Paraguay To Begin Marijuana Production For Research And Medical Purposes

Paraguay will begin accepting applications for the domestic production of cannabis for medical and research purposes next month, according to an announcement made last week by the country’s health minister. Julio Mazzolini, the minister of public health and social welfare, said in a press conference in Asunción on Thursday that a resolution to establish the rules to apply for the country’s first commercial cannabis production licenses had been approved by the ministry.

Licenses for five vertically integrated cannabis cultivation and manufacturing operations will be available. The National Health Surveillance (Dirección Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria/DNVS) will accept applications for the five licenses from October 1 through 31. Applicants will be required to include a certificate of good manufacturing practices; a plan for cannabis cultivation, transportation, and security; and a separate plan for exports, if applicable. The applicants that are awarded the licenses will be required to put them into use within 24 months.

Arnaldo Giuzzio, the chief of Paraguay’s anti-drug agency (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas/SENAD), told the press that licenses would only be available to operations located in the Central Department, the smallest but most populated of Paraguay’s 17 departments.

Medical Cannabis Legalized in 2017

Paraguay legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2017 and a decree to regulate the national program was approved the following year. Qualifying participants under the national program are guaranteed free access to hemp oil and other cannabis derivatives.

Under the decree, licensed manufacturers will be required to donate 2% of their production to the Ministry of Health, a provision reiterated by Mazzolini at Thursday’s press conference. The ministry will distribute the products to domestic patients with a proven scientific need free of charge.

Only patients with a condition for which there is scientific evidence that cannabis may be a beneficial treatment will be eligible for the national program. The nature and amount of required evidence are not clear. So far, the use of medical cannabis has been approved for the treatment of refractory seizures, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other qualifying pain conditions.

Outside of the national program, a few patients who have demonstrated an exceptional need have received authorization to import cannabis products for medical purposes. One such patient is an adolescent with a rare form of severe epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Also last Thursday, Paraguay’s Senate approved a bill that would permit the possession and home cultivation of medical cannabis for qualified patients and caregivers under certain conditions. The bill must also be approved by the country’s Chamber of Deputies before becoming law.

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Wants To Ban Flavored E-Cigs By Emergency Order

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has jumped in with other politicians to demand a quickly-enacted ban on flavored tobacco vaping products. His Sunday announcement came in the midst of a little-understood string of vaping-related deaths by severe lung disease, despite the fact that some of the dead were known to have smoked cannabis products.

It would appear that the health crisis is dovetailing with concerns about the growing number of teen vapers to cause politicians to take a stand. Cuomo’s words follow those of the First Couple. After Melania Trump tweeted her concern over the “growing epidemic” of teen vaping last Monday, the president followed up on Wednesday with a press conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Flavored vapes would be subject to much more stringent regulatory requirements.

“We can’t have our kids be so affected,” Trump said. “That’s how the First Lady got involved. She’s got a son […] a beautiful young man, and she feels very, very strongly.” Barron Trump, who is also the president’s son, is 13 years old.

Cuomo’s concern was hardly limited to young people. “Vaping is dangerous,” he announced. “Period. No one can say long-term use of vaping — where you’re inhaling steam and chemicals deep into your lungs — is healthy.”

The governor’s solution? That an emergency regulation banning flavored e-cigarettes immediately be issued by New York’s Public Health and Health Planning Council.

New York state would not be the first US jurisdiction to take such a step. San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban the sale of all e-cigarettes back in June. The city is home to leading vape company Juul’s world corporate headquarters, and the company has launched a ballot measure campaign to defeat the ban that could end up being the most expensive ballot measure drive the city has ever seen. This month, the state of Michigan also prohibited flavored e-cigs.

Such legislation may have more momentum in the midst of the vaping health crisis, which many have pegged to the use of thickening agents like Vitamin E acetate by largely unlicensed vape dealers. But it is unlikely to halt the six-death string of fatalities given that many of the deceased were known to have been vaping cannabis products.

But politicians are correct in their assertions that young people are turning more and more to vaping products. Studies show that many teens prefer to consume drugs by vaping. Vape products have the additional bonus of being easy to smoke in a covert manner, without leaving its consumers stinking like tobacco—good for kids looking to consume their marijuana or tobacco on the sly.

Cuomo did offer one caveat to his proposed ban—menthol flavor products would not be affected by the prohibition. He said that’s because menthol products help people to stop smoking regular cigarettes. Ironically, that’s what certain vape product advocates say about the class of inhalants regardless of selected flavor.

