The legalisation of recreational cannabis last October forced Canadian businesses to proactively change their workplace policies.
A new report, Acting on the Cannabis Act, now shows that 76 per cent of organisations updated their policies before legalisation.
The Conference Board of Canada’s report does highlight some underlying problems, however, including a lack of information for employees on the implications of the cannabis use.
Lead author Monica Haberl cautioned: “The majority of responding organisations don’t have a definition for impairment within their workplace, which means that even though employees know they have to come to work unimpaired, they might not fully understand what that requires.”
Not enough educational materials are being provided to employees by organisations according to this report, with only around a third of organisations actively provide materials around cannabis use.
- Fifty-two per cent of highly safety sensitive organisations have introduced zero-tolerance cannabis policies.
- One in five organisations says they are concerned about problematic substance use in the workplace (6 per cent being extremely concerned); 60 per cent of organisations say they are not concerned.
- 60% do not have a definition of impairment.
- Some of the top concerns that employers continue to grapple with include workplace.
Despite these teething problems, the reports’ authors are confident that Canada’s businesses are handling the new legislation positively.
The report was published ahead of the first anniversary of legalisation in Canada on October 15th.
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Everything you need to know about CBD gummies
Gummies and edibles are a fast becoming one of the most popular ways to consume CBD, here’s everything you need to know before you try them.
There are almost as many ways to consume CBD as there are reasons to take it, from oils and tinctures to balms and creams.
How you choose to take it depends largely on personal preference and what you’re hoping to get from using CBD, but there are some rules of thumb users should be aware of.
CBD gummies are a discreet and easy way to consume the compound, so could they be the right option for you?
Extract v whole plant
CBD oil comes in different forms and is often made from the whole plant. Known as full-spectrum oils, these products contain other cannabinoids and terpenes, which many believe make them more effective.
Gummies, on the other hand, are usually made by extracting the CBD (isolate or broad-spectrum) from the hemp plant and using that as an ingredient, alongside all the things that give it thee sweet taste. This is not always the case though, and some brands use a cold-pressed extraction method to ensure their gummies still contain the benefits of the whole-plant.
CBD oil can have a very bitter taste – it is derived from a plant after all – so some people find this off-putting if they want to take it orally.
CBD gummies taste much like any other gummy sweet, although this does come at a price; they can be full of sugar, which may be an issue for people of restrictive diets, such as diabetics, or those who are simply trying to ease their sweet tooth.
Compared to other methods, CBD gummies take longer to take effect, as they need to be digested, although some users may prefer this.
This also means that the gummies stay in the system for longer, making them a great option for people who don’t have time to think about the effects wearing off.
While CBD use is becoming widely accepted and no longer has the negative associations it once did, taking a bottle of oil out to place a few drops on the tongue is still not something everyone wants to be doing in public.
With CBD gummies, however, nobody watching will know what you’re taking.
And with no glass bottles or droppers, they’re a mess-free and transportable option too – easy to pop in a bag and add to your daily routine.
On the same token, this method makes it easier for consumers to monitor their dose more carefully. Knowing how much CBD is in one sweet is more accurate than measuring it yourself using oil and a dropper.
Are they safe?
In short, yes. CBD gummies have no psychoactive properties, so they will not give you a high. And, while some people report side effects, they are typically mild and fleeting, such as drowsiness, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Are they effective?
While more research is needed, anecdotally, CBD gummies work in the same way as any other CBD product.
However, it is worth noting that research into the effectiveness of CBD has only tested pure oil, not gummies.
So, while there may be no concrete scientific evidence that gummies work, plenty of people do report a benefit.
CBD consumption is very much a matter of personal preference, and, while gummies have plenty to recommend them, they may not be to everyone’s taste.
Jeff Ditchfield: “The only thing I see as wrong, is denying someone medicine they need”
Renowned medical cannabis activist, Jeff Ditchfield opens up about his 20-year stint in the medical cannabis space – from growing cannabis for a friend with MS, to launching Bud Buddies, an organisation that provides medical cannabis to the seriously ill.
