From CannTrust To Canopy: Is There A Connection To Current Cannabis Scandals?

As Europe swooned under record-breaking heat this summer, the cannabis industry also found itself in a rather existential hot seat.

The complete meltdown at CannTrust has yet to reach a conclusion. Yes, a few  jobs have been lost. However, a greater question is in the room as criminal investigatory and financial regulatory agencies on both sides of the US-Canada border (plus in Europe) are getting involved.

As events have shown, there is a great, big, green elephant in the room that is now commanding attention. Beyond CannTrust, how widespread were these problematic practices? And who so far has watched, participated, if not profited, and so far, said nothing?

Who, What, Where?

The first name in the room? Canopy Growth.Canopy_Growth_Corporation_logo

Why the immediate association? Bruce Linton, according to news reports, was fired as CEO by his board the same day, July 3, 2019, that CannTrust received its first cease and desist notice from Health Canada.

Further, there is a remarkable similarity in not only problematic practices, but timing between the two companies. This may also indicate that Canopy’s board believed that Linton’s behaviour was uncomfortably close to executive misdeeds at CannTrust. Not to mention, this was not the first scandal that Linton had been anywhere close to around acquisition time. See the Mettrum pesticide debacle, that also broke right around the time Canopy purchased the company in late 2016 as well as the purchase of MedCann GmbH in Germany.

Reorg also appears to be underway in Europe as well. As of August, Paul Steckler has been brought in as “Managing Director Europe” and is now based in Frankfurt. Given the company’s history of “co-ceo’ing” Linton out the door, is more change to come?

What Went Down At Canopy?

Last year, Canopy announced its listing on the NYSE in May. To put this in context, this was two months after the first German cultivation bid went down to legal challenge. By August 15, 2018 with a new bid in the offing, the company had closed the second of its multi-billion dollar investments from Constellation.

Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canopy Growth
Photo: Youtube, TSX

Yet by late October, after Bruce Linton skipped a public markets conference in Frankfurt where many of the leading Canadian cannabis company execs showed up to lobby Jens Spahn (the health minister of Germany) about the bid if not matters relating to the Deutsche Börse, there were two ugly rumours afoot.

Video showing dead plants at Canopy’s BC facility surfaced. Worse, according to the chatter online at least, this was the second “crop failure” at the facility in British Columbia. Even more apparently damning? This all occurred during the same  time period that the second round of lawsuits against the reconstituted German cultivation bid surfaced.

Canopy in turn issued a statement that this destruction was not caused by company incompetence but rather a delay in licensing procedures from Health Canada. Despite lingering questions of course, about why a company would even start cultivation in an unlicensed space, not once but apparently twice.  And further, what was the real impact of the destruction on the company’s bottom line?

Seen within the context of other events, it certainly poses an interesting question, particularly, in hindsight.

Canopy, which made the finals in the first German cultivation bid, was dropped in the second round – and further, apparently right as the news hit about the BC facility. Further, no matter the real reason behind the same, Canopy clearly had an issue with accounting for crops right as Canadian recreational reform was coming online and right as the second German cultivation bid was delayed by further legal action last fall.

Has Nobody Seen This Coming?

In this case, the answer is that many people have seen the writing on the wall for some time. At least in Germany, the response in general has been caution. To put this in true international perspective, these events occurred against a backdrop of the first increase in product over the border with Holland via a first-of-its kind agreement between the German health ministry and Dutch authorities. Followed just before the CannTrust scandal hit, with the announcement that the amount would be raised a second time.

German health authorities, at least, seem doubtful that Canadian companies can provide enough regulated product. Even by import. The Deutsche Börse has put the entire public Canadian and American cannabis sector under special watch since last summer.

Common Territories

By the turn of 2019, Canopy had announced its expansion into the UK (after entering the Danish market itself early last year) and New York state.

And of course by April, the company unveiled plans to buy Acreage in the U.S.

Yet less than two weeks later, Canopy announced not new cultivation facilities in Europe, but plans to buy Bionorica, the established German manufacturer of dronabinol – the widely despised (at least by those who have only this option) synthetic that is in fact, prescribed to two thirds of Germany’s roughly 50,000 cannabis patients.

By August 2019, right after the Canopy Acreage deal was approved by shareholders, Canopy announced it had lost just over $1 billion in the last three months.

Or, to put this in perspective, 20% of the total investment from Constellation about one year ago.

What Happened At CannTrust And How Do Events Line Up?

The current scandal is not the first at CannTrust either. In November 2017, CannTrust was warned by Health Canada for changing its process for creating cannabis oil without submitting the required paperwork. By March of last year however, the company was able to successfully list on the Toronto stock exchange.

