Canadian Firm Seeks Approval to Manufacture MDMA and Other Psychedelics

A Canadian company that produces functional mushroom formulations for health and wellness has submitted a request to federal regulators that would allow it to manufacture MDMA and other synthetic psychedelic drugs. If the request made to Canada Health by Optimi Health seeking an amendment to its Controlled Substances Dealer’s license is approved, the company plans to manufacture MDMA, LSD, Mescaline, GHB and other psychedelics at its production facility in Princeton, British Columbia.

Optimi Health Corporation is a Canadian firm that produces psilocybin and other functional formulations at its two plants in British Columbia following the European Union’s standards for good manufacturing practices (EU-GMP). Operating under a vertically integrated business model, the company is engaged in the cultivation, extraction, processing, and distribution of functional and psychedelic mushroom products at its two facilities in Princeton, which cover a combined total of 20,000 square feet.

The company noted that with its major capital expenditures now completed, Optimi Health plans to expand its product offerings to include a wide variety of synthetic psychedelic compounds, leveraging its state-of-the-art cultivation facility and analytical lab in the process. The move aligns with the company’s transition to commercialization through standardized psychedelic drug research, testing, and product development via approved clinical trials and exemption-based applications.

Growing Market for Psychedelics

Optimi Health noted that ongoing large-scale studies including Phase III clinical trials into MDMA sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and a move to decriminalize drugs in British Columbia have led to an increased demand for psychedelics.

“Since our inception, Optimi has received a steadily increasing volume of inquiries related to the production of synthetic psychedelics from stakeholders within the sector, made all the more timely by recent developments,” Optimi Health chief science officer Justin Kirkland said in a statement from the company. “Our analytical laboratories were purpose-built to enable us to act as an EU-GMP compliant drug manufacturer for these interests, without in any way detracting from our primary goal of cultivating natural psilocybin.”

Optimi CEO Bill Ciprick said that the company’s EU-GMP compliant operational footprint and production capacity is unmatched in North America, adding that it would likely take new entrants into the psychedelics sector years and millions of dollars to meet Optimi’s scale and clinical efficiency.

“We have a strong idea of our position in the market and how the amendment fits with our strategic priorities,” said Ciprick. “We are filing this amendment following conversations with researchers and drug developers which have led to a high volume of requests for GMP-compliant synthetic psychedelics. The positive reports from trauma sufferers, including veterans groups, for whom substances such as MDMA might make a difference, mean that safe, scalable supply is going to be more crucial than ever to the success of psychedelic medicine.”

“As we continue with our planned year of commercialization, Optimi views the capacity to produce and distribute these substances as integral to our overall positioning and revenue generation within the sector’s supply chain,” Ciprick added.

The psychedelic drugs included in the Optimi request to Canadian regulators are N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”); 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine (“Mescaline”); 2-(2-chlorophenyl)-2- (methylamino)cyclohexanone (“Ketamine”); Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (“LSD”); 1-(1-phenylcyclohexyl)piperidine (“Phencyclidine”); 4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid (“GHB”);  4,9–dihydro–7–methoxy–1–methyl–3H–pyrido(3,4–b)indole (“Harmaline”); 4,9–dihydro–1–methyl–3H–pyrido(3,4–b)indol–7–ol (“Harmalol”); Salvia Divinorum, Salvinorin A; and, 4-Bromo-2,5-Dimethoxybenzeneethanamine (“2C-B”).

British Columbia to Decriminalize Drugs

Last month, the Canadian federal government announced that it had approved a request from British Columbia to decriminalize possession of street drugs including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine for three years.

“Eliminating criminal penalties for those carrying small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use will reduce stigma and harm and provide another tool for British Columbia to end the overdose crisis,” federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

Late last year, provincial officials requested an exemption from enforcing the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to test the impact decriminalization will have on British Columbia’s ongoing epidemic of overdose deaths. Under the plan, personal possession of up to a cumulative total of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA will not result in an arrest, citation, or confiscation of the drugs. The limited drug decriminalization plan does not apply at airports, schools, and to members of the Canadian military, however.

“This is not legalization,” Bennett told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver. “We have not taken this decision lightly.”

Under the plan, possession of larger amounts of the drugs and the sale or trafficking will remain against the law. The limited decriminalization test program will begin on January 31, 2023, and continue until January 31, 2026.

