More than half of Canadians support marijuana legalization

More than half of Canadians support marijuana legalization

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More than half of Canadians support marijuana legalization, according to a new survey conducted by NRG Research Group.

The survey polled 1,000 online respondents across Canada between February 23 and 27, 2017.

The results show that one-half (51%) of Canadians are in favour legalizing marijuana in the country. One-third (33%) are in opposition, and 14% were unsure how they felt about the decision.

Support varies among provinces

The survey found that Manitobans (59%) were the most supportive of marijuana legalization out of all of the provinces, followed by British Columbians (57%).

Quebecers (27%) were the most likely to oppose legalization.

The survey also indicated that Canadians back the idea of implementing a specific sales tax on marijuana.

“It appears Canadians have an economic perspective in mind as they consider the issue of legalizing marijuana in the country,” said Andrew Enns, president of NRG Research Group in a release. “A majority (63%) of Canadians support a specific sales tax on marijuana if it were to be legalized.”

Provinces in Western Canada show strong support for this idea with 88% of Saskatchewan residents, 73% of Albertans, and 70% of BC residents backing a weed sales tax.

Public perceptions vary

The survey found that Canadians’ public perceptions about legalizing weed still vary.

Six in ten Canadians (59%) believe decriminalizing the drug would increase use by minors, and 67% said that it would cause an increase of people driving under the influence.

A majority of survey respondents (87%) believe that marijuana sales should be made available to adults only.

Cannabis Culture raids

The survey results come just a week after the arrests of marijuana advocates Marc and Jodie Emery at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for possession and trafficking the drug.

Several Emery-owned Cannabis Culture shops across the country– including the Vancouver headquarters–were also raided by police.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to introduce legislation in spring making recreational marijuana legal but also said it would remain illegal until that bill was passed. In December 2016, the federal government released a report, which outlined recommendations for legalizing the drug.

Source: http://dailyhive.com/calgary/bc-residents-support-marijuana-legalization-survey-march-2017

This weed-infused ice cream takes munchies to the next level

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This weed-infused ice cream takes munchies to the next level

Screen shot 2017 04 06 at 9.25.22 am e1491496003573

If you’ve ever joked that your favourite ice cream is so good it’s like a drug – stop laughing, because it’s actually a thing.

Calgary-based company Remedy Ice Cream Co. is offering marijuana-infused ice cream, made with the finest hand selected natural ingredients for MMPR (Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) patients only.

Remedy Ice Cream is the first small batch medicinal ice cream creamery in Canada, and with 40 years of combined culinary experience, the owners of Remedy assure customers via their Facebook page that the product is of the highest quality.

All containers of this ice cream are 4oz and they contain 80mgs of THC. These guys are making eight glorious flavours of this far out cold treat like Cocoa Menthe (mint chocolate chip), and Oreo Blast, Charlie Brown’s Sweater (Reeses Pieces), Salted Demerara (salted caramel), Endo Vanilla (Madagascar Vanilla Bean), and Smarties.

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Remedy offers the option for customers to request a custom variety and dosage upon on order as well.

When it comes to obtaining nine one of these bad boys, there is a minimum order required:

  • Greater Calgary: 6 containers
  • All of provinces: 10 containers (plus shipping cost)

Wholesale is also available for the ice cream upon inquiry with Remedy Ice Cream. The company offers delivery to the Great Calgary area, but they can also ship Canada-wide using styrofoam boxes and dry ice.

Remedy is also getting started on a line of “Double Down” ice cream sandwiches and frozen dairy treats, you know, for that stoner who’s always on the go. 

Considering more than half of Canadians support marijuana legalization, we think we’ll all probably scream for this kind of ice cream – or at least scream for our medical marijuana card.

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“All Cannabis Use is Medicinal” Whether You Know it Or Not

In two years alone, a lot of change has occurred in the attitude towards marijuana.

The first state to legalize, Colorado, has seen great results and many other states are following in the same direction. Medical marijuana is legalized in 23 states, and many will follow suit. A national poll revealed that a big majority of Americans support its legalization, and for medicinal use. 

Their has been many reports from The Free Thought Project, that shown cannabis can treat many health illnesses. In fact, its reduces the severity, and even eliminates epileptic seizures. It is a nice sight to watch it help a child in need of relief.
Society is becoming aware that the war on marijuana is typically a war against the people by law enforcement. All of it does nothing but extort millions of dollars and restrict freedom. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rakes in big money from the confiscation of cannabis plants. It also gives local law enforcement the right to perform extortion through Civil asset Forfeiture.

Human rights abuses are finally being exploited, and law enforcement is becoming desperate-looking to find justification of their unlawful actions. They know well that their excuses for reefer madness is lacking in logic and reasoning.

Our fight to have marijuana legalized is still going on, and the momentum is building each year. Arguments for its legalization are much more convincing as we are witnessing a deadly heroin epidemic occurring in our country. The arguments are well-rounded, but needs to be re-examined as we head towards legalization. Owner of Halcyon Organics, Daniel Macris, believes “recreational use” isn’t perfect, and hinders efforts for full-on legalization.
“Recreational cannabis use” is the most detrimental phrase our industry faces today. Over half the U.S. population supports “recreational use” of cannabis. Unfortunately, those whose don’t support recreational use, oppose it vitriolically. “Recreational cannabis” is exactly what the opposition is fighting to prevent. The flip side to this is that over 80% of Americans support medical cannabis use and over 85% support freedom in healthcare decisions. All of these statistics are trending upwards.

In the South, “Recreational cannabis use” is a non-starter and a debate that cannot be empirically won. On the other hand, “Medical cannabis use” is a debate we win. And we don’t need to manipulate our messaging to change the debate, we need only to correctly identify ‘medicinal use.’”

The main point to the argument is that there needs to be a better understanding of the endocannabinoid system, which is imperative to many life-supporting functions.

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The National Institute of Health reported in 2006 that:

The recent identification of cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands has triggered an exponential growth of studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and its regulatory functions in health and disease… In the past decade, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs.

More importantly, modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.

There has been a significant increase in studies that are examining the extracts of cannabis and the medicinal uses/effects. They also focus on the endocannabinoid system with modern technology, to show the mechanics behind the medicinal effects of marijuana, and its effect on the system. We are even finding that cannabis was utilized in ancient healing methods and was successful.

There are ways to remove the psychoactive/non-psychoactive components of cannabis we are finding. Cannabidiol (non-psychoactive component in marijuana) is extracted from marijuana and is used to treat epileptic seizures.

With new technology, we can determine which phytocannabinoid has the most benefit against certain diseases, and find out how much is needed for optimal results. Macris has spoke and interviewed with many people who found that cannabis is effective in treating chronic illnesses, than the pharmaceutical drugs they were prescribed. “It makes me relax,” “It helps me sleep,” “It calms me down,” “It helps me think,” “It helps my stomach calm down,” and “It helps me talk to people,” are some ways people have felt cannabis has helped them with.
Pharmaceutical companies specifically target sleep disorders, inflamed bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, ADHD, and social anxiety because they have government approval to do so. “Recreational cannabis users are using cannabis for medical purposes, they just don’t realize it,” says Macris.

When anyone calls themselves a “recreational user,” they should reconsider and go by as a “therapeutic user.” In that, the push for decriminalization would become more effective, because the term “recreational” can mean it will be abused like alcohol and other drugs. Our government will always keep that distinction, even when they choose to tax “recreational” use more than it does for medicinal usage. With all of our support gaining, it won’t diminish under the push for medical use.

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All Cannabis Use Is Medicinal

In two years alone, a lot of change has occurred in the attitude towards marijuana.
The first state to legalize, Colorado, has seen great results and many other states are following in the same direction. Medical marijuana is legalized in 23 states, and many will follow suit. A national poll revealed that a big majority of Americans support its legalization, and for medicinal use.

Their has been many reports from The Free Thought Project, that shown cannabis can treat many health illnesses. In fact, its reduces the severity, and even eliminates epileptic seizures. It is a nice sight to watch it help a child in need of relief.
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Society is becoming aware that the war on marijuana is typically a war against the people by law enforcement. All of it does nothing but extort millions of dollars and restrict freedom. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rakes in big money from the confiscation of cannabis plants. It also gives local law enforcement the right to perform extortion through Civil asset Forfeiture.

Human rights abuses are finally being exploited, and law enforcement is becoming desperate-looking to find justification of their unlawful actions. They know well that their excuses for reefer madness is lacking in logic and reasoning.

Our fight to have marijuana legalized is still going on, and the momentum is building each year. Arguments for its legalization are much more convincing as we are witnessing a deadly heroin epidemic occurring in our country. The arguments are well-rounded, but needs to be re-examined as we head towards legalization. Owner of Halcyon Organics, Daniel Macris, believes “recreational use” isn’t perfect, and hinders efforts for full-on legalization.

