Is Croatia Trying to Legalize Recreational Cannabis?

Like many EU countries, Croatia has been slowly changing its laws to allow for greater legal (or at least decriminalized) cannabis use. However, earlier this year, some in Croatia’s government got a bit impatient, attempting to jump steps in order to legalize recreational cannabis.

Two of the legal acts that govern drug law in Croatia are the Criminal Code and The Law on Combating Drugs Abuse. The manufacturing, trade, and possession of drugs are regulated by The Law on Combating Drugs Abuse which passed in 2001, and which has undergone updates since that time. It outlines preventative measures for curbing drug use and dealing with drug users, and specifically forbids growing, possessing or supplying drugs. The Criminal Code is used for the prosecution of more serious crimes.

In mid-December, 2012, the Croatian parliament voted in a bill to decriminalize personal use amounts of illicit substances, making possession of these amounts no longer a criminal offence (but rather a misdemeanor). Croatia does not establish what a personal use amount is, and leaves the designation to the courts in each particular case.

To be clear, whereas some personal use laws in other countries come with very few repercussions so long as the amount is within the legal requirement, Croatia’s decriminalization laws still leave an offender to pay a fine of possibly more than €2,000, ordered into a rehabilitation program, or required to do community service. Before the change in law, simple possession charges could result in up to three years in jail. The Criminal Code encourages courts to use alternatives to prison whenever possible, especially when the prison sentence would otherwise be six months or less.

The law, which went into effect on January 1st, 2013, did nothing to decriminalize personal cultivation of any drug for any reason. Cultivation, processing, and production of drugs, even without intent to sell, can result in 6 months – 5 years in prison. With intent to sell it can be anywhere from 1-12 years. It can go up to 15 years if the crimes involve children, and up to 20 years with the involvement of organized crime.

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Medical cannabis in Croatia

In October, 2015, Croatia legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Under the law, doctors can prescribe medications in different forms containing THC with regulations putting a cap at .75 grams of THC per month for a patient. One of the driving forces behind the change in legislation came about because of a case involving a multiple sclerosis sufferer who was caught growing and using cannabis personally to treat his symptoms. The man in question was caught with 44 pounds of cannabis with which he was using to make oil.

In April of 2019, amendments were made to the Law on Combatting Drug Abuse which opened up the cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal purposes as long as it is low-THC. The new update allows private institutions to gain authorizations from the Croatian Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (HALMED) to grow this low-THC cannabis. Approvals must also be gained from the Ministry of Health for all products.

Up until this update, medicinal cannabis products were strictly imported to Croatia with the new law making it possible to grow it within the country, while also opening up for outside investment. The regulatory aspects of this new update are still being worked out. Interested investors should keep an eye on it to see if the final regulations meet their business needs.

The push for recreational legalization

A look at Croatia’s history with cannabis legislation and general progress show an upward trajectory that is moving faster than some countries like Slovakia or Sweden, while being notably farther behind others like Spain and the Netherlands. Considering that Croatia’s personal use laws only knock offenders down to a misdemeanor status, while still essentially treating them like offenders, it makes what happened earlier this year even more out-of-place.

Cannabis Supply Shortages Abound In Newly Established Recreational Markets

In February of this year, president of the Social Democratic Party’s Green Development Council, Mirela Holy, introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis, as well as legalizing hemp for commercial purposes. Holy pushed those in government to see the economic value of a bill like this, citing countries like Paraguay and Canada that have their own legalization models, and herself pushing a hybrid structure that would involve the government and private business working together.

As a previous Minister for Environment during Zoran Milanovic’s government in 2011-2012, Holy has been pushing environmental causes for years, with the use of hemp being a big part of it. One of her desires is for hemp to be used to its full capacity, which through history has meant being used to make nearly anything from paper to clothing to fuel, and so on. The bill would also permit adults to grow up to nine plants for personal use.

When asked if this was too soon for a country like Croatia that has been liberalizing slower than other places, Holy responded “When I started talking about it a few years ago, the reactions were terrible, but things have changed.” The bill was set for debate in the weeks that followed.

Will it happen?

Considering Croatia seems like an out-of-the-blue country for this debate to be taking place, it makes sense that Mirela Holy herself is quite a force to be reckoned with. Whereas draft legislation of this nature (coming out in a country for which it is significantly more liberal than the general standing of the country) usually gets put down rather quickly (often being a starting point for a much longer battle), this has not gone away.

How the Coronavirus Paradigm Shift Is Affecting the CBD and Cannabis Industry

The corona pandemic has done well to temporarily change the general conversation, and upcoming elections are focused on many different topics, but the question of legalization is far from gone. On July 5th, Croatians will go to the polls for a parliamentary election called for by current president Zoran Milanovic. The two main parties in competition are the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Social Democrats (SDP). The SDP – Mirela Holy’s party – has been slightly trailing the HDZ, but should it win, one of the first orders of business is passing the recreational cannabis legislation.

As the gap between the two top parties is as narrow as a couple percentage points, this actually gives Mirela Holy, the Social Democratic Party, and the proposed recreational cannabis bill, a very good chance of success.

Conclusion – what does this mean?

It means that not only would Croatia open up its laws to allow private citizens vastly more freedom for themselves, it would also curb the illegal drug market, and open up more space for outside investment. Plus, it would take a much more serious look at hemp, its applications, and its economic possibilities, especially in the context of relieving burdens on the environment.

Mirela Holy really has her eye on the ball when it comes to economic actions that can open up entire industries while providing ways for a cleaner environment. Her push towards more hemp usage, and her law for recreational cannabis legality, show a forward-thinking individual who might be a bit ahead of her time for her country, but who seems perfectly capable of bringing her country up to speed.

If nothing else, and even if Holy loses and the bill doesn’t pass now, Croatia has already begun the process of entering the global medicinal cannabis market. As Croatia defines its system and starts handing out licenses, the cannabis money will start coming in, and with a person like Holy around, the push for recreational freedom is not likely to go away until the relevant laws are passed. So, here’s to a victory by the SDP next month, and Croatia actually making the jump to legal recreational cannabis.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, 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.

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Can Greece Leverage Medical Cannabis to Save Its Ailing Economy?

Steeped in history, brimming with mythology, and home to beautiful beaches, rich Mediterranean food, and sights like the Parthenon, Greece is also a country fighting economic fallout, and trying to revive its wounded economy. Could the legal medical cannabis industry be Greece’s ticket back to economic security?

In 2015, Greece missed its payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) resulting in a default on a €1.6 billion debt. These issues started decades before with bad structural adjustments made in the 1980’s that resulted in mass inflation, mainly due to the fact that Greece had a generally poorly run economy. Greece lied about its economic status and government deficit amount (which was well above the 3% max limit to enter the Eurozone) in order to gain entrance in 2001.

However, instead of a revived economy due to the single currency, it led to a perceived sense of stability, which led to lower interest rates and increased spending, which without truly attending to its actual issue of a lack of general revenue, led to economic disaster in 2009 and accepting over $350 billion in bailout money. Greece has been struggling since this time to strengthen and rebuild itself, but still faces a long road ahead.

In recent years, as the medical cannabis industry has taken off (and as more countries institute medical programs to substantiate it), entering into this fresh economy has opened new doors of revenue for struggling countries. Africa is a great example of this, and a look toward that region will show multiple countries with recently and quickly changed legislation to support entry into this market. Greece is yet another country following suit in hopes of changing the direction of its own economy.

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Cannabis laws in Greece (for residents)

First, let’s take a look at what Greek law permits in the way of cannabis. According to the Greek Drug Law of 1987, using or possessing drugs in any quantity is punishable by imprisonment. As of 2013, an amendment to this law made it much less severe, allowing for small amounts of personal use with only a five months sentence, and no criminal record so long as the crime isn’t committed again within 5 years (still steep compared to some European countries). Prison sentences are often suspended if the offender enters into the correct treatment program.

Cultivation and supply crimes are illegal for private residents, with supply crimes garnering up to eight years in prison, though this can be reduced in the case of an addict who is part of a supply group. On the other hand, it can be increased to a life sentence if committed by someone who is deemed to have social responsibility, like doctors or politicians. Fines can also be issued to offenders of anywhere from €50,000-500,000.

