British Police Find 6,000 Cannabis Plants in Abandoned Tire Factory

British police this week reportedly uncovered thousands of cannabis plants in an abandoned tire factory in what is being called one of the largest weed busts in the area. 

The British newspaper The Independent reported that law enforcement in the otherwise sleepy Lincolnshire village “busted one of their largest ever cannabis factories after discovering 6,000 plants inside an old tyre factory – believed to be worth around £6.5 million.”

“This is one of the largest cannabis grows we have located in Lincolnshire to date and follows the excellent development of intelligence,” said detective inspector Richard Nethercott, as quoted by the Lincolnshire World.

“Cannabis production is far from being harmless: it is often linked to wider, organised criminality which is why tackling the wider issue of drug supply is one of our key priorities. Lincolnshire Police remains determined to crack down on criminal enterprises and remove drugs from circulation.”

According to the BBC, three men “aged 28, 38, and 42, all of no fixed address, were taken into custody following the raid,” and the plants were “removed and destroyed.”

The raid “took place at the property situated behind a countryside village pub at around 8am on Tuesday,” according to The Independent, which said that the property was the location of “the Old Kings Head Tyre Factory in Hubberts Bridge, near Boston.”

While the raid may have been remarkable for Lincolnshire, it falls under a familiar story genre here at High Times, which has chronicled some of the more peculiar cannabis busts from across the pond. 

In 2019, we told you about the 120-year-old Victorian style theater in London that was the site of a $51 million marijuana grow operation. 

Authorities there surmised that the grow site had been operational for roughly a decade in the bowels of the old Broadway Theater, which was built in 1897.

A spokesperson for the London police said that “officers were called to an address following reports of a disturbance.” 

“They discovered a large number of cannabis plants along with equipment used in the cultivation of cannabis in an area beneath the residential properties. Three men, aged 28, 45, and 47, and a 36-year-old woman have been arrested on suspicion of the cultivation of cannabis. They have all been released under investigation,” the spokesperson said at the time.

A couple years later, the British were at it again, this time discovering an illicit grow operation at a 17th century castle in Somerset, located in southern England.

That same year, in 2021, a massive growhouse was discovered in London’s financial district, which had gone quiet amid the lockdown restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police at the time responded to reports of a pungent cannabis odor in the area.

“This is the first cannabis factory in the City, no doubt being set up in response to fewer people being out and about during the pandemic who might have noticed any unusual activity,” Andy Spooner, the London detective overseeing the investigation, said at the time. “However, this demonstrates that City of London Police continues to actively police the Square Mile, bearing down on any crime committed here.” 

And last year, the English village of West Parley provided yet another example after locals there discovered a half-dozen suspicious plants growing in a community garden. 

The marijuana plants were tough to miss, with one local remarking at the time that they were “towering above the bedding plants.”

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Australia Report Reveals Potential Cannabis Legalization Plan

The Australian Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) recently released a proposal exploring two options on how to approach cannabis legalization. It was commissioned to explore what legalization could look like through the request of Sen. David Shoebridge (described on his Twitter page as “the devil’s lettuce daddy of Australia”) and the Australian Greens Party (also referred to as the Greens).

According to the PBO’s report, the first option would establish the creation of the Cannabis National Agency (CANA), which would act as the sole wholesaler between producers and retailers, set wholesale prices on cannabis, and issue licenses to potential cannabis business owners. Ideally, the agency would be funded completely through the fees required to apply for production and retail licenses.

This option would legalize cannabis for anyone 18 and older, specifically with no restriction on the amount that an individual can purchase. This approach would also create penalties for selling to underage individuals, which is similar to how the country manages sale of alcohol to minors. Recreational cannabis would be available to “oversea visitors,” and residents would be allowed to cultivate up to six plants. Finally, recreational sales would “attract the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as well as an excise of 25% on GST-inclusive sales.”

The second option contains all provisions from the first option, except for the final recommendation, which would change the excise tax to 15% instead of 25%.

The report explains that this approach would be similar to Canada’s law on cannabis. In Canada, residents may only cultivate up to four plants at home, cannot smoke publicly, and are limited to possession of 30 grams or less.

The PBO projects that the country could collect up to AU$28 billion in cannabis tax revenue during the first decade of legalization.

According to The New Zealand Herald, Sen. Shoebridge suggested that the tax revenue could also be used to raise rates provided by JobSeeker, the government’s job finding service, and raise financial aid provided by the job service Youth Allowance. He also suggested that cannabis tax revenue could help build more than 88,000 public housing units in the next decade, which could give more than 250,000 people a home.

“This costing from the PBO shows the incredible opportunity legal cannabis creates to not just reduce harm but to generate revenue that could be invested in health, education and public housing,” said Shoebridge. “The Greens’ model creates a right for adults to grow up to six plants at home without being taxed and without having to pay. This costing takes that into account. It also guarantees commercial possibilities for co-operatives and local entrepreneurs to grow and sell cannabis including through regulated cannabis cafes.”

He also explained that legalization just makes sense. “Legal cannabis makes enormous social and economic sense. When we legalise cannabis we take billions away from organised crime, police and the criminal justice system and we can then spend it on schools, housing, hospitals and social support,” Shoebridge said.