“Recreational cannabis use” is the most detrimental phrase our industry faces today. Over half the U.S. population supports “recreational use” of cannabis. Unfortunately, those whose don’t support recreational use, oppose it vitriolically. “Recreational cannabis” is exactly what the opposition is fighting to prevent. The flip side to this is that over 80% of Americans support medical cannabis use and over 85% support freedom in healthcare decisions. All of these statistics are trending upwards.

In the South, “Recreational cannabis use” is a non-starter and a debate that cannot be empirically won. On the other hand, “Medical cannabis use” is a debate we win. And we don’t need to manipulate our messaging to change the debate, we need only to correctly identify ‘medicinal use.’”

The main point to the argument is that there needs to be a better understanding of the endocannabinoid system, which is imperative to many life-supporting functions.

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Ads.

Please go to the plugin admin page to set up your ad code.

The National Institute of Health reported in 2006 that:

The recent identification of cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands has triggered an exponential growth of studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and its regulatory functions in health and disease… In the past decade, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs.
More importantly, modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.

There has been a significant increase in studies that are examining the extracts of cannabis and the medicinal uses/effects. They also focus on the endocannabinoid system with modern technology, to show the mechanics behind the medicinal effects of marijuana, and its effect on the system. We are even finding that cannabis was utilized in ancient healing methods and was successful.

There are ways to remove the psychoactive/non-psychoactive components of cannabis we are finding. Cannabidiol (non-psychoactive component in marijuana) is extracted from marijuana and is used to treat epileptic seizures.

With new technology, we can determine which phytocannabinoid has the most benefit against certain diseases, and find out how much is needed for optimal results. Macris has spoke and interviewed with many people who found that cannabis is effective in treating chronic illnesses, than the pharmaceutical drugs they were prescribed. “It makes me relax,” “It helps me sleep,” “It calms me down,” “It helps me think,” “It helps my stomach calm down,” and “It helps me talk to people,” are some ways people have felt cannabis has helped them with.

Pharmaceutical companies specifically target sleep disorders, inflamed bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, ADHD, and social anxiety because they have government approval to do so. “Recreational cannabis users are using cannabis for medical purposes, they just don’t realize it,” says Macris.

When anyone calls themselves a “recreational user,” they should reconsider and go by as a “therapeutic user.” In that, the push for decriminalization would become more effective, because the term “recreational” can mean it will be abused like alcohol and other drugs. Our government will always keep that distinction, even when they choose to tax “recreational” use more than it does for medicinal usage. With all of our support gaining, it won’t diminish under the push for medical use.

Something to keep an eye on once Canada legalizes marijuana.

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Grow Weed In Your Own Fridge | HuffPost Weird News

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Something to keep an eye on once Canada legalizes marijuana.Not interested in weed? Stick around till the end to see what else this fridge can really do.

Posted by HuffPost Canada on Thursday, 6 April 2017

 

Source: https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/videos/437397683271051/?autoplay_reason=all_page_organic_allowed&video_container_type=0&video_creator_product_type=0&app_id=273465416184080&live_video_guests=0

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Does marijuana affect women differently than men?

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Does marijuana affect women differently than men?

Here’s what research says about the relationship between cannabis and fertility, mental health and more.

Marijuana health facts: how weed affects women.

Image, Tanjila Ahmed/Flickr.

First, there was the news that Ontario’s LCBO stores could stock marijuana once the federal government makes good on its plans to legalize the substance. Now Shoppers Drug Mart wants a slice of the pie: it’s exploring the possibility of selling medicinal marijuana at its pharmacies (and is billing its stores as the “safest” place to buy the stuff). And a Canadian federal court’s decision Wednesday to let private citizens grow their own marked yet another shift toward our increasingly liberalized view of pot.

But just because cannabis use is becoming more mainstream, people shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that marijuana is still a psychoactive drug, says Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto. And any substance use comes with risks to your health.

Despite the work that’s been done on marijuana’s effects on the body, there are few studies to date that specifically examine marijuana and women’s health, and researchers are just starting to look at how cannabis impacts men and women differently. Here’s a sample of what the research says so far:

Its impact on fertility and pregnancy
“There is [evidence] that there may be risks for reproductive systems,” Fischer says. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that women should be discouraged from using marijuana during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. It notes that while there are limitations to the research done so far, there are worrisome trends that suggest a risk to fetal development. Some studies have linked marijuana use to lower birth weight, and mild developmental abnormalities (including vision problems shortly after birth and a noted increase in seizure-like symptoms. Those studies, however, did not determine causation.) And while there are still questions surrounding the direct impact of marijuana use on fertility, some studies suggest that chronic use can lead to reduced sperm count, ejaculation problems and impotence in men.

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The effect on the body
Studies have found women who use marijuana report “significantly” more dizziness after smoking up, have greater changes in blood circulation and seem to have more visual-spatial impairment whilst high. A 2010 review in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests this may have to do with differences in muscle mass and fat tissue distribution between men and women.

Marijuana and your mood
The same review found women are more likely to use marijuana to ease anxiety. But one Australian study, which followed 1,601 students, found those who used marijuana at least once a week when they were 14 or 15 years old were twice as likely to develop depression seven years later. Young women who smoked pot daily were five times as likely as non-pot smokers to develop depression in that same period of time. A 2013 Columbia study found women who had a cannabis use disorder were more likely to suffer anxiety and depression and were at a greater risk of “externalizing disorders” or acting out. Dr. Fischer cautions, however, that we shouldn’t make the leap to thinking marijuana use leads to anxiety or depression. “A lot of people with depression self-medicate with marijuana rather than the marijuana causing depression.”

Does marijuana affect women differently than men?

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The pinking of pot: Canada’s weed revolution, for women by women

The pinking of pot: Canada’s weed revolution, for women by women

Cannabis-infused moisturizers, teas and toast toppers? Welcome to the new face of marijuana users and distributors.

Photo, Erik Putz.

On Sunday afternoons at Queens of Cannabis, a pretty, new fuchsia and white dispensary in Toronto, a dozen or so women in their mid-30s to 60s gather for High Tea. They choose from locally farmed, organic fair trade tinctures — green tea, ginger, ginseng — and snack on homemade lemon drop and peanut butter cookies, all vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and infused with weed. The ladies, who are medical users, commiserate about the ailments that brought them in, whether they be anxiety, insomnia or fibromyalgia. After, they might stay for a joint-rolling workshop or for a hot-stone massage enhanced with cannabis massage oil, or they might sign up for ganja yoga (toking and posing classes held at a nearby park).

The proprietors, Tania Cyalume, 37, and Brandy Zurborg, 34, both became medical smokers after accidents left them injured and suffering from chronic pain. Their hope in opening the shop was not only to help their clients feel better but to overhaul the public perception of weed in Canada. Cannabis culture has long been created by and for the Seth Rogens of the world. It’s a not-quite-legal niche of seedy head shops manned by bleary-eyed dudes, stocked with psychedelic bongs and branded with pot leaves wearing Rasta hats. Stoner movies star bro-friends, like the Trailer Park Boys, Cheech and Chong, and Harold and Kumar jonesing for White Castle. One female smoker I spoke to affectionately calls this the “dirty pothead” scene, and it is about as appealing to adult women as a frat house at 4:20 p.m.

Pop culture has gone some way to balancing the stoner stereotype. Rihanna and Miley Cyrus raise their spliffs like defiant middle fingers, but they’re twentysomethings without traditional day jobs or kids. Women like the ones at High Tea have had few cultural touch points; plus, Cyalume tells me, “they’re afraid they’ll be seen as bad moms or that child services will get involved, and we want them to know this is a welcoming place for them.” Zurborg chimes in, “There’s still a lot of stigma for women.”

This stigma is fading fast. A 2014 poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal asked 1,000 people in the U.S. which substance they think is worse for a person’s overall health — tobacco, alcohol, sugar or pot — and most respondents chose alcohol, tobacco and even sugar ahead of marijuana. And a 2015 Forum Research survey found that 59 percent of Canadians support legalization. Sensing this shift in attitude, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party ran last fall, in part, on a platform to legalize marijuana’s recreational use by spring 2017, with Trudeau arguing it’s no worse than tobacco or alcohol. Experts have long debated that claim, and researchers are quickly settling the argument: A 2015 study published in Scientific Reports confirmed pot is far less likely to kill you than the other two substances; alcohol is 114 times riskier than weed. Which isn’t to say that cannabis is the new kale. If there were TV commercials for pot (and there may be soon), the voice-over would rattle off possible side effects — cognitive impairment, mood disorders, psychological dependence — as with any other drug. But the authors of the study concluded that regulation makes more sense than prohibition.

