Despite Shifting Views, Cannabis Stigma and Discrimination Holds Strong

On the surface it may seem that the world has finally grown to accept cannabis – the plant, the users, and the culture. Laws on the subject are relaxing, legal markets are becoming increasingly common, and high-end, lab-tested products are available with a simple click of a button. One thing that’s proving more difficult to shake is the stigma that has been a dark cloud over cannabis use for decades. Where did these ideas originate and why are they so hard to break away from?

I enjoy smoking weed outside. I come from a rural area where I had a large, very private backyard, friendly progressive neighbors, and smoking around my property was just something I did without giving any thought to it. I recently sold my home and have been temporarily living in a more condensed “suburbia” type of neighborhood for the last few months.

Here, weed is NOT ok.

Trying to be somewhat discreet, I’ve been sticking to quietly smoking in my garage while keeping an eye on my oldest son as he plays with the other kids in the neighborhood. One afternoon, one of my son’s friends approached me in the garage (my garage) and said, “oh, you’re smoking that stuff again… my mom said I’m not allowed to smell it.” And unfortunately, that’s not the only comment I’ve heard, but that’s one of the ones that sticks out most to me.

So clearly, my cannabis habits are being discussed among the other parents; and clearly, they don’t approve. It’s worth mentioning that block parties with drinking are a semi-regular thing but a measly bud has everyone up in arms. It honestly baffles my mind, but as all the neighbors continue to rally against my pot use, it has shed a light on how many people still hold on to these negative views about cannabis and how engrained this stigma remains in our society.

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The US and Its Complicated History with Cannabis        

Cannabis and other psychedelic plants have been used therapeutically in Eastern traditional medicine for centuries and its use has been noted in numerous different countries and continents throughout history. Even in the United States, the value of cannabis as a healing plant was known far and wide.

Back then, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Meyer’s Squib, and other major pharmaceutical brands were using cannabis extracts, sometimes even whole plant matter, in their formulations. A New York Times article from 1876 even cites the use of cannabis to cure a condition referred to back then as “dropsy”, which was swelling in the soft tissues from an accumulation of fluid in the body. Today this would be known as edema.

Before 1910, the word “marijuana” did not even exist in American culture. It was known by its scientific name because recreational use was not very widespread at the time. Following a wave of LEGAL immigration in the early 1900s, the idea of recreational cannabis use was on the rise. The government used that as a scapegoat to push ridiculous cannabis regulations, but it’s one of those situations where it really is hard to determine cause and effect: was the uptick in cannabis use caused by the new citizens and population growth, or where these two events completely unrelated and just occurring at the same time? Cannabis was nothing new and increased curiosity and use seemed inevitable.

Regardless, once the government realized people were using cannabis for fun and not just to treat chronic illnesses, the war on weed began. A familiar name in modern cannabis history is Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. When he got appointed is when the word “marijuana” start making the headlines and the word “cannabis” became of thing of the past. It really shows how powerful is the parallel between language and public opinion.

Although “cannabis” was a medicinal plant that was relatively well-known in the United States, “marijuana” (spelled “marihuana” at the time) was seen as a dangerous drug that creeped in the shadows of America’s counterculture. Many point to the fact that without his fabricated war on “drugs”, Anslinger would have had nothing to do and inevitably lost his position. So he took some disturbingly racist ideologies, a lot of fear mongering, and a touch of hardcore conservativism and weaved together what would end up being a decades long campaign against a harmless plant and many innocent people.

Public Perception Framing the Legal Landscape

Among one of Anslinger’s most powerful weapons was his manipulation of the media and understanding of public perception. On the milder end of things, he was perpetuating the negative cannabis stereotypes we still hear today: marijuana users are lazy, unmotivated, unintelligent, reckless, thoughtless, dangerous, low-lives, etc.

On the more extreme side of the spectrum, he insisted that cannabis use led to “insanity, criminality, and death,” and that “smoking marihuana cigarettes for a month” would cause a completely normal person’s brain “to be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters.” He added that “Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him” Yes, he was very dramatic, but that proved to be incredibly effective.

