Can Marijuana Blunt Your Sexual Health?

OK, first of all, weed is not going to give you a bigger penis with superhero abilities.

It makes sense that it could have some kind of influence though. Science has shown that we have receptors distributed from our head to toes made to interact with our endocannabinoids, compounds similar to those found in cannabis. It is part of our chemistry, at a cellular level. 

We wanted to know more about how cannabis may affect men’s sexual health, so we asked The Fresh Toast Medical Director, Dr. Thomas Green, a board-certified urologist who has helped men be their best sexual selves for the past (nearly) 40 years. He pointed out that for young men, a common concern is erections:

When I evaluate men with impotency, I categorize the potential causes: circulatory, neurologic, hormonal and psychological. My experience is that there is commonly psychological overlay for medical erectile difficulties. In the younger age groups, there is a higher incidence of pure psychological impotence than the older age groups.

Let’s take a look at each of those.

Circulatory concerns

Some Canadian researchers chose to study marijuana and monkey erections. Really, they did. They discovered a negative effect in the smooth muscle tissue of the monkey penis. It seems that high doses of THC decreased the ability of the smooth muscle of the erectile body to contract and made erections less likely, while smaller doses showed no change. Thus, a super high monkey is not always a hard monkey. Point taken.

Neurological

We do know that being high can create the perception of shifted time or an ability to be lost in the moment. In one small Canadian study, half of respondents said cannabis was sex enhancing and delayed orgasm. We do not know if this was a true change or a difference in the perception of time. Two-thirds said it had a positive effect on their sexual desire. Others found it killed their love buzz.

Hormonal

Findings regarding how using cannabis affects testosterone vary widely and are rather inconclusive so far. Higher consumption rates of cannabis have been tied to lower testosterone levels. These levels seem to readjust as quickly as 24 hours after use is stopped or reduced. We do know that frequent users are leaner and less likely to be obese. Being fit can allow for a more active and even athletic sexual expression. That’s not bad.

Psychological

“It’s not about the body, it’s about the mind,” to quote the late, great musical genius Prince, who certainly knew a thing or two about sex. Performance anxiety can increase with an intense high. So, guys with an inconsistent erection may not want to smoke out before the big moment or they may risk getting too much in their head. On the other hand, cannabis can help make a good sexual experience a nearly mystical one, given the right balance.

As you may have gathered, none of this is absolutely resolved, not by scientific standards.

Being a good doctor, concerned for our general health and safety, Dr. Green left us with a bit of professional advice:

We have much to learn about the effect of cannabis on erections. Lower doses tend to reduce anxiety and higher doses tend to increase anxiety. If we look at the effects of anxiety on erections, it appears that anxiety can cause intermittent impotence. Therefore, on an anecdotal basis I would recommend moderation to increase the odds of erectile success.

Here is some fun homework if you are ready to take matters into your own hands. Find some time and privacy to enjoy some good, clean cannabis home alone and see how marijuana may affect your erection. If things go well, invite your partner to try a special, elevated experience. While we wait for additional data to answer these questions, you may have fun doing your own home-grown research. 

Note: Dr. Thomas Green writes the “Ask the Doctor” column for The Fresh Toast. If you have any medical questions, please send it to Dr. Green

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German Authorities Will Issue New Cannabis Cultivation Bid

According to Kermit the Frog, it’s never easy being green. It is also tough to be “first” in the cannabis biz. Anywhere.

One of the most remarkable features of the first years of state-level legalization in the U.S. was the sheer number of mistakes by the authorities in issuing licenses and bids for state-sanctioned cultivation and dispensation once the voters had forced legalization. There were several state-level “redos” and lots of legal mumbo jumbo thrown around as the green-rush kicked off at the state level.The real news? There is going to be a completely new one.

Fast-forward a couple of years and it is clear this is not just an issue of the confused state of legalization in the U.S.

Canada too, on a federal recreational level, has moved forward in fits and starts. And even though a fall start date to the market has now been enshrined into law, the continued moving target of the same has been a topic of fraught conversations and bargaining ever since the country decided to move ahead with full Monty recreational.

Across the pond, things are not going smoothly on the cannabis front. In the first week of July, the much stalled medical cultivation bid in Germany finally came to a limpid end. It remains to see if there will be any legal “bangs” as it whimpers away.

The real news? There is going to be a completely new one.

A Do-Over

According to documents obtained by Cannabis Industry Journal, the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (or BfArM) issued letters to original bid respondents in the first week of July. The letters appear to have been sent to all parties who originally applied to the first bid – far from the final top runners.

The translation, from German reads:

“We hereby inform you that we have withdrawn the above-mentioned award procedure…and intend to initiate a new award in a timely manner.”

The letter cited the legal decision of March 28 this year by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court as the reason the agency cannot award the contract. Specifically, because of “necessary changes to the tender documents…inparticular with regard to time, we have decided to cancel the procedure altogether and initiate a new award procedure.”

Per the letter, the new procedure will be published in the Official Journal of the EU. No date was mentioned.

An Expensive Surprise and a Global Response

Conventional wisdom in the industry about the fate of the first bid has been mixed since last September when the first hint of lawsuits against the procedure began to circulate. Highly placed sources within the industry have long had their doubts about the bid’s survivability, although nobody will talk on the record. The bid process is supposed to be secret.However, it is clear that another bid will be issued

Furthermore, for the last 9 months, BfArM has maintained that the agency would go full-steam ahead with the original tender. None of the major firms contacted by CIJ about this notification would confirm that they had received a similar letter, nor would they comment.

