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Is BCG The Next Vaccine For Coronavirus?

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The coronavirus or COVID-19 has caused global panic, as it continues to spread across countries. While the general public is panic buying and practicing self isolation in quarantine, all health workers and health authorities are trying to battle the global pandemic. As health workers risk their lives to treat their patients everyday, researchers are trying to come up with a vaccine to provide immunity or protection to some extent, from the virus.

While a vaccine for COVID-19 is much awaited, certain drugs may provide some protection. Use of live vaccines is encouraged, to increase the recipient’s immune response. However, as new drugs are being tested for the COVID-19 vaccination, non traditional uses of existing drugs are explored as well – one of them being BCG

The Bacillus Calmette- Guérin vaccine – BCG, has been used against tuberculosis long enough. Research shows that BCG causes the immune system responds better to infections – not limited to TB. Two studies in adults (age group – 60-75) have reported a decrease in respiratory infections by 70 to 80 percent. Meanwhile, two studies in children reported a decrease by 15 to 40 percent.

Another study was later on conducted on infants in countries with severe health challenges. When combined with a revitalized immunization scheme, BCG was able to decrease the death rates by just under a third. However, studies have also suggested that the time period of the protective effect is temporary, until an inactivated vaccine – such as an influenza vaccine, is given.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had commissioned a systematic review, due to the promising research, which was then published in 2016. Further research was encouraged due to the conclusion of the BCG vaccine having beneficial, but off target effects.

A trial of BCG vaccine has begun in the Netherlands and a larger trial of over 4000 health workers is expected to start next week in Australia. Meanwhile, countries like Greece, Britain, Germany, Denmark, and the United States, are also considering BCG vaccine trials.

Despite the benefits of a BCG vaccine, the protection is not expected to be perfect. Although a targeted vaccination for COVID-19 is not the same as a BCG vaccination, it is expected to reduce the severity of the illness and death rates among the recipients of the BCG vaccination. If BCG vaccinations could prove to be effective, an immediate relief system could be started to provide the particularly vulnerable people – the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, with the BCG vaccine.

Additionally, countries with weak health care systems, could highly benefit from these BCG vaccines. While the vaccine is safe and cheap, the availability for testing is immediate. While health care workers, and the vulnerable population are the priority, it can be soon be available to the general public as well.

Despite all this, big public health institutions aren’t too keen in investigating BCG, despite WHO’s recommendation. Moreover, the crucial research isn’t actively funded by global health foundations such as Gates. The lack of interest of big pharmaceutical companies points towards the little profit that an established vaccine such as BCG could bring.

Enough research has been conducted on BCG, proving it to be a potential vaccination. While it may be an unconventional use of the drug, it still shows a lot of potential to give at least partial protection.

Considering the nature of the global crisis currently, even partial protection could majorly impact the increasing number of infected cases globally. It could reduce risks of health workers substantially, and also lessen the risk of collapse of our health systems. But as for now, there is an urgency to keep trials to test it’s beneficial effects for COVID-19.

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Marijuana Legalization : The Impact On The Job Market in Australia

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After the recent US elections and marijuana decisions, other countries in the world are also discussing the possibility of legalization. A political party from Australia recently claimed that the country could have a ton of new jobs if they were to legalize cannabis. The Job Market in Australia is closer to marijuana legalization than you might think.

The leader of the HEMP party, Michael Balderstone, discussed the current cannabis climate in Australia with Dr. John Teh of PlantMed. He also discussed the evolution of his political party formed to help Marijuana legalization in Australia. Balderstone stressed the healthiest aspects of the cannabis plant during the interview. He said that cannabis is a “Health Issue” in Australia considering illegal sales due to the black market.

Many countries in the world are suffering from illegal cannabis markets. Since cannabis is illegal in these countries people are forced to resort to these sellers. The problem with black market sellers is that they often sell contaminated cannabis. These dealers lace their cannabis with various other drugs to make users come back for more. This often leads to addiction and other bad effects on the body.

