Science Confirms: You Can’t Get High on CBD

Can CBD get you high?

It’s not quite right to say that CBD—or cannabidiol, which, after THC, is the best-known and most abundant cannabinoid (“active ingredient”) found in the cannabis plant—isn’t “psychoactive.” Of course, CBD has some effect on the mind; if it didn’t, why would CBD, which adherents say helps alleviate brain-powered problems including insomnia and anxiety, be so popular?

What is right is to say is that unlike THC, CBD is “non-intoxicating.” In fact, CBD is non-intoxicating to a such a degree that you can consume great gobs of the stuff and still be relied upon to safely operate a motor vehicle, according to a recent study.

So, can CBD get you high? No. However, this isn’t to say that CBD isn’t without some risks, biological as well as legal. Depending on what CBD formulation a patient is using, and depending on what state they’re in, they may indeed be able to operate a motor vehicle without any issue while on an epic amount of CBD — while still running the risk of a “cannabis DUI” charge. And depending on what other pharmaceuticals and other drugs a patient may be taking; CBD does carry some risks.

Safe at any Speed

In this most recent study, researchers in Australia—where doctors have written more than 55,000 prescriptions for medicinal CBD since medical cannabis was legalized in 2016—gave doses of either a placebo or synthetically derived CBD ranging from 15 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams to 17 study participants. Each participant was then asked to perform basic tasks in a driving simulator between 45 to 75 minutes after taking their dose, and then again between 3.5 to 4 hours later.

And, according to findings published last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, even a massive, prescription-only dose of CBD “has no impact on people’s driving or cognitive abilities,” as the University of Sydney, where the lead researchers are employed, reported in a news release.

The question of can CBD get you high? has been answered: Not only did the study participants report no feeling of intoxication, but they also exhibited no signs of intoxication whatsoever.

These findings are consistent with past research, and they “suggest that unlike some other drugs, CBD can be used without the risk of being unable to operate a motor vehicle,” said Danielle McCartney, the lead researcher and a professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology. “This could certainly make CBD more appealing than other therapies to some patients (e.g., those with jobs requiring them to operate heavy machinery).

Previous research found that low doses of vaporized CBD also had no impact on driving ability. But the CBD used in the study isn’t the CBD most people are using.

What’s in Your CBD?

In Australia, it’s already legal for consumers to drive a car while using CBD. The same is true in the US, where neither state nor the federal government imposes any limits on how much CBD can be in the human body while operating a vehicle.

But the same isn’t true for THC. In theory, it’s possible to consume enough CBD oil to trigger a positive result for THC in a drug test, as well as exceed the “per se” limit for cannabis intoxication in states that still have a per se limit.

That’s because in the US, “hemp” is classified as cannabis with 0.3 percent or less THC. While formulations and ratios will vary—and while product quality and consistency are issues that continue to bedevil the CBD industry—what this means is that a CBD product will likely have some THC, and the larger a dose of CBD, the larger the potential dose of THC.

While that still probably won’t be enough THC to create any kind of intoxicating effect, or at least an effect that the user would recognize as THC-driven intoxication—in part because CBD is a THC agonist, and tends to ameliorate or even eliminate THC’s psychoactive properties—patients in a situation where a drug test could trigger loss of employment or housing should be aware of the risk of a positive drug test, said Dr. Sherry Yafai, a Santa-Monica, CA-based physician and board member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

“It’s really important to highlight that,” Yafai told Cannabis Now. “I bring this up because I do have patients who test positive for THC after using a CBD product, and then get booted out of their pain-management doctor’s office.”

Yafai, who wasn’t involved with the Australian study, was also surprised that study participants reported “no lethargy or sleepiness” even at high doses. “That’s a little bit strange,” she said. “Practically speaking, a 1500 milligram dose will make most people tired for a couple of days.”

That said, this latest study is the latest demonstration of what should now be accepted as gospel: CBD is non-intoxicating.

“That’s been shown over and over again,” she said. “CBD shouldn’t be considered a drug of intoxication.”

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Australian Legalize Cannabis Party Runs Successful Grassroots Election Campaign

The Legalize Cannabis Party, formerly known as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (or HEMP) Party showed surprisingly strong results in the Australian Senate election this week. While it narrowly missed gaining a Senate seat in Queensland where it performed the best (and there are the most patients), the single-issue group clearly made gains and added to their success last year when they picked up two upper House seats in the Western Australian election.

The Legalize Cannabis Party advocates for “positive policy reform relating to cannabis for both health and personal users.” It has been organizing for reform since the late 1990s. They also know how to run a savvy grassroots campaign—which clearly paid off for them this year.

