Weed week: Asia is cottoning on to cannabis. And does pot = thalidomide?
Health & Biotech
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You haven’t truly made it until the Daily Mail starts running headlines, and medical cannabis has certainly made it in the UK: it’s the new thalidomide, according to the newspaper.
The paper of record claims 277 of 400 dispensaries called in a study in Colorado recommended marijuana for morning sickness.
It then said the British Medical Journal compared the “potential crisis” of pregnant women turning to an untried nausea relief, rather than the standard medical recommendation of ginger and wishful thinking, with the thalidomide disasters of the 1950s and 60s.
The UK also doled out its first script for medical cannabis this week, with former university lecturer Carly Barton believed to be the first patient to access the drug. The 32-year-old developed fibromyalgia after a stroke in her early 20s.
New Zealand is halfway through its move to legalise medical cannabis, with the bill passing first and second reading last week. The opposition National Party has come on board with the government’s version — with amendments — after rejecting the first reading in July.
THC Global (ASX:THC) is one of the only listed pot stocks in Australia to set plans in motion to capitalise on the new industry in New Zealand.
In Asia, it looks like South Korea may be just the first domino to fall among medical cannabis legalisation.
South Korea — the same country that threatened to arrest its citizens if they dared touch the stuff in Canada or the US — legalised medical marijuana last week.
But Thailand, Malaysia and even the Philippines, the same country that legalised extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users, say they’re open to it.
At home in Australia, the ACT is gearing up to — maybe — make small amounts of recreational cannabis legal.
A Labour backbencher in the territory’s Assembly introduced a private member’s bill last week to legalise possession up to 50 grams of cannabis, or four marijuana plants, legal for personal use. Currently, possession of that volume is decriminalised.
It remains to be seen whether the federal government would let that through — in 1995 the ACT legalised euthanasia, only for the government to pass a law banning the ACT and the Northern Territory from doing so independently.
And finally the Farm Bill in the US is due to be signed into law next week by President Donald Trump.
The Bill is set to pave the way for industrial hemp farming and the legal federal production of hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) — which happens to be exactly the same compound as cannabis-based CBD, but legal.
All that’s happening in Australia
Global moves are ricocheting in Australia this week as Marlboro-maker Altria made a play for Canadian cannabis giant Cronos.
Why is this important to Australia? Because Cronos has spun out an eponymous subsidiary here, which is prepping to list on the ASX sometime next year.
The federal court has cleared 123 separate share issues by Queensland Bauxite (ASX:QBL) made over the last six years, allowing it to continue plans to return to the ASX as Canna Global.
The company was supposed to relist on October 30, but after the court decision it pushed back that date for the fourth time to December 14.
Zelda (ASX:ZLD) has added opioid addiction to the range of indications it wants to trial cannabis on.
During an investor briefing on Tuesday, CEO Richard Hopkins explained that they’re trying to hit a sweet spot of people who are uncomfortable with the whole ‘marijuana’ idea: their products will be too expensive for habitual users, not as pricey as a registered drug, but come with a folio of data and the right packaging to make newbies comfortable with the concept.
Normally with biotechs it’s not possible to market a product without registering it first but cannabis occupies a unique space where, because ‘everyone knows’ it works for certain problems, it can be prescribed as an unregistered product.
Croplogic (ASX:CLI) jumped on the hemp bandwagon this week, saying it is exploring ways to sell its soil monitor to farmers.
In Europe, Medlab Clinical (ASX:MDC) has set up a business there to sell its NanaBis mouth spray, while Affinity Energy (ASX:AEB) — formerly Algae.Tec — now has permission to grow medical pot in Malta.
Stockhead is still seeking comment on Affinity’s plans to spin off the Uruguayan growing division.
Stemcell United (ASX:SCU) has the ASX’s nod to buy 51 per cent of a Chinese hemp grower, with the market operator saying it won’t pose significant change of business activity.
China is one of the largest legal hemp growers in the world, and Stemcell wants a piece so it can expand into the “traditional Chinese medicine cannabis beauty” sector.
And mouthguard maker Impression Healthcare (ASX:IHL) has secured a licence to sell synthetic cannabis product dronabinol in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
However, dronabinol has been around since 1986 for nausea and appetite issues, and is readily available already in all of those countries bar New Zealand, and in North America competes with a wide array of real and synthetic cannabis products.