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Billy Hood CBD appeal reduces sentence to ten years

An appeal hearing has seen Billy Hood’s sentence for possessing CBD reduced to ten years.

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Billy Hood CBD appeal reduces sentence to ten years
Image from Detained In Dubai of Billy Hood protest

Billy Hood – who was imprisoned for 25 years for trafficking, selling and possessing CBD earlier this year in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – has received a reduced sentence of ten years following an appeal.

The Abu Dhabi Courts have accepted that 25-year-old British national Billy Hood did not traffic or sell CBD vape oil that had been left in his car by a friend. Detained in Dubai has stated that the court accepts that he “unintentionally possessed” the CBD, but have sentenced Hood to a decade behind bars, despite new legislation eliminating prison sentences for foreigners found in possession and allowing for deportation instead.

The recent UAE announcement that it will be relaxing drug laws for travellers caught with cannabis products in the country would see the products destroyed instead of imprisoning individuals.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who is lobbying for Hood’s release, commented: “The UAE has just claimed they will eliminate prison sentences for foreigners found to be in possession of THC products, opting for deportation instead, but this law does not come into effect until January 2022 and may not apply retroactively.

“Dubai police were extremely negligent when they charged Billy Hood with trafficking and selling the two mini bottles of CBD vape oil found in his car. They turned what would have been a small possession case at worst into a federal case that has seen him locked up for almost a year and facing a life sentence in Abu Dhabi. 

“There was no evidence whatsoever of trafficking and none of selling. Dubai’s overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man’s life and put him and his family through hell. Billy was forced to confess to federal crimes with promises of his imminent release. He was given both a carrot and a stick, so some prosecutor could get his dues. It’s all too familiar a story.”

“It’s very confusing,” Hood’s mother Breda Hood told Detained in Dubai. “How can this have escalated as far as it has? I tried not to get my hopes up for today as I knew something like this might happen, but I now have to face the possibility that I may not see my son before Christmas and words cannot express how broken I am feeling.”

Detained in Dubai stated that Billy’s father Alex Hood has been outraged by the lack of intervention coming from the British government: “The Brits have developed strong ties with the UAE so why aren’t they using their relationship to help people like Billy? 

“This should be on the top of their list. Our son is not interested in drugs at all, not consuming, selling or trafficking. It wasn’t his fault at all that his friend left the vape bottles in his car. Why should he be punished for someone else’s actions? 

“All of his tests came back negative and there is zero evidence of selling or trafficking. It’s like something out of a movie and I can barely cope with the frustration of not being able to help him. We are campaigning out here but he’s in there completely alone.”

The Foreign Office has submitted a clemency request for Billy’s release and a petition established by the family has attracted almost 160,000 signatures. In a statement to Cannabis Wealth yesterday, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “We are giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE. We are in contact with his family in the UK.”

“We pray every day for Billy’s release,” Hood’s brother Alexander told Detained in Dubai. “I spoke with Billy today and he sends lots of love to everyone supporting him. It’s been so hard on him. I can’t plead enough for the UAE to grant him clemency, give him his life back, please. The UAE has just promised to change their laws and we ask his highness to take this into consideration when reviewing our clemency application.”

Stirling highlights that ten years for “unintentional possession” of CBD vape oil is a grave injustice.

In a statement yesterday, Stirling commented: “We need MP’s to push a resolution for Billy’s family. The UAE is increasingly a strong ally to the UK and with that, comes an immense possibility for cooperation on issues of human rights. I will be speaking to Parliamentarians tomorrow and have no doubt Billy’s case will attract significant support.”

International

Italy plans hemp production increases: could the UK be next?

Italian officials are planning an increase in hemp and processing centres which could boost fabric or fibre production

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Officials in west-central Italy are progressing plans to build a sustainable hemp supply chain model which would help to boost local agriculture.

The town of Roccasecca is located in the Frosinone province in the Lazio region. Officials are preparing the land to be planted with hemp ahead of the growing season. The project is a joint initiative of the city of Roccasecca and Cosilam, the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, consultancy Agricola Happy Hill and municipalities of Ceccano and San Giovanni Incarico.