In 1936, an infamous propaganda film called Reefer Madness hit the screens. In the movie, teenagers try smoking weed for their first time and their night spirals into a series of horrific events such as disturbing hallucinations, attempted rape, and ultimately, murder. The movie was right in line with what Anslinger had been babbling about and people were terrifying that “marihuana” was going to corrupt their youth.

Cannabis quickly became public enemy number one and we’ve been fighting the negative reputation ever since. Only in the last few years have we seen decades of activism come to fruition with more mainstream recognition and legal leniency. That said, we’re still a long way from where we need to be, and much of the roadblocks have been a direct result of the existing cannabis stigma.

Because of the way cannabis is viewed, it has always been difficult to pass any kind of progressive legislation which means research efforts are hindered, an outrageous number of citizens have criminal charges for cannabis possession, and in general, people suffer because of these outdated attitudes.

Stigmatized Socially

Cannabis users have reported “stigma” in the form of discrimination, rejection, and judgement in many different social contexts and from many different types of people. Most commonly, it’s experienced in the workplace, housing, and travel. For example, it is well-known that most jobs drug test all potential hirees and cannabis is usually a disqualifying factor. Not only that, but cannabis stays in the system longer than other substances – 15+ days for cannabis and only 2-3 days for drugs like meth and heroin – so it’s more likely that a cannabis user would fail an employment drug screen than a user of harder drugs.

In housing, we face unique issues as well. When you rent a home or apartment, there are often stipulations in the rental agreement regarding smoking. Typically, if you’re found to be smoking then you’ll need to pay an extra cleaning fee when you move out. Sometimes, it’s small and insignificant, but other times the fee is rather exorbitant and in some extreme cases, the person could be kicked out of their home for breach of contract.

The obvious issue here is people who smoke cannabis for wellness reasons are still on the hook financially, even if they can provide a medical recommendation. The same thing happens at hotels, air bnbs, and other short-term lodging facilities which can make travelling a seriously daunting task for a medicinal cannabis user.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently set out to understand this phenomenon even better by comparing seven European countries to see if the stigma was higher in areas where cannabis was more strictly criminalized. The results, which found a definitive link between criminality and stigma, were published in the European Journal of Criminology. Although the study was conducted overseas, the same principal applies here in the states. In a state like California or Colorado, you’re more likely to find a larger number of people who are not only accepting of, but open and transparent about cannabis use than you would in a state like Alabama or Mississippi. I personally was much more discreet about my pot smoking when I lived in Indiana then I am here in California.

This all makes sense considered that cannabis stigma only became a thing when public views and laws began to regress. Remember, less than a couple hundred years ago cannabis was a widely accepted, easily accessible, and heavily utilized herbal remedy… but by the early 1900s anti-cannabis campaigns were in full force, filling people’s minds with misinformation and fear. In this new age, cannabis was a threat, it had no medicinal value, and stigmatization of cannabis users became the societal norm.

Stigmatized Medically

Medical stigma is real, and it’s dangerous. Stigma and discrimination in healthcare is well documented and it has a profound impact the treatment and health outcomes of patients who experience it. Examples of this can include making people wait longer for care, passing off their care to junior colleagues or students, outright denial of care, threats of legal action, or even verbal and physical abuse. The fear of being judged can make people completely avoid much needed medical procedures and put them in possibly life-threatening situations.

For instance, take a woman who is using cannabis to minimize her anxiety while dealing with some mild postpartum depression. To me, that seems perfectly reasonable, normal, and even responsible since I view cannabis as being much safer than prescription medication. But a medical doctor would likely feel different, urging her to switch from cannabis to some type of antidepressant and mandating drug tests to make sure she stops smoking weed.

If she fails the next drug test, she will be threatened with legal action and might even lose custody of her child, and from that point it can take years (if ever) to regain control of her life. Knowing all this, it’s more likely that this hypothetical woman will avoid talking to a healthcare professional at all. In this circumstance, and in a perfect world where cannabis research was more widely accepted, a combination of therapy and cannabis treatment would probably be the perfect remedy; but in a world of politicized healthcare, what is best for us takes backseat to what is most profitable.

A Canadian study surveyed twenty-three individuals who use cannabis therapeutically for a wide range of health problems, to determine how the stigma affects their treatment and daily lives, as well as see what they do to manage it. Some people have been denied other medications based on their cannabis use, been intimidated by their doctors, had to pass up certain jobs, some have lost friends and relatives stopped talking to them.