Commenting on the same issue Balderstone said that. “Most of the pot in Australia on the street is grown by highly organized crime. It is full of chemicals. They don’t really care about the health quality of the product.” He said that it looks like Australia is moving in the opposite direction to world progress. Where countries like New Zealand are laying plans for proper legalization Australia is getting more controlling on cannabis use. The government is now doing drug sniffer dog raids in NSW more than ever.

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According to Balderstone, the strict laws on cannabis are driving people away from a life-changing medical therapy. People are afraid of legal issues and do not use cannabis at all.

Cannabis Policing in Australia:

Michael Balderstone said that if the government continues to push people on cannabis laws they will eventually move to worse drugs. “I think the driving and sniffer dogs has changed drug habits a bit. You know, a lot of people won’t use cannabis because it’s the easy bus, stays in your system so long. So, they’re gonna use other drugs, which may well more dangerous. So, there’s a lot.”

Financial reports suggest that Australia spends around  $1.1 billion every year on cannabis policing. However, if they legalize the drug not only will they be able to save this revenue they will also make more thanks to taxation. The Green party suggests potential tax revenues of up to $2 billion a year. “(With legalization) We’d save billions from costs and make a fortune in tax,” Balderstone said.

He also hinted that legalization can provide in terms of the Job Market in Australia. Obviously, if legalization does happen in the country they will have a finite demand. To meet that demand farmers will have to grow cannabis locally. This will lead to new jobs in every sector including agriculture, medicine, transportation, and many others. According to Balderstone “I reckon there are 100,000 jobs just waiting to happen in Australia. If they allowed smaller licenses, you know, instead of huge corporations growing 20 acres of weed and employing 50 people.”

The small supplier model can help thousands of people make a living out of the cannabis business. Cannabis legalization is an important step that many countries have to take in the near future. For most of them, it can lead to a better society overall.

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Cannabis reforms in Mexico – Will it join Canada and Uruguay?

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New cannabis reforms in mexico have legalized adult-use will legalize adult-use marijuana upon approval.

The Mexican Senate has finally granted approval to cannabis reforms in the region after stalling the debate for almost two long years.

Earlier this month, senators were circulating a draft bill on the issue in hopes of getting these cannabis reforms moved to the full Senate floor for approval. Luckily for them, a joint hearing session was finally held today after being delayed for months due to the pandemic.

The Senate floor has cast 82 votes in favor of the bill, while 18 votes were cast against it.  Moreover, about 7 senators abstained from voicing their opinion on the issue.

Although a big accomplishment for legalization advocates, the bill still has to surpass major hurdles before reforms can be fully implemented. Upon success, these changes will make Mexico the third country to fully legalize adult-use marijuana after Uruguay and Canada.

Many legalization advocates are hoping that lawmakers would now use this opportunity to devise policies that could have positive impacts on society. According to some, this move can be a ‘historic opportunity’ to ‘repair the harms of prohibition’ inflicted upon the residents of the community.

Moving forwards, the legalization bill still has to gain approval from the lower legislative chamber and get signatures from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This will only be possible if the President doesn’t have any reservations about the legislatures proposed through the bill and signs it into the law.

Supreme Court issues deadline for cannabis reform implementation

In October of 2019, the Supreme Court had granted an extension to legislators to thoroughly review the issue. When senators were unable to reach a consensus, the new deadline was moved to April 2020. However, due to restrictions on in-person meetings, the process was delayed once again and another extension was granted.

For now, the new deadline set by the Supreme Court is December 15th. Senate President Eduardo Ramirez is hopeful that this time the legislative reforms would be achieved within the due date set by the court.

Cannabis Legalization Efforts in Mexico

The issue of cannabis legalization was brought to light when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assumed office in 2018. According to Senator Olga Sanchez Coredo, the prohibition of marijuana has claimed thousands of lives, fed violence, and magnified poverty in the nation. “We don’t want more deaths. It will be a major contribution to bringing peace to our beloved country.”

This announcement was in line with Supreme Court rulings that lifted the legal ban on the drug. Prohibition of the drug was deemed unconstitutional after this ruling. All other courts had to follow suit because as per Mexican law if the chamber of the Supreme Court has the same ruling on any matter five or more times, the decision becomes a compulsory precedent for all other courts and judges.

