Recreational Cannabis in Colombia – Coming Soon?

In the last few years, Colombia has been shaping up its legal cannabis policies, legalizing medical cannabis and quickly joining the global medical cannabis market. Now, new legislation climbing its way through Colombian Congress, means that recreational cannabis in Colombia is one step closer to becoming a reality.

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Colombia and drugs in general

Before getting into the specifics of cannabis law in Colombia, and whether recreational cannabis in Colombia will happen, it’s important to understand the situation that Colombia is in with its drug trade.

The first thing to know about Colombia and drugs, of course, is that Colombia is the biggest global hub for cocaine production, and has been for quite some time. It’s estimated that in 2019, approximately 70% of the cocaine consumed in the world, came from Colombia. It’s also estimated that in that year, approximately 18 million people consumed the drug worldwide. Because of the constant infiltration of law enforcement, most of the coca grown in Colombia is grown in more remote areas. Law enforcement, for its part, has been attempting to eradicate fields over the years, by enforcing crop substitutions and even spraying toxic chemicals over fields where coca plants are rumored to be grown. Despite these efforts, its estimated that in 2017, 1,379 tons of cocaine were produced in the country. Efforts of law enforcement to stop the trade cripple the 130,000 families that subsist from farming and selling coca.

To give an idea how much money is made off the cocaine industry, it takes about 125 kilos of coca to produce one kilo of cocaine. This costs a local drug lab about $137.50. Once this is converted into actual cocaine, the value is increased to $2,269. Once it gets to where its going, that same kilo can bring in approximately $60,000 in revenue in a place like the US, or even more in other locations. This is a massive trade in Colombia, and its led to massive amounts of violence.

Colombia cocaine trade

When looking for the ‘all told’ measure of this violence, it’s extremely difficult to find actual death tolls. While there are a few random and varying numbers out there, none of them are direct or verifiable, and while we are all aware of the tremendous destruction of this trade, no one seems to be able to say how destructive. In fact, when questioned about it in light of the Netflix drama Narcos, and a statement made on the show about one kilo of cocaine costing six lives each, former DEA head of intelligence in Colombia, Elizabeth Zili stated, “I really couldn’t give you a number, but it was extremely high. We never totally trusted the statistics we were getting from the [Colombian] government. One never does, no matter where you are.”

The same BBC article did some math to try to figure out if the six people per one kilo made any sense even in 1992, and found the number to be extremely high, even when looking at total global deaths. It established at that time a Colombian murder rate of approximately 80 per 100,000. Even though the murder rate has been cut in half since that time, Colombia still has one of the higher murder rates with approximately 25 murders for every 100,000 people in 2019. This can be compared to the US where the rate in 2018 was 5 per 100,000.

But the funniest part about all of it? These massive cocaine trafficking networks that have been used over the years, started as pathways for the trafficking of – you guessed it – marijuana. In fact, prior to its foray into cocaine, Colombia was providing the majority of cannabis to the US in the 70’s.

Colombia and cannabis

When it comes to cannabis, much like Uruguay, Colombia has been a bit more lax than other places, but a lot of this has been directly to combat issues of drug violence. In general, cannabis is illegal for commercial sale and use, however, unless a person is committing a major cannabis crime, the punishments aren’t that dire. In 1994, around the time of Pablo Escobar’s death, Colombia decriminalized both the personal use and possession of cannabis and other drugs. This was further expounded on in 2012 when it was established that a person could have up to 20 grams without being prosecuted. It was even expanded on further with a Constitutional Court ruling in 2015 which then allowed personal cultivation of up to 20 plants.

In 2018, this was gone back on when president Ivan Duque put forth a decree saying cops could, in fact, confiscate even small amounts of cannabis, and while this didn’t apply criminal penalties to offenders, it did institute a fine of up to 208,000 pesos. It also put a ban on people being able to carry small amounts of cannabis, something that the Constitutional Court already ruled was okay. Consequently, the following year (2019), the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that parts of Duque’s decree were unconstitutional. This didn’t get rid of the cops being able to search and confiscate drugs, but it did mean no consequences for up to 20 grams as related earlier by the Constitutional Court ruling.

Sale and supply crimes are most certainly illegal, and having more than 20 grams is considered possession with intent to sell. The maximum prison sentence is up to 20 years, surpassing the punishment for a rape.

Colombian drug war

If it needs to be said, being caught trafficking any drug in Colombia is going to get you in some pretty hot water. Here’s the basic breakdown for what’ll happen to you if you’re dumb enough to transport illegal substances across borders:

  • 10+ kg of cannabis, 2 kg of cocaine, 60 grams poppy-based drugs (like heroin) = 10-30 years in prison.
  • 1000+ kg cannabis, 5kg cocaine, 2 kg poppy-based drugs (like heroin) = 23-30 years in prison.

Medical marijuana and how to get in on it

At the very end of 2015, President Juan Miguel Santos signed legislation for a regulated medical cannabis market. He stated, “This decree allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants and marijuana.” On July 6th, 2016, Colombian Congress approved law 1787 to create a regulatory framework, which was itself enacted in 2017 through Decree 613. While much is written about the investment opportunities that have been opened up through this, the ability to actually obtain cannabis medications for locals seems to be hindered by supply issues, misinformation, and limitations in development and research. The four licenses that can be applied for to enter the legal medical cannabis market are the following:

  • Manufacture of cannabis derivatives – Allows the production of cannabis-derived products for use and scientific research domestically, and for exportation. Interested parties can check details and pricing here.
  • Use of cannabis seeds – Allows sale and distribution of cannabis seeds, as well as use for scientific purposes. Check links for details and pricing.
  • Cultivation of psychoactive cannabis – Allows the cultivation of cannabis as a crop, the production of cannabis derivatives (along with the first license mentioned), use for scientific purposes, storage of cannabis, disposal of cannabis, and production of cannabis seeds. Details for this license can be found here.
  • Cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis – Allows the production of cannabis seeds for planting, the manufacture of derivatives, industrial uses, and for scientific purposes, as well as storage and disposal. If interested, check for details here.

So…what’s the deal with recreational?