Peter Aceto arrived at CannTrust as the new CEO on October 1 last year along with new board member John Kaken at the end of the month. Several days later the company also announced that it too, like other major cannabis companies including Canopy, was talking to “beverage companies.” It was around this time that illegal growing at CannTrust apparently commenced. Six weeks later, the company announces its intent to also list on the NYSE. Two days later, both the CEO and chair of the board were notified of the grow and chose not to stop it.

Apparently, their decision was even unchanged after the video and resulting online outrage about the same over the destroyed crops at the Canopy facility in BC surfaced online.

On May 10, just over a week after the Bioronica purchase in Germany, the first inklings of a scandal began to hit CannTrust in Canada. A whisteblower inside the company quit after sending a mass email to all employees about his concerns. Four days later, the company announced the successful completion of their next round of financing, and further that they had raised 25.5 million more than they hoped.

Six weeks later, on June 14, Health Canada received its warning about discrepancies at CannTrust. The question is, why did it take so long?

Where Does This Get Interesting?

The strange thing about the comparisons between CannTrust and Canopy, beyond similarities of specific events and failings, is of course their timing. That also seems to have been apparent at least to board members at Canopy – if not a cause for alarm amongst shareholders themselves. One week after Health Canada received its complaint about CannTrust, shareholders voted to approve the Canopy-Acreage merger, on June 21.

Yet eight days after that, as Health Canada issued an order to cease distribution to CannTrust, the Canopy board fired Bruce Linton.

One day after that, the Danish recipient of CannTrust’s product, also announced that they were halting distribution in Europe. By the end of August, Danish authorities were raising alarms about yet another problem – namely that they do not trust CannTrust’s assurances about delivery of pesticide-free product.

Is this coincidence or something else?

If like Danish authorities did in late August 2019, calling for a systematic overhaul of their own budding cannabis ecosystem (where both Canadian companies operate), the patterns and similarities here may prove more than that. Sit tight for at least a fall of more questions, if not investigations.

Beyond one giant cannabis conspiracy theory, in other words, the problems, behaviour and response of top executives at some of the largest companies in the business appear to be generating widespread calls – from not only regulators, but from whistle blowers and management from within the industry itself – for some serious, regulatory and even internal company overhauls. Internationally.

And further on a fairly existential basis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: CIJ reached out to Canopy Growth’s European HQ for comment by email. None was returned.

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Legend Technical Services Accredited for Hemp Testing

According to a press release issued last week, the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) accredited Legend Technical Services to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 for industrial hemp testing. Legend Technical Services, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is currently the only accredited cannabis testing in the state.

The lab is now accredited for medical cannabis testing as well as all industrial hemp testing for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. According to Carissa Prekker, business development specialist of Legend Technical Services, the accreditation allows them to greatly expand their testing suite. “Our A2LA accreditation has opened up many new opportunities for us to expand our testing capabilities, including industrial hemp”, says Prekker. “We pride ourselves in being the preferred testing laboratory for the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Pilot Program (IHPP) and for offering these services to other industrial hemp growers and processors. In doing so, we have built strong relationships throughout Minnesota with other hemp businesses.”

Trace McInturff, Vice President of Accreditation Services, says Legend Technical Services has been a customer of A2LA for ten years now. “As the only hemp testing laboratory recognized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, we are proud they have chosen to expand their A2LA accreditation to include hemp testing,” says McInturff. “We are also very proud to add yet another state to the ever-growing list of states that are relying upon A2LA as their accreditation body”.

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Genevieve’s Journey: How Cannabis Helped Save a Life and Create a Family

I first met Mike Robinson when discussing a previous High Times article on cannabis use and depression and was amazed by what he shared about his own life and the power that the plant had on him. 

The former civil rights lobbyist and law professional has always had a passion for children, especially those in need. Robinson’s lobbying and legal work saw him advocating for children with different needs for over 20 years. He has also volunteered for charities aiding children and animals. Robinson also suffers from epilepsy himself and understands the limitations it can put on a person.

In recent years, Robinson has become the director of communications for the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine and is the founder of the Global Cannabinoid Research Center. 

It was his work as the founder, director and in-person provider for the American Cannabis Compassion Alliance, which went to families across California and provided them with cannabis medication when in need. Robinson himself would travel the state from his Los Angeles by train to meet with patients. Due to his epilepsy, he was not able to drive himself. 

Robinson’s work left him fielding calls and messages all day and night. Often, he would have his two phones on silent when going to bed. By chance, this one night in 2016 would be different. 

While trying to sleep for a long train ride in the morning for work, he received a frantic message from a mother, Anne Mari, who found Robinson’s information through a Facebook search CBD and epilepsy. She was calling about her daughter, Genevieve. 