That logic didn’t fly with Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association. “While today’s announcement was well-intentioned, it will drive our youth to use menthol-flavored products in even greater numbers,” he told the New York Times.

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A2LA Accredits First Labs in Tennessee and Oklahoma

According to a press release published earlier this week, A2LA announced the accreditation of two separate cannabis laboratories in two separate states; both are the first cannabis testing labs accredited in their states. Demeter Laboratory, based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Galbraith Laboratories, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, achieved the ISO 17025:2017 accreditation.

According to Cassy VanTassel, M.S., quality manager at Demeter Laboratory, Oklahoma is still developing and defining their regulatory framework for cannabis testing requirements. “Even though the State of Oklahoma is still establishing regulations and legislation, Demeter will always strive to meet the highest quality standards, so our customers know they are getting the best quality testing,” says VanTassel. “Demeter chose A2LA as its Accreditation Body due to their reputation in the industry, their diverse clientele, and the quality of their assessors.”

In Tennessee, Galbraith Labs is looking to aid the hemp industry in product safety testing. Christy Myers, customer service manager at Galbraith Laboratories, says they want to help farmers produce safe hemp products. “We are proud of our commitment to stay current within our industry and achieve the high standards set by A2LA,” says Myers. “Adding cannabis testing to our line of services was a great opportunity for Galbraith Laboratories to serve the community by helping farmers produce safe and legal hemp.”

Galbraith Labs was founded in 1950 as a contract lab in Knoxville serving many industries. With their newly established accreditation, they hope to aid the cannabis industry in Tennessee with hemp testing. Demeter Laboratory is the first medical cannabis lab in Oklahoma. Their goals include “advancing quality controls in medical cannabis, supporting safe consumption of cannabis and ensuring the transparency of the cannabis community.”

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California Pledges $20 Million to Public Awareness Campaign Against Vaping

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will spend $20 million on a public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping nicotine and cannabis products and step up efforts to halt the sale of illicit products amid a rise in vaping-related illnesses.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the actions Monday as part of an executive order.

Many of the hundreds of nationwide vaping illnesses appear linked to use of cannabis-based oils, though some people reported vaping nicotine products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California has seen at least 63 cases and one of the six deaths reported around the country.

At the same time, flavored e-cigarettes made by companies such as Juul Labs are contributing to a rise in youth smoking. The public awareness campaign Newsom announced aims to tackle all forms of vaping, he said.

“As a father of four, this has been an issue that has been brought to the forefront of my consciousness,” he said.

While President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, Newsom said he doesn’t have similar executive authority. But he said he wants lawmakers to send him legislation to do so next year.

A similar effort failed this year, but the lawmakers behind it said they’ll try again.

“We fully support the Governor’s belief that these products should be banned, and we look forward to working with him to pass legislation that will bring an end to this public health crisis and protect the youth in our state,” Sen. Jerry Hill and Assemblymen Jim Wood and Kevin McCarty, all Democrats, said in a statement.

Hours after the governor’s announcement, health officials in central California said a resident of Tulare County died of “severe pulmonary injury” connected to the use of e-cigarettes. The person’s name and age weren’t released.

Most of Newsom’s actions center on the use of e-cigarettes, though he said the state is stepping up its enforcement of illicit cannabis products as well.

A spokesman for Juul Labs, one of the most prominent e-cigarette companies, said the company is reviewing Newsom’s announcement and applauds action to crack down on counterfeit and knockoff vaping products.

“On reported illnesses, we have been monitoring the situation closely,” spokesman Ted Kwong said in an emailed statement. Juul products do not contain THC or any compound derived from cannabis, he said.

Beyond the public awareness campaign, Newsom has directed the state departments of public health and tax and fee administration to explore ways to warn people about the potential dangers of vaping and tackle the sale of illicit products.

He’s asked the public health department to explore new warning signs at retailers and in advertisements.

On the tax side, he’s asking officials to consider changing how e-cigarettes are taxed, because they typically face lower taxes than traditional cigarettes. Making the products more expensive to buy could make them harder for teenagers to purchase, he argued. Juul did not specifically comment on that aspect of Newsom’s proposal or his call for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration may also try to implement a tracking system on the distribution of nicotine-based vaping products, similar to the “track and trace” program it already uses for legal cannabis.

Such a program would allow it to track the amount of vaping product distributors are giving retailers. The department would then track that against the tax it is collecting from retailers. That would help the state see if retailers are making money from illicit or untaxed products, said Nick Maduros, the department’s director.

Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association says the legal marijuana industry already follows rigorous standards and it supports efforts to place those same standards on nicotine-based products.

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Weedmaps Details Plans to Remove Unlicensed Cannabis Businesses from Its Platform

Online cannabis platform Weedmaps announced last Wednesday new details of its plan to remove listings and advertising for unlicensed websites from its services. Weedmaps announced last month that it would work to remove listings for unlicensed cannabis businesses in California, responding to criticism that including them was contributing to the state’s illicit market marijuana sales. The company also announced that it would take steps to support regulated businesses owned by minority entrepreneurs.

“Just three weeks ago, we announced a first-of-its-kind program to help social equity participants gain a rightful foothold in the cannabis industry. We also announced our plan to use the power of our platform to help support licensed cannabis businesses,” said Chris Beals, the CEO of Weedmaps, in a press release on Wednesday. “While these policy changes will only have a symbolic impact on the size of California’s unlicensed market without more licensing opportunities and other large listing platforms following suit, we want to continue to lead by example.”

Weedmaps said it plans to make several enhancements to its website to support licensed businesses, including a new user interface to highlight license information to make it more visible. The company also plans to develop online resources to help consumers learn where California licensing information can be found and will create an educational program and software to help licensed operators comply with driver and delivery tracking regulations.

“As these efforts progress, the company will explore ways to work with regulatory agencies in California to provide enhanced functionality and to encourage consumers to verify that they are buying fully tested products from licensed retailers,” Weedmaps wrote in the release.

Trade Group Calls for Fines Against Weedmaps

But the efforts being taken by Weedmaps to remove unlicensed operators from its platform isn’t sitting well with some licensed businesses, who believe that action should be taken more quickly. After Wednesday’s announcement, the United Cannabis Business Association, a trade group representing mostly Southern California retailers, sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Bureau of Cannabis Control chief Lori Ajax asking that Weedmaps be fined up to $85 million for violations of state regulations related to the listings for unlicensed companies.

“We request the state immediately and retroactively impose the maximum fines permissible by law on Weedmaps’ illegal operations,” wrote the UCBA.

The trade group also noted that unlicensed cannabis operators have been implicated in the ongoing rash of vaping-related lung illnesses that so far have affected nearly 500 cannabis and nicotine users and taken at least six lives.

“Just last week, after a series of deaths, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally warned consumers to avoid vapes containing THC,” the UCBA wrote in its letter to Newsom. “While still under investigation, all 57 cases so far in California have involved purchases from unlicensed “pop-up” shops. This outbreak serves as a tragic reminder of the dangers that the unlicensed industry poses to consumers.”

An audit conducted by the UCBA released this week determined that 2,835 unlicensed cannabis dispensaries and delivery services were operating in California, compared to the 837 licensed retailers serving California’s market.

Ironically, an audit of the UCBA website on Thursday afternoon revealed that only four of the 39 member retailers were displaying license numbers with an ‘active’ status according to the BCC’s license search tool. Dozens of the listed license numbers had a status of ‘canceled,’ while several others produced no results from the BCC website. 

A spokesperson for the UCBA assured High Times that all of the group’s members are properly licensed by the state, but was unable to explain why the trade group was listing invalid license numbers for its members on its own website. After the discrepancy was brought to the trade group’s attention, the license numbers on the UCBA site were updated later on Thursday to reflect currently valid numbers.

Weedmaps CEO Responds to Criticism

In an email to High Times, Beals said that removing unlicensed operators is “not as simple as flipping a switch” and that many licensed businesses had not yet submitted licensing information to Weedmaps. In the statement he seems to blame governing bodies and the recreational market for his company’s recent involvement with less-than-legal companies.

“But more importantly, the fact remains that California has not made enough licenses available for a legal cannabis market to thrive and self-regulate and a disproportionate number of those without licensing are people of color and those without unlimited capital,” Beals said. “Roughly 75% of California municipalities have declined to make cannabis licenses available, so when you consider the impact this has on consumers that depend on cannabis for their medicinal needs, the issue becomes even more magnified.”

Beals also said that efforts to stem California’s cannabis illicit market by sanctioning digital platforms are misplaced. 

“We know from other jurisdictions that trying to censor the internet will have no impact on the size of the unlicensed market,” he said. “This information is widely available on any search engine. The only proven solution to unlicensed dispensaries, particularly in California, is to make sufficient licenses available to meet consumer demand and allow unlicensed operators to have a chance to comply and compete.”