Furthermore, he added that legalization reduces the harm caused by criminal injustice, and that overall, polls have revealed that most Australians support and consume cannabis regularly. “It’s a fact that almost half of adult Australians have at one time or another consumed cannabis. Laws that make almost half of the country criminals don’t pass the pub test,” Shoebridge said. “When you legalise cannabis you can properly regulate the market, provide consistent health and safety advice and make the product safer. Right now the only ‘safety regulators’ for the cannabis market are bikie gangs and organised crime and that doesn’t make much sense.”

Commercial cultivation could begin in Australia as early as July 2023 if the PBO’s plans are adopted, which would ensure that the cannabis supply is well ahead of the demand. Applications for production and retail licenses could begin as early as 2023 or 2024, with an expectation of launching sales by 2024 or 2025.

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Deputy Fends of Five Armed Robbers at Dispensary in St. Vincent

The cannabis industry in the Caribbean mirrors the danger of the U.S. cash-only industry and the lure for criminals given the large amounts of cannabis and cash. In the town of Vermont (not to be confused with the U.S. state) on the island country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the Caribbean, five would-be armed robbers were thwarted on Friday, Jan. 27 by a deputy guard at a dispensary. Due to quick thinking and a fast response, the perpetrators were caught mid-robbery while they were still at the site. 

Green Lava Labs is a medical cannabis company and dispensary in the Queensbury area of Vermont. As one of the first Class-C license holders in the country, a great deal of cannabis and a steady cash flow made it a prime target.

St. Vincent Times reports that five men, one brandishing a gun and another brandishing a “cutlass,” allegedly entered the dispensary at 2:00 am at night forcefully and injured at least one person. The five assailants allegedly attempted to break into the dispensary’s storage area. But a deputy from an armed security agency was quickly dispatched, returning fire and forcing the robbers to flee before they could make off with the loot.

“Our armed security operative engaged the bandits directly, firing several shots, causing the bandits to flee, without being able to break into the building and storage rooms,” Sheriff PSS Inc stated.

A deputy was dispatched to the premises promptly within 15 minutes, while the suspects were still on-site, officials said.

“Operations Control was contacted and our Executive Director Mr. Jason Greene and Operations Commander Mr. Cox responded immediately to provide additional support. The police [were] contacted and responded promptly within 15 minutes,” the release reads.

A caretaker who was on the premises was injured during the incident. 

“The live-in caretaker on the estate was injured during the incident and taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by Sheriff PSS Inc for medical attention,” the report continued.

“Sheriff takes this opportunity to remind the nation that we are serious about asset protection as SVG’s only tactical security agency. We stand ready to serve citizens and the business community as the #1 source for reliable, competent and efficient Asset Protection Agents and Security solutions.”

Government officials at SVG issued the first licenses to cultivate medical cannabis in 2019. 

Green Lava Labs Leader in the Caribbean

Green Lava Labs was launched in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Nov. 15, 2019. Green Lava was among the first companies to be granted a Class-C Medical Marijuana Cultivation license in the country. The license allows them to extract, import, export, dispense, and cultivate up to 25 acres of cannabis.

Green Lava has the capacity of over 8,000 pounds of cannabis per year and future plans to reach the full capacity of its allowed 25 acres that should allow the company to produce over 35,000 pounds of cannabis per year.

The company’s grand opening was significant enough to attract Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves; Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar; a Senior Official of the Medical Cannabis Authority; and officials to attend.

The company offers flower, pre-rolls, CBD-infused products, and more.

The company also has other locations including one in Jamaica.

Business is once again booming in SVG’s medical cannabis industry, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves reported earlier this year. This follows a slow, discouraging period due to COVID pandemic restrictions and devastation caused by the La Soufriere volcano eruption.

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Cannabis Pilot Program Kicks Off in Switzerland

Weed is for sale in one of the largest cities in Switzerland—for a select few, anyway.

The country officially launched its pilot cannabis project on Monday, clearing the way for a few hundred selected participants to purchase marijuana for recreational use in various pharmacies throughout the Swiss city of Basel.

Swiss officials last year gave the go-ahead for the pilot project, with the country’s “Federal Office of Public Health [saying] the idea of the project is to increase understanding of ‘alternative regulatory forms,’ such as regulated sales at pharmacies that could be a basis for future legislation,” according to the Associated Press.

“Basel’s project, which involves the local government, the University of Basel and the city’s University Psychiatric Clinics, will get under way in late summer,” the AP reported last year. “Nearly 400 participants will be able to buy various cannabis products at selected pharmacies in Basel, the city government said. During the 2 1/2-year study, they will be questioned regularly on their consumption of the substance and on their physical and mental health.”

Participants in the program will be strictly monitored by government regulators, and they are barred from sharing the cannabis with anyone outside the program. 

Vigia AG, a Swiss company that provides track and trace software, said this week that it “has developed the Cannabis Dispensary System in partnership with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in order to reliably document the dispensing of the products,” which in turn “makes it possible to track the cannabis goods transparently and gives the foundation for scientific research.”

“We are in an emerging industry where various paths to legalisation are currently being discussed. With a structured legalisation process, maximum conformity and transparency, Switzerland is setting an example. With our existing Cannavigia software and the Cannabis Dispensary System, we provide the various stakeholders involved with the necessary tools to track and document every step along the supply chain. We are proud to be part of the Swiss pilot projects and this historic milestone,” Philipp Hagenbach, the chief operating officer of Vigia AG, said in a press release on Monday.

