Canadian Government To Review Cannabis Legalization

Canada’s Liberal Party government launched a review of the country’s legalization of cannabis on Thursday, four years after the country became the world’s second to legalize marijuana for adults. Canada legalized marijuana with the passage of the Cannabis Act in 2018, five years after Uruguay became the first country to legalize cannabis for adults in 2013.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said at a press conference on Thursday that the review will help legislators and other policymakers determine if cannabis legalization is meeting the needs and expectations of Canadians.

“Through this useful, inclusive and evidence-driven review, we will strengthen the act so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to displace the illicit market. I look forward to receiving the panel’s findings,” Duclos said.

The Cannabis Act mandated that a review of cannabis legalization be conducted three years after the law was passed. The review, which is being initiated one year later than required by the legislation, is required to study the impact of cannabis legalization on Indigenous people, the cultivation of cannabis in housing complexes, and the health and cannabis use patterns of young people.

“Our government legalized cannabis to protect the health and safety of Canadians, particularly minors, and to displace the illegal market,” added Duclos.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a co-chair of the all-party cannabis caucus, said that the review can help reveal the shortcomings of the groundbreaking Cannabis Act, which made Canada the first country in the northern hemisphere to legalize recreational marijuana.

“We have been, in many ways, world leaders in advancing sensible drug policy and legalization and regulation of cannabis is an example of that,” said Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who co-chairs the all-party cannabis caucus, at a press conference. “But we didn’t get it perfect, we didn’t get it exactly right for the first time.”

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett agreed, noting the review is designed to focus in part on the mental health implications of cannabis legalization, particularly among the young.

“Young people are at increased risk of experiencing harms from cannabis such as mental health problems, including dependence and disorders related to anxiety and depression,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett. “While a lot of progress has been made on the implementation of the Cannabis Act and its dual objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety, we need to assess the work that has been done and learn how and where to adjust to meet these goals.”

Protecting Youth and Displacing the Illicit Market

When Canada’s Liberal government passed cannabis legalization in 2018, the stated goals of the Cannabis Act included protecting the health of Canadians and displacing the country’s illicit marijuana market. The review will help officials determine how effectively the legislation is meeting those goals so far.

“We are going to displace the illicit marketplace. It’s only a matter of time and you are going to, over the next three years, five years and 10 years, see those numbers shift,” said Erskine-Smith. “The legal marketplace will be where Canadians continue to turn.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce expressed support for the review, saying that the comprehensive evaluation would help foster the growth of the regulated cannabis market.

“However, to effectively displace the illicit market and protect the public health and safety of all Canadians, law enforcement, businesses, industry and all levels of government will need to continue to work together,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce National Cannabis Working Group said in a statement.

The mandated review has been expanded to include an investigation of the social and environmental impacts of the Cannabis Act, the legalization and regulation of medical marijuana and the effects of reform on minority communities and women. Erskine-Smith said that including the additional areas of focus in the review is responsible for the government’s failure to meet the three-year deadline specified in the legislation.

“Getting the scope of the review right was much more important than the timeline,” he said. “If we’d followed the legislation to a ‘T’ — both in relation to the three-year timeline, but also the considerations that are set out in the legislation — we would have missed a major opportunity to get this right.”

The review will be conducted by a panel of experts led by Morris Rosenberg, a former deputy minister of justice. The government has not yet named the remaining members of the review panel.

The panel will hear from members of the public, government officials, Indigenous groups, youth, cannabis industry representatives, and medical cannabis users. The panel will also hear from leaders in public health, substance abuse, law enforcement, and health care.

“I look forward to working with the panel and to providing evidence-based advice to ministers to strengthen this particularly important piece of legislation and advance public policy in this area in Canada,” Rosenberg said Thursday.

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Australian Cannabis Patients Turning to Prescriptions Over Illicit Market, Study Shows

New research from the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative seeks to take a closer look at cannabis consumers’ habits. The results found that most Australians medicate with illicit cannabis, though the number of patients accessing medicinal cannabis has risen dramatically over the years. The study’s findings were recently published in Harm Reduction Journal.

It’s the third Cannabis as a Medicine Survey (CAMS20), following two previous iterations, CAMS16 and CAMS18. The authors note that, even though Australia has had its legal framework for medicinal cannabis since 2016, prior surveys indicated most consumers were still using illicit cannabis products, while regulatory data indicated an increase in medicinal cannabis prescriptions since 2019.