The most common strategy for minimizing these issues was to be more secretive about their cannabis use. But stop and think for a minute how ridiculous that sounds. Would someone taking heart medications, or something for high cholesterol or blood pressure have to hide their health condition to avoid being judged? Do diabetics have to hide in their car to check their glucose levels for fear of being fired if anyone finds out they have a chronic disease? So why is this a problem for people medicating with cannabis?

How to Be Part of the Change

Talk more! Be loud and unashamed of your cannabis use. Be part of the movement that pushes cannabis forward. Often, the people who are least vocal about it are the ones who would do the most to shatter these preconceived notions that people have. The quiet biology teacher that goes home and smokes a joint to unwind from dealing with other people’s teenagers day after day. The firefighter who likes to munch on some edibles after a 72-hour shift. The old combat veteran down the street that hates taking 12 pills a day and chooses to light up instead.

It won’t always be the in-your-face, cannabis activist types that make waves in politics… that has to be a combined effort of everyone who has the privilege of utilizing the cannabis plant’s undeniable benefits. Together is the only way we will move past cannabis stigma.

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Pandemic-born cannabis retailer celebrates one-year anniversary

Acquiring a retail cannabis license and opening a store was already quite an accomplishment before everybody started covering their mouths. But, ARCannabis even put a notch on top and opened four different locations while faced with the various COVID-19 regulations. We talked to ARCannabis’ Chief Operations Officer Aaron Sinnnathamby and their Regional Manager Matt Chernoff, who […]

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Ask a budtender: how do I get a job in the cannabis industry?

Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago” in 2019, has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they’re turning that experience into a monthly advice column, Ask a budtender. Got a question for Cupcake? Submit your questions to askabudtender@weedmaps.com.  

Hey Cupcake!

Since COVID hit, I have been employed by two companies. One I left in March for another I had hoped would become permanent. No such thing happened and in November of 2020 I was laid off and have been struggling to find work again. Not too many places are hiring and the places that are hiring for my skill set are places I sort of want to avoid. 

That being said, how did you get your start in the cannabis industry? I have a friend who is a paralegal for a bud company here in Chicago and she’s told me it’s all about connections. I don’t have connections and it’s not like I can go to a social event anytime soon.

What would your advice be to get into the cannabis industry? I am knowledgeable about cannabis and I think I’m down to earth. Any advice?

Dear Down to Earth,

If you like smoking herb, that’s half the battle. Like most folks working in the cannabis industry, the story really begins the first time I sparked a bowl. Having an affectionate familiarity with cannabis is one of the most important prerequisites for making bud your livelihood. 

I got my start as part of a pilot program for medical cannabis, more than two years before Illinois made its first recreational sale. As a patient, I was able to visit my local dispensary and learn more about different cannabis products. I submitted a job application that emphasized my experience in writing and marketing, linking them to an article I’d written about a local cannabis chef. What started as a part-time gig — budtending on the weekends and managing an Instagram — evolved into a career.

I’ll be honest: making personal connections doesn’t hurt, no matter what industry you’re in. But with the potential for the biggest 4/20 sales of all time looming on the horizon, plenty of hiring managers will be happy to take a fair look at any qualified applicants on the market. Your next employer is out there; you just need to know where to look, and how to market yourself.

The cannabis job market

According to a 2020 report from Vangst, one of the top recruiting agencies in the cannabis space, the demand to staff administrative and supportive departments like human resources and finance has grown as once-fledgling startups mature and merge into multi-state operations. Listings for top jobs like trimmers and budtenders have grown year after year, with plentiful entry-level job listings in cities like Detroit, Boston, and Tulsa. After a brief dip when the pandemic hit, revenue-generating positions like sales and marketing are back on track, and the future’s looking brighter than ever. After landmark wins for cannabis legalization, five states with brand new recreational markets are on track to add 26,241 new jobs by 2025.