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The Incredible Realism of Liam Wesley Goodman’s Art

With Liam Wesley Goodman’s work, you can almost feel the sticky texture of resinous buds, catch the glimmer of light in swiss-cheese slabs of shatter and imagine the ooze of gooey concentrates.

Goodman has been making art his entire life and one look at his detailed, contemporary approach to capturing cannabis in its full essence tells you that his talent extends beyond just a casual approach to art. His Instagram account (@cannabis.creations) is full of jaw-dropping images and behind-the-scenes glimpses of what it takes to create such incredible, realistic drawings. It’s the distinguished precision and delicate attention to detail that make each piece special.

His work stands out in the sea of weed art that often includes predictable tropes such as giant fan leaves on tie-dye print, Technicolor psychedelic scenes and a plethora of joints, blunts and smoking characters. Goodman says his evolution into drawing cannabis began after visiting a vapor lounge in 2017.

“My art evolved into cannabis through times of emptiness and a lack of a future, no direction but a passion for creation,” he says.

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Goodman had been practicing realism for about a dozen years and had a passion for creating, but maintains he still felt empty at the time. At the lounge, an employee recognized him and pulled up an old art account that had some of his previous work which included experimental drawings unrelated to cannabis. Later, a manager approached him and asked if he’d be interested in displaying art at their location and the rest is history.

Goodman worked for 84 hours on this drawing of a Green Bodhi plant.

With more than a decade of experience as a realistic artist, Goodman dove into what he knows best: realism. “I went home and started searching for cannabis studied and drawn in realism only to find a severe lack in the space,” he says. “I spent weeks searching without finding a solid body of work with an artist attached. I was strongly pulled into the idea of filling the emptiness I felt was needed in the world of cannabis in realism. From that point, I told myself I was going to start a series of 420 different flower drawings to create a world of cannabis in realism.”

Goodman’s project has now evolved into a flower series, extracts, trichomes, an upcoming cannabis flower coloring book and many more projects still on the way.

The artist made the intentional choice to step away from predictable and commonplace art, such as portraits and pets or sunsets and landscapes. He finds fulfillment in the process of creating cannabis art and strives to create something bigger than himself by lending his incredible talent to the genre. Goodman says he’s inspired by the cannabis community and the industry members who grow beautiful flower and produce top-notch extracts that provide the basis for his work.

As a full-time artist, his dedication to perfecting his art is noteworthy. He works seven days a week and swears he genuinely loves every minute of it. Over the years, he’s spent more than 10,000 hours creating pencil drawings while jamming to music, learning from podcasts or creating movies in his head while listening to audiobooks—Harry Potter, among others.

A cannabis concentrate drawing by Liam Wesley Goodman.

He’s fortunate, he says, that he’s able to concentrate without distraction and focus his attention on mastering the microscopic elements of cannabis that bring his pieces to life. His goal is to show the side of cannabis that people may not immediately be drawn to, such as focusing on the different shades that fade in and out of the flower, the beautiful contrast of colors and the captivating details that make each plant its own unique work of art.

“I see the image through a filter in my mind, the flower or extract is already in a drawing form when I first see it scrolling through social media,” Goodman says.

“I see elements of a photo that I feel would translate well into a drawing. I see oranges that might look more captivating as yellows, or greens that might contrast better as blues. I find there’s ultimate power in creating a drawing as I’m able to add or remove and choose every element to create a final piece that I’m happy with.”

There are challenges that come with the sensitive content of his work, of course. Like many in the industry—even those that are considered auxiliary—Goodman has had to deal with constant censorship online with recurring instances of his work being removed or deleted from social media for “sale of illegal drugs.” He’s lost his Instagram account three times in the last four years which inspired him to create his own virtual gallery called Cannabis Creations.

Liam Wesley Goodman Trichome Drawing
Close up of Goodman’s trichome drawing.

In the future, Goodman has plans to release a cannabis coloring book and embark on fashion illustrations. A peek at his Instagram shows the beginnings of the latter with time-lapse videos showing raw photos and his process of creating cannabis clothing from leaves and buds for illustrations. He also plans to host a virtual show where he can invite guests and even create artwork together. At some point, he wants to include oil paintings to his repertoire and eventually incorporate other mediums he loves (sculpting, papier-mâché) to create new, realistic cannabis art.

