La firma canadiense tiene 20 hectáreas para cultivos de cannabis medicinal.
Con la instalación de 20 hectáreas de cultivo ubicadas 10 kilómetros a las afueras de Santa Marta en el Magdalena, Colombia se convirtió desde hace poco más de un año en la casa de Avicanna, una compañía de origen canadiense que cultiva, desarrolla y comercializa productos derivados del cannabis para fines médicos.
Sobre los proyectos de la firma, que opera en el Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center del MaRS de Toronto, las bondades del marco regulatorio local y la inversión de US$10 millones que se ejecutará en los próximos 12 meses para competir en Colombia y exportar a otros mercados, habló Aras Azadian, CEO de Avicanna.
¿Cuál es el enfoque operativo de Avicanna? Avicanna nació hace más de tres años en Canadá y es la única compañía que tiene un enfoque exclusivamente médico y científico, más allá de la aprobación recreacional que regirá en nuestro país en octubre. En este tiempo nos hemos ocupado de hacer una investigación dedicada del cannabis medicinal con instituciones académicas y de la salud para aportar al desarrollo de esta área. Además, estamos en el MaRS, un ecosistema tanto académico como médico en el que también están University of Toronto, University Health Network y Johnson & Johnson.
¿Qué encontraron atractivo en Colombia para concentrar sus inversiones aquí? Fue una decisión que tomamos hace más de un año y medio a raíz de la legislación que se aprobó en el país y que ofrece la posibilidad de cultivar el cannabis medicinal en condiciones más competitivas. Colombia tiene oportunidades, por ejemplo en clima, que se traducen en un producto de óptima calidad y a menor precio. Eso va en sintonía con nuestra filosofía que es proveer productos a los pacientes que realmente lo requieren.
Pero, además, hace un año y medio también cerramos una alianza con el grupo Daabon, que es un actor de talla mundial, reconocido por sus prácticas sostenibles y orgánicas, que nos permitirán tener una producción realmente diferente. Creemos que esa es nuestra ventaja competitiva.
¿Cuál es el proyecto que tienen en el país? En este momento la compañía está trabajando en un plan estratégico importante. Hoy, mercadeamos productos en Estados Unidos (California) y en Canadá. Pero, en paralelo, estamos trabajando para exportar a Europa y para cultivar, transformar y comercializar en Colombia. Por el momento, tenemos una oficina en Bogotá y un cultivo en Santa Marta.
¿Qué extensión tiene ese terreno? Tenemos dos espacios a unos 10 kilómetros a las afueras de Santa Marta, cerca de la Sierra Nevada. Uno tiene 17 hectáreas y el otro es de tres hectáreas con posibilidad de ser ampliados. No obstante, por el tamaño de la demanda, no hemos visto la necesidad de hacerlo en el corto plazo.
¿En cuánto tiempo empezarían a cultivar? Avicanna ya cuenta con todas las licencias. Sin embargo, hay un tema complejo que tiene que ver con la caracterización de las semillas y con las iniciativas del Gobierno Nacional que buscan escoger las especies idóneas para fines médicos. Ya estamos en ese proceso y, por ende, ya estamos cultivando en ambos terrenos diferentes variedades.
¿A cuánto ascendió la inversión de la compañía para entrar a competir en Colombia? Hasta ahora, hemos invertido unos US$3 millones en la operación de Colombia. Pero a eso tenemos que sumarle lo que tiene que ver con la alianza estratégica que hicimos y que nos implicará invertir más de US$10 millones en los próximos 12 meses, entendiendo que Daabon es un actor que ya estaba aquí.
¿Qué tipo de pacientes tratan en Canadá y cuáles tratarían en Colombia? Nosotros lo dividimos en cuatro grandes capítulos. El primero, está relacionado con el dolor y a su vez tiene tres subcategorías: localizado, neuropático y crónico. Después, tenemos pacientes con epilepsia, con un fuerte enfoque en niños. El tercer grupo son pacientes relacionados con asuntos dermatológicos como acné, psoriasis, dermatitis atópica, eczema y piel de mariposa. Y, por último, están los productos para oncología que funcionan en dos vías, una: para controlar el dolor y para el cuidado paliativo, y con el otro, tratamos la reducción de tumores.
¿Qué opinión le deja el marco regulatorio colombiano? El cambio legislativo ha representado un gran esfuerzo y la regulación está avanzando. En Avicanna estamos entusiasmados por hacer parte de este momento histórico y sabemos que nuestro conocimiento será un aporte importante para el país.
Hay una sola definición de la palabra marihuana, pero parece que cada quien le da un significado diferente.
El cannabis o la marihuana es, en esencia, una planta que generalmente se fuma como cigarrillo y produce sensaciones euforizantes pero… Conocí a una señora con un cáncer cerebral que solo tomándose las gotas de un aceite de marihuana podía espantar el terrible dolor de cabeza y descansar; para ella significaba paz. También a un doctor que trataba a drogadictos, muchos de los cuales comenzaron su camino hacia la adicción con un porro de marihuana; para él significa más bien peligro. Para los cientos de empresarios que asistieron a Expocannabiz 2019, que se realizó entre el 9 y el 11 de mayo en Cartagena, significa la oportunidad de entrar y permanecer en un negocio que podría alcanzar un mercado global de 146.000 millones de dólares en 2025, según un informe de Grand View Research.
Y conocí a Jim Belushi, un actor que se fumó su primer ‘porro’ cuando era apenas un adolescente y que hace tres años se dedica a cultivar marihuana en su finca de Oregón, EE.UU. Para él significa medicina, y no solo física, sino espiritual.
I. Jim Belushi.
II. Otras opiniones.
¿Pero quién convence de las bondades de la marihuana a las personas que protestaron ayer afuera del Centro de Convenciones -donde se realizó Exponcannabiz 2019- en contra, incluso, de legalizar la marihuana con fines medicinales? Quién, si ellos consideran que es la responsable, precisamente, de que sus familias colapsaran: son parientes de adictos que comenzaron fumándose un ‘porro’ y terminaron recluidos en clínicas de salud mental, sintiendo que no podían vivir sin drogas.