Researchers administered a cross-sectional anonymous survey to 1,600 participants from September 2020 to January 2021. Participants were eligible if they were over 18 years of age, used cannabis for self-identified medical reason(s) in the past year, and a resident in Australia.

The survey ultimately found that 37.6% of respondents received a legal prescription for medical cannabis, a major increase from the 2.5% of respondents who reported prescription use in the 2018 iteration of the CAMS survey. Those who exclusively used prescription cannabis were often older, women, and less likely to be employed.

Prescribed participants were more likely to use cannabis to treat pain than those using illicit cannabis (52% vs. 40%) and were also less likely to treat sleep conditions (6% vs. 11%). Mental health conditions were also common indications for both groups (26% and 31%, respectively). Additionally, prescribed medicinal cannabis was predominately consumed through oral routes (72%), while illicit cannabis was more often smoked (41%).

As far as medicinal cannabis access, and despite the fact that medical patients in Australia have drastically increased over the past several years, few participants (10.8%) described the existing model for accessing prescribed medicinal cannabis as “straightforward or easy.”

Survey participants mostly called out the cost of medicinal cannabis as a barrier, with an average cost of $79 per week, highlighting the need to reexamine the cost of treatment for patients. People using illicit cannabis also reported that they had trouble finding medical practitioners with the ability or willingness to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

The study’s lead researcher, Professor Nicholas Lintzeris from the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, said this data suggests that Australia has seen a transition from illicit use toward the legal use of medicinal cannabis.

“A number of benefits were identified in moving to prescribed products, particularly where consumers reported safer ways of using medical cannabis. People using illicit cannabis were more likely to smoke their cannabis, compared to people using prescribed products who were more likely to use oral products or vaporised cannabis, highlighting a health benefit of using prescribed products,” Lintzeris said.

Respondents also reported positive outcomes from their medical cannabis use overall, with 95% stating that using medical cannabis has improved their health.

Professor Iain McGregor, academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, added that there are advantages in using medicinal cannabis instead of its illicit counterpart, including safer routes of administration, greater certainty of access, and better communication between patients and doctors.

“Patients can also be informed of the exact THC/CBD composition, which is an ongoing problem with illicit product,” McGregor said. “There should be further efforts to transition patients from illicit to regulated, quality-controlled, cannabis products.”

In the study conclusion, authors echo similar sentiments, noting the progress and uptick in medicinal cannabis prescriptions since the regulatory framework was first introduced in 2016. While they similarly note the benefits of using medicinal cannabis, authors recognized the barriers that may keep illicit cannabis users from securing a prescription.

In closing, the authors suggest further research to address the barriers respondents reported in accessing medical practitioners willing to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Australia. The CAMS series is conducted every two years, and if the stark contrast between this survey and the previous iteration is any indicator, hopefully the upcoming iteration will close some of these gaps in patient access to medicinal cannabis in the future.

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Biden To Meet With Family of Brittney Griner

President Joe Biden on Friday is set to meet with family members of American basketball star Brittney Griner, who remains held in a Russian prison on drug charges.

Biden will also meet with the family of Paul Whelan, an American who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

The Associated Press reported that the “separate meetings are to be the first in-person encounter between Biden and the families and are taking place amid sustained but so far unsuccessful efforts by the administration to secure the Americans’ release.”

“He wanted to let them know that they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day, on making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing on Thursday at the White House, as quoted by the Associated Press.

She was found guilty by a Russian court last month and sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison.

Her detention has become a symbol in the deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations, and has reached the top levels of diplomacy in both countries.

The United States has sought a prisoner swap that would see the release of both Griner and Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.

“While I would love to say that the purpose of this meeting is to inform the families that the Russians have accepted our offer and we are bringing their loved ones home — that is not what we’re seeing in these negotiations at this time,” Jean-Pierre said on Thursday, as quoted by the Associated Press. “The Russians should accept our offer. The Russians should accept our offer today.”

Griner’s legal team filed an appeal of the conviction last month, a process that will likely take months.

Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, pleaded guilty to the drug charges, but insisted that she did not intend to break the law.

She was traveling back to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the Russian team she plays for during the WNBA’s offseason.

