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Crafting cannabis policy to adhere to European and international regulations

A new white paper discusses the obligations and flexibilities of the cannabis industry under European and international law.

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Crafting cannabis policy to adhere to European and international regulations
Home » News » Politics & policy » Crafting cannabis policy to adhere to European and international regulations

Paris-based cannabis consultancy Augur Associates’ white paper explores how cannabis policy can combat drug harms and protect human rights whilst also complying with international drug regulations.

Obligations to international drug Conventions are perceived as a barrier for countries looking to make changes in national approaches to drug policy. 

Cannabis is currently regulated under three Conventions – the main being the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. The Convention’s aim is to limit the possession, use, trade, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs for medical and scientific purposes, and to combat drug trafficking through international co-operation.

Read more: Report calls for UK Government to turbocharge cannabinoid innovation

However, Augur Associates’ white paper, which is a result of two years of research from Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, highlights that: “While the Convention uses terms such as “control” and mostly establishes regulatory requirements related to medical and pharmaceutical uses of drugs, the words “recreational use” are absent, and “prohibition” is very rarely mentioned in the text.” 

“Prohibition”, it states, is present in the text as an optional escape clause, “discretionary upon the Member States to apply in a limited set of extreme public health situations.” 

Reform is in line with Conventions

The paper suggests that, while the political economy of cannabis control is framed as an external position, countries need to look inward to examine the racist and classist underpinnings of national policy choices. 

Citing examples of Uruguay, Malta, Canada and US territories, it argues that it is possible for countries to regulate non-medical cannabis industries today, and that “international drug control conventions do include room for the legal regulation of “other than medical and scientific uses in the context of industry”.”

The paper states: “Both the text and the legal history of the Convention of 1961 support the possibility to exempt the non-medical cannabis industry (“other than medical and scientific purposes in the context of industry”), as well as all related activities along the production and supply chain.” 

Read more: The economic advantages of amending cannabis legislation

Speaking to Cannabis Wealth, Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Augur Associates commented: “For decades, we couldn’t interpret the Convention other than through a prohibitive lens – that was the only way that was possible because it was backed mainly by the US. Right now, the US is changing and is saying the conventions do leave sufficient flexibilities to do things differently. 

“The political moment has changed, so now we can interpret it differently. Countries, depending on their aspiration and their citizens’ needs, can decide to do something different. Our drug policies are linked to our decision makers’ choices, prejudice, history, culture and so on. We believe that change needs to happen at the State level before anything else.”

As well as discussing the roles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in cannabis regulation, the paper sets out that progressive reform policies are in keeping with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read more: A vision for cannabis tourism in the UK

“Kenzi’s work has been groundbreaking. He has linked cannabis and the SDGs, and it shows that cannabis is linked to nine out of the 13 SDGs,” said Jeanroy. 

“He has shown that ultimately, the industrial hemp application plays a big part in that, but we do realise that the way we regulate cannabis – or the way we regulate illicit drugs – is an obstacle to the success of achieving sustainable development goals. 

“He highlights this, showing that it is not an anecdotal topic and that it needs to be central to our discussion on sustainability. I think it’s a big leap forward.”

Cannabis should be regulated by purpose

“Member States are sovereign in adopting a treaty interpretation that fits their priorities,” states the paper.

It highlights that it is possible to read the international cannabis control system as a “Framework Convention for the control of some medicines via the regulation of the clinical and pharmaceutical sectors – a framework focusing on a specific use: the medical and scientific one, while not imposing norms on any other non-medical uses.” 

Kenzi uses the example of how the chilli pepper is regulated, pointing out that the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of chilli pepper for purposes of warfare, but that it is also possible to use chilli pepper for “industrial, cosmetic or even food purposes”, as well as to grow chilli pepper in private settings. 

“This very same chilli is subject to certain regulations when prepared for use as a medicine (according to monographs 2529 or 2336 of the European Pharmacopoeia 13) and to other types of regulations related to other purposes from it – to make self-defence spray or for policing, for example, military purposes, police purpose, medicinal purposes, food purposes… Chilli pepper is regulated by purposes. Cannabis should as well.”

The paper stipulates that different rules apply to cannabis and its products when they are used for different purposes.

Jeanroy commented: “We need to put some subtlety and finesse in our regulations. Depending on what you’re using it for, cannabis can be regulated in different ways. We’re starting to see that with cannabis at a certain level, even in Europe and through Novel Foods.

“We are putting different rules if you’re using hemp for industrial purposes, or for medical cannabis. So, putting a plant that has so much active and non-active ingredients and therefore so much different use – putting it in one place, and very rigidly regulating is definitely outdated.”

The EU can be a leader in reform

The EU is in a position to lead the way in policy change through decriminalisation, the paper argues, explaining that international drug control systems should not serve as a bar to national-level reforms.