Para ellos y para el psiquiatra Christian Ayola, que ha tratado a muchos adictos, “la ‘marihuana medicinal’ no es otra cosa que un gran negocio promovido por el capitalismo internacional a través de las multinacionales farmacéuticas con el fin de posicionar a la marihuana como producto de consumo masivo, igual que el tabaco, el alcohol o las bebidas gaseosas, sin tener en cuenta el grave perjuicio para la salud mental y el riesgo psicosocial consecuente que comporta para jóvenes y adolescentes, quienes ven justificado el consumo de esta sustancia psicotrópica.
“El uso del cannabis medicinal, cuyos beneficios no están asegurados por el nivel de evidencia en las publicaciones, no pasa del posible o probable efecto terapéutico. Faltan estudios concluyentes, así como análisis que permitan verificar que los presuntos beneficios sobrepasan ampliamente la media de los placebos, y que superan a otros productos farmacéuticos mejor estudiados para los mismos trastornos, en los que se supone que tendría algún efecto positivo como: la náusea o la anorexia del paciente en quimioterapia, o el alivio del dolor para quien padece un síndrome doloroso crónico.
“A mi juicio, para los jóvenes de Colombia, que viven una situación social crítica, algunos en condición de vulnerabilidad, la legalización de la ‘marihuana medicinal’ constituye un factor de riesgo, debido a que es un mensaje equivocado que les ayuda a construir argumentos que justifican el consumo. Y es la puerta de entrada al uso de otras drogas, al tráfico, y a otras formas del delito”, concluye el psiquiatra.
III. Protesta y respuesta.
Al finalizar su conferencia, Jim supo sobre un grupo de personas que protestarían en las afueras del Centro de Convenciones contra Expocannabiz y esto es lo que le dijo al respecto:
“Pienso que necesitan alguna educación sobre marihuana, pienso que estas personas y las personas que ellos dicen (los adictos) están probablemente usando otras drogas como cocaína. No recomiendo mezclar marihuana con nada más, incluyendo alcohol, me siento mal porque ellos se sienten enojados, me siento mal porque probablemente sus familiares están sufriendo de adicciones y lo entiendo, porque mi hermano murió por la adicción y yo no estaría aquí ahora si pensara que la marihuana fue la causa de la muerte de mi hermano John, fue la cocaína”.
Habla un empresario
La opinión de Carlos Maldonado, director Médico de la biofarmacéutica Avicanna y participante de Expocannabiz, se contrapone a la del doctor Christian Ayola.
Hay quienes aseguran que la marihuana es la puerta para adicciones y excesos, y que eventos como Expocannabiz envían un mensaje peligroso a los jóvenes: los invitan a consumir sin contarles de los riesgos. ¿Qué tiene usted para decir al respecto?
“Es un reto, hoy la actividad educativa, la participación de médicos, de centros de investigación están dando data clínica muy interesante y destaca la importancia que tienen los resultados en términos de eficacia de estas sustancias, que sin duda debe educar más a la gente e involucrar más médicos, a los pacientes y la comunidad en general para que comprendan la dimensión desde el punto de vista terapéutico de estos medicamentos basados en cannabis”.
6 Cannabis Execs On The Strengths Of Their Businesses
Multiple private and public cannabis companies presented their business and outlook to a crowded room during the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference April 17-18 in Toronto.
Vertical Companies: Everything But Retail Vertical Companies is among the largest vertically integrated businesses within the legal medical cannabis industry. The company is focused on “doing all things with the plant” except for operating a retail presence, said CEO Smoke Wallin.
Vertical recognized a large opportunity in CBD and started aggressively investing in hemp through a unique strategy of securing contracts with farmers, the CEO said. This helps mitigate costs, as the company can avoid buying supplies on the open market, he said.
The future potential of CBD was made apparent after CVS Health Corp CVS 0.04% and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc WBA 0.37% introduced CBD products to their shelves. This groundbreaking development at pharmacies will eventually be followed by similar launches at larger retailers like Walmart Inc WMT 0.12%, Wallin said.
Backed with dozens of CBD brands, Vertical can play a unique role in the cannabis space, as smaller companies may lack the necessary scale to satisfy a large industry, the CEO said.
“I have my facilities up and running, I have my licenses,” he said. “Come and see it.”
Avicanna Focuses On Pharma Cannabis companies looking to stand out in a growing competitive landscape need to focus and execute well in one niche. Avicanna follows this strategy by looking to establish itself as a “strictly biopharma” entity, said CEO Aras Azadian.
Avicanna is the first cannabis company to be accepted to Johnson & Johnson JNJ 0.54% ‘s JLABS Toronto, a life science incubator tasked with helping companies deliver life-enhancing health and wellness solutions. The company is also among the few in existence that has federal licenses to conduct cannabis clinical trials with animals.
Backed by more than 30 scientists, medical experts and close relationships with leading institutions of learning, the company also needs to be run properly to thrive. One of the ways Avicanna is better managing costs is by cultivating in Colombia — something that “made practical sense” despite Avicanna’s deep roots in Canada, Azadian said.
SLANG Worldwide focuses on high quality branded cannabis products that are distributed across the world, CEO Peter Miller said during his Cannabis Capital Conference presentation. The company’s products are backed by a strong focus on brand promotions, as each branded product has to “stand for something” to give consumers an enjoyable experience, he said.
“Chains don’t typically carry other chains’ stuff,” Miller said. “Ultimately, retailers’ success is our success.”
Grassroots Cannabis: Management, Scale Matter Most Grassroots Cannabis owns licenses to cultivate, process and dispense medical cannabis across several states.
The path to become one of the largest private multistate operators centers on the ability to successfully navigate through banking, regulatory and other challenges that are characteristic of an unclear regulatory environment, said CEO Mitchell Kahn.
“Team over everything else,” the CEO said during his presentation.
A strong management team has been instrumental in establishing footprints in states with limited licenses that have high barriers to entry, Kahn said. For example, the company controls four of North Dakota’s eight dispensary licenses in addition to one of only two grow licenses in the state.