Genevieve’s story extends beyond epilepsy and involves a painful misdiagnosis at age two. Anne Mari explained that she had taken her daughter to the doctor several times out of concern, but was turned away, with the doctor telling her she had nothing to worry about. However, when Genevieve suffered her first grand mal seizure at two years old, doctors said treatment would not reverse the brain damage she experienced due to frequent seizures. 

After some time on medications, she began to be weaned off in 2015. However, things would not be positive for too long.  

That night, Anne Mari messaged Mike and told him that she had been given a gram of CBD by a friend and wasn’t sure how to give it to her daughter, who has severe autism, epilepsy and O.C.D. Additionally, Genevieve suffered from frequent grand mal seizures and excessive “digging” into her own skin, among other awful side effects. 

The results were so debilitating that she would only be allowed back in school if UCLA medical professionals signed off.  

“Genevieve was going to be held back even in 8th grade after over a year of using oils, but the entire educational and therapy team made the decision with us that it was time to get her into high school,” Anne Mari explained.

Robinson fit the family into his schedule the next day.

“I was very concerned because the medication she was taking directly contradicted with CBD and could actually cause more seizures….They were psychotropic medications that an autistic child doesn’t need to be on. So I wanted to be there immediately, you know, to see what would happen,” Robinson recalled. 

The next day, he arrived to find Anne Mari distressed as her daughter suffered another grand mal seizure. “When he got here that day,” Anne Marie recalled, “we had already been to the doctor that morning because she was so bad. A doctor was so troubled by Genevieve. She went to her purse, that of her own personal money. She took a $50 pill because she knew I was very financially strapped since her father died and she said, ‘I want you to get this kid to UCLA immediately and get a second opinion.’” 

This dire situation led Robinson to feel a sense of urgency he had never felt before. He saw that the CBD Anne Mari had been given was around 80% potent and would be too strong to administer to a child orally. 

Instead, Robinson went to his car and got a THC “rescue oil.” He gave the mother the standard warning that he is not a medical professional and that risks were present. In need of relief for her daughter, Anne Mari approved. They both said she responded immediately and was back on her feet. 

Genevieve/ Courtesy of Mike Robinson

What happened next brought tears to the whole house: Genevieve got up and walked to her room with an iPad. Mike turned to see Anne Mari crying. “I actually asked her not to call the police,” he recalled with a laugh. She was crying because Genevieve could barely stand, much less walk to her room, on the cocktail of drugs she had been prescribed. 

Not only that, she was humming as well. Robinson learned that it was the sound Genevieve made when she was happy; a sound the family had not heard in ages. After losing her father at a young age and having to take numerous medications, Genevieve was finally humming her happy tune again. 

Robinson checked in the next day and stayed in touch with the family, as he did with other families he worked with. But something connected deeper with Genevieve than other clients. The same would be said for him and Anne Mari, who slowly began to form a deeper bond. 

The two took it slow at first. After three months of dating in 2016, Robinson visited for Christmas. He didn’t leave until the 10th of January. 

“I came in and stayed for those two weeks and that’s when we became a family,” he said.

A few days after leaving, Anne Mari and Genevieve’s older sister, Fatima, would tell Robinson that Genevieve wanted him around. This was made clear by the videos of her referring to him as “Daddy.”

While California’s Prop 64 ended Robinson’s compassion service, there is plenty of good news to celebrate. Three years since the first meeting, the entire family now puts their faith in cannabinoids to treat their various conditions. Robinson reported, “Genevieve is off all pharmaceuticals. I’ve quit opioids. Anne Mari used to drink, and she just celebrated two years sober…all using cannabinoid medicine.”

In addition to excellent health news, Genevieve is in school and will turn 16 in August. Meanwhile, Mike and Anne Mari have gotten engaged. 

Robinson explained how the family is doing much better these days. “We’re growing as a family. I think the love is just incredible.” He added, “It shines through because every element, as much as we have flaws and defects, we just shower with compassion and love from the inside. This whole family started with love. So, every time we have a problem, that’s what steps in and solves it.”

Today, the family continues to advocate for children in need and for education about the benefits of cannabinoid treatment. To learn more about Mike Robinson, Genevieve, and others using cannabinoid treatments, visit Mike’s Medicines, the blog Robinson operates.

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Gaps in Standard Property Insurance Can be an Unknown Hazard for Cannabis Businesses

Basic business liability coverage is not enough for those cultivating, selling and distributing cannabis. General liability, property and even commercial renter’s insurance policies all exclude aspects of cannabis operations, leading to significant gaps in coverage.