What should be noticed is that Colombia is not the most stringent country when it comes to cannabis laws, and has been updating at quick speeds to allow for more freedoms. So, what about the final legalization for recreational cannabis? While it’s not quite there yet, it really doesn’t seem to be far off, with legislation already starting to make its way through the channels of government. Here’s what’s going on right now in terms of recreational cannabis in Colombia:

recreational cannabis

1st initiative for recreational cannabis in Colombia – Approved on September 16th by the first committee of the Lower House by a vote of 18-17, allowing it to move forward in the Lower House. It was, unfortunately, not able to make it past the next debate in the Lower House, and is being shelved for now. This initiative was led by opposition legislator Juan Carlos Lozada, and if it passes (in the future) it would amend Colombian Constitution article 49 which currently states, “the carrying and consumption of narcotic or psychotropic substances is prohibited unless prescribed by a doctor.” The amendment would therefore have lifted this ban and legalized cannabis for recreational use, and would actually be in line with previous rulings of Colombia’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. To become law, the bill faced eight debates, four each at the Lower House and Senate. It did not make it through this time around, but I keep it here to show what has been happening, and what could come up again in the future.

2nd initiative for recreational cannabis in Colombia – This includes 38 lawmakers led by center-right and opposition parties, initiated by two senators, Gustavo Bolivar and Luis Fernando Velasco. This bill aims to regulate the production and consumption of marijuana, in essence creating a legal framework for its recreational use. The initiative does expressly ban marijuana use for minors, its promotion and advertisement, as well as establishing specific sites for adult use. In order to become law, this bill must be approved by the end of next year, but as it is a separate bill and not an amendment to an existing law, it only requires four debates to pass. The first debate had been set for end of October, moved to Mid-November, but doesn’t seem to have happened yet. While governments have been moving slower in light of the Coronoavirus pandemic, the bill is still very much alive. Those pushing this bill point out how Uruguay diverted around 40% of business from cartels, established 500 jobs, and received €100 million in investments by 2018. They have also pointed out how prohibiting consumption has never led consumers to not be able to access the drug.


Uruguay had a similar problem to Colombia, though not nearly as intense. In order to cut down on the black-market trade of cannabis, it legalized it and established a government-run system to regulate it. Colombia has already done a lot to limit drug violence, decriminalizing many drugs in an effort to thwart it, and the cartels that promote it. A recreational legalization would certainly go in line with this, and I expect that if the current bill doesn’t pass, the next one to be introduced will. It might very well be that with Uruguay, Mexico’s impending legalization, and recreational cannabis in Colombia likely following suit soon, south of the border will be the place to go for legal marijuana.

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Lebanon Legalized Medical Cannabis, 1st in Arab World

It’s always interesting when a new location breaks stride and changes laws. We saw it with Thailand in Asia, with Uruguay in South America, and with Lesotho in Africa. With ranging reasons as to why to open these industries, the Arab world has now put forth its own example. As of the spring, Lebanon legalized medical cannabis.

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It would be untrue to say that Lebanon is the first Middle Eastern country to legalize cannabis in some form. It’s neighbor to the south, Israel, has been a central location for the study and cultivation of cannabis for decades, pushing through its own medical legalization originally back in the 1990’s. But Israel stands apart from its Arab neighbors when it comes to many beliefs and ideologies, so Lebanon’s entrance into the legal cannabis game is still very much a first for that part of the world.

A bit about Lebanon and cannabis policy

Cannabis is illegal in Lebanon to possess or use. There are no personal use laws so even small quantities are considered a criminal offense. Regulation of the system and punishment is done through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances Law 673, which states that any narcotic use without a medical prescription is subject to a prison sentence of three months to three years, along with a fine. Individuals are permitted a certain amount of leniency if not involved in the drug trade, and showing of generally good character.

Lebanon legalized medical cannabis

Sale and supply crimes are illegal. Offenders found guilty of these crimes face heavier sentences than for possession and use, and do not qualify for any sort of leniency. Personal cultivation is also illegal, with no individual-use amount applicable. Cannabis seeds are not legal in Lebanon and cannot be bought, sold, or possessed.

When it comes to CBD, Lebanon makes no differentiation between the cannabis plant, and the individual parts, like cannabinoids CBD or THC. This makes CBD just as illegal as a standard marijuana plant, regardless of the lower THC content. For this reason, it is illegal to sell or use the oil in Lebanon, although the country’s recent medical legalization could certainly change how CBD is used there.

As far as industrial hemp

Prior to new legalizations this year, it was illegal to grow hemp at all in Lebanon, although this didn’t stop it from happening. The Bekaa Valley is the center of the hemp region, which provides rich, healthy soil for cultivation. Over the years the Lebanese government has worked hard to eradicate the hemp fields of the region, which has had an incredible monetary impact on local farmers, forcing many into poverty. Despite these efforts, cannabis is still grown en masse, with cultivation mainly controlled by powerful clans and Hezbollah, which has caused much conflict over the years between farmers and police. As of just a few years ago, the UN cited Lebanon as the 3rd biggest world supplier of cannabis resins.

The legal framework changed earlier in the year when Lebanon legalized medicinal cannabis, including the now-legal farming of cannabis for medical use.

Now legal for medical use

In 2018, Lebanon’s house Speaker, Nabih Berri reported to US ambassador Elizabeth Richard, that Lebanon was in preparations to begin legal cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use. The idea of legalizing cannabis in Lebanon gained a bigger following after the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. sent the Lebanese government over 1,000 pages of economic recovery information which included creating a legal cannabis market.

Lebanon parliament

On April 21st, 2020, Lebanon legalized medicinal cannabis, when legislators approved a law that allows the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal use. Hezbollah representatives provided opposition to the bill, which was still able to pass anyway, as allies of Hezbollah – including President Michel Aoun, and Speaker Nabih Berri – were still in support of the legislation. Of course, Hezbollah’s reasons for opposing the legislation probably have to do with the group’s current control of much of the cannabis cultivation in the country, particularly the Bekaa region, and the possibility of having a chunk of its revenue stream diverted to the government. Criminal organizations don’t usually appreciate these legalizations.

It bears pointing out that Lebanon legalized medical cannabis during the most globally locked-down period of the Coronavirus pandemic. While other governments were temporarily closing-up shop, or tabling cannabis legislation for the future, Lebanon was getting it done, showing, if nothing else, a very strong desire to really make this happen.

What did McKinsey & Co. say?

McKinsey & Co. is a global management firm, which in 2018 gave a longer than 1,000 page macroeconomic report to the Lebanese government which focused on ways to make short-term gains in order to stabilize a politically unstable, debt-ridden economy. McKinsey & Co. made several recommendations for ‘quick wins’ in different areas like wealth management, tourism, and construction, but of more interest was the company’s recommendation to legalize the already buoyant cannabis industry of the country, and turn it into a legal export. The recommendation did make international headlines when it was first presented, but political infighting and the inability to form a functioning government eight months after the previous election, led to delays.