“Scale is the single most important factor beyond team,” Kahn said.
Urban-Gro: Success Through ‘Respect And Confidence’ Urban-Gro is a leading systems integrator and agriculture technology company that grew its business by building “respect and confidence” with customers, CEO Brad Nattrass said during his presentation.
The businesses the company operates include ag tech services that help clients make real-time decisions and allow cultivators to operate at the most efficient level, he said. The company’s expertise is backed by its strong purchasing power and in-house knowledge, the CEO said.
This allows clients to save time, money and resources by helping solve their problems, Nattrass said. For example, OrganiGram Holdings Inc OGRMF 1.08% faced some known issues with its first facility and tasked Urban-Gro with finding a solution, he said.
A successful outcome in the situation led to repeat business opportunities, the CEO said.
Starbuds: Older People Like Cannabis Too Starbuds boasts a unique profile that few other cannabis companies with exposure to the U.S. market can claim, said CEO Dave Martyn: operating at a profit.
The key to Starbuds’ success is offering products backed by a “sticky name,” he said. This hasd contributed to older stores “eating up” market share, while new stores are quick to see success, the CEO said.
In what may be a surprise to some, Starbuds attracts older clients, such as 40-year-old customers who bring their 70-year-old parents to stores, Martyn said.
Seniors represent an attractive market and stand in contrast to the stereotypical cannabis consumer, the CEO said.
The company has a global vision and is targeting the Australian market ahead of “inevitable” legalization there on the recreational side, he said. Other regions of focus include Jamaica, which is often dubbed the birthplace of cannabis.
Avicanna CEO Aras Azadian speaks at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Toronto on April 18. Photo by Juil Yoon.
Earth Day Begs The Question: Is Cannabis Farming Sustainable?
Mass industrial agriculture practices are debated hotly as significant contributors to climate change. As the global cannabis industry grows exponentially, its rapidly evolving trajectory in the United States is commercial agriculture. Therefore, marijuana production is preternaturally and unequivocally contributing to climate change.
Theories abound on how to make cannabis production more sustainable. Independent farmers believe that the “marijuana Monsantos” that are muscling in are only going to make things perpetually more detrimental for the environment and the instability of the planet in the years to come. The lack of sustainability, vast amounts of water and electricity necessary for cultivation is the elephant in the room of any smoke session.
Types of Cultivation
Mitigating factors as to how to cultivate cannabis most ethically and sustainably are constantly in flux with the advent of new technologies, versus less harmful farming techniques.
There are varying types of cannabis cultivation such as 1) Indoor or hydroponically grown by Dr. Greenthumb in California; 2) Greenhouse potted plants using sun or sun combined with artificial lighting, cultivated by Khiron and Avicanna in Colombia; or 3) Outdoor or sun-grown using just sunshine, rainwater and love, utilized by Sunrise Mountain Farms in Humboldt County, California.
There are also hybrids and combinations of these. These three categories do not include “Frankenweed,” i.e., companies including Hyasynth Bio that grow isolated cannabinoids out of yeast in a laboratory.
“Greendoor” is a proprietary, nascent fifth option, used by California-based cannabis company Canndescent. Greendoor is a solar project that supposedly unites water efficiency, energy efficiency, and pesticide-free growing in an indoor format.
Indoor potted cannabis cultivation consumes a massive amount of energy, due to constant artificial daylight cycle and crop irrigation. While some outdoor, potted greenhouse cultivation can be diurnal, it also often utilizes artificial light, and consume enormous amounts of water via sprinkler systems. Sun-grown, as the name suggests, uses less artificial light and therefore takes longer to yield. There is a dichotomy between patient adherents of organic farming principles and industrial agriculture’s shareholder-driven penchant for speeding up productivity, often by whatever nefarious means necessary (such as using cancer-causing glyphosate to kill weeds).
In addition to consuming massive amounts of natural resources, this budding industry, in a rush to be adequately regulated, often creates compliance in a counter-intuitive manner. For example, cultivators have to take their unusable, residual plant material (or trim) waste and mix it with 50 percent non-plant waste such as dirt, soil, leaves and other compost. “Then it gets put into [probably plastic, non-biodegradable] trash bags, which go into a dumpster, to be compliant,” says Wil Ralston, President of CBD company, SingleSeed, a division of SinglePoint. (OTCQB: SING)
Naturally, these and other mitigating factors contribute to the debate as to which approach to ganja farming is more sustainable.
Legacy, generational farmers Alex Zorniger’s and his cousin Bob Estes’ great-grandfather Joe “Daddy Burt” Burton was an outdoor hemp farmer in Kentucky, prior to prohibition, back when planting hemp was a legislative requirement for farmers. After prohibition, his farm was forced to shutter. Estes and Zorniger are currently running Daddy Burt Hemp Co., in Jessamine County, KY, in their great-grandfather’s honor. Estes and Zorniger are the CEO and Director or Business development, respectively.
Water Consumption & Carbon Dioxide Issues
Despite indoor growth originating from the need to be clandestine due to prohibition, with science and technological innovation, Zorniger thinks this method is still the best possible scenario for sustainable farms, both environmentally and economically. He believes indoor cultivators can lessen the need for water and pesticides, which he thinks are two crucial detractors to farming outdoors.
“As long as we put our brains to work at figuring out how to decrease the energy use of the grow houses, with the growth of LED lighting and the use of renewables, I do think it’s possible to get to a much more sustainable place,” he says exclusively via email.
Zorniger thinks that the huge caveat to that approach to sustainable farming is that technology is not quite ready. Currently, indoor farms use substantial amounts of energy because all of the innovation hasn’t been adopted yet across the board.
The Daddy Burt farm is allegedly a carbon sink — a natural or artificial reservoir that stores carbon-containing chemical compounds accumulated over an indefinite period. The process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is known as “carbon sequestration.”
“Our hemp plants need carbon to grow and can absorb it from C02 in the air, reducing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere,” says Bob Estes.
While a carbon sink may be a step in the right direction for reducing C02 emissions, “There’s no way around the fact that cannabis is a thirsty plant,” Estes admits.