To snag one of those shiny new jobs for yourself, head to Google and search “cannabis jobs” and the city where you’re hunting. A special search engine will open up which indexes listings from Indeed, LinkedIn, and all of the other major job listing platforms. From there, you can set up email alerts, but I like to be even more specific. My suggestion is to set up alerts for each specific local cannabis company that interests you. This can return more results than searching for a specific job title since you’ll see every position they’re trying to fill, not just the jobs for “growers” or “lab managers.” Plus, it’ll help filter listings from legitimate companies out from obvious scams like “Cannabis Product Tester — Get Paid to Smoke Weed.”

Speaking of scams: don’t let anyone pressure you into going to budtender school. A recent internet search for job training quickly turned up bogus (and expensive) diplomas like a Master of Marijuana Certification, which is as meaningless as it sounds. In reality, if your state requires registration or licensing, it’s usually tied to your employer — it’s not something a third party can sell you ahead of time. If your state requires a certain number of training hours, your new job will set it up through their preferred vendor. 

Finding your niche

While most focus is usually on positions in cultivation, extraction, or retail, the truth is that the cannabis industry needs people with a diverse set of skills. I’ve seen plenty of jobs for graphic designers, programmers, job trainers, and security specialists alongside the more expected listings for delivery drivers and extraction technicians. Whatever you do now, there’s a good chance that you can find a cannabis equivalent where your experience will be relevant.

While regulations vary by state, passing a criminal background check is a requirement for most on-grounds jobs at cultivation centers or dispensaries. If you have prior criminal convictions for cannabis on your record, you may qualify to have your record expunged. Organizations like Cage-Free Repair and their awareness campaign, National Expungement Week, can help clear your record so that you’re able to participate in an industry that profits from cannabis, which has been criminalized in Black and brown communities for too long.

Most employers are looking for evidence that you are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the product they’re selling. While you might not want to mention doing gravity bong keg stands in your interview, there are plenty of professional ways to demonstrate that you know your THC from your CBD. A blog, video channel, or Instagram where you review cannabis products is one way to show that you’re tapped into your local market. Other options include joining networking groups, volunteering with nonprofits, and doing freelance work.

Crafting the perfect application

Taking the time to thoroughly explain your unique qualifications to a hiring manager will set your application package apart. Business consultant Kai Davis has great advice on writing cover letters and resumes, while Alison Green — author of the popular Ask a Manager blog, and one of my OG role models in this whole “advice columnist” venture — has assembled a truly colossal list of resources for job searchers. If you tend to freeze up when someone asks you where you see yourself in five years, you’ll feel better after preparing with some of her writing.

I’ve specifically mentioned cover letters, even though many job applications don’t require them these days. If there isn’t any cannabis experience on your resume, the cover letter is where you can connect your job history to the demands of your prospective role. If your last position had you managing a stock room, balancing a cash drawer, auditing inventory for FIFO, or answering customer service questions, you already have job skills that are incredibly valuable within a dispensary.

While breaking into a new industry can be hard, now is a great time to cross over to greener pastures. Use the resources I linked above to tailor your application package to the cannabis industry and submit personalized versions of your resume and cover letter to every interesting job you see. Start interacting with the community via social media, virtual meetups, or masked-up visits to your local dispensaries. There’s plenty of room to enter this growing industry and grow alongside it as you deepen your knowledge base and skill set. Best of luck!

Featured image by Nantpipat Vutthisak/Shutterstock


Need advice on how to incorporate cannabis into your lifestyle? Write Cupcake at askabudtender@weedmaps.com for March’s column.

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Lessons in the weed: is attending a cannabis university worth it?

An illicit cannabis industry has been working underground for decades, but the emergence of legal states and subsequent markets has created demand for hundreds of thousands of jobs. According to one estimate from financial firm Barclay’s, if cannabis were legalized nationwide today and taxed at the same rate as tobacco it would have a market worth of $28 billion, reaching $41 billion by 2028. 

Cannabis industry and accounting firm Adnant Consulting estimates that the industry has created 50,000—100,000 jobs per legal state on the retail side alone. But there’s a lot more to legal weed than budtending; think farming, accounting, logistics, customer service and managing. 

To help meet the demand for workers in an industry requiring a broad range of skills, colleges like Northern Michigan University and Minot State University, as well as cannabis-only programs like Oaksterdam University are working to educate people wanting to make a career of cannabis.  

