Health Officials To Address Public Threats Of E-Cigarettes In Congress

The public health crisis surrounding e-cigarettes drew congressional scrutiny on Tuesday, as the House of Representatives commenced hearings on the spate of illnesses and deaths that have been linked to vaping.

A House Oversight and Reform subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said that the U.S. should look into banning flavored e-cigarettes as a means to protect young people.

“We are extremely concerned about flavors and the role that they play in hooking young people to a life of nicotine, and we really want to avoid another generation being addicted to nicotine, so addressing flavors directly is a good idea,” Schuchat said, as quoted by CNBC.

Schuchat was among several doctors to testify before the panel, joining Dr. Ngozi Ezike of the Illinois Department of Public Health and Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. In addition, the panel was also scheduled to hear from the parent of a teen who apparently fell seriously ill from vaping.

Tuesday’s hearing marked a continuation of a probe by the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on consumer products—an investigation that was prompted by a lung illness that has affected hundreds of Americans that officials believe may be the result of e-cigarette use. Those cases have rattled doctors, and rocked a vaping industry that has grown enormously in recent years.

More than 500 people have been hospitalized by the vaping-related illness, while at least nine individuals have died. In response to those disquieting developments, state and federal governments, as well as private companies, are reconsidering e-cigarettes. The Trump administration announced earlier this month its intention to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, which are seen as particularly appealing to teenagers.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools, and communities,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement this month. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo likewise called for a ban on the flavored products. And Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes all together.

In addition to Tuesday’s hearing, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

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New Hampshire Health Organization to Distribute Prescription Lock Boxes to Parents

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — More than 800 New Hampshire families are getting lock boxes and safe disposal bags in hopes of keeping youth away from prescription drugs and making a small dent in a big problem.

Officials from the Capital Area Public Health Network and the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of New Hampshire said Tuesday they will be distributing the boxes and bags at community events and recovery-friendly workplaces in Concord and two dozen surrounding towns. Parents can request them directly from the organizations, said Annika Stanley-Smith, the network’s director of substance misuse prevention.

She said prevention is an important part of addressing the state’s opioid crisis, and the new initiative builds on other programs, such as the periodic drug take-back days when police departments collect prescription medication.

“Prevention can’t just be one event at one time. Prevention needs to happen every day and everywhere. We need to stack up protective factors,” she said. “We want to meet people where they’re at.”

A study published in July involving more than 18,000 high school seniors found that about 11 percent reported misusing prescription medication in the past year. Within that group, nearly half said they had multiple sources for the drugs, including family members, friends with prescriptions and other sources that led back to prescription drugs in the home, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. A second study published in the same journal examined the source of prescription drugs misused by nearly 104,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17. The most common sources were family members, friends and prescriptions written for previous conditions. About 30 percent of those misusing the drugs took them from their home medicine cabinets.

Sean Esteban McCabe, the studies’ author, said Tuesday more than 90% of American households that contain controlled substances are easily accessible to youth. Evidence is building that offering families cost-effective ways of safe prescription drug disposal methods is an effective in reducing the amount of leftover medications, he said in an email.

“New Hampshire is taking an important step in educating families about the importance of proper storage and disposal of controlled substances,” said McCabe, a professor at the University of Michigan Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health.

In New Hampshire, which has been among the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis, a recent survey by the public health network found that more than 80 percent of youth in the Concord region had easy access to prescription drugs. The initiative announced Tuesday was one of many efforts to address the crisis, along with a new hub-and-spoke model called “The Doorway-NH” in which hospitals and others work with local providers to ensure that help is less than an hour away anywhere in the state. Multiple fire departments also have created “Safe Stations” to direct people to treatment and services.

In Nashua, Fire Chief Brian Rhodes said Tuesday that as of last week, the city had seen a 3 percent decrease in fatal overdoses in the last year, compared to the previous year.

“I think we are seeing some successes, but I don’t know if we can pinpoint any one thing,” he said.

He said he may be difficult to measure the success of efforts like distributing the lock boxes, but said he absolutely thinks such an approach is worth it.

“We did not get into this crisis overnight, and we’re not going to get over it overnight, but I think educating our youth to the dangers of prescription drugs is critical for their survival,” he said.

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Linguistic Evolutions: Making Cannabis More Accessible for Deaf Patients

American Sign Language is like any language. There are slang terms and accents, and the dialect can change based on the situation. What this means is that when a Deaf person tries to communicate without an interpreter present, and they are given a piece of paper and pen to try to have a conversation, they are put in a situation of trying to communicate in a different language. So, when a Deaf person walks into a dispensary for the first time, their only choice is quickly relaying all questions or concerns without the proper tools.

