By Steve Elliott
The United States and Canada should be proud of themselves. According to an annual United Nations report on global drug use, they rank among the highest in the world, when it comes to marijuana use. Nigeria and Australia join the U.S. and Canada as the highest nations on Earth.
Each of the Top 4 marijuana countries has more than 10 percent of its population, ages 15 to 64, admitting to using cannabis, reports Janissa Delzo at the Medical Daily. Western Europe also has high rates of marijuana use, but didn't rank in the top category.
Countries with the lowest rates of cannabis use in the world are Ecuador, Paraguay (ironically, listed as a top cannabis producer), Turkey, and Romania.
Although Mexico has, for decades, exported large amounts of commercial marijuana to the United States, it has a surprisingly low rate of cannabis use, according to the report. The U.N. said that the lower perceived risk of cannabis use in the U.S. has led to an increase in its use, even as global marijuana use has decreased, particularly in Western and Central Europe.
The World Drug Report 2014 reveals the cultivation and production of cannabis remains widespread, with hashish production concentrated in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.
Individuals should be cautious when considering investing in medical marijuana stocks, according to the watchdog Canadian Securities Administration, which on Monday issued what is apparently its first-ever warning on the subject.
As a result of the new regulations enacted by the Canadian government in April, "a significant number" of companies have announced their intentions to begin growing and selling medical marijuana, according to the CSA.
There about 13 marijuana-related companies on the junior Canadian Securities Exchange, according to James Black, a Vancouver-based vice president of listing development for the exchange, reports Christopher Donville at Bloomberg.
Some penny stocks have seen their share prices double or even quadruple after announcing their intentions to enter the medical marijuana business, reports Sunny Freeman at The Huffington Post Canada.
Canadian patients had for years been allowed to grow their own medical marijuana until a scare campaign hyped by the conservative Harper government pushed through the new rules. Now patients will be forced to buy their medicinal cannabis through one of the government-licensed companies contracted to do that.
By Steve Elliott
Vending machines could become one of the latest additions to Canada's medical marijuana industry, if Chuck Varabioff of the British Columbia Pain Society has his way.
Varabioff, who provides medical marijuana to Vancouver residents 19 and older, said his goal is to install the vending machines in clinics and nursing homes, reports the New York Daily News. He already has the machines installed at his Vancouver storefront dispensary.
For $4 Canadian, the brightly lit machine drops a plastic ball filled with Cotton Candy; $6 will get you Purple Kush. A variety of other strains is available.
The British Columbia Pain Society is one of about 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. The shops operate in a legal gray zone since a federal court ruling stymied Canada's latest attempts to regulate its distribution.
Under the new scheme, as of April 1, about 30,000 home-growing operations by patients across Canada were to be replaced by just a few large, commercial grow operations.
But many of tthe smaller growers -- particularly in British Columbia -- have refused to step aside.
While marijuana is illegal outside the federal medical marijuana program, Vancouver police said in March that it is not one of their top priorities, which are instead focused on gangs and hard drugs including cocaine, meth and heroin.
"Medical marijuana dispensaries operating today in Vancouver don't meet those criteria," a police statement said.
Canada's new medical marijuana rules eliminate home growing by patients, and require them to buy their cannabis from licensed providers. To aid in the transition, a company called CanvasRx has launched what it is calling "the first comprehensive database for medical marijuana today. The database matches strains to symptoms, and connects patients with licensed cannabis producers.
The new regulations have made it easier for Canadian patients to get a prescription for medical marijuana, but many are still left with questions. Different strains of cannabis relieve different symptoms, and patients often aren't sure which marijuana producer to use.
CanvasRx says it solves that problem by helping both doctors and patients navigate the new legal landscape.
"CanvasRx operates much like an online marijuana pharmacy," said cofounder Ronan Levy. "Because pharmacies in Canada cannot carry marijuana and the dispensary model is prohibited by the regulations, we step in to fill the knowledge gap by providing patients and doctors with the information and resources they need to best utilize this treatment option."
With no cost to patients or doctors, CanvasRx says it marks the creation of a new sub-industry: businesses existing to support patients, doctors, and licensed marijuana producers. Patients can now research which exact strain best suits their symptoms, and download a medical document to bring to their doctor and then mail to the licensed marijuana producer.
By Steve Elliott
Students who smoke only marijuana do better at school than classmates who smoke only tobacco, or who smoke both tobacco and marijuana, according to a new study which tracked substance use among teens over a 30-year period.
Scientists at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health looked at data from a survey given to nearly 39,000 Ontario students between 1981 and 2011, reports Andrea Janus at CTV News. Students in Grades 7, 9 and 11 were asked by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health about their tobacco and marijuana use, and about their academic performance.
Cannabis-only users did better at school than their peers who smoked only tobacco or who smoked both tobacco and cannabis. The findings reflect the fact that fewer students smoke tobacco now than was the case 30 years ago, and those who do make up a "marginalized, vulnerable" population, according to the study's lead author, Michael Chaiton, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health policy.
Almost all the tobacco users -- 92 percent -- also use cannabis, according to the study. However, only one in four marijuana smokers (25 percent) also used tobacco.