The report was actually made public to the media the following year, when Economy and Tourism Minister Raed Khoury, released it in an effort to regain waning attention on the matter. While it didn’t get as much attention the second time around, a clearer picture was put out to the public of a country in very dire need of help, fraught with economic mismanagement, with deficits in every sector. One of the revelations of the paper, for example, showed a GDP slip from 9.2% in the years of 2006-2010 to 1.3% over the next seven years.

cannabis medicine

The report offered a total of 160 initiatives. These initiatives were based mainly on reinvigorating the five sectors that were acknowledged as being most-likely to help jump-start the economy, including: tourism, financial services, industry, agriculture, and knowledge economy. The recommendations provide for the projected addition of approximately 200,000 jobs in these sectors, and $11 billion incrementally added to the GDP by 2025.

What comes next?

As we already know, simply passing legislation is not enough. Once passed, a law needs to be implemented, and it needs a regulatory framework to do so. According to officials, the idea is to have a state-run system, with licenses issued to private companies for the farming, production, and sale of cannabis products, through a regulatory authority. No statement has been made on the approximate cost of these licenses, nor has information been released on licensing requirements, or if local farmers will be afforded any protection from larger international companies. The idea is to attract new investments, create a new revenue stream, and raise generated tax revenue, so it’s probably a very sad ‘no’ to the last point.

While Lebanon legalized medical cannabis, it didn’t say much yet about what it means to its own citizens. When a set of laws to govern the industry come out, it will be more clear how the people of Lebanon will benefit from the actual idea of cannabis medications, or if this legalization is really only a vehicle to enter the global medical cannabis market.

According to Alain Aoun, a senior MP in President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the only reason for the decision is economic motives. He explained to Reuters, “We have moral and social reservations but today there is the need to help the economy by any means.” This attitude might be great for Lebanon’s economy, but it probably won’t do as much to help ailing patients in a medical system.


Sometimes change is good, even when the reason for it isn’t quite what it seems. Some medical legalizations come as the result of wanting to provide medications to sick people. Some, like Lesotho, and now Lebanon, are not only more driven by economic reasons, but possibly only driven by those reasons. In the world of medical cannabis today, the medical cannabis industry and making money off of it, often trumps the idea of how valuable this medicine is, and all the wonderful things it can do. Sometimes change comes through the backdoor. Let’s hope Lebanon really makes the most of this new industry, and that the people of the country get the chance to benefit from it, both monetarily, and medicinally.

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Despite Adult-Use Legalization, Veterans Are Awaiting Medical Cannabis

The percentage of military veterans facing challenges from PTSD is staggering — and research shows that medical marijuana can provide relief to people struggling with the illness. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs remains intransigent on allowing veterans access to cannabis within its medical system, and legislators haven’t taken action to override those stubborn officials.

Currently, VA healthcare providers are prohibited from recommending that their patients use cannabis or helping their patients obtain cannabis treatments. The website of the VA’s National Center for PTSD actually states that “there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”

In contrast, the Israeli Health Ministry approved the use of cannabis to treat PTSD way back in 2015. Meanwhile, in the United States, there has been little progress on efforts in Congress to remedy the situation.

Legislative Efforts for Veteran Access to Cannabis Stalled

Over the past few years, a few federal lawmakers have proposed a slate of bills that would allow veterans to access cannabis, but they’ve all struggled to see any movement toward becoming law.

A prominent bill to at least allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis, the Veterans Equal Access Act, was reintroduced last March after failing to pass in 2018. The bill was sponsored, once again, by Congressional Cannabis Caucus founder Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.

But the following month, VA officials told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the agency is opposed to the bill and related legislative efforts to expand access to medical marijuana for veterans.

The other bills concerning cannabis and veterans currently before Congress include the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, introduced by Rep. Lou Correa — which directs the VA to carry out a clinical trial of the impacts of cannabis on chronic pain and PTSD, and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, which prohibits the VA from denying benefits because a veteran participates in a state-approved medical marijuana program.

In April of last year, testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, VA health consultant Larry Mole articulated the agency’s position — which comes down to the notion that its hands are tied by federal law.  

“The authorization related to being able to recommend or prescribe is related to the Controlled Substance Act,” Mole said, according to Stars and Stripes. “As long as cannabis or marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, we are going to look to the [Drug Enforcement Agency] and the Department of Justice to get their opinion on what prescribers are able to do. This committee can make strong proposals for us to move forward with recommendations of filling out forms and such, but, in the end, we need to go back to DEA and DOJ for their opinion. I’ve not seen anything to suggest their opinion will change.”

Rep. Blumenauer countered: “One of the great tragedies of our time is the failure to adequately address the needs of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We sent more than 2 million brave men and women to fight under very difficult circumstances. We can all agree the need to provide the care to veterans when they return home with wounds both visible and unseen.”

The three bills have seen little progress.

Introduced in 2018 was the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which would empower VA physicians to issue medical marijuana recommendations in states where it is legal, and allocate $15 million for cannabis research. It has likewise been reintroduced, by Sen. Brian Schatz Sponsor, and has likewise seen little progress.

The VA’s one concession on this question was a 2010 policy change, under which veterans will not be denied treatment if they participate in a state-legal medical marijuana program, or discuss their cannabis use with their VA healthcare provider.

Ex-VA Director Comes Around — After Punting to Congress 

Last year, many veterans were shocked when former VA secretary David Shulkin came out flatly in favor of medical cannabis.

In an interview with military affairs website Task & Purpose ahead of the release of his book, “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard To Serve Your Country,” Shulkin was asked if he thought the VA should be researching medical marijuana, or if he could foresee the agency actually recommending cannabis.

“I think the time is now,” he said. “I believe that the VA should be involved in research on anything that could potentially help veterans and improve their health and well-being.” He especially cited the growing problem of veteran suicides, “often because of issues related to chronic pain, depression, substance abuse.”

He added that “there is growing evidence that medical marijuana — I’m not talking about recreational marijuana, but properly prescribed — may have some real benefits in anxiety improvement, in pain management, and potentially, in the issue of substance abuse.”

Reminded by the interviewer of the federal illegality of cannabis, Shulkin responded: “I do think that the way forward is a legislative solution… I believe this should be approached. I have no indication to believe that the president wouldn’t be supportive of work that would help veterans improve their functioning and health.” 

