Increase in Cannabis Pollen Linked To Illicit Growth in Spain

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Cartagena in Spain have come to an interesting conclusion. Recently, the amount of cannabis pollen in the air has increased dramatically. It is not unreasonable to postulate, as the polytech scientists have now done, that the total amount of illicit cultivation in the region has increased significantly in the last four to five years.

The scientists in Cartagena have been tracking cannabis pollen for decades to try to establish the level of cannabis production and origin in the cities of Cartagena, Murcia, and Lorca. The three cities are located just across the Alboran Sea from Algeria and Morocco.

What they have found most recently, beyond an uptick in overall volume, is that only a small amount of the particles in the air come from North Africa. This too is on trend. Authorities have noticed that there has been an increase in cultivation in Spain and a lower dependency on hash coming in from abroad.

Of the three cities, Lorca and Cartagena stood out, registering more than 80 grains of pollen per cubic meter, with Murcia reaching a peak of 66 in 2020. This is a significant delta considering that the three cities registered levels of between 19 and 27 in 2017.

This conclusion comes from the fact that there has been a dramatic increase in busts in the area over the same period of time.

The Spanish Cannabis Uprising

While most people, starting with the Spanish government, have focused on the nascent cannabis club industry in and around Barcelona, the reality is that illicit cannabis cultivation—not to mention use—is widespread in Spain. This is something that authorities are belatedly getting a handle on as they try to figure out how to legislate a situation where the horse has clearly left the barn.

As of last year, the government began formally considering how to recognize the medical efficacy of the plant. Beyond this, the Spanish legalization discussion is in an interesting place at the moment. Cultivation for the clubs is widespread, as are the clubs themselves, particularly in Catalonia and Basque country. Beyond this, there are four licenses issued by the government allowing the cultivation and processing of GMP or pharmaceutical grade cannabis—but only for export. Hemp is also allowed, as long as it is being used for industrial purposes.

However, it clearly does not stop here. Bootleg Spanish products are showing up all over Europe right now—and not just of the CBD kind. There is more illicit production here than the authorities can ever control—which is also why there have been a few very public and large national busts of late.

In the meantime, Germany has decided to speed up its recreational legalization plans.

If the Spanish intend to resist the obvious, it will only do one thing. Rob the government of tax income if not tourist euros spent elsewhere. The impact of the German decision cannot be understood either and for a very simple reason: There is a huge amount of German investment in the Spanish economy. And for now, while that is predominantly real estate and banks, there is no reason that this could not extend, and soon, to cannabis.

Pollen Testing Confirms the Obvious

The Spanish pollen test appears to be the first of its kind. Most studies of air quality in this industry so far have been focused on the emissions of indoor cultivation in Colorado and California. Beyond this, the main way authorities try to understand drug use (in both the U.S. and Europe) is to measure metabolites collected from city wastewater. In Europe, the last major study of the same found that the highest levels of THC metabolite have been found in cities in Croatia, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain.

Given the fact that not only are Spanish citizens cultivating and using cannabis—and apparently increasingly so as countries in Europe address recreational reform, it seems only a matter of time before Spanish policies finally catch up. And when they do of course, there will be a far easier way to measure both cultivation and consumption in the form of legal, regulated, and taxable production and sales.

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First Psychedelic Drug Trial Firm Opens in London

In what is absolutely a sign that the new interest in psychedelic drugs has landed on the other side of The Pond, a new commercial facility has opened for trials in London.

Clerkenwell Health, a British start-up, will begin trials of psilocybin to help terminal patients manage the anxiety caused by this kind of diagnosis starting in August. The intent is to support trial participants through the end of palliative care. The facility will be located near Harley Street—a famed address globally for attracting doctors and firms offering state-of-the-art medical treatments and therapies. The firm will be working in cooperation with North American firms in both Canada and the United States which focus on treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The move is not unexpected and indeed is likely to be just the next step in a widely anticipated trend. Biotech firms of all kinds, including for psychedelics starting with cannabis, have been eyeing the U.K., post-Brexit, as a haven for this kind of experimental research. This is because Britain is no longer bound by the rules and regulations of the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory bodies necessary to approve such research on a regional basis.