Proposals Made in the Cannabis-Reform Bill in Mexico

Although the legislative process has been distraught with a lot of delays, it has made some noticeable progress nonetheless.

Earlier in March, a joint meeting was held between the members of Justice, Health, Legislative  Studies, and Public Safety Committees. During this meeting, the Mexican Senate Committees signed off the bill that made the following proposed cannabis reforms:

  • There would be separate regulations on THC products that would not be applicable to hemp and CBD. 
  • Adults 18 or above can possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The possession limit is set at 28 grams, although holding up to 200 grams is still decriminalized.
  • Public consumption of the drug would be legal, provided it is carried out in completely smoke-free zones.
  • These adults will be allowed to grow up to 20 registered plants; provided the cumulative yield stays under 480 grams per year.
  • Medical marijuana patients will be allowed to cultivate more than 20 plants upon proper request applications.
  • There will be a 12% tax imposed on cannabis sales, with part of the proceeds allocated towards substance abuse treatment.
  • The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis would responsible for moderating and licensing marijuana businesses.

Although the legislative changes depict significant flexibility of law, advocates demand more to be done. One of their major concerns is the high level of penalties that will be imposed on individuals for rule violations. They are also pressing for ensuring equal opportunities in the industry for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lebanon legalizes Medical Cannabis with a bill

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It’s great to see so many countries opening doors for cannabis around the world. It started with Thailand in Asia, then Uruguay in South America, and Lesotho in Africa. Now one of the Middle Eastern countries has joined the cannabis legalization train. Lebanon has become the first Arab country to legalize medical cannabis.

While Lebanon isn’t technically the first Arab country to legalize cannabis because Israel did it first way back in the 90s. We can say that it is the first because of Israel’s standing with the rest of the middle east. Israel often considers itself separate from the other Arab countries. Lebanon’s move to legalize medical cannabis is a big move. Not only will it ensure better medical care in the country. It will encourage more and more countries to come forward.

Lebanon’s Cannabis Policy:

Cannabis is generally illegal to use and possess in Lebanon. The country does not have any laws for recreational use as of yet. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances Law 673 states that any narcotic use without a medical prescription is subject to a prison sentence of three months to three years and a fine.

Moreover, the sale and trade of marijuana of any kind are also prohibited. people found guilty of trade face worse charges than possession and get no leniency. The use of CBD is also illegal. The law makes no clear difference between CBD and THC. Therefore, cannabis products in any form and from any origin are illegal to have and use.

Before the legalization passed growing hemp was also considered illegal in Lebanon. However, it certainly did not stop people from doing that. The country continues to grow cannabis to the present day. The cultivation is mainly controlled by powerful clans and Hezbollah, which has caused many conflicts over the years between farmers and police.  In addition, the Un recently reported that Lebanon is the third largest cannabis resin supplier in the world.

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With the new framework in place, medical cannabis is legal to use. Moreover it also legal to grow cannabis for medicinal use now.

Legalizing Medical Cannabis:

Lebanon legalized medical cannabis on April 21st this year. The legislators approved that law on this day which enables the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal use. The Hezbollah representatives opposed the new bill. As it turns out the new bill will take the possession of cannabis business from their hands. They will also have to pay taxes and show revenue streams to the government now.

Another interesting thing to note is the timing of this decision. while the whole world has shut down from the financial market right now. Lebanon has decided to open its doors to cannabis.

The Future:

The one thing that our past discussions on cannabis legalization have made clear is that passing the bill is just the first step. What comes next is an equally important and critical task. The county government has to develop the laws and implement them. The country does have a plan for that. Many of the state officials hinted that they will try to implement a state-run system to regulate marijuana. The State will issue licenses to selected individuals for farming, production, and sale of cannabis products, through a regulatory authority.

Despite of the global pandemic, the marijuana industry has been able to perform well and proven its resilience.

Image Source: Cobizmag

For a country like Lebanon, the decision of legalization has more sense in terms of financial revenue than in medical improvement. We can hope that they take it all the way soon. The decision will certainly help the people both financially as well as medically.

 

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