Germany & Greece

Medical cannabis legalization continues to sweep the world. Let’s take a look at some major movements in Germany and Greece this week.

Germany

In March 2017, Germany became the largest federally legal medical marijuana market in the world and they also have a great medical insurance program where every German citizen is mandated to have health coverage (through a private company), and some of their insurance firms are covering medical marijuana in their plans which makes medical cannabis accessible to the country’s 70 million insured people.

Three large insurance firms – Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse, Barmer, and Techniker Krankenkasse – told the Rheinische Post that they approved MMJ reimbursement applications for about two-thirds of all applicants in 2017. The medical demand for marijuana in 2017 was up to approximately 13,000 applicants granted reimbursements by the end of the year, a significant increase since the beginning of the program in March 2017, at which time there were only 1,000 applicants.

Germany is not able to produce cannabis domestically yet, and are currently relying on importing the medication, mostly from Canada and the Netherlands. They are planning to start cultivation in 2019. According to the Associated Press, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) is currently working to establish an agency to sift through private business bids to grow MMJ for their patients.

The agency will be working on and regulating the current importing of medical marijuana from Canada and the Netherlands and will oversee the cultivation, storage and subsequent distribution to pharmacies across Germany. The agency is also expected to invite bids from European Union companies to carry out cultivation domestically as soon as 2019, when they are able to start cultivating their own cannabis products.

“Cannabis is not a panacea,” emphasizes the Federal Government Drugs Commissioner, Marlene Mortler (CSU). She nevertheless rates the high number of applications as positive: “The increasing number of permits shows how important it was to launch this law last year.”

Currently, doctors and physicians are able to prescribe medical cannabis for specific illnesses and symptoms, including chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and decreased appetite or nausea resulting from cancer treatments. Medical cannabis is only sold in pharmacies and patients are not legally able to grow or cultivate their own marijuana right now, though that may change in the future. At the moment, this is in place because there is no way to regulate personal cultivation and ensure that the product is medical-grade and able to treat diseases and difficult symptoms.

Greece

One of Greece’s deputy ministers said last week that the country’s parliament is expected to approve the medical use of cannabis in the coming weeks, and added that the change would likely attract investors and major cannabis companies to the small country. There are Greek, Israeli and Canadian companies already showing an interest in possibly investing in the cannabis market in Greece and estimates put the number of investing dollars at approximately 1.5-2 billion euros (USD $1.8-2.4b).

“In a few weeks’ time, an amendment will be brought to parliament to define the legislative framework for the cultivation and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products based on medical cannabis, which will open the way for Greek and foreign investments,” deputy agricultural development minister Yannis Tsironis told AFP.

In 2017, the Greek government authorized the import of several pharmaceutical products based on medical marijuana, as well as hemp cultivation for industrial purposes for the first time and this is showing great promise.

On Friday, January 12, 2018, the very first Greek cannabis expo, Athens Cannabis Expo 2018, debuted at the Coastal Zone Olympic Complex in Faliro, which was the site of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The expo is to raise awareness about the medicinal and industrial uses of the marijuana plant. More than 100 businesses from both Greece and around the world exhibited, all who specialize in the use of cannabis in both the medical industry and others.

Many Greek lawmakers were in attendance, including Alternate Agriculture Development Minister Yiannis Tsironis and Economy and Development Secretary General Efstratios Zafiris.

Humanity Granted License to Manufacture Cannabis Concentrates

In another exciting move for Humanity Medicine, we, along with Allegiance Wellness Center Inc. and Vista Prime Management, LLC, have been granted a license to manufacture cannabis concentrates using “non-volatile extraction.” Cannabis concentrates can be used in vaporizers and even in edible or drinkable cannabis products.

The standard more volatile method of extraction uses chemicals such as butane and is much more regulated since unsafe butane extraction has been known to cause explosions in illegal labs. This extraction method is regulated by the California Department of Public Health.

The new license was granted by the City of San Diego who is only planning to issue up to 40 such permits to operate marijuana production facilities. Over 60 businesses have applied for a permit and each one is required to go through a rigorous and extensive review by the City of San Diego’s Development Services Department.

The City Council also voted to “grandfather in” non-retail cannabis-related businesses who already held a valid business tax certificate prior to January 31, 2017 for two additional years, which had been conducting business in a “quasi-legal” atmosphere, which occurred before the city learned and began implementing ways to regulate the cannabis supply chain. A small number of cannabis businesses are included in this grace period.

