Saskatchewan Bill Would OK Cannabis Licenses for First Nations

The provincial government of Saskatchewan, Canada announced on Tuesday that it has introduced legislation designed to give the province’s First Nations regulatory authority over cannabis operations in the areas they govern. The first of two bills, The Summary Offenses Procedure Amendment Act (SOPA) of 2022, will provide a legal framework that First Nations communities can use to enforce laws and bylaws on reserve lands, while the second piece of legislation establishes the provincial legal framework for First Nations to license and regulate the distribution and retail sales of cannabis.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to take this important step as part of our ongoing work with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said in a statement from the provincial government. “These amendments will allow these and other First Nations communities in the future to use the more simplified summary offenses procedure, instead of the long-form process under the federal Criminal Code, to issue tickets and fines such as those issued for traffic violations and other provincial offenses.”

The second bill, The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act of 2022, establishes the provincial legal framework for First Nations to license and regulate the distribution and retailing of cannabis on First Nation reserve lands. Under the legislation, First Nations will be subject to existing provincial and federal legislation to establish a local authority to self-govern cannabis operations. Retailers conforming with the regulations, which have not yet been written, will be able to purchase from cannabis producers regulated by the federal government.

Legislation Follows Memo Of Understanding

The new legislative amendments follow a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the Government of Saskatchewan, the Muskoday First Nation, and the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in October 2019 to address longstanding issues concerning sovereignty and the enforcement of First Nations’ laws.

“First Nations assert their jurisdiction and maintain community safety by creating laws under the Indian Act, land codes, and other federal legislation but there have been difficulties in enforcing these laws in the courts,” said Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation. “Through our work with the provincial government, the amendments to SOPA will give us access to prosecution and enforcement tools that will give force to our laws in areas such as environmental protection and community safety; and strengthen the place of our laws alongside federal and provincial law.”

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority is responsible for administering and enforcing cannabis regulations within the province. Lori Carr, the minister who heads the SLGA, said that the province is in favor of giving First Nations autonomy over cannabis regulatory administration and enforcement on reserve lands.

“Our government supports First Nations exercising their authority over on-reserve distribution and retailing of cannabis through a legal framework with SLGA,” said Carr. “This change further fosters reconciliation by ensuring First Nation-owned businesses are able to fully participate in the economic opportunities presented by the retail cannabis industry.”

“One of the biggest benefits that they’ll have is they’ll be able to access the product from the Canadian government, so they’ll be able to ensure the product they’re getting is safe for their consumers,” Carr added.

The Zagime Anishinabeck First Nation has operated a cannabis dispensary for retail sales near Regina, Saskatchewan since 2019, overseeing the enterprise via its own policy and regulatory bylaws. Chief Lynn Acoose said that because the sovereign First Nations are self-governing communities, the new legislation from the provincial government is not necessary. 

“We have our own laws and bylaws,” Acoose told reporters on Tuesday, adding, “So far, the framework we’ve put in place has served us well.”

With the First Nation’s regulations already in place, Acoose said that the Zagime Anishinabeck does not support regulations that would give Saskatchewan officials authority over First Nation cannabis enterprises.

“We would not be interested in entering into any kind of agreement with the province with respect to enforcing any kind of provincial statutes on reserve,” said Acoose, adding that complying with federal laws is a different matter.

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Canada Establishes Expert Panel To Review Cannabis Act

Canada Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos announced the panel members on Nov. 24. “The Expert Panel will provide us with an independent, inclusive and evidence-informed review of the Cannabis Act and its economic, social, and environmental impacts, as well as the progress that’s been made displacing the illicit cannabis market,” Duclos said. “We welcome the Expert Panel members and look forward to reviewing their findings to help address the ongoing and emerging needs of Canadians while protecting their health and safety.”

There are a total of five members of the panel who will begin work on the report, with a goal to “engage with the public, governments, Indigenous peoples, youth, marginalized and racialized communities, cannabis industry representatives, and people who access cannabis for medical purposes” regarding the current successes and failures of the current law.

