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Israeli medical cannabis company gets backing from leading healthcare providers

The move suggests that the medical establishment has finally put its faith in cannabis

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Tikun Olam-Cannbit has entered a five-year agreement with the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv

An Israeli medical cannabis company has teamed up with some of the country’s largest healthcare providers to make treatment accessible to more patients. 

Medical cannabis company, Tikun Olam-Cannbit recently announced it has entered into a partnership agreement with Israel’s second-largest healthcare provider, Maccabi Healthcare Services.

As part of the deal, Tikun Olam-Cannbit will offer Maccabi members who hold a medical cannabis license, discounts on its products and services, including the dispensing and distribution of products to the patient’s home, training on how to use a vape, consulting and webinars on the latest research.

It follows an arrangement made by the company with Meuhedet Health Services, that in addition to providing delivery, consulting and patient training services, will see the training of Meuhedet physicians and medical staff.

Tikun Olam-Cannbit has already entered a five-year agreement with one of Israel’s largest hospitals, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, to collaborate on the establishment of a Medical Cannabis Research Center on the campus in Tel Aviv, in conjunction with the hospital’s Medical Research Infrastructure and Health Services Fund.

The firm will conduct six clinical studies, three of which will be conducted within the next five years, and the rest within the next decade.

The study fund will examine possibility of developing analytical tools to identify blood endocannabinoid levels, receive access to analyse active ingredients and will also see the firm provide preclinical studies, publish joint academic publications and collaborate on projects using the hospital’s biobank.

Tikun Olam-Cannbit will provide its cannabis strains for studies that will be conducted at the research centre free of charge and will provide strains at a discount for clinical and preclinical studies for the other studies that will be conducted at the research centre. 

Avinoam Sapir, CEO of Tikun Olam-Cannbit said the recent developments were evidence that the Israeli medical establishment has put its faith in the efficacy of medical cannabis. 

“The agreement signed with Maccabi Healthcare Services comes on the heels of the agreement that was recently signed with Meuhedet Health Services and the agreement to establish the research institute with Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center,” he commented. 

“They all demonstrate the faith of the medical establishments in the therapeutic efficacy of medical cannabis based on clinical research. I welcome this important partnership and the selection of Tikun Olam-Cannbit for the second time by a leading medical institution.”

Sapir added: “The fact that another HMO has decided to include cannabis as part of the treatment services it offers and chooses to do so with Tikun Olam-Cannbit at this point testifies to the professional faith in our clinical knowledge and abilities to provide support throughout the medical cannabis value chain, based on proven clinical research and recognition of Tikun Olam-Cannbit as a pharmaceutical company.”

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Akanda CEO discusses ESG and disruption in European cannabis market

Tej Virk is appointed as CEO of Akanda as Halo Collective reorganises its international assets into the newly formed company

Stephanie Price

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Cannabis and corporate finance and banking industry executive Tej Virk recently joined African medical cannabis company Akanda as CEO, where he will be leveraging his wealth of experience to disrupt the UK and European cannabis market.

Tej Virk has joined Akanda as CEO from Khiron Life Sciences, where he was President and Managing Director for Europe, establishing Khiron’s medical and consumer packaged goods business in the European cannabis market. Prior to this, Virk was Managing Director for Europe at Canopy Growth Corporation, where he was responsible for driving the multinational expansion of Canopy’s European operations.

Although not currently involved, Virk is also one of the first executives to push for and fund Europe’s largest medical cannabis patient registry, Project Twenty21, for which he was an advisor – driving the opening of the medical flower market in the UK.

The appointment of Virk comes as vertically integrated multinational cannabis company, Halo Collective recently announced the reorganisation of its international assets, Bophelo Bioscience & Wellness Pty. Ltd, and Canmart Ltd., into the newly formed Akanda Corp. 

Scaling potential

Akanda is currently a 100% owned subsidiary but, as Virk highlights, is independent within Halo. The first assets pulled into the company in the UK is its distribution business, Canmart, which is fully licensed by UK regulators and working with multiple LPs in order to import EU GMP medicines, as well as distribute them to clinics and patients in the UK. It will also be utilising the scaled production capabilities of Bophelo, Halo’s Lesotho-based cultivation and processing site, which is located in the world’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) containing a cannabis growth operation.

“That is a rare business within the UK, and has so much potential to scale. With my unique capabilities I’m in a position to do so,” says Virk. “Pair that with the absolutely massive grow in Lesotho – which has the potential to be the world’s largest cannabis grow as it is currently licensed for 200 hectares, which is a massive amount of land – over 700 football pitches. Lesotho is a beautiful, pristine country with all the natural sunlight needed to bring quality medical cannabis to the market at a very attractive cost point.”

