The global trend in cannabis legalization and acceptance of the plant as medicine took another leap forward recently. New Zealand’s largest medical cannabis firm and the leading British expert in medical cannabis recently joined forces to host a ‘Masterclass in Medical Cannabis’ series to educate local doctors and healthcare professionals about the benefits of incorporating the plant into their prescription.
Professor Mike Barnes, a highly experienced consultant neurologist and the Director of Education for the Academy of Medical Cannabis based in London, and Helius Therapeutics hosted three ‘Masterclass in Medical Cannabis’ events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, the first RNZCGP-endorsed professional training of its kind.
Paul Manning, CEO of Helius believes it is “absolutely critical that New Zealand’s doctors have access to professional training in advance of locally-produced medicinal cannabis products becoming widely available from next year.”
“As the country’s largest medical cannabis firm, I feel it’s incumbent on Helius to invest in educational opportunities for healthcare professionals, in what is a rapidly emerging field of clinical practice,” said Manning.
We sat down with Prof. Barnes and Paul Manning to discuss the importance of education, the global trend of cannabis legalization and their mutual concern of the specialist sign-off requirement that’s recommended in the discussion document on New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.
Professor Mike Barnes
Cannabis Aficionado: Why do you think doctors are so hesitant to prescribe medical cannabis?
Professor Mike Barnes: There are several reasons: lack of knowledge and lack of guidance, also medical cannabis products being unapproved medicines, which means the doctor had to take additional responsibility — so they can be scared of prescribing!
Education is key to informed decision making. In an ideal world, what educational resources would you like medical professionals to have access to?
As many different formats as possible. On-line training, one-day masterclasses like we ran in New Zealand, and written material.
What do you think the most compassionate legal cannabis model looks like?
Wide access to all that may benefit without restriction on conditions that can be treated. Leave it up to the doctor to decide whether its right for that patient (like any other medicine). Allow all doctors (specialists and GPs) to prescribe any GMP standard product.
What parallels do you believe New Zealand has with the U.K. with regards to thoughts around cannabis legalization?
Very similar — general doctor reluctance to be involved — although I felt much more interest than we have in the U.K. That’s for medical cannabis of course. General legalization for recreational use is at about 50:50 split in the U.K. now — similar again to New Zealand.
Have you seen N.Z.’s proposed medical cannabis scheme? If yes, what are your thoughts?
Yes, and it’s generally excellent. The main issue is the proposed prescribing restriction that requires specialist sign off, which is unnecessary. I believe that GPs would make very good prescribers as medical cannabis is mainly a symptom treater and GPs treat the sort of symptoms that cannabis helps all the time, such as chronic pain, anxiety, sleep problems, etc.
What three things do you wish all doctors knew about medical cannabis?
That it is very safe. It is generally different from unregulated cannabis and there is good evidence for several indications.
Any advice for New Zealand moving forward with legalization?
Make medical cannabis products available through GPs without the need for a specialist recommendation. Help all doctors to learn by organizing a range of educational opportunities. And don’t rely on the traditional medical bodies to provide guidance, as they are usually far too conservative – the wrong generation!
Paul Manning, CEO, Helius Therapeutics
Cannabis Aficionado: Why does Helius believe that educating doctors is so important?
Paul Manning: Thousands of suffering New Zealanders will be relying on their GPs for professional advice about medicinal cannabis for a range of therapeutic possibilities, and if appropriate, to access to products on prescription. We strongly believe every Kiwi has a natural right to a pain-free existence.
However, access will not improve unless doctors are well-informed about medical cannabis and how to prescribe the products. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of Australia and the U.K., where doctors were simply unprepared for the changes, causing widespread frustration among patients.
This initiative marked New Zealand’s first RNZCGP-endorsed professional training in medicinal cannabis for doctors on a national scale. It’s a major milestone for our burgeoning medicinal cannabis industry, as well as the healthcare sector.
How did Prof. Barnes become involved?
Mike became widely known after the U.K. Government commissioned him in 2016 to assess evidence for the medical use of cannabis. I had read this report, Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use. It helped to change the direction of legislation in the U.K. and acted as a catalyst to the eventual rescheduling of medicinal cannabis in November 2018. He is also the author of more than a dozen books and 200 published papers, several of which have been referenced by our team.
Mike also famously consulted to Alfie Dingley’s case in England, a six-year-old boy who suffers from a rare form epilepsy that was causing up to 150 seizures a month. His seizures have been since dramatically reduced after being given cannabis products. Mike is the Director of Education at The Academy of Medical Cannabis, so I reached out to him about this opportunity.
Did he enjoy himself?
Absolutely. We had an ambitious schedule, to deliver three full-day masterclasses in three cities, so we were flat out, but it was a lot of fun too! I think Mike really liked New Zealand and I know he was very encouraged by the positive response from healthcare professionals down here.
What has the feedback been from attendees?
We had 330 healthcare professionals attend the three masterclasses. The feedback has been fantastic. The majority of attendees were general practitioners. It was a big commitment to join the class for a whole day, and I think this demonstrates just how open-minded many doctors are to medical cannabis.
