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Isle of Man to set ‘benchmark’ for global cannabis sector

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The Isle of Man is ‘seizing the opportunity’ to develop a world leading export-based cannabis sector.

The production and exportation of cannabis-derived products could be legalised on the British Island – with the first crops planted as soon as 2021 – following a consultation period launched on 23 October.

The Department for Enterprise is seeking public opinion on the proposed regulatory framework before it goes to a vote in parliament in December.

The move comes following a public consultation period completed in 2018 which indicated strong support for the creation of a regulatory framework for facilitating an export-based cannabis sector, with over 95 percent of respondents in favour of growing the plant for medical purposes.

The new industry will boost economic activity on the Isle of Man, creating hundreds of jobs for islanders, and is estimated to bring in up to £3m a year in tax revenues.

London-based cannabis consultancy firm the The Canna Consultants have been working with the Government on the Isle of Man since last year to draft the legislation – which is said to be the ‘gold standard’ in global regulatory regimes for the cannabis export sector.

Co-founder and director Steve Oliver told Cannabis Health the emerging sector was a ‘huge opportunity’ for the island to supply some of the world’s leading cannabis companies.

“None of us know what this industry is going to look like, but in 10 years it will be unrecognisable,” he said.

“The Isle of Man is trying to position itself so whichever way the market moves it is highly regulated and producing a high quality product.”

The company consulted with cannabis producers in North America, Canada, South America, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa to learn from the problems faced by other jurisdictions.

They have developed two regulatory frameworks, one of which governs the types of licenses which can be issued, including the minimum standards and guidelines for applicants.

The other outlines the proposed regulations for domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, cannabis and the manufacture of related cannabis-derived products for export including prescribed fees.

“The Isle of Man wanted to create a benchmark, if you like a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the regulation of cannabis-derived products for export,” continued Steve.

“If they pass the regulations, we could have a situation where test crops are in the ground outdoors next year and the industry can hopefully start to generate jobs on the island. We have seen significant interest already.”

The Government is said to have accelerated the process after the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year leaving many industries facing uncertainty.

Under current UK legislation hemp is not considered an agricultural crop and farmers must apply for a licence from the Home Office. They are then prohibited from using the flower and the bud of the plant (from which the cannabinoids are extracted) under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

However, the Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency and has its own parliament, government and laws.

“As the Isle of Man has its own parliament they are quite progressive and can act in a streamlined fashion, much quicker than other jurisdictions. There is a lot of support for this across the parliament,” Steve explained.

With the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey also introducing less restrictive regulations around the production of cannabis, is the mainland missing out on a huge economic opportunity?

“The UK is notoriously less transparent, there’s a lack of guidance and a lot of red tape with regard to getting licences. UK hemp farmers are at a distinct disadvantage because they have to destroy the most valuable parts of the crop,” added Steve.

“It is my personal belief that it’s a missed opportunity for any jurisdiction that isn’t looking at this.”

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Industry

“If no one is pushing the industry will never move on” – KanaVape founder’s milestone victory

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KanaVape founder Antonin Cohen has spoken of his relief that a six-year battle with the European courts has proved victorious for the CBD industry.

The founder of French company KanaVape is celebrating a landmark victory, following a six-year battle with the authorities.

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) yesterday (Thursday 20 November) ruled that CBD is not a narcotic drug and does not appear to have any ‘harmful effect on human health’.

The dispute between French authorities and the founders of the first CBD vaporizer, KanaVape saw has centred around the question of whether restricting the sale of CBD products legally produced in other countries in the EU breaches single market rules.

As in the UK, the extraction of flowers from the cannabis plant is illegal in France, due to the presence of THC.

In 2014 French authorities launched legal action against KanaVape co-founders Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie for importing hemp flowers from the Czech Republic.

The pair were prosecuted in 2018 and given a 16-month suspended sentence and a 10,000 Euro fine.

But the verdict was later overturned by the European Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may go against the rules of the single market, which allows for the freedom of movement of goods between the 27 member states of the EU.

Today’s ruling, by the highest European court, concludes that a member state, ‘may not prohibit the marketing of CBD lawfully produced in other Member States’ when extracted from the whole cannabis plant and ‘not solely from its fibre and seeds’.