With the precipitous boom in growing cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Kentucky among other places, the farming process is starting to utilize too much water out of rivers and watershed.
“When you grow indoors, you’re able to control the variables that the plant needs and reduce water usage. In the long run, growing indoor will be the best way to control how much water we’re pulling from the environment, which could become even more critical in the coming decades,” says Zorniger.
Lucas Nosiglia, Chief Agricultural Officer of Avicanna disagrees. Nosiglia claims there are ways to fully control the cultivation environment by using glasshouses.
“We also control the water we are pouring on to our plants. Perhaps we face more evaporation, but that comes back to the ecosystem; which in our case, being close to the equator, is extremely biodiverse. So, it has a circular logic. You can have healthy and compliant crops without being outdoor. It all comes down to the test results.”
Both Daddy Burt farmers believe that if economic forces and public policy continue to push indoor grow houses to become less energy intensive, that is the most appropriate scenario from a holistic perspective, considering the impact on the land, water, and reduction of cancer-causing pesticides.
Growing cannabis outdoors on residual pesticide-contaminated soil is a serious problem. As some illicit growers continue to cut corners to compete with legalized farms, they are not testing their product for contaminants. While authorized cannabis companies offer non-competitive prices that are three to four times higher than illicit grows, they justify the inflation citing herb that is “lab tested,” to be free of contaminants including metals and pesticides.
However, whispers abound inside the industry of labs accepting kickbacks to sign off on contaminated flower, and of moldy or contaminated recalled herb being processed into oil and sold to consumers.
Craft Cannabis Vs. Big Ag
Given the rampant corruption in producing cannabis, the safest way to proceed as a consumer seems to be to eschew products from Big Ag, similarly to how farmer’s market produce is seemingly healthier than Big Ag produced crops. If DIY home-grown cannabis is unavailable, “Craft” cannabis, such as DS & Fitz, is the farm-to-table equivalent to more robust, safer consumption.
Sunrise Mountain Farms, run by Lorelie Sandomeno and her husband Dave, cultivate cannabis in California’s Emerald Triangle– a globally renowned hub for cannabis farming from legal and illicit grows alike. The Sandomenos take a clean, sustainable approach to producing cannabis alongside naturally thriving wild elderberries (Sambucus). Their cannabis crop often winds up in Papa & Barkley’s products.
California-based cannabis company Flow Kana’s is self-described as “just one out of many cannabis companies,” who work with a minor fraction of the region’s 53,000 farmers, who cultivate cannabis in the Emerald Triangle.
Flow Kana claims many of the local farmers’ “livelihoods are presently at stake with the impending takeover of Canadian conglomerates who have their eyes set on the Emerald Triangle. We need policymakers and regulators to support and preserve these farmers’ way of life.”
The community is on heightened alert for an imminent, Cannosaurus Rex corporate takeover and plans to push back to keep their way of life from facing extinction.
“The company’s pre-existing, small-holder agricultural ecosystem (think Dr. Bronner’s) which is 100% free of the harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers necessitated by Big Ag, makes the need for a Big Ag cannabis takeover in California completely obsolete,” according to CEO Michael Steinmetz.
In support of these ideals, a grassroots ad campaign throughout California focuses on how “small farmers can change the world.” The concept is to provoke consumers to think about who grows their cannabis, where it originates from, and its aforementioned impact on the environment.
“Everyone should know who grows their cannabis, including where and how it is grown,” reads the company’s mission statement. “Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate under full sun, sustainably, and in small batches. Using only organic methods, these stewards of the land have spent their lives balancing a unique and harmonious relationship between the farm, the genetics and the terroir.”
Flow Kana claims using “nothing but rainwater and solar power, many farmers practice diversified and regenerative farming techniques, growing cannabis in its rightful place under the sun, alongside a rotation of organic herbs, fruits, and veggies.”
Canndescent’s CFO Tom DiGiovanni claims the company invested a combined $3.75m to retrofit its inimitable 11,000 square foot warehouse for solar and cannabis production. To accelerate the adoption of solar power and “green door” practices within the cannabis industry, Canndescent promises to release a white paper in the second quarter of 2019, sharing its solar project plans as open-source information. DiGiovanni says Canndescent wants “to help the ‘green’ industry to go greener.”
Steinmetz believes the cannabis industry at large, needs to “prioritize environmentally responsible practices and source from sustainable resources.”
*This article was updated to include a quote from Avicanna.
The cannabis space has seen a few large-scale deals in the medical space, but this begs the question: why isn’t big pharma much more involved in the industry?
Megan Henderson, executive producer of The GrowthOp, moderated a panel of experts Wednesday at the Benzinga Capital Cannabis Conference in Toronto to explore big pharma’s role in cannabis.
Wallin: Big Pharma ‘Largest Obstacle’ To Industry
The “biggest roadblock” preventing full legalization of cannabis across the U.S. happens to be big pharma companies, said Vertical Companies CEO Smoke Wallin. The largest pharmaceutical companies are working behind the scenes across every state house to prevent progress, he said.
For example, New Jersey lawmakers postponed a vote on legalization in late March, Wallin said — and it shouldn’t be a surprise, since 14 of the 25 biggest pharmaceutical companies call New Jersey home.
The medical community is aware of the benefits of cannabis and patients aren’t shying away from asking their doctors about the drug, the CEO said.
Elsley: Start With ‘Conservative’ Medical Segments
Big pharma is closely watching the cannabis space, and when a therapeutic strategy evolves, the sector will move with force, said David Elsley, president and CEO of Cardiol Therapeutics Inc (OTC: CRTPF) said. The company explores cannabidiol products and targeted therapies for heart failure and cancer — two of the more “conservative” health care segments, he said.
Consumers are “turning away” from traditional medical treatments, but it is also clear companies need a “pure molecule to test” before treating patients with cannabis, Elsley said.
Allen: All About The Data
Big pharma is actively watching the cannabis space, including Avicanna, said Dr. Christine Allen, the company’s chief scientific officer. Avicanna is engaged in cannabinoid-based health, wellness and medical product exploration.