Beyond this, of course, other psychedelic drugs—and psilocybin in particular—are beginning to have a new renaissance in the research community globally. It is undeniable that this is due, in part, to cannabis reform. In many ways it is the ending of Prohibition globally, more than Brexit, which has opened these doors.

Regardless, there is great interest now in exploring all kinds of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions ranging from mood disorders and PTSD to addiction.

The policies of the War on Drugs made research of all of them highly challenging. Getting both approvals and funding was next to impossible everywhere. Indeed, the only reason that Israel developed into a hub of cannabis research is that the U.S. was willing to fund research overseas that was specifically banned at home.

The Great Irony About British Psychedelic Research

As much as this development is certainly a step forward for this kind of treatment, there are multiple ironies present. The first is that the most widely used psychedelic drug involved in such reform discussions—namely cannabis—remains an illegal substance in the U.K. Further, despite efforts on the part of advocates, which at this point include the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recreational legalization has caused a backlash in his own party.

As a result, widespread medical reform is in a strange place here. Despite the U.K. being the largest exporter of medical cannabis in the world, legal access to cannabinoid-based medicine is still out of reach for the average British patient.

It may well be that the first recreational reform in Britain will happen first, if not even more ironically, just off its coast.

Where Drug Reform Is Headed in the U.K.

Given the political climate, it is clear that drug reform politically in the U.K. is not following science but rather profit. GW Pharmaceuticals led the commercial development of cannabis-based drugs outside of Israel for almost 20 years. During this time, the company’s drugs treated more global patients than domestic ones. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why the entire medical cannabis discussion became so heated over the last several years. When GW’s drugs did not work even on children, parents had to import alternatives from abroad.

Tragically, the current divisions in the Labour Party over drug reform will probably split the party, causing the need for a partisan discussion about drug reform, but also slowing it down even further.

That matters little to biotech firms now eyeing a regulatory environment outside of global norms and regulations and a whole new class of drugs to develop and roll out.

There clearly needs to be a general fast forward on these kinds of drugs and the U.K. is poised to be a center of that. But if the British insist on being the Island of Dr. Moreau for the benefit of a few firms, and to the detriment of the vast majority of its citizens, there is nothing to stop them. 

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Cannabis Goes Kashrut: Israel and Orthodox Conversion

Israel is the most advanced medical cannabis market in the world thanks to the ground-breaking research of Israeli scientists. There are over 100,000 patients with valid cannabis licenses. Beyond this, there is evidence that Jews have used cannabis for religious reasons for thousands of years

But so far, modern Orthodox, or even slightly less observant Jews—both in Israel and beyond—have been leery of taking cannabis, even as medicine. And when it comes to these kinds of decisions, it is usually Israel that has the final say.

The reason? Cannabis as medicine had not been certified as kosher—or kashrut—before in Israel (although burgeoning attempts exist in the U.S.). The term “kosher” refers to regulations that prohibit observant Jews from eating certain foods and require that others be prepared in a certain manner—in other words according to Jewish law.

This has now changed. A kashrut certification for Seach Medical Group was issued—and further was discovered as the company listed on the stock exchange. While this has not helped the performance of the company’s stock, it may well herald a new day in Israel and beyond for medical cannabis brands with the right certifications and market reach. Namely, more Jewish people—including those who are Orthodox—may be inclined to use medical cannabis. If a product is kosher, they can consume it even on Shabbat (holy days) and other religious holidays.

Is Cannabis Kosher?

This is a big issue on the cannabis front (and not just in Israel). It is also complicated because of the grey areas created by legalization. For example, some observant Jews would not take any cannabis—particularly if it had any THC in it on Shabbat (the weekly holy day that exists from sundown on Friday until Sunday morning). In life or death situations, Jewish law does not require that medicines are designated as kosher, but it is usually preferred and recommended that any medicine is certified as such.

Now that a cannabis company has been certified as kosher in Israel, the doubt can end. 