But does this success at the polls—even if a narrow miss at elected office in the Senate—mean that Australia is ready to legalize cannabis during the term of Anthony Albanese, the country’s 31st prime minister?

Some people are not so sure—pointing out that despite the dramatic increase in support in just six years that has led to a slight majority of Australians who want to legalize cannabis, there are other factors at play. In 2019, despite a slight pro-cannabis edge in national polling, 78% of respondents also said they would not use the drug even if it was legal.

A similar scenario played out in the 2020 national election in New Zealand when cannabis reform was also on the ballot as a referendum. It was narrowly defeated.

Reform In Steps

It is easy to forget, particularly when you work inside the industry, that so much of what this vertical is about is still foreign to those outside it. Despite larger and larger numbers of the “cannacurious,” the tide has not quite clicked over in even the United States or Germany—perhaps the two countries right now closest to full and federal recreational reform.

Many lawmakers in particular, want more evidence to back up their support—usually calling for more studies, or a gradual approach that starts with “medical reform,” first. This does establish an industry infrastructure (see Germany as the prime example of this). The problem, as so many countries are finding out (particularly in Europe) is that this does not solve the issues faced by patients—from affordability to decriminalization of possession and limited home grow for personal use.

It also may not solve infrastructural and regulatory problems as the German industry is also poised to find out.

Regardless, this is, if there can be a “conventional wisdom” about this so far disruptive industry, the traditional path that every legalizing country has followed so far. Namely that medical reform comes first. Or perhaps with a twist like the U.K., accompanied by a regulated CBD market.

Both Australia and New Zealand are following the pattern, almost exactly.

How Far Are Australia and New Zealand from Full Reform?

That is a good question. If one looks at the trajectory in Europe, it took Germany five years, plus a national election which swept out the ruling party, to change the equation. That said, expect delay and difficulty even then. In Germany, the bill has still not been introduced (although it will be this summer and passed by the end of the year).

In Canada, this transition took 17 years from the time the Supreme Court decided that patients should have the right to grow themselves.

In the United States, not counting California’s medical transition in 1996, it has so far taken 8 years for there to be serious discussion in the Senate after numerous legalization bills have succeeded in the House.

One thing is for sure. The tide has turned everywhere. And even though both New Zealand and now Australia, both with burgeoning medical markets of their own, may have just turned their backs on full reform, the percentage of the population who supports this idea is growing annually.

Give it time. And given the pace of reform elsewhere, not much more by the looks of it.

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Study Analyzes Cannabis Content on TikTok, Including Youth Concerns

A research study published in Drug and Alcohol Review found that cannabis consumption is mainly depicted as positive on TikTok. However, lead author on the study, Brienna Rutherford, explained the thought behind the study. 

“Social media is a big part of the modern world, with adolescents reporting that they spend an average of eight hours online every day,” said Rutherford, a PhD candidate with University of Queensland in Australia. “Despite this high volume of use, little is known about the potential risks exposure to social media content depicting substance use may have on viewers. However, before you can assess the effects of exposure, we need to know what content is out there and accessible.”

The study, entitled “Getting high for likes: Exploring cannabis-related content on TikTok,” establishes the intent of analyzing cannabis content on TikTok, which has over one billion users, one-third of which are under 14 years of age. An estimated 63% of users between ages 12-17 use TikTok daily.

Seven main categories were defined, including Humor/Entertainment (71.74%), Experiences (42.90%), Lifestyle Acceptability (24.63%), Informative/How-To (7.5%), Creativity (5.4%), and Warning (2.7%).

“‘Humour/Entertainment’ videos often used comedic skits or storytimes to portray cannabis use positively to viewers,” researchers wrote. “Videos frequently featured discussions of users’ personal cannabis ‘Experiences’ through storytimes, re-enactments, and videos taken during active use. ‘Lifestyle Acceptability’ was also promoted using hashtags associated with pro-cannabis use communities (e.g. #cannamom, #stonersoftiktok, #stonertok).”

Researchers estimate that 54.14% of videos (viewed collectively over 417 million times) were portrayed as positive. Also, most of the TikTok users on videos were Caucasian males between 25-50 years of age. Of the videos analyzed for this study, only 50 videos actually depicted consumption, such as smoking, vaping, or eating edibles).

“The main take-home point from this study is that there is a high number of cannabis-related videos on TikTok that are a) publicly accessible via links (even without accounts!), b) have no age restrictions or content warning banners, and c) are promoting use of cannabis to viewers,” Rutherford added. “While many countries are moving towards legalization, that doesn’t mean cannabis use is without risk and none of this content addresses the potential negative health consequences associated with use.”