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said in the Russian courtroom last month as she plead for leniency. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

Following Griner’s sentencing last month, Biden denounced the ruling.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said in his statement.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also condemned the conviction.

“It puts a spotlight on our very significant turn with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns,” Blinken said last month.

Blinken has called the United States’ offered prisoner exchange a “substantial proposal.”

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Thai Lawmakers Withdraw Bill to Regulate Cannabis

A proposed bill that would have brought greater regulation to cannabis use in the country was withdrawn by lawmakers in Thailand on Wednesday, the latest attempt by the government to get a handle on a burgeoning marijuana industry.

Bloomberg reports that lawmakers “in the House of Representatives voted 198 to 136 to pull the bill and send it back to the drafting committee for further revision late on Wednesday.”

The bill “passed the first reading in June and was designed to give the government more control over the industry,” and “may now be reintroduced in November,” according to Bloomberg.

“The bill doesn’t control cannabis but even promotes it, leaving room for its use to stray from medical to extremely recreational,” said Thai lawmaker Sutin Klangsang, as quoted by Bloomberg. “We’re afraid that children and people will smoke it and become addicted.”

The proposed bill follows the Thai government’s decision in June to decriminalize marijuana, which made it the first country in Asia to do so.

The new policy has led to the opening of several cannabis cafes in the country’s capital city, Bangkok, much to the dismay of government officials there.

Last month, Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul issued a blunt message to would-be tourists looking to visit the country for an easy toke.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Anutin told reporters at the time.

The new decriminalization law removed cannabis from the country’s list of banned substances, but officials such as Anutin insisted at the time that it should not be construed as the legalization of recreational pot use.

“It’s a no,” Anutin said in June. “We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

“We [have always] emphasized using cannabis extractions and raw materials for medical purposes and for health,” Anutin continued. “There has never once been a moment that we would think about advocating people to use cannabis in terms of recreation — or use it in a way that it could irritate others.”

He added: “Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes. If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong. Don’t come. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose.”

But perhaps not surprisingly, that is exactly what has happened in the months following the enactment of the new law.

Reuters reported last month that the new measure “has led to an explosion in its recreational use,” even though “that government officials – concerned about negative effects on health and productivity often linked to uncontrolled use of the drug – have retro[s]pectively tried to discourage.”

That set the stage for members of parliament to get their arms around the new law this week.

Bloomberg has more details on the bill that fizzled out on Wednesday: “The parties opposed to the cannabis bill in its current form have threatened to vote against the legislation unless the revised version clamped down on recreational smoking. They are also against a clause that allows households to register and grow up to 15 cannabis plants. The opposition to the bill was also seen as a political tussle ahead of a general election due to be called by March. The passing of the bill would hand a fresh victory to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s Bhumjaithai Party, which led the drafting of the bill and spearheaded cannabis liberalization as part of its campaign promises during the 2019 general election.”

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New Zealand Approves Domestic Medical Cannabis Products

New Zealand health regulators last week began allowing the use of domestically produced medicinal cannabis products, ending patients’ reliance on imported medical marijuana products. The Ministry of Health allowed access to local medicines beginning on September 9, opening a new opportunity for New Zealand cannabis growers and manufacturers.

Under New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis legalization laws, any licensed general physician can prescribe cannabis medications to any patient to treat any health condition. But since 2017, only imported cannabis medicines have been approved for use by patients, notes Tim Aldridge, managing director of cannabis grower Puro New Zealand.

“Up until now, New Zealand patients could only be prescribed medicinal cannabis grown overseas, with the vast majority being imported from Australia and Canada,” Aldridge said in a statement.

Puro New Zealand grows organically produced cannabis at its outdoor facility on the nation’s South Island. Earlier this year, the company signed a multi-million dollar, five-year deal to provide cannabis to Helius Therapeutics, a firm that manufactures cannabinoid medications at its facility in East Auckland. Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius, noted that a change in the law now allows New Zealand patients access to the company’s products.

“In 2018, Parliament’s legislative intent around improving access and affordability was clear,” said Doran. “The subsequent Medicinal Cannabis Scheme has also strived for both locally grown and made cannabis medicines. That national ambition to better serve long-suffering Kiwi patients is finally a reality and that’s exciting.”

“This is great news for many patients who have long sought legal access to both New Zealand-grown and made medicinal cannabis products,” Doran added.