The project was announced last year as a way of processing poor soil and attracting industry to the region. The Consortium for the Industrial Development of Southern Lazio (Cosilam) conducted a pre-planting analysis and the soil will be assessed after one farming cycle this year.

Cannabis bioaccumlative

As well as the production of fibre, hemp plastic, concrete and biofuels, hemp can also be used as a bioaccumulative. It can draw unwanted toxic material out of the soil helping to heal polluted areas.

Nitrogen-fixing plants such as hemp, alfalfa and peas can extract nitrogen from the air for fertilization which then results in higher amounts released into the soil. Soil can be damaged by heavy metals, toxins and pesticides used in farming.

Soil regeneration may help to make the land suitable for farming other crops. Hemp could also contribute to the carbon targets set by European countries including the UK, by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. For every tonne of hemp produced, 1.63 tonnes of CO2 is removed from the air. Hemp can absorb 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare.

Examples of hemp fibre and fabric

Fabric made from hemp

Italian intuitive

Roccasecca is just one of many Italian cities considering hemp processing and planting.

Umbria, a neighbouring region to Lazio, has also started planting hemp with the aim of creating a hemp fibre and hurd supply chain. The city is also interested in the phytoremediation, and Phyto-purification of water in the region through hemp.

An increase in hemp farming and also an investment into infrastructure would allow Italian companies to start developing hemp-fibre-based bioplastics and biopolymers. It could also serve the textile and fashion industries where alternative fibres are in high demand.

Hemp cultivation has been legal in Italy since 2016. Until the second world war, Italy was the largest producer of hemp but the move towards synthetic fibres meant that production was scaled back.

During the pandemic, Italy proposed a law change regarding personal grows to allow medical cannabis patients to cultivate up to four plants at home. A petition on medical cannabis circulated last year gathered over 500,000 signatures which may trigger a referendum on legalisation.

Katya Kowalski, head of strategy at Volteface said: “The introduction of hemp farming across Italy is a welcome initiative. Hemp is a high value, sustainable and versatile crop. In the midst of economic and environmental turmoil, hemp is a viable crop from widespread job creation to offsetting carbon-intensive building.

Hemp is an excellent demonstration of how cannabis reform is a much broader and varied area of policy than simply recreational drug use.”

She added: “I hope that these positive changes continue to reframe the reform sector and that hemp farming is taken up further across Europe and in the UK.”

Hemp: Italy plans to increase hemp production

English production

When it comes to English hemp supply chains or production, Katya notes that changes would need to be made to THC levels to allow farmers more freedom.

“In order for the UK to capitalise on this, changes need to be made to the outdated restrictions on hemp farming. As per recommendations in Volteface’s report, Pleasant Lands allowing hemp seed varieties with a THC percentage above 0.2 per cent and up to 1 per cent would improve the health of the plant and increase the yield of CBD per acre.

Alongside this, investment into the sector and moving hemp farming under DEFRA as opposed to the Home Office to streamline this industry more”

Could the UK produce more hemp?

Hemp designer Laura Bossom, founder of Cultiva commented on what it would take for the UK to increase hemp production.

“As an industry, What we are waiting for is the government to put forward farmer incentives such as making policy changes that would allow farmers to benefit from growing hemp. Last year there were conversations happening [remove: at the moment] around building facility centres in the UK for processing. As a nation, we are only growing 1600 hectares a year and we must grow more to make it viable.” she said.

“There were initial talks about importing fibre from Europe but that doesn’t seem economically viable or sustainable in terms of emissions. I’m sure the government is aware of the information coming from research and other projects being put forward by a lot of associations. We are waiting for the government to give us the go-ahead and back it completely. They are protecting the Pharmaceutical CBD markets by making it difficult for farmers to grow. They don’t actually benefit much from growing hemp as the CBD margin on their crop is not there due to a ban on processing CBD in the UK.”

She added: “We need to be building our local industries and I don’t see why the government won’t do it. I think it’s just a matter of when.”

When it comes to private investment, Covid has caused disruption in the market and the hardiness of hemp could mean sturdier equipment is needed. However, government backing could secure private investors who may feel nervous about the sector.