Unfortunately, many cannabis operations purchase traditional property policies, assuming they’re insured. Then, when a claim comes to light, they find out they’re not covered.Consider the following common exclusions that could lead to a costly business interruption – or worse

Although the production, sales and distribution of cannabis is legal in many U.S. states, it is still illegal federally. This disparity can cause confusion when it comes to insurance compliance. Cannabis companies will want to secure industry specific coverage for risks associated with property, business interruption, and auto as well as general liability.

Consider the following common exclusions that could lead to a costly business interruption – or worse – a shutdown of operations when not properly insured:

  • Property coverage does not cover crops. Cannabis crops require specific coverage for different growth stages, including seedling, living plant and fully harvested. The insurance industry has designed policies specifically for indoor crop coverage for cannabis operations. There is some market availability for normal insured perils such as fire and theft, to name a few. Work with your broker to review your property policy and any potential exclusions related to cannabis operations. There is currently not much availability for insurance for outdoor crop.
  • Auto policies exclude cannabis transport. Some states require separate permits for transportation. Review coverage options with a knowledgeable broker before moving forward with driver hiring. Implement driver training sessions on a regular basis, conduct background checks and review MVRs prior to hiring company drivers. Teach drivers how to handle accidents on the scene, including informing law enforcement of the cannabis cargo. Remember that transporting cannabis across state lines (even when legal in both states) is still illegal due to federal law.
  • Equipment damage and/or breakdown coverage may be excluded from property policies. Consider the expenses and potential loss of revenue due to mechanical or electrical breakdown of any type of equipment due to power surges, burnout, malfunctions and user error. Having the right equipment breakdown insurance will help you quickly get back into full operation, with minimal costs. Conduct an onsite risk assessment of your equipment to get a comprehensive picture of your risk exposure, and review current insurance policies to identify key exclusions. 

Organizations looking for cannabis business insurance are best off working with a qualified broker who is knowledgeable in the cannabis space.As the cannabis industry continues to expand, more and more insurance options have become available. And yet as with any fast-paced industry, not every option that appears legitimate is a good risk for your cannabis business.

Be a contentious insurance consumer. Review the policy closely for exclusions and coverage features so you understand the premium rates and limits of the policy.  Discuss with your broker the history of the carrier as to paying claims in a timely fashion.

Organizations looking for cannabis business insurance are best off working with a qualified broker who is knowledgeable in the cannabis space.

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California Banned Ozone Generator “Air Purifiers”

California was the first state to step up to defend consumers from false marketing claims that ozone generators are safe, effective air purifiers. In reality, ozone is a lung irritant, especially harmful to allergy and asthma sufferers. In 2009, California became the first state in the nation to ban ozone generators. The Air Resources Board of the California Environmental Protection Agency states:

Not all air-cleaning devices are appropriate for use — some can be harmful to human health. The ARB recommends that ozone generators, air cleaners that intentionally produce ozone, not be used in the home or anywhere else humans are present. Ozone is a gas that can cause health problems, including respiratory tract irritation and breathing difficulty.

The regulation took effect in 2009 along with a ban on the sale of air purifiers that emit more than 0.05 parts per million of ozone. The ARB says that anything beyond this is enough to harm human health; however, some experts say that there is no safe level of ozone.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends an exposure limit to ozone of 0.1 ppm and considers levels of 5 ppm or higher “immediately dangerous to life or health.”

If you’re shopping for an air purifier, it’s best to avoid ozone generators, especially if you have a respiratory condition. Ozone generators, and ionic air cleaners that emit ozone, can cause asthma attacks in humans while doing little to nothing to clean the air.

O3 is a free radical, an oxidizer; when it meets any organic molecule floating around it bonds to it and destroys it. In a grow room, organic molecules include the essential oils in cannabis which produce the fragrance. When using ozone within your grow room, too much will not only all but eliminate the smell of your flowers but with prolonged exposure, it begins to actually degrade the cell walls of trichomes and destroy the structure of the glands.

Despite the claims of some manufacturers, ozone does not have an anti-microbial effect in air unless levels far exceed the maximums of the regulation and is therefore harmful humans.

Keeping the grow room clean of mold and bacteria is important, but ozone is not the technology you want to employ to satisfy this goal. Looking into a combination of UVC and Filtration will better meet the goal while keeping both your plants and staff healthy.

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FDA Warning Letter to CBD Company Provides Many Lessons for Burgeoning Market

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Curaleaf Inc., a multi-billion-dollar market cap company that is publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange. The FDA determined, based upon a review of the company’s website and social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter), that several of Curaleaf’s cannabidiol (CBD) products are misbranded and unapproved new drugs sold are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act(FD&C Act). The FDA also determined that Curaleaf’s “Bido CBD for Pets” products are unapproved new animal drugs that are unsafe and adulterated under the FD&C Act2. This action by FDA holds many lessons and cautions for companies already in or looking to break into the CBD market.