Not only will this (of course) increase the use of medical cannabis domestically, it will also begin to open the discussion outside of the country as well. Starting with the U.S.

Type the words “kosher” and “cannabis” into your browser, and you will see that there is already a trend in the U.S. (starting with California). This is also a conversation in New York.

How might this certification be added to create a different but highly accurate test for purity and healthiness? Not to mention create a unique branding and market entry opportunity?

Does Cannabis Need Kashrut Certification?

As a plant, cannabis is not something that would typically require kosher certification. This is a stamp of approval granted by a rabbinic agency, which will check ingredients, the production process, and the production facility. Consider it a kind of Talmudic GMP meets ISO.

It is usually applied to meat and places where food is processed. However, it is also applied to medicine.

The significance in Israel, of course, is that both the medicines and edibles market can now be certified as kosher. This will undoubtedly drive additional sales as large new percentages of the population can partake. According to the most recent reports released by the Israeli government, the majority of the country identifies as religious. Forty-two percent of the population identify as secular.

In the United States, this means that beyond any state (and presumably federal when it comes) certifications for cannabis, any company hoping to reach the Jewish market in states like New York will also do well to consider this kind of certification.

The Global Jewish Cannabis Market

Walk into any mainstream German grocery store these days and you will find a special kosher section. Indeed, Jews all over Germany import New York state manufactured wine for use in their ceremonies.

There is a huge global niche market for kosher products—and with just a few destination points outside of Israel.

This starts with the U.S. (and just behind them, the U.K.).

In the U.S., 2.4% of the population is Jewish, and 21% of New York identifies as such—the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. California comes second with about 1.5 million Jews, with Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania rounding out the top five states.

This is a targetable population. And now, thanks to the rabbinical approval in Israel of a cannabis medicine, that conversation can happen globally.

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European Authorities Bust International Drug Gang That Bought Art to Launder Profits

An international drug network shipping cocaine from Latin America, ketamine from Lithuania into the Netherlands, and cannabis smuggled from North Africa through Spain has just been busted by an operation conducted under the jurisdiction of Europol called Eurojust.

Italy’s interior ministry said that they had issued warrants against 31 people—most of whom were Italian nationals. About $150,000 in cash as well as over 150 kilos of illicit drugs were also seized. The bank accounts of two transport companies were also commandeered as they had allegedly been used to launder money from the operations.

The investigation began with the identification of two restauranteurs in Milan suspected of drug trafficking. Participants in the crime network attempted to hide their identities by using characters from films, literature and well-known artists including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pinocchio, and even the street artist Banksy.

The Future of Coordinated European Drug Busts in The Age of Legalization

Authorities in Europe have not let up on drug investigations or busts, even on the eve of cannabis legalization in several countries. This includes three massive arrests in Spain over the last year. Indeed, Spanish authorities have identified Catalonia, home to Barcelona and the majority of Spain’s cannabis clubs, as the epicenter of Europe’s illegal weed market. Spain is also a major transit point for cocaine shipped in from Latin America and hash from Morocco.

However, the situation allowing such coordination is unlikely to hold without some modification thanks to the movement of cannabis reform across Europe. Indeed, in Spain alone, both mega busts of the last 12 months were of farms spread out over many acres and in situations where the cultivators had previously told police that what they were doing was sanctioned (i.e. growing industrial hemp, which is legal in Spain).

How will international police agencies in Europe be able to investigate sophisticated criminal networks that include cannabis once cannabis starts to become legal across the region?

That question alone is one that the police are also asking, which is why, apart from the driving issue, they have been so anti-reform across Europe.

Cross Border Trade and Changing Regulations

One of the more interesting (or dangerously harrowing) discussions now front and center across Europe is how authorities will be able to tell illegal cannabis from the kind that is bound for legit markets. It is also likely to get very sticky, as the recent bust in Spain proved. Namely, if a company produces a product that is legal in one country and ships it across a border, how safe will it and the receiver be from international attention by Europol?

There are three possible answers to that question.