The only legal way to buy weed in this country is to mail-order it from one of 31 licensed producers, provided you have a prescription from your doctor and a licence from Health Canada. But Trudeau’s promise sparked an explosion of illegal storefront dispensaries across the country. There are an estimated 350 in Canada, and Toronto alone has over 100, scores more than it did a year ago. Some strictly require patrons to show their licence; others only need you to bring in a prescription for painkillers, antidepressants or a similar medication; and others arrange for you to Skype with a doctor who can write a prescription on the spot. Many of these dispensaries are as dodgy as you’d expect (you’d be forgiven for griping about them lowering your house’s value if you lived nearby) and are likely to fold before legalization. But the savvy ones, like Queens, understand that appealing to 30-plus women is the surest path to legitimizing the business and normalizing cannabis within the broader culture.

These new buyers are more health- and image-conscious than men. They don’t want to damage their lungs, reek like a high school hotbox or face their kids’ teachers, let alone their bosses, with red eyes.

Health Canada’s most recent numbers on women and weed date back to 2013, when 7 percent (around one million females) admitted to smoking in the past year — though that number is likely low, given many women don’t confess. The U.S., where cannabis use has doubled among adults in the last decade — and even quadrupled in segments of the boomer population — offers more detailed data: A 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 40 percent of cannabis users are women. That’s around 13 million females, the vast majority of whom are over the age of 26 and have some college education or a degree.

These new buyers are more health- and image-conscious than men. They don’t want to damage their lungs, reek like a high school hotbox or face their kids’ teachers, let alone their bosses, with red eyes. “Women tend to look for the cleanest mode of extraction,” says Zurborg, “so they prefer vape pens, edibles [cookies, lollipops, etc.] and topical creams [infused lotions that can help soothe joint pain]. They’re the ones who care if their cannabis is fair trade and organic.” “Guys just want to know what will get them messed up,” adds Cyalume.

They’re also more aesthetically appreciative, according to Alan Gertner, a former Google strategist who launched what he hopes will become an international cannabis-based lifestyle brand called Tokyo Smoke. His shop, a vintage-y, hip nook amid Toronto’s downtown condos, is aimed squarely at the area’s moneyed denizens. Gertner doesn’t sell pot, though he plans to partner with a licensed producer to grow organic, house-branded stuff once it’s legal. He’ll add it to his fastidiously curated collection of espresso, cold-pressed juices, dress shirts, $60 candles and artisan-crafted bud grinders, vaporizers and other paraphernalia for those who like to smoke out of objets d’art. He tells me that he’d heard stories of couples going to traditional head shops and the women waiting in the car because they were embarrassed to go in. “Men are less used to great retail,” he says, “and as this market evolves, there need to be beautiful places to engage [women] in cannabis culture.” The Saturday afternoon crowd in his boutique — hand-holding couples, curious post-brunchers, tethered French bulldogs — suggests he’s right.

Find product information at the end of the piece. Photo, Erik Putz.

Vancouver, already a couple of years into its own pot revolution, has recognized this need, too. Kitsilano, the birthplace of Lululemon and home to some of the priciest real estate in the country, now has at least 11 dispensaries. The toniest of the bunch, Buddha Barn, is owned and run by women who just launched a line of anti-aging skincare (cannabis is rich in antioxidants and fights inflammation). They also run a Pinterest-worthy recipe blog, showing readers how to infuse everything from peach cobbler to tacos with marijuana.

These small businesses are just the first step toward the gentrification of weed. Gertner believes cannabis will be to Canada what champagne is to France, given our position as a world leader in legalization and potential for growing. That claim sounds grandiose, but consider that Galen Weston Jr., president of Loblaw grocery stores and Shoppers Drug Mart, recently announced he plans to sell pot at both his mega-chains. What was once a grimy subculture and underground economy is now poised to become a massive mainstream industry that Canadian market analysts estimate will see annual revenues of $5 billion come legalization.

Such vast economic potential is the basis of Women Grow, an organization dedicated to re-branding the weed industry as female-friendly, so women see it as both a legitimate and lucrative career option and a culture to which they can belong. The group’s co-founder, Jazmin Hupp, was born in Victoria and raised by hippie-era pot activists. Since she started Women Grow in 2014, both Forbes and Fortune have deemed her a cannabis visionary, and membership has expanded to 45 North American chapters, including ones on Vancouver Island, in Edmonton and in Toronto. Members can meditate and paddleboard with other cannabis-loving ladies on wellness weekends and attend monthly networking events.

I went to a recent mingler in Toronto. The conference room, which was notably free of garish green pot-leaf logos, was filled with women ranging in age from 25 to 60, most of them dressed in business-casual attire , which is encouraged by the organization to professionalize meetings. Some were just cannabis curious, while others work in the industry, baking edibles, making topical rubs or running their own dispensaries. They gathered to see Hupp deliver a TED Talk–style presentation about the female-driven future of the plant. Pacing the room in floral silk pants and a leather blazer, she explained that women will soon be the primary consumers across all three of pot’s major marketable categories: medicine, wellness and recreation.

“You’re going to be going through the mothers of this country to have cannabis in your households

Women make 80 percent of the health care decisions in Canadian families and account for the majority of spending on over-the-counter drugs, so, she reasons, “you’re going to be going through the mothers of this country to have cannabis in your households.” We also dominate spending on wellness — yoga, essential oils, herbal supplements that enhance our moods or help us lose weight. “Ladies, look for strains high in CBN” — a compound in cannabis that supposedly counteracts munchies-making THC — “and see if they also help you suppress your appetite,” she says as audience members immediately scratch “CBN” in their notebooks. Hupp rounded out her argument with the ineluctable fact that we’re all just desperate to relax without damaging our livers or downing a bottle’s worth of pinot grigio calories. And, if we become the primary consumers, she asks, why can’t we also be the primary growers, marketers, start-up founders and, eventually, the CEOs who cash in?

You can already glimpse this emerging market in California, a bastion of legal pot production, where Whoopi Goldberg just released a line of body balms, bath salts and even a chocolate spread for toast (it soothes PMS and chocolate cravings at the same time, boasts Goldberg’s website) and Melissa Etheridge sells ganja-infused private-reserve wines, each bottle autographed by the singer. Soon our kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets may carry the skunky whiff of weed.

Many members of Women Grow made the leap from toker to entrepreneur. Some had suffered injuries or chronic ailments, like scoliosis and endometriosis, and reported opioid side effects that drove them to seek alternative pain management. They’ve become evangelists for the normalization movement and view their role as educators and caregivers of other women, rather than dealers. Christa Schadt, an artist from Salt Spring Island, for example, found post-menopausal sex painful due to a drop in estrogen that left her with vaginal dryness. She started making her own cannabis lubricant that relieves the pain and enhances sensation. She just won a marijuana trade show award for best sex topical, and she is planning to up production, offering the Frankies and Graces of Canada new leases on their sex lives.

More commonly, though, women talked about anxiety and neuroses, whether professionally identified or self-diagnosed, and the need to slow down at the end of a stressful day. An elementary school French teacher learning how to bake edibles told me she’d brought her anti-anxiety and sleeping pills to a Kensington Market dispensary in Toronto, where they gave her a couple of sativa-indica blends to try for a clear-headed daytime calm and straight-up indica for nighttime, when she needs sleep. (The kids in her Catholic school are learning to say no to drugs right now, and she had to bite her tongue when one told her that people who smoke pot go crazy.)

Few women admitted to pure recreational use. Lisa Campbell, who works in marketing by day and runs the Toronto chapter of Women Grow in her spare time, tells me this is because, historically, medical use was the only context in which women could talk about pot without drawing judgment — or child care authorities to their homes. She’s an unabashed good-time toker and is excited about the prospect of broadening the conversation. “It’s just as relaxing as having a glass of wine at the end of a workday, and no Canadian should feel ashamed about enjoying that,” she says.

This is the ethos behind Vapor Central, a Toronto lounge where the public is free to smoke or use the provided $600 Volcano vaporizers (the “Cadillac” of vapes, according to review websites), so long as they’re over 18 and bring their own supply. On a Tuesday after work, the hazy room is filled with slow-blinking dudes reclined in faux-leather sofas or playing board games, while a table of thirtysomething women in sundresses roll their own pin-perfect joints. The manager, Kayla Baptiste, and the place’s long-time “ hemployee, ” Sarah Hanlon, both old school stoners, tell me they see plenty of females who drop in to smoke. “Even a year ago, before Trudeau, the split in here was 80 percent men, 20 percent women,” says Hanlon. “Now it’s more like 60:40. The other day, there were two guys and 20 women, which would never have happened before. Now we can play ‘Lemonade’ [by Beyoncé] on the stereo and, I mean, look at the TVs right now,” she says, gesturing to the big screens around the room. “We’re watching The Breakfast Club! Things are definitely changing.”