Unapproved New Human Drug Claims and Misbranding
The FDA identified a variety of statements in its review of the Curaleaf website and social media accounts that it said established the CBD Lotion, CBD Pain-Relief Patch, CBD Tincture, and CBD Disposable Vape Pen products as drugs. It is important to highlight that these claims were not made on the products’ label and, in some instances, referred to CBD generally. The FDA characterized these claims as demonstrating an intent to market the products for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, as well as to affect the structure or any function of the body. For example, FDA asserted that Curaleaf made a variety of drug and disease-related claims that its products or CBD in general could be used:

  • To treat chronic pain;
  • To reduce the symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia;
  • As a natural alternative to pharmaceutical-grade treatments for depression and anxiety;
  • To address eating disorders;
  • To reduce the severity of opioid-related withdrawal;
  • To deter heart disease;
  • As an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s; and
  • To kill breast cancer cells and counteract the spread of cancer.

The FDA stated that the Curaleaf products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the uses described on their website and social media accounts and, therefore, the products are new drugs under the FD&C Act3. The FDA stated that, because the products have not received approval from the FDA, they may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce.

FDAlogoThe FDA further declared that the Curaleaf products are misbranded within the meaning the FD&C Act, because their labeling fails to bear adequate directions under which a layperson can use a drug safely and for the purpose for which it is intended. The FDA will frequently add this charge when citing a product marketed as an unapproved new drug. In its warning letter, the FDA noted that Curaleaf’s products are offered for conditions that are not inclined to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical professionals (e.g. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.). Therefore, the products would need to bear adequate directions for use, as well as obtain appropriate new drug approvals from FDA prior to being marketed as human drugs.

Unapproved Dietary Supplement Labeling 
The FDA further concluded that Curaleaf intended to market their CBD products as dietary supplements. For example, under the disclaimer section of the Curaleaf products the FDA noted that it says that “Cannabidiol (CBD) . . . is a dietary supplement.” However, the warning letter reiterated the FDA’s longstanding position that CBD products do not meet the definition of a dietary supplement because they contain an active ingredient in a drug product that has been the subject of public research and drug approval by FDA. While the warning letter states that FDA is not aware of any evidence that counters the agency’s position that CBD products are excluded from the definition of dietary supplement, Curaleaf may present the FDA with any evidence that is relevant to the issue.

Further, the FDA noted that the Curaleaf products do not meet the definition of dietary supplement because those products are not “intended for digestion”. The CBD Lotion and the CBD Pain-Relief Patch products’ labeling states that they are intended to be applied directly to the skin and body, while the CBD Disposable Vape Pen is intended for inhalation. In addition, the CBD Tincture products contain a “Suggested Use” section on labeling that includes both edible and topical uses. According to the FDA, the addition of the topical use to labeling established that the tincture products are not intended for ingestion and therefore do not meet the definition of a dietary supplement.

Unapproved New Animal Drugs 
The FDA also concluded that Curaleaf’s “Bido CBD for Pets” products are unapproved new animal drugs as statements on Curaleaf’s website show that the products are intended for use in the mitigation, treatment or prevention of diseases in animals. For example, the company’s website states that its products will decrease dog separation anxiety, distressed feelings, anxiety and seizures, as well as reducing or stunting the growth of cancer, relieve muscle spasms and treat arthritis issues. The FDA stated that the products are “new animal drugs” because they are not generally recognized among experts qualified by scientific training and experience as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended or suggested in the labeling. In order to be legally marketed, a new animal drug must have an approved new animal drug application, conditionally approved new animal drug application, or index listing. As these products are not approved or index-listed by the FDA, these products are considered unsafe and adulterated.

What This Means to You 
The FDA is paying close attention to companies marketing CBD products with unapproved drug claims for both human use and animal use. It is important for companies that currently market or are considering marketing CBD products to ensure that their marketing materials and labeling generally comply with FDA requirements and avoid making unapproved human or animal drug claims.  Additionally, it underscores the fact that FDA will review more than just the label of the product, and will scrutinize statements made about the product on the company’s website and social media accounts to determine the product’s intended use. Even though the FDA is in the process of determining how to regulate CBD products, the agency will not withhold enforcement actions against companies that make unapproved drug claims, particularly those that FDA believes will steer patients from receiving approved treatments.

The receipt of an FDA warning letter may also potentially result in class action lawsuits based on state consumer protection laws or lawsuits by competitors under the Lanham Act or state competition laws. While the FD&C Act does not include a private right of action, publicly issued warning letters may form the basis of a claim that statements are false and misleading and actionable under state or other federal laws.