As Marijuana Moment notes, Shulkin in office refused to fund cannabis research and punted to Congress when pressed on the issue. During a White House briefing in 2017, he said that state medical cannabis laws may be providing “some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful, and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that.” But he added that “until time the federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

PTSD: A Growing Health Crisis

The depth of the crisis facing the nation’s vets could hardly be more apparent. reported last September on an “alarming” new VA report showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017 — with little sign of the crisis abating despite suicide prevention being the VA’s top priority. In 2017, more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide, an increase of 2% over 2016 and a total increase of 6% since 2008.

VA report in 2017 revealed that 247,243 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with PTSD. But as Daily Beast noted at the time, the report “was buried on the VA’s website without fanfare.” The VA’s own studies show that up to 20% of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (the Afghanistan campaign) suffer from PTSD.

The situation with chronic pain is much worse. According to another VA study, 65.6% of veterans reported experiencing pain over a three month period, with 9.1% having severe pain. Severe pain was 40% greater in veterans than non-veterans.

There are over 20 million veterans currently living in the United States, but as an analysis in National Law Review notes, they are “increasingly underrepresented in the legislative decision-making progress.”

Vets’ Experience Overlooked

Cincinnati’s WCPO  provided some poignant profiles of vets who have turned to self-medicating with cannabis. Air Force veteran Robert Kowalski described his plight after returning to Wright Patterson Air Force Base after nearly two years on deployment in Iraq — which included time at the detention centers of Camp Bucca and the infamous Abu Ghraib.

“My first deployment wasn’t too bad outside of mortar attacks all the time. It’s like fireworks, you just kind of get used to it going off all the time,” he said. “The second deployment, that’s when I really started seeing things and doing things that you see in movies… [I]t wasn’t until a couple months after I returned home from my second deployment that everything started to spiral out of control.”

He used cannabis to calm his nerves, but as he was still active-duty, this was revealed in the routine monthly drug-testing that all service members are subject to. The Air Force reprimanded Kowalski for using cannabis, and sent him to base physicians who prescribed up to 16 different medications — which he said negatively affected him.

“They were prescribing me a lot,” Kowalski said. “And it was getting me in trouble… I was on sleep medication, so I couldn’t wake up and show up to work on time because the medication so messed me up.”

Also profiled was Nicholas Schneder, an Ohio National Guard infantryman who served in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. He also served at detention centers and says he was traumatized by the experience after witnessing atrocities. Upon returning home, he first tried to drown his nightmares in alcohol. He was later prescribed opioids — which he said made him “feel like a zombie.” He is now using medical marijuana under recommendation from Dr. James Weeks of Cincinnati’s One Heart Medical.

Schneder is still using opioids, but believes cannabis is helping him to get free of them. Dr. Weeks told WCPO, “What I found is when we… add medical cannabis to the regimen the quality of life is better, pain is better, and although we may not be able to completely stop conventional therapies we’re able to wean the doses of those down.”

But vets who don’t live in medical marijuana states continue to find themselves in exile — and none will receive any assistance in accessing cannabis from the federal agency ostensibly charged with their care.

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CBG Study Shows Antimicrobial Properties of Cannabis

Cannabis has been used for its antimicrobial properties for thousands of years, but only recently have these benefits surfaced in Western medicine. A recent study highlights previously unknown antimicrobial properties of cannabis.

While the study focuses on several cannabinoids, it brings out CBG as a cannabinoid to pay attention to in terms of its antibiotic abilities.

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What is CBG?

CBG – cannabigerol – is a cannabinoid of the cannabis plant. Unlike it’s counterparts THC and CBD, it is found in only very small quantities, making up approximately 1% of a harvest-ready plant. Like CBD, and unlike THC, it doesn’t produce a psychoactive effect. CBG comes from its acidic precursor, CBGA. CBGA in turn is converted into cannabinoids like THCA – tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, CBDA – cannabidiolic acid, and CBCA – cannabichromenic acid. What is left of the CBGA converts to CBG through decarboxylation. This is why so little of the plant is made of CBG.

CBG has been cited already as an anti-cancer agent, and now adds antibiotic to its repertoire of uses.

Recent research

There has been an increasing amount of research into the medical benefits of CBD, and as that field has expanded, interest has been put on other cannabinoids like CBG. Now, a new study is out which backs up the idea that cannabinoids – CBG in particular – possess a strong antibacterial capability. This is especially important as the idea of antibiotic resistance has become an issue.

One of the big contenders when it comes to antibiotic resistance is MRSA, a type of Staphylococcus aureus which is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, an antibiotic which was once used to treat the infection, but which is rarely used now because of resistance to its effects. In a study published earlier in 2020: Uncovering the Hidden Antibiotic Potential of Cannabis, different cannabinoids like CBG were shown to have an antibiotic effect on MRSA.

They also did something else interesting. They both showed an ability to inhibit biofilms from forming, as well as the ability to eliminate already formed biofilms. This has huge implications in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

What are biofilms?

Why is the idea of breaking through biofilms or keeping them from forming important? Because biofilms are one of the biggest culprits in the spread of disease, and the inability to stop it. Biofilms can occur inside the body, or on surfaces outside of it.


A biofilm is a “community of micro-organisms irreversibly attached to a surface and encased in an EPS (extracellular polymeric substance matrix), with increased resistance to host cellular and chemical responses.” While most often associated with bacteria, they are also associated with fungi, protists, and viruses as well.

In some ways, biofilms inside the body cause a bigger issue in that they can’t be killed as easily. Anything used internally has to be sustainable by the human body in general, and hard-to-kill microbes often require means that are quite toxic internally. Externally this is also an issue, however, harsher methods can be used. On the other hand, biofilms outside the human body that exist on surfaces, pose a much bigger threat in terms of disease transmission.

Essentially a biofilm is like a cellular form of plastic wrap, but stronger, and harder to break. It forms a barrier between the microbes and the environment around which allows growth without interference. Biofilms have a specific architecture and allow a supreme environment for intercellular communication.

“Biofilms may form on a wide variety of surfaces, including living tissues, indwelling medical devices, industrial or potable water system piping, or natural aquatic systems.” This can create havoc, especially in medical settings where there is interaction with many forms of disease, and particularly when the biofilms are formed around antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


When it comes to antibiotic resistance, Staphylococcus aureus is a key player in that it very well shows how quickly bacteria can change according to the environment around it. It started becoming resistant to antibiotics starting with penicillin, and steadily made its way through the varied antibiotics that have been used ever since. The particular strain MRSA, which is resistant to the antibiotic Methicillin, has become ubiquitous, showing up all over the place in hospital settings, and spreading quickly among patients with little recourse.

Staphylococcus aureus is a dangerous staphylococcal bacterial infection that can cause all kinds of issues from pneumonia, to skin and heart problems, bone infections and more. Even TSS, or Toxic Shock Syndrome, the infection associated with tampon use that can lead to death, is a result of toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus.