Medications Approved for Local Market

On Tuesday, Helius was notified by the Ministry of Health that two of its medications had passed quality standards tests, a requirement that must be met before cannabis products can enter the local market under regulations adopted in 2019. New Zealand already has 35 cannabis companies across the country, with Helius Therapeutics being the largest in the nation.

Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021, bringing the first products to market three months later. The new products will first be launched in New Zealand before being rolled out internationally, with Europe and South America already identified as priority foreign markets for the company.

“Gaining approval of medicinal cannabis products that are truly New Zealand-grown and made is a significant milestone for our industry,” Doran said. “Local patients and their advocates have fought long and hard for truly Kiwi products which are both high quality and cost-effective.”

Aldridge said that his company has spent four years bringing its operations up to government standards.

“It hasn’t always been plain sailing,” Aldridge said. “Navigating this new industry, coming to grips with the regulatory regime, and growing a new crop at scale has been a massive undertaking.”

Although the work to develop a local cannabis production infrastructure has not been easy, he says that patients will soon reap the rewards. Locally produced cannabis medications are expected to cost patients half as much as imported medicines.

Doran of Helius said that a local source of CBD and other cannabis products will help ensure that patients in New Zealand have access to their medicines, noting that global logistical challenges over the past two years have affected imports of cannabis products from producers abroad.

“We have seen significant delays and disruptions in the availability of imported products as COVID continues to impact supply chains,” said Doran. “It is disconcerting for patients and prescribers when products that are making a difference in people’s lives are not available. Fully New Zealand-grown and made products will help alleviate such issues.”

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BDSA Report Projects $57 Billion in Global Cannabis Sales by 2026

A report published by the cannabis data company BDSA projects that by 2026, global cannabis sales will rise to $57 billion—an increase from the $30 billion of global cannabis sales collected in 2021. The “Global Market Forecast” was published on Sept. 13, and reviews expected milestones for the cannabis industry to hit within the next five years.

“The ‘hockey stick’ trend of sales growth seen in the early years of legal cannabis has passed, and economic and regulatory headwinds are exerting pressure on legal cannabis markets,” said BDSA CEO Roy Bingham in a press release. “Still, our updated forecast predicts that steady gains in developing U.S. markets will continue to drive single-digit annual growth in total U.S. legal sales in 2022, with continued growth prospects out to 2026.”

The report also projects that in the U.S., sales will rise from $25 billion in 2021 to $42 billion in 2026, making up about 75% of total global cannabis sales.

BDSA addresses how mature cannabis market prices are experiencing historically low prices. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, adult-use sales continue to drop. Recreational sales in June 2022 reached $127,157,358, compared to June 2021 which reached $152,719,813. Medical cannabis sales in Colorado also follow a similar dip compared to last year’s sales data.

However, BDSA adds that states such as Oregon and Washington have implemented moratoriums to prevent over supply. Newer markets such as Illinois are continuing to do well though, having collected $2 billion in total sales in 2022 so far (14% more than sales collected in 2021). The report notes that markets like New Jersey, which recently launched its adult-use program, and New York, which is preparing for recreational cannabis sales very soon, will be high contributors to sales in the U.S. by 2026.

Between New Jersey and New York, there are 22 million adults who are expected to contribute $5 billion to the total $42 billion expected to be collected in 2026. “Though mature legal cannabis markets in the U.S. saw sales soften in 2022, the cannabis market is still forecast to see topline growth in 2022, driven by strong sales in new and emerging markets, such as the populous states of New Jersey and New York,” Bingham said. “The U.S. will continue to dominate global sales over the next few years, but we see potential from emerging global markets such as Germany and Mexico.”

Medical cannabis sales continue to decline, especially in markets that recently legalized adult-use sales like Arizona. “BDSA projects annual dollar sales in Arizona’s medical channel will be 30% lower than the 2021 annual dollar sales total and roughly half the annual sales total seen in 2020—the last full year of medical-only sales,” BDSA states in a press release. “By contrast, the Colorado medical channel still saw modest growth in annual sales for roughly two years after the launch of its adult-use market in 2014.”