Even in dispensaries with budtenders fluent in American Sign Language, there are major barriers for Deaf people. For example, there are no signs for Endocannabinoid System, topicals, distillate, hemp, terpenes, and other terminology that makes it easier for anyone to understand the possible benefits of cannabis. Another hindrance is that when a Deaf person calls medical professionals to get their patient certification (in states where medical is legal) or goes into an appointment without some type of interpretation service, their ability to discuss medicinal benefits is very inhibited. 

The discussions may not even occur if the person on the other end of the phone or other side of the desk refuses to acquiesce in even the slightest way. David Cabral, activist in the Deaf and cannabis communities and founder of the National Cannabis Disability Association, faces this discrimination often. He has been denied paper and pen to relay information, and has had people hang up on him before the phone interpretation service has a chance to connect him. Hearing people, even those fluent in ASL, are often ignorant to the ways Deaf people communicate, and avoiding embarrassment is often enough of a reason to avoid the dispensary experience altogether.

Dispensaries, especially those in recreational states, often train staff to run “efficiently”, to take care of customers in a brisk but beneficial way. This doesn’t work when the customer must spell out “endocannabinoid system”, has no way of hashing out the nuances of different strains, or can’t discern how topicals or tinctures work; the signs for these items don’t exist in ASL. Furthermore, companies aren’t offering any type of training for accessible communication.

Cabral tells High Times that hiring Deaf people to consult in the budtender training process can really help. Living in Boston, he doesn’t see much Deaf representation in the local cannabis space, but he knows there are Deaf people who want to work in cannabis. He suggests hiring Deaf people in grows, manufacturing, and ancillary businesses; he says that one of the main reasons for not seeing more Deaf people in cannabis is financial.

If they are on Disability aid, they are only receiving enough money to pay for rent and necessities. Nothing is leftover for their medicine (cannabis), let alone socializing at cannabis networking events. Cabral is working on getting more Deaf people involved at these events by having interpreters present, and his long-term goals include seeing Deaf-owned cannabis business owners on panels and as sponsors and vendors.

His shorter-term goals are to supply education to the cannabis community to allow for more accessibility to the Deaf community through things like having Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), Video Phone and Closed Captions for dispensary videos available in the retail stores. Through educational workshops and webinars, he wants to offer accessible ways for companies to train staff how to interact with interpreters, and even simple phrases in ASL that could facilitate a basic conversation with a Deaf person.

Even having a rudimentary understanding of ASL would be a good start for those companies who don’t have the resources to implement the other tools. Stephanie Kerns, a cannabis activist and artist who has worked in the retail cannabis setting since 2011, says that budtenders are not receiving proper training. Having practiced ASL for several years, she was often the budtender a Deaf customer sought out if possible.

Kerns says she saw Deaf customers feeling frustration over lack of attention given, and that in such a sensitive situation, patience is key. Having the budtenders learn 10-15 signs that would help with communication would offer a more inclusive environment. Hiring a Deaf person to teach the signs, and to offer a type of sensitivity training would also allow for safe discussion about products.

Adding more signs to ASL to cover these terms would also go a long way in making communication easier for both Deaf and hearing people. One professional interpreter, Renae Erbaccia*, saw this need when trying to discuss the medicinal properties of cannabis. She saw the need for a comprehensive glossary of cannabis terms, an augmentation of ASL that would break down some of these barriers.

From that realization sprang a project called Signs for the Times, a collaboration between Dr. Regina Nelson of the educational cannabis nonprofit The ECS Therapy Center and a team of Deaf professionals. Nelson was enlisted to teach the team members about the basics of cannabis, with the goal to create a video glossary of cannabis terms that is available in every dispensary. The team of Deaf professionals is led by Ryan Kobylarz, PhD.

“Ryan and Regina Nelson will be meeting soon to establish a game plan to allow this project to flourish,” says Erbaccia.

Unfortunately, both Erbaccia and Cabral’s projects are lacking in funding and attention from the rest of the cannabis community. Because of the lack of fundraising, Erbaccia says the project hasn’t taken off as expected, but things are still moving forward. Cabral hasn’t received even a quarter of the needed amount on his Go Fund Me page, but that isn’t slowing him down.

Because cannabis is an emerging industry, things are moving fast, and Cabral understands that there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. For the Deaf community to embrace cannabis, they must have the same opportunities to apply for licensing as growers and manufacturers. Accessibility barriers exist in all areas of the cannabis space, far beyond the medical and retail setting, and Cabral is doing everything in his power to change that.

By having something like a video chat available (one that allows for some sort of closed captioning or interpretation inclusion) for customer service or tech support, Cabral points out, would be a big bonus for Deaf people. Right now, there are no options for a Deaf person who wants to call about product issues or ask questions about how to work something like a new vape pen. He says that hearing people assuming Deaf people can read something that doesn’t have a translation in ASL can result in them avoiding cannabis in any way. 