Obviously, having this running rampant in a place with sick people is a recipe for further and continued disaster. To give an idea, in 2019 the CDC released a report stating that deaths due to antibiotic resistance had been underestimated, and that approximately 35,000 deaths occur each year in the US alone, out of 2.8 million yearly infections. That’s a lot of people dying because their medicine didn’t work.

Is cannabis a breakthrough with biofilms?

No, not at all. The idea of antimicrobial agents being found in plants is hardly new. Not only have different plants been used in this way for thousands of years, but studies have already been done into the power of different compounds like essential oils. This study from 2019 highlights the investigation into cinnamon, marjoram, and thyme essential oils with cinnamon and thyme showing the best inhibitory results.

plant medicine

Go back even further to 2012 and there’s a study specifically investigating how different essential oils effect Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. Yup, the exact thing being cited as a breakthrough with cannabis, was actually established with other plants at least eight years ago. What that study found is that cassia, red thyme and Peru balsam essential oils were best at eradicating Staphylococcus aureus biofilms, and more effective than certain antibiotics. While the authors of the study do indicate that red thyme and cassia have not been tested against MRSA biofilms, they do indicate that essential oils like tea tree, thyme, and peppermint have shown effectiveness against MRSA biofilms.

This is important when looking at the antibacterial properties of cannabis, because when looking at progress into issues like antibiotic resistance, looking at the whole picture is necessary. Similar antimicrobial properties to cannabis can be found in plenty of other places in the plant world, some with a much likely higher rate of efficacy than cannabis.

Back to CBG and cannabinoids

In July of 2020, a systematic review was released investigating the antimicrobial properties of cannabis. The conclusion was that several cannabinoids are effective against gram positive bacteria like MRSA, and offer a possibly better treatment option to antibiotics which are harsh on the body and can’t be used indefinitely. Gram positive has to do with the classification of bacteria into two component groups according to their cell walls, with gram positive having thinner walls which sometimes makes them more receptive to antibiotic agents that target cell walls. This is not true all the time, as we find with MRSA, and with eliminating biofilms. The review also pointed out that beyond cannabinoids, terpenes have been shown to have antimicrobial benefits as well.

Why doesn’t MRSA become resistant to cannabis?

When dealing with cannabis, or any other plant as an antibiotic, the question becomes, why would cannabis, (or another plant), be effective without causing the bacteria strain to become resistant to it? The answer is rather simple, antibiotics are created to mimic the activity of plants, but they’re much more basic compounds that can very easily (apparently) be understood by the microbe which then mutates to resist effects of these simple antibiotics.

Plant compounds on the other hand are far more complicated and harder for a microbe to understand and fight. Plants have secondary metabolites which complicate them biologically, introducing tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, and terpenes, which have been found in research to have antimicrobial properties, as well as helping to create a more complicated microbe-proof structure.


In the long run, this tells us that as antibiotic resistance becomes more of a problem, the answer to it will likely not be in a new pharmaceutical breakthrough, but in digging through the nature around us for the cure.


The idea of plants being used for antibiotics, and as an affront to antibiotic resistance, isn’t new. Thousands of years of history tells us how useful plants are in fighting disease, and recent research into the antimicrobial properties of cannabis highlights the power of plants in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

For its part, cannabis has been coming out strong as a competitor against standard antibiotics, and as a possible answer to the resistance issue. With cannabinoids like CBG showing a strong antibiotic effect, there’s reason to believe that the future of antibiotics will be as simple as going back to nature.

And this means the idea of antibiotic resistance might not have to be as scary as its made out to be.

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Let Me Be Blunt: The Cannabis-Tobacco Interaction

Whether sprinkled in a spliff or used as papers for a blunt, tobacco has been marijuana’s closest companion for millennia. The interaction between the two substances seems to vary from person to person nearly as much as cannabis alone.

Anecdotally, people report a variety of interactions, with some people saying that tobacco smooths out their high, and others saying it provides a stimulating kick. As with cannabis itself, it is difficult to anticipate how a new user will react, due to the myriad chemical and psychological factors at play.

A Heady Combination

A major question in evaluating the cannabis-tobacco interaction is whether their effects are simply added together, or if the plants change one another. Spliffs are often the preferred consumption method for people who want to modulate their cannabis intake, but one study published in the research journal Inhalation Toxicology suggests that there may be a countervailing force: tobacco was found to increase THC intake by as much as 45 percent.

Studies of how cannabis and tobacco interact on one’s body and brain are out there, but the research is limited and the conclusions don’t venture much beyond associations and correlations. Regular blunt smoking is associated with greater cannabis dependence, as is the practice of chasing a joint with some nicotine. Tobacco has well-known addictive properties, and it’s not clear if smoking the two together makes one addicted to cannabis itself, or if the dependence is predominantly one on nicotine, with cannabis simply along for the ride.

Another study found that cannabis can satisfy a desire for tobacco, but not the other way around — specifically among people who smoke more than a joint a month, but fewer than three a week. Does that suggest that cannabis can substitute for tobacco, or just that spliff smokers are mostly in it for the weed, with tobacco thrown in for taste and a little extra buzz?

Dude, Where’s My…?

Another set of studies concern the impacts on memory, and the conclusions are similarly hazy. By itself, cannabis can reduce one’s powers of memory and shrink the hippocampus — a brain area associated with learning and memory (though research from the American Journal on Addictions found there may be no long-term effect in adults and another study found genetic differences matter when it comes to the size of the effect).

Weirdly, one study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence actually showed an inverse relationship between hippocampal size and memory, only in tobacco and cannabis users – for non-users, a bigger hippocampus means a better memory, but for those who enjoy cannabis and tobacco, the association goes the other way. Furthermore, while THC seems to shrink the hippocampus, CBD may actually be neuroprotective against hippocampal loss.

Tobacco has also been shown to cause long-term memory issues by reducing sleep quality. But it may actually improve memory performance in cannabis smokers (though it doesn’t prevent hippocampal shrinkage).

Much of the ink spilled on this particular topic comes from one study, conducted by Frances Fibley, which involved only 90 people spread across four experimental groups (including the control group).

From what data we have, it’s quite difficult to say precisely how tobacco and cannabis affect memory, separately or in concert. As always, users are advised first and foremost to pay attention to their own reactions.

