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New Zealand divided over historic marijuana vote*

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A referendum next month on legalising recreational cannabis has divided opinion in New Zealand with ruling party politicians staying clear of the contentious issue ahead of a general election they are likely to win, report Reuters.*

If passed, New Zealand would be only the third country in the world after Uruguay and Canada to legalise the adult use and sale of cannabis, and the first in the Asia Pacific. The referendum will be held along with the Oct. 17 general election in which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is seeking a second term.*

Ardern is a strong favourite to win the election but opinion is sharply divided on the referendum – 49.5% of respondents in a nationwide Horizon Research survey earlier this month said they were in favour of legalising cannabis while 49.5% were against, and 1% gave no response.*

“This is the one opportunity we get. A no vote will entrench the current system and scare politicians away,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director at the New Zealand Drug Foundation, a charitable trust that works to prevent alcohol and drug harm.*

Ardern has repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether she would support the change, claiming she does not want to influence the decision.*

Under the proposed bill, licensed cannabis retailers could sell up to 14 grams of cannabis per person each day, to customers over the age of 20. It allows people to consume cannabis on private property or licensed premises and grow two plants.*

A yes vote would open up a new market in New Zealand for the $100 billion global marijuana industry, that is valued annually at NZ$1.5 billion ($981.75 million) in the country.*

As seen in Canada, Uruguay and almost a dozen U.S. states that legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, pharmaceutical and other companies are expected to move into the market with new weed-infused products.

A report commissioned by the government said more than 400 retail stores could pop up to supply the estimated 49.7 tonnes of cannabis products consumed in New Zealand each year.*

Supporters of the yes vote say regulating cannabis will put an end to the black market, and bring down drug convictions, which are disproportionately higher among the marginalized and the indigenous Maori community.*


Campaigners against legalising marijuana, which include some faith based institutions, refute these claims.*

“The black market will remain, and a new legal market of 400 stores appearing around the country, and then a whole lot of people growing cannabis plants in their backyard. It’s hard to believe in that scenario that cannabis use will be reduced,” said Aaron Ironside, spokesman for the Say Nope to Dope campaign.*

Analysts say with all recent polls pointing to a comfortable election victory for Ardern due to her success in handling the coronavirus, she would not want to get into other topics.*

“She just would not want to talk about any other issue other than COVID-19,” said Geoffrey Miller, political analyst at the Democracy Project.*

“It’s just not in Labour’s interest to talk about cannabis…there is no upside,” he said.*

Ardern’s Labour Party is governing in a coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First. The Greens made the cannabis referendum a condition of their support for Ardern back in 2017.*

The 40-year-old leader has however kept the topic of cannabis at arms length as she campaigns across the country.*

The main opposition National Party has said it will vote against legalising cannabis, and challenged Ardern to reveal her stand.*

NZ Drug Foundation’s Bell said there’s been a failure of political leadership on the subject.*

“While ultimately the referendum is a vote for New Zealand’s public, a lot of voters would want senior minister or even the prime minister herself to talk about why they wrote the bill in the way they did,” he said.*

* original article

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‘Smoke with freedom’: Mexicans get high in marijuana garden outside Senate

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A cannabis ‘garden’ sprouting next to Mexico’s Senate building has become a smoker’s paradise, with Mexican stoners lighting up joints without fear of arrest, report Reuters.*

The cannabis seeds sowed in a plaza by Mexico’s Senate by pro-marijuana activists in February have mushroomed into strikingly large plants, and become symbolic of a drive to legalize marijuana in a nation riven by drugs-related violence.*

“Being able to smoke here (in the garden) in freedom is very important to me,” said Marco Flores, a barista sitting on a bench overlooking the Congress building.*

“I no longer go out on the streets in fear”.*

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that laws prohibiting cannabis use are unconstitutional but the government is yet to draft legislation that would formally legalise marijuana, leaving pot-smokers facing criminal charges if caught smoking.*

But in the garden run by pro-marijuana activists, people are allowed in for 30 minutes at a time and can light up in peace. So far police appear to be turning a blind eye to the practice, though it’s unclear how long that will last.*

“It’s great that they have opened a space for people who are open to new experiences, or who want to find out a little bit about this subject,” said Carlos Diaz, another smoker. “They can come and check it out.”*

For Jose Rivera, a cannabis activist, the garden is a tool to educate and offer ‘human rights’.*

“We want (Mexican lawmakers) to understand that we are smoking quietly and that we are not a risk to anyone,” he said. “Enough of the mistreatment.”*

* original article

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Britain’s financial watchdog sets out rules for cannabis listings

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Britain’s markets watchdog opened the door to cannabis company listings on Friday by setting out how it would navigate laws to prevent pocketing proceeds from criminal use of the drug, reports Reuters.*