Historical shortcomings and the current hegemony of a particular interpretation around prohibition “may have impacted interpretive frames and driven legal scholarship away from the study of these exemptions for non-medical uses, purposefully added in the treaty”. 

It states: “This existing, good faith, legitimate international legal regime for adult-use cannabis opens an alternative pathway for national decision-makers, appeasing legal tensions and rerailing international relations on cannabis matters not only on less conflictual tracks, but also on more contextually appropriate roads.”

As countries like Luxembourg, Spain and Belgium are now beginning the process of adopting more progressive cannabis policies, the white paper points to Malta as a prime example of placing laws around cannabis use outside of drug control and instead, under harm reduction.

Jeanroy commented: “I think we have a growing number of member states in the EU and in Europe that are starting to experiment with alternative drug policies. The EU today is in a middle seat position between reformist countries that are mostly coming from the Americas, and more prohibitionist countries that mostly come from Asia and Africa. 

“We advocate for Europe to take a further stance, to go much more in the direction of reformist countries. In that respect, Malta, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands could take the lead to start informal discussions about cannabis and drug policies in general. That would be the first step. 

“The second step would be formal meetings and potentially establishing other positions, or at least to fight within the EU in order to move the position of the EU. Ultimately, they can take the lead in order to change the Conventions because those Conventions are dying out and are mostly outdated. However, that cannot happen until you have a sufficient number of countries willing to engage in reform.”

Key recommendations

The paper sets out key recommendations in the short term for EU Member States intending to craft drug policy in a way that reduces harm and drug abuse:

  • Inform the annual tonnage of non-medical tonnage in reporting to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)
  • Implement prevention and harm reduction policies
  • Open regional, informal discussions on cannabis and illicit drug policies
  • Weigh up legal and political pros and cons of different options in the context of their own domestic and geopolitical priorities
  • Make efforts to promote high-level dialogue on how to resolve emerging tensions between the need for reform, and obligations under interpretations under the treaty regime
  • Create expert advisory groups analysing various formal reform channels  

To see the full list of recommendations, click here.

To read the full whitepaper please visit the Augur Associates website at: en.augur.associates.

Politics & policy

Cross-party group established for recreational cannabis in Europe

#LegaliseitEP is focusing on human rights-based cannabis policy – “it is a matter of freedom”.

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Cross-party group established for recreational cannabis in Europe
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The group, made up of MEPs from five different parties, has formed to facilitate discussions around amending policy for the personal use of cannabis in Europe.

As countries such as Malta, Germany and Luxembourg have announced progressive amendments to cannabis policy, the informal interest group is supporting human rights-based policies for the personal use of cannabis.

The group is made up of the MEPs Luke Flanagan of Ireland, The Left; Mikuláš Peksa of the Czech Republic, Greens; Monica Semedo of Luxembourg, Renew; Cyrus Engerer of Malta, S&D; and, Dorian Rookmaker of The Netherlands, ECR.

Read more: Malta officially legalises cannabis in historic first for Europe

In an open letter to 705 members of the European Parliament, the group states that Member States should have the autonomy to create cannabis policy that reflects the needs and specificities of their society. 

As well as encouraging the MEPs to join the group, the open letter also calls for more information sharing between Member States regarding recreational cannabis and for fact-based discussion on cannabis, which the group says has been subject to misinformation for a long time.

The letter states: “Due to outdated and unpredictable patchwork of legislation, citizens across the EU are often finding themselves being forced to turn to the black market or even worse, imprisoned for being in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. This does not reflect the level of freedom we have come to expect from living in Europe.

“We cannot deny that with new legislation coming forward within EU Member States, we are likely to find ourselves facing repercussions at an EU level. As MEPs, we want to build on this momentum and create a cross-party interest group within the European Parliament, where we will share best practices, talk to experts, organise hearings and conferences, as well as debate the situation of personal use of cannabis within the Union.”

Monica Semendo, of Luxembourg’s Renew, stated: “I am in favour of the legalisation of cannabis and cannabis products because it is a matter of freedom. 

“It’s a matter of one’s own choice. And if someone decides to consume cannabis, they should have access to a safe product. 

“We have to focus on transparent information, education programmes and risk reduction, especially for young adults.”

Cyrus Engerer of Malta’s S&D, stated: “People should have the right to take autonomous informed decisions about their lives, including whether or not they use cannabis. 

“Let’s talk basics. No one should go to jail over a joint. And now for some real talk – many people still are. 

“Where I come from – Malta – we are the first European country to fully legalise cannabis use Germany, and Luxembourg will soon follow it. It’s time that we talk about cannabis and our personal freedoms and rights.”

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Politics & policy

Greenrise welcomes cannabis policy developments in Germany

The company is preparing for the potential legalisation of adult-use cannabis in Germany.

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Greenrise welcomes cannabis policy developments in Germany
Home » News » Politics & policy » Crafting cannabis policy to adhere to European and international regulations

Greenrise Global Brands has welcomed recent developments in Germany as it awaits guidelines from the German Government in the coming months.