The first panel member is Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde, Associate Professor at Queen’s University and consultant psychiatrist and clinical director at Providence Care, which provides mental health care. In the realm of cannabis, Ayonrinde’s peer-reviewed publications explore “gestational cannabis use, cannabis and psychosis, and safety issues with cannabinoid-based medicines.”

The second is Dr. Patricia J. Conrod, a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at University of Montreal and researcher at Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital Centre. Conrod co-leads multiple research efforts, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Canadian Cannabis and Psychosis Research Team.

The third is Lynda L. Levesque, a criminal lawyer and member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba. Levesque has been serving the communities of Calgary and Toronto since 2015. “Throughout her legal career, she has maintained a passion for Indigenous justice issues and an interest in better ensuring access to justice for marginalized persons,” the government describes.

The fourth is Dr. Peter Selby, Vice Chair of Research and Head of the Mental Health and Addictions Division in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Selby’s research often focuses on understanding and treating addictive behaviors, which has led him to receive over $100 million in grants from numerous institutes. In total, he has held more than 145 grants as a Principal or Co-Principal Investigator and has taken part in over 150 peer-reviewed publications.

Finally, the panel will be led by Chair Morris Rosenberg, a lawyer and former Deputy of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Minister of Health, and Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, among other government roles. “It’s my great pleasure to begin working with the members of the Expert Panel. Each member brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, which will be essential as we conduct a thorough, independent review of the Cannabis Act,” Rosenberg said in a press release.

The Cannabis Act has been in place since cannabis sales officially began in Canada in 2018, and requires that the government create a report with recommendations for changes. Now that the panel has been selected, the report can begin to take form through two phases. First, the panel will assess the impacts of the Cannabis Act through online public engagement and analyze trends and evidence. The second phase will include compiling advice to improve or reform the legislative framework. The report does not currently have a deadline, but when it is completed, it will be presented to Parliament of Canada.

According to Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, this panel will help prepare necessary information for the country to evolve as one of just a few countries that have legalized adult-use cannabis. “The Cannabis Act has been instrumental in our efforts to protect youth from accessing cannabis, displacing the illegal market, and providing adult consumers with access to a safe supply of cannabis, but there’s more work to do,” Bennett said in a statement. “We congratulate the new members of the Expert Panel, and look forward to their work assessing our progress in meeting the goals of the Act and guiding our next steps.”

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Non-profit Organization Marches on Canadian Capital To Fight for Therapeutic Mushrooms

Over the course of the past two years, TheraPsil has assisted over 130 patients, but it calls the country’s current limitations a “cruel approach” on the part of Health Canada. The organization has attempted to set up a formal meeting with parliament members, but so far has been denied, so it’s taking the conversation straight to the capital to protest between Nov. 28-30.

According to TheraPsil CEO Spencer Hawkswell, there needs to be a proper channel for patients to be able to legally access psilocybin and psilocin. “There is ample evidence of both the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in the treatment of various mental health conditions,” said Hawkswell in a press release. “The previous Minister recognized this and started approving exemptions. Unfortunately, this Minister has stopped and refused to consider reasonable regulations to ensure vulnerable Canadians don’t have to go to Court to access treatment that can improve their quality of life and death.”

Currently, psilocybin and psilocin are listed as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. However, some patients gain legal access with an improved exemption called the Special Access Program

TheraPsil uses the example of Thomas Hartle, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, to demonstrate the problems that patients are encountering. Hartle was one of the first to receive approval from former Health Minister Patty Hajdu to use psilocybin to treat “end-of-life anxiety” in 2020, which was valid for one year. His treatments were successful, and he reapplied for continued access in October 2021, but was denied by current Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

“We hope to meet with the Minister to find out why he and his officials are being so cruel to us,” said Hartle in a press statement. “Instead of a compassionate response, Health Canada is referring dying and vulnerable patients to a special access program that results in lots of red tape but no access for most. Many, like me have gone over a year without a response to their urgent requests.”

TheraPsil will be arranging media interviews over the next few days to raise awareness both for the medical benefits that psilocybin offers, as well as the need for improved access. “Mental health is a non-partisan issue,” said palliative care physician Dr. Valorie Masuda. “Reasonable treatment options should be available to Canadians who have the right to MAiD [Medical Assistance in Dying]. It is cruel to withhold medicine from vulnerable patients, especially when those medicines have worked for them.”