The decision is expected to overturn a preliminary conclusion issued by the European Commission (EC) earlier this year that CBD and other extracts from hemp flowers should be classed as narcotics under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Mr Cohen said he was ‘grateful’ that his efforts of the last six year had proved fruitful – not only for him, but the industry as a whole.

“I am very happy and relieved that we have been successful in this case, after what has been a long batte,” he told Cannabis Health.

“I have been lucky to have the revenue to be able to defend myself, but the process has been extremely stressful and costly in terms of money, time and energy.”

Mr Cohen, an activist who has been involved in cannabis science since 2008, said his motivation was to see ‘society progress’ and move the cannabis sector forward.

“I had a choice six years ago to say that the products were coming from the whole plant, which is why we have had this victory today which will allow for similar companies to operate in a safer environment,” he continued.

“There were certainly times when I wondered why I was pursuing this, but if no-one is pushing for this clarification, the industry is never going to move on.”

Now CEO of one of Europe’s leading CBD brands, Harmony, Mr Cohen hopes the ruling that CBD is not a narcotic, will urge the EC to proceed with novel food applications and make way for clear regulations.

“The only way to ensure quality standards and good manufacturing processes is through regulations that work with the industry,” he said.

“It’s important now for the EC to harmonise regulation of CBD products on the European market, so we can make sure products are accessible and safe for consumers, but also that companies can benefit from the growth of this industry worldwide.”

He added: “There hasn’t been much good news for the CBD industry in recent years, with a lot of confusion and complexity around regulation, so I’m very excited about this milestone –  but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Eveline Van Keymeulen, Head of Allen & Overy’s Life Sciences Regulatory and Cannabis practices, who is assisting Antonin Cohen in the proceedings, commented: “This long-awaited decision is a landmark decision for the CBD industry in Europe, the development of which has been hindered seriously by the fragmented and inadequate legal framework to date.

“The Court’s decision sets a binding precedent with European reach. Its interpretation of EU law is binding on the European institutions – including the EC – and will require other EU member states to assess their national rules applicable to the marketing of natural CBD in light of the clear criteria provided by this decision. Today’s judgment should therefore lead to more regulatory harmonisation and legal certainty which is indispensable for the further development of the CBD industry in Europe. Most importantly, a clear and proportionate regulation of CBD-based products will ultimate benefit EU consumers.”

 

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Mum launches CBD brand inspired by daughter’s battle for medical cannabis

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The mother of a severely epileptic child, whose life has been ‘saved’ by medical cannabis, has launched her own CBD brand to help families.

Since 2017 Tannine Montgomery, 31, has been fighting for fair access to medical cannabis treatment for her daughter, Indie-Rose, who lives with a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.

Indie-Rose began having seizures at around four months old and doctors never managed to bring them under control.

After three years of weekly ambulance trips to hospital and eight different antiepileptic drugs – all which failed to be effective – Tannine was desperate to find another treatment to improve her daughter’s quality of life.

She set about learning everything there is to know about medical cannabis and CBD.

“I’d heard it could help but I wanted to make sure what I was giving her was safe, says Tannine.

“I was given some CBD oil to try but for three weeks it sat in the cupboard because I was too scared to use it.

“Then Indie had this awful episode, she’d been up all night having seizures and I saw the CBD in the cupboard and thought ‘right now I’ve got nothing to lose’.”

Although they didn’t notice much change in Indie at first, after 10 days of taking the oil her parents watched her run down the garden for the first time.

Tannine adds: “It was amazing, we just looked at each other and said – wow this stuff is actually helping her.”

After years of battling to get access to full extract cannabis oil – including a ‘traumatic’ three-month stay in Holland – after the law change, Indie-Rose eventually obtained a private prescription for Bedrolite.

Now six, she is still severely disabled but is able to attend school and hasn’t been hospitalised or had to receive rescue medication for three years.

But Tannine and her partner, Indie-Rose’s dad, Ant have to raise hundreds of pounds each month for her medicine, while they continue to campaign for access on the NHS.

Their struggle has inspired Tannine to step into the sector herself, with the launch of Sweet Pink CBD, a range of CBD products created in her home studio in Suffolk.

“We weren’t getting anywhere with the government and the fees just aren’t obtainable for anyone holding down a normal job, but I knew that what I had learned over the last few years was probably valuable,” she says.

