Biden Signs Infrastructure Bill, Includes Cannabis Study Improvements

President Joe Biden signed an infrastructure bill Monday, which includes the opportunity to allow researchers to use commercial cannabis in their studies, rather than government-grown cannabis.

President Biden signed a major bill on November 15 that will go down in history as a major infrastructure overhaul. HR-3648, also called The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is a $1.2 trillion, bipartisan package aimed at supporting essential services. 

“The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results,” Biden said. “We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people. We see in ways that really matter each and every day, to each person out there. And we’re taking a monumental step forward to build back better as a nation.” The bill passed in the Senate in August 2021, followed by the House earlier this month.

The bill will provide numerous federal investments that will go toward repairing roads, bridges and airport runways and terminals, and replacing school buses with low-emission versions, among other transit-related improvements. It also donates funds to increase access to reliable high-speed internet services, updating power grids and providing drought protection. 

More importantly, it also includes a provision to allow researchers to study cannabis that consumers use every day, rather than the less-than-potent cannabis grown by the government. Biden did not address this provision in his November 15 speech.

The bill mentions a “report on marijuana research” in Sec. 25026. It states that two years from now, Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services must submit this public report that addresses the recommendations for following points: 

  1. Increasing access of cannabis “samples and strains” to researchers to study.
  2. Establishing a “national clearinghouse” that will assist researchers in distributing those cannabis products.
  3. Increase cannabis sample access for researchers who live in states that have not yet legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

Separately, cannabis received a brief mention in Sec. 24102 “Highway Safety Programs” as well. The section notes a requirement for states with legal cannabis to educate drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis, with the hopes of reducing further injury and/or deaths.

It’s not an uncommon fact that government-grown cannabis, which is currently only legally allowed to be produced by the University of Mississippi, is weak in potency. According to a side-by-side comparison of commercial and government-grown cannabis by The Washington Post in 2017, commercial cannabis is thick, chunky and covered in trichomes. A sample of government-grown cannabis was thin, and seemingly made of stems instead of cannabis flower.

The inclusion of cannabis in this bill is brief, but nonetheless important to improving research materials. Many political responses to federal legalization and medical cannabis access have been that there isn’t enough research to prove the effectiveness of cannabis. The infrastructure bill’s required cannabis report, due to be released in 2023 if all goes according to plan, could help pave the way for researchers to improve upon their study materials for more effective results. 

There are a number of other cannabis-related bills currently being proposed. The most recent of which is the States Reform Act, which was introduced by South Carolina Senator Nancy Mace on November 15. 

Mace’s bill would remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances, and would give states the power to establish cannabis reform. “My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality,” Mace said in a statement.

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How Cannabis Might Affect Revision for Exams

We’ve all been there before… The night before an exam. Coffee spilt over a mosaic of post-it notes. Sweat pouring from every part of your body. The feeling of hopelessness, the stress, the panic… but maybe there’s a better way to do this. What if all you need to do is relax? Cannabis and the oils associated with it have long been known to produce calming and relaxing effects that are able to slow that racing mind down a little bit, and provide some clarity.

What if you smoked Cannabis alongside your revision plan? In a recent study by Live Science, it was found that the daily Cannabis usage in students had reached a 30 year high, seeing higher reported usage than cigarettes. The students must know something, so what are the pros and the cons of using Cannabis, or Cannabis Oils as study drugs. In this article, we will review some of the ups and downs of what Cannabis can provide whilst revising for your upcoming midterms, finals or mocks, examining the psychology and research behind Cannabis and CBD’s links to anxiety, focus and memory. 

Cannabis has many varied uses, but can it even help you when taking tests? It’s an interesting topic that certainly warrants further discussion. Remember to subscribe to The Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter where you can find more articles like this one and exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles and other products. Save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10THCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!


CBD and Cannabis 

A quick technical note before we begin. In this article we will be talking about both Cannabis and CBD. CBD, or Cannabidiol is a Cannabis constituent, a cannabinoid compound found in Cannabis plants and now associated with a calming, soothing effect. Cannabis refers to the entire plant, including THC a separate constituent of Cannabis associated with the more psychoactive experience Cannabis provides. When specifically I mention CBD, I mean this separate compound. As we will discover the two chemicals have very different effects when it comes to studying.

How does Cannabis Affect the Brain?

Before we can address the question of how Cannabis may affect revision, we have to understand what’s going on inside your brain when you take Cannabis, or Cannabis oils. Cannabis affects the brain through the endo-cannabinoidal system (eCS) , a complex cell system that operates around the body as well as in the brain. The eCS is linked to numerous functions and processes including many required for revision and studying: memory, sleep, mood and focus. Cannabinoids, the chemicals in Cannabis bind to the eCS and can result in changes to these functions, so it is important to understand in what particular ways these essential functions are affected by Cannabis before using it to help you revise.