Cannabis and university programs

For students looking to work in the cultivation, research and extraction side of the industry, the aforementioned Northern Michigan University and Minot State University offer “medicinal plant chemistry” undergraduate degrees. 

Other schools, such as Colorado State University Pueblo, SUNY Morrisville, and Stockton University offer cannabis-centered minors. One college, The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy offers a postgraduate degree, the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Programs masters. 

Cannabis training universities

There are several schools operating in this space, with a mix of in-person and online course offerings. While these programs offer course certificates, these are not degrees or credits that could be applied to training at other educational establishments. 

The most well-known cannabis university is Oakland, California-based Oaksterdam University, which opened in 2007. Though Oaksterdam has the highest tuition price tag, it appears to be the only university with an actual campus and in-person learning options (that for the time-being have moved to remote learning formats due to COVID-19). 

Here are some other training programs with varying course offerings and price points to consider: 

Whether or not a marijuana-centric degree or certification is needed to get a good job in the industry is up for debate. Some prognosticators say that the industry’s outsized growth simply needs workers to fill a lot of open positions. Others believe that a certification or degree may offer an advantage over candidates who don’t have them. 

Before signing up for any program, one thing to keep in mind with any online training generally is that they are for-profit ventures. So be sure to do your research on the programs before investing any of your hard-earned cash. 

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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California’s New Banking Bill Does Little To Help The Cannabis Industry

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a handful of cannabis-related bills into law. Among the biggest changes are updates to the state’s banking laws, and while overall positive, the potential of AB 1525 is severely limited.

As anyone in the industry already knows, cannabis professionals have long struggled to gain access to banking and other financial services for their businesses. AB (Assembly Bill) 1525, signed last Tuesday by Gov. Newsom, removes any penalties previously imposed on banks for working with legal cannabis companies.

In his signing statement on the banking bill, Newsom directed state cannabis regulators to establish rules meant to protect the privacy of marijuana businesses that seek financial services, urging that data be kept confidential and is used only “for the provision of financial services to support licensees.”

“This bill has the potential to increase the provisions of financial services to the legal cannabis industry,” Newsom wrote in a signing statement, “and for that reason, I support it.”

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Very Little Help

Newsom isn’t not wrong, this bill definitely has that potential, but it remains only that until cannabis becomes legal at the federal level. Regardless of state laws, banks, which are federal entities, have been hesitant to work with cannabis clients because the plant’s Schedule 1 status.

For reference, a Schedule 1 narcotic is categorized that way because there is a “high risk of abuse and no recognized medical value.” Despite the decades of research in other countries or the fact that medical cannabis is accepted in 33 states already. It’s also worth mentioning Cocaine, which has some anesthetic properties but is known for its high propensity for abuse, is categorized as Schedule II. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t scheduled at all. Yes, it’s the ultimate hypocrisy.

But regardless of our opinions on the subject, the takeaway here is that, with cannabis being a Schedule 1 narcotic, exchanging money for a cannabis business put banks at risk of getting charged with federal money laundering.  

“Until cannabis itself is taken off the dangerous substances list, and the DEA is no longer willing to seek forfeitures for anybody dealing with this substance, the majority of banks are still going to stay away” says Chris Garcia, buyer for Berkeley dispensary Hi Fidelity.  

The Cole Memorandum

In 2013, the Cole Memorandum was issued U.S. Deputy General James Cole. This was to deprioritize the enforcement of these types of laws against state-licensed and completely legal cannabis businesses. In 2014, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, issued guidance on how banks could work with cannabis businesses. 

However, in 2018 then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a known opposer of any type of cannabis reform, revoked the Cole Memorandum. Although FinCEN state that the established cannabis industry guidelines will remain in effect, most banks are aware of and uncomfortable working in that financial grey area.

Final Thoughts

The cannabis companies that do choose to operate within it have to submit extensive reporting and pay astronomical fees, and even then, most financial institutions will only work with large, well-established companies. According to Tom DiGiovanni, CFO at Harborside Collective, there are roughly 60 U.S. finance companies that actively work with the cannabis industry.