“People can’t understand to read that, to understand that, and they’re just going to avoid [purchasing or participating in cannabis] in my experience,” Cabral tells High Times.

*Name has been changed

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A Playbook for Growth: Start with a True Cloud ERP as Your Foundation

Cannabis businesses have become a driving force for economic growth in the United States. We’ve all heard the statistics. In 2018, the industry accounted for approximately $10.4 billion in revenue and is slated to grow to $21 billion by 2021.

But with growth comes pressure to produce more, enhance quality and optimize operations. However, managing a cannabis business without modern, capable tools can hinder growth and leave opportunities on the table. That’s why fast-growing cannabis businesses are looking to the proven benefits of a true cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform to help manage production, provide insights and improve business operations. When we add in the complexity and ever-changing nature of regulation, the need for a robust operational system becomes even more critical.

David Stephans will be speaking during CIJ’s October 9th webinar, “Driving Strategic Advantage for your Cannabusiness through Process Efficiency, Quality & Compliance” Click here to learn more and register for free.Cannabis business leaders may want to develop their own “playbook” to differentiate themselves in the market. But before they start to engineer their forward-thinking approach, they should start with a cloud ERP as their foundation. This can help with everything from the most basic of needs to more sophisticated strategies. In this article, we’ll review some key cannabis business goals and tactics, and how ERP can help lay the groundwork for success.

Drive growth and expansion.

Business growth often translates into operational expansion, meaning more facilities, staff and compliance requirements to manage. A cloud ERP supports these functions, including the launch of new products, expanding pricing schedules and increasing production to meet demand. Having the ability to track and manage growth is crucial, and a cloud ERP can provide the real-time reporting and dashboards for visibility across the entire business. This includes not just operational visibility, but also a look into a company’s sales, finances and supply chain.

Foster exemplary customer experience.

Cannabis companies need to streamline processes from the moment an order is placed to when it arrives at the customer’s door. In the mind of consumers, cannabis businesses compete against the likes of Amazon. They must be able to provide a similar experience and level of service, with customers receiving orders in a couple of business days. Cloud ERP can help automate processes. And when things go wrong, it can also help with resolution, especially when it’s paired with a customer relationship management (CRM) system on the same cloud platform. For the B2B market, cloud ERP empowers account management to review past orders to better meet future customer needs.

Stay a step ahead of the game.

In the industry, change is a constant. The future will likely bring about shifts in products, regulations and suppliers. A cloud ERP can modify workflows, controls and process approvals on the fly, so companies can adapt to new requirements. It offers security against emerging risks and easy integration with other systems cannabusinesses may need. An advanced cloud ERP will also provide cutting-edge capabilities, such as AI insights and data-capture from Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Ensure quality product for raving fans and avoid flags on the field through airtight compliance.

Many cannabis companies are passionate about delivering the highest-quality cannabis products. Auditability is key to both quality and compliance. Complete traceability, with lot and serial number tracking, will record comprehensive audit trails from seed to sale. A cloud ERP will incorporate RFID tags down to the plant, lot and product levels to assist in this process. As cannabis goods move through their lifecycle, the cloud ERP will append appropriate tracking to purchasing receipts, inventory as it moves between locations, products as they’re packaged and sales orders as they’re fulfilled.

As a heavily regulated industry, cannabis business is also subject to burdensome compliance standards. A cloud ERP can support the rigorous testing that’s required to assure potency and safety. It easily facilitates Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Production Practices (GPP), which ensures products are consistently produced according to quality standards. Many regulatory agencies require digital reporting; cloud ERP can facilitate this requirement through integration with Metrc, Health Canada and the FDA. Compliance can be a costly endeavor, and this type integration saves time, money, and effort.

As you can see, a cloud ERP helps efficiently balance compliance and regulatory requirements, with operational efficiency and customer service – key strategies in any cannabusiness playbook.

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Pittsburgh Man Charged For Causing Mass Overdose At Afterparty

A Pittsburgh man has been charged with causing a mass overdose at an early Sunday morning afterparty that led to the deaths of three people. Four others who also overdosed were transported to the hospital following the incident that occurred at an apartment on the city’s South Side after an event at a nearby nightclub.

Authorities say that Peter Montalvo, who is also known as Carlos, has been charged by federal prosecutors with illegal drug distribution resulting in death and serious bodily injury and could face up to 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, Montalvo and several others were at a home at the Southside Works City Apartments at about 2 a.m. Sunday morning after leaving the nearby Insomnia Discotec. Montalvo reportedly “was showing off all the money he had” before opening up a box and scooping out a large quantity of what partygoers believed to be cocaine, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

He then circulated through the party, offering the white powder to others on a knife and letting them sniff it.