For now, though, Goodman says he’s focused on evolving as an artist and will undoubtedly continue breaking barriers in the industry and skillfully shattering the idea of what weed art can look like. “I may not be the greatest cannabis artist today, but one day I will be, and nothing will stop me.”

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

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British Columbia Plans 3-Year Decriminalization Test

British Columbia will decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of drugs for three years in an attempt to address the province’s crisis of overdose deaths. The Canadian federal government announced on Wednesday that it had approved a request from provincial officials to enact the plan, which will decriminalize possession of street drugs including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

“Eliminating criminal penalties for those carrying small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use will reduce stigma and harm and provide another tool for British Columbia to end the overdose crisis,” federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

In November, British Columbia officials requested an exemption from enforcing the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for a period of three years. Under the plan, personal possession of up to a cumulative total of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA will not result in an arrest, citation, or confiscation of the drugs. The limited drug decriminalization plan, however, will not apply at airports, schools and to members of the Canadian military.

“This is not legalization,” Bennett told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver. “We have not taken this decision lightly.”

Under the plan, possession of larger quantities of the drugs and the sale or trafficking will remain illegal. The limited decriminalization test program will begin on January 31, 2023, and continue until January 31, 2026.

British Columbia Overdose Deaths Soaring

British Columbia, which has been especially hard hit by the nationwide opioid crisis, declared a public health crisis in 2016 due to the spike in overdose deaths. The number of deaths has continued to climb since then, with a record 2,236 fatal overdoses reported last year in the province. According to provincial officials, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among people aged 19 to 39.

Public officials hope that the decriminalization test plan will help reduce the stigma surrounding drug use and addiction and make it easier for people with substance misuse disorders to seek treatment.

“Substance use is a public health issue, not a criminal one,” said British Columbia’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson, adding that the exemption will help the officials address substance abuse issues in the province.

In the request to the federal government, British Columbia officials wrote that criminalizing drug use disproportionately impacts marginalized communities and fails to treat substance use disorders as a health issue. Federal drug policies, the province wrote, are failing their goals and making drug overdoses more likely.

“Criminalization and stigma lead many to hide their use from family and friends and to avoid seeking treatment, thereby creating situations where the risk of drug poisoning death is elevated,” provincial officials wrote in the request for the exemption.

The 2.5-gram limit set by the federal government is smaller than the maximum of 4.5 grams requested by British Columbia officials. In the request for the exemption submitted to Health Canada, the province wrote that limits that are too low have been ineffective and “diminish progress” on the goals of drug decriminalization.

“The evidence that we have across the country and [from] law enforcement … has been that 85 percent of the drugs that have been confiscated have been under 2 grams,” Bennett said to explain the lower limit, “and so we are moving with that.”

Public health advocates, local and provincial government officials and even some chiefs of police have asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to decriminalize possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. In 2018, Canada legalized cannabis nationwide, a drug policy change that was supported by Trudeau.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is among the public officials who have championed efforts to decriminalize drugs. Each Monday, he gets an email reporting the number of drug overdoses and resulting deaths in the city. One week, the death of one of his family members was included in the report’s grim statistics. On Monday, the mayor learned that the decriminalization plan for British Columbia had been approved.

“I can tell you I felt like crying, and I still feel like crying,” he told the Washington Post. “This is a big, big thing.”

“It marks a fundamental rethinking of drug policy that favors health care over handcuffs,” Stewart added.

Bennet said that British Columbia’s plan to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of drugs will be monitored as it progresses. If it succeeds, it could be a model for drug policy change nationwide.

“This time-limited exemption is the first of its kind in Canada,” she said. “Real-time adjustments will be made upon receiving analysis of any data that indicates a need to change.”

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Twisted Tea Maker Boston Beer Co. Launches Cannabis Drink TeaPot

The Boston Beer Company, Inc.—the company behind hard drinks such as Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Truly Hard Seltzer, and Twisted Tea Original Hard Iced Tea—today announced the launch of TeaPot, a new line of cannabis-infused iced teas.

According to a May 23 press release, TeaPot is the company’s first infused beverage offering and will be available to the public in select Canadian provinces beginning in July.

The brand’s first release is a Good Day Iced Tea, made with real lemon black tea and infused with Pedro’s Sweet Sativa, a cultivar grown in Strathroy, Ontario in Canada by licensed producer Entourage Health Corp. Each can contains 5mg of THC, ideal for daytime or nighttime use.