Rutherford explained the next steps toward identifying the impact of cannabis-related videos on TikTok. “The next step is obviously to assess whether viewing this content has any impact on viewers’ attitudes, behaviors or risk/norms perceptions around substance use,” said Rutherford. “Exposure to text- or image-based substance use content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been shown to influence the likelihood of substance use, so it is likely that a more engaging platform and content type (such as TikTok’s short-form videos) may have an even larger influence.”

Researchers also concluded that TikTok takes extra precautions to warn viewers that a specific video contains cannabis. This is similarly done with violent videos, or videos that might portray false information. 

“TikTok has taken some additional steps to regulate the availability of substance related content by removing access to hashtags which explicitly reference substance use (e.g., #cannabis). However, the videos themselves remain accessible—they are just no longer stored under these hashtags,” Rutherford said. “Removing the content or hashtags may also not be an effective approach as creators subvert hashtag rules anyway (using numerical values instead of letters ‘#w33d’ to get around the explicit reference rules).”

Social media channels have become home to many unique cannabis creators, although many other services such as Facebook or Instagram have frequently banned users who create cannabis content. High profile content creators such as YouTuber Chrissy Harless, whose account once had 46,000 subscribers, was recently terminated without an explanation. 

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Aussies Follow America’s Roadmap

In 1926, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became Australia’s first jurisdiction to outlaw cannabis, following the 1925 Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs. Fast forward seven war-on-drugs-soaked decades and the state began to undo the damage caused by prohibition, starting with decriminalization. 

Michael Moore, an independent member of the local Legislative Assembly, introduced the Simple Cannabis Offence Notice in 1992. This meant you’d be given a $100 fine if the police caught you with small amounts of weed, and if you paid the fine on time you would have no criminal record. So, for more than 30 years, cannabis was essentially decriminalized in Australia’s seat of power.

Next Gen Activation

The Australian capital city of Canberra is the country’s only municipality where recreational cannabis is legal.

In February 2019, the gauntlet was picked up by the next generation of progressive policymakers; this time, it was the calling of Labour MP (member of parliament), Michael Pettersson. He introduced a private member’s bill, the Personal Cannabis Use Bill. Following the state of Vermont’s model, ACT passed legalization legislation in January 2020, instead of holding a popular vote. Thanks to this “new attitude” politician, residents can now possess 50 grams of dry plant material, 150 grams of wet plant material and cultivate two plants per person and up to four plants per household.

Here’s a fun fact: Like Washington DC, recreational cannabis is legal in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Because it remains federally illegal, like DC, there are no brick-and-mortar dispensaries to buy your bud. In fact, the Australian Capital Territory, where Canberra is located, is the only place in Australia to enjoy legalized recreational cannabis.

So, what’s the story? Is it merely a coincidence that cannabis is legal to consume yet unavailable to purchase in the capital cities of these two nations? Are there similar stories as the two capitals fight back against the damage the war on drugs caused?

The 30-year-old politician told me that his interest in the war on drugs came from his years as an angsty teen watching YouTube videos after school.

“I found this series of videos, I think the group’s called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,” Pettersson says. “They had this former cop who had long black hair and a ponytail, a big buff guy. And they go on the American talk shows, and he talks about the war on drugs. He was so articulate and conveyed the failings of it. As a teenager I was really interested in politics, I thought he was the coolest dude ever. So, I’ve always kind of approached the war on drugs from a highly skeptical position.”

One is the Loneliest Number

When I ask Pettersson why no other Australian politician has been as progressive with cannabis law reform, he says, smiling, “Good question! It just hit me one day: No one else is going to do this. If no one else does this, then it’s not going to happen. So, I’m going to have to do it. A lot of people assume I have some deep personal interest or maybe some past associations with cannabis use. I’m a young guy, I’ve experimented with recreational drugs in a very limited way. But I don’t really use cannabis. I used it a handful of times when I was younger. My interest in this topic doesn’t come from my own personal use, it comes from good public policy.”

With cannabis decriminalized in the region for more than 30 years, the local community was pretty open to full legalization, Pettersson says. “Polling showed 54 percent of the community supported legalizing cannabis for personal use with only 27 percent opposed. So, the debate was pretty easy.”

Pettersson also future-proofed his policy by including a cannabis reform caveat to silence the opposition. 