Partners in Crime

Arguably the greatest impact tobacco has had on cannabis is in the legal sphere. Concerns that pot could follow in the footsteps of Big Tobacco have prompted states to insert regulations around vertical integration, cooperative businesses and more. Cigarette bans also naturally get extended to cannabis in any locality that has them. Once allowed in restaurants, bars and airplanes, public smoking is now relegated to most of the general outdoors.

Yes, cannabis use is significantly more restricted, but areas where tobacco smoking is allowed are non-starters for joints and bongs. One exception is vape pens, which are often smoked in public, in part because they are difficult to distinguish from e-cigarettes. Anywhere that alcohol or tobacco is prohibited is almost certain to exclude cannabis consumption as well.

And economically, the tobacco industry provides a blueprint as to how cannabis legalization could be handled. In fact, the presence of Big Tobacco has stoked fears that corporations will gain a similar stranglehold over the marijuana industry once the free market is allowed to frolic.

The relationship has been complementary, fraught and sometimes oppositional, but cannabis and tobacco have been intertwined for centuries. Socially, legally and chemically, the two have forged their own paths and yet, in so many ways, they are as inseparable as their smoke in a puff from a spliff.

TELL US, how does combining cannabis and tobacco affect you?

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Treat the Aches & Pains of Aging with Cannabis Topicals

Almost half of adults aged 65 or older have arthritis. The Center for Disease Control says arthritis and other rheumatic conditions represent a leading cause of disability among U.S. adults — and the leading cause for the past 15 years.

And since the risk of arthritis increases with age, there will only be more patients searching for effective alternative treatments for pain as the senior population grows.

Among them is Jane, a 67-year-old woman who suffers from osteoarthritis and has found relief by using cannabis.

Jane developed osteoarthritis in her knee from years of working on her feet, a condition exacerbated by the weight she gained over the past 20 years.

She uses a cane to walk and says her pain medication leaves her groggy and depressed, with no desire to leave her home. Her daughter saw the negative impacts the medication was having on her mother’s mood and gave her a topical salve containing THC and CBD. It relieved her pain enough to be able to set aside her cane when she is at home.

Seeking further non-euphoric relief, Jane explored different ratios of CBD and THC in capsule form to help with her pain (especially at night) and found a balance that not only reduced her use of pain medication, but also relieved her anxiety and depression.

Cannabis can be utilized at therapeutic levels for both pain relief and the maintenance of inflammation. Many seniors start with non-euphoric solutions like cannabis topicals, which can mean using lotions, salves, roll-ons and even medicated epsom salts for soaking or hot compresses.

Jane likes that using topicals and edibles gives her the ability to enjoy time with her family and manage her pain without grogginess — and without the smell that comes from smoking.

She isn’t alone; many patients with inflammatory arthritis have been successfully treating it with topical use and experimenting with ratios of CBD to THC in edibles. And there’s data to back up those personal experiences — research is showing that topical administration of cannabis has proven to have analgesic effects in animal models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain, especially for the control of breakthrough pain.

In fact, a study published in Rheumatology discovered that rheumatoid arthritis patients have more CB2 receptors on their cells than other arthritis patients. Recent research also found that psoriasis plaques can be treated with topicals high in CBD because the anti-inflammatory effects help reduce the plaques, without thinning the skin like a steroidal cream.

Maria Mangini is a pioneer of the medical cannabis and psychedelic research movement, and a family nurse practitioner. She says that 70 percent of the patients she consults see her for pain issues and noted a large percentage of those patients suffer from some type of arthritis.

She says osteoarthritis patients may benefit from the synergistic effects THC has with opioid receptors, creating greater pain relief with less opioid use. She added that if the joint pain is not too deep (as in hip joints), a topical medicine could prove useful in treating pain as well.

With the opioid epidemic still in full swing and the FDA’s recent warning that all non-aspirin NSAIDs put patients at increased risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, is it any wonder that our fast-growing senior population is becoming more open to alternative therapies? Or that cannabis — one of the most effective natural medicines on Earth — is now becoming a bigger part of the conversation?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, have you ever tried a topical?

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CBD for chronic pain: The science doesn’t match the marketing

If you ask health care providers about the most challenging condition to treat, chronic pain is mentioned frequently. By its nature, chronic pain is a complex and multidimensional experience. Pain perception is affected by our unique biology, our mood, our social environment, and past experiences. If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, you already know the heavy burden.

People are looking for novel, nonaddictive ways to treat pain

Given the ongoing challenges of chronic pain management coupled with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, pain management practitioners and their patients are searching for effective and safer alternatives to opioids to alleviate pain. With the legalization of marijuana in many states and resulting cultural acceptance of this drug for recreational and medical use, there has been an increased interest in using cannabis for a myriad of medical problems, including pain.

Cannabis (most commonly obtained from the Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. While there are over a hundred different cannabinoids, the two major components are tetrahydrocannabional (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Historically more attention has been paid to the psychoactive (euphoric “getting high”) component of the cannabis plant, THC; there have been fewer scientific studies on the medical use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the plant.

What’s the thinking behind using cannabis for chronic pain?

CBD is emerging as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, and anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve, and evidence from animal studies has shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. This system is involved in regulating many functions in the body, including metabolism and appetite, mood and anxiety, and pain perception.

What’s the research that CBD works in humans?

Given its promising results in animal models, along with its relative safety, non-psychoactive properties, and low potential for abuse, CBD is an attractive candidate to relieve pain. Unfortunately, there is a lack of human studies about the effectiveness of CBD. However, there is an abundance of commercial advertisements about the magical effects of CBD, and it is frequently presented as a cure-it-all potion that will treat everything including diabetes, depression, cancer, chronic pain, and even your dog’s anxiety!

So far, pharmaceutical CBD is only approved by the FDA as adjunct therapy for the treatment of a special and rare form of epilepsy. Currently, CBD alone is not approved for treatment of pain in the United States. But a combination medication (that contains both THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio) was approved by Health Canada for prescription for certain types of pain, specifically central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, and the treatment of cancer pain unresponsive to optimized opioid therapy. There is currently no high-quality research study that supports the use of CBD alone for the treatment of pain.

Why is CBD presented to the public this way, when it is not without risks?

Given the rapid change in the legality of cannabis coupled with the increased appetite for something new, and driven by unprecedented profit margins, the advertising for cannabinoids in general and CBD in particular has gone wild. The FDA is very clear that it is illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement. And it warns the public about its potential side effects, as it’s often advertised in a way that may lead people to mistakenly believe using CBD “can’t hurt.” CBD can cause liver injury, and can affect the male reproductive system (as demonstrated in laboratory animal studies).