The first is that legitimate cannabis operations will not be mixed with other drugs—and the chain of title will have been documented clearly.

The second is that legal cannabis distributors and wholesalers in Germany have been receiving shipments of even high THC cannabis flower within Europe for the past several years. That said, most of them, at some point, have also been visited by the local police.

The third is, however, that this entire proposition is about to get more complicated, not less, for both the industry and authorities as of this year. Legalization is setting up a checkerboard of regulations and enforcement problems. Beyond that, a patchwork of regulations complicates this even more. Will it be illegal, in other words, for a producer in Portugal to produce EU GMP cannabis or extract and sell it to an entity in Germany (post legalization) who just intends to sell to the recreational market? How might a newly legit producer in Holland ship to a dispensary in Germany post legalization?

For now, such questions are unanswerable. However, given the unabated zeal of law enforcement in publicizing large busts, and the problems encountered even by legal purveyors so far, expect there to be clashes of the embarrassing and highly litigious kind as legalization in Europe proceeds.

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Zimbabwe President Commissions $27 Million Medical Cannabis Plant

The president of Zimbabwe on Wednesday reportedly commissioned a farm and processing plant for medical cannabis cultivation worth $27 million.

Business Insider reports that President Emmerson Mnangagwa “commissioned the medical cannabis farm, and processing plant at Mount Hampden set up by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe…to produce cannabis (mbanje or dagga) for medical and scientific purposes,” saying in a speech that “the rapid development of the processing plant, which adds significant value to the crop, was a testimony of the success of the Government’s engagement policy and the confidence Swiss companies and investors had in Zimbabwe and its economy.”

“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Bioceuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million,” Mnangagwa said in a speech on Wednesday, as quoted by Business Insider.

Business Insider reported that the president “added that the investors should follow the company’s lead and open their business to support the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business and be ready to generate foreign currency generation for the country.”

The announcement of the farm comes nearly three years after the country did away with its laws banning the cultivation of cannabis as it looked to produce a new crop to export. A year before that, in 2018, the country legalized medical cannabis.

The repeal of the ban is part of a concerted effort by Zimbabwe to pivot from its longtime major exporter, tobacco, of which it is the leading producer on the continent.

As tobacco exports bring in far less money to Zimbabwe farmers and producers than they used to, many in the country’s industry have shifted to cannabis production.

In reporting on the repeal of the cannabis ban in 2019, Bloomberg noted that the country was seeking “to boost export revenue and offset the global campaign against tobacco, a major source of foreign currency,” with Zimbabwe officials saying at the time that it would initially be focused on hemp and medicinal cannabis.

Earlier this week, Reuters detailed the country’s still-young medical cannabis industry and how farmers there have adapted.

Reuters, citing Barclays analysts, reported that the “global cannabis industry could be worth $272 billion by 2028,” and that “Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has said the country wants at least $1 billion of that—more than it currently makes from its top agricultural export tobacco.”

Reuters spotlighted a 35-year-old Zimbabwean grower named Munyaradzi Nyanungo, who has been issued one of the 57 cannabis operating licenses in the country.

“We stand to sell cannabis at $25 per kilogramme, which is five, six times more than what a good tobacco crop can give you. We are actually sitting on a green gold mine,” Nyanungo told Reuters.

Nyanungo has a U.S.-based partner in “King Kong Organics, which supplies seed and other inputs, purchased the greenhouses under an off-take agreement that will see the company buying the cannabis crop for processing.”

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa, the country’s president, “also urged other investors with permits to quickly operationalize their permits and licenses for the benefit of the economy in general and people in particular,” according to Business Insider.

“I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, focusing on value addition and beneficiation. It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating [licenses] have been operational,” Mnangagwa said, as quoted by Business Insider.

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German Bundestag Pressures Health Department for Cannabis Reform

In a rapid turn of events, the German Bundestag’s budget committee has placed pressure on the German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, to present a bill for recreational cannabis reform this year for passage by the end of 2022. 

If he fails, he will lose part of his ministerial budget.