Given the popularity of hard iced tea drinks, ciders, and other variations, the forward-thinking move mirrors a seismic shift in social drinking.

“TeaPot is meant to be very inviting as a brand,” Director, Head of Cannabis at The Boston Beer Company Paul Weaver, told High Times. “Cannabis beverages are the most social form of cannabis consumption. And it’s really about bucking the trends as a solitary stoner—you no longer have to leave outside and come back to join the party.”

Weaver says that while there is a great deal of current hype around full-spectrum terp profiles and effects—notably in the flower space—the herbal taste is not necessarily what beverage makers are after.

“It’s a nice balance between black tea and lemon and a little bit of sweetness with virtually no cannabis taste or aroma,” Weaver said, adding “we know how to make a really great tasting iced tea.” Leaving out the cannabis aroma makes it ideal for a layer of discreteness.

The expansion into the cannabis area shows “the continued progress of Boston Beer’s product development capabilities,” Weaver continued. “Our CEO, Dave Burwick likes to kind of challenge us to be the most innovative beverage company in the world, which is kind of a lofty ambition. But for him that means not only how we took craft beer and then evolved with the hard cider with the Angry Orchard brand or evolved into flavored malt beverages with Twisted Tea, and hard seltzers.”

Courtesy of Boston Beer Co.

The TeaPot Strain, Pedro’s Sweet Sativa

Pedro’s Sweet Sativa is a sativa-dominant hybrid, rich in terps like its dominant beta-caryophyllene, pinene, and reportedly smells sweet with undertones of spice. There are also notes of myrcene, according to Leafly. The cultivar is a cross of a Dominican sativa, White Russian, and an unknown indica to boost its THC potential.

“You can get Pedro’s in carts, you can get pre-rolls … you can get whole flower Pedro’s,” Weaver said. “Pedro’s is like a Canadian legend in terms of the strain. It was around from the early days of medical cannabis. And I remember when legalization occurred, you know, wherever that is now three or four years ago, it was [one of] the first strains that people sought out by name, because it has such a rich history. It’s a very uplifting strain. It’s a strain that is notorious for its sativa qualities, if you believe in those qualities, and for us, you know our partner is the exclusive grower of Pedro’s Sweet Sativa. And so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to pick what we felt was their crown jewel strain, and infuse it into a daytime iced tea.”

According to Headset retail data, since 2020, Canada’s infused beverage market share soared by nearly 850%—making it approximately twice the size of the U.S. cannabis beverage market thanks to fewer restrictions at the federal level.

“Our goal is to be the most innovative consumer-focused beverage company on the planet,” said Dave Burwick, CEO of The Boston Beer Company. “While beer is our middle name, we’ve also introduced successful hard teas, hard ciders, hard seltzers, and canned cocktails. We’re encouraged by the continued growth of the cannabis beverage category and we believe it’s one of the next innovation frontiers. As we await further progress on U.S. regulations, we’ll continue to develop an exciting product pipeline in the federally regulated market of Canada.”

According to VinePair, part of Boston Beer Company’s success is its ability to adapt, expanding to craft brews and hard iced teas and ciders. Twisted Tea’s unparalleled success flourished during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of this of course was due to an unexpected chain of events.

In 2020, Twisted Tea stock surged in popularity despite being in one of the most volatile markets in history. A man named Barry Allen became a viral phenomenon after knocking out a racist, drunk man who was out of control and practically asking for it. Allen, father of five, became known as “TeaKO” or the “Twisted Tea Guy,” who did what many people would call handling the situation. However, Boston Beer Company did not sponsor the man, nor is there any connection to him, according to Allen’s wife. In other words, it was just a man who happened to be wielding a Twisted Tea can.

Visit TeaPot’s website to learn more about where to find the drink in upcoming months.

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Canadian Senator Admits He Takes Psilocybin for Depression

Last week, Canadian Senator Larry Campbell came out of the psychedelic closet in the opening speech to the Catalyst Psychedelics Summit in the U.K. Namely, he admitted that he has been microdosing with psilocybin to help his depression.

According to Campbell, who has worked in drug reform for a long time as both the Mayor of Vancouver and a member of the Canadian Senate, he suffers from PTSD, depression, and the issues of “getting old.” However, his normal cocktail of anti-depressants was still leaving him with symptoms, making him “grumpy.”