Before big pharma can flex its muscles, more data is needed on the space, Allen said. For example, companies need to understand relationships between doses, dosing forms and dosing schedules — and this isn’t necessarily being done now.
The use of cannabis for health and wellness is only partly based on producing new and exciting formulations, Allen said, adding that the other key to success is understanding the data and how it can be best used.
Legal Marijuana’s Pivot From Canada To US, Beyond Is Accelerating
From Beef Jerky To Cannabis: KushCo’s Jason Vegotsky Talks Entrepreneurial Spirit
David Elsley, left, president and CEO of Cardiol Therapeutics; Vertical Companies CEO Smoke Wallin; and Dr. Christine Allen, chief scientific officer at Avicanna, speak during a panel discussion Wednesday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Toronto. Photo by Juil Yoon.
Why CBD Water Is Not Really A Thing And May Even Be Dangerous
CBD water is a perfect example of capitalism at its phoniest. While plenty of companies are looking to cash in by claiming their products contain beneficial CBD, CBD water is the easiest example of how a fool and his money are soon parted.
CBD or cannabidiol, the low THC product that everyone touts as being “the non-psychoactive form of cannabis,” (which in and of itself is slightly misleading, but that is for a different column) destabilizes when exposed to light or oxygen. Legitimate CBD products are sold in dark, opaque bottles with labels that warn the consumer to store the bottle away from light, in a cool, dark place.
Scientists are just beginning to understand how hemp-derived CBD is beneficial to the human body’s endocannabinoid system. Depending on the manufacturing process, the minuscule amount of CBD that CBD water contains is most likely rendered ineffective when it is exposed to light for an extended period of time, such as being stationary in a brightly-lit supermarket refrigerator or storage facility all day. CBD products should be kept out of direct light, in order for the CBD not to destabilize.
Some manufacturing processes may be able to keep the components stable while exposed to light in the short term, but it will not remain stable if the water is sitting on a shelf for months or even weeks.
That means CBD in a clear water bottle stored on a brightly-lit supermarket shelf is most likely completely useless and provides no other benefit than the regular hydrating effect of plain water.
Assuming some manufacturer takes the initiative to sell CBD in dark brown glass bottles, like Guinness, from the moment the cap is opened and oxygen hits the product, it begins to destabilize.
Therefore, putting a dropper full of CBD into a bottle of water and sipping it here and there is not advisable either. Opening and closing the bottle numerous times and allowing oxygen and light to penetrate the container weakens the CBD, rendering it all but ineffective, quite quickly. (Unless fitness buffs do this at Soul Cycle, where the room is pretty dark and cyclists tend to chug.)
“Cannabinoids are susceptible to degradation and specifically oxidization which is very concerning, as some of those degradants are toxic. Cannabinoids are most stable in their trichomes on the flower or even in the resin where the terpenes and other natural chemicals provide some protection and anti-oxidation properties. This is why purified or isolated CBD-THC are very unstable unless properly formulated,” said Aras Azadian, CEO of Avicanna, exclusively in an email.
Green Rush Daily published an article last year stating, “The World Health Organization (WHO) has done extensive research regarding CBD water. Unsurprisingly, their findings have shown that the water can provide a variety of health benefits.”
In fact, according to the spokesperson for the WHO, they have never heard of this mythical research. “The team has no idea where this journalist got his information. Perhaps ask him to send the report he mentions?” the spokesperson said via email from Geneva.
While the head of the WHO recommended on January 24, not to include CBD in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the world body is certainly not endorsing CBD water.
That aside, Love Hemp water, for example, is another company in a string of bandwagon jumpers that hopes to rope in unwitting consumers and cash in on the CBD craze. There are only two milligrams of natural hemp extract in Love Hemp water, which is virtually useless. To provide a visual, two milligrams of powder would fit on the end of a toothpick or a toothbrush bristle.
Furthermore, a daily dose of at least 10-25mg is recommended to be beneficial to the human body’s endocannabinoid system, for non-medical reasons. At that rate, a person would have to drink five to thirteen bottles of Love Hemp water per day, provided it is stored in the dark, such as in a wine cellar, before purchase, then consumed all in one shot.
Additionally, when the body needs the benefits of CBD right away, the efficacy of a .2mg serving is non-existent. GW Pharmaceuticals doses at five to ten milligrams per kilogram of body weight. That means a person who weighs 120 lbs (54.431kg) would theoretically need approximately between 272 and 554 milligrams of CBD per day, for the dose to be efficacious, as opposed to two.
“Besides, one milligram typically gets stuck to the bottles,” adds Azadian.
“We do not yet understand what a healthy amount of cannabidiol is in the body for chronic use. I take 45mg per day, and have done so for about a year and a half. What level is right for everyone is honestly still to be determined by emerging science. Our research had led us to believe everyone should have a little bit of cannabidiol in their body every day. In high doses, it is well tolerated,” said Chris Bunka, CEO of Lexaria BioScience. Mr. Bunka’s company does medical cannabinoid research and holds four patents in the USA and Australia, and has 45 patents pending on the delivery of cannabinoids.
European Parliament Passes Cannabis Resolution, Joins WHO In Supporting Medical Marijuana
Seminar plots strategy for reaping therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, emphasizing that quality cannabis research is a must to avoid experimenting with millions of people
Following reports about the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending a rescheduling of cannabis and several of its key components under international drug treaties, the European Parliament voted on Wednesday on a resolution that would help advance medical cannabis in the countries that form the European Union.
While non-binding, the resolution seeks to incentivize European nations to increase access to medical marijuana, prioritizing scientific research and clinical studies. Same as the WHO’s recommendation, the European Parliament’s resolution shows how wide support for cannabis legalization is, but does not change any actual laws on the international or local levels.
“The EU Parliament is just the latest voice to recognize the medical value of cannabis and the benefits of regulation over prohibition,” Tom Angell, Forbes contributor and publisher of Marijuana Moment, told me. “I’m hopeful that the growing chorus in favor of reform will spur action by nations to change their policies and improve access for patients who need this medicine.”