References to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

  1. Sections 502(f)(1), 505(a) and 301(d)
  2. Sections 501(a)(5) and 512(a)
  3. Section 201(p)

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Cannabis Fashion Comes to New York Fashion Week

With some of the country’s harshest marijuana laws, Arkansas would seem to be far from an ideal location for cutting edge cannabis-related projects. The state is also not among the places that first come to mind when you think of a home base for a fashion innovator. But it is both for Little Rock-based fashion designer Korto Momolu, who is presenting a marijuana-themed collection with industry group at New York Fashion Week.

“My clients are like, ‘Now what are you doing?’” says Momolu in a phone interview with High Times while she works in her studio. “But I think where we are right now in Arkansas, there’s a future for [cannabis]. Once we do get going, this will be a great place for Women Grow to have market leaders, and to help women here who want to get into the industry.” 

It is true that Arkansas’ first dispensaries opened their doors earlier this year, and that some activists are making a concerted push to get a recreational cannabis measure on an upcoming ballot. Certainly Women Grow, founded in 2014, has a mission that goes beyond helping entrepreneurs get going in the country’s coastal metropolitan centers. 

“We are always seeking innovative ways to address and erase the stigma that still exists today for women who embrace cannabis as a career and/or in their personal lives,” says Women Grow CEO Dr. Chanda Macias. She says that this latest high profile collaboration with Momolu — which will be shown at NY Fashion Week’s official Pier 59 Studios venue on September 7 — was strategic. “On the surface, fashion might not seem like the most pressing of issues, but we see it as an opportunity to reframe the conversation around what is possible as a cannabis business,” says Macias.

Momolu was a compelling choice to create a collection representing the evolving convergence of fashion and cannabis. She has built her business around regal prom and wedding custom creations, their vivid patterns and dramatic lines largely inspired by the women of her home country Liberia. Momolu moved to Little Rock with her husband to raise their family, and a decade ago, made a memorable appearance on TV reality show Project Runway. It became clear that her immigration story and relentless, faith-based positivity had earned her a passionate fan base.

After the show aired, she couldn’t go out to dinner in Little Rock in peace. She shared in a live interview with a local fashion organization that one time, a fan fainted in the Hobby Lobby parking lot upon seeing her. When she returned to Liberia for the first time in over 20 years to present a runway collection, she was surprised to see her own face on a billboard, indicative of the hope her success had sown in fellow Africans.

Nowadays, Momolu sews and teaches local kids fashion design through projects with the Clinton Foundation and the Timmons Art Foundation. Her students “otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to fashion design, how to sew, how to draw, how to be a designer,” she says. “It’s kind of more of an inspirational push to dream, dream big.” 

She is precisely the kind of unconventional woman entrepreneur that might find herself at home among Women Grow’s cannabis CEOs, dispensary managers, and product developers. Plus, she has a personal connection to the work. Cancer runs in her family, so Momolu has seen the efficacy of what marijuana can do for patients — and felt it herself when it comes to treating her own arthritis pain. She also swears by i + i Botanicals’ CBD facial serum (the company is a sponsor of the NY Fashion Week event), which she first discovered at a Women Grow Event. Momolu says the product has been so effective that she’s been able to wear less makeup since getting hooked. 

“Her work speaks to our community of women participating in cannabis at all levels, from business owners and supporting professionals to patients, advocates and the canna-curious, all of which are represented in Women Grow as well,” says Macias.

Korto Momolu via Instagram

But even given Momolu’s multi-faceted relationship to cannabis, incorporating marijuana into a clothing collection was a challenge. This is not the first time high fashion has expressed its love for marijuana. Notable examples include Alexander Wang’s Fall 2016 collection, which was all but dedicated to cannabis and featured camisoles, fluffy jackets, and cut-out leather skirts with leaf silhouettes. Jeremy Scott designed a weedy Adidas logo in 2012, and Vetements dropped a marijuana grinder necklace in 2016. Although it’s an urban legend that the first Levi’s jeans were made from hemp, the company did put out a 69 percent cotton-31 percent hemp blend jacket and jean in collaboration with Outerknown in March.

It’s a bit hard to imagine what Momolu’s SS20 collection will look like walking out onto the runway. She mentions using down-to-earth materials — cork, jute, and linen, in addition to, of course, hemp. But she also employed brocade, organza, and lace for a “glamorized sportswear line,” or “the anti-tomboy sportswear collection,” in her words. 