Could Cannabis Help with Studying?

Cannabis might not be everyone’s first thought when you think about a study drug, but there may be some potential benefits to using this fantastic plant to help revise. Firstly, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that using Cannabis can be extremely calming in stressful situations, allowing you a moment to breathe during a particularly heavy study session. But what evidence is there that Cannabis can actually influence the way we study? A fascinating pilot study, carried out by Harvard medical school looked at the cognitive functions of medical marijuana smokers. They found that their functions seemed to have improved since smoking the medical marijuana, being able to perform certain mental tasks faster than before.

This is truly astounding and seems to show that perhaps smoking a small, regulated amount of Cannabis may actually have a positive effect on the brain. This study must of course, be taken with a pinch of salt though. It is a very early pilot study, which means it is still in its early days and there will be more longer term studies to follow, but it is still encouraging. Another note on this study is that it was with medical cannabis, which has much lower levels of THC than street bought or Cannabis, or cannabis bought for the purpose of recreation. THC is associated with different effects to cognitive function, described later.  

Sometimes, creativity is what you need when you’re studying hard and that’s just what cannabis can provide. Perhaps you’re struggling with a certain maths problem, or need a new way to think about a boring topic. In fact we know that Cannabis allows us to think with a more united brain, connecting certain ideas and bringing together different thoughts to allow us a new way of thinking about a problem. This could be exactly what you need to get over a mid-revision hump. 

Cannabis is also useful for getting a good nights sleep, an essential part of any revision plan. Without a good sleep, your brain isn’t able to process the information it’s just learnt. In fact, a short nap may even be technically more useful to memory than a cup of coffee, so if smoking a small amount of Cannabis helps you sleep, that might be super important for remembering those study facts.  

CBD and its Effects on Anxiety and Focus.

Perhaps a much more promising avenue for how cannabis may help you revise, comes through one of its compounds CBD. CBD is truly a wonder chemical, associated with many, many medical benefits. It reduces inflammation, can be used for depression to name a few of its uses. Interestingly, for revision purposes there is a growing amount of research linking CBD to the treatment of Anxiety. Anxiety is a mental illness which is associated with symptoms of panic, increased heart rate, sweating and nausea. It is also a mental illness associated with revision.. Seriously.

A comprehensive review of exam related anxiety by the UK government highlighted it as a serious problem, showing that 5 people in a group of 30 will suffer from severe exam anxiety. They even give it a clinical name: Test anxiety, relating to pervasive thoughts of failure. If it is possible that CBD oil can be used to treat this test anxiety, then perhaps it will help to calm students stuck in a revision crisis down and help them revise. A recent review by researchers at the New York School of medicine  found that there was an array of evidence suggesting that CBD oil not only alleviates anxiety, but may even bind to specific receptors in the brain associated with stopping anxiety as well. This is incredible evidence that truly highlights CBD’s super powers and shows how it might be useful for calming those pre-test nerves. 

With reduced levels of anxiety, the brain is allowed to focus. In fact research has suggested that CBD may actually increase an individual’s alertness and focus, although there is some contradictory research. Some scientists argue that CBD actually reduces feelings of tiredness, in stark contrast with THC, which seems to induce sleep. It appears that CBD is linked to the Hypothalamus, a part of the brain which is responsible for feelings of alertness. Whilst this research may be very new and more is needed to support the claim that CBD promotes alertness, it is still an interesting thought and when paired with the reduced anxiety seems to suggest that CBD oils would be an ideal partner for revising.

Some Potential Bad News

Unfortunately it’s not all good news when it comes to Cannabis and studying. There is a growing amount of evidence that some strains of Cannabis can have negative effects on memory, the last thing anyone wants whilst studying for an exam. A paper by Kings College London seemed to show that high levels of THC in Cannabis can lead to problems with Working and Verbal memory. Working memory relates to holding facts in your head whilst thinking of other things and verbal memory is the memory of words, both are rather important for revising.

An even more recent study showed that high THC cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of false memories, or memories that haven’t even happened, again something you want to avoid! However, both of these studies were looking primarily at THC’s effect on memory and not CBD. In fact, the evidence presented above seems to suggest that THC alone is linked to improvements in memory. This is definitely something one should consider when thinking about using Cannabis to help with revision. Cannabis can also set you back financially and if you’re a student, it’s probably something you’re worried about. This is another reason that CBD oils, being better value for money, may be a more promising solution.

My Personal Experiences

I have tried smoking Cannabis to help me revise a couple of times. One time I was learning a script for an upcoming play at university and I must say that it actually helped me massively. I only smoked a small amount with a friend in a break between line learning sessions and when I returned to my room, I was on fire. The Cannabis had calmed me down and I was a line learning machine. I was playing Coriolanus and smashed through three acts in one night. Another time, a very different story. I ended up just falling asleep at my desk over some particularly tricky maths problems. Swings and Roundabouts I suppose.