On an international scale, larger countries are continuing to ramp up their medical and or recreational cannabis programs. Germany recently hit a roadblock with the concern that an adult-use reform measure might be rejected by the European Union. Mexico decriminalized cannabis last summer, but adult-use cannabis has not yet been legalized. Smaller countries are beginning to take action, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, which released a draft of medical cannabis rules in August. Bermuda, a territory of the United Kingdom, recently made plans to implement a legalization bill, but it was rejected by U.K. officials.

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Researchers Studying Psilocybin as Treatment for Obesity

Building on the growing evidence that psilocybin has the potential to treat a host of serious mental health conditions, researchers are now studying the effects that the active component in magic mushrooms might have on obesity.

Previous research into psilocybin and other psychedelics has repeatedly shown that the drugs may be an effective treatment for mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Additionally, a correlational study published last year determined that those who reported having tried a classic psychedelic drug at least once during their lifetime had a significantly lower chance of being overweight or obese.

In a recent study, scientists affiliated with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark conducted an experiment with mice to investigate the potential of psilocybin to reduce food cravings. To conduct the study, the researchers used mouse models of genetic obesity, diet-induced obesity and binge-eating disorder to investigate the effect of psilocybin on body weight and food intake.

Initial results showed that a single high dose of psilocybin or a daily microdosing did not lead to reduced body weight or less food intake among obese mice treated with the drug. Although they did not find evidence to support the hypothesis, they were encouraged by the study and urged further research.

“We were surprised to see that psilocybin did not have at least a subtle direct effect on food intake and/or body weight in genetic and diet-induced models of obesity and overeating,” study author Christoffer Clemmensen, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, told PsyPost. “Although we failed to discover major effects of psilocybin on mouse energy metabolism and behaviors associated with eating, we believe that there are nuances of the mode of action of psychedelics that cannot be appropriately captured in rodent models. Importantly, psilocybin was safe and had no adverse effects on the physiological parameters we tested in mice.”

Obesity is Common and Costly in the U.S.

Obesity is one the most pressing health problems in the United States, affecting nearly 42% of adults from 2017 to 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The obesity prevalence was 39.8% among adults aged 20 to 39 years, 44.3% among adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 41.5% among adults aged 60 and older.

Health conditions related to obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, helping to make them among the leading causes of preventable, premature death. The annual estimated medical costs of obesity totaled approximately $173 billion in 2019, adding about $1,861 to the medical costs for each person with obesity.

“Perhaps surprisingly, obesity is a rather treatment resistant disease that shares neuropathological similarities to mental disorders, such as addiction,” said Clemmensen.

“Dysfunctions in homeostatic and reward circuitry can lead to ‘relapse’ in people with obesity, making it difficult to adhere to lifestyle and even drug interventions. Given that psychedelics are thought to enhance the plasticity of neural circuits, it may be that when combined with behavioural therapy, psychedelics might be powerful tools for ‘resetting’ long-held compulsive behaviors. Further, classic psychedelics act on the serotonergic system, and could have a direct effect on food intake by broad activation of serotonin (5-HT) receptors, emphasizing their potential benefits for obesity.”

The researchers noted that despite their value to scientific research, mouse models are not a perfect substitute for human subjects and encouraged further study into the potential of psilocybin to affect food intake and weight.

“The main caveat is translation,” Clemmensen said. “Although animal models in general have been invaluable for neuroscience and metabolism research they might be inappropriate for testing health benefits of psychedelics.”

“I remain excited about this topic, psychedelics for treatment of obesity and eating disorders and I think we should start considering what sub-groups of patients could benefit from this drug class,” he added.

The study, “Acute and long-term effects of psilocybin on energy balance and feeding behavior in mice,” was published last month by the peer-reviewed journal Translational Psychiatry.

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United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda Territory from Legalizing Cannabis

The Royal Gazette stated that on Sept. 6, Bermuda Governor and Commander-in-Chief Rena Lalgie was “instructed” by United Kingdom Foreign Secretary to refuse to give royal assent to the Cannabis Licensing Bill. “The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. I have informed the Premier and relayed the UK’s continued desire to work with Bermuda on reforms within the scope of our existing international obligations,” Lalgie said.

According to the U.K. Parliament, royal assent is final approval for a bill to become law. “Once a bill has completed all the parliamentary stages in both Houses, it is ready to receive royal assent,” the U.K. parliament states.

This news occurred on the same day that Liz Truss became U.K. Prime Minister (PM), replacing former PM Boris Johnson.