The vibe of the show will largely be based off the first product that sold out at Momolu’s mini-capsule presentation at the Women Grow Leadership Summit in Washington, DC; a copper-colored sequined baseball hat emblazoned with the WG logo. There will be marijuana-themed accessories, and hemp jackets light and smart enough for women cannabis professionals to take them from the boardroom to the resort. (In fact at Momolu’s last presentation with Women Grow, all the models were IRL marijuana workers.)

“We’re giving that vision to the woman who works in cannabis, but who doesn’t want to wear a Polo collared shirt and khakis,” Momolu says. “She can actually put on a jacket made out of hemp and goes to the boardroom and do business, and really support the industry, wearing it proudly.”

Momolu’s New York Fashion Week presentation will also be an opportunity to see how one Arkansas-based, Liberian fashion entrepreneur’s relationship with cannabis has evolved, and fast. After her difficulty locating local hemp fabric with which to make the collection, Momolu is even mulling over getting into the United States’ budding cannabis textile business, suddenly viable now that hemp has been regulated by the most recent US Farm Bill.

“How could we, in this industry, with all the people involved with Women Grow and with the growers and whatnot, how can we maybe be a source for that?” Momolu wonders, her words providing better justification for cannabis women power-building than a single runway show ever could.

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Seattle Dispensary Launches Cannabis Packaging Recycle Program To Fight Waste

In the hope that consumers will stop throwing out bulky but potentially recyclable cannabis product packaging, one West Seattle marijuana store has announced an incentive program to get customers to give them their trash.

Canna West Seattle owner Maryam Minateghi has instituted a program for clients who wish to bring in their marijuana packaging trash. It’s a deal — especially since she doesn’t even care if the trash came from her stores.

“We don’t think this is something only we should do, but we are really hoping to start the conversation,” Minateghi told a local publication. “We are really hoping to create a better connection between the cannabis industry and the environment in general.”

Washington state’s problem with cannabis packaging pollution was documented by the Washington Post in August, when the paper published an article that addressed the doob tubes and Mylar bags that have been found bobbing in the Puget Sound.

“The historical cannabis community is environmentalist, but green rushers aren’t, necessarily,” the president of the Cannabis Alliance, Danielle Rosellion, told the publication at the time.

Many think that cannabis regulators have gone overboard with packaging regulations in the interest of protecting kids who may be otherwise exposed to the products.

In April, parent and cannabis user Danielle Simone Brand wrote an op-ed for High Times that focused on defusing the myth that safe kids means environmentally unsafe cannabis packaging. In it, she advocated for parents taking responsibility for teaching kids about which substances they should stay away from — and not relying on governmental guidelines to do the work for them.

“Treat them like capable and intelligent people,” wrote Simone Brand. “No packaging solution can ever take the place of that.”

She’s not the only one who does not see the excess of plastic as our best option for marijuana goods. In Canada, critics have been vocal about their dissatisfaction over such unnecessary waste. In the face of such concerns, the British Columbia government recently announced a policy shift that will make it possible for cannabis stores to sell their wares in reusable packaging.

In California, CannaCraft has taken seriously the challenge to become more environmentally friendly. The company now seals its vape cartridges before sale, a change that company representatives say saves a stack of child-resistant tubes that would stand 30 times taller than Mount Everest.

Such individual actions do add up. But until regulations shift to take our stability-challenged ecosystems into account, in West Seattle consumers now have an option to take the guesswork out of which cannabis packaging can be recycled.

At Canna Culture shop, news cameras captured a man who had brought in CBD drink bottles, half of which he said he had purchased in another dispensary. Mirnateghi says that he’s far from the only cannabis consumer who is taking advantage of the collection drop-off.

“The response to the program has been fantastic,” said Mirnateghi. “We have only been doing this for a few days now and already we’ve captured a lot of recyclable materials and a lot of attention. I think we’ve collected enough recyclables to fill a small closet.”

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Mexico City Cannabis Conference Takes Place As Country Awaits Legalization

Over eight-thousand people attended the fourth edition of one of Mexico’s most significant gatherings of the cannabis community, Expoweed, this weekend. Throughout three days of political panels, cultivation presentations, dab rig shopping, industry networking, and hip-hop freestyle battles, a picture emerged of a country that, after decades of cannabis activism, could be on the brink of something huge.

The crowd was relatively diverse, for a cannabis event. Women made up a considerable percentage and all age groups were represented. Attendee numbers seemed to confirm that the country’s citizens are ready for change.

“All of you here today are proof that there is a light in the tunnel,” said Senator Patricia Mercado, who has played a pivotal role in pushing the Department of Health to refine the country’s medical marijuana system.