TheraPsil also sent a joint letter earlier this month signed by medical practitioners and social workers calling for the need for psilocybin regulations. “We believe that our patients have a right to Medical Psilocybin and this open letter is to demand this right on their behalf. We need a compassionate and immediate response and solution to the Section 56 applications for psilocybin access and seek your response to our proposed request for ‘Access to Psilocybin for Medical Purposes Regulations,’” the letter stated.

Meanwhile in Canada, Apex Labs received a “no objection” letter from Health Canada, which effectively greenlit the first North American study on psilocybin as a treatment for military veterans who suffer from conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Veterans are already self-medicating with micro-doses of unregulated psilocybin products without knowing the potency and safety of the product they are consuming,” said Apex Labs CEO Tyler Powell. “Our goal is to expand access to pharmaceutical grade drug products through regulated systems, providing transparency and support for patients in need.”

A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Nov. 3 also provided evidence of the benefits of psilocybin in a double-blind trial. “In this phase 2 trial involving participants with treatment-resistant depression, psilocybin at a single dose of 25 mg, but not 10 mg, reduced depression scores significantly more than a 1-mg dose over a period of 3 weeks but was associated with adverse effects,” the researchers wrote. Those adverse effects included headaches, nausea, dizziness, and suicidal ideation.

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Tilray Acquires Popular New York Craft Brewer

The Canadian cannabis company Tilray Brands announced on Tuesday that it is expanding its beverage portfolio with the acquisition of popular New York-based craft brewer, Montauk Brewing.

“Tilray Brands continues to strengthen our U.S. footprint and operations through investments in and growing our portfolio of leading lifestyle CPG brands that resonate powerfully with consumers,” said Irwin D. Simon, chairman and chief executive officer of Tilray. “Montauk Brewing is an iconic brand with leading market share and distribution in the northeast. Tilray Brands intends to leverage SweetWater’s existing nationwide infrastructure and Montauk Brewing’s northeast influence to significantly expand our distribution network and drive profitable growth in our beverage-alcohol segment. This distribution network is part of Tilray’s strategy to leverage our growing portfolio of U.S. CPG brands and ultimately to launch THC-based product adjacencies upon federal legalization in the U.S.”

For Tilray, the acquisition provides another foothold into the coveted United States market. Like other international cannabis brands, Tilray is circling the U.S. ahead of an anticipated change to the country’s federal marijuana laws.

President Joe Biden last month announced pardons for all individuals with simple cannabis convictions. In the announcement, Biden also signaled a change to federal marijuana laws, saying that he had directed “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in the announcement, “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

Tilray’s announcement on Monday said that following “federal legalization in the U.S., Tilray plans to take full advantage of its strategic infrastructure, operations and consumer loyal brands across beer, spirits, and snack-food categories to parlay into THC-based products and further expand its commercial opportunities.”

The acquisition also helps Tilray expand its collection of alcohol brands.

In the announcement on Monday, the company said that Montauk, billed as the “the #1 craft brewer in Metro New York,” “joins Tilray’s growing U.S. beverage-alcohol segment, which already includes SweetWater Brewing Company, the 10th largest craft brewer in the nation with distribution across more than 40 states, the Alpine and Green Flash iconic Southern California brands, and its leading lifestyle bourbon and spirits brand, Breckenridge Distillery.”

Montauk “has enormous potential to expand its customer base and grow throughout the U.S. as a true national brand,” Tilray said in the press release.

The announcement said that Montauk Brewing, SweetWater Brewing, Green Flash and Alpine now serve as “the cornerstones of Tilray’s coast to coast craft beer segment and further strengthens the Company’s net revenue.”

In addition to the acquisition of Montauk Brewing, Tilray said that it is also appointing “veteran beer and beverage industry executive Ty H. Gilmore as President of Tilray’s U.S. beer business, a newly created position.”

“We are excited to welcome Montauk Brewing’s founders Vaughan Cutillo and Eric Moss, as well as Terry Hopper, Montauk Brewing’s General Manager, to the Tilray Brands family and I look forward to working closely with Ty Gilmore to maximize the performance of our enormously powerful craft and lifestyle beverage brand portfolio,” Simon said in the press release on Monday.