However, it is clear that another bid will be issued. Further, this time, it is also obvious to the extent that it was not before, the applicants will indeed hail from all points of the globe. On top of that, those who are qualified to respond and who missed it last time are unlikely to sit the bid out this time around.

German Parliament Building

It remains unclear of course, what the response of the finalists to the first bid will be. Including, theoretically,legal action forpotential damages. BfArM was, technically, held at fault by the court. This means that all the companies who made it to the previous “final round” have now suffered at a minimum, an expensive time delay where other outlays of cash were also required. That includes the leasing and retrofitting of high security real estate, but of course,is not limited to the same. If any of these firms do not obtain the bid in the second go around, will they sue?

At press time, there were no cannabis industry companies willing to comment on the matter as this is still a “secret” process – even if it now apparently has come to an end for this round.

Who Is Likely To Be a Major Contender This Time?

German firms who were sleeping the last time this opportunity arose (or brushed it off as a “stigmatized” opportunity) are not likely to sit the second tender offer out. Especially given advancements in legalization if not the industry both in Europe and globally in the period of time the bid has stalled.

Add to that Canadians, Dutch, Israeli and Uruguayan firms, and the mix of applicants this time is likely to be the who’s who of the global cannabis industry. Americans are still not qualified to participate (with experience at least). Why? No federal reform.Domestic cannabis will not be harvested in Germany until at least 2020. 

It is also likely to be even more expensive. Not to mention require easy and quick access to European-based or at least easily confirmable pools of cash. It is conceivable that successful applications this time around will not only have to prove that they have a track record in a federally legal jurisdiction but will also have to be able to quickly access as much as 100 million euros. And there are not many cannabis companies, yet, who can do that, outside of the presumed top 10 finalists to the bid.

Will Bid Respondents Be Limited To “Just” the Cannabis Industry?

It is, however, absolutely possible that this time around the bid could include a more established pharmaceutical player or two who realizes that the medical market here has absolutely proved itself. Within the space of a year, according to the most recent “market report” on the industry (from the perspective of one of the country’s largest statutory insurance companies – Techniker Krankenkasse), there are now just over 15,000 patients.

Cannabis, in other words, is no longer an “orphan drug.” It is also still, however, considered a narcotic. For that reason, seasoned European and German players may upset the market even more with an entry via this tender bid.

Here is what is certain for now. Domestic cannabis will not be harvested in Germany until at least 2020. And until that time, it will be a growing, but import-based market.

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CBD Oil Is Good For Even More Than You Thought

If you follow cannabis themed news whatsoever, you’re bound to have learned about a slew of conditions CBD oil is good for, including chronic pain and anxiety. But there are other uses that you may not have heard of yet.

Did you know that CBD may have an effect on high blood pressure? Though you are always advised to talk to your doctor about treatments and to not stop any other treatment plans, adding CBD oil to your list of supplements couldn’t hurt. It is an innocuous component of the cannabis plant and has no psychoactive properties whatsoever when under the 0.3 percent THC mark. The fact that CBD also combats anxiety means that you shouldn’t be nervous to add it to your daily regime. Talk to a medical consultant at your local dispensary if you can about dosages, milligrams and delivery systems.

Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult tasks for someone with a habit. Now anecdotal evidence shows that CBD can help not only with the depression and anxiety associated with quitting, but if you use a CBD pen in lieu of a cigarette or nicotine vape pen, the hand to mouth motion helps with that part of the addiction. Many people trying not to smoke find that they don’t know what to do with their hands during times when they crave a cigarette or e-cig, so a CBD vape pen is a perfect solution on many levels.

Tamara Pridgett tried CBD oil for the first time and found that it helped her with sleep — which is a fairly well known use for CBD — and left her feeling less sore, likely a result of CBD’s documented anti-inflammatory properties. The reaction that may sound surprising is that she felt more alert. She wrote that, “My brain is constantly operating on overload, and I have days where I can’t focus on anything except for all my thoughts, incomplete tasks, and ending up alone. I decided to take half a dropper 30 minutes before heading into work to see what would happen. In my opinion, I had a very productive day at work…” She also wrote that she found it helped her focus better on her writing.

As more and more people get turned onto the CBD oil craze, more and more usages for the cannabinoid will be found and put to work. With all the evidence of positive health benefits rolling in, it couldn’t hurt to add CBD to your health routine as a preventative measure as well.

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Psychedelic Ayahuasca Found To Treat Debilitating Depression

Ayahuasca, or “The God Vine”, has been used for centuries if not millennia in the Amazonian jungle to treat a variety of ailments, one of them being severe depression. While the vine and its preparation with other plants and herbs has now spread across the globe, so have the ceremonies that are meant to cure deeply seated issues.

A new study in Psychological Medicine found that traditional pills used for depression were found ineffective for about one third of patients; even with switching medications to try and achieve better results, they seem to be treatment resistant.

Encouragingly, however, the study also found that some psychedelics are making breakthroughs where pharmaceuticals have failed. “…recent open-label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca and psilocybin, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants in treatment-resistant patients.” The study then goes into great detail on the spread of ayahuasca to urban centers in Brazil and then around the world, its healing reputation thrusting the anti-establishment medicine into the mainstream.

An ayahuasca treatment lasts several hours and though severe vomiting and sometimes diarrhea are reported during most trips, it has been proven to be a safe experience. Damaging thoughts and practices are often addressed while seeing visuals such as snakes pouring out of one’s mouth while purging or perhaps a communal meeting with an ayahuasca produced puma that could last for hours.

For the “double-blind parallel-arm randomized placebo-controlled trial” the doctors assessed the changes in the severity of depression, comparing a baseline of seven days after the experience. “Data from 29 patients were included in the analysis: 14 in the ayahuasca group and 15 in the placebo group.”