After evaluating how the European Union could potentially support quality research in relation to marijuana-based medicines, establishing “standards for non-pharmaceutical medical cannabis to ensure consumer safety,” the members of the European Parliament voted on a resolution that calls on the Commission on use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and the states member of the European Union to “address the regulatory, financial and cultural barriers” that stunted scientific research on the cannabis and its medical uses.
In addition, the Commission and MEPs said it’s important to “define the conditions required to enable creditable, independent scientific research based on a wide range of material to be conducted into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”
Finally, they pointed out the need for an improvement in equal access to cannabis-based medicines and the right case-specific therapies. “It is essential that they be provided with comprehensive information about the full spectrum profiles of the plant strains used in the medication provided,” the resolution reads, calling for a close collaboration with the WHO.
The Cannabis Community Reacts
Interested in hearing what the cannabis community had to say, I reached out to cannabis industry participants in different geographies, from Asia, to Europe, to the Americas. Evan Eneman, CEO of ELLO, leader of the MGO/ELLO Alliance and founder of Sands Lane Capital, said that, “Once again, our friends around the world see the medical benefit and potential of the plant, and are working towards a better understanding of what can be in earnest.”
Eneman added he’s looking forward to the U.S. taking a similar approach, so that research and development of cannabis based therapies and consumables for all its various use cases can continue to advance.
Aras Azadian, CEO of multi-national cannabis company Avicanna, also applauded the European Parliament’s decision to change it position on cannabis and cannabinoids. “This will help facilitate and expedite the well required safety and efficacy studies on cannabinoid solutions beyond the initial markets such as Canada and Israel (…) There is an ongoing concern of the toxic and inefficacious products being offered as medicine that will be limited with the entrance of qualified studies.”
Meanwhile, Israel-based Oren Todoros, co-founder at CannaImpact, highlighted the economic opportunity behind cannabis and the increasing recognition of this potential. “Governments (…) can no longer turn their heads to the opportunity it delivers,” he said.
Jonas Duclos is the CEO of Switzerland-based JKB Research, the company behind CBD420, a line of low-THC cannabis products sold across tobacco shops and other “regular” stores across Europe. Duclos qualified the move as relieving. “More and more key global actors are recognizing the therapeutic effects of cannabis,” he said. However, for him, the really important question is: when will lawmakers consider moving forward with actual legislation? And, once they do, how will the regulations look like?
“We know support and political capital will grow, but these are the details that will determine where the industry heads in the next years,” he ended.
The emergence of biopharmaceutical cannabinoids: From R&D through clinical translation
Seminar plots strategy for reaping therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, emphasizing that quality cannabis research is a must to avoid experimenting with millions of people
Cannabis is now a point of conversation in many different verticals: research, medical, health and business being among a long list of existing and emerging partners. With so much changing so very quickly, advancing expeditiously—while still taking the time to set a strategic course—should serve those in cannabis and cannabis-related industries well moving forward.
All such considerations were on offer at a symposium hosted by Avicanna Inc.—which conducts advanced cannabinoid research, manufactures a range of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals and therapeutics, and operates cannabis cultivation projects in Colombia—at the MaRS Discovery District in downtown Toronto on Mar. 25
How important is good science?
Dr. Christine Allen, chief scientific officer with Avicanna, is a strong believer in the need for good science, especially in the medical cannabis industry and especially now. The two most studied cannabinoids—CBD and THC—are beginning to be considered a “cure-all” for nearly every minor ailment or chronic condition, suggested Dr. Allen, also a professor with the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto.
“Is this cause for concern? And does the scientific data and medical evidence support the current level of interest and investment in this area?” she asked. “These kinds of basic, difficult questions must be asked up front or the consequences can be catastrophic. If we don’t, we will be conducting an uncontrolled experiment on millions and millions of people,” she told attendees.
To support her growing concern about safety issues, Dr. Allen cited a recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers posing as expectant mothers had surveyed 400 cannabis retail outlets and dispensaries operating in Colorado and learned the majority of them—69.2 percent—were recommending using various cannabis products to treat morning sickness during the first trimester. That total included a jaw-dropping 83.1 percent of dispensaries licensed for the sale of medical cannabis.
Dr. Christine Allen, chief scientific officer for Avicanna Inc. and professor and dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, addresses those gathered for the recent symposium at the MaRS Discovery District in downtown Toronto.
Perhaps more troubling, less than one-third of the dispensaries advised callers to talk to their health care providers despite documented adverse effects of THC on both perinatal outcomes and foetal neurodevelopment. “Just because a product has been approved for sale does not mean it is either safe or effective in treating certain medical conditions,” Dr. Allen argued.
This holds true for both medical and recreational cannabis. “Good news for the recreational market is good news for the medical market,” she said, “and bad news for one is bad news for the other.” Whether a person is dealing with a prescribed medicine, a topical lotion or a THC-infused lollipop, “ensuring the quality and safety of that product is primary,” she insists. “We must be responsible.”
Dr. Allen called for accurate product labelling, training and educating dispensers and consumers, and compiling product performance data to determine a product’s effectiveness.
What are some research quality concerns?
“If you want quick results [on cannabis clinical research], work on pain relief,” recommended Dr. Humberto Reynales, founder and executive director of CAIMED (Centro de Atención e Investigación Médica), a private clinical research organization in Latin America. If upper management is satisfied with longer-term work, “look at Parkinson’s, or MS (multiple sclerosis) or maybe a type of disease,” Dr. Reynales advised. Whatever the area of study, he stressed the need for “well-designed clinical studies to create strong evidence of the medical effectiveness of cannabis.”
Dr. Reynales reviewed some 1,400 scientific research papers indexed on PubMed—the online database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine—detailing the therapeutic effects of, and linkages between, cannabinoids and a number of medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), MS, cancer, diabetes, neuropathic pain, PTSD, schizophrenia and psychosis, and various degenerative diseases.