In a couple of years, Hanlon hopes, Canada’s pot culture will parallel the one we have for drinking: slick vape lounges for Bay Street suits and neighbourhood watering holes for couples with sitters. She even hopes that there will be dive bars for the dirty potheads to fly their freak flags. On the medical side, rheumatologist Dr. Carolina Landolt, who recently opened a clinic to help patients manage chronic pain with cannabis, is optimistic about pharmacists doling out the drug. Right now, she says, many doctors support their patients using cannabis but may not have enough expertise to prescribe it. Both patients and dispensary owners are working on a trial and error basis that, while more sophisticated than dime bag deals, needs to be grounded in formal training.

Until then, the country’s illegal pot trade is stuck in limbo. In late May, Toronto mayor John Tory called for city-wide raids on dispensaries as a temporary measure to curb their proliferation and prevent them from setting up near schools. He thinks the city can look to Vancouver and Victoria, where more rules are in place, as models. In the meantime, 257 charges were laid against 90 people.

This kind of upheaval is old hat to Hupp, who lives in northern California and works with start-ups in Colorado, where recreational use is legal. During her talk, she reassured the crowd that they can weather the current chaos: “How you operate today may not exist in six months. In Colorado, for example, the regulations changed every six months, so nobody could do their packaging, nobody could decide what their product would be, but the women who came together in great diverse teams kicked ass [during that time] because who else is used to taking a lot of crap and rules from society — rules that we have to follow arbitrarily and aren’t exactly fair and that we didn’t make up — but women?” Three weeks after the raids, Queens of Cannabis is open, and High Tea is still on.

The pinking of pot: Canada’s weed revolution, for women by women

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What’s in your weed?

Investigation

What’s in your weed?

Ottawa says it’s dangerous. Dispensaries say it’s safe. The Globe subjected unregulated weed to a battery of tests to find the truth. The results cast doubt not only on some of the product, but on Ottawa’s handling of legalization itself

Inside a sterile facility, the lab technician holds up a petri dish to show the intricate pattern of bacteria that are quickly multiplying.

“Looks like something is already growing,” she says, surprised by how much has amassed in less than a day and a half.

In any other context, the dish would be a sight to behold, with an attractive swirl of shapes that resembles an oil painting. But the bacteria growing inside are Citrobacter freundii, a human pathogen that can lead to serious infections, particularly in the elderly and weak.

The bacteria, along with high levels of yeast and mould, were discovered in marijuana purchased recently from a cannabis dispensary in Toronto. In the span of a day, The Globe and Mail purchased several hundred grams of dried cannabis from nine dispensaries across the city, most of it marketed as medicinal. We then tested the products for harmful contaminants – chemicals, moulds, bacteria – in a federally certified laboratory, using the same guidelines prescribed by Health Canada for licensed marijuana growers and retailers.

Of the nine samples The Globe tested, one-third of them would not pass the safety standards set out by Health Canada for the regulated medical marijuana industry. Three samples tested positive for bacteria, in numbers that exceeded federal standards, and one of those also tested positive for potentially harmful mould. Six samples would have been deemed safe to consume by the federal government’s standards for medical marijuana.

Strictly speaking, the acquisition and testing of this marijuana is illegal. Though consumers can now obtain dispensary cannabis easily, from stores that operate in plain sight, Health Canada does not consider dispensary cannabis legal. Federally licensed laboratories, the facilities best equipped with the equipment and expertise to examine these products for safety on behalf of public health, are not supposed to test marijuana for the public.

As such, we cannot name the facility, and we cannot disclose its location, for fear that the federal government would sanction the lab and revoke its licence, despite performing a valuable public service.

While microbiologists who subsequently analyzed The Globe’s results have mixed opinions on what the risks are from the samples that failed – some say the products would likely be safe to consume, while others warn they could cause health problems – the test results, and the lengths The Globe had to go to get them, point to a serious lack of oversight of the burgeoning industry, which operates under a Wild West mentality where the provenance and efficacy of the product is unknown.

The tests raise doubt about the two main narratives put forward in the contentious debate over dispensaries that has erupted this year: the government’s blanket assertion that virtually all dispensary product is unsafe and dangerous to the public does not bear out; nor does the dispensaries’ overarching claim that their product is of unimpeachable quality, free of contaminant problems and in no need of federal oversight.

Throughout the course of The Globe’s investigation, conducted over the past three months, a portrait of a perverse marketplace emerged – one in which the public and dispensaries are forbidden from legally testing cannabis for safety, leaving consumers exposed. Sources told The Globe that Health Canada has actively discouraged accredited labs from testing for the public and dispensaries.

Even when informed of the problems with their products, dispensaries would not say where their cannabis comes from.

More troubling, there is evidence Canada is using debatable testing methods, and may not be looking for the most dangerous contaminants, such as several controlled pesticides, creating a substantial gap in our current regimen.

Over all, the lack of oversight shows the government has allowed this to happen, even as the industry is essentially selling openly.

In a matter of months, dispensaries have become the country’s largest neighbourhood drug dealers, flourishing in a regulatory vacuum created by the federal government’s decision to legalize marijuana.

The Liberals’ decision to soon legalize the drug, yet not oversee this so-called unregulated side of the business, has turned the black market to grey, leaving cities virtually powerless to stop dispensaries from springing up and the police reluctant to shut them down, apart from sporadic crackdowns based on municipal zoning laws.

Though hardly exhaustive, these tests are the first independent examination of dispensary cannabis in Canada that has been made available to the public.



The product was obtained with minimal paperwork. The dispensaries were not informed their products were being tested, and the samples were collected under guidelines set by the lab, which reporters were in regular contact with throughout the procurement phase.

The tests were conducted blind: Each sample was sent to the lab with no identifying information, other than a numbering system and the name of the strain, so that the specimens could be screened without the lab technicians knowing where they came from.

FAILED TESTS

The one-page form at WeeMedical dispensary said what was being purchased was medicine.

Inside the store, on Queen Street West, which operates from a dimly lit basement, customers are asked to fill out a document before they buy. The top half of the page asks for the person’s name, address and telephone number. The bottom half is to be filled out by a doctor. That part can just be left blank, the clerk informs customers.

Dispensaries run the gamut in terms of aesthetics. Some, like Toronto’s 416 THC on Dundas Street West, have a brightly lit, clinical feel, with a design that looks borrowed from the Apple Store. Others appear more hastily assembled, such as WeeMedical, which does a bustling business.

WeeMedical’s product was one of three samples tested by The Globe that failed to meet Health Canada standards for federally regulated medical marijuana.

To properly test marijuana, a substantial amount is needed by the lab. A minimum 42 grams (an ounce and a half) of each sample must be procured for the full battery of tests, screening for contaminants such as yeast and mould, bacteria, pesticides, heavy metals and aflatoxins.

On the day The Globe visited WeeMedical, the lineup was six or seven people deep. When the jars of cannabis on the counter ran dry, new bags of dried flower were unloaded from a black suitcase that sat open on the floor.

A staff member behind the counter used a beer pitcher to weigh the chosen strain. The cannabis was then placed into a used Ziploc, and the strain was written in black felt-tip pen on the bag, crossing out the name of whatever it held before.

Dispensaries give their cannabis to customers in sealed bags that range from freezer bags to resealable foil sachets. After leaving the store, The Globe immediately sealed those bags inside a larger Ziploc bag. The product was never opened nor handled before it was shipped to the lab.

Click for more details:

6.WeeMedical Dispensary

553 Queen St W.
Toronto, ON
Love PotionDried bud
14.985%THC
Details» FAIL

Reason for fail:

  • Total aerobic plate count, a snapshot of bacteria, yeasts and moulds growing in the product, of 570,000 cfu/g exceeded Health Canada’s limit of 500,000 cfu/g (colony-forming units per gram).
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, an indicator of potentially harmful bacteria, exceeded the allowable limit of 10,000 cfu/g.
  • Bacteria identified:
    1. Enterobacter cloacae: This bacteria is found on plant material as well as in water, sewage, soil, and inside the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. It is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause infections in people with compromised immune systems, though cases are not common.
  • This dispensary product would not be permitted for sale if it was held to the same Health Canada standards as medical marijuana from licensed producers.

Cannabidiol (CBD) content:

  • The sample had an undetectable amount of CBD, the therapeutic, non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Sample was tested for:

  • Yeast and mould count
  • Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury
  • Total aerobic plate count (a measure of total bacteria)
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria (which can include fecal coliforms and other pathogens)
  • E.coli
  • Salmonella
  • Pesticides
  • Aflatoxins
  • THC and CBD content

When the lab tested the WeeMedical sample, the results showed two areas of concern: The sample – a strain called Love Potion that is used by patients to alleviate stress or fatigue – displayed a total aerobic plate count (APC) that exceeded Health Canada limits by nearly 15 per cent. APC is used to gauge the cleanliness of the sample, though microbiologists see it as an imperfect test. While it provides a total count of micro-organisms in a sample, it doesn’t necessarily distinguish if they are harmful or not. Some foods such as raw leafy vegetables and dairy products can carry high APC numbers, for example, without being problematic. In the case of a processed good, such as cannabis, which is dried, an APC test can denote whether good manufacturing practices were used. A high count is concerning. One that exceeds the limit is a red flag.