By utilising Halo Collective’s ecosystem, Akanda has positioned itself to disrupt the UK, European, African, and other international markets. Virk highlights that as a combined company, the focus was split on two markets – recreational and medical.

“I think the focus was split on two markets which shared a similar product – they are sort of the same thing at the end of the day, but with some very important differences when it comes to regulations within international markets – Europe and Asia Pacific medical markets are highly regulated.

“Europe must follow and comply with all of the same types of regulations that you would see with any sort of over-the-counter medicine in a pharmacy or behind-the-counter medicine. This includes safety standards and testing, it is about creating an incredible consistent product within a very tight range of variables –  they must be shelf life stable and almost the same quality you would attribute to box of paracetamol. So, while products have these regulations attached to them, in the US and other markets, where you have adult use recreation, it is a different business, probably closer to consumer packaged goods business.

“Lesotho will provide the start of the supply chain and provide high-quality dry flower for inhalation and flower for extraction to create medicines, then we have the distribution business in the UK. So, we are going to be taking flower from Lesotho and importing it to the UK. We have already seen the first medical cannabis coming from Lesotho from a competitor about a month ago, so this pathway of bringing cannabis from Lesotho to Europe is open, which is a massive de-risking for us. In terms of expansion we will be focusing on distributors in other markets that would help us get to market faster, and looking for distributor partnerships in the near term.”

Leveraging HALO’s heritage to disrupt European cannabis market

Akanda will be providing medical cannabis products for patients worldwide by leveraging award-winning genetic strains from Halo, DNA. Combining this with ideal conditions for outdoor and greenhouse-based cultivation in Lesotho, and the country’s low energy cost and competitive labor market, Akanda will be able to produce high-quality medical cannabis with ultra-low production costs.

“We are leveraging our heritage of being part of the Halo collective and what Halo has done is incredibly well is grow cannabis for the recreational market at scale. I think they have won the war of attrition on the US West Coast – there was a big pricing war from which Halo has emerged victorious, and, in doing so, has established relationships with some of the top brands in California and West Coast markets.

“Those brands and strains are the ones that have survived really difficult markets with some of the most discerning consumers and patients in the world – so, we are actually leveraging those relationships and growing those strains in Lesotho,” commented Virk.

“The ones we are starting with are DNA Genetics – which has won over 200 awards and is the same company that Canopy Growth partnered with in Canada when they launched into the adult use markets. What I like about DNA Genetics is that these are well known strains that have well observed outcomes – yes they are recreational market position, but a lot of the outcomes are medical, which we can see from self reporting of patients and consumers citing same sort of the effects for patient.

“Anxiety and pain relief two are indications in the medical market, so we are taking the data and well known strains and bringing that to the European market as you cannot export to international or European markets because of the federal legality, so we have bridged that gap. We have leveraged the incredible climate which is really like California but with little to no pollution, and we are growing those strains at scale and delivering that at a great price point.

“Europe and Asia Pacific are the first two core regions we will disturb, and really, any market which does medical cannabis which is in our remit. We are trying to narrow our focus on those two, but if we were to sum up all medical cannabis markets we would have an addressable market of over $70bn, so there is quite a lot of potential – including the UK.”

Committed to ESG practices

Akanda’s commitment to environmental, social, and governance practices broadens its potential investor base, while advancing Lesotho’s and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are committed to ESG principals – if there were three things to hone in on, it would be the medical focus within international markets, the high quality that comes with scale, and the way we are defining quality through those trusted brands,” said Virk.

“I think we are uniquely positioned to take some of the best practice in the cannabis space and wrap them in ESG, so part of it starts with our social equity initiative in Lesotho, which is a developing country with a small population. This industry has the chance to bring massive change to the community there in the Mafateng province. We are helping to uplift and install resilience in that local community and this is partly thanks to the initiative of executive chairman, Louisa Mojela, who is a most accomplished business woman having sat on the board of Southern Africa’s top companies, and really brings with her a background of working with charitable organisations.

“We are bringing this industry to people in a region where there is a lot of unskilled labour and teaching them skills in cultivation of cannabis and taking that through to advance roles. We are seeing some people go from working as a grower to working in more complex roles such a regulatory compliance – there are real success stories there.

“The environment is another impact area we are really focussed on such as having neutral carbon footprint, so we have some initiatives around that and zero-carbon cannabis is something that we think is is within our grasp. We are also trying to achieve as many of the UN Sustainability Goals as we can which includes everything from ending hunger to improving education. As a company, we are probably able to achieve 12 of the 17 of the goals, and we are at eight right now. We cannot do all 17 as some depend on government, but as a single company I think we are doing an amazing job.