“People immediately began to ‘drop’ and suffer adverse effects,” police officers wrote in the criminal complaint.

At about 4 a.m., first responders were called to the apartment building to respond to a report of a medical emergency in an elevator, where they found a man wearing an orange wristband and identified as Rubio Martinez dead at the scene.

A short time later, another man also wearing an orange wristband and “appearing to have the same symptoms” was found on a street nearby, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters on Sunday at a news conference. That man was then taken to the hospital for emergency medical treatment.

After going to the apartment to investigate, police then found five more overdose victims, including two who had already died. The dead men were identified as Joel Pecina and Josue Serrano. The victims’ ages have not been released but Hissrich said that the men appeared to be between 30 and 50 years old.

Authorities said that all seven overdose victims had been to an event at the nightclub and all had sniffed Montalvo’s drug, which police believe may have contained fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

After police and federal law enforcement officers investigated the incident, which was partially recorded on a cell phone, Montalvo was arrested at about 3 a.m. on Monday morning at his home in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

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Privateer Pioneers: A Conversation With Three Entrepreneurs

Taking the Leap

Founded in Seattle in 2010, Privateer Holdings seeks to break down the stigmas associated with cannabis. Its three partners, Brendan Kennedy, Christian Groh and Michael Blue, share a vision of the future and lead with science and research. In the last nine years, they’ve changed the industry and turned their disruptive business model into a global operation with capital and investments all over the world.

Blue elaborates on taking the leap of faith into the cannabis business: “Before we quit our jobs, we had long conversations with each other, our spouses, our families. The hardest conversations were with our in-laws. We had a lot of concern about reputational risk.”

Blue continues, “Brendan and Christian were working at Silicon Valley Bank, and I was working at a private-equity firm. Between the three of us, we had subscriptions to all of the leading business-intelligence databases.

We looked up medical cannabis and synonyms for cannabis, and there was nothing. It was a black hole. There was no formalized data or institutional research. That piqued our interest even more, so we decided to investigate. But the only way to get information was to talk to people. So we traveled the world to meet with growers, processors, dispensary owners, patients, pharmacists, physicians, activists, lawyers and political campaigners.”

Kennedy chimes in: “We were pioneers. We got dirty, we worked hard, and it cost us a lot of money. In fact, there were several dark moments where we were dead broke. But by going to places people didn’t go and talking to people that other people didn’t talk to, we became convinced of the global opportunity and never looked back.”

Money Moves

The trio has since raised over $120 million including millions from the first institutional investor to invest in cannabis, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and their cannabis-brand portfolio is vast and formidable. Their first acquisition was Leafly, a strain-review app that they built into a media and information empire. But their biggest foray into the industry was building the federally licensed Canadian pot powerhouse Tilray, which sells cannabis products in 12 countries on five continents.

I ask Groh about the Leafly buy and he tells me, “When we bought Leafly it had no revenue and no traffic, but we liked the aesthetic and the concept of gathering better data about what patients and customers want, and where they could find it. Leafly’s mission has always been to help patients and consumers make informed choices about cannabis and to empower cannabis businesses to attract and retain loyal customers through advertising and technology. Leafly makes finding the right cannabis products fast, easy and comfortable. Today Leafly has 20 million unique monthly visits and generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue. It has informed our understanding of the cannabis consumer and the industry as a whole. We couldn’t think of a better first investment.”

Privateer is the largest shareholder in Tilray, which grows over a million square feet of cannabis in multiple locations. I wanted to know what it takes to grow and sell that much cannabis. When I ask Kennedy about some of the unique challenges to growing at that scale, he replies: “We couldn’t find an LP [licensed producer] that met our standards, so we created our own: Tilray. Growing legal cannabis at this scale has its challenges. It requires a steadfast commitment to compliance, which adds a lot of cost, and maintaining quality is of course crucially important. Quality control is our highest priority and the biggest challenge in large-scale cultivation. Tilray has an expert team of PhD scientists, engineers and master horticulturists together working toward one goal—to produce the highest-quality cannabis products.”

As the first company to export cannabis legally from North America, Tilray now produces products that sell in Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Chile, Australia, Croatia and South Africa, among other countries. I was interested to know what that entails and what the repercussions are on a worldwide level. Kennedy tells me, “In order to export cannabis, we had to have federal approvals everywhere we went and GMP certification. We were one of the first companies to be licensed by Health Canada to cultivate and sell medical cannabis in Canada. Also, Tilray was one of the first companies to become a licensed dealer of medical cannabis in Canada. We were also the first company with a North American production facility to be GMP-certified in accordance with European Medicines Agency standards.” (An internationally recognized standard, GMP—Good Manufacturing Practice—certification is the quality measure that pharmaceutical manufacturers must meet in their production processes.)