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Fungal Monitoring: An Upstream Approach to Testing Requirements

Mold is ubiquitous in nature and can be found everywhere.1 Cannabis growers know this all too well – the cannabis plant, by nature, is an extremely mold-susceptible crop, and growers battle it constantly.

Of course, managing mold doesn’t mean eradicating mold entirely – that’s impossible. Instead, cultivation professionals must work to minimize the amount of mold to the point where plants can thrive, and finished products are safe for consumption.

Let’s begin with that end in mind – a healthy plant, grown, cured and packaged for sale. In a growing number of states, there’s a hurdle to clear before the product can be sold to consumers – state-mandated testing.

So how do you ensure that the product clears the testing process within guidelines for mold? And what tools can be employed in biological warfare?

Mold: At Home in Cannabis Plants

It helps to first understand how the cannabis plant becomes an optimal environment.

The cannabis flower was designed to capture pollen floating in the air or brought by a pollinating insect.

Photo credit: Steep Hill- a petri dish of mold growth from tested cannabis

Once a mold spore has landed in a flower, the spore will begin to grow. The flower will continue to grow as well, and eventually, encapsulate the mold. Once the mold is growing in the middle of the flower, there is no way to get rid of it without damaging the flower.

A Name with Many Varieties

The types of spores found in or around a plant can make or break whether mold will end with bad product.

Aspergillus for example, is a mold that can produce mycotoxins, which are toxic to humans2. For this reason, California has mandatory testing3for certain aspergillus molds.

Another example, Basidiospores, are found outside, in the air. These are spores released from mushrooms and have no adverse effects on cannabis or a cannabis cultivation facility.

Fungi like powdery mildew and botrytis (PM and Bud Rot) typically release spores in the air before they are physically noticed on plants. Mold spores like these can survive from one harvest to the next – they can be suspended in the air for hours and be viable for years.

How Mold Travels

Different types of spores – the reproductive parts of mold – get released from different types of mold. Similar to plants and animals, mold reproduces when resources are deemed sufficient.

The opposite is also true that if the mold is under enough stress, such as a depleting nutrient source, it can be forced into reproduction to save itself.4

In the end, mold spores are released naturally into the air for many reasons, including physical manipulation of a plant, which, of course, is an unavoidable task in a cultivation facility.5

Trimming Areas: A Grow’s Highest Risk for Mold

Because of the almost-constant physical manipulation of plants that happen inside its walls, a grow’s trimming areas typically have the highest spore counts. Even the cleanest of plants will release spores during trimming.

Best practices include quality control protocols while trimming

These rooms also have the highest risk for cross contamination, since frequently, growers dry flower in the same room as they trim. Plus, because trimming can be labor intensive, with a large number of people entering and leaving the space regularly, spores are brought in and pushed out and into another space.

The Battle Against Mold

The prevalence and ubiquitous nature of mold in a cannabis facility means that the fight against it must be smart, and it must be thorough.

By incorporating an upstream approach to facility biosecurity, cultivators can protect themselves against testing failures and profit losses.

Biosecurity must be all encompassing, including everything from standard operating procedures and proper environmental controls, to fresh air exchange and surface sanitation/disinfection.

One of the most effective tactics in an upstream biosecurity effort is fungal monitoring.

Ways to Monitor Mold

Determining the load or amount of mold that is in a facility is and always will be common practice. This occurs in a few ways.

Post-harvest testing is in place to ensure the safety of consumers, but during the growing process, is typically done using “scouting reports.” A scouting report is a human report: when personnel physically inspect all or a portion of the crop. A human report, unfortunately, can lead to human error, and this often doesn’t give a robust view of the facility mold picture.

Another tool is agar plates. These petri dishes can be opened and set in areas suspected to have mold. Air moves past the plate and the mold spores that are viable land on the dishes. However, this process is time intensive, and still doesn’t give a complete picture.

Alternatively, growers can use spore traps to monitor for mold.

Spore traps draw a known volume of air through a cassette.The inside of the cassette is designed to force the air toward a sticky surface, which is capable of capturing spores and other materials. The cassette is sent to a laboratory for analysis, where they will physically count and identify what was captured using a microscope.

Spore trap results can show the entire picture of a facility’s mold concerns. This tool is also fast, able to be read on your own or sent to a third party for quick and unbiased review. The information yielded is a useful indicator for mold load and which types are prevalent in the facility.

Spore Trap Results: A Story Told

What’s going on inside of a facility has a direct correlation to what’s happening outside, since facility air comes infromthe outside. Thus, spore traps are most effective when you compare a trap inside with one set outside.