The depressed persons had been so for approximately 10 years and had all tried using antidepressants. The study analyzed many different data points, but the result that mattered most was, “patients treated with ayahuasca showed significantly reduced severity [of depression] when compared with patients treated with placebo.”

The world at large is finally opening its eyes to the benefits of plants that can seem scary or overwhelming on the surface, but that have potential and actual clinical usages that help a variety of ailments. Severe depression can be deadly and if you’re experiencing symptoms, be sure to reach out to your doctor, family and friends whether or not you are able to get yourself an ayahuasca treatment quite yet. Just know that the doors of perception are opening wider and wider and the results are speaking for themselves.

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Cannabis: Beneficial Yet Effective Treatment Method For Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical disorder that causes fatigue and muscle pain, and affects roughly 5 million people. However, according to other sources, the number of fibromyalgia sufferers is more than double the first figure.

Since fibromyalgia is hard to diagnose and because multiple people go undiagnosed for years, the statistics on this condition are somewhat unreliable. Nonetheless, not only is fibromyalgia a painful medical condition, it can have a negative impact on an individual’s well-being and daily life. Aside from pharmaceutical medications, what treatment options are available? One treatment method that’s gaining more attention and popularity by fibromyalgia patients is cannabis. Read on to find out more about fibromyalgia and why cannabis can act as a natural treatment method.

About Fibromyalgia & Its Symptoms

As briefly stated above, fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition that delivers fatigue, widespread musculoskeletal pain, and tenderness/sensitivity in localized areas of the body. Unfortunately, everyday could be a struggle for fibromyalgia patients. This is especially the case because of the condition’s symptoms. Fibromyalgia’s symptoms including chronic pain can have a negative impact on one’s quality of life. Aside from pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia can cause sleeping difficulties, muscle stiffness, numbness, memory difficulties, and focusing issues.

Now, who can develop fibromyalgia, and what are the risk factors involved with this condition? Well, for starters, it has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia as compared to men. When individuals are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the most common age range is middle age. As people get older though, they’re more likely to develop fibromyalgia. However, children can be diagnosed with the disorder too.

Regarding risk factors, there are several when it comes to fibromyalgia. If an individual has Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, they’re more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Other risk factors include obesity, family history, illnesses including viral infections, repetitive injuries, stressful or traumatic events, and one’s gender.

Cannabis as a Fibromyalgia Treatment Method

Moreover, could cannabis act as an effective treatment method for fibromyalgia? Does this plant have the ability to provide individuals with relief to many painful fibromyalgia symptoms? Based on cannabis consumers who have been diagnosed with this condition, the unanimous answer is yes. Since fibromyalgia causes chronic pain, it’s the primary reason why affected patients consume cannabis.

In addition, fibromyalgia is often associated with other health issues that cannabis can treat, including depression, anxiety, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Also, fibromyalgia can bring along other problems like insomnia, fatigue, digestive difficulties, and headaches. Fortunately, though, cannabis and certain cannabinoids can help treat all these issues.

Research Findings that Support Cannabis as a Fibromyalgia Treatment Method

In 2011, one study was conducted, which focused on 56 fibromyalgia patients, and half of them consumed cannabis whereas, the other half didn’t. The study’s researchers expressed their concluded findings by stating the following, “…the use of cannabis was associated with beneficial effects on some fibromyalgia symptoms.” Additionally, the study’s authors suggested that further research is needed to fully understand how cannabis can specifically help in this situation. However, this is not to say that fibromyalgia patients shouldn’t consume cannabis because more research is needed. But rather, it’s the opposite. If cannabis helps fibromyalgia patients to some degree, then it may be best to stick with it.

So far, there’s no cure for fibromyalgia. Therefore, patients with this condition should try to not only find a medicine that effectively relieves their pain and other symptoms, but also one that helps with their mental state of mind and overall well-being, which is cannabis. In general, there’s still a lot to learn about fibromyalgia and its specific causes. However, the characteristics of this condition indicate clinical endocannabinoid deficiencies, according to Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and pharmacologist.

Linkage Between Fibromyalgia and Endocannabinoid Deficiencies

We all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), and the role of this system is to maintain balance amongst all body processes. When the body’s ECS isn’t functioning as it should because of an endocannabinoid deficiency, many ailments can occur including migraines, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. These ailments can be tough to treat with other traditional medications, however, fortunately, cannabis can target the ECS. This is the case because the cannabinoids within the cannabis plant mimic the compounds our bodies should naturally produce. Thus, this keeps the ECS running smoothly and in balance.

Overall, cannabis could be added onto other medicine in the form of an adjunct therapy method or it can be used on its own. If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or if you know someone who has been, try suggesting cannabis to them. But first, it’s suggested to start slow, pace yourself, and spend some time experimenting with different cannabis strains, doses, and delivery methods to find what works best.

If you’re tired of experiencing daily fatigue and chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia, consider giving cannabis a chance, and see what it can do for you! Since a natural and medically beneficial form of medicine exists, why not try it out?

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Collaborative Health Model to Advance Cannabis Research

The projected growth of the legal cannabis market is astounding. According to a report from BDS Analytics, the industry is expected to grow from $9.2B to $47.3B in 2027 in North America, with medical cannabis contributing 33% of that overall growth. While this number is impressive for an industry still in its infancy, I have reason to believe it can be much higher.

In the pharmaceutical industry, treatment of pain and insomnia represent an annual revenue exceeding $140B; concurrently, studies have shown cannabis to be an effective treatment for both conditions. If medical cannabis can capture 10% of that revenue over the next ten years, it essentially doubles the current estimates mentioned above.

