Medical cannabis legalization has been sweeping throughout countries worldwide as many look for alternatives to traditionally prescribed treatments and medications. Before the modern era, cannabis was a popular herbal medicinal treatment in Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and Islamic cultures. However, under international regulations, cannabis was deemed illegal nearly a century ago because of the psychoactive properties stemming from the marijuana derivative of the plant. However, despite regulatory laws, many countries have since decided to move forward and legalize medical cannabis due to its therapeutic benefits. Countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the U.K, and parts of the U.S. have all adopted medicinal cannabis legislation. Predominantly, cannabis is used to treat a variety of medical ailments which includes cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, glaucoma, migraines and epilepsy. Current modern treatments and surgical procedures to treat conditions such as cancer and epilepsy can be highly expensive for an average person. For instance, the treatment of epilepsy (VNS therapy) in the U.S. can cost upwards of USD 20,000, which includes implants and a surgical procedure. However, the costs of surgery and care can vary in different parts of the U.S. and can increase over time, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. Furthermore, patients will also need regular appointments with their neurologist to check the device, so while VNS therapy can be effective for patients suffering from epilepsy, the price can be quite hefty. Recently, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration legalized Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived drug used to treat Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome common among children. As clinical trials and research continue to undergo, government regulators are becoming more inclined to evaluate the efficacy of cannabis. And as more U.S. states and countries continue to legalize cannabis for medical applications, the market is positioned to become a global phenomenon, as according to data compiled by IMARC Group, the global medical cannabis market was estimated at a value of USD 13.4 Billion in 2018. By 2024, the market is expected to exceed a value of USD 44.4 Billion while exhibiting a CAGR of 22.9% from 2019 to 2024. Trutrace Technologies Inc. (OTC:BKKSF) (CNSX:TTT.CN), Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc. (OTC:EMHTF) (TSXV:EMH.VN), MariMed Inc. (OTC:MRMD), InMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTC:IMLFF) (TSX:IN.TO), Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ:NEPT) (TSX:NEPT.TO)
While cannabis is having a large impact in many countries, the penetration of the market is still relatively low. In 2017, the U.S. had approximately 2.61 million medical cannabis patients among the total 216.11 million total residents in the states that legalized medical cannabis, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The statistics showed that most states only had 3% or less of their total population using medical cannabis, perhaps due in large part to the taboos that surround the drug. Stereotypically speaking, most people associate cannabis with getting “high” and tend to overlook the benefits of the plant. In order to progress further, the FDA explicitly mentioned that it will require more large-scale positive clinical trials in order to officially approve cannabis for specific medical treatments. Nonetheless, concluded and ongoing trials have highlighted that patients have seen a significant reduction and noted that the use of cannabis has worked very well. “The debate over the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana is ongoing. While a number of states in the U.S. have active medical marijuana laws (and a growing number allow recreational use), the federal government continues to classify it as a Schedule I controlled substance. Not only does that make it illegal to possess, it also limits medical studies into the potential benefits of cannabis,” said Angela Morrow, Registered Nurse and certified hospice and palliative care nurse. “Medical marijuana remains controversial but it is gaining traction as a legitimate recommendation for a variety of symptoms. Even though many states have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes (and a few for recreational use), it’s going to take more moves by policymakers and the U.S. government for it be accepted and sold nationwide. This will, however, likely require a much larger body of legitimate scientific research to prove or disprove the efficacy of medical marijuana, and potentially loosen the restrictions on its use.”
Trutrace Technologies Inc. (OTC:BKKSF) (CNSX:TTT.CN) is also listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker (CNSX:TTT.CN). Yesterday, at the second annual World Cannabis Congress, Shoppers Drug Mart announced, “a new initiative with software company, TruTrace Technologies to develop and deploy a blockchain-secured pilot program intended to increase transparency, interoperability and product identification within the medical cannabis industry (the “Pilot Program”).
The Pilot Program will use TruTrace’s StrainSecure(TM) technology as a central hub for identity management, asset tracking, validation, and product authentication. StrainSecure will also serve as a master registry for standardized testing, product verification, and quality assurance.