She started working with Green Leaf Processing, a company producing hemp oil, similar to Bedrolite but with lower levels of THC, so it is legal in the UK – and more than half the price.

“Bedrolite is a prescription medicine but the bottles that I can sell for £60 rather than £160 still help,” she says.

“Through my learning I noticed that not all children respond to the same thing so it’s always worth trying something. Each person is so individual in what works for them when it comes to cannabis.”

After Indie-Rose responded well to the oil, Tannine realised she could help other families, who don’t have access to a private prescription.

“For me, starting the business was about helping people and also giving people the knowledge to help themselves so just talking to people and pointing them in the right direction of where they can find correct information about cannabis,” she continues.

“I hope people feel they can trust me because I was that one once that mum, who desperately needed something to help my child. I felt lost, and I just want to be that person that they can come to.”

After being approached by a friend with a bad back, Tannine saved up out of her benefits to make bath bombs which she distributed to people living with chronic pain and other ailments.

Sweet Pink evolved and now includes CBD oils, balms, massage oils and bath products, all of which are 100 percent vegan, organic and infused with active ingredients and essential oils, such as turmeric, eucalyptus, wild orange and bergamot, chamomile, lavender and pink pepper. She also offers one to one, confidential consultations to create bespoke products for her customer’s personal wellbeing needs.

The money from Sweet Pink will go towards helping fund Indie-Rose’s prescription, but Tannine  also hopes to help other families who are struggling to afford the fees.

“I don’t want to just help Indie – there are so many other children in the same situation – and I want people to have fair access, without having to worry about the money,” she adds.

“The plan is to set up a charity so 10 percent of the profits from the company will go to funding children’s medication. That will be accessible to everyone in the End Our Pain group, and all the families I already know, but also other families out there to hopefully help their children.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peering into the void – the intriguing world of the endocannabinoid system

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That refreshing wake-up feeling. The rumble in your stomach. The stress-busting power of a deep breath. These momentary passages of everyday life are part of the body’s response to the myriad of molecular interactions going on internally, invisible to the human eye.

The complex cell-signalling endocannabinoid system encapsulates these very interactions, mediating multiple processes at work in your body right now – from the immune response to metabolism (the chemical reactions of life).

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three major components; the endocannabinoids themselves, the enzymes which break down endocannabinoids and receptors – all interacting in a network of neural pathways and cells.

It is believed that the endocannabinoid system has a crucial role in “essentially all human disease.”

The compound cannabidiol or ‘CBD’ (derived from the cannabis plant) has an interesting part to play in the system, with therapeutic potential for a variety of neurological disorders.

Endocannabinoids are molecules synthesised in the body (endo meaning ‘in’). Their aim is to bind to specific cell-surface receptors and exert a range of physiological effects in the body. For example, stimulating that familiar growl of hunger.

The major endocannabinoids which have been characterised in-depth are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).

THC is the psychoactive substance in cannabis plants. Cannabidiol (CBD), first synthesised in 1965, can be perceived as THC’s sensible older sibling. While you might not think it is quite as exciting as THC in its effects, I hope to change your mind.

In fact, the cannabis plant has over 60 cannabinoids which are similar to endocannabinoids such as 2-AG. Both CBD and 2-AG are neurotransmitters – chemical messengers which transmit a signal to a key target cell in order to elucidate an effect. Although the exact number is unknown, there are over 200 neurotransmitters in the human body.

The principle purpose of a neurotransmitter is to activate its target receptor. The resulting physiological effect depends on the chemistry of the receptor itself and the specific biochemical pathways involved.

For instance, the neurotransmitter serotonin (also known as the ‘happy’ chemical) binds to 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors, thus regulating a number of processes including memory and learning and muscle contraction.

How exactly does a neurotransmitter such as serotonin reach its target receptor? How does neurotransmission of CBD work after ingestion? To understand this a little more, we will need to dive down to the level of the cell itself…

Cells in the human body come in an array of shapes and sizes and have various components, from the control-centre (the nucleus) to the protein-making machines (known as ribosomes) to the cell surface membrane, which is decorated with receptors. The gaps between cells are known as synapses. Those synapses which use chemical messengers are called chemical synapses.

A neuron is a vital cell of the nervous system, with the ability to transmit information to other cells in order to bring about an effect.