The Financial Conduct Authority set out its “approach” to cannabis-related companies interested in a UK listing, pending public consultation on more formal guidance in due course.*

The legalisation of cannabis, including for recreational use in Canada and a number of U.S. states, fuelled a speculative “green rush” on Toronto and New York stock markets last year, with analysts expecting some listings in Europe in 2020.*

The FCA said that while medicinal cannabis was legalised in Britain in 2018, investment in overseas licensed medicial cannabis companies remains a legally complex area, with a risk of triggering broadly-defined British law that prevent financial gain from criminal activity.*

Proceeds from recreational cannabis companies, even when located in countries that have legalised it, are proceeds of crime under the law, it said.*

“We can’t assume a person who has been licensed in an overseas country would receive a licence here in the UK as licensing regimes differ globally,” the FCA said.*

“UK-based medicinal cannabis companies can be admitted to the Official List, if the company has the appropriate Home Office licences for their activities where they are required,” it added.*

The FCA said overseas-licensed medicinal cannabis companies and cannabis oil companies could list in Britain if the proceeds of crime law does not apply, and they meet listing criteria.*

* original article


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Canada’s Pascal Biosciences partners with SoRSE to test cannabis-based cancer therapy*

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Canadian biotech Pascal Biosciences Inc will start an early stage study of a cannabis-based cancer therapy in partnership with SoRSE Technology Corp, the companies told Reuters on Monday, reports Reuters.*

Seattle, Washington-based SoRSE’s technology helps create water-soluble cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis plants that is being widely used to make beverages, chocolates, lotions and other products.*

Chief Executive Officer Howard Lee said SoRSE would pay Pascal for research expenses as it tests the experimental treatment PAS-393, which the companies hope can complement the so-called checkpoint inhibitors thought to help take the brakes off the immune system in fighting cancer.*

“We’ve got the drug discovery and development expertise and SoRSE has formulation capabilities and that will help get the drug into the clinic,” said Pascal Chief Executive Officer Patrick Gray, adding the companies hope to begin Phase I trials over the next year.*

Gray added Pascal would be able to complete Phase-1A testing by the end of the 15-month partnership with SoRSE and may choose to continue clinical development as equal partners after that.*

The collaboration marks a push to test cannabis-based compounds in extensive clinical trials, a leap for an industry that has struggled to prove the medical benefits of marijuana-derived products.*

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 approved the first marijuana plant-derived drug, GW Pharmaceuticals Plc’s Epidiolex, to treat two severe forms of epilepsy.*

In 1985, the FDA signed off on Marinol, a medicine containing synthetic cannabis molecules, which is used to treat weight loss in AIDS patients and nausea in cancer patients on chemotherapy.*

* article original


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Pakistan approves first industrial hemp production – minister

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Pakistan’s government has approved the industrial production of hemp, which could generate foreign exchange of up to $1 billion in the next three years, the minister for science and technology said on Wednesday, report Reuters.*

A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a summary on Tuesday to allow legal production for the first time, the minister Fawad Chaudhry told a news conference in Islamabad.*

“We want that this hemp market could give us around $1 billion in the next three years,” he said, adding the global market is worth around $25 billion.*

The summary seen by Reuters says the ministry sought permission to cultivate industrial hemp after deliberation by the ministries of commerce, narcotics control and national health services.*

Hemp seeds produce hemp oil, while the leaf is used in medicine and the stem can be turned into fibre to replace cotton in the textile industry.*

Chaudhry said the compound cannabidiol found in the hemp plant has an important role in medical science and therapies to mitigate severe and chronic pain affecting for instance cancer patients or those who have lost limbs.*

Across the world, companies have been seeking to tap into the market for medicinal cannabis.*

The minister said the cultivation of hemp – a strain of the cannabis plant that contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the substance that makes people high – will only be allowed under government control and the venture should not be confused with poppy-growing.*

Pakistan’s northwestern lawless districts along the Afghan border have been home to the illegal cultivation of poppies for opium and heroin and the production of cannabis, supplied to the local narcotics market or smuggled internationally.*

* original article


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SDSU Professor Finds After-Hours Cannabis Use Has No Impact on Workplace Performance*

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Although it has become increasingly accepted for medical and recreational use, cannabis is still considered among one of the most widely used illegal substances in the United States and in many European countries, report San Diego State University.*

A common assumption is that cannabis consumption before or during work hours causes substandard work performance, yet there has been very little scientific exploration regarding the impact of cannabis use after working hours.*

Dr. Jeremy Bernerth, management professor at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business and H. Jack Walker, management professor at Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business set out to determine the effects of different types of cannabis use (before, during and after hours) on work performance, especially as it relates to core job requirements, helping colleagues or their organizations, and counterproductive behavior in the workplace.*

