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Mexico misses deadline to legalise cannabis

Mexican lawmakers were just months away from opening up the largest cannabis sector in the world.

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Mexico cannabis

Mexican lawmakers were just months away from opening up the largest cannabis sector in the world, but after missing the 30 April deadline, the country will have to “start from scratch” in its reform of cannabis legislation.

In 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled the country’s ban on consuming cannabis unconstitutional. Since then, the county’s lawmakers have been considering the legalisation of the drug.

With orders from the court to make reforms to existing policies, the Mexican senate and congress began to set plans in motion to amend the cannabis policy.

The original deadline for the legalisation of cannabis was set for October 2019, but lawmakers have requested a number of extensions over the past three years.

In March this year, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of congress, finally approved a bill to allow the production of cannabis for industrial, medical and recreational use. The bill was then passed over to the Mexican Senate for approval.

All eyes were on the South American country as it appeared that Mexico was just months away from becoming one of the world’s largest cannabis markets.

If approved, the bill would allow adults to grow a small number of plants and carry up to 28 grams of cannabis flower. The revised legislation would also allow companies to apply for licences to cultivate, produce and manufacture cannabis-based products.

However, after months of deliberation, Mexican lawmakers have now missed the Supreme Court’s 30 April deadline to end cannabis prohibition and have not requested a further extension.

Although presidential elections take place every six years in Mexico, local elections for the country’s congress, senate and lower house occur once every three years. With the next election due to take place in June, lawmakers are now considering a special legislative measure later in the year.

Felipe Sanchez Mexico cannabis

Felipe Sanchez, vice president for Latin America at SōRSE Technology.

“At the beginning of March, there was a big buzz about Mexico approving a full legal bill,” said Felipe Sanchez, vice president for Latin America at SōRSE Technology – a US company that produces water-soluble emulsion technology for the cannabis sector.

“There was a lot of hope, and speaking with people in Mexico, everybody was pretty assured that it was going to be approved,” he added.

“But we will have to start from scratch in July with a new set of people in the senate and lower house. They will start the discussion again because the other guys didn’t finish the job.”

If the bill was approved, Mexico would have joined one of very few countries in the world that permit recreational cannabis. But, despite the anticipated liberalisation of cannabis laws, the bill also proposed a number of restrictions that may have created hurdles for the emerging sector.

For example, the importation and exportation of psychoactive THC would not be permitted, along with online sales and telesales. The promotion of cannabis products would also have been against the law if the bill was passed.

“It’s good that the country wants to make sure that it doesn’t get out of their control, but on the other hand, it [would] be challenging for companies to market their products,” Sanchez said.

“However, it would be better to have that law than nothing, because right now, in Mexico you cannot do anything [outside of] medicinal cannabis.”

Sanchez believes that when Mexico does finally legalise cannabis, it should learn from the mistakes and experiences of other countries in Latin America that have legalised the drug – Uruguay and Colombia.

The latter approved a bill to legalise cannabis in 2013 and by 2015 had invested millions of dollars to establish Colombia as a leader in the global sector.

But according to Sanchez, complex regulations and restrictions led to confusion amongst cannabis companies.

Last year, Colombia exported less than $6 million worth of cannabis to the rest of the world, far less than its potential.

“That’s not an industry, and that is what I believe could happen to Mexico if we don’t learn from previous experiences and make things too complicated for small companies,” said Sanchez.

“You are then in a situation where people feel they might as well carry on with illegal activities which are a lot faster and have better margins than trying to be legal and comply with a lot of restrictions that will just make them not viable.”

Despite its illegality, cannabis is grown across Mexico where illicit cultivators benefit from the country’s suitable climate for growing the plant. According to Sanchez, the country has the potential to produce several harvests per year.

Although this would come with opportunities to yield taxes and create new jobs for the country, many are concerned about what legalisation would mean for illegal cannabis farms dotted across the country.

“The primary concern that I see is about small companies and communities where cannabis has been growing for years illegally. What the law needs to take into account – and tries to – is legitimatising these crops and converting them from an illegal to a legal world.

“That is something that has to be thoroughly thought through; you want to hopefully convert illegal growers into potential legal businesspeople.”

Although investors and entrepreneurs may be disheartened by Mexico’s failure to meet the deadline, many of the country’s citizens will be happy to see recreational cannabis remain illegal. One recent poll, for example, found that two-thirds of people disapprove of cannabis legalisation.

“There is still a high percentage of Mexicans that have, unfortunately, stigmatised cannabis. In my view, there is a big lack of information, a lack of communication and there is still stigmatisation of the plant that we need to work on,” Sanchez said.

