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.
By Steve Elliott
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Canadian border on Sunday found marijuana on one of Justin Bieber's tour buses as it crossed into Detroit from Windsor, Canada, but the teen pop sensation wasn't on the bus at the time.
The bus was stopped as it attempted to enter the United States on the Ambassador Bridge when a police dog alerted authorities to the presence of "drugs," CBP spokesman Ken Hammond confirmed, reports Ann Zaniewski at the Detroit Free Press. Customs officers found and seized a small, personal-use amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to Hammond.
The bus driver was issued a civil citation, Hammond said. The bus and its passengers were then released.
The 19-year-old singer was in another vehicle, and was able to perform later that night at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
A few months before, Bieber was in Sweden when cops discovered a small amount of marijuana and a stun gun aboard one of his tour buses.
(Photo: A.V. Club)
The federal government of the United States has approved a prisoner transfer application for self-styled Prince of Pot Marc Emery, the Canadian marijuana seed merchant serving a five-year sentence for mailing seeds to the U.S.
The transfer must also be signed off upon by Canadian authorities before Emery can return to Canada, according to Cannabis Culture.
Emery's lawyer confirmed to his wife Jodie that American authorities have approved his transfer.
Canadian authorities have, so far, not commented.
By Steve Elliott
The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries launched its Certification Program on Thursday, June 20. Industry observers characterized it as a survival move, since Health Canada's latest medical marijuana regulations bypass dispensaries for a mail-order only model.
The announcement coincides with the publication of Health Canada's federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations in the Canada Gazette.
"The CAMCD Certification Program prioritizes quality patient care, due diligence, and social responsibility," said Adam Greenblatt, CAMCD president. "Our goal is to help medical cannabis dispensaries integrate into the healthcare system and adapt to shifts in the industry."
Medical marijuana dispensaries, also known as compassion clubs, have been operating in Canada since 1996. They serve about 40,000 patients. Dispensaries supply a wide variety of medical cannabis products and derivatives, and provide support around dosing, effective use, and harm reduction.
Despite recommendations from many stakeholders to include community based dispensaries in the new regulations, Health Canada has opted for a mail-order only distribution system.
"This will obstruct reasonable access to medical cannabis, and could result in the disruption of care for tens of thousands of Canadians," Greenblatt said. "Dispensaries have been filling these gaps for over a decade, and our Certification Program will affirm the important role dispensaries play in the provision of medical cannabis."
By Steve Elliott
Canada's medical marijuana program will ban the legal cultivation of cannabis by patients next year, and will also shut down its own production, leaving supplies solely to licensed growers in the private sector.
More than 30,000 patients are legally authorized by Health Canada to use marijuana, reports Rod Nickel of Reuters. Canada back in 2001 became the first country to institute a national medical marijuana program, allowing seriously ill patients to grow and use their own medicinal cannabis.
Canada's medical marijuana program also included a government-run cultivation center in an old zinc mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba, although patients compalined the quality of that cannabis was subpar.
"There's far too much potential and actual abuse within the current scheme," claimed Staff Inspector Randy Franks of the Toronto Police Service drug squad. Franks said that police don't have access to the addresses of approved grow sites in private homes.
"These home-grown operations are able to produce far more than they need and they have to do something with it, so they sell it mainstream," Franks claimed, thoughtlessly painting all medical marijuana patients as outlaws.
The new rules became effective on Monday -- but the old rules will run concurrently until March 31, 2014, to allow the Canadian government time to license new growers, according to Jeannine Ritchot, Health Canada's director of medical marijuana regulatory reform.
By Steve Elliott
Marc Emery, also known as the Prince of Pot, has been put into solitary confinement at the Federal Correctional Complex in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
Emery is serving a five-year sentence for mailing marijuana seeds to the United States from his business in Vancouver, British Columbia, reports Dana Larsen at the Vancouver Sun. He has about 14 months to go on on his sentence.
Emery writes a blog from prison, and in March, reportedly with permission, had some photos taken of his band practicing in the prison's music room. In the photo accompanying this article, Marc is seen with the prison band, which performs for other inmates.
Marc's wife Jodie Emery said that prison authorities were unhappy with the photos of Emery and the band. She reportedly said the investigation was to see if Marc had a cellphone to take the band photos. Emery's bandmates have reportedly been placed in solitary confinement, as well.