"It's better relatively," Chaiton said of marijuana smokers' academic performance. However, marijuana users didn't outperform non-users, Chaiton said -- but neither did non-users outperform marijuana users.
By Steve Elliott
Canadian medical marijuana patients who are currently licensed to grow their own cannabis will be allowed to continue doing so, despite new regulations banning homegrown which start on April 1, a Federal Court judge ruled last Friday.
Judge Michael Manson granted an injunction to a group of medical marijuana patients who asked the judge to block the rule, preserving the status quo until a constitutional challenge of the new system can be heard, reports The Canadian Press.
The decision is a blow to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government's attempt to shift control of the country's medical marijuana system from the roughly 37,000 enrolled patients to the government. The Conservatives claim the current system has problems ranging from unsafe grow operations to infiltration by criminals.
Under the new rules, only commercial growers would be allowed to cultivate cannabis. Friday's injunction doesn't affect the new licensing system.
Health Canada had ordered patients who are licensed to grow marijuana under the old rules to confirm they had destroyed their plants, or they would be reported to the police.
The patients acting as plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued the growing ban violates their right to access important medicine, because cannabis is expected to be more expensive under the new system. They also say they won't have much control over which strains of marijuana are available.
By Steve Elliott
Smoking marijuana at school would earn most students a quick suspension -- and possibly arrest -- but Noah Kirkman is actually encourage to smoke pot at Western Canada High School.
Kirkman, 15, is a licensed medical marijuana patient; he's found that cannabis is a much more effective treatment for Tourette Syndrome and attention deficit disorder than the prescription pharmaceuticals he'd been using, reports Jeremy Nolais at Metro.
"It doesn't have any withdrawal effects and I can't overdose on it," explained Noah, who wants to be a photojourjnalist. "It helps keep me calm; it helps keep me focused."
Noah got his medical marijuana card in September, and he and his mother Lisa said they asked the Calgary Board of Education to discuss how he could use his medicine on school property.
It was eventually agreed that Noah could stop by the vice-principal's office and use his cannabis vaporizer three times a day: before class, at lunch and after class.
"I'm extremely proud of my son for speaking out," Lisa, also a licensed medical marijuana patient, told Hemp News Sunday night. "The cannabis has replaced a ridiculous amount of pharmaceuticals that he's had to use since he was four years old, simply to be able to function, let alone succeed in school."
By Steve Elliott
An officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has had his uniform seized by fellow Mounties after pictures circulated of him smoking medical marijuana while wearing his uniform. Cpl. Ronald Francis was quoted saying he should be able to smoke marijuana while in uniform in order to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.
RCMP officials say they'd previously told Francis he couldn't smoke cannabis while in uniform.
Francis said two officers showed up at his home at Kingsclear First Nation in New Brunswick on Thursday evening, reports CBC News.
His cousin shot video footage as the officers took Francis's regular working uniform, "anything that identified me as a member of the RCMP: my work shirts, work pants, my jackets, my gloves, my hat, my cap badget," he said.
"I worked hard for that uniform," Francis said. "I bled for that uniform. I cried for that uniform for 21 years. They ordered me to give the only thing that I've lived and identified with for 21 years."
"But they will not get back their medal for my 20 years of exemplary service with the RCMP," Francis added.
"It was very emotional for me. I spent 20 years of my life in service to this country and stood up for the members that stand up for the Canadian public and they took one of the things that was most valuable to me 'cause I earned that uniform, like any other member of that division," Francis said.
By Steve Elliott
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods on Wednesday announced that its facility, located in Winnipeg, "aced" the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards Recertification. According to Manitoba Harvest, it is the world's largest hemp food manufacturer, growing, making and selling their own hemp foods.
The company improved a full "grade" from their first certification last year, according to chief executive officer and cofounder Mike Fata. "Improving our BRC Certification standing to 'A-Grade' showcases our commitment to continuous improvement -- especially when it comes to food safety and quality," Fata said.
"If a school had a hemp production program we'd already have our Ph.D.," Fata said. "Receiving a top grade in our recertification validates our team's commitment to quality."
BRC Certification is considered the world's leading food safety and quality certification program, and is used by suppliers in more than 100 countries.
To receive BRC Certification, Manitoba Harvest underwent a voluntary audit by a third-party certification body that ensures the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products. The annual certification is meant to reassure retailers and consumers of the capability and competence of Manitoba Harvest's facility, and therefore the integrity of its products.
Celebrating their 15th year in business, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods offers products like hemp hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds) and Hemp Pro 70 (hemp protein concentrate).
By Steve Elliott
Young Vietnamese cannabis users like imported marijuana better than the local product; their taste for Canadian and American cannabis goes along with their penchant for and Adidas and iPhones. Vietnamese youth have long shown preferences for imported goods of all kinds, and weed is no exception.
Potent North American marijuana is "easy to buy" in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, reports Chris Brummitt of The Associated Press, but it sells for up to 10 times the price of Vietnamese cannabis.
Marijuana is a part of Vietnamese culture, and has long been cultivated locally, as just about any Vietnam veteran could tell you. Despite the tendency of some revisionists to blame the local popularity of cannabis on the departed American troops, it grows wild in much of the country.
