Cat Packer, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, is working to transition medical cannabis operators over to California's new commercial framework. Although the state has had medical cannabis for years, it has not been regulated by the city of Los Angeles until this point, so a lot of catch up is required to make sure the industry is unified and regulated. Packer also discusses the risks that still persist when entering the market, as well as the city's steps toward addressing social equity: "The city of Los Angeles passed a social equity program back in 2017 in an attempt to try and acknowledge and address some of the harms of the drug war that particularly low income and minority communities had experienced." Soon, Packer tells us, Los Angeles will have more social equity licensees than anywhere else.
A dietary revolution is happening all over the world, Roxanne Dennant, CEO of Fruit Slabs, points out. From veganism to gluten-free diets, a higher consciousness about quality choices regarding food is certainly taking hold. Despite how widespread this consciousness seems to be, Dennant noticed a lack of health and wellness options being offered in the edible market, which is how Fruit Slabs was born. Dennant notes what makes Fruit Slabs products so special: "Our product is so different than any other edibles because fruits have natural goodness in them. They're locked full of natural terpenes, they're also packed full of other, just good things for you, potassium, melatonin, altriptofan." Dennant also discusses the tricky licensing process back in 2016-2017, the environmental impact of agricultural farming, and what Fruit Slabs has been doing to support veterans and the LGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Cristina Sanchez, a molecular biologist at Compultense University in Madrid, Spain, is working to uncover whether or not cannabinoids are useful tools for fighting cancer -- not just to combat the negative side effects of chemo, but also with actual anti-tumor activity. She notes that, in her and her team's pre-clinical studies with mice, cannabinoids do, indeed, kill cancer cells as well as many other things that block the progression of cancer. Although we don't have studies studying the effects of cannabinoids on cancer in humans, there are many testimonials from patients that claim the use of medical cannabis has, in fact, slowed down their disease. Although anecdotal evidence is not enough on its own to start treating patients with cannabis, Sanchez believes that it is an incredibly useful perspective, especially in conjunction with clinical studies.
Because Washington state's cannabis economy began with such an excess of operators, there is currently a massive consolidation process taking place, according to Alex Cooley, co-founder of Solstice. Because of that excess, there was a number of operators who conducted business poorly, and, as a result, collapsed Washington's market and price point (luckily, the economy has balanced out since then.) Cooley also touches upon the Oregon export bill and believes that legal export will ultimately lead to a better, safer cannabis industry. While limiting licensures may not be the best idea, Cooley suggests a merit-based system: so long as you can meet the standards that are put forward by the state, then you can receive licensure. And I think as more and more these states have come online, we've got a firmer and firmer grasp of what that merit looks like."
Louisa Mojela, the incoming chair for Halo Labs, Inc., joins us from Cape Town, South Africa. Within South Africa is the nation of Lesotho, which is on its way to becoming a global cannabis leader. Mojela explains that, because Lesotho was the first African country to legalize both the cultivation and manufacturing of medical cannabis -- and because cannabis grows freely in Lesotho -- the country has become a very desirable location for many worldwide cannabis operators. Hopefully, this new industry will create many much-needed jobs for the country. In order to create this desired "fourth industrial revolution", as Mojela calls it, "the Kingdom of Lesotho must make sure that it really harnesses and leverages these opportunities for the betterment of the people in Lesotho."
The Berkeley Patients Group is the oldest continually operating dispensary in the country, and has historically been a model for how the industry should operate and what corporate social responsibility should look like. Sabrina Fendrick is the Director of Government Affairs for BPG, which means that she is in charge of the policy side of things. Fendrick notes that between January and July of 2018, the entire supply chain had to be restructured, which was difficult because so many temporary licenses were expiring. Because this is the only industry - and California is the only state - that has four agencies regulating one supply chain, there have been lots of extra challenges and limitations present, especially amidst all the changes that occurred last year. Although 2019 hasn't been completely smooth sailing, the regulatory landscape has certainly improved since 2018.
Being able to quantify, harness, and ultimately control the psychoactive effects of cannabis is key in making cannabis accessible to as many patients as possible, according to Perry Davidson, founder and CEO of Syqe. When Davidson was first founding Syqe, he noticed that a majority of patients were using cannabis to treat their chronic pain, and that inhalation was the most beneficial route of administration. Since that realization, Syqe has been working to perfect their inhalation system and make it controllable enough to be deliverable to a small child. Davidson notes that "a metered dose inhalation system would allow patients and physicians to be comfortable in that treatment paradigm of cannabis." In the end, the Syqe team decided to keep the flower in its full, raw form - no chemical alterations, no extractions.
Jeff Chen, Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, has learned that "the average physician really is, in many ways, powerless to navigate the healthcare system." Because of this, Chen decided that the best way to change the system was to learn the business side of it as well. Chen also notes that, even today, the endocannabinoid system is not being taught in medical school, as it is a very long and difficult process to change med school curricula. Luckily, UCLA is currently doing a rehaul of their med school curriculum, so Chen is hoping that this will provide an opportunity to insert some cannabis content. Chen wants future doctors to understand "some of the patterns and trends around usage and what the regulatory and policy landscape looks like" and hopes for more double-blind placebo-controlled studies in the very near future.
Pavel Pachta joins us to discuss the history and current state of international drug control treaties. Pachta shares that these treaties were drafted in order to prevent drug abuse and addiction - because of that, Pachta believes that there is no sense in controlling a cannabis product that contains no THC. Pachta also believes that it is crucial to abide by international law; failing to do so sets a bad precedent for other nations. Finally, Pachta discusses what the International Narcotic Control system must do to remain credible, and offers his advice to those in business and academic science.