When comparing the two, you can see what the plants are doing, view propagating mold, and understand which of the spore types are only found inside.

Similar to its use in homes and businesses for human health purposes, monitoring can indicate the location of mold growth in a particular area within a facility.

These counts can be used to determine the efficacy of cleaning and disinfecting a space, or to find water leaks or areas that are consistently wet (mold will grow quickly and produce spores in these areas).

Using Spore Traps to See Seasonality Changes, Learn CCPs

Utilizing spore traps for regular, facility-wide mold monitoring is advantageous for many reasons.

One example: Traps can help determine critical control points (CCP) for mold.

What does this look like? If the spore count is two times higher than usual, mitigating action needs to take place. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies like cleaning and disinfecting the space, or spraying a fungicide, are needed to bring the spore count down to its baseline.

For example, most facilities will see a spike in spore counts during the times of initial flower production/formation (weeks two to three of the flower cycle).

Seasonal trends can be determined, as well, since summer heat and rain will increase the mold load while winter cold may minimize it.

Using Fungal Monitoring in an IPM Strategy

Fungal monitoring – especially using a spore trap – is a critical upstream step in a successful IPM strategy. But it’s not the only step. In fact, there are five:

  • Identify/Monitor… Using a spore trap.
  • Evaluate…Spore trap results will indicate if an action is needed. Elevated spore counts will be the action threshold, but it can also depend on the type of spores found.
  • Prevention…Avoiding mold on plants using quality disinfection protocols as often as possible.
  • Action…What will be done to remedy the presence of mold? Examples include adding disinfection protocols, applying a fungicide, increasing air exchanges, and adding a HEPA filter.
  • Monitor…Constant monitoring is key. More eyes monitoring is better, and will help find Critical Control Points.

Each step must be followed to succeed in the battle against mold.

Of course, in the battle, there may be losses. If you experience a failed mandatory product testing result, use the data from the failure to fix your facility and improve for the future.

The data can be used to determine efficacy of standard operating procedures, action thresholds, and other appropriate actions. Plus, you can add a spore trap analysis for pre- and post- disinfection protocols, showing whether the space was really cleaned and disinfected after application. This will also tell you whether your products are working.

Leveraging all of the tools available will ensure a safe, clean cannabis product for consumers.


References

  1. ASTM D8219-2019: Standard Guide for Cleaning and Disinfection at a Cannabis Cultivation Center (B. Lorenz): http://www.astm.org/cgi-bin/resolver.cgi?D8219-19
  2. Mycotoxin, Aspergillus: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins
  3. State of California Cannabis Regulations: https://cannabis.ca.gov/cannabis-regulations/
  4. Asexual Sporulation in Aspergillus nidulans (Thomas H. Adams,* Jenny K. Wieser, and Jae-Hyuk Yu):  https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7eb1/05e73d77ef251f44a2ae91d0595e85c3445e.pdf?_ga=2.38699363.1960083875.1568395121-721294556.1562683339
  5. ASTM standard “Assessment of fungal growth in buildings” Miller, J. D., et al., “Air Sampling Results in Relation to Extent of Fungal Colonization of Building Materials in Some Water Damaged Buildings,” Indoor Air, Vol 10, 2000, pp. 146–151.
  6. Zefon Air O Cell Cassettes: https://www.zefon.com/iaq-sampling-cassettes

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Mindful Education: Uwe Blesching’s Thoughtful Look at the Plant

Author Uwe Blesching would like to be part of the solution in finally ending the failed War on Drugs, via education, science, and mindfulness.

His literary contributions include, Breaking the Cycle of Opioid Addiction, Supplement Your Pain Management with Cannabis (July 2018); The Cannabis Health Index: Combining the Science of Medical Marijuana with Mindfulness Techniques to heal 100 Chronic Symptoms and Diseases (2nd ed. 2015); and in the works, Healing with Cannabis, Optimizing Your Ideal CBD:THC Ratio.

“The medical element of cannabis has always held a sense of wonder for me,” Blesching shared from his home in Berkeley, California. “It’s an easy argument to make that all cannabis use is medicinal. The mind-body science is only now coming together. Neurotransmitters and hormones have a strong correlation with plant compounds – and the endocannabinoid system is the bridge.”

The negative stigma of cannabis developed from the failed War on Drugs, and the misinformation that followed, he said, are the biggest obstacles to change; and changing your mindset leads to leaving the stigma behind and embracing the healing happening globally. 