Conclusion

So, there seems to be mixed evidence about the pros and cons of Cannabis and CBD for focus, memory and revision. However, it does look like CBD specifically may have a wealth of benefits to help with that pesky mid-term paper. Of course, as with all research on CBD it is still very new and perhaps more research will evolve showcasing other benefits of this wonder compound.

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Cannabis Flower Most Popular Form of Consumption in Colorado

New Frontier Data reviewed Colorado sales data and found that among the wide variety of product available to consumers, flower still reigns supreme.

A new analysis of Colorado’s cannabis sales data was presented by New Frontier Data on November 2. Using data from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, the company found that between 2014 and 2020, cannabis flower sales have increased exponentially. 

In terms of pounds of flower sold to consumers within that seven-year period, the state sold 148,000 pounds in 2014 and gradually increased to 584,000 pounds by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent.

New Frontier Data defines an average-sized joint as one-third of a gram of cannabis, and at that size, Colorado sold 201 million joints in 2014. By 2020, the state sold approximately 795 million joints. During the seven years since Colorado has had an established recreational cannabis law, the state has sold over 3.4 billion joints. 

“That flower sales continue to increase at such a pace seven years since the market launched suggests that smoking flower will remain a durable preference for the foreseeable future,” New Frontier Data Chief Knowledge Officer and author John Kagia wrote in his analysis. “However, the dominance of flower belies the seismic changes happening to consumer behavior and highlights the imperative for producers and brands to understand the tides of evolving consumer preferences.”

Although Colorado shows strong growth in flower sales, the individual breakdown of consumer preference is in flux. New Frontier Data’s 2021 Cannabis Consumer Evolution report notes that 57 percent of consumers use both flower and non-flower products, with only 19 percent saying they don’t choose flower over other options. 

Seventy percent of younger consumers (defined in the range of 18-34) were two times more likely to consume both flower and non-flower products than older consumers (defined as those over 55 years of age), at 35 percent. However, for age ranges that only consume flower, the older group was twice more likely than the younger crowd, at 40 percent and 15 percent respectively.

Those who consume cannabis products less frequently were found to only use flower, whereas those who consumed often were more likely to use a variety of cannabis products. Additionally, in gender demographics, women were less likely to choose flower in comparison to men. Medical cannabis patients also reported not using flower when treating their ailments, due to the increased risk of smoking on their health. 

Black market sales also have an interesting effect on flower popularity. New Frontier Data found that 33 percent of consumers who live in illegal markets are more likely to smoke flower exclusively, whereas only 22 percent of those who live in regulated markets will choose flower. Twenty-eight percent of consumers who purchase their cannabis products from physical retail stores or delivery services were more likely to buy non-cannabis flower products, in comparison to only 13 percent who would purchase from “informal sources.” 

The availability and promotion of new cannabis companies and products in Colorado present a thriving legal impact. “That dynamic reflects the regulated market’s power in introducing consumers to new, alternative product forms: not only is the legal market far more effective in innovating new product forms than is the illicit market, but the retail experience by which consumers can speak with knowledgeable budtenders regarding their needs and preferences is hastening the adoption of value-added products in regulated markets,” Kagia wrote.

Cannabis flower may be the most prominent form of consumption, but in the years to come, New Frontier Data predicts that it will slowly become less popular in favor of the growing variety of non-flower products. “The fragmentation of the product landscape is quickly reshaping the flower-dominant segment of the market; based on current trends, consumers who use flower exclusively are likely to become increasingly dominated by older, male and less-frequent users.”

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Bank of America Closes Cannabis Research Account

One of the nation’s most popularly used banks decided to close the account of one of the country’s DEA-approved cannabis and psychedelic research institutions.

The Bank of America suddenly closed the accounts of the Scottsdale Research Institute with very little notice or explanation last week. The Scottsdale Research Institution received a letter dated October 12, stating that the account would no longer be accessible in 21 days and fully closed within 30 days. The letter also states that the “this decision is final and won’t be reconsidered.”

Dr. Sue Sisley, a prominent, longtime researcher of medical cannabis (specifically for its efficacy as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder) is the President and Principal Investigator at the Scottsdale Research Institute. She posted on Twitter on October 15 about the situation. 

“Bank of America closes down account of Federally-licensed cannabis researcher. SRI conducts FDA approved controlled trials evaluating cannabis as medicine for treating pain/PTSD in military veterans & terminally ill patients this TRAGICALLY shuts down our research @BankofAmerica.” She also included a screenshot of an official document, entitled the Controlled Substance Registration Certificate, which was issued to the Scottsdale Research Institute by the DEA on June 29, 2021.