What is the biggest reason you believe cannabis should be legalized for medical purposes?
Cannabis is an extraordinary, natural treatment for many chronic conditions. These products present alternative to many harsh drugs, such opioids, and can improve the lives of millions of people across the world.
What is one thing you wish people knew about the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis?
You don’t need to get high to get healthy. Even products that contain THC need not necessarily come with a euphoric effect.
How can the public educate themselves on medical cannabis?
There are some wonderful resources available online, such as Project CBD. There’s a fantastic book by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine with the snappy title The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. We’re also working on a unified repository of the world’s published cannabis research, which will be launched in 2020.
Any plans for more events like this again?
You bet. The Masterclasses in Medical Cannabis were just the start. We’ll be rolling out a program of professional and public education initiatives over the next 24 months. Helius has also just signed a quarter-million dollar commitment with BiotechNZ to stage a major education event in New Zealand early next year.
Tyson 2.0 Launches New Mike Bites Cannabis Gummies
Nearly 25 years after he was disqualified from the World Boxing Association Heavyweight Championship for biting his opponent’s ears, Mike Tyson’s Tyson 2.0 cannabis brand has just released ear-shaped edibles, Mike Bites.
The new ear-shaped edibles are complete with a missing chunk where Tyson removed a portion of Evander Holyfield’s cartilage in what became known as The Bite Fight. After Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear, the 1997 match resumed. However, after attempting to snack on Holyfield’s second ear, Tyson was disqualified and his boxing licence was withdrawn. The Nevada State Athletic Commission handed Tyson a a $3 million fine for his actions and he didn’t fight again for over a year.
Wiz Khalifa Debuts New Taylor Gang x Stündenglass Collab
Wiz Khalifa and his entertainment company Taylor Gang Ent. have collaborated with Stündenglass, the world’s first gravity-powered infuser, to introduce the iconic gold and black Taylor Gang x Stündenglass.
“I’m honored to have collaborated with long time friend Wiz Khalifa, who is as passionate about this product as I am. Our mutual admiration for Stündenglass made it a natural collaboration,” Stündenglass CEO Chris Folkerts said via a press release.
Taylor Gang x Stündenglass is an authentic collaboration developed after the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning, Golden Globe-nominated Khalifa discovered Stündenglass and began enjoying it regularly as seen on his Instagram.
“I love my Stündenglass, and I’m pumped everyone gets to experience this with me now,” Khalifa.
The infuser features a patented 360-degree gravity system that elicits a powerful and immersive experience. It generates kinetic motion activation via cascading water, opposing airflow technology and the natural force of gravity.
The Taylor Gang gravity bing comes in an exclusive black and gold colorway and features two glass globes on a metal base made of aircraft-grade aluminum, surgical grade stainless steel, and high-quality Teflon seals.
Taylor Gang includes artists Ty Dolla $ign, Juicy J, and Berner among others — the former of which has his own line Stündenglass collab with his Cookies brand.
“We’re very excited to launch the official Taylor Gang x Stündenglass. We use glass in our everyday lives, so it only made sense to team up and create an exclusive Taylor Gang collaboration for the fans,” Taylor Gang said.
No Super Bowl for Brock Ollie
With medicinal marijuana being legal in 37 states and recreational cannabis allowed in 18, we should be seeing commercials for companies, products, and services almost as frequently as commercials for sports betting, which is permitted in 30 states in some form.
However, mainstream cannabis advertising continues to be non-existent, as demonstrated in the recent news that NBC has rejected an ad by cannabis e-commerce and advertising platform Weedmaps from being shown during the Super Bowl LVI event his coming Sunday.
Weedmaps reportedly approached the network late last year about airing a Super Bowl commercial that would be “similar to a PSA,” according to reports. Execs volunteered to present some of their earlier educational-based programming, assuring NBC executives that it would not contain any direct-sell messages, which are still forbidden under federal law.
“The answer was a hard no — they wouldn’t even entertain the conversation,” Weedmaps Chief Operating Officer Juanjo Feijoo told Adweek. “We see ourselves as trying to be trailblazers in the industry and making new inroads where others haven’t gone before in cannabis advertising. So it was disappointing.”
The contentious ad personifies cannabis as Brock Ollie, a head of broccoli, the veggie emoji commonly used as a visual representation of cannabis in marketing. The 30-second ad takes viewers through a day in the life of Brock Ollie, whose superfood identity is in jeopardy as he is repeatedly misidentified as cannabis. The ad offers a lighthearted take on the industry’s issues, such as social media censorship and a lack of clear advertising standards, which limit cannabis-related commercials during nationally televised events like the Super Bowl.
“Despite three quarters of the country having legalized cannabis and the bipartisan enthusiasm we continue to see in support for change at the federal level, the industry continues to face roadblocks that inhibit competition in the legal market and stifle opportunities to educate,” Chris Beals, CEO of Weedmaps said. “There’s an irony in the fact that the biggest night for advertising will feature an array of consumer brands in regulated industries, from beverage alcohol to sports betting, yet legal cannabis retailers, brands and businesses have been boxed out.”
The game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will be played Sunday in L.A.