“People have been socialized with the narrative from the War on Drugs,” he said. “They go to their doctor – and they don’t want to take opioids – but are now terrified, faced with the stigma of cannabis. Their first experiences with cannabis may be worsened because of a lack of knowledge on dosing or the stigma alone. One little thing can make them give up on cannabis, when it could be a positive medicine for them.”

Education is Everything

Blesching was a Paramedic for the City of San Francisco for twenty years. He holds a BA in Humanities from the New College of California; an MA in Psychology; and a PhD in Higher Education and Social Change from the Western Institute for Social Research. 

As shared on his website, he is a medical writer, contributing regularly in the fields of cannabinoid health sciences, mind-body medicine, phytopharmacology, and evidence-based illness prevention and treatment protocols, with a life-long passion for Integrative Medicine. 

His journey into cannabis from mainstream media is personal, as shared in the introduction of his astonishingly thorough Health Index, while working a long shift as an EMT, he and his partner witnessed the power of mindfulness as it relates to the biological systems of the body. This led to knowledge of the endocannabinoid system – what he calls the bridge to mindful, plant-based prevention and healing.  

His blog on his website covers everything from cannabis and malaria, to Veterans and PTSD, to a compelling piece on re-thinking the feeling of euphoria, and its simple, root meaning of being “well.”

“Let’s think about it for a moment,” he ponders. “Why is an emotional experience that otherwise could be described as a peak experience, an extraordinary state of consciousness, a heightened awareness, a moment of bliss, a sense of majesty, a brush with spirit, a touch of soul rich with substance, or an awareness of the immortal in oneself somehow thought to be an adverse effect like a skin rash or nausea? This judgment is even more irrational when we consider that expansive experiences of this nature can quickly shift neurological and psychological pain and dysphoria responses toward those that elicit expansive affect, which is clearly associated with therapeutic potential. You don’t need to be a doctor to notice that this feels a heck of a lot better than depression or fear.”

Such is the world of Uwe Blesching, challenging what we think already know, then adding another layer.

Cannabis Studies Databank

Aside from finishing up his latest book with a focus on CBD to THC ratios, Blesching has been busy building a multi-media health and wellness platform, hosting a databank of studies on cannabis’ healing properties on certain illnesses and disorders. 

“The studies will be curated by hand and rated individually, as well as collectively, for each ailment,” he explained. “This is done to provide the user with an instant understanding of the underlying strengths of science, as well as specific and practical information, helping the patient to make informed decisions about how to use cannabinoid medicine for what ails you.”

Another reason for creating the databank was due to the constant need to update the Health Index, as more studies are documented on cannabis as medicine. 

“Unfortunately, the science of the endocannabinoid system, and its processes for utilizing cannabis and other substances, have not been clearly communicated, are poorly understood, and are woefully underdeveloped,” he said. “Too often patients, doctors and even the cannabis industry, have been left to determine health and wellness decisions with inadequate and inconsistent information.”

Changing the Narrative

“It’s astonishing the amount of misinformation that’s out there on cannabis as a viable alternative to what is called traditional medicine,” he continued. “And even more so, the amount of people who believe it! The only opposition to the truth has been the narrative of the War on Drugs. It’s a global problem – I’ve seen its effects and the impact of that drama when I travel to other countries.”

Thankfully, he said, people are being educated, studies are being conducted, and the healing is happening in spite of politics or closed minds.

“Personally, I learn more from one patient who has been helped,” he concluded. “When people have a chronic condition for 15 or 20 years, with a lack of results, they are ready to become informed – they are ready to make a change. When someone is open to suggestion, it’s absorbed quickly. When you witness them transitioning from many pharmaceuticals to just one plant, you learn.”

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Testing Lab In Oregon Offering To Evaluate Vaping Products For Public Consumers

An Oregon analytic laboratory is offering a new test for cannabis products to detect the presence of vitamin E acetate, an additive that has been implicated in the rash of vaping-related lung illnesses that have sickened hundreds and led to at least six deaths. Pixis Labs in Portland began conducting the test for consumers on Monday, according to a report in local media.

Pixis Labs developed the test after it was announced that state and federal health officials were looking into the possibility that vitamin E acetate, also known as Alpha-tocopherol acetate, could be associated with the hundreds of pulmonary illnesses that have been reported in dozens of states. The substance, a supplement designed for oral or topical use, is sometimes used to thin or dilute the cannabis oil in vape cartridges.

