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Argentina celebrates new ‘patient-focused’ regulations

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New regulations which allow patients to grow their own medical cannabis have been ‘widely celebrated’ in Argentina.

Last week Argentina announced new regulations authorising the self-cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

The decree, issued by President Alberto Fernández on Thursday 12 November, also forces insurance providers to cover cannabis-based medical products which have been prescribed by a doctor.

Patients or caregivers will be permitted to grow their own medication providing they have a doctor’s prescription and are registered with a patient registry. It has also expanded the list of qualifying conditions, with clinicians allowed to decide if a patient would benefit from cannabis-based medicinal products.

Medical cannabis was legalised in Argentina in 2017, but until now there has been no clear path to access, with only limited patients able to access medications through a permit or court exemption.

Advocacy group Mamá Cultiva Argentina, which is made up of mothers of children with severe health conditions and campaigned for the law change in 2017, have been praised for leading the fight to see these new regulations brought in.

Javier Hasse, a cannabis-focused reporter, and managing director of Benzinga Cannabis, who lives in Buenos Aires, said the regulations were long-awaited and had been ‘widely celebrated’.

“People have been waiting on these regulations for years and I commend the government on the regulations and for putting patients first to ensure what is relatively immediate access to cannabis,” he said.

“A programme that focuses so much on patients and providing affordable access is quite unique – I don’t think there are many other countries which focus so heavily on patients over commercialisation.”

There has been a big movement for self-cultivation in Argentina, particularly following the coronavirus pandemic, when quarantine rules left some people with no access to medication.

“The pandemic underlined the need for legal self-cultivation because many people who turned to the illicit market to get medical cannabis products were left without medication,” said Javier.

“There are diverse reasons why someone may prefer to grow their own. Cannabis medicines can be expensive, especially when they still need to be imported, they’re hard to access and the supply is not always steady.

“Some people just want to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies and growing your own and gives you those kinds of assurances.”

He added: “Legalising self-cultivation does not mean that everyone will be cultivating – some people want to be able to go buy it at a pharmacy, some people want to grow it their own.”

Javier is confident that the country has a promising future in the medical cannabis sector, with estimates placing the market at around $40 million in sales by 2024 – and some projecting that it could produce up to US$1 billion in exports over the next 10 years.

But this depends on how the state decides to issue licenses and commercial regulations being brought in.

“I would love to see Argentina thrive on the commercial opportunity, but the most important thing is people having access to cannabis now, not tomorrow,” he added.

“Seeing regulations that kind of seek to do that as effectively and efficiently as possible is something to celebrate.”

 

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Industry

“CBD is such a powerful product, it needs to be available on the NHS”

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Why does the woman behind a new CBD brand want to see products available on the NHS? Founder of Medrar Wellbeing, Jo Cunliffe reveals why cannabis is more than a money-making opportunity for her.

In 2011, Jo Cunliffe was given the news that every daughter dreads. Her dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

When he was admitted to a hospice in August 2012, doctors told the family to prepare for the end. But Jo wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

“They told us to prepare ourselves, that he was going to die imminently – I wasn’t ready for that to happen,” she says.

Jo had heard of Rick Simpson cannabis oil being used to treat cancer patients in America, so she contacted the producers, but her dad was too sick to travel to California.

“There were so many hurdles, I couldn’t risk it, but speaking to them made me feel less alone and actually I could do this myself,” says Jo.

She risked criminalising herself to source cannabis illicitly and make her own oil which she administered to her dad in the hospital.

“After two weeks he was sitting up, after four weeks he was walking and after 10 weeks they discharged him as no longer terminal,” she says.

“The only thing we changed was giving him the oil.”

But the rest of the family were concerned about what the repercussions would be if they were found out.

“I would have gone to prison to save my dad, to me it didn’t matter, but my family didn’t want to be a part of it,” says Jo.

“They were scared that now he was in our care if anything happened and they found out about the cannabis oil we would get in trouble.

“In the end I couldn’t battle with them anymore and had to stop giving him the oil, but it was obviously really upsetting and caused a bit of a rift in our family.”

Jo’s dad passed away in January 2013, aged 60.

Since then she has been campaigning for wider knowledge and understanding of the benefits of medical cannabis –  particularly for cancer patients – approaching MPs and lobbying leading organisations such as Cancer Research UK.

Now, after years of research and testing products, Jo is launching her own CBD brand.

The first product available from Medrar Wellbeing is a CBD balm, used by customers to help ease pain relief, insomnia, anxiety.

It won her investment and a mentor from the Westmont Enterprise Hub University of West London in London and she has been working with them since to launch her brand – albeit slightly slower than hoped due to covid.

But this is not about making a quick buck. Jo is using it as an opportunity to collect much needed data and evidence of the efficacy of CBD.

When consumers buy the balm online they have the option to sign up to a membership page, where they can record when they used the product and what results they saw.

“There is not enough research being done and the Government is not going to fund it, so it’s up to the producers to step forward,” says Jo.

“People have been taught this dark perception of what cannabis is and we need to spend some time reeducating people about the benefits of it.

“I could have sold the same white label products as everyone else but I want to do this differently, launching one product at a time and proving that it works.”

She then plans to submit the findings to researchers at the University of West London, in what she hopes could be the first steps to having CBD classed as a medicinal product and made available to patients via NHS prescriptions.

“CBD is such a powerful product that can help so many people, I’d like to see it proven that it is medicinal and available on the NHS, ” she says.

“The Government could issue licenses to producers and support them to step up and do this research.”

However, she recognises that this won’t go down well with everyone in the industry.

“I know some companies won’t like it because they are scared that something they have put time and money into will be taken away from them, but we have allowed CBD to become this massive white label product, which has diluted the market,” she adds.

