May 4, 2017
By: Andrea Hill
I am pleased to bring you this instalment of my weekly blog, rounding up what’s currently happening in the cannabis industry in Canada and abroad.
Made in Mexico: Mexico passes medical marijuana legislation
- A bill legalizing the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes was passed on April 28 by Mexico’s Lower House of Congress with a vote of 371-7 with 11 abstentions. The bill, which directs the Health Department to design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of cannabis and its derivatives, is expected to be signed into law shortly by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
- Cannabis has been illegal in Mexico since the 1920s, roughly coinciding with its criminalization in the US and Canada. Like the United States and Canada, Mexico was a party to the 1925 International Opium Convention which prohibited, except for medical and scientific purposes, the production, sale, and trade of “Indian hemp”, defined as “the dried flowering or fruiting tops of the pistillate plant Cannabis sativa L”.
- The International Opium Convention has since been superceded by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, one of several international narcotics control treaties to which countries such as Mexico, the US, and Canada remain parties. That Convention sets out a number of requirements to which parties must adhere if they permit the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis, including a government-supervised licensing regime.
- The Mexican government has permitted the import of medical marijuana products since 2015 for specific authorized patients, including an 8-year-old girl with a severe form of epilepsy.
- According to Reuters, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Mexico but a 2015 Mexican Supreme Court injunction granted four people the right to grow cannabis for their own consumption, offering a toehold for the possibility of future legalization.
Recalls and stop-sale orders: Hydropothecary finds myclobutanil; Emblem corrects mis-labelled products
- On May 2, licensed producer The Hydropothecary Corporation announced a voluntary stop-sale and stop-shipment on all products after Health Canada’s tests of Hydropothecary’s cannabis leaf samples indicated the presence of myclobutanil, a pesticide not authorized for use on cannabis under the regulations. Hydropothecary noted that all lotted products had undergone pesticide testing since February and had been negative for pesticides at a level of 0.05 parts per million. The company stated that the source of the myclobutanil is unknown and it is investigating how the contamination occurred.
- The incident follows several recalls earlier this year in which cannabis produced by licensed producers Organigram Inc. and Mettrum Ltd. was found to contain unauthorized pesticides, including myclobutanil.
- On April 27, Health Canada announced that licensed producer Emblem Cannabis Corp. had undertaken a voluntary Type III recall, beginning on April 7, 2017, of certain lots of dried marijuana for mislabelled levels of cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. The ACMPR require that each container of dried marijuana must be labelled with the percentage of cannabidiol the marijuana could yield.
- A Type III recall refers to a situation in which the use or exposure to a product is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences.
Study: Fewer prescriptions for nausea, pain, depression where medical marijuana is legal
- An interesting new study suggests a correlation between legalization of medical marijuana and a reduction in filled prescriptions for traditional pharmaceutical drugs countering conditions such as nausea, depression, seizures, and pain. According to the Washington Post, the study found that prescriptions for painkillers in states with medical marijuana fell by an average of 11% and anti-nausea prescriptions by an average of 17%. The study’s authors estimate that a US nationwide medical marijuana program could save US taxpayers over a billion dollars in costs of prescription coverage.
- Last summer, the Globe and Mail reported that fewer Canadian veterans were seeking prescription opioids since medical marijuana started becoming commercially available in 2013, according to data from Veterans Affairs Canada. Since then, the number of veterans prescribed opioids shrank 17%, and veteran prescriptions for benzodiazepines – pharmaceuticals countering anxiety and insomnia, including brands such as Xanax, Ativan and Valium – decreased nearly 30%.
The UK’s first pediatric patient: 11-year-old prescribed CBD oil
- The youngest-ever patient in the UK has now been prescribed CBD oil: 11-year-old Billy Caldwell has been prescribed CBD oil for severe epilepsy. CBD, a cannabinoid, is legal in the UK, although THC (aka delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) remains illegal.
- One of the strongest arguments for the legalization of marijuana as a medicine has come from pediatric cases. Charlotte Figi was only six years old when she was featured by CNN as an example of the medicinal value of CBD, thrusting the issue into the public spotlight.
“A lot of risk” and “a lot of reward”: the politics of legalization from the Hill
- I admit to name bias in favouring a publication called the Hill Times. However, it published an interesting article last week which included a PR professional’s take on the politics of legalization of recreational cannabis.
- Will Stewart, a managing partner at public strategy and communications firm Navigator, predicted that the uncertainties of the Senate would pose the biggest threat to the draft Cannabis Act and the federal government’s promise to legalize recreational marijuana.
- Countering reports of “scowly” MPs, Greg MacEachern, a senior vice-president of Environics Communications called the presentation of the Cannabis Act on April 13, 2017 “one of the government’s best days thus far in 2017. It showed a government calm and in control of a major policy shift.”
How much is too much? The hot issue of measuring marijuana intoxication
- Along with the draft Cannabis Act, the Government of Canada has introduced proposed changes to impaired driving laws which would introduce criminal penalties for cannabinoid-based intoxication behind the wheel, beginning at two nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood based on roadside testing results. More serious consequences kick in at five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, especially where alcohol is also present in the blood at specified levels. This is consistent with research which shows that combining THC and alcohol can lead to higher levels of THC in the blood than cannabis consumption alone.
- Cannabinoid intoxication is an evolving issue for a variety of legal fields, including both criminal and employment law.
- In an April, 2017 decision, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, after considering expert medical evidence, affirmed a drug testing policy of the Toronto Transit Commission which featured an intoxication threshold of 10 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood.
- Standards for what constitutes intoxication have varied widely over time and in various disciplines. The World Anti-Doping Agency, formed in 1999 through an initiative of the International Olympic Committee, now advises not to pursue cases where the reported concentration is less than 150 nanograms per millilitre. Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati nearly lost his Olympic gold medal in 1998 for having 17.8 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood in his system.
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