Most importantly, CBD can interact with other important medications like blood thinners, heart medications, and immunosuppressants (medications given after organ transplantation), potentially changing the levels of these important medications in the blood and leading to catastrophic results, including death. Also, more information needs to be gathered about its safety in special populations such as the elderly, children, those who are immunocompromised, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Many of the CBD products on the market are unregulated

In fact, the FDA has issued several warning letters to companies and individuals that market unapproved new drugs that allegedly contain CBD. The FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD the manufacturers had claimed they contain.

Beware of powerful testimonials

Finally, there is anecdotal wisdom, when experiences by patients and health professionals have positive results. While the experience or medication could be beneficial, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for everyone. That’s because each and every person is unique, and what works perfectly for one patient could have no effect on another patient. This is especially true for pain, where many other factors (our mood and stress level, our environment and other medical conditions, and our previous experiences) can affect the perception of pain. Please be careful, and keep in mind that some of these incredible-sounding testimonials are merely marketing materials meant to lure consumers to buy more products, as the CBD market is expected to hit $20 billion by 2024.

The bottom line: Don’t make CBD your first or only choice for pain relief

If you or someone close to you is considering trying CBD, I would recommend Dr. Robert Shmerling’s advice about the dos and don’ts in choosing an appropriate product. Until there is high-quality scientific evidence in humans, it is difficult to make a recommendation for the regular use of CBD in chronic pain management.

The post CBD for chronic pain: The science doesn’t match the marketing appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

DIY Cannabis Oil Skincare You Can Make at Home

Hempseed oil has an extensive history of being used during shamanic rituals, inside love potions and in fragrances. Today, consumers are surrounded by various hemp-derived cannabis oil skincare and other beauty products on pharmacy shelves, down grocery store aisles and even in mothers’ bathrooms.

Hemp, which can be purchased from outside of the U.S. in all 50 states, only contains about 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent THC and originates from the same plant as marijuana  — Cannabis Sativa L. Hemp refers to the commercial use of the cannabis plant’s stalk or seeds, while the term marijuana pertains to the medicinal, spiritual or recreational use, which involves smoking or vaporizing cannabis flowers.

THC, the main psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis, is an antioxidant known for its anti-inflammatory properties. According to clinical research, cannabinoids contain anti-aging and antioxidant properties. The journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology confirms that cannabinoids are responsible for lipid production, and thus they can get dry skin or stubborn acne under control.

While scientists pretty much unanimously agree that smoking any substance promotes advanced aging, THC actually does the opposite when applied topically to the skin. According to various studies, THC makes the marijuana plant naturally resilient to pathogens, while it has proven to absorb high levels of UVB rays. This means that the plant’s seeds are protected from radioactive damage, as it can then be applied as a neuroprotective antioxidant for human skill cells. As an antioxidant, THC can combat wrinkles and fine lines. Scientists now are even researching ways that it can ttreat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Hemp is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 making it an ideal component of any skin treatment. It’s also a great alternative ingredient to toxic chemicals present in many petroleum-based lotions and serums. To integrate cannabis oil skincare into a health and beauty regimens, skip out on heading to the store to purchase hemp-infused beauty products. All that’s needed is hemp oil or, better yet, cannabis oil to start cooking up some homemade facials.

All of the following facial recipes are made with cannabis oil, but if it’s not available simply substitute hemp oil.

Green Goddess Facial

Antioxidant-rich avocado contains a ton of vitamin C, which is needed for the creation of elastin and collagen, both responsible for maintaining skin’s firmness. Patchouli essential oil was added to the mix, since it tightens and tones sagging skin. The potent flower is also known to be a natural antidepressant, while it helps treat anxiety and other stress-related disorders. Use patchouli sparingly, because its scent can be overwhelming and off-putting to some. Finally, cocoa powder rejuvenates dull skin, while safeguarding your skin from sunburn.


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ¼ cup of cannabis oil
  • 2 teaspoon of natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-4 drops of patchouli oil (optional)


Step one: Cut open the avocado, removing its pit and spooning its flesh into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.

Step two: Mash the mixture into a smooth texture, trying to avoid chunks.

Step three: Rub the mixture in a circular motion on your face using fingertips.

Step four: To get the full spa treatment, boil some water and put it in a heatproof bowl. Be sure to tie your hair back. Next, put your green face over the bowl, with a towel over both you and the bowl. This will open up your pores, allowing your skin to absorb the facial’s nutrients.

Step five: Leave the facial on for 20-30 minutes. Afterward, take a warm wet washcloth and wash off the mixture in a circular motion.

Coco Oasis Exfoliant

Coconut oil is one of the trendiest new ingredients to put into any beauty elixir and with good reason. It’s a great skin softener and scientific research is ongoing to prove it can help treat acne, eczema and psoriasis. Combined with sugar or salt, it takes on the role of an awesome exfoliant, scraping off dead skin and purifying pores. Agave nectar has been noted to have incredible remedial potential, providing relief from bacteria and infections. 


  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cannabis oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of agave nectar
  • ¼ cup of sugar, white granulated sugar, or brown sugar


Step one: Stir together the agave and coconut oil in a medium bowl.

Step two: In another bowl, mix the cannabis oil with the sugar until it becomes a little more crumbly.

Step three: Combine the two mixtures and stir until mostly smooth. When finished, it should be a bit grainy to effectively exfoliate.

Step four & five: Repeat these same steps as in the Green Goddess recipe.

TELL US, have you ever made your own cannabis oil skincare products?

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Thailand Set to Expand Medical Marijuana Program

Things have moved slowly since Thailand’s parliament voted to approve a medical marijuana program in December 2018—which is hardly surprising, given that Southeast Asia has some of the world’s most draconian cannabis laws. But on Aug. 4 the Thai cabinet signed off on a proposal to finally allow commercial cultivation, including for export.

The proposal, submitted by the Public Health Ministry, is in the form of a package of amendments to the country’s harsh Narcotics Drugs Act. If it clears parliament, which seems likely, it could mean the rapid emergence of a new industry in Thailand.

“The law will promote the pharmaceutical industry and increase competitiveness, which will be important for Thailand in becoming a leader in medical cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters

Thailand’s Cannabis Contradiction 

Thailand faces strange contradictions where cannabis is concerned. The country was ruled by a military junta for years after a 2014 coup d’etat, with powers restricted to the country’s parliament, known as the Legislative Assembly. New elections in June 2019 seem to have mostly been a formality, with junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha becoming prime minister. The army and King Maha Vajiralongkorn still have broad emergency powers, and this extends to drug enforcement. Police in Thailand are actually empowered to order spot urine tests of anyone they stop who is suspected of cannabis use—motorists or pedestrians. A positive test is treated as possession. 