As one of the early proponents of medical cannabis in the early 2000s, Jeff Ditchfield founded Bud Buddies, an organisation that helped thousands of patients access medical cannabis.
Twenty years and several arrests later, he has turned his attention to Jamaica, a country with a rich history of cannabis use and cultivation.
Speaking via Zoom from a bar on the coast, Jeff offered Cannabis Health a glimpse into his two-decade fight against cannabis prohibition and explains what drove him to risk 14 years in prison to help people access the plant.
A friend in need
Prior to starting out on his journey into the world of medical cannabis, Jeff had only encountered the drug a handful of times. Like many people, he dabbled with weed in his teenage years, smoking a joint in his hometown of Chester in 1976. According to Jeff, it contained “the worst form of hash you could get”.
“I think I smoked about half a joint and that was my experience [with cannabis] until the year 2000,” he said.
Twenty-five years after his first encounter with the plant, Jeff was visiting a friend who suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS) and was self-medicating with cannabis to manage her symptoms.
“I knew she consumed cannabis to help with her MS, but I had never really given it much thought until I met her,” Jeff said.
“I hadn’t seen her for a few months and she looked terrible.”
He was shocked to hear that his friend, who he describes as a “vulnerable person in a wheelchair”, had recently been robbed at knifepoint after going out at night in Liverpool in an attempt to source cannabis.
Having just sold his successful transport business and at a loose end, Jeff saw an opportunity to help her access this ‘medicine’.
“Here was a friend of mine, someone who is vulnerable, going up and down the Dock Road in Liverpool, going up to strangers in pubs asking if she can buy some weed because her regular dealer who used to get her medicine had been locked up,” Jeff said.
“I thought, ‘it’s a plant; it can’t be that hard to grow’ so I started growing it to help her out.”
His friend happened to be the chairperson of her local MS society. She told her friends, who also used cannabis to ease their symptoms, about her new supply and soon Jeff was receiving enquiries from other MS sufferers who were struggling to source good strains of cannabis.
Word travelled fast and he found himself being contacted by people with an array of health conditions, not just MS. He couldn’t keep up with the demand, but was determined to help as many people as he could.
“I was trying to think of a way whereby people could be supplied with the medicine they required without the trouble and hassle from the law, or indeed from criminals and the dangers caused by prohibition,” Jeff said.
“I realised that there was not a lot I could do on my own.”
The cannabis cafe
Inspired by the UK’s first cannabis cafe, The Dutch Experience in Stockport, Jeff opened Beggars Belief, a cafe and members-only cannabis club in Rhyl, North Wales, which ran from 2003 to 2007.
While The Dutch Experience was fully open about its selling of cannabis, emulating the coffee shops found across the Netherlands, Beggars Belief took a more cautious approach to protect its team and the people it helped.
The cafe consisted of two adjoining properties; one housed the Beggars Belief cafe which any member of the general public could walk into, and the other was a members-only area where people could go to access cannabis or learn about how to grow their own plants.
The private nature of the members-only area gave Jeff and his team a level of protection from law enforcement, however he was by no means unfamiliar with the local police officers.
“When they came into the public area of the Beggars Belief, there was nothing illegal going on,” Jeff said.
“There was a sign saying ‘members-only after this door’, implying what goes on without actually admitting to what goes on.
“We had police officers coming in, great community officers. In fact, we used to invite them in and offer them a free coffee. They’d always ask ‘what’s going on in the in the members’ area?’”
Jeff would give little away, but says he would “bait” them, inviting officers to become members if they wanted to find out about the club’s inner workings.
“They got the message that to go into the Beggars Belief members area, they needed a warrant,” he said.
“To get a warrant they needed evidence and me being just a little bit sarcastic wasn’t enough.”
It was here that he launched and ran Bud Buddies, a renowned non-profit organisation that has “grown organically” from supplying cannabis for his friend with MS to helping thousands of people gain access to medical-grade cannabis.
With little interest in making money from his work, Jeff supplies all his cannabis-based products free of charge.
“If someone comes to us with questions, we’re not trying to sell to them or give them anything necessarily, what we’re trying to do is guide them,” he explained.