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North America’s First Take Home Psilocybin Trial Approved in Canada

A pharmaceutical company called Apex Labs announced on Nov. 1 that it will be conducting the first North American take home multi-dose psilocybin clinical trial. Apex Labs is a patient-driven pharmaceutical company that specializes in psilocybin treatments for military veterans.

According to a press release, the trial known as APEX-002-A01-02 will explore the efficacy of APEX-52 (psilocybin) for veterans suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Apex Labs received a “no objection letter” from Health Canada on October 24.

The veteran patients will receive low-dose, multi-dose psilocybin for oral use, which received Good Manufacturing Practice certification, and will be given to patients in a labeled package with at-home instructions.

Apex Labs CEO Tyler Powell is excited to introduce this medicine to patient participants, allowing them a safe way to explore if psilocybin can help treat their medical conditions. “This approval signals a willingness from Health Canada to allow APEX to move forward with a clinical pipeline focused on Veteran patients with PTSD and a comorbid diagnosis of depression,” Powell said. “Veterans are already self-medicating with micro-doses of unregulated psilocybin products without knowing the potency and safety of the product they are consuming. Our goal is to expand access to pharmaceutical grade drug products through regulated systems, providing transparency and support for patients in need.”

There’s evidence that psilocybin can be effective in treating numerous conditions and disorders. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave “Breakthrough Therapy Designation” to Usona Institute in Wisconsin for its work on psilocybin to treat major depressive disorder. Such a designation shows that the FDA is committed to fast tracking drug review and development.

Similarly, on Jan. 5, 2022, Health Canada amended its Controlled Drugs and Substance Act through its Special Access Program, expanding to include psilocybin and MDMA. “There has been emerging scientific evidence supporting potential therapeutic uses for some restricted drugs, most notably psychedelic restricted drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin that have been granted “breakthrough therapy” designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment-resistant depression, respectively,” Health Canada wrote.

Powell is proud of the opportunity his team will have to help veterans in this first-ever at-home trial. “It is beyond satisfying to know that our team’s hard work has led to the first Canadian Veteran patient taking APEX-52 in the comfort of their own home,” Powell said. 

Just recently, the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada was approved to conduct a study on psilocybin mushrooms. The university received a “dealer’s license” from Health Canada on Oct. 25, making it one of the first universities in the country to receive such approval.

In the U.S., voters will soon choose whether or not to approve psilocybin. In Oregon, psilocybin was approved via ballot initiative in 2020, but this year it will be on the ballot again in 27 of the state’s 36 counties. Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority recently adopted the first round of rules for psilocybin in May 2022, and the final rules are set to be adopted by December 30, 2022. There is currently a public comment period running from Nov. 1-21.

Voters in Colorado are also voting on psychedelic legalization and psilocybin therapy centers with Proposition 122. According to military veteran Kevin Matthews, who is also the coalition director of Natural Medicine Colorado, believes that the approval of this initiative would help countless people. “They changed my life. The clouds parted. I realized that I no longer had to be a victim to my diagnosis of major depression,” Matthews told the Colorado Sun. “Colorado is in a mental health crisis right now. We want to make sure that all Coloradans have access to this at some level, especially our veterans and those with extreme trauma.”

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Canadian University Granted License To Study Psilocybin Mushrooms

Dr. Max Jones and Dr. Gale Bozzo, two professors at UG’s Ontario Agricultural College (Department of Plant Agriculture), received a Health Canada “dealer’s license” on Oct. 25. The license permits the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, and is one of the first universities in Canada to be permitted to do so.

“We are very excited about this approval as it will allow us to study these psychedelic mushrooms to better understand their biology and genetics, examine what other functional compounds they might contain, and provide well-characterized and chemically consistent material for preclinical and potentially clinical evaluation,” Jones said. He previously received a license to study cannabis back in November 2018 as well. 

According to Jones, there are more than 200 species of mushrooms that can produce psilocybin. “Those species aren’t that closely related; they’re diverse,” Jones said in a press release. “So that makes scientists like me wonder: what else are these mushrooms producing? If you have 200 species producing a compound that affects the human brain, it’s likely they are producing other interesting compounds, too.”