The committee, now in negotiations over all parts of the government’s annual spend, decided to temporarily suspend public relations funds for the Department of Health if the recreational cannabis bill is not passed this year. Lauterbach had just announced his intention to introduce such a bill by summer rather than autumn. It is unclear which decision actually came first, but at this point, it is obvious that the Traffic Light Coalition has decided to prioritize a truly burning issue.

Regardless, this is a major move both nationally and globally when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. It is almost unprecedented as a pressure tactic in German politics (which are genteel by U.S. standards). Furthermore, despite all the bureaucratic delay on just about everything here, it is also very clear that when they want to, the German government can move quite quickly.

The American Congress (particularly the Senate side of the Hill) should take note.

It is not like holding major issues hostage over budget agreements is an unknown tactic in Washington. It’s just nobody has been desperate enough, or incentivized enough, to use it for cannabis reform before.

The Germans are Coming

The amount of excitement on the German side of the discussion is absolutely building, daily. Deals are being made, even in the preliminary handshake form and plans are going ahead for all kinds of projects.

The fact that recreational reform is now essentially on the legislative docket begins to also firm up realistic estimates of market start. It is unlikely that anyone will allow the market to begin before the last two quarters of 2023. More likely, market start will be scheduled for the first or second quarter of 2024. Decriminalization, however, may happen a bit faster than this.

There are, of course, many considerations to all of this—not the least of which is administration and paperwork creation (hopefully this time via efficient, non-crashing digitized processes) for getting a move on.

The fact that this is coming now is also very interesting, considering that digitalization of German healthcare is also one of the issues Lauterbach has also been tasked to advance. This alone is an onerous discussion for a system which still routinely utilizes fax machines. Using cannabis as a way to speed up the digitalization of the healthcare system that touches it is a smart move. Even smarter if, again as part of this package of reforms, it relieves a burden on insurance companies on the reimbursement front.

German healthcare is going through a massive budget crisis right now. Recreational cannabis reform would certainly begin to ease a bottleneck of issues. Starting with tax income. Of course, as many in the Bundestag know, the continued criminalization of people known as legitimate cannabis patients who the system cannot process and treat fast enough is also an increasingly lightning rod kind of issue. Waiting times for a new appointment for either a neurologist or orthopaedist are at minimum, three to five months, even in large cities like Frankfurt right now. Whether such doctors decide to prescribe cannabis, or the patient’s insurer will cover it, are two different questions.

Recreational cannabis reform will go a long way to relieving some of the pressure, bureaucratically, politically, and administratively. Not to mention financially.

The Significance

The fact that Germany seems to be fast-tracking cannabis reform, and further under such circumstances will hopefully be a wake-up call to the rest of the world. Starting of course, with the United States.

Beyond this the impact will be felt almost instantly across Europe. Of course, there will be more conservative states which slow down reform. Newly re-elected Emmanuel Macron swore that he would not legalize recreational use while in office. Then again, the savvy French leader is a politician who recognizes which way the wind is blowing. And on this one, it has a nice, European-wide unifying effect.

Portugal, Luxembourg, and potentially Spain may also move quickly now to start to create export crops and products for a very lucrative and hungry market. Greece is having a field day.

What will be allowed to travel where is going to be an interesting discussion, as will the ability of what grade of cannabis will be allowed to cross borders. The first recreational market may in fact happen with German grown cannabis first. That would set up the current medical cultivation bid holders with a huge (and unfair) advantage. It would also potentially give Cansativa an unbelievably unfair edge (if not addressed pronto)—namely they currently hold the monopoly distribution position, granted by BfArM, for all German cannabis of medical grade at least, grown in Germany.

That is going to have to be addressed, pronto. Otherwise, there will be marches in the streets. Given the pressure and thus speed Lauterbach is now under (and given who has the lion’s share of access to his ears on this issue) it is very likely that a lot of issues (and people) will be thrown under the bus for the benefit of the rich, white, men’s club now attempting to exert their brand of control over the conversation even now.

The other discussion that is also coming fast is home grow. 

