NEW YORK, Sept. 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Last year, Canada made international headlines after becoming just the second country, following Uruguay, to fully legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. However, despite legalizing cannabis, Canada still faces a multitude of legal barriers that have hindered consumers and businesses. For instance, many cultivators and retailers faced limitations such as curtailed operating hours and limited licensing agreements. However, many public officials and consumers have now begun to voice their concerns regarding the criminal justice system. Many regions that are moving towards cannabis legalization build a foundation of expunging previous cannabis criminal convictions. And following the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the federal government allowed convicted cannabis offenders to apply for a pardon. In 2016, it was reported that 58% of police-reported Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offenses were cannabis-related. Additionally, according to a piece of open-source information on Canada's politicians, approximately 250,000 Canadians are eligible for a pardon. However, after a month of accepting pardon applications, the Canadian federal government has only approved 44 pardons out of the 71 applicants. And while the legal cannabis market is projected to accelerate, the concern over the justice system has only brought forth new questions. According to data compiled by Imarc Group, the North American legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 35 Billion by 2023 from USD 8 Billion in 2017. Additionally, the market is expected to register a healthy CAGR of 28% throughout the forecast period. Pasha Brands Ltd. (OTC: CRFTF) (CSE: CRFT), Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON), Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: NEPT) (TSX: NEPT), Cresco Labs Inc. (OTC: CRLBF) (CSE: CL), Acreage Holdings Inc. (OTC: ACRGF)
Along with Canada, other nations have based their cannabis legalization efforts on a foundation to expunge past criminal records. Notably, Mexico is moving towards legalizing cannabis as well, with a primary goal of ending the war on drugs and lowering criminal conviction rates. In particular, Mexico is a region that has been ravaged by the war on drugs, resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths. Recently, Mexican Senator Julio Menchaca Salazar introduced a piece of legislation that would allow for legal possession, cultivation, and consumption of cannabis for personal use by adults. Similarly, Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, is also pushing for legalization to end the racial and ethnic disparities between the African American and Latino communities. Despite Cuomo's active stance, his efforts have so far been unsuccessful in the state of New York. However, Cuomo did manage to decriminalize cannabis recently, making cannabis possession and use a violation, instead of a crime. Furthermore, the state of New York is also creating a process for individuals convicted of marijuana possession to have their records expunged. "Marijuana possession gives those convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment leading to a potential inability to provide for their families. The creation of a mechanism for expungement, both retroactively and forward-looking, is a step in the right direction in finally ending the heavy-handed war on drugs," said New York Senator Jamaal T. Bailey.
Pasha Brands Ltd. (OTC: CRFTF) (CSE: CRFT) is also listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker (CSE: CRFT). Earlier last week, the Company released a statement, "asking for the full expungement of criminal records for those charged under previous cannabis laws. Canada is one of the first countries to admit that prohibition has been a failure and been harmful for people and its economy on a variety of levels.
Earlier this week, stats were released around the expedited pardons for cannabis offences made available under Bill C-93. With only 44 pardons granted to date, the people at Pasha feel this effort is not enough to undo the harms of prohibition. In an article on their website (www.pashabrands.com), Pasha quotes both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MP Bill Blair discussing the inequality of past enforcement of cannabis laws. It also points to studies showing how this inequality was especially hard on minority communities.
'These laws were applied unfairly,' said Pasha Executive Chairman Patrick Brauckmann. 'They are still being applied unfairly, and there are people still in jail for cannabis offences.' One of the first casualties of cannabis enforcement just one month after legalization was an Indigenous man in Winnipeg, who was sentenced to almost a year in jail for 85 grams of cannabis. Meanwhile they say, authorities turn a blind eye to some Health Canada licence holders who break the rules, like the one that shipped 12,000 kilograms of illegally grown cannabis across the country and to Denmark. That should have resulted in jail time and massive fines, but authorities have not imposed either.
'It's not that we think anyone should go to jail for cannabis; they shouldn't,' said Jamie Shaw, Chief Communications and Culture Officer, 'but neither should we be continuing the same discrimination and inequality that prohibition enabled.' Pardons are not enough she says, explaining that the difference between a pardon, and expungement is that a pardon essentially 'forgives' the person in question. 'When the law was wrong, you shouldn't need forgiveness, and it shouldn't continue to affect your life.'
John Conroy, a long-time civil rights advocate and lawyer who has been involved in multiple cannabis cases, including the Allard decision that granted patients the right to grow their own cannabis, agrees pardons don't go far enough. He points out that a pardon really means the record is 'moved into a different filing cabinet' and that it can be revoked in certain circumstances. 'The problem in this day and age is that simply having your name in a digital database associated with some prior conduct can lead authorities to deny you something,' he said.
'What we need, if it is at all possible, is a sanitizing of all government digital databases and particularly law enforcement databases, including Customs and Excise,' said Conroy. 'By searching for the word 'cannabis' or 'marijuana' in all these databases and deleting from them any data or details that are potentially prejudicial simply because of an association to circumstances in which cannabis was involved.'
Pasha Brands calls for a proper review of post-prohibition enforcement, citing that people of colour and marginalized individuals in Canada continue to be disproportionately subjected to the enforcement of new cannabis laws, while authorities seem to turn a blind eye to corporate cannabis rule-breakers.
