By Dalton Rosario

The Colombian government has authorized for the first time ever an exported shipment of medical grade cannabis for research testing and analysis to be conducted in Canada. This has been deemed by the government as a testament of the quality conditions and cultivation capable in South America, launching Colombia as a pioneer on the global market. Six Canadian Import permits were authorized by Health Canada, from which Colombia’s government expedited approval of shipment. This proves advantageous for both countries as the capital investments required to accommodate Canada’s greenhouse infrastructure can be significantly reduced by Canadian companies instead investing their external laboratory overhead costs into Colombia-grown cannabis.

This is not the first time Canada has accepted cannabis shipments from abroad for medical testing. Two other instances have occurred in 2018: the first from Africa in March and the second from Jamaica in September; placing Canada as the premier destination for cannabis testing and scientific experimentation worldwide. Later in 2019, Canadian company Ecomedics S.A.S. aka Clever Leaves will also begin accepting shipments of Colombian cannabis extracts for testing purposes. Likewise Colombia’s government has expressed interest in allowing medical cannabis cultivation from their country to be exported for research testing in countries that are willing to register for permits, such as Germany in the near future.  

 

By Dalton Rosario

Based upon recommendations from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, a series of cannabis-related rescheduling initiatives will be set into motion concluding beneficial collaborative research with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Most impacted by these status changes will be the marijuana plant itself, cannabis-derived resin, and THC which will be removed from its current Schedule IV status - the most dangerous and controlled classification - and will be added to the Schedule I status of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961). Unlike in the U.S., Schedule I internationally is the least restricted of listings. As well, CBD containing 0.2% of THC or less will no longer fall under international control; and extracts are to be removed from Schedule I status.

In effect the WHO is officially shifting its stance on nearly 50 years of denouncing cannabis’ medical health benefits. This is symbolic of a greater global push for embracing cannabis’ holistic properties and creating meaningful legislative frameworks for ending prohibition. Even though moving forward with rescheduling procedures is its own cause for celebration, current WHO classifications will still place countries in a compromising position when lawmakers legalize the plant recreationally, because doing so places their governments in contempt of international treaties through violations of global conventions. The WHO's recommendations for rescheduling cannabis and its derivatives will be officially released at the United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March, when 53 of the world’s governing bodies will meet to vote on accepting or declining the international policy proposal.  

By Dalton Rosario

Earlier in January President Trump’s U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr openly addressed his stance on supporting cannabis companies that have lawfully complied with state policies and regulations legalizing recreational and/or medicinal cannabis under the Cole Memorandum. This news was well received by cannabis advocates, lawmakers and industry leaders who were reluctant on what to make of William Barr’s stance towards cannabis legalization, particularly after former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was vehemently opposed to any forms of cannabis legislation, to the point of rescinding the Obama-era Cole Memorandum in January 2018. 

To those unfamiliar with the Cole Memo, it is an invaluable piece of legislation that catapulted the cannabis market into a viable national industry by granting the Justice Department orders to not enforce federal prohibition within states that had “legalized marijuana in some form and… implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana.” Although full-proof for all practical purposes, the Department of Justice was also granted discretionary leeway to enforce federal prohibition within states that have legalized cannabis, as long as doing so prevents violence related to the cultivation and/or distribution of cannabis, reduces cannabis-related DWI’s, and discontinues revenues from getting into the hands of gangs or cartel networks. 

Based on Barr’s written response to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), AG nominee Barr supports “the expansion of marijuana manufacturers for scientific research consistent with the law,” increasing the number of institutions permitted to grow cannabis specifically for the purpose of medical research. This would be done by Barr overturning Sessions’ ban on the Department of Justice moving forward with any of its stalled applications for medical facility growers. Furthermore, Barr pledged to look into scientific evaluations of CBD and its rescheduling under the Controlled Substances Act, based upon federal acceptance of hemp-derived products lawfully manufactured under the 2018 Farm Bill. Given Barr’s written confirmation supporting cannabis initiatives, in the words of Don Murphy, Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, “William Barr didn’t just wave the white flag, he signed a peace agreement.”  

By Dalton Rosario

A new cannabis bill proposed this week by the Senate requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to actively study the medical benefits of cannabis for prescription use in  the treatments for our veterans. According to statistics from Military Benefit’s PTSD Awareness Day: an estimated 44 million veterans develop PTSD symptoms and suffer from a number of ailments revolving around traumatic brain injury and chronic pain. Within the U.S. half of all mental health patients have been diagnosed with PTSD. 

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation filed by Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) and Clay Higgins (R-LA), which follows the first Senate cannabis bill of the 116th Congress filed just the week prior. Said legislation was authored by bi-partisan partners Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). As remarked in a press release by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), “Rather than risk becoming dependent on opioids, these veterans find relief in medical cannabis… With the opioid crisis raging across America, it is imperative to the health and safety of our veterans that we find alternative treatments for chronic pain and service-related injuries.” As stated these efforts attempt to target the severity of opioid abuse for our veterans and the rates of addiction exhibited within our country. Many states have begun mobilizing lawmakers and passing legislation that places precedence upon medical clinics, physicians and certified practitioners utilizing cannabis as a healthy alternative for pain-relieving opioids. Most recently earlier this week in New Jersey, the state Department of Health declared that physicians may immediately begin recommending medical cannabis for opioid addiction. Similar treatment plans have been written into law in New York and Pennsylvania. Our veterans deserve the very best methods available on the market. If that includes cannabis as their preference of choice - so be it.  

By Dalton Rosario

Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, openly refuted countrywide efforts for cannabis reformation and personally sponsoring legislation geared towards recreational use in a speech this past Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In his words, “To make it easier for people to engage in a behavior that has a significant possibility of damaging people’s health—is just nonsensical… And today incidentally, we are trying to legalize another addictive narcotic [cannabis] which is perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done. We’ve got to fight that!” This is certainly unnerving to hear - let alone from a potential candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. 

The wave of green states gaining momentum across our country is supported by 75% of voters within the Democratic party, putting Bloomberg at odds with the vast majority of his constituents. The current list of Democratic nominees in favor of cannabis reformation, regulation and taxation are: California state Senator Kamala Harris, New York state Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Massachusetts state Senator Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) proposed a plan last week for adult cannabis legalization within the state of New York that was included in his annual budget request to lawmakers. As outlined he would like to instill a 20% state tax and 2% county tax on cannabis distribution between wholesalers and retailers. Also there would be a $1/gram tax for dry herb cultivation in addition to a $0.25/gram tax on trimmings. In total, this plan could generate up to $300 Million in annual tax revenue depending on the number of contributing cities and counties. 

Although on the surface there seems to be a unified consensus within the Democratic Party regarding the central role state lawmakers play in ending federal prohibition, the topic is still highly debatable, requiring a cultural shift in ideology to perform. The likelihood of which occurring can neither be confirmed nor denied, despite an overwhelming majority of Democrats agreeing that abundant opportunities will be allotted to our nation for investing in the cannabis industry.