Psilocybin therapy has become a popular treatment for conditions such as depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Dr. Melissa Perreault, Professor in Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and another researchers involved with the study, there’s a specific function that they’re hoping to examine. “There are many already working with psilocybin, but we’re interested in the potential biological activity of some of the other compounds in these mushrooms and whether they have any therapeutic value alone or in combination with psilocybin,” Perreault said.

Perreault’s experience has previously involved studies of the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with medical conditions like depression or autism spectrum disorders. Her plan is to examine the signaling pathways that psilocybin might affect. “If there is any potential therapeutic value in these compounds, we would then bring them into some of the models I work with, such as those used to study specific aspects of depression or autism, to examine their therapeutic effects,” Perreault said.

In conclusion, Jones said that he believes increased access to mushrooms will allow more studies to be conducted. “There is a real need for a public supply of these mushrooms,” Jones said. We aim to create a supply of mushrooms to be used for preclinical and perhaps clinical trials in which the genetics and cultivation methodologies will be fully disclosed to researchers and the public.”

The press release also notes that the researchers plan to develop a synthetic mushroom growing method to make it easily reproduced. Typically, mushrooms are grown on grains or manure.

Psilocybin mushrooms are continuing to grow with interest among the medical community. Earlier this year in January, one organization presented evidence of mushroom’s therapeutic qualities and announced its intention to have the substance rescheduled in the United Nations 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances Act. In August, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry showed how psilocybin has the potential to treat alcohol addiction. In mid-September, the University of Copenhagen began examining the effects of psilocybin to treat obesity. Just last week, Johns Hopkins University announced a study to analyze how psilocybin can help patients quit smoking. The substance has even become the muse for numerous high-profile musicians, such as Björk, Ellie Goulding, Kid Cudi, and Lil Nas X.

The state of Oregon is planning on finalizing its rules to regulate psilocybin by December 2022, while a few other states are presenting psilocybin allowances on the November ballot.

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Attorney Shimmy Posen Discusses Legalization, the Global Marketplace

Recently, President Joe Biden announced a plan to pardon those convicted of simple cannabis possession, which left many wondering if this could be the first step towards full legalization or the federal declassification of cannabis. Though nothing official has been announced, there are many in the legal cannabis industry that wonder whether the U.S. will go the same route as Canada, who fully legalized in 2018.

Shimmy Posen, a Canadian attorney with over a decade of experience working with cannabis corporate finance, mergers, and acquisitions believes that this will eventually lead to the U.S. legalizing cannabis, much like Canada did in 2018. He said it is inevitable due to the global market and how much capital the cannabis industry can generate in international markets. “Being at the forefront of all this, my desk has become a trading floor for certain peripheral elements of these deals. I felt like a sports agent at times,” Posen said. “It got to be very complex, because there were lots of intricacies of how much growers could own, whether they would allow franchising or not and so much more that had to be ironed out. It was very knowledge-centric.”

Posen said he has worked with several Israeli and American companies that went public but is interested in countries where cannabis sales are legal.  “Anywhere in the world really, where cannabis was touching capital markets, we were aware of it at my desk, and advising clients and helping them build businesses. Some of the more recent deals include the Sundial acquisition.”

Posen said that in the global marketplace of cannabis, Canada stands out due to its legal status. “What distinguishes Canada from the rest of the world is this government truly allowed cannabis into the capital markets to interact with the financial systems,” he said. “But, in countries like the U.S. they still have issues with cannabis in banking systems due to the federal legality issues. We don’t have that problem in Canada since the illegality was removed.”

Posen said that he thinks Canada is a global leader, but admits the system isn’t perfect and has its flaws that need to be worked out. “One thing Canada got wrong, is they lumped under one umbrella THC and CBD,” Posen said. “Lots of people have issues coming into Canada on flights with CBD products, especially from the U.S., because they don’t think it’s a problem. But CBD is a controlled substance in Canada; you can’t buy it over the counter at a gas station or pharmacies, you can only get it at licensed dealers since it’s regulated and controlled. People fly in and get in trouble quite often because they don’t know this.”