Bud Buddies supplied cannabis to people suffering from a range of serious conditions including MS, epilepsy and cancer.
“I couldn’t plead guilty to an immoral law”
In 2004, Jeff was arrested for cannabis possession at Beggars Belief.
He pleaded not guilty at magistrates’ court before being tried at Chester Crown Court for possession, cultivation and intent to supply. He was facing 14 years in prison.
“I wasn’t going to plead guilty, I could not plead guilty to an immoral law. For me to plead guilty would be to admit that I was wrong and I couldn’t do that,” he said.
“The only thing I see being wrong is when we deny a person medicine that they need.”
To avoid criminal charges, Jeff successfully used the ‘defence of necessity’, which in short, permits the breaking of a law if it was broken to avoid a greater evil.
A jury found him not guilty, but the Attorney General disagreed with the verdict and reopened the case. Jeff found himself on bail for two and a half years waiting for his second trial to take place in 2007.
Although unable to use the defence of necessity, he again refused to plead guilty and was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.
In the same year as his second trial, Rhyl council decided they wanted Jeff and Beggars Belief out of their town.
“They made it quite clear that I was bringing Rhyl down,” Jeff said.
The council offered him £80,000 to buy the properties off of him, just £5,000 more than what he paid for several years ago. He went back to the council with a counteroffer of £250,000.
The council attempted to negotiate but Jeff refused to budge and around a week later, the council agreed to pay a quarter of a million pounds for the cafe – more than three times the original offer.
With the closing of Beggars Belief tying in with the end of Jeff’s trial at Crown Court, Bud Buddies decided to move its research and development to Spain, a country that was beginning to open up to the concept of medical cannabis. The organisation continues to operate from the country today.
Growing the evidence
Since launching Bud Buddies in 2001, Jeff and his team have collected detailed feedback from its members. He estimates that the organisation has up to 50,000 individual records from its members.
At this point, Bud Buddies had spent almost a decade tweaking and perfecting its medical cannabis products. This along with its extensive records of anecdotal feedback from patients meant the organisation was ideally placed for assisting the growing community of cannabis researchers in Spain.
In 2015, Bud Buddies raised €35,000 to conduct a study to compare the efficacy of whole plant extracts as an anti-cancer agent versus isolate or synthetic cannabinoids. The organisation also provides “feedback, guidance and suggestions” to researchers, primarily at Madrid Complutense University.
Although its administration and R&D efforts had moved, Bud Buddies has remained active in the UK. Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, some of the pressure has been taken off the organisation.
But with access still restricted, Jeff says he and his team are still being contacted by seriously ill people who do not have the funds or do not meet the requirements for a prescription.
Since 2014, Bud Buddies has directed its “scant” resources to assist parents of children with cancer which has now become its primary focus in the UK.
But despite the UK lifting restrictions, Jeff believes that the country continues to “move backwards”.
“The Home Office in the UK seems to be trying to come up with this narrative since 2018 that there are two different varieties of cannabis; safe cannabis which is prescribed by doctors [that] they approve of, and street cannabis which will make you mad,” Jeff said.
“The UK government has declared war on drugs, which is ridiculous – how do you declare war on an inanimate object?”
He continued: “What they mean is they have declared war on the consumers of drugs, but not all drugs. They’ve only declared war on the consumers of drugs that aren’t taxed on licensed. They haven’t declared war on the consumers of alcohol.
“But when I grow it in the UK to give to someone who’s dying of cancer, who’s 10 years old, for example, it’s a dangerous drug and I need to be locked up for 14 years.”
Intent to supply
Jeff was arrested once again in 2018, this time outside the Houses of Parliament while campaigning against the UK government’s approach to cannabis legislation.
He admitted to police officers that he was “in possession of cannabis oil with intent to supply the parent of a dying child”.
The Crown Prosecution Service had little faith in its ability to prosecute Jeff for this offence and dropped all charges.
For Jeff, Bud Buddies was never about simply supplying cannabis; his aim was to educate people and give people the knowledge they needed to become self-sufficient.