FinCEN reports that as of September 2019, 563 banks and 160 credit unions provided some form of banking services to marijuana-related businesses; although how much service they are willing to provide is incredibly variable.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of the CA AB 1525

Thanks for stopping by CBD TESTERS, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Stop by regularly and make sure to subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter to keep up-to-date on all the most interesting industry topics.

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Global GMPs in the World of Legal Cannabis

Technically, we all want a good product, even when we’re purposefully buying cheaper. We hope, we expect (whether naively or not) that the governing bodies in place are doing their part to ensure a level of quality and safety. But who sets the standard? And what does that mean, especially in the world of legal cannabis?

Essentially, good manufacturing practice is: “… a system for ensuring that manufacturers produce goods consistently and in a controlled way. Companies and organizations must produce their goods according to quality standards. GMP contains basic preventive guidelines for factory and facility operations…”

When you buy a carton of milk at the store, or a can of soup, there’s an expectation that the product will be essentially identical to the same product bought before. I remember the big taste tests between Coke and Pepsi back in the 80s, the whole idea of which depended on every single bottle of each tasting exactly the same, having the exact same amount of component ingredients, in the exact same measurements. Every time.

This didn’t ensure quality, of course, but it did ensure uniformity, and in the world of mass product production, uniformity is important because it creates a measurable standard. Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) are the set of rules that govern the uniformity of the product, essentially, as set by whatever standard of safety that is regimented for a particular location, and they apply to the cannabis industry as much as any other.

Importance of Stocking GMP Products in Your Shop


Are the same GMPs always used

While a certain logic might tell us that a universal system of GMPs would be ideal, it’s not realistic. This planet is built of individual countries that function differently, and with their own standards. Think about what’s allowed in food. The US, for example, has extremely low standards, letting in chemicals and processes that other countries will not. In comparison, the EU has much more stringent overall standards for food ingredients.

This means the same brand name product DOES NOT, and often, CANNOT, be the same between countries. If a US company wants to export a bread item containing potassium bromate (a chemical used to strengthen dough) to France, that company is required to change its uniform recipe, to a different uniform recipe that matches the standards for importation to France, where potassium bromate is banned; or simply lose the market.

In this case, they’d have to eliminate potassium bromate, for something else, like ascorbic acid which is legal to use by EU and French standards. Nearly every food company in a place like the US, will have to have different formulations for their food products that match the standards of every individual country that the products are being exported to.

And it goes the same for companies that directly operate in different countries. McDonalds in America serves a very different product from McDonalds in the UK, or Israel, or India. Sometimes the products are entirely different to account for cultural differences, like not using milk and meat together in Israel to keep the restaurant kosher, or not using cow or pork in India as per Indian religious requirements.

In these cases, the products are reformulated to match the manufacturing and regulation laws of that location. We might think of every McDonald’s hamburger as being the same, but if you venture out of the US, you’ll encounter a very different hamburger, even if the new one is identical to all its counterparts in its particular location.

GMPs and cannabis

Legal cannabis products are no different from other products when it comes to a need for establishing both uniformity, and conformity to particular regulations, enter cannabis industry GMPs. Right now, with a lack of legal recreational markets beyond the US, Canada and Uruguay (with Mexico on its way), medicinal cannabis markets have become the focus, with dozens already open, and more on the way. Essentially, on every continent except Antarctica, cannabis is being grown by at least some of the component countries of the continent, and exported out to other countries. And they certainly don’t all share the same standards.

Differing GMPs for legal cannabis

Let’s look at some of the basic differences between locations when it comes to regulation concerning cannabis products. There are many production standards that are spoken about less, even though they’re important. Laws around how clean a place needs to be, or the measures a company takes for their employees when working with dangerous machinery, or even the amount of pesticides allowed on a product for consumption. Other standards are spoken about more often, like the max amount of THC allowed in a cannabis-derived product, or industrial hemp. Since this standard is so often spoken about, it makes a good example to show the differences in GMP regulation.

EUROPEAN UNION

As the EU is made up of many individual countries, there is both a standard for the EU, as well as whatever standard exists in each individual country. Sometimes, individual member states don’t have to follow EU regulation, but more often than not they do. As of right now, the standard in the EU for both the max amount of THC in cannabis derived products, as well as industrial hemp, is .2%. It should be noted that apart from this, THC in food products is not regulated, leaving member states to make their own laws, like Italy, that just set its own max amount of THC in food products to 2 mg/kg, which roughly translates to .0002%.