Another problem Canada faced, according to Posen, is that once cannabis was legalized in 2018, for a period of around a year, only flower [was] allowed to be sold.” It took about a year for other products such as vapes, concentrates, and edibles to be available legally, so there was a market for all these products in the ‘black market,’” Posen said. “I don’t call them ‘black market’ though; I refer to them as the legacy market. Now, consumers can buy all these products in the legal retail stores. But it was a big mess. Canada has certainly taken a bullet for the rest of the world to see how this could work for totally legal cannabis  But, many of the legacy market underground stores are starting to transition into the legal markets because that is the future. No one goes out to buy moonshine; they buy known brands of hard liquor. Same [idea] with cannabis. This just takes time, it’s a process.”

Posen said that he thinks the cannabis sector in the global financial marketplace will continue to grow exponentially and even skyrocket. “The projectiles are clear. The industry is such a behemoth today and it’s only going to grow. It’s global already, and that’s without full legalization from countries like Germany and the U.S., so you can imagine what will happen when those countries fully allow legal cannabis,” he said. “One leading country especially for medicinal cannabis is Israel, who really started the industry standard for medical cannabis.” 

Posen said he is keeping an eye out for countries like Mexico, Thailand, Germany, and the U.S., among others but thinks eventually, most countries will allow legal, regulated cannabis sales. 

He thinks the recent announcement by Biden regarding cannabis convictions to be a first good step. “I suspect that eventually, the federal illegality will be removed, or the U.S. will just let the states determine what they want, kind of like how it went down during prohibition—just let local jurisdictions determine what they want to do.”

Although reluctant to offer a date or timeline, Posen said he believes that legalization is coming to the U.S. “As soon as it happens, it will remove many of the obstacles the U.S. faces in the public capital markets. Also, many other  countries will follow immediately and also legalize because many countries only have it illegal because of the U.S.,” Posen said. “People want individuals to make their own decisions, but at the same time not promote it for children. It’s about freedom but responsible use. The sky’s the limit.”

For more information, or to contact Mr. Posen, please visit the Garfinkle Biderman page.

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Uber Eats Now Delivering Weed in Toronto

Consumers in Toronto can order cannabis via the food delivery platform Uber Eats through a partnership with local dispensaries and the online marijuana resource Leafly that launched on Monday. 

“We are partnering with industry leaders like Leafly to help retailers offer safe, convenient options for people in Toronto to purchase legal cannabis for delivery to their homes, which will help combat the illegal market and help reduce impaired driving,” Lola Kassim, general manager of Uber Eats Canada, said in a statement from the two companies on Sunday. “Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in our delivery business and selection has expanded tremendously. Uber Eats has grown quickly to become a versatile platform usable by diverse businesses large and small.”

Under the new program, Toronto residents aged 19 and older can use the Uber Eats app to order cannabis from one of three licensed retailers: Hidden Leaf Cannabis, Minerva Cannabis and Shivaa’s Rose. Orders will then be filled by the businesses and delivered by dispensary employees who have been certified by CannSell, a training and certification program required in the province of Ontario.

The partnership between Uber Technologies and Leafly is designed in part to help address competition from Canada’s illicit cannabis market, which persists despite the country’s legalization of cannabis in 2018. The new cannabis home delivery program will also improve access for consumers and patients while keeping the city’s roadways safer.

“First and foremost, we see this as a critical piece to helping discourage impaired driving, and secondly, this is just another initiative that can help combat the illegal cannabis market, which still makes up more than 40% of cannabis sales in Ontario today,” Kassim told CBC Toronto. “So, we’re providing an option that goes beyond in-store, that goes beyond pickup and it’s also an option for consumers on a platform like Uber Eats, which many Torontonians already know and love and also is built on, you know, trust and safety.”

Data from the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province’s only wholesaler of legal recreational marijuana, shows that nearly 57% of the cannabis bought between the beginning of the year and the end of March was purchased through the regulated supply chain. The figure is based on information provided by consumers to Statistics Canada, a fact that may affect the accuracy due to the reluctance of many to admit cannabis use to government agencies.