“The naysayers said that when the ACT changed its laws, the Commonwealth laws would then be the laws in effect and would send people into the Commonwealth criminal justice system where they’d get harsh penalties,” he said. “The ACT amended its laws in such a way that we empowered a defense that says if your use is excused or justified by a state or territory law, then it provides a complete defense to the Commonwealth charge.”

Not content with legalizing cannabis alone, earlier this year Pettersson put forward another private member’s bill to decriminalize small amounts of certain illicit substances in the ACT. Yet another parallel with DC, where the Drug Policy Reform Act of 2021 that would decriminalize all drugs for personal use was introduced. Under Pettersson’s proposed policy, drugs would remain a crime, but the penalties for those caught with up to 2g of cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines, and 0.5g of MDMA would be reduced from jail time to a $100 fine. Police would confiscate the drugs and the person would be referred to a health program, taking the emphasis from punishment to treatment. 

Pettersson says the response from the local community has been positive and they’re ready to have this conversation. However, there has been a certain amount of top-tier pushback.

The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Reece Kershaw, recently appeared before the Commonwealth Parliament and strongly condemned the proposed change, saying it could potentially lead to what he referred to as narco-tourism.

“The conservative elements are far more organized to argue and push back against the decriminalization of these 
substances. But for the most part, they didn’t fight too hard on cannabis legalization,” Petterson says.

Canberra, Washington, DC Twinning

When asked about the similarities with Canberra and DC regarding drug policy reform, Petterson was quick to respond. “If I had to try and distill it down, there are certain things that you can only understand when you live in a capital jurisdiction,” he says. “You have to contend with federal legislators who don’t represent your values telling you what to do. I imagine that similar politics would probably exist in Washington, DC, where residents also don’t like their central government telling them what to do.”

Pettersson maintains the well-being of his community remains his top priority. And while he contends that it’s a “balancing act,” for him, drug law reform is about harm reduction. It’s heartening to see that around the world, prohibitionists are losing the war on drugs. Progressive politicians listening to the voice of the people is what will bring about real change, keep people out of jail and end outdated legislation.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Mayhem Erupts at Melbourne Cannabis Rally as Police Haul Off Patients

The annual 420 Rally & Community Picnic at Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia ended in disaster on April 20, when law enforcement sabotaged the event and hauled peaceful patients off while ignoring the medical cannabis law.

The Australian parliament amended the Narcotics Drug Act in 2016 to allow medical cannabis. In Victoria, doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe medical cannabis, but certain products need approval from the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The 420 events there today are a mix of celebration and a call to action. Jason, aka “Ancient Jay” organizes the 420 Rally & Community Picnic each year. Ancient Jay says this didn’t deter police from arresting people smoking peacefully at the rally.

“A pre-planned assault on some of Victoria’s most vulnerable members of the community, the police intimidated and illegally searched just about everyone passing through the park including a cancer patient recovering from recent brain surgery,” Ancient Jay told High Times.

Courtesy of Platform 2 Melbourne

“I was approached by one elderly gentleman who had been strip searched in plain view of everyone despite not having any cannabis or illicit substances, the humiliation he felt was visible in the tear rolling from the corner of his eye.”

Ancient Jay is a drug reform advocate, host of Ancient Jay’s Argo Nights, and has used cannabis for medical purposes for over 30 years.

British tabloid Daily Mail profiled one particular incident in which several officers dragged a man and ignored his pleas that he held a prescription for medical cannabis. The man was handcuffed and dragged away. He also said he obtained his cannabis legally from a pharmacy. The man told reporters that he assumed he’d have a good time for what was his first time at the event with legal medical cannabis.

A Victoria Police spokesman said police were on-site at Flagstaff Gardens on Wednesday for the protest, and that the man was released later—but after first being arrested, handcuffed, and hauled away. It’s not the kind of freedom advocates envisioned with legalized medical cannabis in the state.

A blogger from Platform 2 Melbourne was at the rally, and decided to record and post it on YouTube, considering the nature of the event, despite a DJ playing music in the background.

Police aggression can be plainly seen on the video, and commenters called the police “uniformed thugs,” “cowards,” and other names.

Part of the problem is accessibility for medical patients. “Despite the legality and availability of prescription cannabis the present laws create a situation that allows patients rights to be ignored,” Ancient Jay said.

The actions of police signal that they are not observing the state’s recently implemented medical cannabis law.

“The aggressive approach by police towards the 420 Rally indicates a total lack of understanding or empathy towards these vulnerable members of the community and an intimidation focused approach towards law reform campaigners.”

Psychedelic artist TROG is based in Victoria, and has many connections with the cannabis community there. He was also impacted by the course of events at the rally.