Yet cannabis has deep roots in Thailand’s culture. The country has a centuries-long tradition of cannabis use in folk medicine, and it is home to rare and highly prized sativa landraces.

Thailand is now moving to close this contradiction. Last September, the largest legal cannabis crop in Southeast Asia was planted in a greenhouse complex at Maejo University. In the northern Chiang Mai province—traditionally home to both widespread cannabis and opium cultivation—the university is Thailand’s oldest and most respected agricultural institution. The 12,000 plants are now being used for production of cannabis oil.

Four hospitals around the country are currently piloting treatments with this oil: Khlong Muang Hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Chiang Phin Hospital in Udon Thani, Ban Na Yao Nuea Hospital in Sakon Nakhon and Ban Na Pak Khow hospital in Phatthalung. All but the last, are in Thailand’s northeast highlands, a region known as Isan, where the tradition of cannabis use and cultivation is strongest.

Earlier last year, Rangsit University (just outside Bangkok) launched a “Ganja Studies Department,” and research facility, with an eye toward laying the groundwork for a thriving cannabis industry in the country.  

But the 2018 law only allowed cultivation and extraction under the close supervision of universities or other state entities. The new legislative package will open things up considerably.

The Public Health Ministry passed the proposal on to the cabinet following public hearings in June, the Bangkok Post reports. Significantly, it also passed muster with the military-controlled Narcotics Control Board. Prior to going before the Legislative Assembly, the proposal will have to undergo one final hurdle – it will need to be screened by the prime minister’s Council of State.

Role for Traditional Healers 

A unique aspect of the proposal is the role it carves out for traditional medical practitioners and folk healers. Dr. Marut Jirasrattasiri, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional & Alternative Medicine, told reporters that cannabis clinics run by such healers are waiting to go online at some 300 public health centers around the country, and have received 60,000 requests for treatment this year. 

Under the proposal, farmers would be able to cultivate to supply such health centers, or work under contract to supply pharmaceutical companies. Traditional healers, who constitute a strong lobby in Thailand, petitioned to be included in the law. They raised concerns about the global industry privatizing what has been a genetic commons for peasant cannabis cultivators in the country for centuries, if not millennia. The tension between capitalist enterprises and local control will likely continue under the newly expanded program.

The program still emphasizes oils, extracts and tinctures. Permitting the use of smokable flower has not been broached.

Nonetheless, cannabis advocates at both ends of the industry-peasantry spectrum are greatly enthused. Paisarn Dunkum, secretary-general of Thailand’s Food & Drug Administration, predicted this sentiment to the Bangkok Post saying, “This will be another step for our country to become a leader that applies cannabis systematically in the medical field.”

TELL US, do you think Thailand would benefit from legal cannabis?

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Louisiana Medical Marijuana Program Expands

Louisiana’s path to a medical marijuana program has been a tortuous and frustrating one. State lawmakers passed a law instating a limited program in 2015, but cannabis products did not begin to reach patients at the nine approved pharmacies until August of last year. There are still fewer than 4,500 patients registered to access cannabis products under the law.

After what has been an agonizing delay for many patients, Louisiana’s legislature has finally taken moves to expand the program. 

The program will still allow only extracts, tinctures and other such preparations — not actual herbaceous cannabis, either smoked or vaped. And only two “agricultural centers” are permitted to cultivate and process — one at Louisiana State University and one at Southern University, both in Baton Rouge and the latter a historically Black university. LSU, partnering with the private Wellcana Group, finally produced enough cannabis to begin supplying the approved pharmacies a year ago, Associated Press notes. The Advocate, the state’s biggest newspaper, reported the happy news that Southern University, partnering with Ilera Holistic Healthcare, finally shipped out its first tinctures and other products last month.

And now, under a trio of new laws that were passed in June and went into effect Aug. 1, the ability of patients to access these products will be expanded. At last, the program seems poised for growth.

A Trio of New Bills 

The most significant of the new measures, House Bill 819, expands the discretion of physicians to recommend cannabis. Rather than having to conform to the list of conditions named in the 2015 law, doctors can now approve cannabis products for “any condition” that they consider “debilitating to an individual patient,” providing that the condition is one the doctor “is qualified through his [or her] medical education and training to treat.” 

The 2015 law, known as Therapeutic Marijuana A, lists the standard conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

According to the national advocacy group NORML, Louisiana joins a handful of other states — including California, Virginia and Maine — that have enacted similar measures giving physicians the ability to recommend cannabis preparations to any patient they believe may benefit from them. 

When Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill in June, NORML hailed it as meaningful progress. 

“This is common sense legislation that provides physicians, not lawmakers, the ability and discretion to decide what treatment options are best for their patients,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said in a statement. Continuuin, he said, “Just as doctors are entrusted to make decisions with regard to the supervised use of opioids and other medicines — many of which pose far greater risks to patients than cannabis — the law should provide doctors with similar flexibility when it comes to recommending cannabis therapy to a bona fide patient.”

Another of the new measures to take effect addresses the question of cannabis use in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. HB 418 provides immunity from prosecution to “any facility that is licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health that has patients in its care using medical marijuana.” HB 211 similarly provides immunity for banks and other financial institutions that provide services to state-licensed cannabis businesses. 

Slowly Moving Towards Social Justice 

As an AP account observes, these three bills were part of a modest wave of progressive legislation passed by Louisiana lawmakers this year. Other measures limit the use of solitary confinement on pregnant prisoners and increase the ways those sent to prison as juveniles can seek parole. 

Local activists feel that progress is long overdue in the Pelican State. In 2016, a “JustSouth” index produced by the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University sought to measure social justice across the Southern states. It ranked Louisiana dead last on measures of poverty, racial disparity and exclusion. The Research Institute’s Jeanie Donovan called it a “a grim picture” in comments to

Low-income families, immigrants and workers of color are worse off in Louisiana than anywhere else in the United States, the report found. The average low-income household in Louisiana earned only $11,156 in 2014. The Research Institute calculated that a two-person family needs to earn “$45,840 a year to afford basic necessities,” Donovan said.

These conditions reflect the region’s history of “slavery, Jim Crow segregation and continuing inequality,” added the Rev. Fred Kammer, director of the Research Institute. 

The other Gulf states ranked almost as poorly. Alabama placed 48th, Texas 49th and Mississippi 50th. Florida had the highest ranking in the region, at 41st place. 

Hardly coincidentally, Louisiana has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the nation.

TELL US, does your state have medical cannabis?

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