No matter the particulars (for example, keeping all foreign GACP high THC cannabis out of Germany for a certain period of time), or what is likely to unfold, reform is clearly coming, and fast, to Germany.

How it will be appropriated, tweaked, and amended is anyone’s guess. But the levers are now clearly moving, with a very incentivizing twist, to make Germany, the largest economy in Europe, into one of the most important cannabis markets in the world.

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First Nation Announces Canada Farm-to-Gate Cannabis Operation

This week, Canada is celebrating Sugar Cane Cannabis, British Columbia’s first farm-to-gate cannabis facility. It is also the first facility of its kind in Canada to be on First Nations land.

The dispensary, located in Williams Lakes, is a major milestone for Canadian cannabis and First Nations people across the country. 

“It has been a very long journey when you look at what we have been through and what the staff has been able to pull together,” Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars tells Black Press Media at the May 6 opening of the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility that will allow customers to purchase cannabis directly from the facility where it is being grown.

“They realized this craft cannabis tourism vision model. It’s still a little bit surreal but you can see how pumped they are to showcase it to the public.”

This new farm-to-gate cannabis facility has been two years in the making, as Williams Lake First Nation have been growing their brand, Unity Cannabis, across retail stores in communities like Penticton and Merrit. They are also opening a new facility in Lac La Hache soon. The plan is to keep opening retail stores in the province, all full of cannabis grown in Williams Lake. They plan to be able to harvest their first crop soon. 

“It’s not the gold rush that everyone expected it was, but it’s a nice niche little business that provides a revenue stream for WLFN and also provides job opportunities for people not only at WLFN but around the province,” Sellars says.

The plants for the company are supplied by Life Cycle Botanicals, licensed in May 2022. They transplant and grow the plants in five different rooms within the Sugar Cane Cannabis Facility. Each room contains different flavors, strains, aromas, potencies, and pharmaceutical properties, and the rooms are full to the brim with plants. 

Master Grower Brendon Roberts relocated from Toronto to work in this special new facility, where he works around the clock to grow the best buds possible. The plants are on a schedule of 12 hours of light, 12 hours of darkness. 

“They go to bed at 7 p.m.,” he says.

The facility is still under construction, and soon, a mixed-development building called The Osprey Nest that includes a café, gathering space, and open-concept lofts will also be on-site. The company should begin breaking ground on the new building in the next couple of weeks. 

David Coney, B.C.’s director of Indigenous Government Relations BC Cannabis Secretariat, has been working with WLFN and feels this is an important next step for First Nations in the world of cannabis. “It’s fantastic; it’s a beautiful facility,” he says.

However, this didn’t happen without a rocky road forward. WLFN counselor Chris Wycotte opened up about the doubts he had surrounding the plan to open a business like this through and for the First Nations community. 

“We had to take it to the community and the community supported it. There was no opposition. Maybe there were some concerns, but no opposition.”

And this isn’t the only good news on the horizon for WLFN. Earlier in May, the First Nations group announced that they intend to hold a referendum on June 29 of this year so that members can vote on a proposed $135 million settlement with the federal government. If the agreement is accepted, a long-standing claim relating to land displacement from the traditional tribal village lands. This happened 160 years ago, so restitution has been a long time coming. As many as 400 members of the 800-plus in the community are eligible to vote.

This new, innovative cannabis facility represents a major milestone for the First Nations communities. 

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‘Criminal’ Data Breach Affects Over 1,200 Cannabis Stores in Ontario

A massive leak of data associated with government-run cannabis retail stores in Ontario, Canada put retailers in a tailspin. Consumer data, however, is not part of the equation, and wasn’t exposed during the data breach.

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), a government-run agency overseeing the distribution of cannabis from licensed producers to retailers, reported that some of its sales data was “misappropriated.”

An OCS letter sent to retailers on May 10 and quickly picked up by The Canadian Press warned that confidential sales data was being circulated throughout the industry.

“This data was not disclosed by the OCS, nor have we provided any permission or consent to distribute or use this data outside of our organization,” reads the letter, signed by Janet Ihm, vice-president of wholesale partnerships and customer care at OCS. “The data was misappropriated, disclosed, and distributed unlawfully. As a result, we trust you will refrain from sharing or using this stolen data in any way.”