Media reports that the denial of approval for Bermuda’s bill has caused tension in relations between the U.K. and Bermuda. Bermuda Attorney General Kathy Lynn Simmons explained that this won’t be the end for cannabis in the country. “Disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions,” Simmons said. “The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment.”

The Bermuda House of Assembly approved the Cannabis Licensing Bill in March 2022, which then moved to Gov. Lalgie for royal assent. However, not all legislators were in support of the cannabis bill.

Bermuda has two political parties: the One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party (PLP). One Bermuda Alliance’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Scott Pearman describes the bill as “deeply flawed.” In April, he said that there was a “high likelihood” that Lalgie wouldn’t grant royal assent and the bill would not become law. Pearman explained that the bill was a flagship initiative of current Premier Edward Burt, who is also the leader of the PLP, and “almost half of his PLP MPs did not vote for the Bill.”

“It was deeply flawed—no matter what position you hold on the cannabis debate, this particular Bill was not for you. The Premier has been well aware of the U.K.’s treaty obligations throughout,” Pearman continued. “His own attorney-general pointed out the U.K.’s treaty obligations in parliament when the Bill was debated the first time in February 2021. The premier then stated publicly in November 2021 that he had no intention of tailoring his Bill to satisfy the U.K.’s conventions obligations. So, it was [PM Edward] David Burt’s choice to steam ahead as he did, rather than seek consensus and compromise. It should come as no surprise to anyone that royal assent has not been granted on this Bill. And it should certainly not surprise Premier Burt.”

Current Bermuda law states that no criminal offenses would be issued if a person carries seven grams of cannabis or less, as directed by The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act of 2017. However, the act does not make it legal to “consume, cultivate, traffic or import cannabis in any quantity.”

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Weed Legalization in Germany Hampered by EU Laws

Germany has slowed its plans to legalize cannabis this year, with some officials expressing concern that a hastily drafted reform measure will be rejected by European Union courts. Although the plan to legalize marijuana has not been scrapped, a government official said recently that lawmakers are proceeding with a “degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough” and have scaled back plans to achieve legalization by early next year.

In November 2021, the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD) received the most votes in Germany’s most recent federal election and created a coalition with the environmentalist Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) to form a new government. Known as the traffic light coalition in reference to the parties’ colors, the new ruling majority replaced the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years.

As negotiations to form the new government were underway, representatives of the coalition announced that cannabis would be legalized for adults and a regulatory framework for legal sales would be created. Spokespeople for the new ruling alliance announced that cannabis would be legalized for adults, including the launch of regulated recreational marijuana dispensaries.

“We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” an unidentified spokesperson for the coalition said. “This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The goal of cannabis legalization in Germany has been restated by the Green Party and the liberal Free Democratic Party since the traffic light coalition took power, including Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann predicting in May that a reform bill could be passed by next spring and lead to “the first legal joint” being sold in Germany in 2023.

In early June, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced that the government would start the legal process for cannabis legalization soon. He told the German newspaper Handelsblatt he has changed his stance on legalization over the past two years, and now believes the negative impact of prohibition outweighs the risks of recreational cannabis reform.

“I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago,” Lauterbach said.

A series of five hearings to discuss different aspects of cannabis were scheduled by the German government. Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Issues Burkhard Blienert said that “the time has come” to move forward, according to a translation.

“We are starting the preparatory phase of legislation,” he added. “Being able to finally announce this is a special, gratifying moment for me personally. Like many others, I have been working for years to ensure that we in Germany finally stop criminalizing cannabis users and start a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy.”

Government Officials Scaling Back Legalization Hopes

But after expressing optimism that reform would come quickly, government officials have been walking back predictions that Germany will legalize cannabis by 2023. On Monday, a legal analysis by German parliament researchers was leaked to the news portal RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland, warning that the effort to legalize cannabis would conflict with European regulations in several ways.

Early in the ruling coalition’s discussions of legalization, officials identified the United Nations 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs as a potential obstacle to achieving the goal, although both Uruguay and Canada effectively ignored the international agreement when cannabis was legalized in those countries.

German officials now largely believe that the 1961 treaty is not the obstacle it once seemed and have turned their attention to European Union laws that might jeopardize legalization in Europe’s most populous country. Under a Council of the European Union framework decision from 2004, member states are required to ensure that sales of drugs including cannabis are “punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties.”