The WeeMedical sample tested at 570,000 colony-forming units a gram (cfu/g), surpassing the maximum allowable limit for APC of 500,000. Possibly more concerning, though, was the presence of high numbers of bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, a type of micro-organism that can include fecal bacteria that cause infections. That test is also imperfect, since it only gives a snapshot of potential illness causing bacteria, but doesn’t necessarily tell you how serious they are, or which particular micro-organism was found.

When isolated in a petri dish at the lab, the bacteria appeared to resemble E. coli at first. However, a subsequent identification test revealed it to be Enterobacter cloacae, a pathogen found in plant material that can cause infections, particularly in those with compromised immune systems.

The operators of WeeMedical did not respond to a request to be interviewed on the results.

The second sample tested that did not meet federal health standards was purchased at Toronto Cannabis Dispensary (TCD) in Kensington Market, which bills itself as the city’s “top medical marijuana resource.” Unlike many dispensaries, the store posts testing data on its website assuring customers that the products have been screened for purity and efficacy.

Click for more details:

2.Toronto Cannabis Dispensary

66 Nassau St.
Toronto, ON
CheeseDried bud
20.392%THC
Details» FAIL

Reason for fail:

  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, an indicator of potentially harmful bacteria, exceeded the allowable limit of 10,000 cfu/g (colony-forming units per gram).
  • Two bacteria were identified:
    1. Escherichia hermannii: This bacteria is a pathogen that has been found in infected wounds. It is rare, but could cause problems for patients with compromised immune systems.
    2. Staphylococcus epidermidis: This bacteria is found naturally on skin, and is not considered a human pathogen.
  • This dispensary product would not be permitted for sale if it was held to the same Health Canada standards as medical marijuana from licensed producers.

Cannabidiol (CBD) content:

  • The sample had an undetectable amount of CBD, the therapeutic, non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Sample was tested for:

  • Yeast and mould count
  • Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury
  • Total aerobic plate count (a measure of total bacteria)
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria (which can include fecal coliforms and other pathogens)
  • E.coli
  • Salmonella
  • Pesticides
  • Aflatoxins
  • THC and CBD content

The TCD sample, which came in a sealed bag identifying the product as medicine, breached health standards by exceeding the limit for bacteria. It contained high levels of two species: Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Escherichia hermannii.

Staphylococcus epidermidis is a harmless bacteria commonly found on skin, often associated with acne. While that may sound unpleasant, it poses no immediate health threat. Escherichia hermannii, however, is a known human pathogen sometimes found in infected wounds, which is also a fecal coliform found in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. But cases of infection are considered rare. In patients with weak immune systems, or where another infection is already present, the bacteria could present problems.

When informed of the results, TCD manager Luke Roberts was surprised. He said the store would have pulled the product had it known there was a potential quality issue.

“One-hundred per cent, it would come right off the shelves,” he said. “If something comes in and it’s not up to par with what we’ve been getting, we just won’t put it on the shelf.” Like most dispensaries, Mr. Roberts wouldn’t identify his suppliers, saying only that they came from the previous regulatory regime, back when the federal government used to issue licences to approved patients to grow their own supply. Because dispensaries won’t identify their growers, there is no way for the consumer to hold a supplier accountable if something ever goes wrong.

The third sample to fail federal health standards was a strain called Durban Poison, purchased from Cannabis Culture on Queen Street West, a dispensary that scored poorly on three tests.

Unlike other dispensaries, which purport to sell cannabis solely for medicinal purposes, Cannabis Culture is upfront about its intention to sell to anyone over 19, healthy or sick. On the day a Globe reporter visited, a half-eaten barbecue chicken in tinfoil and plate of chicken sat atop the counter where clerks weighed and packaged the marijuana. Staff did not wear gloves when handling the product, nor could they answer questions about where it came from, with one employee insisting it was harvested by growers for “the government” – which is not plausible under the current regulations.

Click for more details:

7.Cannabis Culture

801 Queen St W.
Toronto, ON
Durban PoisonDried bud
19.517%THC
Details» FAIL

Reason for fail:

  • Total yeasts and moulds were 440,000 cfu/g (colony-forming units per gram), which is above the acceptable limit of 50,000 cfu/g set by Health Canada.
  • Total Aerobic Plate Count, a snapshot of bacteria, yeasts and moulds growing in the product, of 560,000 cfu/g exceeded Health Canada’s limit of 500,000 cfu/g.
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, an indicator of potentially harmful bacteria, exceeded the allowable limit of 10,000 cfu/g.
  • Bacteria identified:
    1. Citrobacter freundii: This bacteria, found in soil, is a pathogen that can cause problems such as urinary tract infections, blood-stream infections and pneumonia. Cases of adult infections have been reported, but are rare. It is more commonly a cause of infections in infants.
  • This dispensary product would not be permitted for sale if it was held to the same Health Canada standards as medical marijuana from licensed producers.

Cannabidiol (CBD) content:

  • The sample had an undetectable amount of CBD, the therapeutic, non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Sample was tested for:

  • Yeast and mould count
  • Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury
  • Total aerobic plate count (a measure of total bacteria)
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria (which can include fecal coliforms and other pathogens)
  • E.coli
  • Salmonella
  • Pesticides
  • Aflatoxins
  • THC and CBD content

The sample tested positive for bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria exceeding Health Canada’s allowable limit. The total aerobic plate count for the sample was 560,000 cfu/g, 12 per cent over the 500,000 limit. And one strain of potentially problematic bacteria was identified in elevated numbers – it was the sample that contained the pathogen Citrobacter freundii, a fecal coliform that produced the picturesque swirls when grown in a petri dish at the lab.

The Cannabis Culture sample was also the only one to exceed Health Canada’s limit for total yeasts and moulds. The sample contained 440,000 cfu/g, which far exceeded the allowable limit of 50,000 cfu/g.

Yeasts and moulds are present in marijuana when the product is improperly dried or processed, and can cause a variety of illnesses in users, such as lung infections, particularly those with compromised immune systems.

Jodie Emery, who operates the Cannabis Culture store along with her husband, marijuana-legalization crusader Marc Emery, said the store does visual tests for mould, and staff sample the product to see if it burns cleanly. Beyond that, further testing isn’t done. In general, Ms. Emery said she does not consider cannabis any more harmful than buying vegetables at a farmer’s market, where bacteria and pesticides could be present. She disagrees that dispensaries need federal oversight on quality control.

However, Ms. Emery said she would have removed the cannabis in question from her store immediately if she knew it contained yeast and mould at such levels, as well as the bacteria in question.

“If I had that test result available to me in advance, I would not put that product on the shelf,” Ms. Emery said.

Of the three dispensary samples tested by The Globe that did not meet federal standards, it is difficult to gauge the exact level of risk their contaminants pose to the public. The Globe polled 10 microbiologists and experts in contaminants from across North America, and opinions were mixed.

Most microbiologists agreed that the presence of mould, particularly the commonly found aspergillus species, is a serious concern because it can lead to debilitating lung problems. However, several argued that the bacteria found were not necessarily cause for panic, even if they were unappealing.

Some argued the bacteria found would likely be harmless to people with healthy immune systems, and would probably present no ill effects. Others suggested that contact with the bacteria, through handling the product, inhaling it or ingesting it, could lead to cases of fever or food-poisoning symptoms that the user would likely associate with something they ate, rather than the cannabis.

Some microbiologists said heat generated from smoking the cannabis would kill harmful micro-organisms, while others suggested heat isn’t enough to completely sterilize the product, and the person can still intake bacteria from the unheated portions of the cannabis.

The test results “do indicate that this stuff is kind of generally dirty and has too many micro-organisms on it,” said Mowgli Holmes, chief scientific officer at Phylos Bioscience in Portland, Ore., and a board member at the Cannabis Safety Institute, which works with researchers at Duke University and Harvard Medical School, among others. “It indicates poor handling, poor processing, poor practices, but if I had some and wanted to get high, I would smoke it and nothing bad would happen to me.”

Benjamin Weeks, a microbiologist at Adelphi University in New York, disagrees.

“This is a list of bad things to put near your mouth,” he said of the bacteria found in The Globe tests. “Exposure to some of this stuff will give you a very close relationship with your toilet bowl.”

The effects of such contaminants can be difficult to predict, since a healthy person can fight them off and never know there was an issue. Melanie Eldridge, a microbiologist at the University of New Haven, said the results weren’t alarming. “I wouldn’t say there is much risk of infection … except potentially in an immunocompromised individual,” Ms. Eldridge said.

Jessica Kristof, a microbiologist who works with Mr. Holmes at Phylos in Portland, said bacteria such as salmonella are the most worrisome to find in test results, for example, but added the amount of micro-organisms that showed up in the dispensary product were a concern. “They shouldn’t be at those cell counts in the first place, even if they are not as bad as you think they are,” Ms. Kristof said. “That shouldn’t happen for the safety of the consumer.”