Of course, not every EU, or EU-related country goes quite by this standard. Take Switzerland for example, which allows 1% THC legally. Or the Netherlands, which though allowing legal smoking through a law of tolerance, still holds cannabis as illegal, requiring products made from it to have a max .05% THC, lower than the EU limit.

UNITED STATES

In the US, the Farm Bill makes the designation that industrial hemp can be grown with a max THC level of .3%. Cannabis derived products are not regulated in the US, so there is no further specification on a federal level for CBD products, or any other cannabis derived products, making them semi-legal through the loophole of using industrial hemp for production. However, when it comes to medicinal cannabis, every state that has legalized, has either no cap on THC, or a very, very high one, making the US legal states a great destination for medical marijuana products from nearly anywhere.

CANADA

As a legal country, Canada is much more lenient  throughout, even though different provinces set their own standards. High THC products are allowed in Canada on both the medicinal and recreational front, which means Canada too is a great destination for cannabis products produced from almost anywhere.

TURKEY

A country like Turkey is still mostly illegal, but it does have limited medical use. However, its medical use is strictly for products like Sativex. As Turkey doesn’t produce any of its own cannabis, it doesn’t have regulation to guide the growth of cannabis or its production. A country like Turkey is very limited in what it will accept, making only certain and specific products available for importation.

Only A ‘Dozen’ Domestic Canadian LP Facilities Have Secured EU-GMP Compliance

Just how confusing is it?

First, consider the kinds of legalization. Is cannabis legal for medicinal use? Does that medicinal legalization extend to high THC products, or is the THC level capped? Then consider if the country has a recreational market, and if that recreational market has THC caps.

Then consider industrial hemp, and that sometimes its grown in countries where cannabis is legal, and sometimes it’s grown in countries where cannabis is not, and that the max THC level varies by country, meaning any product derived will have the level of the hemp.

Then consider that many countries like the US, Australia, and Canada are made up of different states or provinces that can have entirely different legal standards. Like having both legal and illegal states in the US, or Australia, where recreational cannabis is only legal in Canberra.

What does this mean?

One of the stipulations to gaining a cannabis license in many places like Poland and Macedonia, is to have a buyer for the finished product. This is often important because the country the cannabis is grown in, may have different regulatory standards than the country it’s being exported to, and the production of the products must fit in line with the GMP standards of the country of import.

So, if Germany requires imported medicinal cannabis to have .2% THC max, then growers in a place like Ecuador (only just starting its medicinal cannabis import/export market), which has a cap at 1%, will have to be careful to make sure products geared toward Germany, are not over .2% THC. As you can imagine, if a company wants to sell globally, it’ll have to be like McDonald’s, changing its formulation for every different country.

Conclusion: Global GMPs in the Cannabis Industry

The idea of changing formulations of a product so that it fits the GMP standards of another country, is not new. Whether it’s substituting ascorbic acid for potassium bromate in France, taking out dairy to keep McDonald’s kosher in Israel, or making sure that cannabis meant for a medicinal market in Portugal has no more than .2% THC, in all situations, products are being modified, and specifically planned, for the particular requirements of the GMPs in that destination location.

As the legal cannabis markets grow, perhaps there will be a greater level of established conformity globally, and if not, it can be expected that companies that want to do well in these new markets, will have to up their GMP game to be acceptable in as many places as possible.

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California’s response to the cannabis industry during COVID-19

California’s response to the Cannabis industry, through this COVID-19 crisis, has been the right approach. As a result, the industry is thriving. In March, cannabis was deemed to be an essential service. But, it didn’t start out this way. The people spoke, the Government listened and it worked out well… Here is what happened down […]

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Canada’s response to the Cannabis Industry during COVID-19 by Province

A scope into Canada’s response to the Cannabis industry during Covid-19 by province reveals the industry’s resilience in the face of these trying times. The industry is among the high-growth sector and a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. The country has gained over 400 brick-and-mortar stores since legalization of weed in late 2018. Initially, […]

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Oaksterdam University, the cannabis college, explained

In 2019, legal cannabis firms generated $15 billion in sales and employed 340,00 people, while 13,000 — 18,000 cannabis businesses operate in the US every day. By 2025, cannabis research firm New Frontier Data predicts that legal cannabis sales will reach $23 billion. Given the industry’s upward trajectory and current market environment, weed is going to need a lot of workers. 