The trade in North American pot can be explained by the role Vietnamese gangs play in cultivating it in Canada and the U.S., according to some experts, which makes sourcing it and smuggling it back to Vietnam easier than it would be otherwise.
Vietnamese criminal gangs got into the marijuana cultivation business in North America back in the 1980s; they found a niche and expanded, and now account for a sizable share of the business in Europe as well, according to the AP.
Kush Bottles, the largest wholesale distributor of pharmaceutical grade containers for the natural health and medical marijuana industry in the United States, on Wednesday announced that they will be opening a new division to serve the Canadian market.
Canada is ushering in what it projects to be a $1.3 billion medical marijuana market, as it replaces small and homegrown cannabis production with marijuana produced by large farms (courtesy of the Stephen Harper's Conservative government). The market could eventually serve up to 450,000 Canadians, according to government estimates.
Health Canada is placing no limits on the number of these new capital-intensive facilities, which will have mandatory vaults and security systems. Already 156 firms have applied for lucrative producer and distributor status since June, with at least two already receiving licenses.
"We look forward to providing dispensaries with the highest quality packaging materials, bags, bottles, and labels in the newly established Canadian legal marijuana market," said Nicholas Kovacevich, COO of Kush Bottles. "With our experience in the industry and our high quality product line – including the world's finest child-safe bottles and vials, we are confident that we can help Canadian businesses in their quest to operate safe and successful ventures."
Kush Bottles said will be offering their products and their consulting services in Canada within the next few weeks.
By Steve Elliott
MediJean, a bio-pharmaceutical medical marijuana company in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, on Tuesday released details on how the company is performing research and development around medical marijuana in Canada. The company is one of the first in Canada to get a research and development exemption from Health Canada that permits it to grow cannabis as part of the new Federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) program.
Home grows by Canadian patients are being phased out; those will no longer be allowed, and larger companies will commercially grow the medical cannabis supply, due to reorganization of the medical marijuana program by the Harper government.
The company said its R&D plans come from feedback and interviews with doctors, nurse practitioners and patients across the country who are calling for a scientific approach to medical marijuana.
MediJean said their commitment includes growing the knowledge bank that exists for cannabis. Currently they have their scientists performing research on the more than 200 "building block" cannabis strains that hold the most promise for medical marijuana products.
"We believe that through our systematic isolation of genotypes and marrying of diverse strains into products that can be tailored for specific disorders, that we can harness the power and diversity of this remarkable plant, and provide the best possible choices for our patients," said Anton Mattadeen, chief strategy officer at MediJean.
By Steve Elliott
Canada's Conservative government kicked off a $1.3 billion medical marijuana overhaul on Tuesday that it hopes will serve nearly half a million patients by 2024. The system switches medicinal cannabis cultivation from a cottage industry to one controlled by big businesses.
"Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations," the new system, will "provide access to quality-controlled marihuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions, to those Canadians who need it," according to the government health agency, Health Canada, reports Hunter Stuart at The Huffington Post. ("Marihuana" is spelled that old-fashioned way because of a precedent set in Canada's controlled substances law.)
It's a major change in the way medical marijuana is distributed in Canada. Until now, medicinal cannabis has mainly been produced by individual growers, who were allowed to supply up to two patients each. Those small-time growers will have their licenses canceled, and large, privately owned marijuana farms will replace them.
By Steve Elliott
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Wednesday admitted that he's smoked "a lot" of marijuana.
After a campaign address, Mayor Ford took questions from reporters, and was asked if he had ever smoked pot, reports The Guardian.
"Oh yeah," the mayor said, chuckling. "I won't deny that. I smoked a lot of it."
Ford would not answer when asked how recently he had smoked weed.
The mayor made world headlines earlier this year when allegations surfaced that he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine. The video has not been publicly released, and Ford has refused to step down.
"I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I am addict of crack cocaine," he said.
Ford admitted three years ago that he was charged with driving under the influence and marijuana possession in Florida in the 1990s.
He pleaded "no contest" to the impaired driving charge, and the drug charge was dropped.
Ford was asked about his cannabis consumption after Liberals leader Justin Trudeau admitted that he smoked a joint three years ago, while a member of Parliament. Trudeau said that marijuana should be legalized and regulated.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne joined the chorus on Wednesday, admitting she smoked "a little pot" about 35 years ago.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana helps patients with schizophrenia, according to new research from Canada.
A study published in the scholarly journal Psychiatry Research found that heavy cannabis users performed better on memory tasks than those who avoided marijuana.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans also revealed better brain function in an area responsible for complex thinking and decision making, reports TruthOnPot.com.
University of Montreal researchers studied 145 patients with a dual diagnosis -- "cannabis dependence" and schizophrenia -- and 14 patients with schizophrenia only. "Our results suggest that emotional memory and prefrontal lobe functioning are preserved in dual-diagnosis patients," the researchers wrote.
Researchers saw no difference between the emotional responses of the two groups during resting states, although patients were evaluated based on emotional memory.
The authors suggest that the better performance of marijuana users could reflect a "more general difference" in memory.