So, what stands in our way? Education.

To gain acceptance from the medical community, physicians need to better understand the plant and its therapeutic benefits. To do so, they need more substantial data to prove cannabis’ efficacy before prescribing it to their patients. However, federal illegalities have prevented government-mandated clinical studies, but I believe there’s another way.

By adopting a collaborative health care model, patients and caregivers can work together to track the effectiveness of their cannabis treatments and share their learnings with the larger medical community.  With the right tools in place, we can fast-track the research process and provide physicians and politicians with the information they need to make this medicine more approachable and accessible to those who could benefit from it.

By harnessing the power of the community, we can apply learnings from one patient’s cannabis use to help countless others.The Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) was a five-year study consisting of approximately 2500 patients with back and spine conditions. Participants entered qualitative data into an online portal, including post-surgical results and patient outcomes, to provide a comprehensive insight into treatment methods and their efficacy. Today, others suffering with those same conditions can enter their personal information into an online calculator and receive a prospective treatment plan. Together, patients and their doctors can view results and build a customized plan using more informed decisions about the available treatment options.

Another example comes from OpenNotes– an exploratory study that provides patients with full access to their medical files and the opportunity to input comments about their doctor visits and prognosis and make corrections related to the care they received. Results showed that this process helped patients retain a better understanding of their condition which improved their decision making and resulted in increased adherence to treatment plan protocols because they had greater trust with their doctors.Not only will this improve the patient experience by providing a safer, more sustainable treatment option, it also provides a very significant financial opportunity.

I believe the cannabis industry can take a leadership role in empowering patients to become active participants in their own treatment, while also sharing knowledge with the larger patient and physician communities. In fact, this core belief was the reason I founded Resolve Digital Health. Data-empowered patients not only make better decisions but also enjoy a greater feeling of control over their treatment. The power of collaborative healthcare grows exponentially when the data is shared to educate a broader group. By harnessing the power of the community, we can apply learnings from one patient’s cannabis use to help countless others.

Businesses within the cannabis industry can also leverage this data to create new products and services. For example, insights as to what products work best for certain conditions can help LP’s improve their product offerings and guide recommendations from dispensaries. Through product innovation, companies can make cannabis more accessible to a larger group of patients, who may be currently taking pharmaceuticals. Not only will this improve the patient experience by providing a safer, more sustainable treatment option, it also provides a very significant financial opportunity.

Ultimately, knowledge is power. When patients are empowered to make educated decisions about their health care and doctors are more tuned into the patient-tested cannabis treatment options, it’s a win-win for everyone.

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Which Safety Standards Work Best for the Cannabis Industry?

Now that governments are legalizing cannabis around the world, the question looms for cannabis businesses seeking legitimacy in the new industry: what safety standards should apply? This question is more difficult as different jurisdictions grapple with defining and implementing legal requirements and struggle to keep up with the pace of growth.

For visionary cannabis business, it makes sense to anticipate requirements – not only from governments, but also from consumers and partners. Most regulations currently focus on security and basic health issues but, in the long-term, the industry that may offer the best model for cannabis businesses isn’t pharmaceuticals, but food. Cannabis (especially edibles) share similar hazards and traceability challenges with food products, so taking the lead from the food industry will be much more applicable and could offer greater benefits.

marijuana buds drying in racks biotrackthc
Dried cannabis curing with RFID tags as part of a traceability system.

Companies that achieve the highest and most flexible certification will enjoy a crucial competitive advantage when it comes to winning market share, popularity and consumer trust. Let’s take a quick look at the different options of food safety (and quality) certifications that cannabis businesses may consider. But first, let’s clarify two important definitions that are necessary to understand the food industry.

Basic Concepts from the Food Industry

The first acronym you should be aware of is GFSI, the Global Food Safety Initiative. GFSI is a food industry-driven global collaboration body created to advance food safety. When it comes to understanding GFSI, the important part to note is that certifications recognized by GFSI (like SQF, FSSC 22000, and BRC) are universally accepted. Companies operating under GFSI-recognized certifications open the most doors to the most markets, providing the highest potential for growth. For this reason, cannabis companies should be aware of and seriously consider seeking GFSI certifications

HACCPSecondly, many food safety programs are built around Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, or HACCP. While many people may talk about HACCP like it’s a certification in and of itself, it is not actually a certification like the others on this list, but rather a methodology that helps companies systematically identify and control biological, chemical, and physical hazards that may arise during food production, handling, and distribution. Companies that adopt this methodology end up with a HACCP plan, which must then be followed at all times to avoid and address health and safety issues. It’s often required for food businesses and is generally required in most of the world, except where ISO 22000 is more common, primarily in Europe and countries whose primary export market is European. Since HACCP plans are also incorporated into most of the other achievable certifications, developing a HACCP program early will build a strong foundation for higher levels of certification.

Certifications for the Cannabis Industry

Now that we understand the basics of GFSI and HACCP, we can see how the certifications that have been developed by and for the food industry may apply to cannabis companies – and which you should consider necessary for your business.

GMP: Good Manufacturing Practice Certification

GMP (or sometimes cGMP) certification requires that companies abide by a set of good manufacturing processes for food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, dietary supplements and medical devices. Since it really only covers basic sanitation and employee hygiene, it is considered the lowest level of certification in the industry. It is not recognized by GFSI, but GFSI does require all the standard benchmarks of a GMP be met before granting GFSI certification.