Being caught growing a small number of plants will usually not get a person in hot water, however, growing a larger number where it is believed there is intent to distribute, will incur much greater penalties. Much like Ireland, Greece allows the sale, possession and purchase of cannabis seeds, but it becomes illegal once the seeds are allowed to germinate and grow.

Cannabis laws for business

Greece legalized medicinal cannabis in 2017, following it up in 2018 with repealing the ban set in place on cultivating cannabis and allowing the production and exportation of cannabis products. As per European law, all cultivation and production must be for plants with less than .2% THC.

American Pioneer Looks To Greece For First Overseas Investment

There is no guarantee or push for licenses to go to local farmers, with a strong expectation for outside investment. In order for a company to get involved in the cannabis industry in Greece, it requires three licenses total, and the government is more likely to approve companies with already existing verticals that can support all stages of cultivation, production, and processing. The three licensing arms of the government are the Ministry of Economy and Development, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Rural Development and Food. The licensing process goes as follows:

– Installation License: This is the first license, and can be granted once a business (if from abroad) creates a Greek company that can buy or lease the land to set up its operation. This license is necessary in order to start building a facility. Some of the stipulations involved in choosing a piece of land to build an operation involve the following:

  • It must be an appropriate distance to a power supply
  • It must be an appropriate distance away from schools
  • It must be an appropriate distance to adequate access to water
  • The area must be a single space of at least four acres
  • All safety and security requirements must be followed
  • Applicants with felonies (or who employ those with felonies) will not be approved (along with some misdemeanors)
  • Permission can only be granted for where land use regulation permits

– Operations License: This is the second license, and can be granted upon the completion of a facility.

– Medical License: This is the third license, and can be granted with the approval of a product and which allows for the sale of products in Europe. This does not stop enterprises from being required to provide local authorizations per country in accordance with individual member state regulation.

As of August 2019, Greece had approved 26 licenses for companies to grow medicinal cannabis.

Medical marijuana recovery?

In June of 2017 Greece approved medical cannabis. At the time, Stergios Pitsiorlas, the deputy economy minister stated “There is huge interest, mainly from Canada and Israel … some of them (potential investors) are huge.”

Greece Looks To Homegrown Cannabis To Boost Economy

In March of 2018, Greece legalized the cultivation and production of cannabis products for medicinal use, and very quickly started receiving licensing applications. The first 14 licenses given out were expected to create 750+ jobs and bring in about €185+ million.

As per the Greek City Times, the first two licenses to be given out in late 2018, went to BioProCann SA, and Biomecann SA, which together hold 57 acres of land and are hoping to account for 117 new jobs combined. Both of these are international companies which each involve Greek investors along with other participants. A third company, Cannatec Greece, was also slated to begin production by the end of 2019 with a €255 million investment, according to its general director. Yet another one, Ohio company Devcann, is throwing down €12 million for its industrial cannabis operation.

These are just some of the examples of the money that is starting to flow into Greece with its entrance into the legal cannabis industry. It’s very possible that this year’s Coronavirus situation might have slowed down the plans of some of these enterprises, but as things return to normal, it can be expected that they’ll be up and producing very soon, along with numerous other companies which have already received licensing.

Conclusion

Greece certainly isn’t the most liberal country when it comes to marijuana. It is better than a lot though – even in Europe, and with its institution of a medical cannabis program, for both patient use and private production, it has entered itself into the newly minted medical cannabis industry, while providing patients with a necessary medicine.

Greece could definitely use some help on the economic front, and it could be that with the help of this new revenue source, Greece might finally be able to pull itself out of the financial mess its been in for decades.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, 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.

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Next Stop for Cannabis Industry Investors: Malawi

The countries in Africa are falling one by one. First Lesotho, then Zimbabwe, then Zambia, and now Malawi. Quickly changing their cannabis regulation to promote global medical marijuana export markets. How will Malawi’s introduction onto the playing field fair?

Malawi is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. Ten different ethnic groups are associated with Malawi, which has a population of approximately 21 million people. Most of the country works in agriculture with the majority being subsistence farmers on smaller farms, while growing tea and tobacco is done on large estates. This system has largely favored the bigger estates which has led to a great wealth inequality, with most of the population living in extreme poverty resulting in high infant mortality rates, chronic and widespread malnutrition, and general sickness. The overall life expectancy is in the low 60’s.

Much like Zimbabwe which also relied heavily on tobacco exports, Malawi was in the market for a new industry, making its induction into the African green rush right on point. As said by Agriculture Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, “Legalisation of this crop will contribute to economic growth as it will contribute in the diversification of the economy and boost the country’s exports, especially at this time when tobacco exports are dwindling.”

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Cannabis laws in Malawi for citizens

According to the Dangerous Drugs Act, “The Minister may by regulation: prohibit, control or restrict the production or possession” of illicit substances. Since trafficking is the bigger deal, and where law enforcement spends most of its energy, use crimes are generally overlooked. Since 1961, when Malawi signed the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, it has been illegal to sell or supply cannabis in the country. This has not stopped cannabis smuggling from being pretty routine, something Malawi has received criticism for.

Citizens are not permitted to grow any form of cannabis, hemp or marijuana, but it happens often anyway, with illegal cannabis grow operations being the primary activity when it comes to illicit drug rule-breaking in Malawi. Anyone caught illegally doing grow and supply crimes can now face up to 25 years in prison and an approximately $70k fine.

CBD, medical, and religious

CBD, or cannabidiol, one of the non-psychoactive components of the cannabis plant associated with many medical benefits, is exempt from the laws governing the rest of the plant, but there seems to be ambiguity in the terminology, and it is not actually legal there, only cultivated and produced for export.

In terms of medical use, the new bill did attend to a medical program for the residents of the country, although how well it will be carried out remains to be seen. Some of the bullet points include patients requiring a Registry Identification Card, that distributing cannabis from doctors to patients can only be done with the attendance of inspectors and police officers, and not producing adequate documentation or making false statements in regards to entrance and use of the cannabis program can incur financial penalties and up to five years in prison.

Malawi is home to a small Rastafarian community that has itself been pushing for religious legalization. This bill, along with not granting any form of recreational or personal use laws, also didn’t recognize any religious use rights.

Legalized Religiously – How Rastafari Tradition Is Helping Ease Cannabis Regulation in the Caribbean

Cannabis laws for business use

Earlier this year, cannabis was legalized for medical and industrial use in Malawi. The bill establishes certain bullet points for the regulation of the industrial cannabis market including the following:

  • The Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) is the new body that will be responsible for issuing licensing for cultivation, processing, distribution, and export of products for the industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis programs.
  • The CRA will also issue research permits.
  • License holders must comply with CRA security requirements regarding growing, sale, exportation, processing, distribution, and storage.
  • Cultivation must be done under strict practices including children not being involved, the natural environment being preserved, and compliance with a very high soil standard including fertilizers and pesticides that can be used.
  • Inspectors will be appointed by the CRA to ensure compliance with regulation.
  • Growing and supply operations that are not government approved are subject to large financial penalties and up to 25 years in prison.

Hemp cultivation is allowed with up to 1.0% THC. This means that it’s over the 0.2% allowed in cannabis applications by current EU standards, but follows in line with other countries that have more recently set their THC limit higher.

How’s business going?

Since Malawi only made its regulatory updates recently, it’s expected that not all the pieces are in place yet. It can often take a country years to work out kinks in their licensing and regulatory framework, so the specifics of how much licenses will cost, and if there are other provisions that must be met by potential licencees, is still unknown.

In terms of interest by foreign countries in using Malawi for their own cannabis production projects, Director of Investment Promotion Joshua Nthankomwa stated back in 2018 before the laws had passed “We have registered huge interests from companies in Canada, Israel and many other places. We look forward to many more investors coming, not only in this sector, but many other sectors that Government has created environment for one to grow their business.”