The release contains more details on Vigia AG’s involvement in the landmark Swiss program:

“Vigia AG is the FOPH’s official track & trace partner for the pilot trials. This kind of partnership between the government and a commercial business in the cannabis industry is unique to the sector. Vigia AG has added a Cannabis Dispensary System (CDS) to its existing Cannavigia software solution. Thanks to the combination of the two, the companies cultivating cannabis for the projects can monitor their cultivation and supply chain, which serves to ensure the quality of the final products.

“Those in charge of the projects can use the software to register the study participants, with those responsible for the Weed Care study starting this as early as September 2022. It allows the dispensaries to keep track of sales as well as individual quantities dispensed to participants, guaranteeing that only authorised persons can purchase the products. This ensures consumer and especially minor protection and results in a transparent and traceable supply chain which can also be maintained in a future legalised environment. The Cannabis Dispensary System provides the FOPH with an overview of the circulation of cannabis in Switzerland and supports the reporting obligation to the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board. The data of the participants are always stored pseudonymously in order to ensure data protection.”

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My Coke-Free Visit to Escobar’s Home Turf

“Do not go there!” Valentina, a 27-year-old designer living in Medellín, yelled when I told her that I planned on visiting the Casa Museo Pablo Escobar, a museum dedicated to the Colombian drug lord. 

A quick Google search made me change my mind. The entrance fee to the museum is $30 – a hefty sum in a country where a full meal will typically cost you less than $5, and most of the museums are donation-based or free-of-charge. On top of that, online reviews were making the place out to be a rip-off, a collection of meaningless personal possessions, shoddy reproductions, and revisionist history. 

But that was not why Valentina told me not to go. A native Colombian, she felt it was disrespectful for tourists like me to go and waste their time, energy, and money on an individual who callously killed and intimidated so many of her countrymen.   

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what tourists are doing. For many – although certainly not all – it’s one of their primary reasons for coming to Medellín in the first place. Colombia has been attracting travelers with a perverse admiration for Pablo Escobar for decades, but the number of narco-tourists increased drastically following the release of Netflix’s Narcos, which has turned the kingpin from a fading memory into an alive-and-well pop culture icon.

While the Netflix series has boosted Colombia’s tourism industry and by extension the Colombian economy as a whole, Colombians are – understandably – upset that one of the most hated characters in their history books has now become the country’s de facto international ambassador. 

“To many of us, Pablo is our Hitler,” one person from Medellín told me. “To a few he was a hero, but mostly he brought a lot of evil to our city, and we will probably never get rid of the stigma, just like the Germans will never get rid of their history. I really despise people who buy or sell Pablo T-shirts, mugs, etc. It’s like me going to Berlin to sell T-shirts of Hitler. I’d get arrested before I sold the first one.”

“I have an uncle who I never met who died in one of his famous bombings,” another added. “I completely despise any reference towards that man.” 

Personally, I am tempted to hold Narcos partially responsible for creating or at the very least reinvigorating this reference for Escobar. In classic Hollywood fashion, Netflix made him thinner, handsomer and more charismatic than he was in real life. (They also cast a Brazilian actor instead of a Colombian one, but that is another story). On top of all this, the focus of the show is on his success, on his power. Viewers walk away from Narcos ruminating on how, at his peak, he was the 7th richest man in the world and controlled 80% of all cocaine. What they don’t realize is that, for the time that he was active, he pretty much held the whole country hostage through a campaign of domestic terrorism, blowing up apartment buildings and commercial airplanes just to kill a single person on his miles-long hitlist.  

Instead of Casa Museo Pablo Escobar, Valentina urged me to visit Barrio 13. A huge slum erected on the hills overlooking Medellín, Barrio 13 used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in all of South America, until the Colombian army swept in during the early 2000s. Things have improved since then – somewhat. It is still a total mess; there is no urban planning and no roads for cars, but instead of public executions, there’s music, graffiti, and – occasionally – those Red Bull BMX challenges you may have seen on YouTube. Most importantly, however, the residents seem to be earning a decent living off tourism. 

Graffiti artist in Barrio 13 / Photo by Tim Brinkhof

While ordering an IPA I later learned contained copious amounts of THC, I asked the guy who had brought me there – a local called Jason – how the people of Barrio 13 felt about a show like Narcos. The answer: not good. If I wanted to “see the real Escobar,” Jason told me, I should check out a Colombian show called El Patron del Mal, or “The Boss of Evil.” It’s a Latin soap-opera, not a blockbuster, but once I ignored the overly dramatic plot and music, I could see what he was getting at. First and foremost, Escobar, who was played by a Colombian actor, looked the part – overweight and less attractive. Patron del Mal also struck me as more authentic in its representation of Colombia. The Medellín the characters lived in was the same Medellín as I saw when I looked out of the window of my little Airbnb – full of energy and color. They drank aguardiente and gorged on paísa, a typical Antioquian dish of rice, beans, avocado, ground beef and fried pork, served with hot arepas. Most importantly, however, the life of crime did not seem nearly as glamorous in this show as it did in Narcos. We see Escobar for what he really was – a crook without a conscience; it wasn’t his intelligence that allowed him to get as far as he did, but the fact that he was willing to do things that others wouldn’t have been able to live with. 