Unfortunately, some cannabis businesses may be required to shut down or potentially relocate if they are not able to get one of the 40 new licenses to manufacture cannabis concentrates before the grace period ends.

We are starting off 2018 with some great news! Cheers to a wonderful year!

Happy New Year!

Humanity’s home state of California is celebrating the new year by being the latest state in the United States to fully legalize cannabis!

On Monday, January 1, recreational use of marijuana becomes legal here in the beautiful state of California. As The Telegraph says, “California will become the sixth state – and by far the most populous – to legalize and tax sales of recreational cannabis, completing a shift along the US west coast, with Massachusetts and Maine on track to change their laws on pot in 2018.”

California has over 40 million residents, which brings up the average, making 1 in 5 Americans living in a state which allows smoking and ingesting marijuana. With this size population, California is also the world’s sixth-largest economy.

In the United States, banking for marijuana businesses is still a huge issue, given the federal laws and the fact that recreational cannabis is only legal in a few states. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned people about investing in cannabis companies, as some have been shown to be a scam. Proper research is required to make sure your investments are in good hands.

However, no one can debate the fact that the marijuana industry is very quickly becoming of North America’s fastest-growing industries, especially watching the success Canada is having right now. Marijuana farms, dispensaries, and supply chains are growing and employing thousands of people and that number continues to grow. Even universities are recognizing the changes and have started incorporating courses on marijuana cultivation, legal regulations, and business.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, cannabis-related companies are already employing more than 100,000 workers, including up to 27,000 involved in cultivation, 52,000 in dispensaries and 66,000 in ancillary industries. Just like other industries, the marijuana world needs accountants, truck drivers, cashiers, and other positions.

Cannabis Boom

According to Business Insider, one report from the cannabis industry research firm BDS Analytics estimates that the sales of cannabis will hit $3.7 billion in 2018 alone and predict that the number will increase to $5.1 billion in 2019 as more dispensaries come online and more people continue to get easier and better access to cannabis. As a comparison, beer sales in California hit $5 billion for the first time in 2017, according to industry research group IBIS World.

Legal marijuana sales are predicted to hit $9.7 billion in the states where recreational marijuana is legal, excluding California (not legal until 1/1/2018), and Canada in 2017 alone, says BDS. That number is expected to hit $24.5 billion in sales by 2021, despite continued federal prohibition. This shows how big of an impact California alone will have on this total.

As the recreational use goes into effect on January 1, be patient! A few of the largest cities in California, including LA and San Francisco, are still working to pass regulations and have missed the January 1 date, but will soon be available. This simply means that some dispensaries may not have their recreational-use licenses on Monday but are in the process of getting them.

With California being so large, it is somewhat expected to see these kinds of snags in the regulatory side, but it is on track and happening.

Prices may also be rising. According to Green State, the price of an eighth-ounce of marijuana — now around $54 including tax — will increase to approximately $65, though local municipalities may levy different fees. Part of this rise is due to the state applying an excise tax on recreational-use marijuana sales. If you are using marijuana for medicinal purposes and are a registered patient, this should not affect you. Californian officials are hopeful that ease of procurement and legality will keep people from going to the unregulated black market for their needs.

Nonetheless, all dispensaries need to get licensed and be ready to sell as quickly as possible. Being able to legally and easily get marijuana is the only way this will work for everyone.

“If there are only 10 regulated dispensaries in the East Bay and I live 45 minutes from one of them, I’m going to call my dealer or my unregulated delivery service like I’ve done for the last five years,” Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, told Bloomberg, “What we need to do in California right now is ensure that every Californian that wants to consume cannabis can buy it at an affordable price, conveniently, from a licensed retailer,” Allen added.

Happy Holidays! A Look Back.

2017 has been a year of major changes in the fight to legalize medical and even recreational-use marijuana. From U.S. politicians trying to stop it, to major new players in the game. With the newest evidence that marijuana use could help quell the countrywide opioid crisis and now twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia currently having laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, plus more states have decriminalized marijuana possession.

Around the world, the effects of cannabis are being felt everywhere. More countries than ever before are either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana at least for medicinal use. While 2017 has been a great step forward for legalization, 2018 is also looking up!

Here is a look at the status of cannabis around the world right now.