A VACUUM

Regardless of the debate among scientists over the urgency of the health risks, the three products that failed the tests would not be permitted for sale under Health Canada’s standards for regulated medical marijuana.

The dispensary community, in arguing for the right to sell cannabis ahead of legalization, often points out that Health Canada’s licensed medical marijuana producers have been subject to several recalls of their own product since that market was set up in 2014, which shows the regulated industry isn’t perfect.

This is true, though the number of recalls is small compared with the tens of thousands of shipments made by the 31 licensed medical cannabis growers in that time.

Since the medical producers began operating under government oversight, there have been three product recalls involving failed tests for mould or bacteria by the licensed producers, and one for incorrect labelling of THC, the psychoactive drug in cannabis that intoxicates the user.

In May, 2014, Ontario-based Peace Naturals Project Inc. recalled product because of “positive bacterial testing outside of acceptable limits,” according to a Health Canada statement. In August that year, Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp. recalled a batch that tested positive for mould above the allowable limit. And in February, 2015, Peace Naturals recalled a strain that tested at 13 per cent THC, but was advertised at 9 per cent.

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In March of this year, Tilray recalled three products because of an elevated level of bile-tolerant gram-tolerant bacteria, not unlike those found in The Globe’s test of dispensary samples.

Though the government provides few details about the recalls that happen in the industry, including the type of micro-organisms involved, Tilray’s occurred in a random test by Health Canada.

The difference for the consumer, however, is that Health Canada requires licensed producers to screen their products, either at an in-house lab whose data are monitored, or at a third-party federally licensed facility. These results must be shown to the government for analysis.

With the dispensaries, there are no requirements from Health Canada to test, and the majority of them don’t monitor their product, nor produce test results for consumers. Though some dispensaries are doing brisk business, sometimes upward of $20,000 a day, according to industry sources, they operate in a bizarre world of no regulation, a scenario in which rules are made on the fly and current laws conspire against public safety.

Click for more details:

2.Toronto Cannabis Dispensary

66 Nassau St.
Toronto, ON
CheeseDried bud
20.392%THC
Details» FAIL

Reason for fail:

  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, an indicator of potentially harmful bacteria, exceeded the allowable limit of 10,000 cfu/g (colony-forming units per gram).
  • Two bacteria were identified:
    1. Escherichia hermannii: This bacteria is a pathogen that has been found in infected wounds. It is rare, but could cause problems for patients with compromised immune systems.
    2. Staphylococcus epidermidis: This bacteria is found naturally on skin, and is not considered a human pathogen.
  • This dispensary product would not be permitted for sale if it was held to the same Health Canada standards as medical marijuana from licensed producers.

Cannabidiol (CBD) content:

  • The sample had an undetectable amount of CBD, the therapeutic, non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Sample was tested for:

  • Yeast and mould count
  • Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury
  • Total aerobic plate count (a measure of total bacteria)
  • Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria (which can include fecal coliforms and other pathogens)
  • E.coli
  • Salmonella
  • Pesticides
  • Aflatoxins
  • THC and CBD content

In the case of Toronto Cannabis Dispensary, the lab results posted on its website claiming that the product is tested are out of date and do not come from a Health Canada-accredited lab. They focus mostly on the THC and cannabidiol (CBD), the therapeutic, non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. Several key tests for safety and purity are omitted. For example, the dispensary’s tests for mould and mildew are listed as “visual” tests, for which all of its samples are granted a “pass” on the company’s own website. Licensed labs do not consider these tests credible.

Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Growers of Canada, an industry group that represents about 15 to 20 dispensaries, a small portion of the several hundred that now exist across Canada, says his organization is developing a code of conduct that would see cannabis they sell “analytically tested,” but said the group can’t get federal government support to implement a regime.

Mr. Dawkins said in an interview that he believes concerns over contamination are overblown. “How many people have died from cannabis in the last year? Zero. The answer is zero. So that’s how concerned I am,” Mr. Dawkins said. “Like any food product, you want it to be inspected and to be free of mould and mildew and free of pesticides and for there to be standards … but it’s not plutonium.”

Mr. Weeks, the microbiologist in New York, disputes that argument, saying that contaminants merit serious concern, even if people are not dying.

Mr. Dawkins told The Globe that some dispensaries test their product – his association has partnered with an accredited lab – and have recalled batches that indicate unsafe contaminants. “Absolutely. It happens all the time,” he said. However, in a follow-up e-mail two days later, Mr. Dawkins then clarified that point. What he meant by “recalls,” Mr. Dawkins said, was that dispensary operators would sometimes reject marijuana they purchase from growers after visually inspecting it, “because dispensary owners are usually very knowledgeable and can visually identify problems based on experience.”

It’s not clear how someone might spot microscopic particles of bacteria, such as E. coli, which would not be detectable to the human eye.

Even if some dispensaries want to get their product tested, though, they can’t.

The problem dispensaries face is that the regulatory system devised by Health Canada – which is in charge of protecting public health – excludes them. Just as the public cannot legally test dispensary product at Health Canada accredited facilities, the dispensary industry also cannot legally access these laboratories. Industry sources told The Globe that accredited laboratories have asked Health Canada to let them test these products for safety, but have been warned not to do so. This leaves consumers, including many who are visiting dispensaries thinking they are buying a government-sanctioned product, exposed.

While some dispensaries appear out to make a fast buck, and are less concerned about the safety of their product, there are dispensaries in Canada that are eager to have their products tested, but because of Health Canada rules, the labs won’t accept their products.

“There are a lot of dispensaries that care, and some have not been able to find a lab that would be willing,” said Rielle Capler, a proponent of testing, and a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, another group that represents a segment of the industry.

The problem is the labs could lose their Health Canada licence if they test for anyone without a narcotics licence.

“A lab who has a licence, which they want to keep because they are hard won, they want to be careful,” Ms. Capler said.

“You have to ensure that everyone gets testing for biological contaminants – mould, pesticide residue. That is not an onerous requirement,” she said. “If you’re going to sell a product like food, you should have to get it tested in a laboratory.”

Some of the earlier dispensaries, which began to spring up more than a decade ago as a way to serve the medical market in Vancouver, challenging federal laws, were careful, Ms. Capler says. They were hoping to build a model for the industry that was based on good practices. But since the federal government’s plans to legalize the drug were unveiled, inciting a boom in dispensaries across Canada, different types of operators have flooded into the business with different motives and standards. It’s impossible to consider all dispensaries as the same, Ms. Capler says.

“They’re so not. … The early dispensaries were sticking their necks out … and then things went kind of crazy in Vancouver, and now Toronto.”

Dispensary groups such as Ms. Capler’s have drawn up codes of conduct for the industry to live by, as has Mr. Dawkins’s association. However, not all dispensaries belong to these organizations, and the standards amount to little more than self-regulation, which is unenforceable. Most of the dispensaries The Globe visited are not listed as members of either association, including the three that failed the tests.

Mr. Dawkins said he has tried to speak to the government, but has been rebuffed in his requests for a meeting.

Health Canada says it does not test dispensary product itself – nor allow others to test it – because the government does not regulate that industry. It only regulates the licensed federal producers. Health Canada does not see possible health risks at the dispensaries as part of its job.

“These establishments operate outside of the legal framework and provide products from illegal sources that are untested, unregulated and may be unsafe,” Health Canada spokesman André Gagnon told The Globe. “There are no controls in place to ensure quality.”

It is a huge loophole for the industry. The federal government has essentially watched as an industry has flourished, while giving consumers no protection – and no ability to protect themselves.

“There’s definitely dispensaries out there that are not following best practices that desperately need to be regulated,” Mr. Dawkins said. “They [the federal government] are constantly scaring the labs by threatening to pull their accreditation. … The idea that we weren’t willing to [have product tested] is completely ludicrous.”

Ms. Emery, at Cannabis Culture, and Mr. Roberts, at Toronto Cannabis Dispensary, both said they would send product for testing at federally accredited labs if they were allowed.

“We’d be right on it,” Mr. Roberts said. “If we have these labs in Canada, and we’re moving towards legalization, then why can’t everybody get access to it?”

“It would be great if the government would let everybody come forward,” Ms. Emery said. “I’m not an advocate of letting things be disgusting and pretending that they’re safe.”

However, she argues that only marijuana being sold as medicine, as opposed to a recreational product, should be held to those standards – and that producers, not retailers, should be the ones testing, similar to the way coffee beans are inspected before they reach the local coffee shop.

“I would want to buy a product that’s been tested, rather than buying something unknown,” she said.

Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, recently started his own facility called Anandia Labs to test for the licensed producers and, eventually, he hopes, the dispensaries. He says there have been a small number of non-accredited labs emerge that are willing to do work for dispensaries, but they lack the high-tech equipment and methods to do it at the highest standards.

