The Bis Weekly News Update – April 29 to May 4

Get out the way, here comes May.

While it might be challenging to accept that it’s springtime across this great country of ours, buds are starting to sprout, the grass is getting green, and exciting cannabis news is blooming from coast to coast to coast.

This week Harvard and MIT got some serious bucks from a Canadian investor to study cannabis, the Global Marijuana March celebrates 21 years today, and more.

It’s The ‘Bis News roundup for April 29 to May 4!

The number of Canadians trying weed for the first time is going up: StatsCan

Photo by Maximilian Muselmann on Unsplash

Statistics Canada has released new data as part of its ongoing National Canada Survey that suggests first-time cannabis use has gone up during the first quarter of 2019.

According to the survey, about 5.3 million (18%) Canadians over the age of 15 reported using cannabis in the last three months. This is 4% higher than the first quarter of 2018, when the number was pegged around 14%.

Many cannabis users in the first quarter of 2019 were also trying something new, as StatsCan’s numbers indicate that “646,000 cannabis users reported trying cannabis for the very first time in the past three months.” Again, when compared to the same time last year (when recreational sales remained illegal), the total reported first-time users has almost doubled in size. In 2018, the estimate was that 327,000 Canadians had tried recreational pot for the first time.

Age figures heavily into the reports of new users, according to the agency.

“Results suggest that first-time users in the post-legalization period are older,” they wrote “Half of new users were aged 45 or older, while in the same period in 2018, this age group represented about one-third of new users.”

However, it’s not just new users, consumption numbers are going up nationwide. The rise in use is a trend being led by men and Canadians between the ages of 45 to 64, according to StatsCan. Cannabis use is significantly higher among males (22%) than females (13%).

“Rates of cannabis consumption for males increased from 16% to 22% over this period, while rates rose from 9% to 14% for persons aged 45 to 64,” the finding’s summery reads. “Levels of consumption remained stable for females, at 13%, and were unchanged for persons in the other age groups (such as young people under 25 and seniors).”

Overall much of the figures have not changed much though. Provincial usage levels of cannabis remain similar to previous data collected by the survey when compared to 2018. The one notable difference has been in Ontario where province-wide consumption jumped 6%, from 14% to 20%.

Storefront retail sales in Ontario did not come online until the beginning of April, with only 10 stores managing to open their doors by the deadline. The survey data only includes information up until the end of March, meaning the new retail numbers do not factor into these figures. StatsCan does not indicate what may have caused the jump in the central Canadian province.

In the first quarter of 2018, 23% (approx. 954,000 people) of Canadians reported purchasing pot from a legal source. So far this year, that number has increased. Roughly 47%, or 2.5 million Canadian cannabis users, obtained their product from legal sources.

While more older people are trying cannabis, it continued to be more common among 15- to 24-year-olds (30%) than Canadians aged 25 and older (16%).

A free Canada-wide mail-in drug testing service has been set up in Vancouver

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

All drugs, recreational or otherwise, come with some risk.

Whether MDMA is helping you appreciate the little things (“You guys, this couch is the softest ever!”), you’re just trying to unwind after a long shift of day trading with a bumper full of cocaine, or maybe you just have a serious opioid addiction and prefer not to die, knowing that the substances entering your bloodstream are coming as advertised is deeply important.

That’s why BC-based cannabis advocate Dana Larson has set up a new national mail-in drug testing service in Vancouver. Through the purchase of an FTRI spectrometer and the hiring of an experienced technician, he plans to offer free testing to anyone who can get the drugs in front of him.

According to Thermo Fisher, a company that produces spectrometers, FTIR stands for Fourier transform infrared. The spectrometer passes IR radiation through a sample. The resulting returned signal to the detector is a spectrum representing a molecular ‘fingerprint’ of the sample. Different chemical structures (molecules) produce different spectral fingerprints, thought the device will not recognize new compounds not already in its library, or chemicals that make up 5% or less of the sample.

According to the services’ website, those wishing to have a sample tested should contact them at to receive the mailing address. Then place approximately 10mg — less than the head of one matchstick — or more of the substance in question to be tested into a small plastic container, then seal in not one, but two ziplock bags.

Include a piece of paper that contains what you think the substance is, a description of the pill or capsule the sample in, and your email address — no other personal information is requested. The company is also happy to accept small donations via the same package (they recommend $5) but will test the sample regardless.

They also request that curious consumers use Canada Post, Xpresspost or Purolator for shipping and not to require a signature on packages.

The organization says results will be sent via email within 48-hours.

The Global Marijuana March is going down across the world today

Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

While the smoke has cleared from 4/20 last month, there’s another cannabis-focused event going down. On Saturday, May 4, the Global Marijuana March will take to the streets of the city in solidarity of persecuted cannabis users across the planet.

The GMM is a global protest against cannabis prohibition, held in over 200 countries every year on the first Saturday of May.

In Canada, marches are being planned in many major cities, Vancouver and Toronto included.

“All peaceful cannabis enthusiasts welcome,” the Vancouver organizers write on their event page. “The GMM is a positive but defiant reminder that cannabis prohibition isn’t over yet!”

Harvard Medical School and MIT gifted $9M to study cannabis

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

Harvard University and MIT have just become the recipients of the largest single donation to fund cannabis research in history.

Charles R. Broderick, a graduate of both Harvard University and MIT has gifted his alma maters with $4.5 million each (a total of $9 million between the two) to research the effects of cannabinoids on the brain and human behaviour, according to a joint release by both institutions.

“The donation will allow experts in the fields of neuroscience and biomedicine at Harvard Medical School and MIT to conduct research that may ultimately help unravel the biology of cannabinoids, illuminate their effects on the human brain, catalyze treatments, and inform evidence-based clinical guidelines, social policies and the regulation of cannabis,” the universities wrote.

Citing an increasing use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, the institutions are eager to address what they call “gaps in knowledge” around the subject of cannabis’ impacts on short and long-term health.

“Our desire is to fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis,” said Broderick, in the release. “I want to destigmatize the conversation around cannabis—and, in part, that means providing facts to the medical community, as well as the general public.

“Then we’re all working from the same information. We need to replace rhetoric with research.”

Broderick is not only an alumnus of both institutions but also an early investor in Canada’s cannabis industry. A former investor in Aphria and Tweed, he also sat on the board of Hiku Brands, the parent company of Tokyo Smoke (which he also invested in), until it was acquired by Canopy Growth.

His donation will result in the creation of the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative at Harvard Medical School and will provide $4.5 million over three years to support research for four scientists at the McGovern and Picower institutes at MIT.

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