“It’s 2022, every human knows cannabis isn’t harmful, incidents like this shouldn’t happen, it’s incorrect,” TROG told High Times.

Around half of Australians say that cannabis should be legalized. According to a survey in 2019, 41.1% of Australians believe cannabis should be legalized in the country—a significant jump in approval ratings compared to 2013 when they were asked the same question. In an online survey, conducted by polling company Essential Research between March 30 and April 2 of 2022, 50% of respondents said that they were in favor of full cannabis reform.

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Australia Poll Finds 50% in Favor of Recreational Pot Reform

Fifty years from now, the world will undoubtedly look back at the period of cannabis prohibition with the same quizzical perspective that we now look at alcohol prohibition in the 1930s. Actually, it may be even more nuanced than this. After all, alcohol is a dangerous substance, with high addiction potential. Cannabis is not that.

But perhaps the rear-view mirror of historical condemnation of this period of time is not half a century away, but far closer. In just 10 years, it is highly likely that the world will have decriminalized cannabis. In a single decade, after all, the industry has moved leaps and bounds since both Colorado and Washington State passed voter-driven referendums to begin a recreational market.

In Australia, as in Europe, the support for recreational reform is now at a tipping point. In an online survey, conducted by polling company Essential Research between March 30 and April 2 of this year, 50% of respondents replied that they were in favor of full reform. This is double the amount recorded in a 2013 poll conducted by the National Drug Strategy Household survey.

This sea-change represents a doubling of support for reform Down Under—and further in just six years.

Beyond this, 58% want to make medicinal cannabis more affordable by allowing patients to grow their own, and 62% support scrapping current drug driving laws. 

The huge switch in public opinion also stands in stark contrast to current government-backed drug policy which has seen cannabis-related arrests increase 23% over the same period of time.

This development, according to Unharm, the non-profit which commissioned the Australian survey, also shows clearly that politicians are out of step with the wishes of the community on this matter.

Of course, it is not just Australia where this is a common theme. 

The need for urgent federal, if not international, drug policy reform is global.

Australian Cannabis Reform

Australia has moved, more or less, in sync with other countries on the matter of at least medical cannabis reform on a federal level. As of October 2015, the national government announced that it would legalize commercial cultivation for medical and scientific purposes. Reform has moved slowly forward since then. 

According to current data, cannabis continues to be the world’s most widely used “illicit” drug, with an estimated 3.9% of the world’s population—about 192 million people—using the drug on a regular basis. In Australia, the figures are far higher than that. About 11% of the population used cannabis at least once a year as of 2020.

Why is Political Will Lagging Popular Support—Everywhere?

Australia is not the only place where popular support for legalization has reached (at least) the halfway mark. Earlier this month, another survey made international news—namely that over 50% of Europeans also supported recreational reform. In the US, two-thirds of Democrat-leaning voters and just under 50% of Republicans also support change, although this varies by state.

Why, then, has reform—even of the medical kind—stalled everywhere?

Excuses, Excuses

There have been unforgivable delays and punts at a federal level just about everywhere. This includes, over the last two years, the excuse that governments everywhere were consumed with the global pandemic, or more recently, the war in Ukraine.

Beyond this, there have been suggestions that the reason support is up in polls but not in the political class because younger people (under 40) support recreational reform, while older people, who vote more often, do not. This is also, according to an academic study in Europe, not correlated at all. Nor is there notably more use of cannabis by younger people.

What we are witnessing now, in the United States, in Europe, and, of course, in places like Australia, is an unwillingness to embrace popular opinion by national politicians, and worse, a willingness to spend tax money to support the Prohibition infrastructure—no matter who gets hurt in the process. 

When will the balance shift, finally, in places reform is lagging? 

Give it a decade. And in some places, less than this.

Sadly, the amount of suffering—of both patients and recreational users criminalized by outdated policies—may increase during this period of time. Tragically, given human behavior and history, it is also such outrageous injustices during a period of social unrest and upheaval that usually manage to tip the scales.

Cannabis reform is clearly going to be no different.

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Australia Cannabis Legalization Support Has Doubled in Six Years

According to a new research report, “Changes in and correlates of Australian public attitudes toward illicit drug use,” published in the Drug and Alcohol Review, attitudes towards cannabis have rather dramatically shifted in Australia. 

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (or NDSHS) is a national cross-sectional survey of drug and alcohol use in Australians aged 14 and older. It excludes those in hospitals, nursing homes, those with no fixed addresses and or serving in the military, in prison and those who do not speak English. Conducted every three years, it normally samples about 20,000 people using random sampling spread across 15 different regions. 