Over 1,200 retail stores in Ontario have been affected. Retail cannabis stores in Ontario rose to 1,333 by a recent count, up from 1,115 in September.

Three anonymous sources say that store names, license numbers, and data showing whether a store is independently owned, run by a corporation, or by a franchisee was also leaked. The matter is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

MJBizDaily confirmed with the OPP that the breach is being considered “a criminal matter.” The data was also distributed unlawfully, according to authorities.

Reportedly the data contained ranked sales info of every cannabis store in Ontario. And given that the data also showed kilograms sold during the month, kilograms sold per day, total units sold, total inventory—it could put retailers at risk.

The data could end up in the wrong hands or for the wrong reasons, such as rival retail stores. The data “provides a lot of really competitive insight into who’s doing what, who’s moving what, which retailers are selling what,” Deepak Anand, founder of cannabis company Materia, told The Canadian Press. “That certainly could be a leg up and give a leg up to competition within the industry that’s looking to get ahead of the next person.”

This type of incident has happened before in the area.

In 2018, the OCS revealed that data for 4,500 of its customers was part of a Canada Post data breach. The 2018 breach was found to be the result of someone accessing data via a Canada Post tracking tool. The data included names of people who purchased pot deliveries, OCS reference numbers as well as postal codes.

Meanwhile, residents are concerned about the rise in competition. Some areas are overrun with cannabis stores, such as Toronto’s Queen Street West. That eventually led the Toronto City Council to issue a moratorium on new cannabis store licenses. The moratorium would run for a year or until a provincial bill is put forth, allowing local communities to have a voice in the matter.

It’s concentrated areas of cannabis retail like Queen Street West, where competition is the most fierce, that would appear to be more vulnerable amid the data leak.

Lisa Campbell, chief executive at cannabis marketing company Mercari Agency, told The Canadian Press that it could be a “death sentence” for some of the businesses who are seeking to be acquired.

Cannabis retail businesses in Ontario face stiff competition already, so underperforming stores could suffer if their data is revealed.

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London Mayor Announces Plan To Study Cannabis Legalization

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a plan to study the legalization of cannabis on Wednesday after visiting a dispensary and cultivation facility as part of an official visit to Los Angeles. Khan said that he was forming a commission to study cannabis legalization and named a prominent Labour Party official to head the panel.

Khan walked among growing cannabis plants and was introduced to the wide variety of products available at licensed cannabis dispensaries. The London mayor said that the commission he was appointing would examine the effectiveness of the city’s drug laws and explore how legalizing pot could help reduce “drug-related harm.”

“The illegal drugs trade causes huge damage to our society and we need to do more to tackle this epidemic and further the debate around our drugs laws,” Khan said. “That’s why I am in LA to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis.”

The commission will gather evidence on cannabis legalization from around the world and will study the public health benefits of cannabis, the best methods to prevent misuse, and effective law enforcement strategies. The panel will make recommendations to City Hall and government officials, law enforcement, and public health officials. More appointments to the commission will be announced this summer. The London Drugs Commission is not expected to make its first report until next year.

Khan was escorted on the tour of the facility by representatives of the regulated cannabis industry and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Khan’s aides noted that regulated pot has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue for Los Angeles while providing economic opportunities for business owners and workers.

“The decriminalization and legalization of cannabis offers historically marginalized communities opportunities for healing, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation in this growing industry,” Garcetti said. “Cities have so much to learn from one another, and I applaud Mayor Khan’s thoughtful approach as London moves forward.”

Khan announced that he had appointed Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor in Tony Blair’s government and a current member of the Labour Party’s shadow cabinet, to lead the commission tasked with studying issues surrounding the potential legalization of cannabis in London. Although the city government does not have the power to unilaterally legalize pot, Khan hopes the work of the commission will spur conversation on cannabis policy reform. He plans to bring lessons learned from his visit to Los Angeles, which was one stop on a four-day trade mission to the United States, back to London to help inform the discussion on the issue.