“We’ve gone to great lengths over the past six years to fully understand the challenges and opportunities that exist within the medical cannabis industry and taken steps to apply similar principles from traditional medicine to this new industry. The source of medical cannabis must be traceable and accountable for patients and practitioners to feel confident about it as a treatment,’ said Ken Weisbrod, Vice President, Shoppers Drug Mart. ‘When a patient takes medication, there is an expectation that it is standardized, and they can expect consistent clinical outcomes and results. Although that’s not always a guarantee within the medical cannabis industry at the moment, we’re hoping this new program can help change that.”
“This is a significant milestone that brings our technology together with one of the most trusted brands in Canada,’ said TruTrace Technologies CEO Robert Galarza. ‘We believe it is a testament to our technology’s ability to bring transparency and integrity to the cannabis industry and our shared mission. This initiative should help researchers and clinicians to match therapeutic outcomes to specific genetic and chemical profiles, and provide physicians, pharmacists, and patients with greater confidence in the products they prescribe or consume.”
Phase 1 of the pilot program is expected to be completed by July 31, with full production and implementation targeted for late November 2019.
About Shoppers Drug Mart: Shoppers Drug Mart is one of the most recognized and trusted names in Canadian retailing. The company is the licensor of full-service retail drug stores operating under the name Shoppers Drug Mart (Pharmaprix in Québec). With almost 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix stores operating in prime locations in each province and two territories, the company is one of the most convenient retailers in Canada. The company also licenses or owns 47 medical clinic pharmacies operating under the name Shoppers Simply Pharmacy (Pharmaprix Simplement Santé in Québec), and provides cosmetic dermatology services at two standalone locations, the Beauty Clinic. As well, the company owns and operates 43 corporate Wellwise by Shoppers Drug Mart stores and an ecommerce site Wellwise.ca, making it the largest Canadian retailer of home health care products and services. In addition to its retail store network, the company owns Shoppers Drug Mart Specialty Health Network Inc., a provider of specialty drug distribution, pharmacy and comprehensive patient support services, and MediSystem Inc., a provider of pharmaceutical products and services to long-term care facilities. Shoppers Drug Mart is an independent operating division of Loblaw Companies Limited.
About TruTrace Technologies: TruTrace Technologies has developed the first integrated blockchain platform to register and track intellectual property in the cannabis industry. Their technology allows cannabis growers and breeders to identify and secure rights to their intellectual property. It also streamlines the administrative process and reduces the costs of mandatory genetic quality control testing for legal cannabis. The technology is proprietary, immutable, and cryptographically secure, thereby establishing an accurate and permanent account for cannabis strains from ownership to market.”
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Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc. (OTCQX:EMHTF) (TSXV:EMH.VN) is a Canadian licensed producer of cannabis. Emerald Health Therapeutics, Inc. recently reported that is has expanded its agreement to purchase harvested hemp flower and leaf, or hemp chaff, from Emerald Health Hemp Inc. (“EHH”) from 1,000 to 1,200 acres for 2019. EHH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emerald Health Sciences Inc. and a related party of Emerald. Based on last year’s harvest, Emerald expects production from the 1,200 acres to be at least 270,000 kg of hemp chaff in 2019 with, conservatively, approximately 2% cannabidiol content. Emerald estimates that this hemp may yield 3,500 kg of extracted CBD, which it plans to use to manufacture premium oils, softgels and associated value-added products for Canadian adult-use and medical consumers. “Emerald, through its partnership with the Factors Group and their scalable processing capacity, is uniquely situated to become one of Canada’s leading producers of premium CBD products from hemp,” said Dr. Avtar Dhillon, President and Executive Chairman. “We established our first-mover advantage in 2018 by securing hemp on a large scale and gaining production insights that will benefit us in 2019. With even more supply contracted for this year, we expect significant near-term growth in this market segment.”