Global Ganja

As Privateer continues to expand globally, I wanted to know what the founders’ thoughts are on how to level the global playing field so that American companies can compete with Canada, Europe and beyond. Blue explains: “We think we’re a lot closer to legalization in the US than people realize—likely within the next two, three years—but there is no question that Canadian companies have a head start because of the federal-state conflict. Politically, the US needs to change the laws to allow US companies to compete. Thankfully, the pressure is building.”

Groh continues: “Public opinion is squarely in favor of legalization with favorability for legalization cutting across political ideology. In fact, the gap in support is drawn more along generational lines. More than 93 percent of Americans support legal medical cannabis. You can’t get nine out of 10 Americans to agree on anything, but they agree on this. Legalization is not controversial, it is inevitable. Politicians and bureaucrats are the last ones to realize what everyone sees as obvious: Prohibition causes more harm than legalization.”

It seems that Privateer’s main interest is in buying and building brands that will shape the future of the industry. To that end, the company has helped launch Marley Natural with the family of reggae royalty and cannabis legend Bob Marley. I ask Groli what it was like to work with the Marley family and what the Privateer approach to the company would be, and he tells me, “The Marley family approached us at Privateer Holdings in 2014 about building a brand together that represented the spirit of their father and that would help continue his legacy.”

He continues: “Bob and his music have been integral to the cannabis movement for decades. In many ways, Bob helped start this movement 50 years ago. Arguably, there are few icons more synonymous with the plant than Bob Marley. It’s been extremely important to us and to the family that Marley Natural operates with a strong social conscience, which is why we have taken great care to source our products in an environmentally responsible and, whenever possible, in a way that positively contributes to Jamaica and helps those harmed by prohibition.

“In the spirit of giving back,” he continues, “we created a social-impact initiative called Rise Up that helps fund socially minded projects in Jamaica that reflect Bob’s ethos and ideals, as well as an expungement program that has helped over 100 people clear their records of cannabis convictions, in partnership with the MCBA [Minority Cannabis Business Association].”

Reefer Research

In light of Tilray’s recently announced partnership with the beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, I ask how soon the three Privateer founders believe cannabis drinks will be available globally in supermarkets and pharmacies. Kennedy places an emphasis on research, telling me, “We need a deeper understanding of nonalcoholic beverages containing THC and CBD before we develop a product, so we think a research partnership is the appropriate place to start. The research partnership combines AB InBev’s deep experience in beverages with Tilray’s expertise in cannabis products. We think we could see mainstream cannabis beverages in Canada later this year.”

Research seems to be a driving factor in the decision-making process, and Tilray also funds medical trials and clinical research in Australia on cancer and in Canada on pediatric epilepsy. Kennedy elaborates: “We want to be at the forefront of cannabis and hemp research across the world. Tilray’s commitment to research and clinical data is critical for the medical community and for regulatory bodies across the world. Participating and leading innovative research is critical in generating new data to inform treatment and the development of world-class products.”

Kennedy continues: “There are a lot of myths and legends out there, but not a lot of facts. When you’re talking about a medical product, you need unimpeachable data. Even if healthcare providers believe in the therapeutic potential for cannabis as medicine, they want to see data that proves it is safe and efficacious before they recommend it to patients. That’s why Tilray sponsors clinical research. Similarly, we acquired Leafly because of the tremendous amount of data it generates about consumer tastes, preferences and trends.”

High Times

I wanted to get an idea of where Privateer sees the cannabis business in 10 years or more. I ask Blue what role he thinks worldwide legalization will play in the future of the plant, and he tells me, “We firmly believe we are witnessing a global paradigm shift in attitudes and laws with regard to cannabis. Today, cannabis is a $200 billion global industry. As the market transitions from a state of prohibition to a state of legalization, we predict that the biggest change will be in number, professionalism and differentiation in cannabis brands and products. In 10 years, it’s likely that cannabis will be commoditized and a majority of it will be grown in a narrow band around the equator before being shipped via multinational supply chains that will further process, refine, brand and market the product. Our belief is that trusted global brands powered by multinational supply chains will win the market by earning the confidence of patients, consumers and governments around the world.”

As my last question for the trio of investors, I want to get an idea of what drives them, aside from just the money to be made. I ask if it’s fun to work in the cannabis business, and Kennedy is quick to reply: “Yes! We feel honored to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry: master horticulturalists, former DEA agents, PhD scientists and passionate advocates. It’s incredible and invigorating! There isn’t any other industry we’d want to be in, and there’s still so much work to do. We are excited to see what’s next and continue to pioneer the future.”