“Labs have come along to service the dispensaries, but they don’t necessarily have good methods,” Prof. Page said.

That makes the problem potentially worse because it creates a system where dispensaries can tell customers their products have been “lab tested” but there are no assurances the standards are sound, or verified, and that the results are accurate.

“It’s a free-for-all. … There are no rules,” Prof. Page said, arguing that many dispensaries will portray themselves as artisanal producers with high standards, but it’s not enough.

“I think they live in a fairy world where they say, ‘We have the most wonderful growers,’” he said.

With so much money moving through the dispensary world in Canada right now, some question whether the motives are necessarily to provide the best product. “It’s driven 95 per cent by profit,” Prof. Page said.

But he believes Health Canada’s policy needs to change. Prof. Page said that if a mother came to him and wanted to test the potency and purity of cannabis oil purchased at a dispensary before giving it to her severely epileptic child, he wouldn’t know what to do.

“I’m not an activist, I’m a scientist,” Prof. Page said.

“But I don’t think I could turn that request down, morally.”

THE TROUBLE WITH TESTING

The laboratory where The Globe sent its samples to be scrutinized is a high-tech facility that uses some of the most advanced equipment and techniques available, such as high-performance liquid chromatography, to identify contaminants in trace amounts. It performs these tests for several of the federally licensed medical marijuana producers in Canada.

Only a handful of labs in Canada have the capability to test cannabis in this fashion. But all this technology and expertise can’t protect the consumer if the government’s regulations aren’t monitoring for the right things.

Health Canada requires that medical marijuana be screened for about 70 pesticide compounds, to ensure that exposure levels are not above a certain threshold, usually a fraction of a milligram per kilogram of cannabis.

However, there is a troubling blind spot when it comes to screening out harmful additives in Canada.

Held to the standards set out by Health Canada, none of the nine samples of cannabis tested by The Globe turned up any problems with pesticide levels.

But the Canadian standards call for testing to ensure approved pesticides stay below predetermined levels. The standards don’t call for the detection of some of the most widely used and problematic pesticides on the market, which are not permitted for use on this particular plant, but are often used by growers looking to cut corners.

In states such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon, where cannabis has been legalized, pesticides have emerged as a major concern. “Moulds, contaminants – all of those things have shown up, particularly at the beginning,” said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana co-ordination at State of Colorado. “But pesticides became our biggest problem.”

Shortly after the state opened up its market, Colorado found high levels of potentially harmful pesticides in the supply being sold on dispensary shelves. That revelation forced the state to overhaul its testing regimen, when policy makers realized what was being missed.

Of particular concern was a pesticide called Eagle 20, which contained myclobutanil. While it’s effective on flowers, and in small doses on some fruits, testing shows it produces potentially harmful hydrogen cyanide when heated, which was being inhaled directly into the lungs of the cannabis user.

It was a problem Colorado’s government did not see coming, and had not prepared for, particularly since cannabis was always portrayed as a sort of cottage industry of growers who cared deeply about growing naturally.

“Myclobutanil cleaves off hydrogen cyanide,” Mr. Freedman said. “So, yeah, we were concerned.”

The state opened a formal investigation into growing methods, and its dispensaries soon began voluntarily pulling products that tested positive for contaminants. The discoveries also compelled dispensaries to begin testing their own product more.

The problem emerged because there were few rules on what growers could and could not use on their crops, or what contaminants were allowed, and at what levels.

“This is part of not having [marijuana] be regulated. … All the other crops have kind of gone through this process. But marijuana hasn’t gone through that.”

Part of what hurt Colorado, Mr. Freedman points out, was the speed at which the market had to be created, a reality Canada now finds itself confronting.

“People want a regulated product and they want it quickly,” Mr. Freedman said. “So what normally would have been 10, 15 or 20 years of quality control coming online, they’re now expecting that from us in the first three or four months.”

In order to stem the problem, Colorado’s Governor issued an executive order late last year, declaring contaminants “a threat to public safety.” That gave the state the power to move quickly and rewrite laws.

“For us it was a pretty easy answer, that we should just treat this like every other crop is treated. If you can’t prove it’s safe, then we shouldn’t allow it to go out for human consumption,” Mr. Freedman said.

“And that’s a lesson we learned from pesticides back in the sixties, that precisely because there’s a delayed onset of effects, you now have to prove safeness and we’ll move on from there.”

The state soon found itself facing allegations of fear mongering from marijuana proponents who argued people weren’t dying from consuming the drug, so such steps were merely an overreaction.

“A lot of people were telling us: ‘Nobody’s ever shown up to the hospital.’ But we point out that data would be impossible to get – both in the short term and in the long term. It’s very hard to show causation.”

Alex Cooley, vice-president at Washington marijuana grower Solstice is one of those who cautions against overreacting to contaminants, but he agrees there should be oversight.

“I hate to sound like a tobacco executive on this statement, but we haven’t seen a massive amount of people have harm associated with using it historically. There aren’t bodies in the streets,” Mr. Cooley said.

However, Mr. Freedman in Colorado responds to comments like those by pointing out that the cumulative impacts of contaminants on the body are not something that’s been tracked, nor have patients been encouraged to self-report any conditions to doctors over the years when the drug was illicit.

“It doesn’t mean it’s not harming people, it just means that it’s hard to show that direct causation,” Mr. Freedman said.

“You’re not going to take a hit and then go to the hospital directly, or have a bump in cancer rates or birth defects or the kind of things that show up only in census data much later.”

In Washington State, the situation has been equally as problematic as in Colorado.

“We all anticipated that there would be people who violated the laws, and that has occurred,” Mr. Cooley said.

“People might buy from Tom, and they say, ‘Oh, Tom wouldn’t do that to me. That’s crazy. It’s all completely safe and natural,’” Mr. Cooley said. “And Tom may believe he’s not causing you harm either, but he doesn’t know. Turns out Tom was taught by a person who didn’t know what they hell they were doing.”

The only answer Mr. Cooley sees is to introduce uniform testing standards across the industry.

Similar problems have been found in Oregon, which uncovered numerous different contaminants in its dispensary supply. Meanwhile, a 2015 study of marijuana concentrates in California, published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences, determined that more than 80 per cent of the 57 samples tested “were contaminated in some form.”

“There’s a lot going on out there that people just do not even begin to understand yet. And they will – once it hits the fan,” said Warren Porter, a molecular and environmental toxicologist at the University of Wisconsin. “And we’re going to be seeing that in about 10 years. Big time.”

The fact that Canada isn’t checking for the same pesticides that raised concerns in the United States is concerning. Not testing for certain chemicals can send the wrong signal to consumers, said Rodger Voelker, lab director at OG Analytical in Oregon, who is credited with discovering the myclobutanil problem among growers in the United States, who weren’t reporting its usage.

“I will tell you, everybody said they were not using pesticides,” Mr. Voelker said. “My concern is that you end up with rules that give the public the pretense of assurance, but it’s a misplaced assurance.”

In Canada, myclobutanil use is an unknown. Though the product is said to be more difficult to obtain than in the United States, The Globe was able to purchase a supply of Eagle 20 readily through Amazon.

“I don’t see any reason why [Canada] wouldn’t want to learn from our experiences,” said Mr. Cooley in Washington.

THE SEARCH FOR A BETTER METRIC

When Canada introduced the licensed medical marijuana industry, it needed a certain criteria of standards to oversee the new product. Policy makers in Ottawa reached for European and U.S. pharmacopeia rules as their guide.

These rules governed the levels of bacteria and moulds that could be contained in processed products, from herbal remedies to food, and they relied on tests, such as total aerobic plate count and bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, as their guide to determine if good production practices were being followed in the manufacturing of those products.

Because cannabis has been illegal for many decades, there’s been very little research on what was the best way to test the plant for cleanliness and efficacy. Some of the microbiologists who spoke to The Globe say Health Canada is testing for the wrong micro-organisms, as well as ignoring certain problem pesticides.

“What’s happened is that, because no one’s worked on marijuana for over 100 years, when they say you can actually use it for medical purposes, we’re looking around to say, ‘We need a standard. We need something to say if marijuana is safe,’” said Keith Warriner, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph.

However, tests such as the one for bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria can provide a lot of noise that doesn’t actually tell you whether the cannabis should be consumed or not. Some vegetables, such as spinach, score very high on that test, which is why consumers wash or cook it before eating.

Instead, tests like that, and aerobic plate count, are considered indicators of possible problems, rather than confirming something is wrong.

“As an indicator, it’s not that good,” Mr. Warriner argued. So further screening, such as identification tests, are needed.

The Oregon Health Authority agrees. Recently, that state, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2015, replaced these tests with what it describes as a simpler, more effective indicator of bacterial contamination. It’s called a “Water Activity” test, and it’s designed to assess the most critical ingredient needed by bacteria: moisture.

The moisture is a crucial warning sign that the product has been cured improperly and therefore a breeding ground for micro-organisms.