“We must learn from others when considering our approach, and by examining the latest evidence from around the world and the world-class research from UCL, Lord Falconer and the commission will make recommendations to improve our approach to cannabis to help tackle drug-related crime, protect Londoners’ health and reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs cause to our communities,” said Khan.

Previously, Khan admitted to using cannabis while on a party trip to Amsterdam.

“I was young once and I’m not a prude,” he told reporters in 2018. “And I did inhale as well.”

Exploring Cannabis Policy Reform

The London delegation also met with representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department, city officials, and health experts to get additional perspectives on cannabis legalization and regulation issues. Khan has been exploring cannabis policy reform since 2019, when he called for a national review of cannabis policy and law enforcement after a spate of violent crimes linked to illicit drugs.

“It is a real opportunity for there to be a thorough look at the effectiveness of our drugs laws and policy on cannabis,” said Lord Falconer. “We need rigorously to identify what is the best approach to reduce harm to our communities. A national debate is long overdue. We aim to make recommendations to bring about effective and lasting change.”

But news of Khan’s commission was not received well back in the United Kingdom. Home Secretary Priti Patel, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, slammed the London mayor’s plans to decriminalize cannabis.

“Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London,” Patel said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “The Mayor has no powers to legalize drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.”

Khan will also have to gain the support of the leadership of his own party if cannabis legalization in the U.K. is to become a reality. Party head Keir Starmer would likely oppose efforts at policy reform.

“Labour does not support changing the law on drugs,” said a spokesperson for the party. “Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national government.”

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Swiss City of Lausanne to Launch Recreational Cannabis Trial This Fall

Cann-L (or Cannabis Lausanne), the four-year recreational cannabis trial, will be launched by the end of the year, according to municipal councillor Emilie Moeschler who spoke to the press on Tuesday, “In Lausanne, as in other cities, cannabis is very present … It is essential for cities to launch such experimental studies to address the issue in an objective and dispassionate way,” he said. He also stressed that the city “has already shown, in 2018, its interest in a pilot experiment with the federal authorities in order to change its policy in this area.”

The city is now on track to become the second in the country after Basel, to proceed with a recreational cannabis trial. Bern, Geneva, and Zurich are also in the process of developing their own projects. The May 15, 2021, amendment of the Federal Narcotics Act allowed these five cities to proceed.

Lausanne: Similar, But Different

In Lausanne, allowed products will be sold in a dedicated store run by the non-profit Cann-L. Unlike German-speaking parts of the country which have chosen to use pharmacies for the trial, Lausanne’s entry into the conversation will be more like the Spanish idea of a cannabis club.

All hemp sold in the facility will have to meet two requirements—being both grown locally and produced in organic environments.

The police will monitor the facility, identify the cannabis being sold and differentiate products sold legally vs. the black market.

Consumption is not allowed in public, and of course, customers may not resell to third parties.

Pricing has been designed to match the black market—namely flower will retail for between 10-13 francs per gram. Participants will not be allowed to purchase more than 10 grams a month.

Study participants (aka customers) will be required to have residency in Lausanne and, further, already use cannabis. Eligibility for participation can be found here—although the project is not yet accepting applicants. The city as well as Addiction Switzerland (chosen to conduct the scientific aspects of the trial) will submit their plan to the canton’s ethics commission and the Federal Office of Public Health by the end of May.

The study is expected to cost around $390,000 per year—or about $1.5 million over the course of five years.

The Impact of The Swiss Trials

As is already being seen in the diverse nature of the canton approach to such trials, both the pharmacy first and dispensary first models are being trialed in Switzerland in a way that is bound to attract the attention of every other European country now considering recreational reform. This starts with Germany, right across a common border, which also shares a special trade alliance with Switzerland (and Austria) known as DACH.

The fact that the Swiss will have data as soon as the end of the year will also, no doubt, shape the discussion, in at least Germany, about how to allow individual states to have some say about how recreational reform will unfold in their local jurisdictions.

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