Suddenly, during the pandemic, he noticed that his mood was steadily improving. He could not figure out the cause.

After several weeks of this, he mentioned the same to his wife.

It was then she admitted she had been spiking his coffee with microdoses of psilocybin.

The admission is particularly timely.

Right now, the Canadian government is trying to figure out how to regulate the coming wave of psychedelics, starting with psilocybin. So far, it has allowed several depression patients to use psilocybin under an experimental regime called the Special Access Program which authorizes the use of medicines currently not legal in Canada. However, before legalizing this on a larger scale, Canadian authorities want to see clinical trial evidence.

In the U.S., then-President Donald Trump signed a similar “right-to-try” piece of legislation in May 2018, allowing seriously ill patients to bypass the FDA for experimental medicines. Presumably both cannabis and psilocybin could be covered under the same.

The State of Psychedelic Drug Reform, Globally

Even as Canada considers legalizing its medical use, the issue is now percolating in the U.S. at all levels. Several cities have already moved forward. This includes Denver, Colorado which decriminalized it three years ago this May. Several other cities followed suit, including multiple cities in California, Massachusetts, and Washington State, plus Washington, D.C.

Oregon remains the only state that has decriminalized psilocybin and legalized it for medical use.

There is also a significant movement in the U.K. to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

Canada is the first country to move forward on the discussion of potentially legitimizing the substance as a legal medical product on a federal level.

Sound familiar?

The Magic Mushroom Boom?

Psilocybin is also known as “Magic Mushrooms.” It is a naturally occurring psychedelic drug which was used traditionally by Meso-American societies for religious and spiritual purposes. It was first referred to in European medicinal literature in the London Medical and Physical Journal in 1799.

During the 1950s and ’60s, magic mushrooms were initially hailed as a wonder drug that could treat everything from addiction to anxiety. Unsurprisingly, the substance was subsequently banned in the United States, as a Schedule I drug in 1970, by the Controlled Substances Act.

Around the time that the modern campaign for medical cannabis use began to be a political force at a state level in the U.S., the campaign to at least decriminalize psilocybin also took off.

The most recent court battle, the 2015 State of New Mexico vs. David Ray Pratt, found that the defendant was not manufacturing the substance by merely growing the mushrooms on his property for personal use.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” status for research purposes.

Psilocybin Appears to Make Brain More Adaptable

According to the admittedly small amount of research that is currently available, psilocybin makes the brain more flexible. Depressed people’s brains appear to “ruminate”—or go in circles, making negative thinking an entrenched mental state. Psilocybin appears to increase brain network integration, allowing people to break out of this self-defeating pattern of thoughts.

Psilocybin also works differently than regular anti-depressants. Indeed, there is emerging evidence that it could be a viable alternative to existing treatments for depression. Even more excitingly, the research available so far also seems to suggest that psilocybin’s effects last long after treatment ends—which is not the case with traditional medicines. Results of a study at Johns Hopkins University even show that psilocybin treatment for major depression lasts about a year for most patients.

As cannabis reform goes mainstream, it is inevitable that the conversation about other psychedelic drugs progresses. Psilocybin in particular has been making that journey during the same period of time, albeit at a slower pace.

Now, as cannabis reform begins to be a global reality, it is also obvious that such drugs, which also gained notoriety and were banned at about the same time as cannabis, are taking the stage.

And that is a seriously good thing. Particularly for the patients who need them.

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First Nation Announces Canada Farm-to-Gate Cannabis Operation

This week, Canada is celebrating Sugar Cane Cannabis, British Columbia’s first farm-to-gate cannabis facility. It is also the first facility of its kind in Canada to be on First Nations land.

The dispensary, located in Williams Lakes, is a major milestone for Canadian cannabis and First Nations people across the country. 

“It has been a very long journey when you look at what we have been through and what the staff has been able to pull together,” Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars tells Black Press Media at the May 6 opening of the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility that will allow customers to purchase cannabis directly from the facility where it is being grown.

“They realized this craft cannabis tourism vision model. It’s still a little bit surreal but you can see how pumped they are to showcase it to the public.”

This new farm-to-gate cannabis facility has been two years in the making, as Williams Lake First Nation have been growing their brand, Unity Cannabis, across retail stores in communities like Penticton and Merrit. They are also opening a new facility in Lac La Hache soon. The plan is to keep opening retail stores in the province, all full of cannabis grown in Williams Lake. They plan to be able to harvest their first crop soon. 