Navigating the maze that’s Barrio 13 is hard enough when you’re sober, let alone when you’ve unintentionally gotten high off craft beer. Standing in line for the only outdoor escalator in the country, I began to notice how Colombian society dealt with the scars of narco-terrorism. Buildings that used to be painted with blood and bullet holes have since been covered up by gorgeous graffiti art that serves to remind people of anything other than drug-related violence. One of the barrio’s newest murals, Jason showed me, depicts Pachamama, an Andean goddess representing the Earth itself, and a much older and powerful symbol of Colombia’s cultural heritage than Escobar. 

While I never went to Casa Museo Pablo Escobar, I did visit Hacienda Napoles, one of the many homes he acquired with his fortune. Located near the town of Puerto Triunfo, about halfway between Medellín and Bogotá, the Hacienda had originally included a modest swimming pool, a landing strip for small airplanes, and a zoo filled with animals purchased on the black market. After Escobar’s death, the estate itself fell into disarray. The villa was ransacked and eventually raised to the ground. The animals, left to their fate, died or – in the case of the hippos – escaped into the surrounding wetlands, where they flourished and became invasive species.

Hippos at the Hacienda Napoles zoo / Photo by Tim Brinkhof

For years, the Colombian state fought to confiscate the land from Escobar’s relatives. When they succeeded, they turned the Hacienda Napoles into a theme park. At first, I thought that this was done in an attempt to cash in on narco-tourism trends. Fortunately, this was not the case. Upon falling into public hands, the Hacienda – like Barrio 13 – was transformed so as to remove all traces of its criminal past. To that end, the Hacienda Napoles of today is related to the Hacienda Napoles of Escobar in name only. The hilly terrain that had once served to hide the kingpin’s dealings from the outside world now features rollercoasters and swimming pools. The theme park’s theme is Africa, owing to the bigger and better zoo that has taken the place of the old one. Visitors – mostly Colombians holidaying in their own country – come to gawk at elephants, lions, tigers, flamingos, and a pair of absolutely monstrous boa constrictors. In contrast to Escobar’s own zoo, where zebras were ridden by his henchmen and ostriches handfed cigarettes, the Hacienda’s current animals live in spacious enclosures, enjoying a climate that – at least in terms of temperature – isn’t far off from their native savannahs. 

Cartel member riding one of Escobar’s zebras / Photo by Tim Brinkhof

The only reference to Pablo Escobar inside Hacienda Napoles is a small museum tucked away in the very back corner of the park. The museum, a partial reconstruction of the original villa, is dedicated to the victims of narco-terrorism. Inside you learn more about the history of the Hacienda, Escobar’s inevitable downfall, and the barbaric lengths that he went to trying to prevent that downfall. The white walls are covered with the portraits of politicians and police officers that he had killed, as well as pictures of blood-covered children being pulled out of the rubble of collapsed buildings. 

What shocked me more than these images was that most of the visitors around me had just come out of the pool and were walking through the museum half-naked, dripping wet, drinking beers and eating slices of pizza. At the time their behavior and appearance couldn’t help but strike me as inappropriate, and even made me think that they were a bit hypocritical to complain about gringos smoking blunts on Escobar’s grave back in Medellín. Days later, I realized how wrong I was. Whereas I, a foreigner, had traveled to Puerto Triunfo specifically to see what had become of Escobar’s former home, the average Colombian – it appears – comes here to swim in the swimming pools, ride the rollercoasters, and look at the animals. To them, Pablo Escobar is not the main event of their trip, but just an afterthought. This, as far as I am concerned, is as good a sign as any that the country – after decades of suffering – is well on its way to break free from the drug lord’s tightening grip.

Tourists checking out the narco-terrorism museum / Photo by Tim Brinkhof

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Greece Opens First Medical Pot Production Plant

History was made in Greece with the country inaugurating its first ever medical cannabis plant last Thursday.

According to the Greek Reporter, the plant, which opened in the city of Corinth, is backed by an investment from Tikun Europe, a subsidiary of Israel-based medical cannabis company Tikun Olam.

Adonis Georgiadis, Greece’s minister for development and investments, heralded the opening of the plant as a milestone for the country.

Speaking at an event for the opening of the Tikun plant on Thursday, Georgiadis said that cannabis could be “a product which we will be able to export throughout Europe because this factory can carry out huge exports to all major European countries,” as quoted by the Greek Reporter.

According to the outlet, Tikun Europe CEO Nikos Beis hailed the new facility in Greece as “the largest pharmaceutical facility in the industry in Europe.”

“A new era is beginning for our country with the operation of our Tikun Europe facility, paving the way for Greece to become one of the main players in the field of production and export of medical cannabis products,” Beis said, as quoted by the Greek Reporter.

The medical cannabis plant in Corinth, Greece. Credit: Tikun Olam

Greece legalized medical cannabis back in 2017, but the country’s government banned the import of such products in 2021, which effectively made it impossible for Greek patients to receive the cannabis treatment due to the lack of domestic production 

But that appears to be changing.

The country said last year that cannabis would soon be sold in pharmacies throughout Greece.