Cannabinoids have displayed a broad range of potential therapeutic benefits, but not all are useful and more research is needed in this area, he maintained. Other cannabinoids—such as CBG, CBC, THC and non-psychoactive THC-A should also be considered, he said. “But in more than 90 percent of the clinical trials, the cannabis used didn’t have the components at the levels the researchers originally thought it did,” he said.
Aras Azadian, CEO and director of Avicanna Inc., explains to symposium attendees that the cannabis industry is witnessing one of the largest paradigm shifts since the dot-com revolution.
Dr. Reynales also found that many of the trials conducted to date have been done with full spectrum rather than purified cannabinoids. This means some of the documented benefits could be the result of synergistic reactions among various cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds—the so-called entourage effect.
Is Canada’s leadership in cannabis research slipping away?
“We are at a very unique moment in our industry, witnessing one of the largest paradigm shifts since the dot.com revolution,” commented Avicanna CEO Aras Azadian. “As the first G7 country to legalize, first medical and now recreational cannabis, Canada has established itself as a forerunner in the sector,” Azadian told attendees. However, the country is at a crossroads and risks “losing our position as global pioneers,” he warned.
“Our leadership position can be attributed to early access to financing and capital markets,” he explained, reporting that the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) and the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) were the first stock exchanges to approve cannabis listings. In 2018, Canadian cannabis firms raised $11.8 billion dollars, compared to just $627 million for all the other cannabis companies in the rest of the world, he reported.
Despite those positives, Azadian told attendees “too much of this capital has been invested into capex (capital expenditures) indoor facilities” to grow cannabis year-round in Canada’s inhospitable climate. “These factories and warehouses cannot compete on a cost per kilogram basis with cannabis grown outdoors in South America, for example,” he argued.
“The new low-tech greenhouses are also more environmentally sustainable and generate the same yields at a fraction of the cost,” Azadian added, claiming outdoor crops can be cultivated for $50 a kg compared to $2,000 per kg for some factory-raised cannabis. The bottom line: “No one cares where the components of a pharma product come from,” he said.
And while much money has been spent on buildings and facilities, not enough has been devoted to research and development and clinical development over recent years, Azadian maintained. “There has also been limited product offerings and prioritization of the recreational market,” he said.
Where is the collective understanding of cannabis?
From the perspective of the pharmaceutical industry, what we know about the [cannabis] plant “is still very primitive,” warned Samantha Watt, vice president of scientific affairs for Avicanna. “When we’ve seen other companies come out and try to synthetically mimic these compounds, more times than not, the results have not been all that great… You don’t know what you might be getting,” Watt noted during the panel discussion, Natural Cannabinoid Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients: From Seed to API.
There are also risks related to the genetic modification of plants. “If you are looking to acquire resins that are abundant in one kind of cannabinoid, you are redirecting the actual genetics and the carbon flow of the plant,” she explained. As a result, the plant could also be producing new toxins and other compounds that “we don’t know anything about yet, compounds that down the line could cause actual harm to the individual.”
Is the path forward plants or biotech?
A panel discussion with investment professionals found a split in support between plant-derived cannabinoids and biosynthetic compounds, although everyone agreed that future production of APIs from whatever source must be pure, clean, consistent and low cost. “It is cost prohibitive for any company to extract minor cannabinoids—CBN, CBG, CBD or THC—from plants,” argued David Kideckel, managing director of AltaCorp Capital Inc.’s health care and life sciences research group. Kideckel’s view is that biosynthetic production of cannabinoids is going to be “a very big deal.”
“We don’t view this as, necessarily, a competition between plant-derived companies and biosynthetics firms,” he told attendees. “Instead, we see them working together, side-by-side and enjoying a lot of synergies.”
Not everybody agrees. Alan Ridgway, a research analyst with Sprott Capital Partners, happily “threw a wrench” into the discussion. “By moving 100 percent into biotech, all of a sudden you are dealing with a synthetic molecule instead of a plant-derived molecule,” Ridgeway explained. “You lose your wellness aspect, you lose your supplement aspect and you lose your over-the-counter aspect.”
Instead, makers get drawn into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada bureaucracies, where they are subject to all the toxicology and preclinical study requirements despite, for example, “working with a CBD that came out of an algae or yeast or bacteria,” he said. Although there may be some minor biosynthetic cannabinoids that potentially may be “important drugs on the pharma side,” Ridgeway said he has avoided recommending them as plays to investors.
That said, he noted he is excited with new opportunities on the genetics front, especially with the passage of the U.S. Farm Bill. “You are going to see a number of genetics and breeding companies pushing very hard down the path to produce high-CBD hemp plants,” he predicted. Although THC content will be limited to less than 0.3 percent, Ridgeway expects to see the development of hemp strains containing high concentrations of all the other cannabinoids, including trial plantings of a 16 percent CBG strain and a 10 percent CBC stabilized strain.
This is not the industrial hemp grown in Canada, Ridgeway cautioned. “Five to 10 years down the road, Canadian producers are going to have to compete on price with the low cost, outdoor hemp producers that will be supplying the cannabinoid ingredients in consumer wellness products, topical lotions and over-the-counter products,” he said.
“The current weed shortages will be temporary,” Kideckel predicted. “Instead, there is going to be oversupply and a lot of price suppression.” As production continues to kick up to meet demand, he noted the conversation will shift to product branding, which could be tough for Canadian cannabis companies trying to out-market retailers and brands in, say, California, and facing Health Canada’s “overly restrictive” marketing and packaging rules.
26 Million Epilepsy Patients Could Benefit from Medical Marijuana
Epilepsy has been around for thousands of years, but doctors still don’t have a reliable medication for it. In fact, roughly 30-40 percent of today’s epilepsy patients don’t respond to traditional medications, according to Dr. Amza Ali – a neurologist and neurophysiologist who specializes in epilepsy.
Based on that percentage, approximately 26 million patients with epilepsy could benefit from an alternative medication like medical marijuana. Those include people who were born with epilepsy as well as people who develop it after suffering a stroke, trauma, certain infections or other conditions, Dr. Ali noted during a recent conference in Toronto hosted by the cannabis R&D, cultivation and manufacturing company Avicanna.