Peru is the most recent to join the ranks with legalizing it in November. On Thursday, November 16, the president of Peru signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana across the country, allowing possession, sale, and transport of cannabis for medical purposes, though it’s still illegal to cultivate the plant.

India, like the United States, allows each state to create and enforce their own laws regarding marijuana legalization, which some states have taken advantage of, though it is illegal at the federal level still. Right now, it is legal or least tolerated in Bihar, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and the North-Eastern states, and decriminalized in Gujarat.

Some countries, such as Australia, Greece, Croatia, Israel, Poland, Mexico, Finland, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Macedonia and Italy, have strictly-regulated medicinal marijuana use legalized, while other countries like Jamaica, Uruguay, and the Netherlands have much more relaxed laws regarding cultivation and use for both medicinal and recreational use.

Chile is the Latin-American country with the highest rate of per-capita marijuana use, but public consumption and production remain illegal – for now. Chilean Congress is debating a bill that would make it legal to grow up to six plants in a private home for “medical, recreational, or spiritual reasons.”  Germany has legalized medicinal use, and in a positive process, they consider the use of recreational cannabis to be self-harm and not a crime.

Spain and South Africa allow private consumption but no public use or sale as of yet, and a single neighborhood in Copenhagen, known as the “green light district” allows it as well. Columbia and Brazil have both legalized it for medicinal uses as well, and Columbia has some private cultivation laws, as well.

In Australia, they have made cannabis legal for medicinal and scientific purposes and decriminalized for personal use in the Northern Territory, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory. Other regions vary.

In many countries, even medicinal use of cannabis is still considered illegal, but the use of it is either decriminalized or the laws are unenforced for marijuana specifically. This includes: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Laos, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The world continues its march toward full legalization and continues to find new and better ways to use medical cannabis to help people!

Cannabis IP Problems

Intellectual Problems

Patents and trademarks are still legal gray areas in the cannabis industry and can present new and difficult problems and challenges. And as the cannabis industry continues to grow, both worldwide and here in the United States, issues with intellectual property will continue to crop up.

Marijuana operators, growers, and inventors are attempting to put together state-level patents working with city and state lawmakers, and even relying on a “common-law” trademark, which basically just allows a company to “possibly” seek protection against competitors with similar names or logos later.

Why do they have to resort to this and have no protection for their intellectual property, as any other business in the U.S. would expect?

Because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has not awarded a single patent to cover cannabis genetic material, despite hundred of patent applications for cannabis strains and products have been filed.

Despite the fact that the U.S.P.T.O. has long given out patents for growing specific genetic material, such as GMO types of soybeans, corn, and many more crops.

They also cannot receive trademark protection, because of marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. As it is still federally illegal, on a nationwide level, cannabis companies are out of luck and unprotected against competition and intellectual property theft.

MJBizDaily reports, “the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that owners of state-licensed marijuana retailers can’t receive federal trademark protection on marks that are connected to cannabis sales because marijuana is illegal under federal law.”

Some Recent Cases

As of January 2017, a well-known company making marijuana utensils, Roor, had filed 200 lawsuits to protect its trademark. Smoke shops in California, Florida, and New York were reportedly selling counterfeit products with the Roor company’s name and logo.

According to the Associated Press, Roor, the German company, and its American licensee, Sream, of California, hold U.S. Trademark No. 3675839 to protect its fashionable pipes and bongs sold with the Roor mark, which is the word “RooR” with the second “r” capitalized and facing backward.

Even though they currently hold a trademark, it can be difficult or even impossible to prosecute counterfeiters, since utensils used to consume cannabis are federally illegal and cannot be trademarked.

But that doesn’t stop people from trying to bring suits against companies for infringing on their intellectual property and trying to protect their company.

Headspace, based in southern California, is a multi-million dollar company which produces marijuana oils. It’s product “The Clear” is sold in seven states, and their brand is well-known. Headspace filed a trademark suit against Podworks, based in Washington state, over their product Top Shelf Clear.

Headspace claims that Podworks is illegally using The Clear’s name by simply removing the article. “We take a lot of pride in the proprietary nature of what we do,” said Chris Barone, CEO of Headspace International. “We’ve got a lot of time and money invested into what we’re doing.”

Podworks owner Thomas Worth said his product is called “Top Shelf Clear,” not just “Clear,” and that he has a legal trademark for his product’s name and does not plan to give it up. This could be a landmark case for the cannabis industry.