Emery is reportedly forced to wear a pair of 4XL shorts with string tied around his waist to hold them up, and has only one pair of socks with enormous holes in them, according to his wife. "I cried when I saw him, and he did too," Jodie told the Sun.
Prisoners in solitary confinement at the Federal Correctional Complex are locked down inside their cells for 23 hours a day.
By Bryan Labby, CBC News
Many Alberta farmers have taken to hemp to round out their crops and some say they're making a tidy profit.
According to a recent study done by Alberta Agriculture, farmers in the province seeded the most hemp in all of Canada at 6,434 hectares last year.
The preliminary estimate for this year is 8,000 hectares.
"As long as we keep making money we'll keep growing it," says Will Van Roessel.
The Bow Island-area farmer is about to harvest hemp for the third straight year.
He's been contracted to grow the hemp for its seeds, which could be processed into a wide range of products including oil, flour, shampoo and wood sealant. Van Roessel says he's expecting to make three times the amount he would get for wheat.
As for the overwhelming smell from the acres and acres of hemp, Van Roessel says he doesn't mind.
"Well some people don't like it at all. I quite enjoy the smell, so it's fine with me," he said.
New market needed
By Angela Brown, Portage la Prairie News
Hemp Oil Canada Inc., which is based in Manitoba, announced this week that it is the first in the world to gain international food safety accreditation for hemp food.
"This is good news for Hemp Oil Canada and the hemp industry as a whole," said Alphonsus Utioh, product development manager with Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie, "because it would allow this company to be able to access more markets for companies that require hemp suppliers with this accreditation."
The FDC makes a number of hemp products itself and encourages the promotion for the hemp industry.
"The Food Development Centre has worked with the hemp industry for quite some time now," said Utioh. "We have worked with the industry to produce the various products."
The Food Development Centre is currently using hemp product in the development of muesli cereal mix, which will be coming out into the market sometime in the future.
As well, the FDC has been using hemp for the development of its nutrition bars.
"Hemp is known for its Omega-3 and Omega-6 — for the Essential Fatty Acids," said Utioh. "The hemp protein also has high digestibility value."
Utioh explained with Hemp Oil Canada receiving International food safety accreditation it will encourage more companies to develop product with hemp.
By Susan Mcguire, The Gazette
Photograph by William Eaves, Jr.
Hemp breakfast cereal, hemp clothing, hemp hand cream - all available in perfectly respectable stores. Is this the same hemp that is illegal to grow in Canada? No, not at all.
These products come from what is called industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L), a distant cousin of the marijuana plant. Both are part of a diverse plant species of more than 500 varieties that includes the hops used to make beer.
Farmers have been cultivating industrial hemp for 10,000 years, starting in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and in China's Yellow River Valley. For centuries, people used hemp fibre to make clothes, rope, sails and paper; they stewed, roasted and milled the grain for food; and used the oil for cosmetics, lighting, paints and varnishes.
In the 1660s and 1670s, Jean Talon encouraged the farmers of New France to grow hemp by giving them free seed, which they had to plant immediately and replace with seed from their next year's crop. So important was hemp that he confiscated all the thread in the colony and gave it back only in return for hemp. Women needed thread, and he knew that would put pressure on their husbands to grow the crop. However, production collapsed when Talon went back to France.
Will help spur growth for Manitoba Harvest
By Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press
MANITOBA Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils has landed another round of venture-capital funding to help finance growth and strengthen its supply chain.
No totals were disclosed in the latest round of financing from Calgary-based Avrio Ventures and White Road Investments from Emeryville, Calif., but Manitoba Harvest CEO Mike Fata said it's a multimillion-dollar investment.
"This investment is to help fuel our growth," he said. "We have been growing by leaps and bounds in Canada and the U.S."
The company has been averaging 40 to 50 per cent annual growth and Fata said sales in the first five weeks of its current fiscal year have doubled last year's.
Founded in 1998, the company has a blossoming portfolio of products, from hemp beverages and hemp protein to powders, oil, butter and Hemp Hearts.
It's also expanding its distribution channel.
Before, Manitoba Harvest products were predominantly found in natural-foods stores. But now they're in Safeway and other grocery stores -- in the general produce section at that, not just the health-foods section -- as well as more than 60 Costco stores in Canada.