While GMP certification is often required, it is far below the standard that should be upheld by any serious businesses. It doesn’t cover many of the different types of hazards associated with food production – that I have argued will become increasingly relevant to cannabis producers – and doesn’t provide a systematic approach to identifying and controlling hazards like a HACCP program would. It’s really just about providing the basic procedures and checks to ensure that the facility is clean and that employees aren’t contaminating the products.GMP

Final Verdict: Recommended, but as the bare minimum. GMP is not sufficient on its own to adequately control the risk of recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks, and it limits a company’s market potential because it lacks the GFSI worldwide stamp of approval.

Some companies consider GMP certification a good place to start if you’re on a tight deadline for distribution in markets where only GMP is required by regulators. I would argue that striving for the minimum standards will be costly in the long run. Health, safety and quality standards are the foundations upon which winning companies are built. It’s critical to develop a corporate culture that will lead to GFSI-recognized programs without major organizational overhaul. Start on the right foot and set your sights higher – obtain a certification that will stand the test of time and avoid the pain and risks of trying to change entrenched behaviors.

SQF: Safe Quality Food Program Certification

SQF is my number one recommendation as the best certification for the cannabis industry. One of the most common certifications in North America, SQF is a food safety management system recognized by retailers and consumers alike. It is administered by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and, importantly, recognized by GFSI, which gives companies a huge competitive edge. SQF focuses on the whole supply chain.

SQF was also the first to develop a cannabis program and is currently the leader in this market segment. It is also the scheme that best integrates food safety with quality. Since it is recognized worldwide, SQF provides the greatest leverage to accelerate a company’s growth. Once obtained, products with SQF certification can often jump the queue to enter different regulatory markets.

Final verdict: Highly recommended. A cannabis company with an SQF certification has the greatest advantage because it offers the broadest worldwide reach and keeps companies a step ahead of competitors. It’s also achievable – just this past April, Curaleaf Florida ostensibly became the first cannabis company to achieve SQF certification. It is tough, but fair and practical.

Other Certification Standards

SQF is the top certification that should be considered by cannabis companies, especially outside of Europe. However, the food industry has several other major types of standards that, at this time, have limited relevance to the cannabis industry today. Let’s take a quick look.

When considering GFSI-recognized programs, the main choice for food companies is between SQF, which we’ve covered, and BRC (the British Retail Consortium Certification). BRC has the most in common with SQF but, while SQF was originally developed for processed foods, BRC was developed in the UK for meat products. Today, they are quite similar, but BRC doesn’t focus quite as much on the quality component as SQF does. While BRC could be a good option, they don’t have a program for cannabis and, thus far, do not appear to be as friendly toward the cannabis industry.The food industry has a lot to offer cannabis companies that are anticipating future regulatory changes and market advantages 

Across the pond, there are a few other certification standards that are more common than SQF. One of these is ISO 22000, which is the certification for the food-related standard created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Europe. It is not recognized by GFSI but is the primary system used in Europe. If your market is exclusively in the EU, it might be a good choice for you in the future. However, to date, there is no indication that any cannabis company has achieved ISO 22000 certification. Some cannabis companies have attained certification for other ISO standards like ISO 9001:2015, which specifies requirements for quality control systems, and ISO/IEC 17025 for laboratory testing. These are generally more relevant for the pharmaceutical industry than food and beverage, but still apply to cannabis.

There is the perception that cannabis is more accepted in EU countries like the Netherlands, but the regulatory attitude to cannabis is complicated. In the Netherlands, for example, cannabis isn’t actually legal – “coffee shops” fall under a toleration policy that doesn’t include regulation. Medical cannabis in the Netherlands is all produced by one supplier and several countries in the EU allow for licensed distribution and import, but not domestic production. Various EU countries are trying to keep up with the legalization trend, however. The Czech Republic, Germany, and others all recently introduced legislation for domestic production of cannabis for medical use. For companies with their eye on the EU, it is crucial to watch which regulatory requirements will be implemented in each market and how.

The last certification standard to mention is the result of a compromise between ISO and the more HACCP oriented programs like SQF. FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification) tries to address the gaps between ISO 22000 and GFSI-recognized certifications by introducing another component called PAS 220. Since it is recognized by GFSI, FSSC 22000 is starting to get more traction in the food industry because it makes products a bit easier to export to the EU. FSSC 22000 satisfies the EU ISO standards but isn’t as closely tied to HACCP. We will be keeping an eye on this one.

Final Takeaway

The food industry has a lot to offer cannabis companies that are anticipating future regulatory changes and market advantages – but it’s difficult for cannabis companies to understand all the options available and how each apply to their specific products. While markets adjust beyond the preliminary issue of legality, it’s crucial for companies to look forward and comply with safety and quality standards like SQF. Companies who strive for SQF certification (or other GFSI-recognized certifications as they become available) will find themselves far better prepared to seize market share as cannabis markets blossom.

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The UK Steps Up On Medical Cannabis Use

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid appears to have become the most high ranking cannabis advocate in the British government. He has just launched a review into medicinal uses of cannabis in the UK. However, this dramatic change in policy has only come after a series of high profile campaigns and escalating battles for access waged by patients and their families against a government which has remained stubbornly intransigent in the face of growing evidence of medical efficacy and reform elsewhere. In fact, the cannabis “Battle of Britain” has come to resemble the contretemps in Israel over the same issue four years ago that led to a national review of medical use and greater patient access.

GW Pharma said their product Epidiolex (for the treatment of childhood epilepsy) is being considered by the European Medicines Agency

It is expected that this recent turn of events will open better access for more British medical users. The fact that the timing of all of this comes as GW Pharma has received the right to distribute Epidiolex in the U.S. as the first FDA-approved cannabis-based medicine is not only part of the irony but the underlying problematic politics surrounding all of this. Starting with the timing of who has access to what, and under what circumstances. As it stands, Epidiolex is also the only cannabis-based drug now eligible in the United States for healthcare coverage. The rest of the market is so-far excluded from it. Unlike, it should be pointed out the situation in the UK, the rest of the Commonwealth, and of course, the EU. Starting with Germany.