Famous Names in the Game

Rapper Snoop Dogg got in a trademark infringement fight in 2016, over whether his “Leafs by Snoop” product line, including marijuana strains and merchandise such as clothing, infringed on the NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs trademark. Snoop did file a federal trademark application as far back as January 2015, but dropped it in November of that same year, as it was not going through.

The newest celebrity in this fight is on the opposite side. Jessica Alba is suing Honest Herbal, a three-year-old Colorado-based company that makes nutritional supplements from CBD oil. Alba claims that they are infringing on her trademark of LA-based The Honest Company. Her attorneys argue that Honest Herbal is attempting to confuse consumers and “profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with The Honest Co.” The Honest Company lines include Honest Baby, Honest Beauty, and Honest Man.

What are your thoughts? As with any other plant and logo, we think cannabis companies should be able to get federal trademarks and the protections associated with that. But in the meantime, these landmark cases will help determine future litigation in the marijuana industry. And as the industry continues to grow worldwide, we will be seeing more and more of these.

Photo Credit

Huge Win for State Medical Marijuana Laws!

The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment has been renewed for the 2018 fiscal year! Despite the Trump administration’s bumps, this amendment has been voted on and renewed for next year.

The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment is a 2014 measure that bars the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

And according to the Huffington Post, “national support for marijuana legalization has risen dramatically in recent years, reaching historic highs. A Quinnipiac poll from earlier this year found that 94 percent of Americans support allowing adults to use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it.”

How fantastic it is that this industry continues to gain momentum, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that all legal marijuana dispensaries that follow their state laws continue to be legal and are free from federal prosecution.

Great Feedback From Colorado!

In February of this year, a task force was created to review the United States’s enforcement of immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime laws. The task force sent in their proposals to the Department of Justice last week, but they are not being disclosed.

Colorado and Oregon both are said to have submitted lengthy reports explaining how well-regulated marijuana industry is run and how it generates a great deal of tax revenue with “no measurable increase in crime or health problems.”

The report from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) shows Colorado as collecting $459.5 million in marijuana taxes as of May 2017, and that the money has been used for school construction, regulation and enforcement of marijuana laws, youth prevention programs, substance-abuse treatment programs, and public education campaigns.

Legalization has “facilitated the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars into the Federal Reserve System that would otherwise exist outside of the nation’s banking system,” the report says.

The United States continues to move forward and progress medical marijuana and recreational-use laws under each state!

What We Are Reading This Week:

Bipartisan Bill to End Federal Prohibition of Medical Marijuana Reintroduced in U.S. Senate

This is a press release issued by the Marijuana Policy Project. We are reprinting it to note its importance.

The CARERS Act would allow the possession, production, and distribution of medical marijuana in states that have made it legal; lift the ban on Veterans Affairs doctors recommending it to patients in those states; and improve access to marijuana for medical research

* Statement below from Don Murphy of the Marijuana Policy Project *                            

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced a bill Thursday that would end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also signed on to the legislation as original co-sponsors.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (or CARERS) Act of 2017 would allow individuals and entities to possess, produce, and distribute medical marijuana if they are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It would also open up avenues to medical marijuana research and allow physicians employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal. The bill also proposes excluding cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, from the federal government’s definition of “marijuana.”

This is the second time the CARERS Act has been introduced. It was first introduced on March 10, 2015, during the 114th Congress.

Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. An additional 19 states have adopted laws that recognize the medical value of marijuana but are unworkable or exceptionally limited.

According to an April poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 94 percent of U.S. voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, including 96 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Republicans, and 95 percent of independents.

Statement from Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The reintroduction of the CARERS Act is the first of many steps we hope this Congress will take to end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana. The addition of Sens. Lee and Murkowski as original co-sponsors should inspire other Republicans to seriously consider this legislation and the absurd federal overreach that it seeks to correct. Marijuana is effective in the treatment of several debilitating conditions. The federal government should not be meddling in state laws that allow it or obstructing research into its many medical benefits.

“Polls show overwhelmingly strong support for medical marijuana, and it spans the political spectrum. There is no better example of an issue that garners the level of bipartisan support necessary to pass meaningful legislation. Twenty-nine states and our nation’s capital have enacted effective medical marijuana programs, and an additional 19 states have adopted laws that recognize marijuana’s medical value. There is no rational reason to continue prohibiting seriously ill patients from using this medicine or punishing those who provide it to them.”