Derrick Tanner, the general manager of Pixis Labs, said that the company has tested several cannabis oils from existing customers to validate the process, although he declined to say if any vitamin E acetate was detected in the samples provided. He also said that he expects the new test to generate considerable interest from not only consumers but the cannabis industry, as well.

“Anyone who’s […] not even just generating cartridges and oils, anybody who’s ancillary in this service line is interested in having this as an additional test for their product,” Tanner said. “Everyone’s concerned about it right now.”

Tanner said that diluting commodities to increase profits isn’t restricted to the cannabis industry. The practice is also sometimes carried out in the food industry, with honey and olive oil being notable examples.

“Any time you have a commodity that’s highly valued, and there’s a way to increase your profits one way or another, there’s going to be certain people who may take advantage of that and try to [stretch their commodity] out.”

Tanner told High Times in an email that the new test for Alpha-tocopherol and Alpha-tocopherol acetate is available at a cost of $140 and requires a 3-gram sample to perform.

Are Tighter Regulations Coming?

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the agency tasked with regulating the legal cannabis industry in the state, does not currently require testing products for vitamin E acetate. But with the continuing spate of lung injuries, Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the agency, said that stricter regulations could be enacted.

“Because of the vaping illness crisis, the OLCC will consider taking whatever action is necessary to protect consumer health, including the recall of tainted product, and banning inclusion of questionable additives into marijuana products that threaten human health and public safety,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late last week that there have been 380 confirmed and probable cases in 36 states of lung illnesses experienced by people who vape. The previous week the agency had announced that more than 450 cases of pulmonary disease could be associated with vaping, but that number also included reports of possible cases.

Also last week, the Trump administration announced that it would ban the sale of flavored nicotine vape products.

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Synthetic Marijuana Found In CBD Products Across Multiple States

CBD edibles and vapes spiked with a variety of synthetic marijuana compounds have found their way to consumers in Louisiana, Maryland and nearly a dozen other states, according to a nationwide Associated Press investigation into unregulated cannabidiol products. Synthetic marijuana, often marketed as K2 or Spice, has been linked to mass hospitalizations and other health emergencies across the U.S. and Europe. While they have nothing to do with cannabis plants, synthetic marijuana chemicals somewhat mimic the activity of cannabinoids, but they are significantly more potent. Adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana range from fainting and dizziness to vomiting, heart and lung illness, coma, and even death.

Investigation Uncovers CBD Vape Cartridges and Edibles Spiked with Synthetic Marijuana

The U.S. hemp-derived cannabidiol industry is growing rapidly, thanks to the lifting of the ban on hemp products. But unregulated, untested CBD products still dominate the market. And while many products come from reputable companies that are as transparent as possible about their manufacturing processes, some originate from sources that are lacing products with dangerous synthetic chemicals.

The term synthetic marijuana is somewhat of a misnomer. It’s a catch-all term for unknown chemical mixtures sprayed on or added to smokable herbs and flowers and typically inhaled or ingested, hence its association with cannabis. These drugs provide a cheap, intense and dangerous high. And now, investigators are finding them in CBD vape and edible products.

AP’s investigation began with a nationwide survey of law enforcement. That survey revealed that at least 128 of 350 CBD products labs tested contained synthetic “marijuana.” Gummy bears accounted for 36 of those 128. The rest were vape products. AP says most of the testing occurred in Southern states. And in Mississippi, labs detected fentanyl in some products labeled CBD.

Through the survey, AP obtained a list of brands and products containing synthetic marijuana. It then sent reporters to purchase those products in retailers across the U.S. and have them tested. In all, AP turned up contaminated CBD products in 13 states. Some of the products could be purchased online and shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Because the investigation focused on suspect brands and products, its results don’t represent the CBD market as a whole. Still, the report highlights the dangers of untested cannabidiol products at a time when the U.S. is still dealing with a string of vape-linked illnesses and deaths.

Green Machine, Yolo Vape Cartridges Found Containing Synthetic Marijuana

AP reporters have so far tested about 30 suspicious cartridges purchased at convenience stores mostly located in Southern states. Lab tests showed that 10 of the 30 contained synthetic marijuana, including Juul-compatible Green Machine CBD pods and Yolo CBD vape cartridges. Test results found the cartridges contained chemicals linked to multiple deaths in Europe and dozens of hospitalization in the U.S., spanning states from Utah to Louisiana to Maryland.

One of those cartridges, sold at a mom-and-pop convenience store, the 7 to 11 Store, put a young man in a coma in South Carolina. Jay Jenkins said two puffs of a vape cartridge he thought contained CBD induced hallucinations and made him feel like he was dead. According to Jenkins’ medical records, he suffered acute respiratory failure after being rushed to the hospital, where he fell into a brief coma.