The Scottsdale Research Institute has federal permission to study both medical cannabis and psychedelic substances. Most recently, in May, the institute was one of three organizations who received approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. 

“Pending final approval, DEA has determined, based on currently available information, that a number of manufacturers’ applications to cultivate marijuana for research needs in the United States appears to be consistent with applicable legal standards and relevant laws,” the DEA wrote in its release. “DEA has, therefore, provided a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to these manufacturers as the next step in the approval process.”

Aside from its promising research results, Dr. Sisley and the Scottsdale Research Institute have also taken an active approach to push the industry toward legalization and descheduling cannabis. In Sisley vs. DEA, which was filed in May 2020, she alleged the Schedule I status of cannabis violated the constitution and that it should be descheduled. After a year and a half, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the petition. However, one of the presiding judges, Judge Paul J. Watford, stated that the DEA may eventually be forced to reconsider reclassification under the Controlled Substances Act in the near future. 

“I agree that the petitioners in this case failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and therefore join the court’s opinion dismissing their petition for review,” Watford wrote. “I write separately to note that, in an appropriate case, the Drug Enforcement Administration may well be obliged to initiate a reclassification proceeding for marijuana, given the strength of petitioners’ arguments that the agency has misinterpreted the controlling statute by concluding that marijuana ‘has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.’”

This is just the most recent example of the continuing problem that all cannabis businesses, in nearly every aspect of the industry, are having with banking solutions. On September 21, the U.S. House approved the SAFE Banking Act as a part of the defense spending bill, which is the fifth time that cannabis banking legislation has been approved in the House. Whether this provision is approved by the Senate remains to be seen.

Cannabis businesses continue to struggle with legitimate banking solutions. It remains an issue to witness not just a dispensary or cultivation company, but a federally approved organization, having its account closed without any previous warning or reasoning. For now, Dr. Sisley said in a statement to Marijuana Moment that the Scottsdale Research Institute will be moving to a new banking solution with a bank that is supportive of “scientific freedom.”

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Oregon State University Hemp Center Receives $10M Grant

The Global Hemp Innovation Center at Oregon State University announced last week that it has received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study and define the economic opportunities for hemp in the western United States. 

Provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant program, OSU scientists plan to use the funding to partner with eight institutions across the country in a five-year research program.

The research will be designed to address the needs of businesses in Native American and rural communities in a vast region of the Western Pacific United States covering four states. Jeffrey Steiner, associate director of the hemp center at OSU, told reporters that the funding received for the research program is one of the largest grants to study hemp ever awarded.

“We just feel really fortunate to get it,” Steiner said. “It’s a very competitive program, and we’re among the elite institutions to get the money.”

Establishing a Robust Hemp Economy

Although hemp agriculture and products made from hemp were legalized with the 2018 Farm Bill, developing a comprehensive industry to produce grain and fiber from hemp as well as CBD and other cannabinoids has had a sluggish start so far. More research is needed to study where different types of hemp can best be grown and the best genetics and farming techniques to use. 

Researchers also plan to study where to best process the hemp materials grown in the region, likely growth markets to support the expansion of the hemp industry, and how to incorporate the crop into existing production systems in order to complement rather than disrupt markets.

“We established the Global Hemp Innovation Center in 2019 to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders to address big unanswered questions about the hemp industry,” Steiner said in a statement from the university. “While enthusiasm for hemp has grown, there is still a tremendous lack of knowledge about the crop.”

The research funded by the USDA grant will focus on the rural transportation corridor that runs through Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, from the southern to northern borders of the United States. The immense region encompasses a variety of mostly arid environmental conditions with large areas of both irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural production.

Creating Equity in the Hemp Industry

The four-state area to be studied includes a significant number of Native American Tribes and leading researchers including Native American farmers and tribal leaders in the research project, specifically Laurie Danzuka, the cannabis project coordinator for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon. Through this collaboration, researchers plan to include the cultural and economic needs of tribal communities as part of business development efforts for the region.

“The Warm Springs Tribe has interest in exploring and expanding our agricultural opportunities in hemp production and this is one avenue to achieve this,” Laurie said. “This collaboration will allow us to identify potential sustainable uses for hemp, utilize best farming practices and provide learning opportunities to the membership.”

Steiner added that including tribal communities in the research will introduce Native American students to different aspects of the emerging hemp industry while addressing the historic inequities in American agriculture.

“The up-front involvement of tribal communities along with other rural communities in this work is critical to its success,” Steiner said. “The potential economic opportunities this new commodity may have presented tremendous potential for rural communities, and our project has set out to ensure those opportunities are equally available and relevant to all kinds of farmers.”