A Major Win for Patients

Celebrate one for Alfie! Alfie Dingley that is – the British 6 year old with epilepsy who has become one of the most well-known faces of medical justice for cannabis users in the UK. Dingley and his parents waged a battle since last fall over his right to consume low THC cannabis oil that allows him to manage his epilepsy. He has just been granted an emergency license to import the oil from the Netherlands.

But this is also a victory for Billy Caldwell, the twelve-year-old who ended up in emergency care in hospital recently after his medical oil (from Canada) was confiscated at the border. Video of border control agents at Heathrow Airport removing the oil from the Caldwells caused a national outcry in the UK. Caldwell’s mother, Charlotte, has also waged a high profile battle for access, including at the doors of the hospital her son was admitted to last week. She has also started her own CBD company named after her son.

Like the rest of Europe, which the UK still technically is part of until Brexit, the focus here has very much been on medical use.And of course, this new indication in change of policy is seen as a major victory if not step forward for literally thousands if not millions of Britains who suffer from chronic conditions that are still drug resistant (like Epilepsy but not limited to the same.)

As he addressed the House of Commons on the issue of medicinal cannabis use, Javid said “It has become clear to me since becoming home secretary that the position that we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory…I have now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis.” As in the US, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug in the UK – with supposedly no medical efficacy. This new development clearly challenges that scheduling – but where and how?

Recreational Is Still Not On The Table

Like the rest of Europe, which the UK still technically is part of until Brexit, the focus here has very much been on medical use. This is for several reasons, including a much better and more inclusive public health system – despite imminent fears about the longevity of the British National Health Service (NHS).

UKflagIn the UK, however, further reform is not likely to move fast. Unlike anywhere else, cannabis production is essentially limited to one company – GW Pharmaceuticals – who themselves have high standing political connections that continue to oppose reform. This is not based on science but rather profit. Despite the fact that the British Isles are the largest exporter of medical cannabinoid pharmaceuticals in the world, British patients are still largely excluded from access. The only reason that these children and their parents were able to pierce the wall of privilege and profit that has driven the debate here since the late 90’s is that GW Pharmaceutical’s cannabinoid concoctions do not work on this kind of epilepsy. Plus the failure of a recent trial of their new drug (shamefully in Europe, not even conducted in the UK).

As a result, GW Pharmaceuticals and the well placed scions of British society who have profited directly and personally from this situation have little choice but to back down – but not by much. As soon as Javid announced his intention to do a review of British policy, former Tory (conservative) leader Lord William Hague called for full legalization. An initiative that as of June 19 was rejected by the government.

Is Medical Finally About To Get Its Due?

In Europe, politically, the frustration is clearly growing. And much like in the United States circa 2012, activists and advocates realize that medical access is the first step towards full reform. However here there is a marked difference to what is going on in both the U.S. and Canada. And in turn, this may bring a long overdue focus on the medical issue that has continually been obscured and overlooked by the industry itself as soon as recreational seems it is in reach.

When real and regulated medical markets are allowed to flourish, the first beneficiaries are both children and women, not middle-aged men. That is clearly the face of the “average” German patient now that the data of the first year has come in. It is also likely to be the case of the British patient as well as Europeans across the continent.In Europe, politically, the frustration is clearly growing

Further, as cannabis has become more of an accepted treatment, this is in turn forcing governments (and even the industry itself) to begin, for the first time, to consider funding widespread trials – and of the raw plant itself along with extracts and other forms the drug can be consumed in.

What does this really herald, in fact then besides relief for chronically ill patients? The first widespread scientific inquiry into the efficacy of cannabinoids outside of Israel.

And that too, is cause for celebration. Congrats Alfie and Billie! And all the people who helped move the issue forward.

The post The UK Steps Up On Medical Cannabis Use appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.

What To Expect When Combining Alcohol And Cannabis

Cannabis and alcohol are two of the most widely-used drugs in the U.S. and around the world. According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 86.4 percent of Americans age 18 or older have reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life, whereas 56 percent reported drinking in the past month. According to a United Nations report though, 158.8 million people consume cannabis worldwide, which is about 3.8 percent of the world’s population. Some people consume only alcohol and others consume only cannabis. However, there’s a large demographic who consume both substances. What’s the outcome of mixing these two substances though, and what should individuals expect afterwards?

Reasons for Mixing Cannabis & Alcohol

Most of us have probably heard the saying, “Everything in moderation”, which can apply to both alcohol and cannabis. Everyone has their limits, and we all respond differently to substances. Although it’s common to consume either alcohol or cannabis, a large demographic of people prefer both toking and drinking alcohol.

In addition, there are many reasons why alcohol and cannabis are consumed together. Some people prefer to combine these substances to feel less anxiety and/or pressure at social functions, or they may be interested in feeling a euphoric sense of tingly bliss. There are also people who want to hold uplifted and interesting conversations, which may not occur from just alcohol consumption alone. But what impact do cannabis and alcohol have on the body and mind?

Aftermath of Mixing Cannabis & Alcohol

Cannabis and alcohol deliver their own unique effects, but the combination of these substances can have a significant mental and physical impact. For example, alcohol consumption may increase THC concentration in one’s blood. In other words, alcohol might be able to increase the potency effects of cannabis. Then, Scott Lukas, a Harvard professor and researcher found some interesting discoveries in 2001 regarding the combination of alcohol and cannabis. Specifically, when ganja and alcohol are combined, it was discovered that ethanol in alcohol might enhance the human body’s capability to absorb THC.