“We have a charitable trust attached to our subsidiary in Lesotho which is dedicated to donating 10% of our profits to the Mophuthi Matsoso Development Trust which goes towards uplifting the community, building schools, providing education and helping to develop proper programmes. We have already built one school which is incredible to see and it is having a real impact on peoples lives – it is really a driving force for change and a win-win situation for all, benefiting the community, the patients with constant quality medical products and the shareholder because the returns are there.”

Virk added: “I’m really excited to join Akanda – it is probably one of the most exciting companies to be a part of in the space, which I say with some objectivity as I am still new to the role – with this particular company there is so much potential.”

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Sacha Baron Cohen files lawsuit over cannabis advertising 

Solar Therapeutics used an image of Cohen’s fictional character Borat in an advertising campaign

Stephanie Price

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Sacha Baron Cohen files lawsuit over cannabis advertising 

Actor and social activist Sacha Baron Cohen has brought forward a legal case against cannabis company Solar Therapeutics for using his image in an advertising campaign. 

Baron Cohen filed the lawsuit against Solar Therapeutics after the company used a copyright protected image of his fictional character Borat in an advertising campaign for its cannabis products. 

Court documents, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, reveal that Cohen is taking legal action against the company for wilful copyright infringement, false advertising and violation of the Massachusetts statute against misappropriation of rights publicly after the company used his character’s image and catchphrase “It’s Nice” on a commercial billboard.

Copyright infringement 

The document claims that Solar Therapeutics knowingly misappropriated the image to increase revenue, noting the company “took a gamble” by thinking that Baron Cohen would not see the advert. 

Baron Cohen is “highly protective of his image and persona, and those of his characters” and has never taken part in advertising any commercial products in the US or the UK, despite having ample opportunity to do so, having once turned down a $4m deal to advertise a car.

The document further highlights that Baron Cohen does not believe cannabis is a healthy choice, pointing out that one of his characters Ali G, from TV series Da Ali G Show, “made a mockery of stoner culture”. Additionally, it states that Baron Cohen is an observant Jew born into an Orthodox Jewish family, and does not want to be embroiled in the Jewish debate on whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs and rules. 

The document goes on to note that people in the US are still being imprisoned for the sale of the products that Solar Therapeutics is advertising, and that the Biden Administration recently terminated White House staff members for once using cannabis.

Baron Cohen is seeking market value compensation, statutory treble damages, and punitive and other damages, which is estimated at a value of $9m. He is seeking the compensation for both himself and his company PYCT, which is the owner of all applicable copyright and other intellectual property interests in the Borat character. 

Solar Therapeutics have not responded to a request for comment at the time of publishing. 

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Khiron eyes Brazilian growth after landmark product sale

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European medical cannabis group Khiron is aiming to use its first product sales in Brazil as a launchpad for South American growth.

Through the firm´s strategic alliance with CANNAB, a patient association that connects physicians, patients, academic institutions, and suppliers, a three-year old child from Salvador de Bahia suffering from epilepsy has received six units of Khiron high-CBD 100mg/50ml extract.

The importation of Khiron’s medical cannabis on behalf of the patient was authorised by ANVISA (the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency).

The company plans to collaborate with CANNAB to continue offering its medical products to many more patients in Brazil.

CANNAB expects to help over 1,200 new patients gain access to medical cannabis products during 2021.

According to Prohibition Partners, the Brazilian medical cannabis user base could reach close to 3 million people in the next few years.

CEO Alvaro Torres said: “Our initial export to the Brazilian market represents an important first step toward opening a large, underserved market where patients face high barriers to access.

“By providing patients with affordable high-quality products, and an unparalleled patient experience, we see an opportunity to disrupt the Brazilian market and deliver on our mission of improving patients lives.

“Khiron is already treating thousands of patients in ColombiaPeru, UK and Germany, with positive outcomes.

“In due course, we plan to bring our successful Zerenia clinic model to Brazil, as we have done in Peru and Colombia.”

The company has also established two partnerships in Brazil to increase product awareness and medical cannabis education for health care providers across the country.

Khiron has an exclusive agreement with Medlive, a pharmaceutical and health products distributor with a network of over 3,000 clinics and hospitals in southern Brazil.

It has also signed a marketing contract with TAIMIN, a leading medical distributor focused on Rio de JaneiroSao Paulo and northern Brazil.

Together, the two agreements provide broad regional coverage across Brazil and are intended to drive sales by expanding Khiron’s network of prescribing physicians.

The company is also in discussion with several medical clinics as it seeks to expand its clinic model into Brazil.

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