Specific Findings for Australia

The first finding is the most interesting if not exactly surprising. Namely, support for legalization of cannabis rose only a few points between 2007 and 2013, but much more dramatically from 25.5 percent of the population in 2013 to 41.1 percent by 2019. Support for legalizing other forms of drugs, like cocaine and ecstasy also rose dramatically, although not as much as for cannabis. Support did not change noticeably for a change in the legalization of heroin.

The study also found that support for legalization is unaffected by age except those older than 50. Men are still more supportive of legalization than women, as are university graduates. Native Australians are also more supportive of cannabis use than expats. Employment status is unrelated to the support of legalization.

Finally, the number of people supporting punishment for possession of small amounts for personal use has continued to drop.

Meanings and Interpretations

The most significant findings of the study are no surprise. Australia has moved forward steadily on medical reform for the past several years. This in and of itself has always changed the conversation—and in every legalizing jurisdiction and country so far. See North America as well as Europe to date since 2013.

While support for the legalization of other “illicit” drugs also was found to have increased, which is in part a generational response to the punitive nature of the War on Drugs, support is also markedly greater for cannabis.

Support across generations is also consistent with other studies elsewhere, despite the Boomers’ reputation as the generation which “rediscovered” cannabis (as well as other illicit drugs). 

The Impact of North American Reform

It is undeniable that the impact of reform in North America (in both Canada and the U.S.) has impacted the discussion about cannabis reform elsewhere since the turn of the century and even more since the start of the last decade’s events, which saw legalization movements take hold in both the U.S. and Canada. This also has everything to do with how news of reform has spread—namely carried through digital, social media channels. 

However, one thing is clear. In the last decade, cannabis reform has become a global topic, including of course in Australia.

What is Likely to Happen Next Down Under?

The answer to that question is very much up in the air, particularly now. 

As of just last December, the last national German poll on the topic showed that just under 50 percent of Germans now supported recreational reform. As of this year, full-boat legalization is high on the agenda of the new political coalition.

Given the fact that cannabis reform generally in Australia has been influenced by, if not has tracked German developments, this could mean that as early as next year, the issue could be brought up again on a national level here too. 

Last year, the first cannabis legalization specific political party was formed in Queensland. This year, a “territory” effort in Victoria was squashed in August. The issue has been heating up there for the last several years, gaining more steam, unsurprisingly, on the national level, as medical reform has progressed.

The fact that Australia is also, like other countries, beginning to consider cannabis reform as a valuable source of domestic taxation beyond a high value crop designed for export, is clearly another reason why the issue will undoubtedly continue to progress. 

Interestingly, the study was also published as the national health regulator in Australia rejected psychedelics for therapeutic use.

The Impact of English-Speaking Cannabis Reform

One thing is also undeniably clear during the period this study has taken place—namely the importance also of English-speaking, global digital, pro-cannabis media. This in turn has absolutely driven the largest countries in the world where English is the spoken language to forward the issue in every case since Uruguay. 

The fact that Germany will become the largest industrial country to legalize recreational use as soon as potentially next year, at least legislatively, will also make an impact. Starting with the fact that Deutschland is already of interest to those in the Australian medical industry seeking to sell to this market.

No matter what, in other words, the Aussies appear now to be on the brink of greater reform. And like New Zealand, which also narrowly defeated recreational reform last year in the general election by just over two points, not to mention in other countries, steady as she goes at this point means that majorities in most democratic, Western nations will be in the “for” column within the next couple of years.

In the meantime, a burgeoning industry will find a way to make its way through the regulatory spaces and developments. And that includes, of course, the conversation down under.

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Australia Rejects Psychedelics for Therapeutic Use

Australia’s medical regulator on Wednesday rejected a bid to approve psychedelics for therapeutic use, saying the risks of the drugs outweigh the potential mental health benefits. In a final decision from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the agency declined to approve an application to amend Australia’s poison standards by reclassifying psilocybin and MDMA as Schedule 8 controlled substances instead of their current status as prohibited substances under Schedule 9.

Under the decision, psychedelic drugs will not be available for use as therapeutic drugs to treat serious mental health conditions, a practice that is gaining acceptance by many therapists. Studies have shown the drugs have the potential to treat depression, anxiety and addiction

But the TGA noted that much of the research to date has been conducted in strictly controlled environments, potentially limiting the practical therapeutic value of psychedelics. The agency also cited a fear that legalizing the drugs for therapeutic use would lead to misuse of the drugs in non-clinical applications.