African Foothold for U.K. Entrepreneurs in Tandem with Aphria

The first company to get a research license to grow cannabis in Malawi was Invegrow, which started conducting trials on low-THC hemp back in 2015 to investigate hemp as a practical crop and determine viable seed strains. Its trials were used to help the government draft the legislation for commercial legalization. With its foothold already in the country, Invegrow is looking to start production of broad-spectrum hemp extracts and essential oils for export.

Other international companies had expressed interest in Malawi before the legalization, among them, Green Quest Pharmaceuticals, which requires 50,000 hectares of land to grow industrial hemp for manufacturing products like clothing and medicine. Green Quest Pharmaceuticals investor, South African/Canadian Graham Macintosh was among a group of lobbyists that encouraged politicians to create regulation that would allow them this ability.

The investment in Africa

Africa is becoming a hot spot for foreign investment in cannabis since Lesotho first opened up its cannabis regulation to allow for legal cultivation of medicinal cannabis in 2017. Zimbabwe and Zambia followed suit in the next years, with each bringing increased chance for investment, and more companies interested in getting a foothold in their fertile, rich-soiled land. These countries come complete with cheap farm labor in the form of the locals who are technically being priced out of their own markets.

Whether Malawi will follow suit will only be known as more specifics come out about prices and rules for licenses. As per statements made earlier by government officials, looking for foreign investment is key, and this possibly could mean steep licensing prices. On the other hand, if prices are kept low, it could mean more opportunity for not only locals to take advantage of their own land and profit directly from the new market, but also for lower capital investors from abroad who don’t have the bigger capital of their larger competitors, the chance to buy in as well.

The African Cannabis Market is Poised to Reach $7.1 Billion Within Four Years

Conclusion

Malawi is likely not the last African country to jump into the new legal medical cannabis market. In fact, several others in the general southern region (and elsewhere) are already looking into updating legislation to take part. For anyone interested in Malawi, or Africa in general, as a place for their own possible investment, a close watch should be kept on news coming out about pricing and particular laws and requirements for whatever kind of establishment is in mind. Chances are, within the next several months we’ll start hearing about all the new deals going down in Malawi’s new legal cannabis market.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, your place to go for all things legal-cannabis related. Come back frequently and subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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As Medical Cannabis Industry Booms, China Remains Quietly on Top

When a new industry really comes into play, it creates a paradigm shift in its wake, a changed world due to new laws, regulations, business possibilities, new lines of revenue, and new collectors of this revenue. When it comes to the burgeoning global medical cannabis industry, while Africa pushes towards a new paradigm shift, China still remains firmly on top…for now.

The idea of China sitting at the top of global industries has become a new paradigm to life in and of itself. It’s a strange joke that seems to permeate anywhere outside of China that China owns everything, and whether its technically true, it’s hard to get around the fact that an incredibly large percentage of everyday goods, in vast regions of the world, are emblazoned with the now ubiquitous ‘Made in China’. Especially when it comes to low cost production, China has cornered the market and this stretches from electronics to clothing to nearly any household item, office item, and beyond.

So, it’s no massive surprise that a material like hemp, which has near universal applications, would be grown quite a bit in China, and even as many countries still hold it as illegal to grow, or are only now opening their laws to it. Since a large percentage of the legal cannabis market now revolves around medical cannabis, and since a substantial amount of medical cannabis can be made from hemp, by reinstituting its hemp market earlier than other countries, China became – and still remains – the largest hemp producer in the world.

China is one of the largest exporters of medical cannabis as well. It might not be one of the markets people generally refer to when talking about how China owns everything, but when it comes to the hemp market and everything therein, China is still a massive force to be reckoned with.

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Differences in regulation

When talking about regulation it’s important to remember that there are two main types to consider when dealing with something like cannabis. The first type has to do with consumers. What are residents of a country allowed to do; and this can be broken down into different sections: actively using something, simply having possession of something, growing something, etc. Then there are the laws that look at the business perspective.

What is the government, or approved private enterprises, allowed to do; and this too can be broken down into component parts: growing something, importing something, exporting something, etc. Sometimes the laws match up, and there is more synchronicity between what private citizens can do and what private business/government can do. Sometimes there’s a vast amount of differences. Recently, Africa has been a hot spot for this. A big, red, flashing, arrow pointing exactly to this idea. But truth be told, China’s been at it for a long time too.

Cannabis laws for citizens of China

It’s illegal. It’s a pretty quick and easy breakdown. Chinese residents can’t use, possess, buy, sell, transport, grow, or give away cannabis. Not in any amount, not in any capacity. Not for recreation, not medicinally. It’s just plain illegal to be caught with cannabis of any kind as a citizen of China. This sentiment doesn’t go back as far as with some countries, and really only came into play around 1985 when China joined the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Prior to that time cannabis use was more likely to be ignored by law enforcement.

Enforcement and punishment can vary if a person is found breaking these laws. Minimum penalties might mean being detained for a number of days and subject to a fine of about $140. More severe penalties include sentences from five years to life in prison. In the most extreme cases, China does use the death penalty, and will exercise it, particularly for supply crimes. While China seems to be known for this practice of using the death penalty for cannabis crimes, finding any kind of confirmable information or numbers about it was not possible.

While many countries have gotten looser, China is one of those countries that has only gotten tighter and less open to cannabis use. China has put in much effort to deter especially younger generations from cannabis of any kind, pushing a large stigma against it, and suggesting that use has, indeed, gone down. China, much like Japan, got a little creepy in its desire to stop all citizens from trying marijuana, even appealing to its citizens abroad in Canada to stay away from it when it was legalized over there.

A kind of messed-up overreach when considering what that really means. When we leave one country and enter another, we leave the laws of the old and enter the laws of the new. It’s how our world works. The idea of trying to further influence citizens who are under a different country’s jurisdiction is quite an affront to the new country in question, and just a weird and unnecessary (and kind of desperate) overstep of power.

Commercial regulation of cannabis

Commercial cannabis regulation is an entirely different story in China, and commercial hemp has been legal to grow since 2010. China is the biggest grower of hemp in the world, holding about half of the world’s hemp-growing space, much of which is in the Yunnan province. In this region it’s said that cannabis is worth about $300/per acre, which makes it more profitable than even rapeseed (canola oil to Americans).

Hemp Industry’s First Year Blues – And The China Question

It exports this hemp along with hemp products, including CBD. CBD is cannabidiol, one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids of the cannabis plant which has legally been separated from the whole THC-containing plant in many countries in order to change how it’s regulated. While China has not done this in order to permit use for its own citizens, it has become one of the biggest exporters of CBD products to other countries.

China is not the easiest country to get statistical information from, and though basic numbers are sometimes released in different places, its very difficult to get a real consensus. That said, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Chinese companies or individuals claim about half (306 of 606) of the current global patents relating to cannabis. There are about 50 enterprises that have licensing to grow industrial cannabis in China, but only a handful have licensing for production. At least two of China’s 34 regions have become hugely involved with the cultivation of cannabis for CBD.

Medicinal use

China allows for cannabis cultivation and production for export, but never created a medical program for the residents of its own country, and maintains complete illegalization on that front. This wouldn’t necessarily be reason for extra mention, but there’s a particular contradiction to it in this country. The tradition of Chinese medicine is probably the most famous when thinking of natural medicine traditions throughout history that still exist today.

As herbal remedies make a resurgence in the present, much of it is based on Chinese remedies that have been used for centuries, and this widely includes the cannabis plant. According to a study that highlighted the China Health Statistics Yearbook 2018, approximately 32% of medical visits in China that year were to Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, and that’s no small number.

The idea that cannabis would be illegalized in a country that still holds so tightly to its natural medicine history, while legalizing the production and export of it to other countries…, well it’s a head shaker, that’s for sure, and a sad reminder that China built its empire on slave-labor sweat shops, and will likely maintain itself into the future this way.

Future Low-Cost Cannabis Cultivation Leader Will Be China

Conclusion

Whereas finding information about licensing fees and industrial regulation is easier with other countries, along with them virtually begging for investments, China isn’t like that. Specifics of this nature aren’t put out as much, and there doesn’t seem to be a push for foreign investment in the same way. In fact, it seems most companies popping up, and licenses being obtained, are for Chinese businesses. And somehow that makes sense. After all, who wouldn’t expect that China would dominate in this arena? And why would they rely on outside help if they never did before?