Fortunately, cannabis universities are out there, ready to train students from the career-oriented to the cannabis enthusiast. At the head of the pack is Oaksterdam University, based in Oakland, California. 

Founded in 2007, Oaksterdam University is America’s first cannabis college and boasts a pool of some 40,000 alumni. Recently, we spoke with Executive Chancellor, Dale Sky Jones about this new kind of university, and how the current legal cannabis industry, along with Oaksterdam itself, was built on the activism of medical cannabis patients. 

Activism and trailblazers at Oaksterdam University

Even though the current industry, especially in legal states, has taken on the familiarity of a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts, there’s still a long way to go in the battle for cannabis legalization and access. And Jones  pointed out something so obvious as to be forgettable: cannabis is still a federally prohibited, Schedule I substance.

“What really separates us [from other cannabis universities], is we have always been here. We are scrappy,” Jones said. “We have survived a four-agency raid. We have survived a fire. We are surviving covid. There’s no one like us.” 

Oaksterdam’s faculty is comprised of cannabis industry experts and practitioners with deep roots in the subject matter, business, and activism, like Debby Goldsberry, Richard Lee, Ed Rosenthal, Kyle Kushman and Jeff Jones. Collectively, they advise governments and agencies on cannabis policy and help write trailblazing marijuana legalization laws such as Prop 215, Senate Bill 420 and Prop 64.

Other cannabis training programs tend to place more emphasis on growing techniques, or interpening, rather than shining a light on activism and policy. But Oaksterdam University espouses a broader scope of quality training for students than understanding terpenes or growing big buds. “We help bring people together to figure out better policy and help write the laws,” Jones explained. 

She also  acknowledges that the cannabis industry, despite ongoing legalization, remains on uneven ground, “We don’t just teach what you want to know, we teach you what you need to know, and you don’t know what that is yet. They’ll [training programs] teach you to grow, but they won’t teach you how to keep your ass out of jail!” 

Taking classes, understanding risks and building foundations

Jones refuses to understate the ongoing risks for cannabis businesses, including asset forfeiture, a dubious practice where law enforcement can take your home, car, or other assets without a charge or conviction. “You have to understand the risks to mitigate them. We focus on that foundation of how to build your business or your career so that you are mitigating your risks while setting yourself up for success,” she added. 

For aspiring cannabis students, there are tangible benefits to formalized courses and training. “We’re building a foundation in which your brain will receive [information] and retain it, and be put to use. When we do live trainings, we have a campus! Whether you’re from Arkansas or California, you can come in and touch the plant, and we do a lot of field trips that go into other facilities.” Jones also acknowledges the uncertainty of in-person classes on campus for the time being due to Covid-19

However, Oaksterdam University has already adapted and is plunging forward. Starting April 29, Oaksterdam University online will enable virtual courses that expand to their ongoing online programs by delivering live and interactive lectures, demonstrations and workshops to students. 

Considering enrollment? Here’s what’s available to you

Even if you’re not necessarily interested in joining the cannabis industry, there are classes available to the public for free, including the Horticulture Sample Class, Cannabis, Pain, and the Opioid Crisis, and Advocacy for the Cannabis Industry

Like any kind of educational practice, Jones believes a certification from Oaksterdam can help students get their foot in with business owners. “Employers like to hire Oaksterdam grads because they know what they’re doing. There are so many nuances to operating, starting, managing, investing or just entering the industry, that you really do need an education beyond what you think you want to know. If you want to be a grower, cool, but you still gotta figure out your taxes. You need to understand the supply chain, the legal aspects.” 

According to Jones, if you’re going to work in the cannabis industry, what you don’t know can hurt you, and it can be a very expensive and life-altering lesson. But getting an education at Oaksterdam will help you figure it all out. 

Featured image from Shutterstock

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