“The goal is for Greece to become the top European country in the production of medical cannabis. Greece’s environment is friendly for this particular plant and we think we will have a natural advantage,” Georgiadis told the Greek Reporter last year, which said that “foreigners will also be able to use medical cannabis in Greece” and will “be allowed to purchase it through pharmacies” so long as they have a prescription from their doctor.

The outlet reported at the time that Georgiadis anticipated “huge investments in the production of medical cannabis which the government hopes would add up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.67 billion) annually to state revenue.” 

The Greek Reporter has more on the facility:

“According to Tikun Europe, the plant can produce finished medicinal cannabis products in various pharmaceutical forms. The company aims in the immediate initiation of cultivation in the vertically integrated greenhouse unit, with an area of 21,000 m2 and an annual production capacity, reaching in full growth, the quantity of 10 tons of dry flower. The plants received will be used for propagation under strict protocols that will ensure the preservation of the unique characteristics of the mother plants to future generations. The facility is expected to reach its full capacity levels gradually in the near future, to deliver a wide variety of finished medical cannabis dosage forms.”

Tikun received its license to initiate operations on the facility last year. 

“It was a great pleasure to welcome the operating [license] of our production unit, the construction of which was recently completed,” Beis said in a statement at the time. “The operation of the plant will start very soon, bringing us one step closer to the [realization] of our vision: to meet the ever-increasing demand of Greece and Europe for high-quality medical cannabis products. Our factory is the largest pharmaceutical company in the specific industry in Europe and exploits the potential of our country to play a leading role in the global market for medical cannabis.”

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Hong Kong’s ‘Dangerous Drug’ CBD Ban to Begin

In a starkly different approach from the U.S. and many other places around the world, Hong Kong moved to ban CBD and categorize it as a dangerous drug last October, and the ban begins on Wednesday.

Time reports that beginning on Wednesday, harsh penalties and huge fines—typically associated with hard narcotics—will be applied to people in Hong Kong caught in the possession, production, or smuggling of CBD.

Following in the footsteps of measures laid out in mainland China, Hong Kong’s CBD ban was announced last year, when government officials cited the difficulty of distinguishing pure CBD from THC, and the possibility of contamination during the production process. They also cited the way CBD can be converted to THC—typically in the production of delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, a Hong Kong Legislative Council Panel on Security announced in June that it would pursue a ban on CBD. Then in August, Hong Kong officials began cracking down on CBD businesses. Residents were given three months from Oct. 27 to dispose of their CBD products in special boxes set up around the city.

The full ban on CBD in the semi-autonomous administrative region begins within days.

“Starting from February 1, cannabidiol, aka CBD, will be regarded as a dangerous drug and will be supervised and managed by the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance,” customs intelligence officer Au-Yeung Ka-lun said at a press briefing.

“As of then, transporting CBD for sale, including import and export, as well as producing, possessing and consuming CBD, will be illegal,” Au-Yeung said.

People caught importing, exporting, or producing CBD can face up to life in prison and Hong Kong $5 million ($638,000) in fines. People caught in possession of CBD can face a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment and Hong Kong $1 million ($128,000) in fines.

“We will tackle all kinds of dangerous drugs from all angles and all ends, and the intelligence-led enforcement action is our major goal,” Chan Kai-ho, a divisional commander with the department’s Airport Command, told reporters Friday.

Chan said authorities would enforce the law on a case-by-case basis and “seek legal advice from our Department of Justice to determine what the further actions will be.”

South China Morning Post reports that since 2019, the department said it has seized over 4,100 CBD items that were found to contain traces of THC. Between January 2018 and December 2022, authorities arrested 38 people for their suspected connections to 68 cases where CBD products were believed to contain THC.

Hong Kong customs officials arrested nine people, seizing 25,000 CBD items worth  $14.6 million Hong Kong dollars after the products were found to contain traces of an illegal cannabinoid in January 2022.

It’s quite a change from 2020, when Hong Kong’s first CBD cafe opened, selling a full range of CBD-based cannabis products including vials of CBD oil for personal use, powders to be added to foods such as oil and butters, and other products, including products for pets who need pain relief. They also sold CBD-infused beer and coffee for those who wanted to stay awhile in the cafe. 

Nearby in Mainland China, CBD is banned in cosmetics, as well as all synthetic cannabinoids, which are typically made from CBD. But keep in mind that China is blamed as one of the world’s major sources of fentanyl precursors. Moreso in China than in other parts of the world, synthetic cannabinoids are mixed with other drugs more frequently.

Jaycee Chan, son of Hong Kong native Jackie Chan, served a six month sentence in 2014-2015 for hosting a get-together with weed in his Beijing apartment. That was during a crackdown on illegal drugs in the city.

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The Gang Goes to Thailand: Ganja in Bangkok (Part 1)

I’m sitting at the Suvarnabhumi airport trying to recap the madness that’s occurred over the past week while it’s fresh in my mind. I’ll be honest, my brain is pretty mush after cooking through over 100 blunts in less than a week. We consumed an entire original thai stick in brothers broadleafs & backwoods – which was quite possibly a world’s first, but surely a serious load for my lungs. If that wasn’t though, smoking an entire stick in a night was DEFINITELY a world record. Even the Thai Stick OG, Han Singh, who has been doing this since he was 15 years old (he’s 74 now) was floored to see how excited we were to try his legendary wares, and how much we could smoke. He brought us a whole stick – which they swear were hundreds of grams – but we cooked through that bad boy in basically one sitting (or evening, more accurately). I imagine it was closer to an ounce and a half, and I was surprised at how well Han kept up.