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, your hub for all things related to hemp, CBD, and legal cannabis in general. Stop by frequently and subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter to stay in-the-loop.

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$40k+ Will Buy You a License to Grow Cannabis in Zimbabwe

As Africa’s second country to change its laws about cannabis cultivation in order to enter the growing global medical marijuana industry, Zimbabwe is setting up to be one of the world’s largest hubs for production of all kinds of cannabis products.

It’s no secret that African countries have woken up quickly to the rapidly growing cannabis industry with a focus on medicinal products. In a matter of just a few years, countries that have for nearly a century held laws completely prohibiting the cannabis plant in all ways, practically overnight opened up their countries to legally cultivate cannabis commercially.

The first, Lesotho, did so with little regard for its own citizens or their potential use of the plant, and so far all countries to change legislation have instituted steep licensing fees that have opened the door wide for foreign investment. Regardless of how exactly it effects the country in terms of the locals, and whether they can financially buy-in, it is creating a market that is seeing rising interest from companies out of Canada, the US, and Europe.

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First and foremost, what are the cannabis laws in Zimbabwe?

Cannabis, or ‘mbanje’ in Zimbabwe, is legally governed by the Dangerous Drugs Act, and is illegal to have or use. Found simply in possession, or using it, an offender can face up to 10 years in prison, and a fine on top of that. All smoking paraphernalia related to cannabis is illegal, as is owning/managing a place where cannabis is used.

All supply operations are illegal. Trafficking cannabis can incur up to 10 years in prison with a fine. Growing it is also illegal and comes with prison sentences and large fines. Basically, anything a regular person does with cannabis in Zimbabwe, is met with prison sentences and fines.

Zimbabwe lacks a government agency for dealing with structuring drug control. It simply falls under the government and is handled by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, while implementing drug policy is left to the Police Drugs Department.

However…

Zimbabwe has had extreme economic difficulties, much of which stem from land reform issues meant to redistribute land more fairly between black farmers and while farmers whose ancestors were part of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia. Of course, the result in ousting white farmers meant a drop in the country’s main crop outputs: cotton, tobacco, coffee, and wheat, which contributed strongly to the economic downturn. Tobacco on its own has been facing more and more regulation issues throughout the world, and has seen declining sales. The government had been on the lookout for alternate forms of industry for the country as a whole.

Africa’s Green Rush and the Mad Dash to Update Cannabis Regulation

In 2018, the government of Zimbabwe decided that even though it would retain its harsh cannabis measures for its own citizens, that it would legalize the cultivation of cannabis for research and medicinal purposes. This was followed up a year later with an amendment that legalized cultivating industrial hemp. Since nothing seems to have been said about establishing a medical program for citizens, the change in regulation for medical cannabis seems as of yet to be for commercial purposes only.

What’s needed grow cannabis in Zimbabwe?

In order to establish a grow operation in Zimbabwe, a person or company, has to apply to the government for a license, provide a plan for their cultivation site that complies with the country’s regulations, pay a $40K+ licensing fee, be prepared to pay an extra $15K a year as a tacked on annual fee, and another $5K if the project requires a research fee.

Licenses are given for a five-year term and can be renewed at the rate of $20K for the standard licensing fee, and $2,500 to renew the research part. These fees, are, of course, on top of whatever costs there are to perform business functions.

Overall, it’s not a cheap endeavor, just from the licensing perspective, and not one that will likely be utilized by many residents of the country itself. Smaller fees would have enabled the citizens of Zimbabwe to use this new legalization for their own benefit, while keeping them higher is an invitation to investors outside of Africa.

What about CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the cannabis cannabinoid more recently making medical headlines as an antidote to many different illnesses. Unlike it’s counterpart THC, it doesn’t come with any psychoactive properties making it preferable to the whole plant for dealing with a variety of medical issues. Many countries have legally separated CBD from the rest of the plant in order for CBD products to be sold without being held to the same regulation standards as the plant with THC. In Zimbabwe, CBD is not separated from the rest of the plant and its sale, use, and possession are all illegal.

With the change in laws in 2018, cannabis can now be cultivated for medicinal use, CBD can be produced, and it can all be exported to other countries, but nothing about this changes the laws of its use in Zimbabwe.

South African Government Declassifies CBD From Dangerous to Medicinal

What is happening so far…

The first license to be granted for medicinal marijuana cultivation was to Precision Cannabis Therapeutics Zimbabwe, which went for $46,000 in early 2019. As per CEO Nathan Emery’s LinkedIn page, his company “…aims to be the innovator in the cannabis terpene market; from contract growing for specific clients at the most competitive wholesale price point to true innovation in the extraction of terpenes.” He goes on to encourage anyone interested in cannabis derived terpenes to contact him.

The first hemp project to go into the works started one month after commercial cultivation was legalized, and is taking place on the grounds of a prison in Harare. The Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust partnered with International company NSK Holdings, along with Portuguese company Symtomax which is providing farm support. As of December, 2019, the crop was growing ahead of schedule due – it’s believed – to the more hospitable growing climate in Zimbabwe as compared to Europe where the seeds were bred. Though this is considered a research mission, the shorter growing time is a signal that Zimbabwe is indeed a prime location for large scale industrial grow operations.

In yet another venture, British company Eco Equity has partnered with DutchGreenhouses (a Dutch company), and Delta Tetra from Australia to build a facility for medicinal cannabis production in Marondera. While it’s unclear if the original plans were kept due to the Coronavirus incident, the original idea had been to have a greenhouse by the end of the first quarter of this year, with products being exported by the third quarter.

The quickness of the proposed plan shows the hunger to get into the market as quickly as possible. Eco Equity jumped in swiftly with the goal of being the biggest exporter to regulated markets like Europe, the US, and Canada (with sights set on all global markets). With this project, Eco Equity has 2000 hectares of land meant for cultivation and production. The company is taking GMP (good manufacturing practices) very seriously with teams of workers to make sure the site is ready and up to standard. All products produced in the facility will be strictly for export only.

Conclusion

In light of the Coronavirus situation, progress in the Zimbabwe legal cannabis market might have slowed down a bit temporarily. Luckily, the one thing about cannabis is that it never goes out of style, so Coronavirus or not, things will likely be back on track soon enough. As licenses get passed out over the next year or so, it can be expected that many more legal cannabis operations will be sprouting up all over Zimbabwe, showcasing the newest technologies associated with medical marijuana, and hemp production.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, come back frequently and make sure to subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter for all the latest stories in the world of medical/legal cannabis.

The post $40k+ Will Buy You a License to Grow Cannabis in Zimbabwe appeared first on CBD Testers.

Mexico Still Waiting on Its Promised Cannabis Legalization

The Coronavirus has caused much damage to local economies and businesses, as well as triggering the postponement of events of all kinds, from entertainment to business-oriented to political. Such is the case with Mexico, whose government is once again pushing back its promised legislation to govern the legal use of recreational cannabis.

Much like most of the world, cannabis was illegalized in Mexico in the early 1900’s and stayed that way until 2009. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized a range of drugs including cannabis, instituting personal use laws instead. In the case of cannabis, an individual can possess up to five grams, and above this amount can incur prison time.

Other restrictions include where the marijuana is used, and where it’s not – including close to places like schools. The law also states that if the amount is below five grams, that law enforcement needs to see evidence that it is only for the person in question and that it will be used immediately (however that is done).

All sale and supply activities are illegal in Mexico. According to Mexico’s Federal Criminal Code, supplying drugs can lead to 10-25 years in prison. To say that Mexico has had some problems in the past with powerful and hard-to-control cartel-led drug trafficking, is a vast understatement. Past strategies to get a handle on it, like taking out high-up cartel members, resulted in large death tolls and overall violence. The 2009 decriminalization was part of an attempt to curb trafficking, and trafficking-related crime and violence, by attempting different means.