Originally published in the June, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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Alcaliber Spinoff Linneo Health Gets Greenhouse GMP Certification In Spain

As the industry faces what is undoubtedly a watershed moment for the international cannabis vertical, a new Spanish firm steps into the market with its own EU GMP certification license. Linneo Health is also helmed by the ever eloquent and highly experienced Jose Antonio de la Puente – a tall drink of water with a conscience, a brain and an admirable mission statement.

As Cannabis Industry Journal broke in our last story, a lack of international standards in Europe have been on trial of late. The same day that the CannTrust scandal began to blow in Canada and as Danish authorities rang global alerts, the only qualified packager in Holland was issued a new EU GMP cert. That is a government decision, not a commercial one.

This also implies, at minimum, government lack of coordination and agreement on EU GMP cert even between European nations, for a nascent industry while also trying to avoid the thorny issue of patient home grow. See also the trials and travails of the erstwhile German cultivation bid and its reconstituted Frankenstein-esque bigger if younger sister. In fact, this contretemps is almost certainly involved if not indirectly to blame.

Not All Is Entirely Rosy On Cannabis Europe’s Eastern Front

Almost simultaneously to Linneo Health’s announcement, however, the news came that in Poland, authorities had suspended the pending product registration process. Will this be on hold until after the October election?

In this environment it is almost impossible to know.

Here is one thing to consider. These almost simultaneous developments in Spain and Poland and the newest announcement about further certification of the Dutch recreational system under a new pending “recreational trial” are almost directly related.

That said, even such political maneuverings are not new – and far from limited to any single company. Both Germany and Poland have been wracked by reform stuttered by short term gain and market entry strategies executed by most of the biggest players in the room. Aurora, for example, announced their first import into Poland the same day the Polish government changed the law last fall. Aurora uses Germany as its breakpoint distribution center for Europe.

A Stamp of Authenticity That Is Sorely Needed

Beyond the pharma and market entry politics, however, this Alcaliber-helmed project creates a ring of authority to the same that creates at least one cannabis brand the European medical community can see the certification for.

For now at least, certainly among the ranks of the upper echelons of the international cannabis industry, there must surely be a sigh of relief.

EU GMP certifications (in other words, the authorization to produce product bound for a medical, pharma market) do not happen overnight. On the European front, this is surely at least a step in the right direction for an industry embattled by scandals, particularly of the securities, production, certification and accounting kind right now.

In this case, however, it is also clear that no matter the egregious oversteps and potentially illegal and certainly dubious behaviour of some members of the industry, there are also clearly those within it, and at high levels, who have tried to do the right thing. And further, from the beginning of the nascent industry here as of 2015.

Who Is Alcaliber?

Alcaliber is one of the world’s largest opioid manufacturers. Unlike American counterparts, the company decided several years ago to invest in and back ideas of the opioid-to-cannabinoid therapy model. Linneo Health is a 60% subsidiary of Alcaliber and 40% owned by a Spanish family office called Torreal, S.A.

This is, as a result, one of the most important GMP licenses in Europe at the moment if not the world. It means that within a pharmaceutical environment, the first widespread research and production of plants and therapies for those suffering from both chronic pain, plus neurological and oncological conditions that cause or are related to the same, will be put on a fast track long in the offing. Certainly in Europe.

And that for one, is a positive development that will have widespread implications elsewhere. Particularly given the news that the opioid epidemic in the United States finally has a name, and culpable parties.

What Else Is Unusual About This Project?

GMP certification is a vastly misunderstood concept at the moment. It is also a highly thorny one because of a still standardizing set of agreements. The regulatory environment is in place, in other words, but there are many, many gaps, as well as shifting rules and underlying treaties.

GMPHowever, on top of this, there is also an amazing lack of innovation in interpretation, in part because of many misadvised consultants who are actually seeking to “save” production costs for their clients, or because they do not know any better. Or because producers are scared of doing the wrong thing.

The new project in Spain is unusual because it is a greenhouse grow that got EU GMP cert – although look for more of this in the future. It means that with careful, standardized, pharma production, not all regulated cannabis grows, even for the medical market, have to use huge amounts of energy in repurposed post-industrial developments. It is also certainly cleaner than growing outside. And, when done right, saves huge amounts of water.

Cleantech, in other words, has finally hit the cannabis industry in Europe. As well as a pharmaceutical company invested in the cannabinoid treatment of (at least) chronic pain.

That is an overdue and hugely positive development. No matter what else can be said for shenanigans engulfing the rest of the industry at the moment.

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Strainprint Technologies App: An Application as Unique as You Are

As the cannabis industry expands, gaps are discovered, and bridges are built. This is certainly true of the new Strainprint App,a company of dedicated data nerds, who are very interested in helping advance the scientific understanding of cannabis and its validity as a therapeutic option,” says founder Stephanie Karasick.