Germany’s “traffic light” coalition made plans to legalise recreational cannabis official in November 2021 with the publication of its agreement. 

The coalition, which includes the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and The Greens, agreed to legalise the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for “pleasure purposes”. With a focus on health-oriented cannabis policy, the development aims to move consumers away from the black market, control quality of products and ensure the protection of minors.

This year, five hearings are planned throughout to discuss the legislative process on the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes, with the first meeting being held in June, at the Federal Ministry of Health.

The Federal Government is anticipated to submit a draft law to Parliament (Bundestag) by the end of 2022.

Read more: Germany to begins consultations for cannabis legalisation

Greenrise Global, which has a wholly-owned medical cannabis subsidiary, AMP Alternative Medical Products GmbH that imports EU-GMP medical cannabis from within the European Union and elsewhere and has well-established relationships with pharmacies and clinics across Germany, has welcomed the development.

Supporter of the health benefits of cannabis and a keystone shareholder and director of Greenrise, as well as co-founder of CannaCare Health, Frank Otto, commented: “The consultation process shows that Germany is no longer talking about whether to legalise adult-use, but how. 

“We also believe that there will be a domino effect as European countries are watching very closely as Europe’s largest economy joins Canada and California in legalising cannabis for adult use.”

AMP Alternative Medical Products has reported that preliminary unaudited sales for first half year 2022 increased 14 per cent to €268,479 compared to sales of €236,399 during the first half year of 2021.

Greenrise acquired 51 per cent of CannaCare, which sells CBD wellness products through traditional retail channels in Germany and German-speaking markets in Europe, at the beginning of Q2. The company has reported that preliminary Q2 unaudited sales for CannaCare increased 187 per cent to €474,000 compared to Q1 2022 sales of €165,000.

Managing director of AMP and director of Greenrise, Dr Stefan Feuerstein, said: “The exceptional sales growth from CannaCare during the second quarter confirms our strategy of investing in CBD in addition to medical cannabis as we prepare for the potential legalisation of adult-use in Germany. 

“We look forward to the government providing guidelines in the coming months, which will provide certainty on how and when to position our businesses. 

“We expect pharmacies to play a significant role and are preparing our pharmacy customers for the possibility of selling adult-use products as well as soon as legislation is in effect. We also realigned our medical cannabis business by streamlining our medical sales team, offering more pharmaceutical cannabis products to doctors to prescribe and are preparing to import high-THC flowers from several European cultivators.”

CFO of CannaCare, Dr Tilman Spangenberg, commented: “Greenrise’s investment allowed CannaCare to launch its CBD products in three leading German drugstore chains, which dramatically increased sales in a very short period of time. 

“We expect the full impact of this sales channel to unfold in the third as well as fourth quarter. Our priorities for the remainder of this year are to grow CannaCare’s sales and operating cash flow positive by introducing new sales channels and adding additional drugstore chains.”

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Politics & policy

Switzerland’s amendment on medical cannabis comes into force

The Swiss government announced in June that rules for medical cannabis will be simplified.

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Switzerland’s amendment on medical cannabis comes into force
Home » News » Politics & policy » Crafting cannabis policy to adhere to European and international regulations

Today, 1 August 2022, Switzerland’s amendments to its Narcotics Act come into force, which will allow patients in the country easier access to medical cannabis.

Switzerland has now joined a number of countries across Europe that are enabling patient access to cannabis by removing its ban on the medicine. 

Previously, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) required exceptional approval for use of medical cannabis. This reduced patient access to cannabis as administrative processing was unable to keep up with the demand from potential patients.

Read more: Switzerland approves pilot for regulated cannabis sales

The use of medical cannabis will now be subject to regular control measures. The defined limit of at least 1.0% total THC content remains unchanged. 

Under the new amendments, medical prescriptions will no longer require an exceptional permit from the FOPH. Cannabis will be reallocated from Switzerland’s Narcotics List Ordinance list from List d, which is prohibited narcotics, to List a, which is all substances subject to control measures), along with preparations such as extracts, resins, oils and tinctures. 

Read more: Cannabis regulation changes across Switzerland and Luxembourg

Dronabinol and THC will now also be included List a “provided there is an intended medical purpose”.

The new amendment enables doctors to make the decision on whether a patient requires a medical cannabis prescription, speeding up the process of accessing the medicine for patients.  

The medicine will now enter Switzerland’s pharmaceutical system and controlled by the health authority SwissMedic, which will be taking over the role of the country’s Cannabis Agency for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

Under the amendments, there will be a two-stage authorisation procedure, which will require an establishment licence and an individual licence for the cultivation of medical cannabis. 

SwissMedic has stated that the handling of cannabis for non-medical purposes continues to be generally prohibited and will continue to require an exemption from the FOPH. 

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