Home Delivery Launched During Pandemic

Home delivery of cannabis by regulated businesses was launched in Ontario in 2020 when restrictions put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic were enacted. Under the temporary rules, licensed shops could use couriers to deliver products to customers. The province’s cannabis regulatory agency, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), made the home delivery rules permanent with several new restrictions in March.

Under the regulations, a cannabis delivery service must be part of a licensed brick-and-mortar shop and must not derive its business primarily or exclusively through delivery sales. Orders must be placed with and filled by a specific store rather than a network of shops. Deliveries to third parties are not allowed, and all orders must be delivered while the dispensary filling the order is open for business. Because purchases are delivered by dispensary employees, food orders through Uber Eats must be placed separately from cannabis delivery orders.

To place orders, customers can open the Uber Eats app and select the “cannabis” category or search for one of the three retailers. The customer must be within the shop’s delivery radius to place an order for delivery. Once an order is accepted by the retailer, the customer will receive a notification of the approximate delivery time. When dispensary staff arrives to deliver the order, they are required to check the age and sobriety of the customer in accordance with Ontario regulations and CannSell training.

Marissa Taylor, co-owner of Hidden Leaf, said that she wanted to partner with Uber Eats and Leafly because she believes it will help her expand the customer base at her location in North York, which already has a loyalty program in place.

“We’re a small business and really it was just to help be able to get cannabis to a broader number of people,” she said. “Accessibility is not always easy for everyone… and then to expand our reach, e-commerce is definitely the way to go.”

The Uber Eats partnership with Leafly is the food delivery platform’s first to offer home delivery of cannabis products to customers. In November, Uber Eats launched a program that allows consumers in Ontario to order cannabis through the app from the Tokyo Smoke chain of retail shops. But the platform does not offer delivery, requiring customers to visit a dispensary to pick up orders.

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Alberta Passes Psychedelic Therapy Regulations, But Hurdles Remain

The government of Alberta made history earlier this month, becoming the first Canadian province to regulate psychedelic therapy, but the new rules have drawn mixed reviews.

Under the policy that was unveiled on October 5, “the provincial government will regulate the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT, 5 methoxy DMT and ketamine as a treatment for psychiatric disorders.”

“Some of the strongest supporters are among first responders and veterans who suffer from high rates of PTSD and other mental health conditions,” Alberta associate minister of mental health and addictions Mike Ellis said in the announcement at the time, as quoted by Forbes. “As a former police officer myself, I want to ensure that if there are promising practices to make life better for people with these conditions that we are supporting them in a professional way.”

On paper, the regulations would appear to be a breakthrough for psychedelic therapy, which has gained mainstream acceptance in recent years as a potentially effective therapy for a host of psychiatric and mental health disorders. 

Optimi Health, a Canadian healthcare company that specializes in pharmaceutical psilocybin, applauded the Alberta government.

“Yesterday, the Government of Alberta made a bold and politically courageous decision to regulate the use of psychedelic therapy for patients suffering from a variety of treatment-resistant conditions. They have accepted the substantial body of research, including the completion of a growing number of randomized clinical trials, which highlight psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms) when paired with psychotherapy as an emerging and novel approach for the treatment of a host of mental health conditions, including treatment-resistant depression, substance-use disorder, and severe anxiety associated with a terminal diagnosis,” Optimi CEO Bill Ciprick said in a statement.

“The increasing evidence supporting the benefits of psilocybin-containing mushrooms when used as part of psychotherapy has resulted in growing international interest in moving quickly to increase patient access to this treatment given the impressive and growing track records of safety in both the therapeutic and naturalistic use contexts,” Ciprick added.

Ciprick also noted the burgeoning support for the therapy among leaders in both Canada and the United States.

“We have seen widespread, bi-partisan support for psilocybin and MDMA Bills introduced in State legislatures across the United States; the Biden Administration has appointed a special task force to understand and prepare for the regulation of psychedelics in the U.S; and recently, Canadian Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, admitted that Canada needs a safe supply of drugs to fight the spiraling opioid crisis,” he said.

“While we await further details on Alberta’s regulatory framework, we encourage other provincial health ministries to start asking the right questions about psychedelic therapy, and to seek further guidance from the Psychedelic Association of Canada’s Memorandum of Regulatory Analysis (MORA) which provides a step-by-step regulatory framework for end-of-life and palliative Canadians.”