“It’s not the gold rush that everyone expected it was, but it’s a nice niche little business that provides a revenue stream for WLFN and also provides job opportunities for people not only at WLFN but around the province,” Sellars says.

The plants for the company are supplied by Life Cycle Botanicals, licensed in May 2022. They transplant and grow the plants in five different rooms within the Sugar Cane Cannabis Facility. Each room contains different flavors, strains, aromas, potencies, and pharmaceutical properties, and the rooms are full to the brim with plants. 

Master Grower Brendon Roberts relocated from Toronto to work in this special new facility, where he works around the clock to grow the best buds possible. The plants are on a schedule of 12 hours of light, 12 hours of darkness. 

“They go to bed at 7 p.m.,” he says.

The facility is still under construction, and soon, a mixed-development building called The Osprey Nest that includes a café, gathering space, and open-concept lofts will also be on-site. The company should begin breaking ground on the new building in the next couple of weeks. 

David Coney, B.C.’s director of Indigenous Government Relations BC Cannabis Secretariat, has been working with WLFN and feels this is an important next step for First Nations in the world of cannabis. “It’s fantastic; it’s a beautiful facility,” he says.

However, this didn’t happen without a rocky road forward. WLFN counselor Chris Wycotte opened up about the doubts he had surrounding the plan to open a business like this through and for the First Nations community. 

“We had to take it to the community and the community supported it. There was no opposition. Maybe there were some concerns, but no opposition.”

And this isn’t the only good news on the horizon for WLFN. Earlier in May, the First Nations group announced that they intend to hold a referendum on June 29 of this year so that members can vote on a proposed $135 million settlement with the federal government. If the agreement is accepted, a long-standing claim relating to land displacement from the traditional tribal village lands. This happened 160 years ago, so restitution has been a long time coming. As many as 400 members of the 800-plus in the community are eligible to vote.

This new, innovative cannabis facility represents a major milestone for the First Nations communities. 

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‘Criminal’ Data Breach Affects Over 1,200 Cannabis Stores in Ontario

A massive leak of data associated with government-run cannabis retail stores in Ontario, Canada put retailers in a tailspin. Consumer data, however, is not part of the equation, and wasn’t exposed during the data breach.

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), a government-run agency overseeing the distribution of cannabis from licensed producers to retailers, reported that some of its sales data was “misappropriated.”

An OCS letter sent to retailers on May 10 and quickly picked up by The Canadian Press warned that confidential sales data was being circulated throughout the industry.

“This data was not disclosed by the OCS, nor have we provided any permission or consent to distribute or use this data outside of our organization,” reads the letter, signed by Janet Ihm, vice-president of wholesale partnerships and customer care at OCS. “The data was misappropriated, disclosed, and distributed unlawfully. As a result, we trust you will refrain from sharing or using this stolen data in any way.”

Over 1,200 retail stores in Ontario have been affected. Retail cannabis stores in Ontario rose to 1,333 by a recent count, up from 1,115 in September.

Three anonymous sources say that store names, license numbers, and data showing whether a store is independently owned, run by a corporation, or by a franchisee was also leaked. The matter is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

MJBizDaily confirmed with the OPP that the breach is being considered “a criminal matter.” The data was also distributed unlawfully, according to authorities.

Reportedly the data contained ranked sales info of every cannabis store in Ontario. And given that the data also showed kilograms sold during the month, kilograms sold per day, total units sold, total inventory—it could put retailers at risk.

The data could end up in the wrong hands or for the wrong reasons, such as rival retail stores. The data “provides a lot of really competitive insight into who’s doing what, who’s moving what, which retailers are selling what,” Deepak Anand, founder of cannabis company Materia, told The Canadian Press. “That certainly could be a leg up and give a leg up to competition within the industry that’s looking to get ahead of the next person.”

This type of incident has happened before in the area.

In 2018, the OCS revealed that data for 4,500 of its customers was part of a Canada Post data breach. The 2018 breach was found to be the result of someone accessing data via a Canada Post tracking tool. The data included names of people who purchased pot deliveries, OCS reference numbers as well as postal codes.