Additionally, the 1985 Schengen Agreement, which led to the abolishment of border crossings throughout the European Union, requires member nations to combat the illegal export, sale and supply of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis.” As the government considers the challenges to cannabis legalization under EU laws, officials are rethinking the pace of reform.

“There is a degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough before the end of the year,” said an official familiar with the matter. “The complexity of all is starting to sink in, and there’s a sharper awareness of the risks involved. We don’t want another autobahn toll debacle,” a reference to a plan to build a toll road that was abandoned when the European court of justice ruled it violated an anti-discrimination law because it would disproportionately affect foreign drivers.

The traffic light coalition remains on target to finish drafting a bill that would allow for the legal distribution of cannabis, according to government sources cited by The Guardian. But lawmakers are also watching to see what happens in neighboring Luxembourg, where officials unveiled a plan this summer that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in private settings but maintain prohibitions on using cannabis in public.

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King’s College London Begins 6,000-Person Study on Cannabis, Mental Health

King’s College London, which is ranked one of the top 10 universities in the U.K., recently announced that it would be launching a study to examine the effects of cannabis on mental health.

The study will be led by Dr. Marta di Forti, a Medical Research Council (MRC) Senior Clinical Fellow, who has conducted cannabis-based research in the past. “We wish to reach out to those out there using cannabis, in particular those benefiting from it. Without their help we will continue to have a polarised debate on cannabis, with us thinking it is all bad and should be banned, and others believing that because it is a plant it cannot have adverse effects,” di Forti said.

The study, called “Cannabis & Me (CAMe)”, is fully funded by King’s College London. Di Forti initially submitted it to the MRC in 2019, and it was approved in 2020 with a $2.5 million grant. “The pandemic has delayed the start to this date. The study involves several collaborations and labs, which were all affected by COVID-19. Finally, everyone is ready to start,” di Forti explained. The study is set to run for five years, with early results published in 2023 or possibly early 2024.

In a description of the study’s purpose, authors explained the need for more research in light of the rapid increase of consumers across the globe.  “Therefore, at a time when cannabis use is increasing worldwide, this study focuses on understanding the wider impact of cannabis use on the physical and mental health of cannabis users. It also aims to identify environmental and biological factors, which can explain the different effects people experience when using cannabis, and in particular, identify those users more likely to experience mental health and social issues.”

The study will include 6,000 participants ranging from 18-45 years of age, and must reside in the London area. They will be required not only to take part in an online study, but must also agree to a face-to-face assessment, blood sample donation, and a VR experience (which will be used to measure an individual’s physiological response to specific situations). An important caveat to participation includes an individual having no previous or current diagnosis of psychotic disorders, and should not be receiving treatment for that condition.

Participants will be chosen for in-person interviews based on current cannabis consumption, or having “never/only twice” tried cannabis.

“The main aim of the study is to understand why a minority of cannabis users experience psychological and cognitive adverse effects—this is the clinical population I care for as a clinician,” di Forti said. “If we can identify the environmental and biological factors that make a minority susceptible to adverse effects when using cannabis daily either for medicinal or recreational reasons, we can inform safe prescribing and side-effects monitoring (we use virtual reality to test if or how cannabis affects reality perception).”

Di Forti also expressed the need for more information about possible negative effects, in addition to positive benefits. “We can also offer more information to the general public, to avoid adverse effects when using cannabis and how to recognise them,” she said. “Everyone in our society can recognise the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, but not everyone is familiar on how to identify the changes in thinking, processing and cognition that a minority experience when using cannabis.”

In the past, di Forti has conducted studies to analyze the link between cannabis use and psychotic disorders. In the results from a 2015 study, she came to the conclusion that “risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three-times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis compared with those who never used cannabis.” The results of this study have been used to support anti-cannabis efforts, which di Forti does not approve of. “Sometimes the political debate about cannabis has used my data in a context which doesn’t necessarily represent my view, and this is what tends to upset me,” di Forti said in an interview with Cannabis Health. “People now associate me with the idea that nobody should use cannabis and that cannabis is a toxic substance, which is not what I think.”

Another recent study associated with King’s College London found evidence that teen and adult smokers are not less likely to be motivated because of their cannabis use. Cannabis use was also found to help those with COVID-19 experience less severe symptoms.

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