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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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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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Fair Trials and Last Prisoner Project seek to launch global cannabis justice project

Fair Trials’ Global CEO Norman L. Reimer to discuss the project at Cannabis Europa Conference in London on June 29.

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A new initiative from Fair Trials and the Last Prisoner Project aims to redress the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and to secure relief for those in prison for cannabis-related convictions.

The criminal justice reform NGO, Fair Trials hopes that the industry will support its work in countries across the globe where cannabis laws are being liberalised. Through collaboration with local partners in appropriate jurisdictions, the Fair Trials project will identify people in need of legal assistance, and recruit, train and match volunteer lawyers to take on their cases.

Fair Trials has enlisted the help of the Last Prisoner Project, a coalition of cannabis industry leaders, executives and artists dedicated to bringing restorative justice to the cannabis sector.

More and more jurisdictions are allowing adults to use and distribute medical and recreational cannabis. But after decades of prohibition, countless people remain behind bars or continue to suffer the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction.

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“The injustice of cannabis prohibition has resulted in millions of people worldwide serving time in prison or being saddled with a cannabis conviction, which brings with it a lifetime of harmful consequences, ranging from education and employment opportunities to immigration status and parental rights,” said Fair Trials Global CEO, Norman L Reimer.

“Of course, these harmful effects of prohibition not only impact the individuals charged, but also their families and communities. And those effects have been borne disproportionately by minorities, communities of colour, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Legalising cannabis alone does not equal justice. Together, we must address the ongoing harms of past prohibition and leave no cannabis prisoner behind.”

The project will be modelled on the US Cannabis Justice Initiative, a collaborative effort between the cannabis industry and volunteer lawyers in the United States. When Norman Reimer was the Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), he partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to establish the initiative.

“Key to the success of the initiative has been generous donations from legal cannabis companies and consumers nationwide,” said Last Prisoner Project Co-Founder Steve DeAngelo. “Fair Trials, with its global reach as the world’s criminal justice watchdog, is uniquely positioned to build and house the infrastructure that’s going to be needed.”

Tomorrow (29 June), Norman Reimer will address the Cannabis Europa Conference discussing the project. Mr Reimer will be part of a panel entitled ‘Leave No Cannabis Prisoner Behind,’ and will be joined on that panel by Mary Bailey, Managing Director at the Last Prisoner Project; Dr. Laura Garius, Policy Lead at Release; and Denzel Uba, an individual impacted by criminal cannabis prohibition.

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TOWIE star Amy Childs launches CBD range in honour of Jorja Foundation

The product range sees a portion of the proceeds going to the Jorja Foundation.

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Amy Childs at the launch of her new CBD range, Jorja Botanicals

TOWIE star Amy Childs launched her new CBD range this week, with a star-studded event that shone a spotlight on the story of six-year-old Jorja Emerson.

Amy Childs was joined by former Love Islanders, Amy Hart and Cara Delahoyde-Massey, alongside her  co-stars, Frankie Essex, Tom Skinner, Carina Lepore, Saffron Lempriere and Mark Ferris, for a heart-warming event celebrating the launch of her new CBD Infused beauty range, Jorja Botanicals.

The signature collection sees a portion of the proceeds going to the Jorja Foundation, which was set up in honour of six-year-old medical cannabis patient, Jorja Emerson.

The event saw The Only Way Is Essex star Frankie Essex, break down in tears as she heard Jorja’s story. Frankie, who gave birth to twins four weeks ago, wiped her eyes when Robin Emerson, Jorja’s father, showed videos of the life-threatening seizures his daughter was suffering before they discovered medical cannabis

Love Island star, Amy Hart has since taken to Instagram to spread the word about the latest political campaign that sees Childs and Emerson petitioning to make medical cannabis more widely available on the NHS

The Jorja Botanicals range was inspired by Jorja, who was diagnosed with a rare chromosome abnormality called 1q43q44 deletion, which has a side effect of life-threatening seizures. Her illness resulted in her being admitted to intensive care on two separate occasions, where Robin was told that she may not make it.

jorja botanicals

TOWIE stars joined Amy Childs for the launch of her new CBD range

To save his daughter’s life, Emerson knew that he had to dig deep and find a treatment that would not only help Jorja but ultimately go on to help others.

At the time it was still illegal to prescribe cannabis in the UK. Emerson joined the campaign to see medical cannabis legalised in the UK in November 2018, and Jorja’s was among the first children to be legally prescribed medicinal cannabis.

In 2021 he went on to create the Jorja Foundation – a charity set up to help other families and children going through the same battles that Robin had to face.

The Jorja Foundation’s core principles are to fund special needs equipment that is not funded through the health system, fund family counselling, private appointments and tests when a second opinion is needed, as well s cannabis-based treatment for children in the UK and to continue to campaign and educate for wider NHS access in the UK for cannabis-based medications.  

Childs commented: “When I saw Robin & Jorja’s story on social media it broke my heart.

As a mum, I couldn’t imagine the pain of being told to take my child home to say goodbye to them. I love that Robin has fought for Jorja & is now helping other families with the Jorja Foundation. 

“I’m so happy that I can help the foundation by being the Creative Director of Jorja Botanicals. We have created some beautiful products for the whole family to enjoy. We will be donating a percentage of the proceeds to the foundation so that we can help as many families as possible. ”

 Emerson added: “ This is the fruition of a lot of hard work over many months and I am extremely proud to launch what is the first family brand in this category. In the coming weeks, we will also be launching a ‘parent’ focused cosmetic range in partnership with our creative director Amy Childs and our premium line of tincture oils.”

 

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South Africa launches first trial of cannabis for chronic pain

The study will test whether cannabis can replace opioids in the management of chronic pain.

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South Africa’s first cannabis trial has launched after initial results “show promise” for the treatment as a replacement for opioids.

The Pharma Ethics Observational Study is led by Biodata, a subsidiary of Labat Africa, and will test whether cannabis can replace opioids in the management of chronic pain.

The study will involve 1,000 participants who have been taking opioids for pain management for at least three months and are prepared to switch to cannabis as an alternative.

Biodata is the brainchild of Dr Shiksha Gallow, a cannabis clinician and the principal investigator in the trial which took over 18 months to get official clearance.

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Dr Gallow said the trial is set to be ground-breaking as South Africa’s first real-world study of medical cannabis. Researchers predict that it will provide much-needed insight into the link between cannabis genetics and patient outcomes.

Dr Gallow told Cannabiz Africa: “We are currently recruiting patients, and data-capturing all the questionnaires and feedback from the patients for the live Study. It has been fairly slow. However, more options have been introduced, as suggested by the patients in the pilot study.

“The pilot results of the study were very promising, as it showed 98 per cent of the patients have some sort of pain relief from the cannabis.

“We were able to wean these patients off their opioid treatment. In the pilot group of patients below the age of 55, it was shown this group preferred to smoke cannabis and patients older than 55 years preferred oil. The patients who smoked the cannabis had relief almost immediately, while the oil took some time to alleviate their pain.”

“Once we reach the sample size required and all of the relevant data has been collated, the results of the study will be published. We have currently renewed this study for another year, due to the initial slow uptake of research participants.”

Patients can apply to be research participants through the Biodata website.

Labat is expanding its footprint over the next few months with the introduction of CannAfrica kiosks in major shopping malls.

The company believes these will be the “ideal locations for physical sign-up points for the study”.

Labat said the kiosks will also serve as Biodata dispensaries and is engaging with a number of vape stores to do the same, although these would have to be subject to South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s pharma-ethics requirements.

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