Scientists with Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and researchers from OSU’s colleges of Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and the university’s Extension Service will collaborate with Global Hemp Innovation Center scientists in the research program. 

They will be joined by research partners from the University of California, Davis; Washington State University; University of Nevada, Reno Extension; the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Research Center, the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program; 7 Generations, a Native American-owned firm that specializes in business development for tribal communities and the USDA’s National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service and Western Rural Development Center.

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CBGA More Effective For Seizures Than CBD, Study of Mice Finds

Researchers in Australia say they’ve discovered the “mother of all cannabinoids,” and it isn’t THC or CBD. For the first time, a study reports that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis, notably cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), reduced seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of child epilepsy.

The three acidic cannabinoids—CBGA, cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA) and cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA)—”may contribute to the effects of cannabis-based products in childhood epilepsy,” and were noted with “anticonvulsant potential.” CBGA, however, demonstrated the most potential for certain anticonvulsant effects.

“From the early nineteenth century cannabis extracts were used in Western medicine to treat seizures but cannabis prohibition got in the way of advancing the science,” said Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and the Sydney Pharmacy School. “Now we are able to explore how the compounds in this plant can be adapted for modern therapeutic treatments.” The study was recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology

CBGA is the precursor “granddaddy” molecule of CBDA and THCA, which eventually convert to THC and CBD, among other compounds. CBGA is part of a protective system for cannabis, produced by trichomes that triggers targeted plant cell necrosis—natural self-pruning to allow the plant to focus energy on the flower. 

“We found that CBGA was more potent than CBD in reducing seizures triggered by a febrile event in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome,” Lead author of the study, Dr Lyndsey Anderson, said. “Although higher doses of CBGA also had proconvulsant effects on other seizure types highlighting a limitation of this cannabis constituent. We also found CBGA to affect many epilepsy-relevant drug targets.”

Fight Against Dravet Syndrome with CBGA

The mission for the team at the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics is simple: develop a better cannabis-based treatment for Dravet syndrome—an intractable form of child epilepsy.

In 2015, Barry and Joy Lambert made a hefty donation to the University of Sydney to push forward scientific research on medicinal cannabis. Barry and Joy’s granddaughter Katelyn suffers from Dravet syndrome.

“After using hemp oil for treatment, we got our daughter back. Instead of fearing constant seizures we had some hope that our daughter could have a life worth living. It was like the noise cleared from her mind and she was able to wake up. Today Katelyn really enjoys her life,” said Michael Lambert, Katelyn’s father.

In order to learn more, the research needs to be continual. “Our research program is systematically testing whether the various constituents of cannabis reduce seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome,” said Associate Professor Jonathan Arnold. “We started by testing the compounds individually and found several cannabis constituents with anticonvulsant effects. In this latest paper we describe the anticonvulsant effects of three rarer cannabinoids, all of which are cannabinoid acids.”

The Entourage Effect

In the meantime, anecdotal evidence from cannabis consumers abroad suggests that there is more to cannabis’ healing powers than THC and CBD, although the science is limited.

Families like the Lamberts have noticed significant drops in seizures when children facing intractable epilepsy take cannabis extracts, although the source makes huge differences.

Supporting the concept of the Entourage Effect, there are unknown benefits from lesser known cannabinoids. Many people believe that the presence of terpenes and other compounds in cannabis make it more effective.

Harvard Professor, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, said that you need more than THC and CBD if you want cannabis’ full effects. It should be called the Ensemble Effect, not the Entourage Effect, he said. Dr. Grinspoon believed THC should be taken with CBD and other phytochemicals in order to be more effective. Any chemical in isolation does not perform the same way as it is found in nature, he believed.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is best known for his extensive work in cannabis acids, as well as Dr. Ethan Russo. In 1996, Japanese researchers found that CBGA is a precursor to CBDA and other compounds.

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New Frontier Data Predict Global Cannabis Sales to Hit $51 billion by 2025

A recent report from New Frontier Data explores the rapid growth of both medical and recreational cannabis sales in its “Global Cannabis Report: Growth & Trends Through 2025” report. The report is a comprehensive look at what to expect in the global cannabis industry over the next few years, while analyzing the current and future trends in the global markets of North America, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Oceania, Asia and Africa.

New Frontier Data Founder, Publisher and Executive Chair Giadha A. DeCarcer, shared in her Letter from the Publisher at the beginning of the report that this industry will only continue to grow and expand. 

“When we released our first Global Cannabis Industry Report in 2019, it was clear that cannabis legalization would prove to be one of the most consequential socioeconomic movements of our time,” she wrote. “In just two years’ time, the number of countries having legalized some form of cannabis has increased from 50 to 70, and there are now 10 countries legalizing adult use, almost a twofold increase from 2019. As legal markets across the globe continue to evolve, we have found that regulatory structures and societal norms vary greatly, and each country, region and market require a nuanced approach to quantifying, qualifying and understanding them.”

