CBD?

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The benefits of CBD are wide-ranging, here’s a few of the most common ways people find it helpful – and the evidence to back it up.

Over recent years, as the use of CBD has rocketed in popularity, there seems to be no end of uses that people have discovered for it.

However, the ways in which it can be used are often broken down broadly into a few key categories. Cannabis Health takes a look at some of the most common complaints CBD can be used for.

Pain relief

While the conditions may vary, one thing is clear; CBD is a valuable weapon in the fight against chronic pain.

Anecdotally, it has provided much-needed relief to sufferers of endometriosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis, where previous, prescription-strength medications has failed.

As for the science, in December, a study of Canadian medical cannabis patients found that its use reduced the use of prescription painkillers. 

The research found that, at the start of the six-month study, 28 per cent of participants were using opiate-based painkillers, which dropped to 11 per cent at the end. 

Such findings are also good news for tackling the UK’s increasing addiction crisis; around 540,000 Britons are thought to be addicted to opioids.

It is understood that CBD’s pain-relieving properties stem largely from its anti-inflammatory effects – which is why it is also gaining popularity among athletes and sportspeople. 

Insomnia

Sleep – or the lack of it – is a huge issue, and for many it has only got worse over the past 12 months. Studies suggest than one in four people are struggling to get to or stay asleep, with mothers, key workers and people from minority ethnic backgrounds the worst affected.

While the effect of cannabis on sleeping patterns remains an underdeveloped area of research, it is gaining momentum – with some promising signs.

One study from 2019 showed that levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, reduced significantly in participants who took between 300 and 600mg of CBD oil before bed.

However, another study in the same year found that a more regular dose was needed to improve their ability to fall and stay asleep. After a month on a 25mg dosage of CBD oil, 66.7 percent of patients said their sleep had improved.

Stress and anxiety

We could all do with a stress-reliever from time to time, and too many people still use alcohol or cigarettes for this very purpose.

However, increasing research shows that CBD is a safer and healthier alternative to both of the above, accounting for its rise in popularity amongst the wellness sector.

A landmark study in the US – thought to be the first of its kind – was launched in October last year to investigate CBD’s use as a formal anxiety treatment.

The Cannabinoid Anxiety Relief Education Study is targeting millions of CBD and cannabis users across the US to assess the potential role of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety and other co-morbid conditions, such as insomnia and depression.

And while research still ongoing, preliminary studies also suggest that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animals such as rats.

Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioural signs of anxiety, and the physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, also improved.

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Medical cannabis to bring in £3 million annual boost for Isle of Man

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The Island's government recently gave the go-ahead to grow medical cannabis

The medical cannabis sector is expected to generate an additional £3 million a year for the Isle of Man economy after the go ahead was given for cultivation on the island. 

The Isle of Man Government voted to approve regulations to issue licenses for the production, distribution and export of cannabis products from the Island.

The Isle of Man is self-governing jurisdiction and following a series of consultations, its Parliament, Tynwald, approved changes to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations which will permit commercial operators to produce medical cannabis products.

The sector, which is estimated to generate around £3 million in annual benefit in the coming years and considerably more through the growth of associated infrastructure – including financial and operational – to support the sector. 

The Government also expects the medicinal cannabis sector to support and bring innovation to the Isle of Man’s Cleantech and construction sectors, as well as developing businesses from within and off the island. 

The growing global cannabis market provides significant opportunity for economic development in the Isle of Man, with the global market forecasted to account for USD 82.19 billion by 2027.

The new regulatory framework responds to industry and consumer demand for stringent and flexible licensing of a broad range of cannabis products, ranging from outdoor grown industrial hemp to indoor grown medicinal products. 

The framework only relates to an export industry and there are no changes to domestic legality of prescription medicinal cannabis or the legality of non-medical adult use of cannabis in the Isle of Man.

The Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC) will serve as the launch regulator for the sector and will be issuing guidance for hemp applications from Isle of Man growers soon.

For high-THC operators, the GSC is finalising its approach to its regulation and is consulting with relevant commercial and government stakeholders, and anticipates issuing guidance and accepting license applications in the first quarter of 2021.

Lawrie Hooper MHK, political member with responsibility for Business Isle of Man, said: “We are delighted to launch this exciting new sector in the Isle of Man and to take advantage of the expertise in regulating new, complex industries while providing stringent consumer safety. We’re confident that GSC’s regulation will once again attract quality businesses to the Island transforming the cannabis export sector into a key contributor to the Isle of Man’s post-COVID economic recovery.’