Meanwhile, residents are concerned about the rise in competition. Some areas are overrun with cannabis stores, such as Toronto’s Queen Street West. That eventually led the Toronto City Council to issue a moratorium on new cannabis store licenses. The moratorium would run for a year or until a provincial bill is put forth, allowing local communities to have a voice in the matter.

It’s concentrated areas of cannabis retail like Queen Street West, where competition is the most fierce, that would appear to be more vulnerable amid the data leak.

Lisa Campbell, chief executive at cannabis marketing company Mercari Agency, told The Canadian Press that it could be a “death sentence” for some of the businesses who are seeking to be acquired.

Cannabis retail businesses in Ontario face stiff competition already, so underperforming stores could suffer if their data is revealed.

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Canadian Cannabis Business Opens 420 Hotline Tomorrow

The Canada-based company The Green Organic Dutchman recently announced that it will be hosting a 420 hotline on April 20 to offer resources to those who want to celebrate the cannabis holiday.

The Green Organic Dutchman CEO Sean Bovingdon expressed the importance of answering questions and helping out any consumers who need guidance when consuming cannabis. “Whether someone is a cannabis-regular or hasn’t touched the plant in many decades, we owe it to curious individuals anywhere to support them, and to ensure they have the celebration they’re looking for on this 420,” said Bovingdon. “Despite legalization, the educational resources for cannabis are restricted from most mainstream media, so we’re excited to offer this free educational service for consumers everywhere.”

VP of Marketing of The Green Organic Dutchman, Drew Campbell, also shares that point of view. “From the evolution of the counterculture movement to the growing legalization of cannabis around the World, the spirit of 420 has always been to celebrate cannabis with others, and we can help to ensure everyone has access to the information they need on the big day,” he said. 

Campbell likens this service to that of the annual Turkey hotlines that are offered to home chefs around Thanksgiving. For examples, Butterball’s Turkey Talk Line has been offered for over 40 years during the months of November and December, giving amateur home cooks in the U.S. and Canada a direct line to “trained turkey experts.” “For decades, the Thanksgiving industry has had turkey experts on stand-by via toll-free hotlines for aspiring home chefs,” Campbell shared. “This is our way of providing the same service to those who view 420 as an equally important event.”

The phone hotline, which can be reached out 1-833-4Highly (1-833-444-4459), will be free for anyone who is of legal age. The brand is also opening up direct messages via Instagram @highlydutchorganic.

Those on the receiving side of the hotline include industry experts such as Andrew Freedman, who is also known as The Cannabis Sommelier, and Kelsey Cannabis. These experts and many more will be on-site at the facility where Highly Dutch products are grown, which is located in Ancaster, Ontario. The hotline will be available between 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST.

New survey data shows that Canadian cannabis consumption is higher than ever. An IPSOS survey published on April 14 shared that 55% of Canadians are aware that 420 celebrations are happening, and that since legalization began in 2018, 36% are “more open and positive” about cannabis use. Overall, the data showed that 42% of Canadians consumed cannabis during the last year. An estimated 20% of Canadians said that if they had more education resources, they would be more likely to consume (and 70% said educational resources would have no impact on their consumption).

Although this hotline is limited to Canadians, there are many opportunities for education in the U.S. as well. For example, there’s a free event in Portsmouth, Virginia called the “High Tide Summit” that is being held on April 20 to bring together a variety of people who can speak on the topics of activism, business, healthcare and more. “This is our intent, to have the right, correct information,” said Norfolk-based rapper FAMLAY, who is working event organizer Antonio Dowe. “It’s dangerous when you don’t have it.”

The state of New York recently launched a campaign to promote education about cannabis legalization. “With the ‘Cannabis Conversations’ campaign, we’re following through on our commitment to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to safely navigate the new Cannabis Law,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. “Education is the best tool to keep New Yorkers healthy as we continue to ramp up this safe, inclusive, and equitable industry.”

With more curious consumers looking to cannabis for recreational use or medicinal benefits, these educational resources ensure that they are safe and well educated while they celebrate 420 this year, and in the future.

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Canadian Airport Could Get Cannabis Dispensary

Travelers visiting Prince George Airport in British Columbia this summer could score some weed for their trip at a licensed dispensary, a sign that cannabis continues to be normalized in Canada since legalization in 2018. 

The Prince George City Council recently gave preliminary approval for Copilot, a cannabis dispensary planned by American business partners Owen Ritz and Reed Horton with the support of airport regulators. The venture was first announced in January by the Prince George Airport Authority (PGAA), which said that Copilot is “pioneering cannabis for travel.”