The report states that in 2020, regulated markets sold $23.7 billion in high-THC cannabis product (which is 10 times the sales numbers of any other regulated markets in the world), and the combined total of medical and recreational cannabis sales in the U.S. was $20.3 billion. In comparison, Canada saw approximately $2 billion in high-THC cannabis products sold in 2020. The constant rise of cannabis in both the U.S. and Canada could lead to sales increasing to $51 billion by 2025.

Outside of North America, though, sales of high-THC products were lower overall, but still on the rise. Germany is home to Europe’s largest medical cannabis program to date, and in 2020, the country collected $206 million. That includes a collective number of both medical cannabis patients who use their insurance for a reimbursement program, as well as those who sought out cannabis products in other ways. 

Like the U.S., cannabis is not federally legal in Spain, but the individual provinces in the country do have various regulations on cannabis sales. In 2019, cannabis clubs in the country reached $431 million, which makes Spain a contender for becoming one of the largest industries in the world, behind the U.S. and Canada.

On September 23, a webinar entitled “Exploring the Global Cannabis Economy: Trends, Projections & Opportunities” was held, featuring a handful of prominent speakers discussing the global cannabis industry’s future. 

New Frontier Data Chief Knowledge Officer John Kagia predicted that even though there is “$8 billion of capital is invested in the cannabis industry, that rate of investment is only expected to grow.” 

Another speaker, Tim O’Neill, VP of international markets for SōRSE Technology, pointed out that adhering to a specific market’s regulations on cannabis is becoming more difficult, saying that “either you can sell there, or you cannot.” He also mentioned that for investors seeking profit, there is opportunity in Chinese and Indian markets.

According to Mikhail Sagal, founder and president of TSRgrow, the success of non-US cannabis industries will rely on quick establishment of a regulatory framework. Those countries “will all have to change and become more standardized and acceptable,” he said, and added that companies “will have to change and be able to adapt in changing systems.”

New Frontier Data describes the expectation of Managing Director of FTI Consulting, Lincoln Eckhardt, as hoping for the best but expecting the worst. He shared the history of the vaping crisis in 2020 and how addressing the issue directly was the best course of action. 

“Would that have been the answer a year or 18 months ago?,” Eckhardt asked. “Look at separate medical markets—[while] Oklahoma has very few rules, when Alabama comes online, it will be incredibly restrictive,’ so stakeholders must ascertain its risk assessment and corporate investment in terms of what it decides to be worth offering.” 

A recording of the two-hour webinar can be found here, which contains a variety of new cannabis industry data and topics regarding the global industry.

On a global scale, New Frontier Data states that the main force behind legalization efforts is thanks to medical cannabis initiatives. However, each country is approaching the concept differently. Many countries in Europe have embraced the pharmaceutical route, which allows patients to pick up their cannabis medicine through a pharmacy. 

In Latin American countries with legal sales, success has been found in programs through private clinics and physicians who are available to prescribe cannabis. Medical cannabis patient numbers continue to rise around the world due to easier access to medicine. In 2020, an estimated 4.4 million people were registered as active medical cannabis patients throughout the world. Furthermore, an additional two million patients are expected to register for medical cannabis over the next five years, which could reach 6.5 million people by 2025.

Recreational cannabis sales are expected to double that of medical cannabis sales by 2025 as well. On the recreational front, only 10 countries have legalized recreational cannabis, with six approving the sale of high-THC products.

Many of these regions are only beginning to implement their programs. In the Netherlands and Spain, a model of “decriminalized club/social-use” model, whereas South Africa and Jamaica have approved limited access for religious groups. Uruguay on the other hand has fully legalized recreational cannabis, and as a result, has sold more than 1,700 kilograms of high-THC product.

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The Cannabis Question Looks at Weed and the Body and Brain

The more cannabis becomes accepted in the U.S., the more frustrating it becomes that cannabis researchers are barred by Schedule I status and cannot freely research, as well as that communities of color remain more at-risk for incarceration. The new PBS and NOVA documentary The Cannabis Question tackles both problems in one, succinct film. 

The film looks at what scientists have discovered so far about the body and brain, as well as the potential medical benefits and risks of using cannabis and how people of color have been harmed by its criminalization. Released on September 29 of this year, the film takes an unbiased and fair look at the way cannabis has been treated. 

“A majority of Americans now live in states where cannabis is legal. As more people make their own choices about cannabis use, this film explores what scientists have learned so far about the potential benefits and risks,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer Julia Cort in a press release.

“We hope The Cannabis Question will inspire people to join the national conversation about cannabis—informed by the science, and also by the story of how the plant has been weaponized against marginalized communities, causing irreparable harm.”