This is a good introduction to the Thai scenery now. Although there are dispensaries every few feet – with even entire strip malls dedicated to housing over 20 different dispensaries and consumption lounges, it’s clear that the Thai market is still getting its feet under them. After all, the sudden legalization left a lot of room for gray area operations that have since begun to become more regulated. For example, they have officially closed down consumption rooms until they can set up a licensing procedure for it, and while it’s technically not legal to smoke in public, it was clear the city’s filling up with that delectable aroma just like NYC. Further, I saw like one cop the entire time I was there, and we were far from the only ones smoking on street corners.

Even more surprising, however, was the lack of true Thai genetics that are available in the market. Sure a lot of Cali genetics have made their way out to the far east – we saw a lot of Runtz and Gelato – and edibles and concentrates are still banned for recreational consumption, but it was immediately clear that it was important to the Thai community to do things their own way. They’ve been trying to hunt down their local genetics that were largely lost during the prohibition days, prioritizing canopy for landraces as opposed to what we’d consider market-viable. And if you ask any of the newly legal operators they’ll all say the same thing: “Oh man, Thai Stick, that’s like the great white buffalo now – we haven’t seen one of them in years.” 

Turns out it only took seasoned road warriors Jimi and I 5 days to find. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

*Flash Backward*

Let’s first zoom out a bit to clarify how this trip came about. This wasn’t some thoroughly planned adventure. Oh no, in fact I didn’t have an active passport or any idea I’d be going the month prior. Sometime in the middle of November during another weed-filled journey my friend Josh, Chief Operations Officer at High Rise, asked me if I’d be interested in coming to Bangkok with him and his crew. I had been hearing rumblings of my friend, America’s favorite pot critic, Jimi Devine’s planned trip, though at the time hadn’t realized it was the same one. Once Josh made that clear obviously I couldn’t miss the opportunity. 

I will disclose here that the trip was planned and funded by Bangkok Urban Green, who requested nothing but to show us around and for us to document our experiences however we saw fit. Basically the easiest way for me to write the real shit, and not just the glitz and glam the brands are focused on you seeing, is to give you the true story of our antics. But don’t worry, there’s a slew of content around our trip for you to dig into. High Rise has released their 30 minute documentary, and Jimi his coverage. But I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach here, having been to the country before.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

A Brief History Lesson

You see, I was in Thailand like a decade ago shortly after finishing college, and it was an entirely different beast. While in the past you’d have a much easier time finding benzos and opiates over the counter at the pharmacies of Khao San, it seems all those shops have since switched to dispensaries, making the new school Khao San an entirely different experience than what I was used to. Also worth noting the last trip we only spent like 3 days in Bangkok. Admittedly it was a much seedier place back then. It was impossible to find weed, but pills were everywhere. So you know? When in Rome.

But man, has the game changed in the last ten years. Over the last year, really. Last time I barely wanted to hang in Bangkok – I was ready to explore the jungles, and the islands. But this time we didn’t leave the city, and I’m really glad I got to see a full view of what Bangkok has to offer. That boat tour alone was one of the trippiest experiences of my life – from passing slums to mega mansions to temples to super malls was not what I expected when we got on the boat, but I had no complaints. In fact, I was amazed at not only the sights, but of Jim’s ability to roll a wood on a speeding boat, and the mid-water maneuvers we were made to undertake in order to take pictures in the Tuk Tuk boat, leaving me feeling like a parkour expert.

But maybe I should zoom back out to the beginning for a second to really run down all the shenanigans the boys got into that week. It was admittedly a lot, even for us.

The Details

The cast of characters for this trip was as follows. We had Erin and Derek, the founders of the High Rise Agency, Josh, who I already mentioned is their COO, Jimi Devine, in my opinion the best pot journalist in America, and me, your friendly neighborhood deviant.

It’s worth noting that as soon as we got to the airport security turned Erin’s passport away because it had a very minor rip on it. We tried to get tape from another gate to fix the issue but the friggin airline took it upon themselves to call the State Dept and let them know the passport was damaged, so no luck. Unfortunately Erin wasn’t able to join us on our flight, and missed the first few days. That said, I want to take this opportunity to give a massive shout out to our State Rep, Ted Lieu, for helping sort our documents with the Department of State in an extremely expedited manner. 3/5 passports we needed for this trip were obtained within the last two weeks, and it’s all thanks to our friend Teddy – just so you know brother, you’ve got our votes for life! 2/5 of those were planned, and Erin was a surprise bonus a few days later. All things considered, it worked out.

So we get on the plane sans Erin for what will amount to an almost 24 hr travel day, and given that there’s an almost 15 hr difference between here and LA we lost a solid day on the way in – though we ARE about to have a 36 hour day today on our return, so I guess that makes up for it. But I’ll be honest, this was the longest I was going to go without smoking in recent memory, so I wasn’t entirely excited for the journey. Fortunately Xanax exists and I slept through the vast majority of the flight to Taiwan. 