About Pasha Brands: Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Pasha is a vertically integrated, prohibition-era brand house firmly rooted in BC's craft cannabis industry, which boasts an international reputation. With proven capabilities in cannabis cultivation, genetic research and development, product processing, and retail, Pasha is uniquely positioned in the new legal cannabis market through its network of hundreds of craft cannabis suppliers under the Pasha umbrella. Pasha subsidiary, Medcann Health Products Ltd., is a Health Canada licensed cultivator and processor with a licence to sell medical cannabis products in Canada. Pasha and BC Craft are also developing a craft cannabis campus, which is dedicated to bringing craft quality into the newly legal cannabis market in Canada. BC Craft is driven to assist craft growers in obtaining security clearance and licensing to grow as micro-cultivators, specializing in education and compliance to bring growers into the regulated cannabis supply market. Pasha's common shares trade on the CSE under the symbol "CRFT" and on the FSE under the symbol "ZZD". For more information, please visit www.pashabrands.com"
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Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) is an innovative global cannabinoid company with international production and distribution across five continents. Cronos Group Inc. recently announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire four of Redwood Holding Group, LLC's operating subsidiaries. Redwood manufactures, markets and distributes hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) infused skincare and other consumer products online and through retail and hospitality partner channels in the United States under the brand, Lord Jones™. Redwood's products use pure hemp oil that contains natural phytocannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant. "Rob and Cindy have built a differentiated, best-in-class platform with hemp-based CBD formulations that stand for quality and consistency. Our goal is to preserve the integrity of all Rob and Cindy have created, while also learning from them and leveraging Cronos Group's resources to capitalize on the significant demand for skincare and other consumer products derived from hemp. Leading the industry forward responsibly and being a part of the conversation with industry stakeholders remains a top priority for Cronos Group in this evolving area," said Mike Gorenstein, Cronos Group's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.
Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: NEPT) (TSX: NEPT) specializes in the extraction, purification and formulation of health and wellness products. Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. recently announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, 9354-7537 Québec Inc., has received a notification letter from Health Canada indicating that all requested license amendments have been approved. The scope of the amendment received from Health Canada permits expansion of cannabis operation areas to include an additional extraction room where Neptune will perform cold ethanol extraction. Ethanol extraction is faster and more cost effective than the CO2 extraction currently used and will increase Neptune's input capacity from 30,000 kg to 200,000 kg. This seven-fold increase in the Company's capacity will accelerate production and enable fulfilment of commercial commitments. Start-up activities will begin immediately, including the final stages of commissioning the equipment, and Neptune will ramp up commercial operations on a progressive basis during the second fiscal quarter. "Congratulations are in order as this announcement marks another milestone achieved by our team by successfully meeting the stringent Health Canada requirements," said Jim Hamilton, Chief Executive Officer of Neptune. "The new regulations regarding cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals recently published by Health Canada are expected to result in significant additional demand for cannabis extraction and purification services. With our increased extraction capacity, Neptune is now well positioned to benefit from this rapidly growing market. In addition, our cannabis oil capsule technology provides the company a differentiated offering for which there is strong demand."
Cresco Labs Inc. (OTCQX: CRLBF) (CSE: CL), based in Chicago, is a leading U.S. cannabis company with experienced management, access to capital and a demonstrated growth strategy. Cresco Labs Inc. recently announced that it has received regulatory approval for its acquisition of 100% of the membership interests of Gloucester Street Capital, LLC, the parent entity of Valley Agriceuticals, LLC via a merger between Gloucester and an indirect subsidiary of Cresco Labs. Valley Ag holds one of the 10 vertically integrated cannabis business licenses granted in the State of New York by the New York State Department of Health. Each license gives the operator the right to operate one cultivation facility and four dispensaries in New York. Valley Ag's license was recently renewed for a two-year period. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of August. "We are very pleased to take the next step in building the most strategic and valuable geographic footprint in the cannabis industry," said Charles Bachtell, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Cresco Labs. "As the holder of one of only 10 vertically integrated businesses licenses in New York, we believe that Cresco Labs will make a significant impact in this large and influential market that is projected to grow to USD 500 Million by 2022, according to Arcview/BDS Analytics. In virtually all consumer-related sectors and industries, New York is viewed as the most important market in the world, which made it a critical component of our strategic geographic expansion plan. Having the opportunity to establish Cresco Labs in New York will significantly advance our goal to build the first national brand in the cannabis industry."
Acreage Holdings Inc. (OTCQX: ACRGF), headquartered in New York City, is one of the largest vertically integrated, multi-state operators of cannabis licenses and assets in the U.S., according to publicly available information. Acreage Holdings, Inc. recently announced the launch of new cannabis consumer products in select markets as part of its "House of Brands" strategy – a portfolio of unique brands that address different consumer segments and form factors. The launch includes products from three new Acreage-developed brands: The Botanist, Natural Wonder, and Live Resin Project. The Botanist, a wellness brand devoted to unlocking the benefits of the full cannabis plant, expects to launch in Iowa this month with its first product, a line of high-CBD tinctures for the Iowa's medical market. Natural Wonder, developed by Acreage's Form Factory division, is a convenient and discreet, microdose sublingual breath spray, available on select dispensary shelves in Oregon. Live Resin Project is expected to launch in California later this month, bringing to market new live resin products in a variety of raw concentrates and easy-to-use vape cartridges. Live resin, an innovative extraction method that utilizes flash-frozen whole cannabis plants, was invented by the legendary cannabis extractor and Acreage "Green Team" member William "Kind Bill" Fenger. Kevin Murphy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Acreage, said, "The rollout of The Botanist, Natural Wonder, and Live Resin Project is a crucial step for Acreage. Establishing a 'House of Brands' has always been at the forefront of our strategy to deliver long-term shareholder value, and launching these products is a significant milestone for us. We look forward to rolling out our product lines across our national footprint over the rest of the year."
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