Laura said: “The other issue we have is that it is quite a long process. When you look at other natural fibres, they are not as strong as hemp, so they are quicker and easier to process. Hemp is so hardy that it requires decortication with quaternized action and a lot of refining processes.

We need a facility centre that will cost a lot of money but will be profitable in the long term. It’s a big investment! A lot of investors during Covid have been wary of putting their money into a high-risk project when they aren’t seeing the government backing it or farming policy encouraging growth.”

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South African company planning to export cannabinoids to UK and EU

The company is the first in the country to receive a licence for the manufacture, import and export cannabinoids.

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South African company planning to export cannabinoids to UK

Green Engineering Solutions Ltd (GES Labs) has stated it intends to export into regions including Australia, Israel, EU, UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the US.

GES Labs is the first company in South Africa to receive the licence from the South Africa Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). 

The licence will allow the company to manufacture, import and export bulk active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) containing cannabinoids in accordance with the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965, and will last until 2026.

GES Labs, which is a licensed pharmaceutical manufacturer and exporter, has said that this will cover CBD Isolate APIs  at 98+ per cent, CBD API at 90+ per cent CBD, THC API at 90+ per cent THC and USP generic Dronabinol.

GES Labs stated publicly: “GESLabs has rolled out our product offering for 2022. 

“This quarter we will be focusing on our bulk cannabinoid product offering including CBD isolate, CBD intermediate, THC intermediate, and Dronabinol. 

“In quarter one we will be focusing on delivering sample amounts for prospective clients while our global stability program is underway for Quarter 2 commercial supply. 

“We will be looking to offer these products to Australia, Israel, EU, UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and US clients focussed on the pharmaceutical cannabinoid sector.”

On its website the company commented that: “The product certification ensures that all our cannabinoid APIs are of pharmaceutical quality suitable for medicine manufacturing.

“We use state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies to produce world-class extracts using high quality input materials from approved South African cultivators that have been approved through strictly controlled auditing programs.”

In December it said: “We have now been in production of cannabinoid APIs for a month and we will be finalizing our product validations with market-ready stability studies in the new year.”

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Thailand to propose removing cannabis from controlled substances list

Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to approve medical cannabis in 2018

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Thailand: Thailand propose cannabis law changes

The Food and Drug Administration of Thailand is to propose that the narcotics control board remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances.

Under current law, cannabis is classed as a category 5 narcotic. It would also remove lengthy prison sentences for possession which can be up to 15 years. 

The measure would need to be approved by the Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul before the law is changed.

Thailand has been slowly liberalising access to cannabis although there are still many laws that restrict farming. Cannabis and hemp products are allowed in the cosmetic and food industries since 2020 with hospitals allowed to produce cannabis-based medicines.

Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to approve medical cannabis in 2018. The county removed the stems, roots, leaves and sprigs of the plant from the Category 5 narcotics list in December 2021. However, buds and seeds remain on the list. 

Under the 2021 list update, Thai households can grow up to six plants for personal use and keep the parts of the plant with 0.2 per cent of THC. The flowers and seeds must be sent to a state medical facility for processing. 

Withid Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary-general of the FDA told Bloomberg: “If we’re able to decriminalise marijuana, we will be able to benefit from all of the plant and not just parts of it. The flower buds and seeds could be used economically and in compliance of the law.”

Thailand: A collection of CBD oil in bottles and CBD flower

Thailand and medical cannabis

The Public Health Ministry in Thailand signed an agreement with Rx Leaf World Medica to establish an international medical cannabis research centre. The centre will combine doctors, scientists, pharmacists and cannabis experts to conduct research.

In a press event, public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul said that the ministry would promote medical cannabis to help people access treatment safely and within the law. He also highlighted that the ministry would aim to promote Thailand as a great location for cannabis production and development.

“In 2022, the Public Health Ministry will focus on promoting Thai herbs and wisdom in order to create jobs, generate revenue and improve patients’ quality of life.”
However, there have been some media reports which suggest that the formula that is available through the clinic is not of a high enough quality and that they have returned to the illegal market.

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