Furthermore, Scott Lukas stated the following regarding the combination of these drugs, “For many drug combinations, when subjects consumed ethanol, they detected marijuana effects more quickly, reported more episodes of euphoria, and had higher plasma THC levels than when they consumed placebo ethanol.” If you decide to mix wine or beer with ganja, know that you’ll most likely experience stronger effects from smaller quantities of the herb.

Sedative Effects

On a similar note, since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it often leads to sedative effects while acting as less of an ‘upper’ or stimulator and more like a downer, whereas with cannabis, it’s a completely different ball game. For example, cannabis strains high in THC can incite stimulation, energy, and possible anxiety, while consuming relatively small doses of cannabis that contain little THC and more CBD can result in sedative effects. On its own, cannabidiol (CBD) delivers physically relaxing effects to users (some would even say a “sedative” effect).

In addition, it was discovered that THC inspires the secretion of melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for helping individuals feel tired and proceed to fall asleep. If cannabis and alcohol are combined, expect the sedative effects of these substances to become stronger. Also, keep in mind that sedation often comes with fatigue, sluggish-behavior, and motor coordination difficulties.

Dizziness, Vertigo, and The Spins

Generally, when cannabis and alcohol are mixed, it can cause dizziness, vertigo, and sometimes nausea. Millennials and adults may be familiar with ‘the spins’, which is one key side effect that occurs after consuming alcohol and cannabis. If too much of this mixture is ingested, it can result in nausea and vomiting. What may surprise some people is that cannabis can make it harder to vomit. This is because THC and CBD contain anti-emetic and anti-nausea properties. Since alcohol is a toxin, vomiting works to clear out excess alcohol from the body thus protecting the liver and preventing alcohol poisoning.

Because cannabis can suppress vomiting and reduce nausea, individuals may be able to tolerate alcohol better. However, cannabis could put individuals at a greater risk of developing alcohol poisoning if they need to vomit but cannot due to cannabis’s anti-emetic properties.

Impacted Absorption Rate

Lastly, cannabis has an impact on how fast the body absorbs alcohol. One 1992 study conducted by Scott Lukas found that alcohol enhances the body’s THC metabolism. Thus, cannabis could slow down the body’s ability to absorb alcohol.

Not only is cannabis complex, but it can also change the way humans digest different foods. Specifically, cannabis can slow down the transportation of food via the body’s intestinal tract. This slowed digestion rate means that the alcohol that’s consumed will get released into the body’s bloodstream gradually and over a lengthy period of time. When cannabis is present, it could result in a slower rise in the body’s blood alcohol level thus preventing individuals from feeling significantly drunk too quickly.

Overall, although cannabis contains numerous medicinal benefits, when it’s mixed with alcohol, it can cause unenjoyable effects, especially when consumed in large quantities. If you still want to combine these substances though, it’s suggested to start off small, go at a gradual pace, and be aware of the potential side effects that could occur.

The post What To Expect When Combining Alcohol And Cannabis appeared first on The Fresh Toast.

Cannabis And Its Effect On Lyme Disease

In America, more people are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually than HIV and breast cancer combined. Lyme disease transmitted by infected deer ticks can be an absolute, and often undetectable, nightmare. But new research is underwy on how cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of Lyme disease.

The Infectious Disease Society of America acknowledges that Lyme disease is an epidemic, but that it is easily diagnosed and treated. The controversy is because the opposite is true in many cases. Early diagnosed cases may still require longer treatment, and a patient’s condition may be complicated by co-infections; i.e., other infections in addition to Lyme may be transmitted from the same tick attachment.

Ticks were a part of life growing up on Long Island. It was common practice among 1980s soccer moms; if a child came home with a tick on their head or leg, the little critter would get smothered with Vaseline and gently pulled out, making sure, of course, that the entire tick was expunged, body still intact. Helicopter moms might wrap the extracted tick up in something to show to a doctor later, just in case. The more salty, blue-collar moms would command their child to remain still, while they burned the tick with a lit cigarette (or match), wait for it to detach, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it. (This might be considered child abuse in modern times.) After being extracted in either manner, the ticks were promptly forgotten about, as the child ran back to the playground.

Nowadays, ticks are much more of a threat — specifically, the deer tick (aka black-legged tick). While not all deer ticks carry the Lyme bacteria, the bite of an infected one is dangerous. All of the old-school variations of tick extraction are “a terrible idea,” according to board-certified internist, Dr. Daniel A. Kinderlehrer, “Irritating a tick will increase the chances of transmitting infection.”

Dr. Kinderlehrer, whose practice in Denver, Colorado, is dedicated to treating patients with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, is writing a book called, “Lyme Disease: It’s Complicated.” He suggests using fine-pointed tweezers to grab the tick at the skin and applying gentle traction until the tick lets go.

The classic scenario is that recent onset, or acute Lyme disease, occurs about a week after a tick attaches to its host and is accompanied by a rash. Several days later, people will have flu-like symptoms: chills, body aches, fatigue and headaches, and subsequently they will develop arthritis, cardiac arrhythmias, nerve pain or meningitis. If untreated, the infection morphs into chronic Lyme. Typical symptoms of chronic Lyme are severe fatigue, sleep disorders, joint and muscle pains, cognitive dysfunction and mood disorders, particularly irritability (“Lyme rage”), anxiety and depression. Other signs of the disease are pain in the soles of the feet and night sweats.