Yasmin Hurd of Mount Sinai Hospital – Courtesy WGBH

The film looks at scientists Yasmin Hurd at Mount Sinai Hospital and Daniele Piomelli at University of California, Irvine. Both researchers are heading up studies on the endocannabinoid system. By sharing the personal stories of patients and users, the documentary uses a mix of science and emotional appeal to shake the stigma against weed. 

“Such research is critical on a number of levels,” Hurd told High Times. “First, the endocannabinoid system, through which cannabis mediates its actions, is a critical biological system in the brain. It has a broad role in numerous brain functions relevant to cognition, memory, emotion, hormonal regulation and motor behavior and thus is highly implicated in various neuropsychiatric disorders. 

“Moreover, the endocannabinoid system is critical for hardwiring of the developing brain. As such it is important to understand the impact of cannabis exposure especially as THC concentrations have dramatically increased over the years thus leading to far greater perturbation of the endocannabinoid system over its normal physiological bandwidth. In addition, given the neuromodulatory role of endocannabinoids in the brain, it is important to study whether cannabis/cannabinoids can be leveraged to modulate neuropsychiatric disorders.

According to the Director of The Cannabis Question, Sarah Holt, the film is the first of its kind to closely examine the scientific research on how cannabis interacts with humans’ endocannabinoid systems. 

I hope viewers will come away with an understanding of why [the endocannabinoid system] is one of the most important regulatory systems in our body—and anytime you use cannabis, you are interfering with it,” Holt stated in a press release. This isn’t Holt’s first dive into filmmaking to uncover and share scientific data about how drugs interact with the brain. 

“In 2018, I produced a NOVA film called Addiction,” Holt told High Times. “The film investigated how opioid drugs alter the brain, and why addiction should be viewed as a brain disorder that can be successfully managed with evidence-based treatments. As more Americans favor legalizing cannabis, NOVA and I agreed it was time to investigate the latest science studying the vast array of chemicals in this plant. 

“Scores of clinical trials were underway exploring the potential medical benefits or risks of cannabis. Instead of anecdotal stories, the hope was that our film could report on real data to help viewers make informed decisions about cannabis.”

Courtesy WGBH

The film focuses on how cannabis benefits patients with conditions like PTSD, anxiety and pain. It also traces the history of cannabis criminalization throughout the U.S., including the racist history of the word “marijuana” and the demonization of undocumented people throughout the War on Drugs. It specifically focuses on the stories of those who have done or are still doing hard time for cannabis possession. 

“I hope the film helps people understand the larger context and impacts of our drug policies,” Holt said about the movie. “A public health crisis has been unfolding for decades—caused by the war on drugs. The film highlights the influence of racism in forming US policy and its implementation around cannabis over the last century. Cannabis arrests are fueling mass incarceration in this country, and disproportionately targeting communities of color. Incarceration dramatically affects people’s health, and conviction records make it difficult for people to get jobs. 

“At the same time that we have an estimated 40,000 Americans behind bars for cannabis charges, the cannabis wellness industry is thriving, creating a stark divide. I’m hoping that this film widens people’s perspective on cannabis and helps them see how science could inform policy in ways that are both more equitable and beneficial to public health.”  

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Federal Grant Approved to Study Medical Marijuana Impact in Arkansas

A federal grant will help fund a study on the medical cannabis program in Arkansas. 

Thanks to $1.3 million courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, researchers affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Center for Health Improvement will conduct what is being described as “a first-of-its-kind population health analysis of the medical marijuana program, combining eligible consumers’ cannabis purchase information with insurance claims records and other data sources to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of cannabis on consumers’ medical care.”

The study, titled “Population-Based Analyses of Healthcare Utilization and Outcomes in Users of Medical Marijuana,” will “also examine the impact of COVID-19 on the Arkansas medical marijuana program, including changes in cardholder requests, product purchases, healthcare utilization and adverse events,” according to a press release from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, which is “a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy and collaborative program development.”

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for not only our state, but also the country, to investigate the effectiveness of cannabis for therapeutic use,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, co-principal investigator on this study, and the president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. “While researchers have gathered scientific evidence on the use of cannabis for the alleviation of symptoms such as pain and anxiety, there is little evidence on how the amount, strain, potency and method of use affect a person’s health experience.”

Additionally, the study will also “incorporate six Arkansas-based data sources, including the Arkansas Healthcare Transparency Initiative’s Arkansas All-Payer Claims Database (APCD), Arkansas Department of Health medical marijuana patient registry data, medical marijuana dispensary purchase data, vital records, emergency department records and Arkansas State Police motor vehicle crash data,” with all the data being “de-identified with linkages utilizing the unique capabilities of the Transparency Initiative.”