After going online in 2017, Strainprint Technologies now puts the ability to track your cannabis use in the palm of your hands, making it easy and convenient to follow the footsteps of the strains and products that work best for you, while simultaneously granting users access to a community of resources, education and up-to-date reports on the most effective products and medical knowledge in the market today.

After losing her older brother in 1978, Stephanie suffered from severe depression, isolation, anxiety and a profound fear of death. Subsequently, Stephanie sought professional help and began an all too well known switch back journey of taking antidepressant medications in hopes of regaining stability in her life. After years of trial and error, Stephanie’s psychiatrist discussed the treatment of PTSD in veterans with her and recommended she consider using cannabis. This unconventional endorsement is what set her on a path of renewed self-discovery and the desire to share her experience with as many people as possible.

Compelled to record her experiences, Stephanie found an old moleskine journal and began to write down her experiences with each product and strain, “jotting down as many variables as [she] could and keeping track of how [she] felt”. She made a connection to her Fitbit, which tracks her daily steps, and she wondered to herself, “why is there no software that could track how I’m medicating”?

Shortly after her revelation, Stephanie sought to develop a simple prototype for the application to get a read on whether it could be useful or not. The response was remarkable and based on the collected data, Stephanie and her colleagues set out to develop a finalized version of the app that would encompass more than just a digital journal, but a collection of information and experiences that could be shared with the community at large. This would include patients, researchers, businesses, manufacturers, members of the medical community and beyond. 

So, in addition to giving the user an easy-to-use tracking app on their phones, it also grants them access to the experience of other consumers while storing and processing the analytics on a large scale, providing first-hand testimony, statistics and evidence to what works and why. “The more we learn about how people are using cannabis, the more the industry can evolve to suit the needs and wants of patients and consumers,” says Stephanie. All the data is stored and encrypted, ensuring patient privacy while creating a powerful portal with millions of data points that is revolutionizing the industry from the inside out.

Without a doubt, the benefits of this user-friendly application are being received from multiple angles, but from the perspective of the user, “Strainprint has helped them feel in charge of their health and helped them with the dialogue with their physicians, [as well as] gain a better understanding of how cannabis works (or doesn’t) work for you, [and] to understand the right strain and ingestion method that allows for optimal efficacy.”

Application Features

  1. Session Tracking – input what symptoms you’re treating, how bad it is, what strain you’re using, how you’re consuming it and how much you’ve consumed. After a bit, you’ll receive a notification asking how effective the strain or product was in treating your symptoms.
  2. Session History – search through past sessions organized by effectiveness to find what strains or products worked best for the symptoms you’re experiencing.
  3. Personal Log – access your personal logbook of all tracked sessions to share electronically with your healthcare provider, physiatrist, etc. for a clear picture on how your treatment is progressing. 
  4. Learn and Compare – use your personal data to compare to the efficiency of past sessions based on a ranking system with the most effective being at the top of the list, making it easy to see what works best for you.
  5. Strainpoints – redeemable points you can use at select locations simply by using the app for promotions and discounts.
  6. Community and Resources – access to a worldwide community of consumers to engage with for knowledge and support as well as a plethora of resources on strains, symptoms, retailers, brands and research.

“The company was started by patients to help other patients,” Stephanie says. “We’re always evolving with the goal of helping people use cannabis better. That’s always been our focus and will always be at the core of what we do.”

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Marijuana Supporters In South Dakota Promote Two Initiated Ballot Measures

Supporters of legalizing marijuana in South Dakota have been thwarted at nearly every turn, including an effort to become the 48th state to approve industrial hemp. But backers are doubling down on this year’s election.

Volunteers are gathering signatures for two initiated ballot measures. One asks voters to approve medical marijuana and the other seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. Supporters tried the same approach to get on the 2018 ballot and failed to garner enough signatures.

Melissa Mentele, head of New Approach South Dakota, a volunteer group sponsoring the medical measure, said attitudes have changed about benefits for patients. She said organizers this time around have financial support from Marijuana Policy Project, one of two national nonprofits working on the measure. The other is New Approach PAC.

“Historically our organization has not done large
amounts of fundraising,” Mentele said. “We’ve always been very small
and done a lot of grassroots work.”

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem supports South Dakota’s strict cannabis laws and has said that legalizing industrial hemp is legalizing marijuana by default. Hemp is related to cannabis but does not contain enough THC to make someone high.

Brendan Johnson, a
Democrat and former federal prosecutor representing South Dakotans For
Better Marijuana Laws, the sponsor of the recreational initiative, said
his group does not believe it’s a partisan issue.

“I don’t want to have a political fight with the governor,” Johnson said. “President Trump said it is an issue for states to decide and that is what we want South Dakotans to do.”

Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich says internal polling shows that both measures have enough support to pass. If successful with the petition drives this year, Schweich said, it would be the first occasion that any state would have both medical and adult-use marijuana questions on the ballot at the same time.