In terms of growing marijuana, updates to the Federal Criminal Code have essentially decriminalized growing for personal consumption, at least for the first time a person is found doing it. Other instances can still incur prison sentences, but overall the amount of time given has been drastically reduced from what it was in the past.

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What about medicinal & CBD?

As of 2017, CBD – or cannabidiol – is legal for medicinal use, but with a 1% THC cap in order to be legal. Medications and products with a higher level of THC must be sold with a prescription only.

In June of 2017, a bill passed unanimously through the Mexican Senate and Lower House of Congress. According to the new law, the Ministry of Health was tasked with setting up a regulatory system for the use of medical cannabis.

2015 ruling makes things interesting

Much of the stuff just stated is likely to change soon. And it’s all because of what started with a 2015 court ruling. In November of that year, a ruling was made on a case concerning four individuals – all members of The Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Self-Consumption – who won the ability to have, grow, and transport cannabis. The Supreme Court made the statement that individuals should have the right to grow marijuana for personal use. This didn’t mean an immediate ending to the existing laws, of course, but created a bit of a confusion that led to 2018.

In October of 2018 the Mexican Supreme Court made a couple rulings that changed everything. Both cases had to do with the recreational use of cannabis by an adult, and in both cases the ruling was that a person must be allowed to use, possess, and grow cannabis for recreational purposes. The reason they must be allowed, argued the court in its ruling, is that as personally developed human beings (the right to personal development is a given freedom of the Mexican constitution), people must be able to choose their own recreational activities, and that the government has no right to interfere with this.

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It went on to say that whatever psychoactive effects cannabis has, those are not good enough justification for a complete prohibition of its use. The ruling made clear that this freedom was not absolute and without boundaries, and would still be subject to regulation.

These two rulings were actually the last of five Supreme Court rulings between 2015-2018, and in the Mexican legislative/judicial system, five is the lucky number. According to Mexican law, jurisprudence is established when there are five consecutive supreme court rulings on a specific point, all of which are consistent on that point. When this happens, the ruling becomes binding for lower courts, and the legislative arm of government must then act accordingly in order not to be in opposition to the courts.

What does it mean?

The five Supreme Court decisions didn’t technically legalize marijuana. They made it so that using it, having it, and growing it, is allowed by court. But it doesn’t mean that a person caught breaking the still-existent laws doesn’t have to go through the court system and plead their case. In order for it to be actually legal and not require this, an official law must be established by Congress.

So, in a way it creates a contradiction, even if just a temporary one. The courts can’t very easily rule that a person can’t have, use, or grow recreational cannabis, yet there isn’t actually a law permitting it. Since a contradiction like this can’t exist, the government must update laws to reflect the new change.

Upon the ruling, a need was created for a system to regulate this now non-prohibited industry, and this put the burden on Mexico’s Congress to come up with a structure for recreational cannabis regulation. In order to comply with the ruling, Congress initially had until October of 2019 to establish a law.

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Multiple postponements

Putting together the legal framework to regulate new markets is a big task, and often takes years from the time a law passes to when it can effectively be used. In the case of Mexico and cannabis legalization, the change in status came through court rulings, not through draft legislation, making Congress have to catch up to something it hadn’t even started. Even so, it certainly wasn’t done in the original amount of time given.

At the end of 2019, the Supreme Court allowed for a six-month extension for Congress to create and approve legislation to govern legal cannabis. That gave the government until the end of April. Apparently, that was still not enough time, and while different approaches have been introduced, ultimately negotiations have not been fruitful.

When the April deadline came up a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court once again instituted a postponement for the government, giving it until December 15, another 7.5 months. This time around, the Coronavirus has been fingered as the culprit, causing yet another delay in general life functioning.

What will it look like?

Although there has been enough debate to cause this much delay, lawmakers are getting closer to a uniform decision, with the most recent revision of the bill gaining more approval. While its still very much in draft stages, this new structure has the following provisions:

  • Anyone 18+ can have and grow marijuana for personal use.
  • Individuals can grow up to 20 plants (or the equivalent max of 480 grams per year/yield).
  • Individuals can have up to 28 grams legally, but decriminalized up to 200 grams.
  • There is a 12% tax on marijuana products with a portion going to substance abuse treatment.
  • Smoking in public is legal so long as the area isn’t a designated smoke-free zone.
  • The market is regulated by the Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis.
  • Hemp and CBD products are not subject to the same regulation as THC products.

Of course, it’s not officially hammered out yet, and some lawmakers still have concerns over things like protection for consumers, and making sure domestic farmers are not cut out. This is an important point since more and more countries that have legalized commercially, are opting to take foreign investments over empowering their own people.  

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Conclusion

…And so for now, the cannabis legalization limbo continues in Mexico. If no further delays are made, Mexicans can expect to be freely smoking by year’s end. If things break down again and there are more delays, at the very least, they’ll still know that the new law is on its way.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Stop by frequently and make sure to subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter to stay up-to-date on today’s biggest stories.

The post Mexico Still Waiting on Its Promised Cannabis Legalization appeared first on CBD Testers.

Let the People Choose: Will Kiwis Vote to Legalize Recreational Cannabis?

New Zealand has an interesting election coming up this September. Sure, they’ll vote for who they want in government, but they’ll also vote on the 2020 New Zealand Cannabis Referendum for whether they want to legalize recreational cannabis.

In early December, 2019, a Cannabis Legislation and Control draft bill was released. Earlier this month, an outline came out for the public describing what recreational cannabis legalization in New Zealand might look like as per that bill. Here are some of the proposed provisions that New Zealanders will be considering when voting September 19th:

  • Only adults age 20 and older can buy and use cannabis.
  • Providing cannabis to anyone under 20 is a criminal offense.
  • THC levels are set at 15%
  • Advertising cannabis is banned
  • Marketing cannabis products is highly restricted, with a mandatory stress put on the ideas of encouraging health, and minimizing harm.
  • Cannabis can only be used in private, or in permitted areas.
  • Cannabis cannot be bought online – only in stores.
  • Edibles and concentrates can be sold but are regulated.
  • Concentrates must be bought; however individuals can make edibles at home.
  • An individual can grow two plants, and a family can have up to four.
  • Social sharing is permitted, meaning people of appropriate age can use cannabis together.
  • Only government licensed wholesalers are permitted to import cannabis or cannabis products.
  • The max allotment of cannabis per day, per person, is 14 grams.

This new bill comes on the heels of updates to the medical marijuana program in New Zealand. However, Ross Bell, the executive director of the Drug Foundation made the very astute point, “Let’s say the medical cannabis scheme is too strict, there are fewer products and the products that are available are very pricey – then the referendum becomes important”.

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Let’s back up and check out medical cannabis in New Zealand

In December of 2017, the New Zealand government proposed a medical cannabis bill, mainly geared toward the terminally ill. However, it wasn’t until a year later that it officially passed parliament as The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill. At first it was meant to be for those who were terminal within a year. But was extended to include all who required palliative care.

The new medical cannabis updates

There were many issues with the original system, mainly with medicine costs and general accessibility. As of April 2020, this was all updated. The Ministry of Health’s Medicinal Cannabis Agency, premiered a new Medical Cannabis Scheme meant to improve both quality of products, and access to them. This was done in conjunction with the updating of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2019, which legalized the commercial cultivation of cannabis along with manufacturing and distribution.

Right now, medical costs are high for cannabis medications in New Zealand as they have to be imported from other countries. The new regulations were made to help shift the cultivation and production burden back to domestic soil in an effort to bring down costs. Applications for cultivation licenses have already begun to be submitted to the Medicinal Cannabis Agency with approvals expected by mid-year.

Prescriptions are still necessary from a doctor, and no smokable products are sold (only vaping!), along with other products like tablets, and tinctures or oils. Another useful update is in how medications are prescribed. Prior to April of this year, doctors had to get an approval from the Ministry of Health for the prescription of certain products, and each case had to be evaluated separately. Under the new update, these requirements are no longer necessary making prescribing cannabis medications much easier.

Without legalization, what are New Zealand’s other cannabis laws?