“One of our founding principles was that we look forward to the day when we naturally abolish Bud Buddies,” he said.
“That day will be when there is no need for Bud Buddies anymore because people will be able to either grow their own or get it from their local association or Cannabis Club or indeed, from the NHS.
“We set up Bud Buddies to empower people to supply themselves. I realised many, many years ago that if we could give people the knowledge they need to be self-sufficient, that knowledge can never be taken away from them.”
Writing the book on cannabis
It was this approach that led to Jeff writing the Medical Cannabis Guidebook; an “exhaustive” guide to cannabis cultivation, complete with legal advice and medical information. Published in 2014, it remains one of the most popular references for medical cannabis users.
Now he has turned his focus to Jamaica where he is working with the Caribbean Cannabis College in Kingston and a number of independent dispensaries and licensed cultivators.
“What I’m interested in at the moment is taking what Bud Buddies have learned through our experiences in the UK and combining that knowledge with the local Jamaican herbal remedies,” he explained.
Working with local herbalists, growers and cannabis experts, Jeff is continuing on his search for the perfect strains to produce the medicinal oils that have changed the lives of so many across the UK.
Lara Parker: “It’s hard to overstate the impact cannabis has had on my life”
For Endometriosis Awareness Month, Cannabis Health caught up with LA author and editor Lara Parker about living with the condition and finding relief in cannabis.
When BuzzFeed editor Lara Parker opened up about living with endometriosis in an article in 2014, she learned that there was power in numbers.
She received the diagnosis less than a year before. But she had been battling excruciating cramps, painful sex and a raft of other debilitating – and unexplained – symptoms since her teens.
It took seven years for Lara to be diagnosed with endometriosis. If that seems like a long time, it’s not, relatively speaking. Seven and a half years is the average length of time it takes for a patient to be diagnosed, despite the fact that the condition affects one in ten and around 1.5 million women in the UK.
Since that first article Lara has become something of an icon for tens of thousands living with endometriosis and chronic illness – particularly women who feel silenced, disbelieved and let down by gender bias in the medical system. In 2020 her first book came out, aptly named Vagina Problems, chronicling her journey in an attempt to provide for others what she wished had been available to her.
But there’s another reason Lara’s 50,000 plus Instagram followers show up (apart from the steamy shots). She openly, unashamedly, shares the therapeutic effects that cannabis has on her symptoms and overall health and wellbeing.
Living in Los Angeles she has widespread access to legal cannabis, but has still faced stigma and hid it from her doctors initially.
Speaking to Cannabis Health, she reveals how the plant has changed her view of conventional medicine and helped her take control of her own health.
CH: Can you tell me a little bit about your current diagnoses and what the journey was like to get to this point?
Lara: My current diagnoses are endometriosis, adenomyosis, and overall pelvic floor dysfunction. It was a really long and difficult journey to receive these answers. I started experiencing severe symptoms that were disrupting my life when I was just a teenager — around 15 years old. It wasn’t until nearly six years later that I was given my first diagnosis of endometriosis after insisting that a doctor perform a laparoscopic surgery. Since then, it’s been a constant uphill battle to not only find doctors who are knowledgeable about these conditions, but who believed that I deserved relief.
CH: How is your health at the moment and how do your symptoms impact your day to day life?
Lara: My health is up and down. I had a second surgery in January of 2020 to treat my endometriosis and my appendix was removed during this procedure. In some ways, I notice a positive change in my health since the surgery, but in many other ways, I am still struggling.
I was put on an excessive amount of prescription drugs prior to the surgery and have spent the last eight plus months attempting to wean off of them. This has added so much stress and symptoms onto my life.
In the midst of COVID-19, I was living in the epicentre of the world for the virus for several months. I had to forgo getting care for my illnesses because of my fear of getting COVID and adding yet another health issue on top. The reality of the situation is that there is no cure for endometriosis. I am maybe better than I have been in the past, but I am still at the bottom of a mountain trying to climb my way to the top.
CH: How did you first discover the medicinal benefits of cannabis?