The Lyme symptoms of one woman from Milford, Connecticut (who wishes to remain anonymous) started with a rash, followed by flu-like symptoms, weakness, fatigue, and finally a severe headache and fever. She saw a doctor the next day. While undressing, her husband noticed a red ring under her arm, so she was quickly diagnosed.

If a patient is showing symptoms, many doctors might just ask them if they’ve been in a “wooded area” recently. However, if a patient starts exhibiting symptoms months or years after the initial bite, recalling if he was recently wandering around in a wooded area is irrelevant. Only 15 percent of people ever see the tick attachments, less than 50 percent see a rash, and only half of the rashes are bulls-eyes. Patients often do not experience the symptoms of acute Lyme disease, but go on to develop chronic Lyme disease long after a tick bite they never saw.

“Blood tests are not definitive, so doctors only treat you for it if you have symptoms. I had Lyme Disease of the central nervous system. Although it was severe, I was lucky to be treated right away.”

The Connecticut woman’s experience is a textbook description. In undiagnosed cases, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, muscle aches, joint pain, and even anxiety and depression can occur.

The Lyme bacterium has creative ways to evade immune detection, making it difficult to diagnose, as well as difficult to eradicate. The most dangerous aspect of Lyme disease is that it can remain undetected and undiagnosed in patients for years, while patients’ chronic complaints are misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression or an autoimmune illness.

Patients often go from doctor to doctor and never receive an appropriate diagnosis. According to Dr. Kinderlehrer, many people discover they might have chronic Lyme disease through friends, who point out their symptoms are similar to a relative that had it.

The most common screening test for Lyme Disease, the ELISA antibody test, has up to 60 percent false negative results, so it is advisable to get tested with the more sensitive Western blot test. However, this test may also have false negatives, and, according to Dr. Kinderlehrer, is prone to misinterpretation.

The key to treating Lyme disease is catching it as soon as possible because the longer it’s in the system, the more difficult it is to treat.

A recent article in Green Flower claims that cannabis may be the next treatment for Lyme disease. Dr. Kinderlehrer is skeptical. He is clear that cannabis does not treat Lyme disease. Rather, it’s an effective treatment for some of the symptoms of the disease, such as pain, sleep disorders and anxiety. “Cannabis modulates immune and nervous system function, and decreases inflammation. Research has not documented whether or not cannabis can boost immune function. CBD from hemp oil and cannabis extracts are not treating the infection itself,” he emphasized.

“I have found medical marijuana and CBD from hemp oil to be incredibly beneficial for many patients. The analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties of cannabis make it extremely valuable as an adjunct to the treatment of tick-borne diseases.

“My patients have had a significant response to extracts with decreased anxiety, cognitive improvement, pain relief, and better sleep. I recommend CBD oil from hemp during the day, because it is activating, not sedating. Add THC in the evening for pain, and Indica-sourced, pure THC for sleep.”

Additionally, he stressed that “None of my patients get high.”

Green Flower states, “While quick treatment with antibiotics is typically enough to eliminate the disease and reduce symptoms, the side effects of Lyme disease can hang around for a while.”

Dr. Kinderlehrer is quick to clarify this point, saying, “Quick treatment often doesn’t work. Persistent, or a recurrence of symptoms after a course of antibiotics typically represents an ongoing Lime infection and/or co-infections.”

Green Flower also says, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have warned that extended antibiotic treatment for those with chronic Lyme disease produces a greater risk of developing potentially life-threatening infections.”

Dr. Kinderlehrer said, “This information is taken out of context. It is a scare tactic. Antibiotic resistance is not a big risk when treating Lyme. In the case of Lyme, antibiotics are a necessity.” He feels that the benefits far outweigh the potential risks, and that just being in a hospital is a much greater risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Cannabis is not a proven substitute for antibiotics at this point. “It is an excellent adjunct to treatment, because it decreases neuro and systemic inflammation. Cannabis is not needed for acute (or recent onset) Lyme, but more for chronic (ongoing) Lyme,” said Dr. Kinderlehrer.

Lyme is still a commonly misunderstood disease, even by experts. The Infectious Disease Society of America claims there is no such thing as chronic Lyme disease. They are under the impression that, if a patient still has symptoms after being treated with antibiotics, the persistent symptoms must be due to “something else.”

“Most of my patients with chronic Lyme have seen multiple physicians and have labels like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and mood disorders. Most all these patients not only have persistent infection with the Lyme bacteria, but also have co-infections, particularly with Babesia and Bartonella.”

Dr. Kinderlehrer says the patients he and his colleagues see are “the tip of the iceberg.”

As this nefarious bacterial disease discreetly attacks a patient’s bodily systems, many are unaware of what is happening. Because of the common symptoms associated with the condition, misdiagnosis often occurs. Dr. Kinderlehrer has one patient who went 50 years without a proper diagnosis. However, a patient who comes in and says, for example, “I went to Cape Cod, and now I have a bullseye rash,” should be treated immediately, he said.

It is essential to receive early treatment for Lyme disease, as the illness can lead to serious side effects and related complications. If a person develops undiagnosed chronic symptoms, particularly involving the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, they should get checked for Lyme disease. The International Lyme and Associated Disease Association (ILADS) is a professional organization of physicians who specialize in these infections. They can make referrals to doctors in your area.

The IDSA says that 20-60 percent of people with acute Lyme go on to have chronic symptoms. There is no explanation why some people continue to exhibit symptoms. While hemp and marijuana derivatives are helpful to alleviate the symptoms of Lyme, for now, a course of antibiotics — for as long as necessary — is still the treatment of choice.

The post Cannabis And Its Effect On Lyme Disease appeared first on The Fresh Toast.