In this article we jumped right into the issue at hand, an upcoming election where the people of New Zealand will vote for themselves on whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana under the provisions listed above. Then we backtracked to see where the country stood on medicinal cannabis. But what are the standard laws without this recent possibility for legalization?

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Cannabis laws in New Zealand

Cannabis use in New Zealand is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. According to these laws, any amount of possessed cannabis is a crime. Cannabis is a class B drug which correlates to ‘high risk of harm’. Because of this, and unlike other lesser classes of drugs, a custodial sentence of some kind is required in court.

Being caught using or possessing weed can lead to a 3-month prison sentence, a fine of up to $500, or in the case of the luckiest offenders, both! Luckily, law enforcement officials tend to turn a blind eye to most personal use cases where only small amounts are involved. Prison sentences are sometimes waived in circumstances where it can be proved that the individual in question only had the cannabis in order to keep another person from committing a crime with it, or if it can be shown that the person in question had it only to pass onto law enforcement.

Supply crimes are illegal, however, under the Misuse of Drugs Act they are not differentiated from use or possession crimes, and incur the same penalties. This goes for more minor selling and supplying activities, though. Selling, supplying, or trafficking on a large scale are considered much bigger infractions, and can incur up to seven years in prison particularly for importing or exporting of a drug.

Unless the referendum changes it, the current law states that personal, or any non-governmental, cultivation is illegal as cannabis is a ‘prohibited plant’, and comes with a prison sentence of up to seven years for convicted offenders.

What about CBD and hemp?

At first, CBD was only available per prescription under the medical cannabis program. An update in 2018 changed the legal status of the cannabinoid, so that it is no longer listed as a controlled substance, or subject to that regulation. Now it can be purchased without a prescription, so long as the THC levels don’t exceed .2% (much like in the EU).

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Hemp is legal to grow in New Zealand with the correct licensing, which can be gotten from the government. Technically, hemp is considered a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, but it is legal to cultivate it so long as the max THC level is below .35%. As per the law, the hemp can never be advertised as having psychoactive properties, and it can’t be given to anyone unauthorized. Furthermore, only very specific strains can be cultivated, and these are decided on by the Director General of Health.

Licenses typically last for a year, and cost in the neighborhood of $511 (incredibly low when compared to countries like Lesotho or Zambia). There is also a research and breeding license offered for $153 more – still tiny potatoes compared to licensing deals offered by other countries who have also legalized for commercial use.

A bit about referendums

Referendums are actually a big part of New Zealand’s democratic system and they essentially ask the public to vote on a question. There are two types of referendums, citizens-initiated, and government-initiated. Citizens-initiated referendums can be called by any individual of the public, but are always non-binding, meaning they have no legal effect. The government can completely ignore them if it pleases. Government-initiated referendums are binding if a law has already been passed in parliament, and the public’s choice sets the official outcome. If they are meant to test public opinion, they are non-binding and hold no legal consequence.

This referendum comes with some complications, as pot legalizations tend to, mainly in the form of international and foreign policy concerns due to New Zealand being a part of the United Nations Drug Conventions. Certain issues have been delayed till after the bill passes, if it does.

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And it comes with one more issue…it’s not technically binding. No bill to enact the legal changes was ever passed by parliament, just draft legislation. And while the draft legislation has been supported by all parties, this does not qualify as legally binding for a referendum. Plus – and this is almost funny – this non-binding referendum is taking place on the very same day that government elections are taking place, meaning that it’s not impossible to have a completely different government makeup by the end of it, and possibly one not as quick to pass the draft legislation into real legislation. The general impression given is that the result of the referendum will hold regardless, but the real answer to this will only be known after September 19th.

Conclusion

Putting it to the people is always interesting, and realistically, one of the fairest ways of passing laws. In this case there’s the question of whether the referendum will pass, and the question of whether the government will choose to uphold it if it does. Either way, it says a lot about New Zealand sentiment toward cannabis in general that this referendum is happening at all, and even if it fails now, something should be passing soon enough.

Food for thought: On the same day as the election and the cannabis referendum, New Zealanders will also vote on one other referendum, the End of Life Choice Bill which would allow for euthanasia legally.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, we’re happy to keep you updated on everything in the world of legal cannabis. Stop by frequently and make sure to subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter to keep up-to-date.

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How Green Is Ireland When It Comes to Cannabis Regulation?

With the passing of a five-year medical marijuana pilot program, and increased industrial cultivation of hemp, Ireland is working to reclaim its title as the greenest country, but it’s definitely taking its time.

Cannabis has been around for quite some time, factoring into folklore, as well as being a part of medical traditions in pretty much every place it grows. The inception of Western medicine had a profound effect on the use of native traditions, and generally overlooked plant medicine. By a certain point, simply healing oneself with the plant became an actual felony charge.

While it seems that cannabis just recently entered into Western medicine, this isn’t true at all. Not only was it a component of a huge percentage of all medications in the US before it was illegalized in the early-mid 1900’s, but it was being studied, talked about, and used in the 1800’s as well, and one of the reasons for this was an Irishman by the name of Dr. William O’Shaughnessy.

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Dr. William O’Shaughnessy

Born in 1808 in Limerick, Country Clare, Ireland, O’Shaunghnessy earned his MD from the University of Edinburgh in 1829. He had a varied career that spanned work with electric telegraphy, chemistry and biology for which he holds the designation of being the founder of IV replacement therapy, and pharmacology where he presented cannabis indica to the Western world. In 1842 he published Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia with 25 pages dedicated to the use of cannabis in medicine, which is considered one of the most comprehensive research writings on the topic for that time period.

He joined the British East India Company in 1833 starting many years spent in India, and examining their local traditions. It was here that he started testing the folklore of cannabis, eventually promoting it for use with digestive issues, as a sedative, in dealing with pain, acute rheumatism, and other medical issues.

William O’Shaughnessy died in 1889 and wasn’t around to see the full illegalization of the plant he knew could be used for so much good. In fact, for all he contributed to the understanding of cannabis in Western medicine, the country he came from managed to completely ignore it, only just instituting its first official medicinal marijuana program in the last year (over 100 years after O’Shaughnessy’s death). I think O’Shaughnessy would have cried in his Murphys Irish Stout if he knew how many steps back were taken in the understanding of cannabis since his time, and the difficulty in getting even one step forward.

Cannabis in Ireland

In Ireland, the Misuse of Drugs Act (1977-2017) governs the legal framework for dealing with illicit substances. Drugs are split into schedules with a differentiation made between simple possession (for oneself) and possession with intent to sell. Penalties for simple possession are determined by the drug in question as well as the type of proceeding: summary conviction which is handed down by a judge, or conviction on indictment which is a trial case before a jury.

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The penalty for being caught with cannabis or cannabis resins is €1000 – 2540 for the first two times. After that, a fine might be given, but an offender could also end up looking at 1–3 years of jail time (summary convictions receive less than indictments). An amendment was made in 2011 – the Criminal Justice Community Service Act, which works to promote community service orders over jail time in instances of sentences of up to one year.

Supplying cannabis in any way is illegal. The sale of any illegal drug in Ireland can garner a fine of up to €2,500, and it might come with a year long prison sentence to boot. When dealing with very large quantities, life sentences are not off the table, and there’s an automatic minimum 10-year sentence for selling drugs (including cannabis) with a market value of €13,000+. While this provision has been protested, the law has yet to be changed.

Cultivation is also illegal in Ireland, with the small and bewildering caveat that cannabis seeds are openly sold and legal to have, so long as they are never cultivated. They can be bought in stores, sent in the mail, ordered online…, but they can’t be grown. It’s a little bit strange, no doubt, but every part of the world seems to have its own peculiarities when it comes to cannabis regulation, and apparently Ireland is no different. Growing equipment is also illegal for sale in the country, as per the illegality of growing.

And now back to medical cannabis…

Considering that William O’Shaughnessy set the mark in the first half of the 1800’s by exploring the use of cannabis for a range of medical ailments, it’s a little sad that it took till 2019 for Ireland to so much as establish any kind of medical program. But that’s what happened, and in June of 2019, Ireland launched a five-year program allowing limited access to medical cannabis. It is only meant for the most severe of cases, and is generally associated with the treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and nausea from chemotherapy treatments.