Imagine you are standing on the surface of a neuron cell body – the portion of the neuron which contains its nucleus.  Stretching before you is a longer extension of the neuron, the axon.

If you gaze into the distance, you can see that this axon starts to divide into a multitude of branches. These are the axon terminals.

Curious, you walk down the axon until you stand right at the end of one of these vast branches.

Do you dare to peer down into the void, the synaptic cleft? The neuron on which you stand is ‘presynaptic’ (situated before the synapse). Towering before you is a portion of a gate-like protein (called a voltage-gated calcium channel) with the remainder embedded in the cell surface membrane below you.

You notice that there are more of these gate-like proteins along the other edges of your axon terminal (and all over the axon terminals adjacent to yours). If you look through this voltage-gated calcium channel and across the gap, you can just make out the postsynaptic neuron.

Suddenly, you feel a trembling in the cell beneath you and turn around to see the surface of the long axon behind you rippling, with the rippling coming closer by the second! You hold on to the side of the calcium channel to brace yourself as this rippling reaches the surface below your feet.

Remember the ‘information’ that neurons transmit? This information is an ‘action potential’ or ‘nerve impulse’ (imagined as the ‘rippling’ depicted here) – an electrical signal which will stimulate the calcium channel. In turn, this will enable positively charged atoms known as calcium ions to flow into the neuron.

Fascinated, you watch the channel’s shape shift and alter, clinging on to its side as the influx of calcium ions passes you. There is another trembling in the cell membrane below you and you lie flat, looking over the edge of the axon terminal.

Because of the influx of calcium, sphere-like portions of the membrane – called vesicles – can now release small molecules into the synaptic cleft directly beneath you. These small molecules are neurotransmitters – perhaps serotonin.

You watch as the molecules diffuse across the synapse and bind to receptors dotted along the surface of the postsynaptic neuron. In binding to these receptors, the neurotransmitters are able to stimulate another nerve pulse down the postsynaptic neuron.

Synaptic transmission in the human nervous system.

Now you know how neurotransmitters normally travel between neurons, it will be easier to understand how our particular group of neurotransmitters – the endocannabinoids like 2-AG of the endocannabinoid system (or cannabinoids like CBD) – do so. The way in which endocannabinoids reach their target receptor occurs in a backwards manner, through retrograde signalling.

Indeed, the activation of a postsynaptic neuron by a nerve impulse stimulates endocannabinoids to diffuse across the synaptic cleft to bind to receptors of the presynaptic cells. The receptors bound by anandamide or 2-AG bind are the cannabinoid receptors.

Specifically, these are cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2), which were first discovered in the nineties. While CB1 is situated abundantly in the Central Nervous System (CNS), CB2 is expressed much more in both the Immune and Peripheral Nervous Systems.

The activation of these two receptors by endocannabinoids has numerous implications for cellular physiology (the activities in the cell which keep it functioning) or cell motility, to name only a couple.

In the last three decades, the endocannabinoid system has been the most studied retrograde system of neurotransmission, with plentiful facets of research seeking to unravel the sheer complexity of the overall system.

While we know the system has implications for multiple physiological processes – from mood regulation to neuroprotection – there is a vast number of unknowns in this area. For instance, although there is a whole collection of evidence presenting the components of the endocannabinoid system as anti-cancer targets, the complex interplay of this system with other biological pathways makes progress challenging, with rigorous testing required.

CBD has been shown to possess anxiolytic (ability to reduce anxiety) antipsychotic (for management of psychosis) and neuroprotective (aiding preservation of neuronal integrity) properties, with the potential to treat several health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression or Parkinson’s.

There is a need for further controlled clinical research on the use of CBD in these areas and its role as an adjunct therapy – given in addition to an existing therapy for a condition such as epilepsy in order to increase effectiveness.

Interestingly, CBD binds to neither CB1 nor CB2 receptors – it is thought that it may instead interact with a receptor not yet discovered! Additionally, it has been proposed that CBD could alter how endocannabinoids interact with CB1/2.

As you read this, research scientists are peering into the synaptic cleft – the void of the unknown – to elucidate the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system and compounds like cannabidiol.

Perhaps next time you feel that niggling rumble of hunger, your thoughts will wonder down to the unseen world of the cell – to the tiny neurotransmitters whizzing across those synaptic clefts in a series of complex biological interactions which might just tell you that it’s time for lunch.

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