But some advocates anticipate problems arising from the new regulations.

Nick Kadysh, board chairman of the trade group Psychedelics Canada, said that the regulations are heavily tied to psychiatrists.

“Any clinic has to have a psychiatrist responsible,” he said in a recent interview with Postmedia. “Any patient has to talk to a psychiatrist before getting access to these therapies and we just know that there is an incredibly long wait time for psychiatry services in Alberta. So it becomes a patient access issue,” Kadysh said, as quoted by the Edmonton Journal.

Liam Bedard, coordinator of Psychedelics Canada, concurred with that.

“There are a number of qualified practitioners that can oversee these therapies and by mandating that only psychiatrists can manage them, it’s creating bottlenecks in accessing these potentially very valuable therapeutic tools,” he said, according to the Edmonton Journal.

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Canadian Government Tells Hockey Players in Russia, Belarus To Leave

The Canadian federal government recently sent word to hockey teams traveling in Russia and Belarus to leave as soon as possible, according to the Toronto Sun. Forty-eight Canadian hockey athletes are on the roster for the Kontinental Hockey League, and 44 of them are playing in Russia and Belarus (the other four are in Kazakhstan).

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and Canada was an early supporter of Ukraine since the war began. The Canadian government has given $626 million in military aid, and $320 in humanitarian relief. “Our government has been very clear. Canadians should avoid all travel to Russia and Belarus,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement to The Canadian Press. “If they are in Russia or in Belarus, they should leave now. Our ability to provide consular services may become extremely limited.”

There could be a possibility that a situation similar to the imprisonment of U.S. WNBA athlete Brittney Griner could occur due to the ongoing conflict. According to Maria Popova, Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill University in Quebec, there is a real threat to players. “Anybody who is in Russia is always in danger of being framed, incarcerated, used as a pawn in whatever the local government, central government et cetera decides to do,” Popova said. “I think something like what happened to Brittney Griner is possible. The same playbook can be repeated in a case against a Canadian player for sure.”

Griner was detained in Russia on Feb. 17, just before Russia invaded Ukraine. Popova did add, however, that while there’s a risk for players playing abroad, she doesn’t see a clear reason why Russia would choose to detain more athletes. “I don’t see why Russia would try to use these people as a pawn because Canada is not Russia’s main problem in this war,” Popova said. “There isn’t really any hope that Russia could change Canadian policy in Ukraine. They know Canada is firmly in NATO, clearly backing Ukraine.”

Adrien Blanchard, press secretary for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, told CBC.ca that players should explain why they are choosing to stay in Russia and Belarus. “President [Vladimir] Putin’s war in Ukraine is a war on freedom, on democracy and on the rights of Ukrainians, and all people, to determine their own future,” Blanchard said. “Athletes who decide to play and associate with Russia and Belarus should explain their decisions to the public.”

Player-agent Ritchie Winter, based in Alberta, manages three players currently involved in the Kontinental Hockey League. In his opinion, players have every right to continue making a living.

“We live in a world where individuals are allowed to make those decisions. It’s just an individual decision related to an employment opportunity. Has every player that’s gone, push, tugged and pulled and wrestled with the decision? Yeah, absolutely,” Winter said. “At the end of the day, they’re husbands and fathers who have responsibilities to their families. If you’re a young family with limited resources because you played mostly in the minors, there’s a desire to take care of your family. Sometimes that leads people to the oilfields in Kazakhstan and sometimes it leads them to the KHL.”

An NBC News report from March shared that players often compete in Russia because they can possibly earn four or five times more than their U.S. salaries. Citing Ketra Armstrong, a professor of sport management and the director of the Center for Race & Ethnicity in Sport at the University of Michigan. “It’s a sad situation in many regards, but it’s not totally beyond the realm of understanding,” said Armstrong. “The amount of money that athletes can make throughout other parts of the world is incredible and almost a no-brainer depending on how good you are and your overall market appeal.”

The National Hockey League (NHL) does conduct THC drug tests on players, but CBD is permitted. Rather than being punished for cannabis use, the NHL refers the players to a Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

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