Cannabis products can be obtained at local pharmacies, and patients with qualifying medical conditions who make the program, have the cost covered under Ireland’s Health Service Executive. In all, it’s not the most comprehensive medical cannabis program out there, and I can only imagine that O’Shaughnessy would be shaking his head, while still glad for any move in the right direction.

What about hemp and CBD?

Much like in many places, hemp was banned in Ireland for quite some time, ending in 1995. This came mainly in understanding the possible economic value of hemp. Licenses for cultivation are handed out by the Department of Health and Children, and must be renewed yearly, cultivation must take place away from public roads, and only plants containing the EU regimented max of .2% THC can be grown.

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The hemp industry had not been taking off very fast, but recent developments in the overall cannabis industry, like the use of CBD, have increased demand. It was reported last year by the Irish Mirror that requests for cultivation licences to grow hemp had increased to 77 applications by July of 2019, up from 24, and seven from the two previous years. The amount grown is expected to increase fivefold to 5,000 acres from 1,000.

CBD, or cannabidiol, the more recently popular cannabinoid of the cannabis plant that doesn’t have psychoactive properties, but which has increasingly shown up in medical research as a possible antidote to a variety of medical illnesses, is legal in Ireland so long as the .2% max THC limit is upheld. However, as a medicine, it can’t actually be prescribed by a doctor because it isn’t included as a medical product under the (HPRA) Health Products Regulatory Authority.

Why Ireland could easily speed up track

One thing to remember about Ireland is that it’s a main home to the massive pharma world. In the 1950’s, in order to combat economic sluggishness, Ireland opened up its economy to global markets while introducing a low corporate tax rate of 12.5%. This did well in enticing pharmaceutical companies to set up shop there. Ireland went a step further with it, lowering the tax rate down to 6.25% for company revenue resulting from intellectual property or patents, making the deal even sweeter for big corporations.

In fact, the pharma sector has received capital investments of €1 billion per year, making it second only to Switzerland in the EU, in terms of capital investments. Not only did Ireland make it nice and comfy for these companies, but it also retooled its workforce to do higher level production work in the pharma/medical field, that way providing a tax haven of sorts, as well as skilled workers.

With cannabis companies sprouting out of the ground like blades of grass, and looking more and more like standard pharmaceutical companies, it’s not that much of a stretch to see Ireland becoming a hub for medical cannabis production facilities as well. Interest definitely seems to be building as large cannabis pharma companies like Tilray, which has its products approved for use in the Irish markets, build divisions in Ireland – in this case Tilray Ventures.

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Then there’s Cronos Group, a $5.4 billion recreational cannabis company which has also started setting up shop in Ireland, despite current laws making it impossible to do anything just yet. But that sure says a lot about how Cronos sees the future of Irish recreational cannabis law. Locally, a growing amount of companies and production facilities are also popping up regarding hemp and CBD cultivation and manufacturing. Like, GreenLight Medicines, an Irish cannabis company that sold out 25% of its stake to SOL Global, a Canadian investment group in 2019, and Greenheart CBD, an Irish company locally growing CBD, whose owners hope to see the whole production market from seeds to finished products take place right in Ireland.

Even so, in order to really jump into the commercial production ring, Ireland will have to legalize the whole plant for commercial use, and allow the cultivation for medicinal cannabis (and likely recreational too) – THC and all. Perhaps this desire to keep up with what they started in the pharma world will be what helps push Irish legislation towards legalization in the end.

Conclusion

If the greenness of the country indicated the level of cannabis growth and acceptance, Ireland would be on top. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, and Ireland has been rather strict in its weed laws, only recently making minor loosening adjustments in the way of a pilot medical cannabis program.

For a country like Ireland that already found a way to be enticing to medically oriented companies, the chance of legalization might be way stronger when looking at business models, than personal health or rights issues. In the end, if Ireland wants the money, its going to have to get that much looser, or it’ll face watching some other location become the new hub for pharma weed production.

Thanks for stopping by CBDtesters.co, your home for all things legal-weed related. Check back soon and make sure to subscribe to the CBD Testers Weekly Newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything in the world of CBD, hemp, and cannabis in general.

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Italian Supreme Court Verifies Personal Cannabis Cultivation Is Legal

In an under-cover-of-darkness decision, the Italian Supreme Court made a clarification about Italian cannabis laws that verified it was not illegal for residents to grow their own cannabis for personal use. But how has this decision changed things?

On December 19th the Italian Court of Cassation, called on by the Supreme Court to interpret a long argued over provision of the Consolidated Law – the legal framework for dealing with drugs in Italy, gave a final interpretation of the law that stated personal cultivation of cannabis in small amounts is legal.

More interesting than this fact, is the fact that this decision, which should have made front page news, didn’t get reported on for an entire week. Why? Well, it could be because of the impending political storm that blew up once the news was finally released.

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Italian drug laws

In Italy, though drug use is not specifically mentioned, the possession of it is, with personal possession being punishable by small administrative penalties like a suspended driver’s license, or passport. Since 2014, the law has provided for a distinction between harder drugs (schedules 1 & 3), and softer drugs (schedules 2 & 4). Personal possession of softer drugs incurs administrative punishments of 1-3 months, while for harder drugs the penalty is 2-12 months. First time offenders are rarely subjected to these sanctions. There is no set limit for what counts as personal possession vs drug trafficking, and each case is at the discretion of law enforcement officials.

Medical marijuana was legalized in 2013, but requires a doctor’s prescription.

Cultivation, sale, and transport of drugs is also punishable according to the same system of harder (or more dangerous) drugs vs softer (or less dangerous) drugs. Supply-related crimes for harder drugs can lead to 8-22 years in prison, while for softer drugs (like cannabis) it’s 2-6. For minor offences related to either drug grouping, imprisonment can be 6 months–4 years.

The Consolidated Law of 1990 illegalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis, however, over the years as different legal cases have come through the system generating contrary decisions on the topic, it was finally brought before the Supreme Court – and subsequently the Court of Cassation – to make a designation about the meaning of the law. The case that forced the decision was based on an offender who was caught with two cannabis plants. As stated, the court returned a decision that in the case of the cultivation of small amounts of narcotic drugs for personal use, it is, in fact, not illegal.

Why under-cover-of-darkness?

The news of the ruling was released in a very peculiar way in that it wasn’t released at all right away. The news didn’t break until after Christmas, and was not reported on until then. When the story broke on the 26th – a full week after the decision – it started quite a storm with advocates pushing for legalization, and opposers lining up to find ways to tear it down.

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Opposition to the clarification could be felt by Maurio Gasparri, a Forza Italia senator who vowed that if the center-right coalition with the League gained power, that the first order of business would be repealing the verdict. Perhaps delaying the verdict in the news was meant to push off this whole debacle so that the country could have a nice Christmas before going at each other’s throats again.

Cannabis light

A 2016 update to the Consolidated Law for the cultivation and regulation of hemp, meant to rev up the once abundant hemp growing industry, had another interesting effect, the increased smoking of low-THC cannabis. According to Italian law, via the EU, hemp strains and cannabis products can contain up to .2% THC and still be legal. This applies to growing hemp plants as well as buying products like CBD oil. The update to the law started a whole new fad in Italy called ‘cannabis light’.

Cannabis light is hemp. According to the legal update, the law does not actually permit consumption, with the outward idea pushed that it can be bought as a collector’s item. This is really just a joke though, and smoking these low-THC strains has taken off since the law, as of 2016, permits the legal sale of it in stores. This, of course, has drawn the ire of politicians like Gasparri and now-former Minister of the Interior, and current senator, Matteo Salvini who has sworn to have cannabis light taken out of stores.

A new cannabis light?

Right around the same time that the Supreme Court made its clarification on the personal cultivation of small amounts of narcotic drugs, the Italian parliament voted to legalize a slightly stronger form of cannabis light that contains up to .5% THC, even despite Salvini putting up quite a fight against it. This broke with the EU standard of plants and products not containing more than .2% THC, though Italy isn’t the first EU or EU-related country to do so.