Lara: It was by accident, really. I just happened to be dating someone who enjoyed smoking cannabis and would do it fairly often. One day, I was having a horrific pain day when he suggested I try it out and see how I felt. The relief was immediate. I had never experienced anything like it before. After that I began to explore more. I went to dispensaries and asked them questions and I tested out any products that I could get my hands on.
CH: How has it improved things for you?
Lara: The better question would be how hasn’t it improved things for me? Cannabis has given me an appetite when absolutely nothing else has, it has given me an ability to orgasm in the midst of pelvic pain, it has helped my stress and anxiety levels in the midst of dealing with chronic illnesses, and has helped my pain levels like nothing else ever has. It’s hard to overstate the impact that cannabis has had on my life.
CH: Did you speak to your doctors about it and were they supportive?
Lara: At first, they were not. I was so excited to have found something that genuinely seemed to help me that I could not understand why my doctors weren’t feeling the same enthusiasm. I sort of stopped bringing it up and almost consumed it in secret for a while, but the more I experimented with it and the more it helped me, the more angry I became.
I eventually chose to stop seeing any of the doctors who were unsupportive of my cannabis use. Now, when I assemble a new team of doctors or visit a new one I am very firm. I use this plant. It helps me. If you have a problem with that or make condescending comments about it, I will walk and I will no longer be a patient of yours – and I will make sure no one in my circle is either.
It’s past time for doctors to realise the medicinal benefits that can be found in this plant.
CH: Has it changed your opinion on pharmaceutical drugs and conventional medicine?
Lara: Yes, unequivocally. I was never a huge fan of ‘big pharma’ prior to discovering cannabis simply because it never really seemed to work for me. I was always left with an intense side effect or two which would then have to be treated with more pharmaceutical drugs. I was starting at a level of being in pain and felt like I just kept adding on layers and layers of other issues and it was extremely demoralising.
I support ‘big pharma’ if it works for you, it’s absolutely someone’s own personal choice. What bothers me, however, is that many people aren’t even allowed access to cannabis to even see if it could help them in place of pharmaceuticals. It’s quite disgusting, really and I hope I see it change in my lifetime.
CH: Living in LA where cannabis is easy to access, how does it make you feel that many other patients don’t have this?
Lara: It’s enraging. It’s mind-boggling that we have access to such an amazing plant and that others don’t simply because their elected officials don’t know how to read books and use their brains.
CH: You’re very open about your cannabis consumption, have you experienced stigma because of it?
Lara: Certainly, but not at a level that someone who was not white would, I am sure. I grew up in a very small, conservative town in the midwest and a lot of people there still associate cannabis with being some sort of murderer or dangerous person. This past weekend, actually, my parents received an anonymous note in the mail with a bunch of pictures of me smoking cannabis with the words “Are you proud?” written on each one.
CH: As someone with a large following on social media, how do you deal with people offering unsolicited advice and telling you how to manage your own health?
Lara: I have had to learn how to set boundaries and stick to them. I have had so many people get angry with me simply because I say to them, ‘I didn’t ask for your medical advice, and I don’t want it’. But it’s been absolutely crucial for me to do so. It’s very difficult to be inundated with commentary on your body constantly. If I wanted advice or help, I would certainly ask for it.
CH: You’ve chosen to use your platform to help others, what impact does that have on you as a patient yourself?
Lara: It has given me the greatest gift of all; to know that I am not alone and that no matter where I am in my struggle, someone else is right there with me. There is power in numbers and I believe that our community is just getting started.
CH: What needs to change about how healthcare treats people with endometriosis and other invisible conditions?
Lara: So much, we need a complete rehaul of medicine. We need patient-forward care. We need holistic approaches. We need medicare for all. We need western doctors to drop the narcissism and admit that they actually don’t have all the answers, not even close.
CH: What is one thing you would like people to know about endometriosis?
Lara: It is a whole body disease that impacts every single part of someone’s life. It needs to be treated as such.
Vagina Problems: Endometriosis, Painful Sex and Other Taboo Topics is available now.
Follow Lara on Instagram @laraeparker
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