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said that by “examining data for Arkansans who have qualified for medicinal use, this research will help inform the potential role of cannabis in medical therapy.”

Voters in Arkansas approved a ballot measure legalizing medical cannabis in 2016. The state’s first dispensaries opened in 2019.

In December, state officials reported that patients in Arkansas had purchased $200.7 million and 30,648 pounds of medical marijuana.

That milestone represented a massive spike since April of last year, when the state reported $63 million and 10,050 pounds worth of medical cannabis sales, in the program’s first 11 months of existence. A month before that, the program passed the $50 million mark.

Arkansas is now one of nearly 40 states to have legalized medical cannabis as a treatment. According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, as of this month, there are “more than 79,000 active Arkansas medical marijuana ID card holders who have one or more of the 18 approved medical conditions.” 

The state also boasts a little more than 30 licensed dispensaries and a total of five cultivators. 

According to the state’s Department of Health, patients with the following qualifying conditions are eligible for a medical cannabis prescription: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, intractable pain or pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months, severe nausea, seizures including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy, severe and persistent muscle spasms including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health is also eligible.

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A Majority of Companies in Tightly-Regulated Industries Say Compliance is Biggest Barrier

Out of all the issues associated with the volatile nature of industries such as the cannabis industry—compliance is the top barrier, representatives from multiple companies said. As it turns out, sectors such as the healthcare industry face similar problems with compliance.

According to a new study announced by The Harris Poll and Fyllo on September 21, nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent of companies see compliance issues as a “critical barrier to growth.” Representatives from highly regulated industries were asked a series of questions in a survey—with a selective highlight on the cannabis industry in particular.

The study is entitled, “Leading With Compliance: The Key To Growth In Highly Regulated Industries.” Researchers surveyed 305 compliance leaders at companies in highly regulated industries including cannabis, healthcare, financial services, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.

The results revealed a common denominator: all of the highly-regulated industries struggle with a complex web of federal and local legislation and an outdated compliance approach—not just the cannabis industry.

“In the face of fast-paced regulatory demands, outdated processes can’t keep up and that derails growth,” said Chad Bronstein, CEO and founder of Fyllo. “This survey revealed that companies want to utilize technology to understand regulatory updates, whether new laws or even just local legislative conversations.” Fyllo offers software to overcome the complexities of compliance. Fyllo’s Data Marketplace, for instance, can target previously inaccessible cannabis and CBD consumers.

Nearly 50 percent said noncompliance results in higher costs to attract new investors and win new customers. Eighty-two percent report that adhering to regulations drains resources that would otherwise drive expansion into new markets, new products/services and innovation.

Twenty-five percent said problems led to a loss of customers; 20 percent said it led to employee turnover. Seventy-three precent of companies say compliance issues damage trust among consumers, regulators and employees.

Survey respondents also said that getting fined for noncompliance is practically unavoidable—just something they have to learn to deal with.

Over three-quarters, or 82 percent of companies in highly regulated industries currently accept that compliance is a cost of doing business, over the past five years, these companies have been cited on average 12.6 times for noncompliance. 

This results in extensive operational, reputational and financial risks. Moreover, the majority of compliance leaders admit that they are often uncertain as to whether or not that the organization is compliant due the dynamic nature of the regulatory environment.

Constant changes in laws is getting to be the norm, but most companies said they can handle it, albeit the technological problems that make it more difficult.

When asked if their company could adapt quickly to sudden changes in its regulatory or compliance environment, 61 percent said they did not believe their company could, with 28 percent citing outdated technology as the core cause for those problems.

Compliance in the Cannabis Industry

Depending on how you define regulation and if you include nuclear industries, etc., cannabis remains one of the most-regulated industries in the U.S. However, IBIS World ranks the healthcare industry as the most regulated industry of all, which of course overlaps with medical cannabis.

The discord between state and federal law makes the cannabis industry unique in the sense that laws often contradict one another more than you’d see in other industries. It would require a figurative PhD of regulation just to understand the full scope of the patchwork of state cannabis laws.

“Cannabis professionals are operating in a regulatory environment that changes daily across federal, state and local levels,” Bronstein added. “As such, cannabis businesses have been quick to embrace tech solutions that streamline compliance processes to free up resources for growth, with the industry becoming the benchmark for effective management of compliance processes at scale.”

Noncompliance in the hemp industry, for instance, is a problem. New Frontier Data reported that over 4,000 acres of crops were destroyed in 2019 (out of the 242,565 acres that were planted) because they were considered to be “hot crops” that surpassed the THC limit. Although crops in 2020 decreased, hot crops still increased, which led to an even more devastating year with 6,234 labeled as hot.

Cannabis and hemp laws are constantly changing at a rapid pace, much faster than you see in other established sectors such as traditional healthcare.

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