It’s worth noting we brought absolutely no THC with us on this journey as Taiwan is still one of the less friendly ports to our ilk left in the world, and we didn’t want to take any chances. Thank god we didn’t, because they made us go through security to get to our layover. From there we linked with Jimi, who had taken the first leg of the journey solo en route from SFO, and jumped on the next plane – just a quick 4 hr jump this time. We didn’t sleep this leg – the excitement was really starting to set in. (Remember, I had less than a month’s knowledge we’d even be going – I was fully convinced this wouldn’t happen, so this was still absolutely surreal.) Before long, we landed in Bangkok.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

We Made It

Now, before the flight I let our hosts know about how this gap in consumption was probably going to affect me. I wasn’t expecting to be in a great mood, so I politely requested they meet us with some weed so we could expedite the process of getting back up to speed. They obliged, and met us at the airport with a blunt already rolled. We smoked that in the smoking section before leaving the airport. They were surprised, however, when we asked for more. You see, Thailand is still fairly timid in their consumption. With most residents smoking at most a gram a day (approx. $30 USD, or 900 Baht), they had no idea what they were in for with us. We were rolling blunts that would satisfy the whole group’s expected daily consumption every time. 

As it was still technically morning when we arrived they made a call and had more brought to the first stop on our journey.

Naturally, before we went into the first stop we met the guy and rolled and smoked two blunts. As I said, we were getting up to speed, and taking in the fact that we were now on the other side of the world. Though things hadn’t gone exactly to plan, we [most of us] made it. We rejoiced. 

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Starting The Tour

Our first stop was the final day of Southeast Asia’s first Hemp Expo. Admittedly looking way closer to MJ Biz Con than I expected, we were primarily here to meet with the hemp company that the Queen had started – coincidentally the first cannabis license granted after legalizing. Go figure. Well it turns out she’s no longer with the company, but they’re definitely doing a LOT, and over the course of the few minutes we spent with them we learned how they’ve been using hemp for cloth in Thailand forever, and while the war on drugs stopped them from fucking with cannabis for awhile, the hemp game never slowed down. The versatility in the textiles they showed us was crazy, but the fact that they all began from the same source material was the biggest trip. 

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

I don’t remember much else from the Hemp Expo – I was exhausted and trying to smoke more. I remember joking with the guys that this wasn’t what we expected to see on the other side of the globe, having successfully avoided the showroom floor of the aforementioned convention the month prior. In my lamenting, someone overheard and asked if we were from the States. He was a Cali transplant who was trying to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself out there right now. He had some work with him, and it turned out to be much better than the local we’d tried thus far, so I stopped the group to get an eighth ($75 USD). We rolled that up and smoked it before getting back in the van. 

From there it was off to our hotel, finally. Although it was still technically our first day in Thailand it had been like 3 calendar days since I’d seen a bed due to the long flight and time traveling, and I was ready to crash. We arrived at the Pullman King Power Bangkok, which seemed to be one of the nicest hotels in town. A night in this spot runs around $100-$250 USD, which is a fortune in Thailand, but standard for roach motels in the states. This was not that. They put us in the ‘executive’ section at the top of the tower, with access to a private buffet and drinks throughout the day. Not that we got to take much advantage of the meals – actually the guys probably did, I was never up for breakfast – but I definitely enjoyed their fresh juices. No one told me until the fourth day that I wasn’t supposed to leave the lounge with the juices, but that says something about Thai hospitality and their desire to please.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

No Rest for the Wicked

Somehow instead of going to bed we were persuaded to join the local gang for a drink at this rooftop bar not too far away. While I’ll admit, I was an absolute vegetable and teetering on passing out, I’m glad I got to check this place out. I have no idea what this place was called, but it definitely made me feel like I was somewhere else. While they had a welcoming smoking section with an excellent view, probably the most exciting thing about this spot was this multi-story glowing jellyfish dancing above the bar. I have no idea what it was for, or if it was some famous art installation, but I was very geeked on it and it kept my attention as I patiently (lol) waited to go get into bed.

Although we’d only just landed it was already clear that the country’s landscape has changed drastically in the ten years I’d been gone. When in the past the only drugs I could reliably find were the type you’d get from a pharmacy, here we were less than 24 hours in and every sort of recreational had already been practically shoved in our faces. I might be exhausted, but I’m already loving the new look of this place.

*When I realized how long this piece would be I posted a poll on Twitter asking if you all would prefer one long mega story, or for it to be broken down into smaller bite sizes. The overwhelming majority voted for chapters, so here we are. I’ll see you in a few days with part two.*

The post The Gang Goes to Thailand: Ganja in Bangkok (Part 1) appeared first on High Times.

Argentina Launches New Agency To Boost Cannabis Industry

Argentina officially launched a new government agency on Wednesday as part of an effort to bolster the country’s medical marijuana and hemp industry. 

Reuters reports that the agency, known as the Regulatory Agency for the Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis Industry, or ARICCAME, represents “the first working group of a new national agency to regularize and promote the country’s nascent cannabis industry, which ministers hope will create new jobs and exports generating fresh income for the South American nation.” 

“This opens the door for Argentina to start a new path in terms of industrial exports, on the basis of huge global demand,” said Argentina’s economy minister Sergio Massa at an event marking the launch of the new agency.

According to Reuters, “Massa said that the agency would from Thursday begin regularizing programs and coordinating with various provinces and [the] industrial sector, adding Argentina already counted on demand for projects linked to the agro-industrial sector.”