Mr. Holmes, the Oregon microbiologist who is an advocate of Water Activity testing, describes the microbiology tests required by Health Canada as unnecessary, indirect and “not based on good science.”

“Those tests are very broad categories,” Mr. Holmes said, arguing that they “only pick up one-tenth of the species out there. Almost all of those species aren’t dangerous and certainly aren’t dangerous on pot. They’re just wrong categories and don’t make sense.”

Oregon’s method could change how cannabis is screened in a postprohibition world. Most importantly, the standard is not as complex, nor cost intensive, as the battery of tests marijuana samples are currently subjected to in Canada and other jurisdictions, meaning potentially more product could be screened, and more players in the industry could take part.

Better methods of screening, and a broader look at pesticides, are things Canada should focus on, Mr. Holmes said.

THE PROBLEM ON THE STREETS

The legalized marijuana market could bring in $5-billion in new tax revenue for Ottawa and the provincial governments, according to a recent study by CIBC World Markets.

When the federal government released its long awaited discussion paper in July on what the future legalized marijuana industry could look like after prohibition is lifted, what was notable in the 27-page document was how little time was spent discussing issues of product oversight and quality control, the building blocks of most other consumer goods industries.

The report, titled Toward Legalization, focused mostly on crime rates, prevalence of use, potential for addiction and concerns associated with adolescent consumption. Though Canada has among the lowest tobacco smoking rates in the world (15 per cent as of 2013, the most recent data available), it has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumption among developed countries, which is fuelled by the availability of the product. (Slightly more than one in 10 Canadians over the age of 15 reported cannabis consumption in the past year, according to a 2013 Unicef study.)

The Liberal government’s legalization plan, a key piece of its election platform, means a policy framework must now be built to handle consumption rates that are expected to increase further next year, when legalization takes place.

Under a section of the federal government’s report titled Possible Options, the authors suggest safeguards “could” be created to ensure marijuana is produced and stored in “sanitary” conditions, adding that it “could” also be subject to “analytical testing so that those consuming can be reliably advised of its contents.” Few details are offered on how this might be achieved.

Marijuana may be easier to obtain in Canada now than at any other point since 1920, when it was declared illicit, but oversight of the product has not followed suit.

Despite sporadic police crackdowns on dispensaries, the industry has flourished in the absence of a regulatory framework.

Dispensaries are now more prevalent in some Toronto neighbourhoods than drug stores – in spite of the government’s declaration that they are technically illegal.

A call by several premiers during interprovincial meetings in July, pressing the federal government to get its legalization policies formulated sooner than later, highlighted these concerns about the regulatory vacuum that exists.

After a public forum in late May, MP Bill Blair, the Liberal government’s point man on marijuana legalization, was asked by The Globe how the government intended to respond to complaints that labs are not allowed to test dispensary marijuana on behalf of consumers.

“I was not familiar with the issue,” Mr. Blair said. “But I’ll certainly ask them about it.”

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8 things smoking weed does to your body

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The good, the bad, and the ugly side effects, according to science.

 

Marijuana dispensary, man holding weed
Getty Images/David McNew

When it comes to polarizing health topics, few subjects spark more debate than weed (exept maybe CrossFit or the Paleo Diet). The latest marijuana research, from University of Michigan Health System, suggests toking up regularly can dull your emotional response and cause addiction.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed 108 people in their early 20s (69 men and 39 women), all of whom were taking part in a larger study of substance use and all had MRI brain scans at three points over four years. In the study, participants played a game while a functional MRI scanned their brains. More specifically, participants played a game in which they pressed a button when they saw a target on a computer screen cross in front of them. Before each round, they were told they could win 20 cents or $5—or they might lose that amount, or have no reward or loss. Scientists assessed the moment of anticipation (a.k.a. when volunteers knew they could get a few dollars richer).

Now, you’d think getting free money would be cause for excitement, but scientists found the more marijuana use volunteers reported, the less their reward centers were activated.

“What we saw was that over time, marijuana use was associated with a lower response to a monetary reward,” study author and neuroscientist Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D, said in a press release. “This means that something that would be rewarding to most people was no longer rewarding to them, suggesting but not proving that their reward system has been ‘hijacked’ by the drug, and that they need the drug to feel reward—or that their emotional response has been dampened.”

That’s not all. Smoking weed might also be more addicting than you think.

“Some people may believe that marijuana is not addictive or that it’s ‘better’ than other drugs that can cause dependence,” Heitzeg said. “But this study provides evidence that it’s affecting the brain in a way that may make it more difficult to stop using it. It changes your brain in a way that may change your behavior, and where you get your sense of reward from.”

Find out all the other ways—good and bad—marijuana is influencing your health.

It can damage blood vessels

Secondhand smoke may not seem all that bad. But it can have a major impact on your blood vessels, according to research from the American Heart Association. After rats inhaled secondhand smoke for one minute, their arteries carried blood less efficiently for at least 90 minutes. When they were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke, however, their blood vessels recovered after 30 minutes. “While the effect is temporary for both cigarette and marijuana smoke, these temporary problems can turn into long-term problems if exposures occur often enough and may increase the chances of developing hardened and clogged arteries,” said study author Matthew Springer, Ph.D.

It may increase testicular cancer risk

Researchers at the University of Southern California found smoking weed may increase your odds of getting testicular cancer. In the study, men who had testicular germ cell tumors were more likely to report previously using marijuana than those who didn’t have the tumors. A doctor for the American Cancer Society said that while the findings were interesting, more research needs to be done to determine if there was a causal relationship between cancer and marijuana use.

It impacts short-term memory

Stoners get a bad reputation for being forgetful; and it turns out this stigma might not be a myth. Northwestern University scientists found former pot smokers had developed brain abnormalities in regions associated with short-term memory. Study participants also demonstrated reduced performance on memory-related tasks. Even more unsettling is the brains of pot smokers were abnormally shaped and looked smiliar to brains damaged by schizophrenia. (That’s not to say that smoking weed causes schizophrenia.)

It hinders creativity

Artists, musicians, and other creative types sometimes credit marijuana as their source of inspiration. However, a study from the Netherlands seems to prove otherwise. Volunteers who were given marijuana with high THC content were not able to come up with as many solutions to a problem as those given a placebo. So, uh, you might want to put down the marijuana during your next brainstorming session.

It could destroy brain cells

All those jokes about stoners killing their brain cells? They might have some merit, according to a 20-year study on smoking pot, which suggests that lighting up could decrease cognitive function, in addition to an increased risk of psychotic symptoms and disorders.

It could help heal broken bones

It’s not all bad news for pot smokers. A study from researchers at Tel Aviv University found weed may help bones heal stronger and faster. Cannabinoid cannabidiol, which is found in cannabis leaves and stems, helped mice recover from broken bones more effectively. Researchers believe the substance helps minerals get into the bone tissue, making bones stronger, sturdier, and less likely to break in the future.

It could make your poor and socially inept

If you want to be successful, then you better lay off the weed, according to scientists at UC Davis and Duke. “People who smoked cannabis four or more days of the week over many years ended up in a lower social class than their parents, with lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs than those who were not regular cannabis smokers,” study author Magdalena Cerdá said in a press release. Cerdá and her colleagues had more bad news to share—cannabis users also had more financial troubles, antosicial behaivor at work, and experienced more relationship problems.

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Cannabis and Diabetics. Weed News

New Cannabis Patch To Treat Fibromyalgia And Diabetic Nerve Pain Revealed

In this day and age, most people are aware of the powerful medicinal benefits of Cannabis. Cannabis is being studied in almost every aspect for its benefits against cancer. But this new method of cannabis treatment is some serious medical technology.

A company that specializes in the medicinal powers of marijuana have invented a new method of cannabis treatment. They have created transdermal patches. They are basically adhesives to the skin, and the medication is absorbed by the skin. The patch releases certain chemicals over time to combat neurological nerve pain. There have been no negative side effects found either. This seems to be the best way to administer medicinal cannabis to patients.

cannabis-science

The creator of the patch, Cannabis Science said:

Promote healing to an injured area of the body. An advantage of a transdermal drug delivery route over other types of medication delivery such as oral, topical, intravenous, intramuscular, etc. is that the patch provides a controlled release of the medication into the patient, usually through either a porous membrane covering a reservoir of medication or through body heat melting thin layers of medication embedded in the adhesive which will be containing high potency cannabinoid (CBD) extract that slowly enters into the bloodstream and then penetrates the central nervous system of the patient delivering the pain relief sought.”

Company CEO of Cannabis science also said:

“The development of these two new pharmaceutical medicinal applications are just the tip of the iceberg for what we see as the future for Cannabis Science. While we strive to increase our land capacity for growth and facilities to produce our own product to supply our scientists with proprietary materials to make these formulations, we are also busy researching more potential needs for Cannabis related medical applications and developing the methods for delivery of these medications.”

 

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