“The benefit is very limited because psilocybin studies indicate only potential therapeutic value in circumstances where the treatment was provided to subjects within the setting of a clinical trial,” the TGA wrote in its December 15 final decision. 

“In relation to the risks, I am satisfied that psilocybin poses a high danger for both acute and long-term effects if abused or misused by way of access outside of strictly controlled medical and scientific research settings,” the author of the agency’s decision wrote. “Given this increased risk to individuals of acute and long-term effects, a high level of control across the supply chain commensurate with Schedule 9 is warranted.”

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists did not support the application to reclassify psilocybin and MDMA, according to the TGA’s statement. The Australian Medical Association also weighed in, calling for more research using larger, high-quality studies to determine the safety and effectiveness of using the drugs therapeutically.

Decision a ‘Step Backward’ for Australia

Dr. John Huber, the founder and CEO of psychedelic therapy consultation platform Tripsitter Clinic, says that “Australia’s decision to reject the use of MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms for clinical use is a step backward.” 

“The declaration that there is not enough research limits Australia’s ability to conduct any research on the benefits of psychedelic therapy,” Huber wrote in an email to High Times. “This form of thinking suppresses progress and portrays 1960s ideologies. The pandemic greatly impacted people’s mental health, and political leaders need to get up to speed and expand access to mental health services in this time of need.”

The CEO of Hawaii-based psychedelic medicines startup Ei.Ventures, David Nikzad, noted that the decision by the TGA is inconsistent with recent psychedelic reform efforts. Canada has taken steps to make psilocybin available to therapists for clinical use, and the legality of magic mushrooms in Jamaica has led to the rise of psychedelic retreats in the Caribbean nation.

Additionally, Oregon has legalized psilocybin for supervised mental health treatment and several U.S. municipalities including Oregon, Detroit, Seattle, Oakland and Denver have passed measures to decriminalize some psychedelic drugs and entheogenic plants and fungi.

“We find this very disappointing and counter to the larger trend of psychedelics being decriminalized or approved for medical use in numerous jurisdictions globally,” Nikzad said. “We hope that Australia comes around once the studies underway give further credence to earlier work that shows the effectiveness of psilocybin use for positive mental health outcomes in clinical settings.”

“It’s really a shame that this outdated thinking is stifling advancement in the important arena of psychedelics and mental health when these natural products could help so many people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues,” he added.

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CBGA More Effective For Seizures Than CBD, Study of Mice Finds

Researchers in Australia say they’ve discovered the “mother of all cannabinoids,” and it isn’t THC or CBD. For the first time, a study reports that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis, notably cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), reduced seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of child epilepsy.

The three acidic cannabinoids—CBGA, cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA) and cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA)—”may contribute to the effects of cannabis-based products in childhood epilepsy,” and were noted with “anticonvulsant potential.” CBGA, however, demonstrated the most potential for certain anticonvulsant effects.

“From the early nineteenth century cannabis extracts were used in Western medicine to treat seizures but cannabis prohibition got in the way of advancing the science,” said Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and the Sydney Pharmacy School. “Now we are able to explore how the compounds in this plant can be adapted for modern therapeutic treatments.” The study was recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology

CBGA is the precursor “granddaddy” molecule of CBDA and THCA, which eventually convert to THC and CBD, among other compounds. CBGA is part of a protective system for cannabis, produced by trichomes that triggers targeted plant cell necrosis—natural self-pruning to allow the plant to focus energy on the flower. 

“We found that CBGA was more potent than CBD in reducing seizures triggered by a febrile event in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome,” Lead author of the study, Dr Lyndsey Anderson, said. “Although higher doses of CBGA also had proconvulsant effects on other seizure types highlighting a limitation of this cannabis constituent. We also found CBGA to affect many epilepsy-relevant drug targets.”

Fight Against Dravet Syndrome with CBGA

The mission for the team at the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics is simple: develop a better cannabis-based treatment for Dravet syndrome—an intractable form of child epilepsy.

In 2015, Barry and Joy Lambert made a hefty donation to the University of Sydney to push forward scientific research on medicinal cannabis. Barry and Joy’s granddaughter Katelyn suffers from Dravet syndrome.

“After using hemp oil for treatment, we got our daughter back. Instead of fearing constant seizures we had some hope that our daughter could have a life worth living. It was like the noise cleared from her mind and she was able to wake up. Today Katelyn really enjoys her life,” said Michael Lambert, Katelyn’s father.

In order to learn more, the research needs to be continual. “Our research program is systematically testing whether the various constituents of cannabis reduce seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome,” said Associate Professor Jonathan Arnold. “We started by testing the compounds individually and found several cannabis constituents with anticonvulsant effects. In this latest paper we describe the anticonvulsant effects of three rarer cannabinoids, all of which are cannabinoid acids.”