Kristin Wileman, Noem’s press secretary, told The Associated Press in a statement that the governor doesn’t take public positions on specific ballot initiatives but cites Center for Disease Control statistics showing that marijuana use directly affects brain health and impacts memory, decision-making abilities, and reaction time.

“Gov. Noem believes that the experiments many states are taking with legalized marijuana will end badly,” Wileman said. “It’s her goal to make South Dakota an example to the nation of a state that’s tough on drugs.”

Supporters counter that legalizing recreational marijuana will save taxpayers from wasting money on sending people to prison, allow pot to be regulated and taxed to add revenue to state coffers, and reduce opioid deaths, among other things.

The medical cannabis initiative would allow people suffering from a debilitating medical condition to obtain marijuana from a licensed dispensary and possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and three plants. A similar measure passed overwhelmingly three years ago in neighboring North Dakota.

Among those pushing for medical cannabis is George Hendrickson. He points to son Eliyah Hendrickson, a 7-year-old with floppy hair whom his father calls “a total heartbreaker.” The first five years of Eliyah’s life included myriad visits to doctors who tried to figure out why he had trouble breathing, why his arms and legs would spasm uncontrollably, why he would have clusters of seizures and why, as his father put it, he was a “drooling, bumbling mess of a child” who would spend all day playing with a spinner toy. Eliyah was eventually diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy.

Running out of options,
Hendrickson and his son packed up and moved from Sioux Falls to
Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal. They found a life-changing
treatment in two derivatives of the cannabis plant. A seminal moment was
when Eliyah stopped spinning the toy and acknowledged for the first
time that his dad was in the room.

“He brought his toy over and he wanted me to play with him,” Hendrickson said, fighting back tears.

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Psychedelic Therapy Advocate Recalls Coming Of Age In The 1960s

Free-spirited therapist Ilene English takes readers on a colorful journey into the life of a grade-A hippie with her appropriately titled memoir, Hippie Chick: Coming of Age in the ’60s. From her early experiences with therapy and her relationships with addicts, to her own attraction to psychedelics, English has led a life that gave her deeper understanding of her role as a stained-glass artist, mother, and later, a California state-licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT).

Originally from New Jersey, Ilene English was still a teen when she embarked on carefree path that had her bouncing between California, Hawaii and Oregon. Throughout her different addresses, she experienced devastating deaths in her family as well as deaths of romantic relationships. Yet while her life has been punctuated by a series of losses, each privation served as a kind of catalyst for a new chapter in her life, and those chapters have come together in this earnest, pure memoir. “This book was a spiritual exploration for me, and in the process of writing it, I was transformed by the experience,” English said in a Q+A.

English moved to San Francisco after her big sister gave her a one-way plane ticket as a high school graduation gift. English then moved in with three guys in 1963, shortly before she had a legal procedure referred to as a “therapeutic abortion,” which required her to convince three psychiatrists that she would commit suicide if she had the child.

Through the process of living, learning, and writing, English comes to see that her cavalier attitude towards relationships with men underscored deeper issues of feeling less-than. While on the surface, the 1960s seemed like a free-love free-for-all, bolstered by the introduction of the birth control pill, it was actually somewhat counter to what she wanted and needed as a female. “[B]efore feminism it seemed less threatening to sleep with a guy than to make a scene by saying ‘no,’” she writes out in the book. “After all, we had been brought up to defer to men, respect their wishes, and listen wide-eyed to their opinions. So free love was really about men satisfying their own needs.”

Besides free love, another of the book’s cogent themes is the role psychedelics played on the author’s evolution as a human being. A self-described “Hebrew school dropout,” English believes that psychedelics are a valuable tool in that they enable us to develop our perceptions and to experience life on a different level. “Through peyote and other plant teachers I was opened wide, and got to see that it is a spiritual universe and that we are spiritual beings,” she writes. “But I still believe that our work here on this planet is to learn how to be a human being.”

Today, English remains a big advocate of psychedelic therapy for healing and recommends reading Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

“What I believe is that psychedelics can be a sacred portal that take us to a world beyond this one,” writes English. “Under their influence, I accessed a well of wisdom and love that most people will never even know exists. It was as if a deeply held secret was somehow revealed to me. I have always felt humbled to have had a fleeting glance of another world besides this one.”

During her 70-plus years on this planet, English has used her natural curiosity, itinerant sensibility, and inherent drive to help others while helping herself. Hippie Chick is a valuable reminder that we are a sum of our life choices, and that oftentimes, the most painful lessons are the most valuable. The most important part is to give ourselves some slack, and to let those around us help when they want to. In the words of the author, “When people feel seen and accepted, that is when real healing begins to happen.”

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