“Given the popularity of cannabis on a national level, it should be of little surprise that organizations spend billions of dollars each year addressing what many believe is a problem,” explained Bernerth. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to research cannabis usage in relation to workplace behaviors in nearly 20 years. We hope this research can provide organizations with the necessary information to structure their substance policies.”*

Surveying Employees and Their Supervisors

The researchers studied key job requirements (called “task performance” in the study), the willingness to voluntarily help the organization or their colleagues (called “citizenship behavior”), and the counterproductive work behavior of employees by surveying 281 employees and their direct supervisors. Participating employees and managers were recruited through social media and with the help of university business students, though cannabis usage was not required of the survey participants.*

Each employee was asked about the frequency and the timing of their cannabis use as it relates to their work shift (for example, how often over the past 12 months had they used cannabis within two hours before starting the workday). Their supervisors were asked to assess their employee’s task performance, citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior.*

The Results

After tabulating all the responses, the researchers found a negative correlation between those who used cannabis before and during work with task performance. This indicates a decline in performance when using cannabis prior to or while on the job. There was, however, no relationship between using cannabis after work and one’s performance on the job.*

They also found supervisors were more likely to report reduced citizenship behavior (or helpfulness) toward the organization and increased counterproductive work behaviors among employees who said that they used cannabis before and during work hours. However, the results showed no discernable effects for employees who used cannabis after work. The researchers also noted that there was no correlation between employee’s willingness to engage in citizenship behavior aimed at their coworkers with cannabis usage regardless of the time of usage.*

While the results of the study showed that supervisors reported that employee cannabis use before or on the job diminished most areas of their performance, there was no significant change in any of the work performance dimensions when employees used cannabis after work hours.*

“The findings are obviously consequential for scholars and organizations who believe that all cannabis use negatively impacts workplace behaviors,” said Bernerth. “Our research suggests there is no evidence that after-work usage compromises work performance as assessed by one’s direct supervisor.”*

Cannabis Use May Offer Work-Related Benefits

Though the research doesn’t offer direct evidence, Bernerth suggests that after-hours cannabis use, may offer some work-related benefits. “Individuals deciding to consume cannabis after finishing their work may be able to distract themselves from stressful on-the-job issues,” said Bernerth. “The relaxation induced by cannabis may help employees restore energy spent during the day and they may subsequently return with more stamina to devote to their job once they are back on the clock.”*

However, one of the major challenges facing employers with substance policies is determining when employees consume cannabis. Bernerth noted that testing for cannabis consumption (through urinalysis, for example) can only detect the presence of metabolites in the system as opposed to the frequency or time of use. This may make it difficult for organizations to defend strict substance policies. Said Bernerth: “Since our study shows that off-the-job cannabis use has little to no impact on workplace performance, organizations will be hard-pressed to provide legally defensible justifications for the continuation of policies prohibiting all forms of cannabis use.”*

* original article


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Cannabis clinic welcomes patients in Bogota despite pandemic*

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Nelly Rodriguez found the answer to her chronic back pain just when she least expected it, in the middle of a coronavirus quarantine that had made her condition worse, report Reuters.*

The 70-year-old pensioner’s salvation came in the form of Bogota’s first medical cannabis clinic, which opened in March and says it has since treated nearly 1,000 patients.*

“The situation was awful. I thought it would never end but at some point I decided I had to do something about it,” said Rodriguez, whose 30-milliliter bottle of cannabis oil costs about $48 and lasts one month.*

“This is the only thing I’ve found that can treat the pain,” she added.*

Clinic Zerenia only sells oils containing cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or a mix of the two. It is the only clinic selling marijuana products in the country as complex regulations have put the brakes on the industry in Colombia, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of illegal substances.*

“We get asked if products should be smoked or smeared a lot,” Juan Manuel Orjuela, mental health manager for Khiron, the company behind the clinic, told Reuters.*

The clinic had to pass 28 regulatory hurdles before opening, including health authorities permissions and implementing a system tracing the products’ origins.*

“It’s not easy because it’s innovative,” Orjuela said, adding stigmas had to be overcome. “It needs not just legal approval but also cultural validation.”*

The clinic treats neurological illnesses including epilepsy in children and adults, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and conditions like anxiety and depression.*

Though cannabis treatment does not cure illnesses, it can relieve symptoms with an effectiveness of 60% to 70%, Orjuela said.*

Many symptoms have surged due to months of quarantine measures taken to curb coronavirus, he said.*

“Rates of anxiety and depression have increased greatly,” he said. “We have chronic confinement…we are starting to feel caged in.”*

* original article


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Thailand plans to widen medical marijuana production*