“We live in a world where everybody just wants to make money, but there are few of us who just really care about people.

“I wouldn’t be how I am today if I hadn’t seen first hand how medical cannabis helped my dad and the difference that it can make.”

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The future is CBD

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CBD has been transformative for Dave Singh, founder of Future CBD, and now he’s helping others reap the benefits too. He tells Cannabis Health why the future looks bright.

A few years ago Dave Singh could barely get out of bed.

Due to a myriad of health conditions, including back pain, diabetes, slipped discs, sciatica and epilepsy, the vape shop he had run for 10 years in Walsall, in the West Midlands would often stand closed.

But after he discovered CBD a few years ago Dave claims he hasn’t had a seizure since. Not only this but he’s been able to come off several heavy duty painkillers – which included tramadol and diazepam – and has noticed an improvement in his mental health.

“At one point, I physically couldn’t get out of my bed, I couldn’t move,” said the 40-year-old.

“Doctors kept giving me different medications, I tried acupuncture, orthopaedic mattresses, a chiropractor, hypnotherapy, physiotherapy, whatever you can think of I tried it.

“Now I still have pain but it’s nothing like it used to be, I can get out of bed every day and I’m taking a lot less medication, which means I have a lot less side effects as a result.”

However, it took Dave a while to find a CBD product that worked for him. After trying several well-known brands from the US and the UK and feeling they were ineffective, he became disheartened with the industry.

“I tried all these different products and I found they were either too expensive, not worth the money or I would have to take more and more to feel any effect – I just wasn’t happy with any of them,” he said.

With over 10 years experience in the vaping industry, Dave saw an opportunity to expand into the rapidly growing world of CBD and offer the product that he had been looking for himself.

After doing his research and consulting with a handful of UK, US and European companies, he launched his first 1,000mg, full spectrum CBD drops, and Future CBD was born.

The brand now stocks a wide range of products from CBD skin care to edibles and drinks and has built up a trusted reputation, both locally and across the UK.

“I’ve always had a good reputation in the vaping industry, I’m not going to sell a product if it’s a copy or if I think it is of poor quality, and I took the same approach to CBD,” said Dave.

“Customers are sometimes put off because we’re not a health shop, but every single person has come back.”

With his own experience of using CBD to draw on, Dave makes a point of providing a personalised service for his customers, sometimes spending up to an hour with them to make sure they leave with the right product for them.

“The word is spreading about CBD, but people still need a lot of education that it’s not going to make them high and it’s not a drug,” he said.

“It can help with your own personal health but we’re clear that it’s not a medicine.”

Dave continued: “I’ll spend time with a new customer and go through everything, answering all their questions. I always ask them to give me a call or pop into the shop, because I’ve been on so many medications myself, I like to find out a bit about their own background and health concerns so I can offer them advice.”

With the Food Standards Agency’s novel food guidance due to come into force from March 2021, some in the industry are worried about the impact the regulations might have on smaller, family-run companies such as Future CBD.

But Dave welcomes the regulation, believing it will bring much-needed credibility to the sector.

“I think the industry is just going to get better and better,” he said.

“There’s a lot of brands out there making false claims, with products which are overpriced, have unclear labelling and ultimately don’t work – hopefully these are going to be weeded out by March. They are giving CBD a bad name.”

Dave added: “If a person was to have a bad experience with a CBD product it puts them off trying any other CBD brands, because they think it’s all the same.

“CBD can be amazing, we receive so much positive feedback from customers about all the different ways it has helped them.”

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New North Macedonian facility to export medical cannabis extracts to global markets

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A new 17,800 m2 indoor cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility has opened in Skopje, North Macedonia.

This is the PHCANN International’s second cannabis facility in North Macedonia.

The facility, which has an annual flower production capacity of up to 15,500kg, will manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients in herbal form and export finished medical cannabis products, including dried flower (subject to the passing of a cannabis flower export law) and oils to global markets that allow legal medical cannabis.

PHCANN has also integrated a fully equipped cannabinoid research and testing laboratory into the facility to research the microbiology and stability data of cannabinoids in all forms, according to German standards. The lab is built to ensure that all products are made to the highest standards – from planting to packaging to storage – for patients in need around the world.

“The opening of our second cannabis facility in North Macedonia is a significant opportunity for PHCANN to provide pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products worldwide,” said Zlatko Keskovski, PHCANN’s CEO. “Over the next five years, we expect Europe to become the largest medical cannabis market in the world. As such, this facility will enable the Company to meet the demand from the U.K., Germany, Poland and other countries that are starting to adopt pharmaceutical cannabis in the EU, as well as other international markets such as Australia and Brazil.

“PHCANN’s philosophy has always been to keep the patient at the heart of what we do, and we have implemented advanced technologies to ensure that only the highest-quality pharmaceutical-grade products are produced at our facility.”

In recent years, growing evidence of cannabis’ therapeutic value in treating a variety of diseases and conditions – from cancer treatment to pain management to sleep disorders – has led to a shift in public perception around medical cannabis and a wave of medical cannabis legalization across Europe.

However, despite medical cannabis’ growing demand, there are a limited number of Europe-based facilities producing legal, high-quality, cannabinoid-based products. Launching this facility will allow the Company to scale its production and expand its footprint into new markets in 2021.

“PHCANN’s new facility provides a highly competitive advantage with its pharmaceutical products, combined with scalable, low-cost production,” added Yuval Soiref, PHCANN’s Founder and Director. “With PHCANN leading the way, North Macedonia is now on the map for producing pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis, and our vision is to become one of the largest providers of medicinal cannabis to the EU and other global markets. Our next steps are the validation, qualification and inspection for EU GMP certification for the new facility. We aim to launch products from this facility to the market in 2021.”

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