Mark Rutherford, responsible for preparing the new regulatory framework at the GSC, commented: “The Island has a track record as an early adopter of new sectors. Over the course of the past 20 years acting as the regulator for the Island’s eGaming sector, the GSC has developed expertise in keeping the industry crime free, protecting consumers and providing transparency, and this experience is complementary to the skills that will be required for this new and emerging sector.

“This is an exciting opportunity and we have a sophisticated framework for supervising gambling which can be easily adapted to regulate the cultivation and processing of cannabis. We recognise there is huge potential for this new sector to create real positive economic benefit so we need to ensure we treat the new cannabis sector like we have treated the gambling sector: that license stakeholders that are competent, credible and crime free from the outset.”

 

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CBD in Northern Ireland – what you need to know about EFSA novel food applications

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UK FSA novel food regulations no longer apply to Northern Ireland

Northern Irish CBD companies have just ‘days’ to get European novel food applications under way if they have not already. 

Hemp Federation Ireland has urged CBD companies in Northern Ireland to submit their European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) novel food applications imminently, in order to meet the spring deadline. 

While the rest of the UK will fall under Food Standards Authority (FSA) regulations, Northern Ireland must continue to follow EU law after the end of the Brexit transition period. 

As set out in the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’, any companies seeking authorisation for a CBD product to be placed on the market will have to follow EU and EFSA rules

This is to allow trade to continue uninterrupted between Northern and Southern Ireland.

However, the news has placed CBD companies in Northern Ireland, and those who wish to trade there, in a ‘difficult position’ with just weeks left before the deadline for novel food applications on 31 March.

Hemp Federation Ireland has been advising Northern Irish companies to proceed with the dual application process, allowing them to gain novel food status in both the UK and the EU. 

But those who were not aware of this, or have not already begun the dual application process have now been left at a ‘considerable disadvantage’, Chris Allen, of Hemp Federation Ireland, told Cannabis Health. 

While Northern Ireland is still within UK customs territory it is still subject to the provisions of EU law, including food law.

“This does put companies in a difficult position because the time frame is so tight for applications to EFSA, which I believe will close in mid-February. They really want to have those applications well underway within the next couple of days if they want to be covered by EFSA regulations.

“In reality, there is about a 10 day window for them to get the house in order and when you consider the cost of the novel food application, I can only imagine that there are a lot of companies in the UK scratching their heads now.”

All applications must include 90-day toxicity data, with the cost of this estimated to be between £300,000 and £1million.

Stephen Oliver, of London-based cannabis consultancy firm, The Canna Consultants said it is likely that many companies in Northern Ireland will have already invested in the application process, believing they could remain on the market after this date.

“There is bound to be teething problems arising as a result of Brexit, but this does seem a little bit unfair to companies who didn’t know about it,” continued Allen.

“It does seem that UK and Northern Ireland stakeholders in the industry have been placed at a considerable disadvantage.”

As things stand, CBD brands elsewhere in the UK, will no longer be able to sell their validated products in Northern Ireland after March 2021.

England-based CBD firm Honest Hemp, which sells products in Northern Ireland, said the company was hoping to find a solution. 

“It’s very sad to hear that the CBD companies based in Northern Ireland will now have their products deemed ‘unlawful’, despite going through the same extensive processes as the rest of us in the UK. So, we do feel very lucky to be able to continue operating as an England-based company, said marketing manager, Georgious Mesimeris. 

“Here at Honest Hemp, we are working hard to find a solution that will allow us to continue selling to our customer base in Northern Ireland and ensure their needs are covered. Of course, it’s hard to predict the future in a time like this, but we can keep hoping that things work out for the best eventually.”

Hemp Federation Ireland is working with Irish companies on navigating the post-brexit regulations and is happy to advise on the EFSA application process. 

“The whole industry has been constantly shifting in regulations over the past few years and it’s really not the fault of the companies themselves that they find themselves in this position now,” Allen added.

“There is poor understanding of the regulations in Ireland and that is not something that can continue long term, it will have to be resolved. The really important thing now is for people to know what their options are going forward and to understand how Brexit works from this side of the Irish Sea.”

Allen can be contacted by email on: chris@hempfederationireland.org 

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