On the official website for ARICCAME, the agency outlines its mission and objectives.

“We are the Agency that regulates the import, export, cultivation, industrial production, manufacture, commercialization and acquisition, by any title, of seeds of the cannabis plant, cannabis and its derivative products for medicinal or industrial purposes,” the website reads, via an English translation. 

The website lists the following “general objectives” for the agency: “Establish through the respective regulations, the regulatory framework for the entire production chain and national marketing and/or export of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, seeds and derivatives for use in favor of health and industrial hemp; Promote a new agro-industrial productive sector for the commercial manufacture of medicines, phytotherapeutics, food and cosmetics for human use, medicines and food for veterinary use, as well as the different products made possible by industrial hemp; Generate the framework for the adaptation to the regulatory regime, of the cultivation and production of cannabis derivatives for use in existing health, guaranteeing the traceability and quality of the products in order to safeguard the right to health of the users of medical cannabis; Reintroduce hemp in Argentina and all its derivatives: food, construction materials, textile fiber, cellulose and bioplastics with low environmental impact; [and] Promote scientific research and sectoral technological progress, promoting favorable conditions for these existing industries in our country.”

ARICCAME’s specific objectives include: “Establish clear rules that provide legal certainty to the sector and encourage federal participation; Articulate through agreements and conventions with other State entities with intervention in the matter: INASE, SENASA, INTA, INTI, AFIP, INAES, BCRA, UIF, National Universities, etc; Determine the system of licenses and administrative authorizations for the productive chain; Generate quality standards that safeguard the right to health of users and consumers of cannabis/hemp products; [and] Control non-compliance with the regulatory regime.”

Argentine policymakers legalized cannabis oil for medical use in 2017. Three years later, the country legalized home cannabis cultivation for medical marijuana patients. 

The launch of the new agency is part of a border effort by the Argentine government to continue to reform the medical cannabis program, something that the South American country identified as a priority last year

According to Reuters, the newly launched agency will be helmed by Francisco Echarren, who “said the industry could generate thousands of new jobs, as well as create technological developments and new products for export.”

“We have a huge challenge ahead of us,” Echarren said, as quoted by Reuters, “not only getting a new industry on its feet, but giving millions of Argentines access to products that improve quality of life.”

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Guyana Authorities Seize Weed Shipment from the U.S.

Customs officials in Guyana last week intercepted and seized a box of cannabis that had been shipped from the United States. 

The Customs Anti Narcotic Unit (CANU), the top drug enforcement agency in the South American country, said in an announcement that its officers “were contacted on January 20, 2023, after packages of suspected cannabis were discovered in a box shipped from the United States at the Muneshwar shipping limited.”

“CANU officers arrived on the scene and conducted additional searches before taking possession of the box,” the agency said in the announcement, which was posted on Facebook. “The box was then transported to CANU headquarters in the presence of the employee of the shipping company, who made the discovery. The suspected cannabis tested positive for cannabis and amounted to 1.920 kgs.”

The Customs Anti Narcotic Unit said that investigations into the package are ongoing.

Despite marijuana’s ubiquity in Guyana’s warm climate, the country’s government takes a hardline against weed, strictly prohibiting its cultivation, sale and possession. 

Courtesy of CANU

According to the Guyana Standard, the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit “conducted several raids and was able to clear 3,403.68 kilogrammes of narcotics amounting to a street value of $1.1 billion off the streets” last year. 

“This represents a 68.26 percent increase in comparison to 2,022.88 kilogrammes of narcotics amounting to $634 million in 2021,” the outlet reported. “There were 24 cases of cocaine, 80 cases of cannabis, four cases of ecstasy, and two cases of methamphetamine in 2022.”

On the same day as the seizure of the cannabis package in Muneshwar, the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit announced that a woman had been “sentenced to four years in prison and fined $53.1 million for cannabis possession by Magistrate Leron Daly after admitting to having 59 kgs of cannabis in her possession for the purpose of trafficking.”

According to the Guyana Standard, the country’s government “has been investing millions of dollars in the security sector to provide a safe and secure environment for Guyanese,” including “purchasing vehicles for the Guyana Police Force (GPF) while training police officers and allocating half a million dollars to the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) to advance its work.”

CANU was “established through a Cabinet decision in 1994 and was implemented in August 1995,” according to the law enforcement agency’s official website.

“The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 1988 was amended in 1999 to facilitate the legal operation of the Unit and to give it the same authority to enforce it, as the Guyana Police Force,” the site explains. “In April 2001, Guyana and the United States signed a Shiprider Agreement to suppress illicit traffic by sea and air. The agreement seeks to reduce the ability of illicit narcotics traffickers to elude maritime law enforcement agencies within and outside the territorial waters of Guyana, as well as to strengthen Guyana’s maritime law enforcement capabilities. On July 23, 2003, the National Assembly passed the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Bill 2003. The Bill … provide[d] the legal framework for the implementation of provisions of international, hemispheric, regional and bilateral agreements, of which Guyana is a part. The Agency is also linked to INTERPOL, one of the world’s biggest coordinators of drug interdiction agencies. The Narcotics Unit also plays an active role in the World Customs Organisation. The Government of Guyana and the Government of Colombia signed an agreement that allowed Guyanese law enforcement officers to benefit from anti-narcotics training.”

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