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The amendment to the 2020 budget which housed this legalization provision was offered by Five Star Movement senator Matteo Mantero. However, only days later it was ruled inadmissible by Elisabetta Casellati, the president of the senate, and member of center-right party Forza which is allied with outspoken cannabis illegalization advocate Salvini and his party, the League.

The Five Star Movement currently heads parliament in a coalition with the center-left Democratic party, a union that has done much to cut out Salvini, and which raises the question of whether this last minute change on ‘technical grounds’ by Casellati was possibly an orchestrated ambush on a law that Salvini never wanted passed.

The Five Star Movement

The Five Star Movement is an interesting party. An anti-establishment party started in 2009 as an opposition to standard politics, beginning at a time when the Eurozone was experiencing a financial crisis, it definitely seems to have struck a chord with the Italian people. It wasn’t until 2013 that the party first showed up publicly in the Italian national elections, winning second place.

By 2018 the party won the most seats, but at 222, not enough to win a legal majority. The Five Star Movement has been considered many things, like: populist, environmentalist, anti-establishment, anti-globalist, Eurosceptic, and pro-cannabis legalization. As the movement has now gained a large amount of popularity, and holds a majority of seats in parliament (even if not an outright majority), the ability to push cannabis legalization efforts further is more likely.

Into the future

It should always be remembered, however, that political situations can quickly change. Earlier this year, Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio resigned due to tensions in the party, and was replaced by Vito Crimi, with expected supporter numbers dropping by half. Since midway through December, the party has lost an education minister, and six senators for various reasons.

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These kinds of party shake-ups don’t convey the idea of peace and calm within a party, and the tensions therein have already gotten to a boiling point. While the Five Star Movement is a great bet for cannabis legalization in Italy, it’s quite possible that the whole thing will fall apart before getting to the finish line.

Conclusion

As of right now, the Supreme Court clarification stands and Italians are free to grow their own weed for personal use. Whether opposition parties will find a way to reverse it remains to be seen, as does any future legalization of higher THC flowers and products.

It’s hard to say what will happen in the wake of the Coronavirus, what with the current state Italy is in, trying to re-balance itself and its economy. And while weed legalization might not be the primary topic right now for the country, it’s sure to come up again soon enough.

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Argentina Legalized Medical Cannabis in 2017 – and Gives It Away for Free

When talking about cannabis legalization, countries like Canada, the US, and Spain are thought to be the most progressive. However, many of the firsts of marijuana legalization happened not in these places, but in South America. One of the interesting stories out of this region, is Argentina.

Cannabis is not legal recreationally in Argentina, but as of 2009 a supreme court ruling decriminalized personal use of small amounts, though no specific amount was set in the ruling. Called the Arriola decision (based on a case involving the arrest of five individuals for possessing small amounts of cannabis), the court determined that so long as it is meant for personal use only, cannot affect or hurt anyone else, and does not pose any harm or danger, that drugs in small quantities are decriminalized.

According to the court “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state.” The idea was to use time and resources to go after bigger cases, while letting small-time users complete programs, or get treatment of some kind. There is gray area left in not setting an amount for personal use – making it up to police officers or judges to use their discretion.

Trafficking of cannabis is illegal in Argentina and can incur prison sentences of 4-15 years. Commercial growing is illegal as well for residents.

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What about medical?

When it comes to medical cannabis, it gets a bit more interesting. On March 29th, 2017, the Argentinian senate approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis. According to the bill, if patients want use of treatments with cannabis, they must register with the national program, administered by the Ministry of Health. The government went a step further even, and guaranteed free access to approved patients, including children.

This new law still restricts personal cultivation, even for medical use. The following government agencies are responsible for giving authorizations to companies for cultivation, handling, distribution, and importing: The National Council for Scientific and Technical Research, and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology. As of the passing of the law, cultivation for personal use still carries a sentence of up to two years.

Mama Cultiva, and how they helped bring change

Change can often move slow, and sometimes a little push is required. This is where Mama Cultiva came in. Mama Cultiva is a grassroots organization of South American mothers, most of whom have extremely sick children – or at least, that’s how it started. The goal of the organization is for relaxing legal provisions for using cannabis as a medicine, both in the ability to take the medicine, as well as the ability to grow the plant.

The organization lobbies for change in medical cannabis and personal use laws, throughout Latin America, and their contributions can be seen in places like Argentina where their influence helped change the legislation to open up a medical program.

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Mama Cultiva operates as a non-profit organization and helps people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, autism, etc, who have not benefitted from Western medicine, and are looking for an alternative in the form of cannabis treatment. Mama Cultiva also functions as an educational platform with classes, seminars and workshops offered by local chapters. Over time, Mama Cultiva has gained a wide following, and become an organization with a lot of pull. And one that keeps reminding of the goal when things are moving too slow.

In fact, when medical marijuana was legalized in Argentina, Mama Cultiva was angry that it didn’t include provisions for personal cultivation, something they’re working to change. “This law is the beginning…we achieved something important because we raised awareness and then implemented legislation for the benefit of everyone…however, it is clear that individual cultivation is very important, we need to keep working” said Mama Cultiva Argentina chapter president Valeria Salech.

Along with Mama Cultiva, a group of 136 families of sick children petitioned the government for use of cannabis to treat their children who were suffering from a range of disorders.

Where does the free part come in?

As part of the medical cannabis authorization, law 27,350 sets the creation of the National Program for the Study and Research of the Medicinal Use of the Cannabis Plant and its By-products and Non-conventional Treatments, which is a long way of calling it their medical ‘program’. One of the basic provisions of this program is to provide access to medicinal cannabis oils to those enrolled in the program (which is the only way to legally receive medical cannabis at this point).

The law states that those who require medicine from cannabis, can receive it free of charge. This might’ve been due to the lack of a structured, regulated system, but regardless of why, the program is set up to offer medical cannabis oil for free to patients who qualify. It’s also set up as a research initiative, with the free cannabis oil being given out as part of the research initiative.

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As of the summer of 2018, there was still no actual program set up, but plans were being made for the first big medical cannabis cultivation to be done in Argentina (legally), taking place in the Northeastern municipality of Jujuy. The oils from this grow will go to hospitals for clinical trials throughout Argentina, and they will all be free of charge.

Along with the ‘program’, the new law also comes with the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime which allows for products that contain cannabis by-products to be imported for medicinal treatments. This is for patients with epilepsy, or other medical conditions with scientific research backing a cannabis-related treatment. In these cases only a licensed physician with a neurology specialization can import it. It’s regulated under MoH Regulation No. 133.19. For these cases, I found no statement about whether these medications would also be free, and they could quite possibly come with a price tag.

Where does CBD fit in?

When cannabis was decriminalized in Argentina in 2009, this included the cannabis cannabinoid CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is not psychoactive, unlike its more well-known counterpart THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. Even so, as a part of the cannabis plant, it is often regulated with the rest of the plant, despite its huge array of possible medical benefits, and its lack of being a psychoactive agent. In 2009 it became decriminalized for personal use, and in 2017, when medical marijuana was legalized, CBD was legalized in that capacity as well. It is not legal for recreational use, and does require a prescription, or being a part of the ‘program’.

Conclusion

Promising free medicinal marijuana is quite a big move, although in Argentina, it is the most dire of health cases that qualify in the first place. Perhaps if the medical marijuana program expands to include more illnesses (and more patients), new structural laws will have to be made to govern a payment system if it cannot be guaranteed anymore by the government.

While I wonder if it would still be free if there had already been a legal and research framework to work with, (thereby bypassing the need for years of study and configuring structural outlines), there does seem to be a commitment to helping the people, and making sure that especially in the most extreme of cases, that people can get what they need regardless of whether they have money to pay or not.

In light of the many quick regulatory changes that have been made in the last few years in South America and Africa, many of which have been done in order to grow and sell cannabis commercially while maintaining it as an illegal drug (even for medical use!) within the countries of mention, it’s nice to see a program aimed at really doing good for citizens. It certainly says very good things for Argentina that they see the importance of getting people their medicine for free. Let’s hope it stays this way.

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