“Unfortunately many people think that legalising cannabis would mean marijuana would be on every corner, but as business people, that’s not what we are aiming for.

“Activists who have been fighting for this law come across as people who just want to be stoned every day, and that’s unfortunate because this could be a great industry and the country could grow because of it.”

Mexico is a country marred by drug wars that have, according to the Council of Foreign Relation, taken an estimated 150,000 lives. Legalising cannabis is not going to eliminate organised crime in Mexico, however Sanchez argues that it could reduce it.

“There is no doubt in my mind and many people’s in the industry, that we see this as an opportunity to reduce or eliminate part of the organised crime that is related to this product,” Sanchez said.

“We know there are other substances and there are other organised crime activities; this is not the only one. If we legalise cannabis, organised crime will not stop; that is not the case. But, it will certainly take cannabis away from organised crime and it will be an opportunity for Mexico.”

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Ireland to fund patient’s medical cannabis up front

Campaigner Vera Twomey described “relief” that her determination has finally paid off.

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Ava Barry medical cannabis patient
Vera Twomey's daughter, Ava Barry has a severe from of epilepsy which is helped by medical cannabis

Campaigner Vera Twomey has described her “relief” as the Irish Government agrees to fund medical cannabis patient’s prescriptions up front.

Eligible medical cannabis patients in Ireland will now have their medication paid for up front, after months of pressure on the Government from campaigners. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced on Monday 19 July that the refund system for patients who obtain their prescribed cannabis-based products from the Netherlands, will now be replaced by a direct payment system.

The HSE will pay the dispensing pharmacy in the Netherlands directly, rather than the burden falling to the patients and their families, who were then required to apply for a refund.

Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava Barry, 11, has a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, is among 40 patients who have now been granted an individual ministerial licence to import Bedrocan oil to Ireland.

But the family were paying 10,000 Euros up front every three months for Ava’s prescription and waiting up to five weeks for it to be refunded.

Campaigner Vera Twomey is “delighted” by the news

Twomey, who has four other children, has previously spoken of the huge financial strain this system placed on her family.

Over the last 16 months she has relentlessly called for action, making dozens of phone calls daily to politicians and lobbying ministers on social media with the backing of thousands of supporters in Ireland and across the world.

Twomey, who received a phone call from Ireland’s Prime Minister, Micheál Martin on Monday confirming the news, says she is “delighted” that her determination has finally paid off.

“There’s a sense of relief that we have accomplished this, but also a little bit of shock because we have been trying to resolve it for so long,” she told Cannabis Health.

Twomey’s activism gained national attention in 2017 when she walked from her home in Cork to Leinster House in Dublin to ask former Health Minister Simon Harris to grant access to medical cannabis for her daughter. 

Initially having to travel to the Netherlands to collect the prescription herself, during the pandemic Twomey successfully campaigned to secure the permanent delivery of Bedrocan oils for Ava and other patients.

Now she says she is looking forward to focusing on her family and putting the phone down for a while.

“I don’t think anybody who has gone through this fight, seeing the injustice that we have had to deal with could ever walk away,” she said.

“But at the same time, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and for the moment at least, I need to give 100 percent to my other children, to do normal things and be a family.”

But the fight in Ireland isn’t over.

The Irish Government announced the provision of funding for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) in January – almost two years after it was introduced – but only four low dose cannabis-based medicines are covered by the programme, for people living with one of three qualifying conditions.

“There are other issues – we still need expansion and improvement in medical cannabis access, the journey is over by any means, but we’re at the beginning and getting Bedrocan recognised as a medicine that is funded up front is very important.

“I think the Irish are actually miles ahead of the British on this one and I hope [politicians] will take notice and catch up.” 

She added: “The greatest gift you’ll ever receive is to lose your fear, then you can accomplish anything with focus and determination.

“If you have the determination to keep going you will get there. It’s not going to be easy, they are not going to make it easy but it can be done.”

Patients eligible for the direct payment system are those suffering from one of three stated conditions; spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy. 

The HSE says it will be contacting patients directly.

Health Minister, Mr Donnelly, commented: “I am delighted that the HSE and Transvaal Apotheek in the Netherlands are implementing a new process which will give peace of mind to the seventeen patients and their families who until now have been using the refund process.”

 

 

 

 

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Kanabo’s cannabis vaporiser for metered dosing launches in UK

The VapePod will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.

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Kanabo cannabis Vapepod
The VapePod can administer a measured dose of cannabis extract

Cannabis company Kanabo’s new extract formula and vaporiser will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.

UK patients will be the first in Europe to have access to Kanabo’s vaporiser, the VapePod, and its new extract formula when is it delivered later this month.