MariMed Inc. (OTCQB:MRMD) is dedicated to improving health and wellness with the highest quality hemp and cannabis products. MariMed Inc. recently announced that its MariMed Hemp subsidiary will acquire 70% of MediTaurus, LLC, owner of the international Florance(TM) brand of CBD health and wellness products and extensive intellectual property (IP) relating to cannabis formulations. The Florance(TM) brand is established in the U.S. and EU with online distributors, wholesalers, pharmacies and physicians. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. This is the first acquisition for MariMed Hemp, which was formed to optimize MariMed’s strategic investment in GenCanna Global, Inc., the Kentucky-based producer of compliant, quality CBD derived from hemp. Bob Fireman, Chief Executive Officer of MariMed Inc., noted, “This transaction is extremely important for MariMed for three reasons: First, from an operational standpoint, the Florance(TM) brand jump-starts our MariMed Hemp division with an established, premium line of CBD health and wellness products and formulas in the U.S. and the EU, global licensing of MediTaurus IP; and a network of established European relationships. Florance(TM) provides a ready platform for new product introductions, including diversity of the uses of hemp including food, food supplements and topicals. MariMed will help rapidly scale up production, distribution and licensing partnerships throughout the major U.S. markets where MariMed operates and sells. Second, with MediTaurus and its co-founders, including Dr. Ziburkus, comes a wealth of expertise and research experience into the benefits and function of compounds found in cannabis and hemp. Dr. Ziburkus will be both a trusted advisor and continue his key roles of needed scientific research and balanced education of the medical community on the benefits cannabinoids offer for a variety of health conditions. Finally, MediTaurus is a perfect fit with MariMed’s mission, values and corporate culture to unlock and introduce the known and yet-to-be-discovered health benefits of cannabis and hemp.”
InMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTCQX:IMLFF) (TSX:IN.TO) is a biopharmaceutical company developing a proprietary biosynthesis system for the manufacturing of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids, as well as a pipeline of cannabinoid-based medications that target diseases with high unmet medical needs. InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. recently announced the publication of the first in a series of pending patent applications directed to the Company’s biosynthesis platform technology for the manufacturing of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids. International Patent Application No. PCT/CA2018/051074, which recently published as WO2019046941, entitled ‘METABOLIC ENGINEERING OF E. COLI FOR THE BIOSYNTHESIS OF CANNABINOID PRODUCTS’, addresses the enablement and maximization of cannabinoid production through optimization of the precursor substrates needed to support specific cannabinoid synthesis. This application, as well as two more recently-filed U.S. provisional patent applications, also cover various elements required to enable functional cannabinoid synthase production in an E. coli system. The Company will actively seek to convert these two follow-on provisional applications, and subsequent provisional patents from new patent families, into additional Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”) applications in all major commercial jurisdictions, in due course. Eric Hsu, PhD, InMed’s Senior Vice President, Preclinical Research and Development, stated, “The publication of our initial patent and the filing of two additional provisional patent applications supports InMed’s continued expansion of intellectual property coverage for our proprietary biosynthesis program. InMed will continue to position itself at the forefront of this and other innovative technologies to enable the manufacturing of pharmaceutical grade cannabinoids through biosynthesis.”
Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ:NEPT) (TSX:NEPT.TO) specializes in the extraction, purification and formulation of health and wellness products. – Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. recently announced that it had received its license to process cannabis from Health Canada. The Health Canada license enables Neptune to handle dried cannabis, to manufacture and purify cannabis extracts and cannabis oil, and to sell its services to other license holders. With production activities anticipated to commence shortly at Neptune’s 50,000 sq. ft. good manufacturing practice (GMP)-certified facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the Company expects to be able to generate revenues from existing supply agreements and conclude additional agreements shortly. “This is a thrilling moment for Neptune as our ambition to redeploy our core competencies to exciting consumer product categories by creating and delivering differentiated formulations for the burgeoning cannabis market becomes a reality. Neptune’s long-standing scientific expertise in the formulation of natural health products supports our ability to deliver exceptional quality formulations for our business customers. The processing license granted by the agency puts us on a new growth trajectory, positioning Neptune as a provider of extracted cannabis products in this large, growing global market segment,” said Jim Hamilton, President & Chief Executive Officer of Neptune.
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