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Thailand’s cabinet approved amendments on Tuesday to its narcotics act to allow private production and sale of marijuana for medical use, officials said, report Reuters.*

With a tradition of using the leaf to relieve pain and fatigue, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian nation to legalise marijuana in 2017 for medical use and research, but only the government was allowed to grow plants.*

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the proposed amendments would also allow patients, businesses and medical professionals to produce, export, import and sell the leaf.*

“The law will promote the pharmaceutical industry and increase competitiveness, which will be important for Thailand in becoming a leader in medical cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul also told reporters.*

Thailand has dropped cannabis extracts from its narcotics list and opened medical marijuana clinics.*

Cannabis still remains a category five drug under Thai law, however, and illegal possession is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to 1.5 million baht ($48,000).*

The amendments are to be sent for legal review before going to the Thai parliament.*

While countries from Colombia to Canada have legalized marijuana for medical or even recreational use, the drug remains illegal and taboo across much of Southeast Asia, which has some of the world’s harshest punishments for drug law violations.*

Marijuana traffickers can be subject to the death penalty in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.*

* article original


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Marijuana may improve women’s enjoyment of sex*

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About one-third of U.S. women have used marijuana before sex, a small study suggests, and those who do report increased desire and better orgasms, reports Reuters.*

Marijuana use has been on the rise among U.S. adults as a growing number of states pass laws legalizing it for medical and recreational purposes, researchers note in Sexual Medicine. Although marijuana is thought to act on the cannabinoid receptor in the brain, which is involved in sexual function, little research to date has examined the drug’s impact on sexual health, the study team notes.*

The researchers surveyed 373 female patients at an obstetrics and gynecology practice in an academic medical center in Saint Louis, Missouri. Overall, 127 women, or 34 percent, reported using marijuana before sexual activity.*

Women who used marijuana before sex were twice as likely as those who didn’t to say they had “satisfactory” orgasms, the survey found. And women who regularly used the drug were twice as likely as occasional users to have satisfying orgasms.*

“What’s new about this study is that marijuana is framed as being useful for sex,” said Joseph Palamar, a population health researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study.*

“Typically, drugs are investigated as risk factors for sex. I think this paper signifies that times are changing,” Palamar said by email.*

Like alcohol and many recreational drugs, marijuana has long been linked to an increased risk of sexual activity among teens, and some previous research has also tied marijuana to unsafe sex and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases.*

In the current study, however, Dr. Becky Lynn of Saint Louis University School of Medicine and colleagues focused on the connection between marijuana and women’s satisfaction with their sex lives, sex drive, orgasms, lubrication and pain during intercourse. Lynn didn’t respond to requests for comment.*

Overall, 197 women in the study, or about 52 percent, didn’t use marijuana at all. Another 49 women, or 13 percent, used the drug but didn’t indulge before sex.*

Women who did use marijuana before sex appeared to have more lubrication and less pain during intercourse than women who didn’t, but the differences were too small to rule out the possibility they were due to chance.*

Compared to occasional marijuana users, women who regularly used the drug reported better lubrication, and increased satisfaction with their sex lives – but here, too, the differences were too small to rule out the possibility of chance.*

Beyond its small size, one limitation of the study is that it wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how marijuana might directly impact sexual health. It’s also unclear whether women smoked pot or used another form of the drug, or if this was the only substance women were using that might alter their sexual function.*

Another drawback is that the study included mostly white women who were married or in relationships, making it possible the results don’t represent what all women would experience. And, the study didn’t explicitly spell out what type of “sex” it was asking about, making it difficult to say for sure what types of activity might be impacted by marijuana use.*

“It is unknown how experienced these women were with marijuana or in combining marijuana and sex. We also don’t know who intentionally combined marijuana with sex,” Palamar said.*

“A lot more research is needed as very few studies have focused on the positives of marijuana and sex,” Palamar added.*

* original article


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Holy smoke, researchers say cannabis used in ancient Israelite shrine*

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The ancient Israelites may have used cannabis to get high as part of their religious ritual, according to Israeli researchers who found residue of the drug at a nearly 3,000-year-old shrine, reports Reuters.*

The traces were found on an altar at the Tel Arad temple, in the Negev Desert about 10 km (six miles) from the southern Israeli town of Arad.*

The site was discovered more than 50 years ago but new analysis of unidentified organic material on the limestone altar yielded the surprising result.*

Archaeologist Eran Arie, who led the research project on behalf of the Israel Museum and Israel’s Volcani Institute, said the material contained traces of cannabis and animal dung, likely used to help the plant burn.*

Arie said there has been no evidence of cannabis having been cultivated locally during the 8th century BC, suggesting someone had gone to the trouble of importing it “for its psychoactive effect”.*

Frankincense traces were found on a second altar at the shrine, he said.*

* original article


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