The deal, in conjunction with LYPHE Group, will see patient’s of LYPHE Group’s ecosystem, including The Medical Cannabis Clinic and Dispensary Green, able to access the VapePod under the brand name NOIDECS.

Under the agreement, PharmaCann and Kanabo established a customised production line for Kanabo’s VapePods cartridges.

An alternative to cannabis flower

The VapePod is a medical-grade, handheld vaporiser which enables accurate and precise micro doses of cannabis extract, dispensing 1mg of formula for each inhalation.

This will benefit to patients as inhaling extracts rather than tinctures and oils allows for faster onset and higher bioavailability.

It will also allow clinicians to more confidently prescribe and monitor a patient’s dosage, as well as providing more accurate patient data.

Previously, cannabis patients in the UK have only been able to access medical cannabis dry flower and oil tinctures for which the majority of patients consume via inhalation due to fast onset time.

Kanabo’s medical line aims to enable patients to move away from the harmful act of smoking medical cannabis flowers as they can now take their medicine without inhaling soot, tar and carcinogens into the lungs.

Kanabo founder, Avihu Tamir

Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s CEO, said: “The VapePod is a world first allowing specialist consultants to prescribe a metered dose of medicinal cannabis that is healthier for patients than the alternative, which is typically smoking.

“Medical cannabis is a safer alternative to the conventional opiate solutions and other pain management treatments. This announcement ensures that thousands of UK patients have access to the most effective medicinal cannabis delivery system.

“The fact that the VapePod gives exactly 1mg on every inhalation is crucial for GPs because they can prescribe an exact dose which they haven’t been able to do before. For patients who want the similarity to smoking but know they are not inhaling soot and tar. There’s also the bioavailability factor too.

“The reason GPs haven’t been prescribing is the issue of dosing and flowers – they don’t feel comfortable asking patients to smoke. With Kanabo, they can prescribe exact dosing in a safe and consistent way.”

The medical extract formula, which is based on the Israeli medical cannabis pharmacopoeia as a recommendation for the treatment of pain management, has a purity of 70 percent THC with 15 percent minor cannabinoids and terpenes.

Earlier this year Kanabo became the second cannabis company to list on the London Stock Exchange.

Dean Friday, LYPHE’s CEO commented: “Kanabo are experts in novel delivery with their VapePod greatly improving onset times, and for our chronic pain patients we now have an alternative to flower vaporisation. This is the start of a revolution in medical cannabis application and we are delighted to be supplying it under the NOIDECS brand.”

 

 

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Mental health

Cancer survivors turn to cannabis for physical and mental health – study

Cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis to help pain, anxiety, sleep and nausea. 

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cancer
Cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis to help pain, anxiety, sleep and nausea. 

Cancer survivors are frequently using cannabis to manage physical and mental health symptoms, says a new study.

Research from the US indicates that cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis for symptoms such as pain, anxiety, trouble sleeping and nausea. 

A team of investigators analysed results from a Covid-19 cannabis health study to examine changes to cannabis use, methods of cannabis delivery, and coping strategies among cancer survivors since the pandemic.

They found that individuals with a history of cancer are more likely to report cannabis use to manage mental health and pain symptoms.

This group of people were also more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis, compared to adults without a history of cancer.

Data was collected from 158 responses between 21 March 2020 and 23 March 2021, from cancer survivors who identified as medicinal cannabis users.

These were then compared to medicinal cannabis users without a history of cancer of the same age.

According to the study, cancer survivors were more likely to report using cannabis as a way of managing nausea/vomiting, headaches or migraines, seizures, sleep problems or as an appetite stimulant.

Specifically, self-reported symptoms most frequently managed by medicinal cannabis among respondents included anxiety and pain. 

Sixty one percent of respondents with a history of cancer used cannabis to manage anxiety symptoms and 54 percent for chronic pain.

Forty eight percent said they used it to manage depressive symptoms and 25 percent for PTSD, while smaller numbers used it for symptoms of another autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

While there were no differences in how often they used cannabis or their method of administration, cancer survivors were “more likely to have an advanced supply of cannabis”. 

The findings support the need for more conversations between doctors and their patients about the use of cannabis, say those behind the study.

The authors concluded: “Overall, we observed that cancer survivors are frequently reporting the use of cannabis to manage both physical and mental health symptoms associated with their cancer diagnosis and that cancer survivors are more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis compared to those without a history of cancer. 

“Given the frequency of mental and physical health symptoms reported among cancer survivors during the Covid-19 pandemic period, clinician–patient interactions should include questions around cannabis use, particularly those with a history of cancer.”

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