Using medical marijuana to treat epilepsy isn’t new. Researchers have known about cannabis’ potential to combat seizures for centuries. One of the earliest case studies involved Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy, who administered a cannabis tincture to an infant with epilepsy in the early 19th century.
“A single drop of the spiritous tincture…was placed on the child’s tongue at 10 PM,” Dr. O’Shaughnessy wrote during the experiment. “No immediate effect was perceptible, and in an hour and a half, two drops more were given…In this drowsy state, she continued for four days, totally free from convulsive symptoms in any form.”
When the seizures returned on the fifth day, O’Shaughnessy adjusted the dosage of the tincture and the infant’s condition improved dramatically. He noted that “the child is now in the enjoyment of robust health and has regained her natural plump and happy appearance.”
So there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence to suggest that cannabis can treat epilepsy. The problem is that prohibition has prevented researchers from pursuing the rigorous studies needed to prove that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment. Safety is particularly important when dealing with epilepsy since many patients are children.
‘Cannabis and its derivatives will eventually find their place’ in epilepsy treatment
Perhaps the most famous child patient is Charlotte Figi – a child with a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. By the age of five, she was unable to walk, talk or eat because she was having 300 seizures a day. Every medication had failed, so the Figi family turned to a controversial treatment: the non-intoxicating cannabis compound CBD. Almost immediately after Charlotte tried CBD, the number of seizures she experienced plummeted drastically.
Some look at Charlotte’s story and wonder why we need to debate the issue any further since cannabis has clearly helped her. But as Dr. Ali noted, it is “difficult to endorse usage of a substance not standardized nor available in a proper medicinal form.”
Roughly 60 percent of patients with epilepsy and 63 percent of parents of young patients in Australia say they don’t know which way to administer medical marijuana is best, according to a nationwide survey conducted in 2017. Right now, people with epilepsy could treat their condition by smoking a joint, using a tincture or eating an infused cookie. There are also cannabis sprays, skin lotions, suppositories, pills and other methods of delivery that could be more or less effective for managing seizures. So there’s no standard means to consume cannabis, let alone a standard dosage for patients with epilepsy.
On top of that, researchers are wary of recommending medical cannabis for epilepsy because they aren’t sure why it works. Dr. Ali noted that CBD appears to help patients, but researchers haven’t figured out how the drug’s interaction with the human brain and nervous system is suppressing seizures. That means researchers aren’t sure if CBD alone is helping or if it needs to be taken along with conventional medications.
Meanwhile, some researchers are worried that cannabis is merely the latest in a long line of false hopes for epilepsy patients. As the 19th century physician Sir Edward Sieveking once said, “[T]here is scarcely a substance in the world, capable of passing through the gullet of man, that has not at one time or another enjoyed a reputation for being an anti-epileptic.”
Sieveking wasn’t addressing cannabis specifically when he said that, but his famous quote has been used to pour cold water on epilepsy studies for over 160 years as researchers have tried to prove that unconventional treatments like mistletoe, turpentine, and even dehydration can cure seizures. So cannabis researchers will have to tackle over a century of cynicism in order to prove that CBD specifically or medical marijuana in general can treat epilepsy.
For his part, Dr. Ali believes that cannabis will be recognized as a legitimate treatment for epilepsy one day, but it will never become the first-line of defense against seizures. It will always be a second or third option that will only be used when conventional treatments prove ineffective.
“Cannabis and its derivatives, in isolation or as combinations, will eventually find their place but should not be viewed as a replacement for already efficacious treatments,” he said at the Avicanna conference.
Event to examine knowledge gaps and opportunities for robust scientific research into cannabinoid applications and their role in the evolving landscape.
TORONTO, March 5, 2019 /CNW/ – Avicanna Inc. (“Avicanna”), will host its second annual and first Canadian educational symposium, The Emergence of Biopharmaceutical Cannabinoids – From Research & Development to Clinical Translation, in Toronto on March 25, 2019. The exclusive, invitation-only event for Canadian and international clinical and research experts, industry experts and healthcare professionals, will be held at the MaRS Centre, the world’s largest innovation hub.1
The symposium will address opportunities as well as current gaps within “medical cannabis” research, including safety and toxicology concerns, as well as other challenges in the rapidly evolving industry.
The agenda will also cover recent and prominent developments in the biopharmaceutical cannabinoid research field, an overview of their role as active pharmaceutical ingredients, their challenges in formulation development and their potential role in several therapeutic areas.
Additionally, the event will also highlight Avicanna’s ongoing studies in a variety of therapeutic areas, including oncology, neurology, pain management and dermatology, which are being conducted in collaboration with a number of leading academic health science institutions in Canada and internationally.
“This event is a significant opportunity to educate and inform investigators, clinicians and industry experts on the evolving landscape of the basic science of cannabinoid research and its clinical applications, as well as the developing Canadian and international regulatory and industry environments. Furthermore, our goal is to be a catalyst in the exchange of information and drive collaboration among the communities involved in developing and delivering evidence-based cannabinoid solutions,” says Dr. Christine Allen, Avicanna’s Chief Scientific Office and Professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, and Symposium Chair.
Avicanna is a Canadian biopharmaceutical corporation focused on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of plant-derived cannabinoid-based products through its two main business segments, cultivation and research and development.
Avicanna’s research and product development activities are primarily conducted out of Toronto, Canada including its headquarters in the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centre, JLABS @ Torontoand the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Pharmacy. Avicanna’s scientists and researchers collaborate on the optimization and improvement of Avicanna’s products ranging from cosmetics to phyto-therapeutics to pharmaceutical preparations.
Avicanna’s vertically integrated and international operations also include its two majority owned cannabis cultivation subsidiaries Sativa Nativa S.A.S. and Santa Marta Golden Hemp S.A.S., both located in Santa Marta, Colombia.
Avicanna’s research and development, and cultivation activities are focused on the development of its key products, including plant-derived cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, phyto-therapeutics, derma-cosmetics and Extracts (defined as plant-derived cannabinoid extracts and purified cannabinoids, including distillates and isolates), with a goal of eventually having these products manufactured and distributed through various markets.