There are no consistencies in terms of the chemicals found or the products contaminated with them, either. Products found to contain no synthetic marijuana in one state tested positive for them in another. For Green Machine CBD pods, for example, four of seven tested positive for synthetic marijuana.

Furthermore, investigators had little luck tracking down anyone to hold accountable for the spiked CBD products. Retailers typically point higher up the supply chain, placing blame with producers and manufacturers. The absence of any regulatory oversight makes it very difficult to track down the people behind the laced CBD products. As a result, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has listed CBD as “an emerging hazard.”

The post Synthetic Marijuana Found In CBD Products Across Multiple States appeared first on High Times.


Unique Issues With Cannabis-Related Patents & Their Enforcement

While enforcement of cannabis patents through litigation is common, there are other alternatives to litigation. Here we discuss some of the unique cannabis-related issues that could arise before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The growth and evolution of the cannabis industry in the U.S. are not slowing. However, the cannabis industry – with its tremendous upside – is still beset with uncertainty and limited legal guidance curbing its full potential. Intellectual property law, including patent protection, has emerged from the murky legal and regulatory landscape as a reliable business strategy with developing certainty.

A pioneering cannabis patent case in Colorado has progressed without any indication that cannabis patents are to be treated differently than other patents. Relatedly, PTAB recently upheld the validity of a cannabis-related patent as part of a post-grant proceeding. However, although the courts and the USPTO are not discriminating against cannabis patents because of their illicit subject matter, the true strength of these newly issued patents could be suspect.

The fledgling nature of cannabis businesses and the fact that cannabis is just now emerging from its statutorily imposed dormancy combine to highlight certain weaknesses of the USPTO and its mechanisms meant to strike spurious patents.

For several reasons, it is possible that applicants are propelling cannabis patent applications of questionable validity through prosecution beyond the point that similar applications could proceed. The USPTO’s experience with cannabis patents is limited. The universe of prior art available to patent examiners is also limited. There are only about three thousand active cannabis patents, which would only account for 0.6 percent of the total issued patents in 2015. The legal status of cannabis has also likely deterred the broadcasting of public use as prior art, and enabling publications or other public disclosures covering cannabis (e.g., published scientific studies) are limited as well. Taken together, patent examiners considering applications for cannabis patents are at a disadvantage compared to other applications that the USPTO considers in other fields.

Additionally, the post-grant proceedings before PTAB established to review issued patents of questionable validity are not designed to handle the historical context and unique issues of cannabis patents. The difference in the procedural rules and requirements of two common inter partes mechanisms for challenging issued patents, post-grant reviews (PGRs) and inter partes reviews (IPRs), creates a gap in coverage that is particularly salient to cannabis patents.

Although the cannabis patent case in Colorado is first of its kind, we can expect more to follow in its wake.Where a PGR petitioner is free to challenge an issued patent on effectively any ground, an IPR petitioner is limited to validity claims for lack of novelty or non-obviousness based solely on patents and printed publications. However, the PGR petitioner must be diligent, because it only has nine months from the issue date of the challenged patent to file a PGR petition. After those nine months, the challenger will have to rely on litigation or an IPR, with its limited basis for invalidity.

What this means for a cannabis patent is that unless a challenger – likely, a competitor in the cannabis space – can timely file a petition for a PGR, the basis for challenging the patent before PTAB are limited to those types of prior art that are especially rare in the cannabis space: patents and printed publications. What is more, meeting the nine-month requirement to file a PGR is no trivial task. The cost and time required to research and prepare a petition for PGR are particularly problematic for the cannabis industry with its lack of access to traditional forms of business financing.

As a result, it is reasonable to question the validity of contemporary cannabis patents. Further, because of PTAB’s enforcement gap, a patent challenger will likely have to resort to litigation to bring its invalidity arguments unrelated to claims of lack of novelty and non-obviousness based on patents and printed publications. Such broader invalidity arguments could include lack of patentable subject matter – which is an appealing challenge for patents that stem from naturally occurring plants or products, such as cannabis – or lack of novelty and non-obviousness based on other prior art.

Although the cannabis patent case in Colorado is first of its kind, we can expect more to follow in its wake. And, because of the weaknesses at the USPTO and PTAB, invalidity arguments in these early cases will likely be of increased strategic importance than in typical patent cases.

The post Unique Issues With Cannabis-Related Patents & Their Enforcement appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.