“The company approached us in early 2020 with a proposal to open the first cannabis dispensary in an airport terminal worldwide, to our knowledge,” PGAA CEO Gordon Duke told the Prince George Citizen. “We feel strongly that having Copilot here at YXS will enhance our services our other business partners provide to our passengers and the people of our region,” he added, using the airport code for the Prince George travel hub.

Reaching Consumers Where They Are

Cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, and each province has since established its own regulations for recreational cannabis retail sales. Ontario had more than 1,100 licensed dispensaries at the end of 2021, jumping from only 183 in a year. Joanne McNeish, a Ryerson University professor specializing in marketing, said that the competition is beginning to concern some dispensary owners.

“The whole industry completely misunderstood what would happen because they thought the only barrier is legalization and once we’re legal, people will just buy,” said McNeish, who added that locating businesses in new locations such as airports and shopping malls could make it easier to reach customers.

“For a user, it could make it that much more convenient,” said McNeish.

As the retail environment for recreational cannabis continues to become more crowded, companies like Copilot are looking for novel location to reach consumers.

“Our goal from day one has been to create a differentiated retail experience that stands out from any store you might see downtown,” Ritz told the Canadian Press last week.

Canadian law allows air travelers to carry up to 30 grams of pot or the equivalent in other cannabis products on domestic flights. To accommodate travelers, many airports have already established areas where consumption of cannabis is permitted.

“One in four Canadians have already traveled with cannabis,” Ritz noted.

In a presentation to the Prince George City Council, Ritz and Howard explained that Copilot staff will check customers’ boarding passes to ensure that they are booked on a domestic flight. The business will not sell cannabis to international travelers or those employed by the airport or airlines. The partners said that they believe the airport in central British Columbia is the ideal location to launch Copilot.

“We felt Prince George was the best place to start because of the size of the airport and the community culture,” Horton said. “We felt the airport was large enough to have enough passenger traffic and enough flights to test out the different aspects of the business model but small enough where we would develop a community feel, and it wouldn’t necessarily feel like our retail store was in a sea of other stores or that it was an overwhelming experience for other passengers given that is a very new concept.”

“If all goes as planned, we are opening the first cannabis retail store in an airport right here in Prince George this summer,” said Ritz.

Airlines Opposed to Planned Airport Dispensary

Locating cannabis dispensaries in airports, however, is facing opposition from the air travel industry, including Canada’s two largest airlines. Air Canada director of local and provincial government relations Serge Corbeil said at a public hearing in February that the measures taken to ensure customers are not traveling internationally may not be effective in cases where passengers have more than one boarding pass. 

“This could be highly problematic,” Corbeil said. “(And) while rare, there are instances where a flight may be domestic, but be diverted into the United States.”

Additionally, the airline industry is concerned that allowing cannabis sales and consumption sites at airports may lead to more intoxicated passengers in the skies. WestJet director of government and regulatory affairs Jared Mikoch-Gerke noted in a written statement that the International Air Transport Association recently reported a 55% increase in unruly behavior in the span of one year.

“WestJet, similarly, has also seen a significant increase in unruly behavior of passengers, and in many cases, the underlying cause is found to be intoxication,” Mikoch-Gerke wrote. “Unruly behavior onboard an aircraft is a fundamental safety issue, where the most severe cases see passengers physically assaulting crew members or other passengers, and, in some cases, attempting to open cabin doors or emergency exit windows and resulting in the diversion of aircraft. An aircraft cabin is not an appropriate place to be intoxicated.”

But Prince George City Councilor Cori Ramsey says that the fact that airports already have cannabis consumption areas and businesses that sell and serve alcohol makes dispensaries located at airports appropriate.

“To me, the precedent has already been set that this is an acceptable land use for an airport,” Ramsay said. “I know it’s strange going first. (But) looking 10, 15 years down the line, I can see cannabis stores available in most airports in Canada.”

The post Canadian Airport Could Get Cannabis Dispensary appeared first on High Times.

Singh’s Gambit

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is no fan of Justin Trudeau. He’s called him an “abject failure” who has “made things worse, not better.” During the election, when asked about a coalition with the Liberals, the NDP leader said, “that is a firm no for me.” And when the Liberals introduced the Emergencies Act to remove […]

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