This year’s Expoweed could have been the last to take place in a Mexico without legal recreational marijuana. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government has held a series of public discussions on cannabis policy over the past month. Lawmakers appear to be scrambling to meet the Supreme Court’s expectation that the legislature regulate adult-use marijuana. The court’s judges pronounced cannabis prohibition unconstitutional last year.

Senators Jesus Rodríguez and Mercado, who are among the group of majority women Mexican politicians who have become leaders on the issue of legalization, appeared in Expoweed’s Saturday panel on the regulation process.

Mexico City Cannabis Conference Takes Place As Country Awaits Legalization
Caitlin Donohue

The two senators focused on encouraging the cannabis community to weigh in on the Senate’s fact-finding process when it comes to marijuana regulation. “Don’t let us alone!” said Rodriguez, who was a performance artist before becoming an elected official last year in President López Obrador’s Morena party. The flamboyant senator also debuted an online platform during the panel that will collect opinions on cannabis legalization from the marijuana community via the politician’s own website.

“[Past presidential administrations] never wanted people to weigh in, and we want that,” Rodríguez told the crowd. “How would you like it if the cannabis law was the first in Mexico to be determined by the majority of the people?”

Her words met with pushback from the owner of Mexico City’s La Semilla Growshop, Jorge Hernández Tinajero. He pointed out during the regulation panel’s Q&A session that it was irresponsible to ask marijuana growers to identify themselves to the government while the current penalty for cultivation entails up to a six year prison sentence.

“If this is how it’s going to be, I don’t think our participation is a good idea,” Hernández Tinajero said.

The regulation panel drew the most media attention of the weekend — though it was edged out in total number of attendees by Luis Gómez of Jalisco’s Lagos Growers and his technical presentation on marijuana cultivation.

Hernández Tinajero later clarified to High Times that he saw the confidentiality oversight as merely one of many inconsistencies being heard from Mexican politicians when it comes to cannabis. “Truthfully, I’m not as optimistic as some of the others,” he said, pointing to President López Obrador’s failure to mention marijuana consumers’ rights as a sign that upcoming laws may not center personal cultivation and citizen-run cannabis clubs to the extent that Mexico’s activist movement would like.

Mexico City Cannabis Conference Takes Place As Country Awaits Legalization
Caitlin Donohue

Individual rights have long been the focus of many Mexican cannabis advocates. Cultivation rights has been of particular interest, especially since it is not legal for Mexicans to produce the CBD oil with low THC that is authorized by the country’s limited medical marijuana program.

Zara Snapp received permission from the country’s Supreme Court to grow and consume marijuana in 2018, and is now active through Regulación Por La Paz, a group pushing for the legalization of cannabis and other drugs. Snapp was an Expoweed presenter, but also grabbed a microphone to question a pair of cannabis investors after their own panel on future business opportunities within Mexican marijuana.

“How are we going to change the infrastructure of the country so that rural communities receive the profits from cannabis?” she asked. “[Regulación Por La Paz] is trying to make sure that the people currently growing marijuana can keep growing it, and transition from illegal to legal.”

While moments of ideological friction popped off in Expoweed’s lecture hall, in the events aisle of cannabis vendors from both in and outside of Mexico, the mood appeared largely positive.

Mexico City Cannabis Conference Takes Place As Country Awaits Legalization
Caitlin Donohue

“More and more people are getting interested in cannabis regulation,” Laura Peralta Díaz told High Times. Peralta’s company Nahui Cempoalli sold its CBD health and wellness products to Expoweed attendees, from clay face masks to personal lubricant. She had seen the difference in cannabis event attendees ever since the founding of her brand two years ago: “People are becoming more educated on the subject, especially on CBD, specifically.”

That sentiment was echoed by Paulina Mejía Correa, the co-founder of the Xalapa, Veracruz-based company Divinorum Boutique Herbal, which makes tortillas, peanut butter, and sauces with hemp seed. “There is more and more acceptance of cannabis consumption in Mexico,” she told High Times. “Regulation would be very beneficial — it would allow more people to learn about cannabis without the prejudice of it being illegal and somehow immoral.”

Despite the presence of many Mexican cannabis distributors and activists, a large portion of the Expoweed schedule was given over to US experts. Oaksterdam University’s Gustavo Duarte came to present on the basics of starting a cannabis business.

“We already know that the word ‘marijuana,’ the word that everyone [on] the whole planet uses to describe the product, came from Mexico,” Duarte told High Times. “The country has such a rich history within the industry already, once they get over this prohibition and this taboo mentality — and they will, quickly. Once it happens, the industry’s going to explode.”

Hernández Tinajero concurred. “I think society is advancing at a much more accelerated speed than our institutions and laws,” he said, before heading back to his growshop’s booth to greet potential marijuana cultivators with advice on how to grow their future.

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