The Entourage Effect

In the meantime, anecdotal evidence from cannabis consumers abroad suggests that there is more to cannabis’ healing powers than THC and CBD, although the science is limited.

Families like the Lamberts have noticed significant drops in seizures when children facing intractable epilepsy take cannabis extracts, although the source makes huge differences.

Supporting the concept of the Entourage Effect, there are unknown benefits from lesser known cannabinoids. Many people believe that the presence of terpenes and other compounds in cannabis make it more effective.

Harvard Professor, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, said that you need more than THC and CBD if you want cannabis’ full effects. It should be called the Ensemble Effect, not the Entourage Effect, he said. Dr. Grinspoon believed THC should be taken with CBD and other phytochemicals in order to be more effective. Any chemical in isolation does not perform the same way as it is found in nature, he believed.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is best known for his extensive work in cannabis acids, as well as Dr. Ethan Russo. In 1996, Japanese researchers found that CBGA is a precursor to CBDA and other compounds.

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Jamaican Cannabis Flower Now Available in Germany

Australia-based Cannim is partnering with Germany-based Cantourage to help bring Jamaican cannabis to German pharmacies.

Cannim is one of the leading cannabis cultivators in Jamaica, which plans to utilize Cantourage’s Fast Track Access Platform to sell its flower product, called Lumir, in Germany. The platform offers what Cantourage calls an “end-to-end solution.” While Cannim focuses on cultivating a high-quality product, Cantourage will control everything related to importation, manufacturing and pharmacy distribution abroad.

Although Jamaica is well-known for both its historical roots in cannabis, as well as its unique cannabis products, it isn’t commonly found outside of the Caribbean country. Cantourage Co-CEO Philip Schetter is proud to help bring a potent Jamaican cannabis product to medical patients abroad. “We are delighted to offer patients in Germany this unprecedented opportunity by bringing medical cannabis from Jamaica into the fast-growing European medical cannabis market for the first time,” Schetter said in a press release.

He continued, “We are excited to offer Cannim’s high-quality indica-dominant Lumir flowers in Europe and to further create access to the European market for medical cannabis from across the world through our platform. Cantourage continues to provide innovative cultivars and a safe, diverse supply for patients.” Lumir’s indica-dominant flowers are available in German pharmacies starting today, August 19.

Cantourage launched its Fast Track Access Platform in June 2021. In a press release, Schetter noted that the European market is dominated by just a few companies that have been able to clear all of the hurdles required to sell medical cannabis in that region. With Cantourage’s platform, Schetter hopes to help the pool of options for medical cannabis patients to expand—and more competition will also help make cannabis medicine more affordable for patients as well. Now, over 14 cultivators are using the Fast Track Access Platform.

Cannabis intended for patients in Germany must meet many regulations, and Lumir fits the bill. Cannim’s Chief Commercial Officer, Stuart Marsh, is equally honored to be approved to sell Lumir outside of Jamaica. “Germany represents an exciting opportunity for Cannim,” Marsh said. “Our ability to cultivate high quality, medical grade Jamaican cannabis that meets the strict standards of the German Pharmacopoeia is testament to the experience and expertise of our team in Jamaica.

“With our 500-acre plantation and over six cultivation circles per year, Cannim ensures continuous supply of medicinal cannabis all year round. Our partnership with Cantourage allows us to introduce our products to the European market and provide new therapy options for patients,” Marsh concluded.

The Lumir product line is named after Professor Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, an analytical chemist from the Czech Republic whose experience in cannabis research began nearly 50 years ago. One of his most famous contributions to the cannabis world includes isolating the endocannabinoid known as anandamide. He has also published his findings in numerous scientific studies on cannabis topics, and has written 16 cannabis-related articles as well. These research efforts have earned him multiple awards, the most recent being a Lifetime Achievement Award at CanEx in Jamaica in 2018.

The Lumir product line will consist of sending “Lumir flowers to pharmacies in Germany, giving German patients and doctors reliable and ongoing access to the natural, high-quality Jamaican product.” The press release confirms the transportation of cannabis flower, but does not verify if Cannim will eventually offer its line of three different 30mL tincture blends, which are currently available in Australia: The “10:10 Balanced” product that contains 10mg THC and 10mg CBD, “THC 27” that contains 27mg THC (and less than or equal to 1mg CBD) and “CBD 50” with 50mg CBD (and less than or equal to 1mg THC).

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