Prohibition Partners LIVE 2020: Day TWO Highlights

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We would like to extend our warmest thanks to everyone who joined us during the inaugural Prohibition Partners LIVE event.

Over the past two days, we have welcomed over 1,500 delegates and over 150 industry-leading speakers from 50 countries to the virtual Prohibition Partners LIVE platform. In the interest of facilitating long-lasting partnerships, the networking facilities available through the Prohibition Partners LIVE event space will remain open for an additional seven days with all 120 hours of content available for on-demand viewing, for the next 30 days.

Day two of Prohibition Partners LIVE saw speakers and attendees once more take to Prohibition Partners LIVE’s virtual stages — Cannabis Europa, Cannabis Americana, ProCapital in partnership with MAZAKALI, and The PSYCH Symposium — to debate and discuss the largest issues and the greatest opportunities present in the cannabis industry today.

Cannabis Europa

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Opening the stage on day two, cosmetic and cannabis research experts spoke with broadcaster and journalist Charlie Webster at IMPACT: CBD & Cosmetics, where they investigated how CBD continues to carve out a space within the cosmetics industry. According to Prohibition Partners analysis, this CBD cosmetics market could be worth up to US$959 million by the year 2024.

The panelists identified the UK as a particular region of interest for the CBD-infused cosmetics market, with the nation as a whole showing significant levels of interest in the CBD beauty space. With Brexit also setting up a scenario where the UK could possibly dramatically alter its rules on CBD from the current EU stance, this also adds to the interest around the national market.

“It gets tricky for beauty brands as you're operating in Europe, a fragmented market with overarching European regulation that covers everything from A-to-B on what you can and can't say, and it's arguably more restricted for CBD. It's a waiting game. It's why we've not seen the major players go hard and fast in this space. There is a need to educate consumers but you need to be able to speak about things more clearly to be able to do so.” Kacey Culliney, Editor, Cosmetics Design Europe.

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From a more scientific perspective, the panelists also spoke on the practical issues that come with making CBD cosmetics. As Pauric Bannigan explained, CBD is an oil, and so it inherently does not mix well with water-based creams or topicals. This can make for unstable products which degrade rapidly over time, and lead to a poor user experience.

“It is hard in France to change public perception. But in the UK it seems much more open. It is deep-seated, depending on what that country's regulations are on cannabis.” Joanna Pélissier, Co-Founder & CEO, BeCann.

The Cannabis Europa stage also saw a second IMPACT series talk, IMPACT: Cannabis + Food & Drink. Once again, the practical issues of formulating these products were discussed, with CBD’s properties as an oil also proving to be problematic in this space. However, in this space the technology available is already very well-developed in comparison to other similar sectors.

“I think the drinks sector has been more on the front-foot than edibles, in terms of the technology to make the CBD more bioavailable — and it’s had to be, for the reasons mentioned in terms of actually making the [CBD] soluble and not sitting as a residue in the product.”  Rebekah Hall, CEO, South West Brands.

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In Protecting the Consumer: CBD in Europe, panelists took part in a lively debate over the future trajectory that one might expect for the European regulatory space.

The importance of strong analytical testing was highlighted early on as one potential route for improving consumer protection. Dr Andy Yates, of The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, illustrated the point by recalling one finding from a recent report published by the Centre. After conducting independent testing on thirty CBD oils currently available for purchase, the centre found nearly 40% contained less CBD than advertised — with one product containing no CBD at all.

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Also discussed extensively throughout the day was the European Commission’s rules on Novel Food legislation. Despite high numbers of Novel Foods applications being submitted for non-synthetic CBD products, currently none have been validated. While this is a problem in itself, the panel also debated whether it should be considered appropriate to class hemp-based products with naturally occurring CBD as a Novel Food at all.

“I am concerned about big brands coming into the industry. Big companies could provide good savoir-faire etc. Good companies will increase the trust for consumers because consumers will see hemp everywhere, but if I read the reality around me — Europe is asking me to do a Novel Foods application and small and medium enterprises can't afford to do this. This is the reality. Small and medium enterprises make up 66% of the hemp industry. They are the backbone of industry.” — Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director, European Industrial Hemp Association.

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Later in the afternoon, Professor David Nutt presented a keynote on the Cannabis Europa stage, titled Making Medical Cannabis in the UK a Reality. In a highly informative talk, Professor Nutt outlined the history of cannabis prohibition — detailing how in 1971 the UK would eventually fall in line with international cannabis prohibition treaties by including cannabis in the nation’s Misuse of Drugs Act, and how even today, more than 18 months after cannabis’ rescheduling to allow for medicinal use, only a limited number of scripts have been issued on the NHS.

"One of the things that the government did [...] was that they limited the prescribing to specialists. Now, most of the indications for which cannabis is going to be useful, are indications that are driven and run out of primary care. If you've got PTSD and you want to see a specialist, well there's, say, three in the country. They've created a huge bottleneck for access to specialists, which is insurmountable." Professor David Nutt, Director of Neuropharmapsychology, Imperial College London & Former Chief Drugs Advisor to the UK Government.

Professor Nutt also spoke of Drug Science’s Project Twenty21, reporting that the medical cannabis registry has now already enrolled 7,000 of the target 20,000 patients the Project hopes to reach by the end of 2021. Project Twenty21 will support prescribers in the UK in providing medical cannabis to patients, subsidise the cost of this medicine to patients, and collect anonymised data on patient outcomes to share with academic researchers and policymakers.

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As artists and pivotal players in the live music industry, the panellists in Cultural Revolution: On and Off Screen took the long view of how cannabis as a cultural phenomenon has changed over the years, examining the role that the entertainment industry has played in these shifting perceptions. Rock music legend David Crosby did not hold back on his political views about cannabis, Trump, and the prospect for federal legalisation in the United States, as social entrepreneur and musician CJ Wallace reflected on the challenges faced by BAME communities seeking to enter the cannabis space.

“I feel like I'm one of the only cannabis owners in the space who is black and under-25.” CJ Wallace, Founder, Think BIG.

PSYCH: The Psychedelics Symposium

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The first panel discussion held on day two of PSYCH: The Psychedelics Symposium continued the previous evening’s discussions on the practical usefulness of psychedelics in medicine, with Prohibition Partners’ Stephen Murphy and MindMed’s JR Rahn coming together to discuss the application of Psychedelics for Substance Use. A team that regularly emerged from the day was how psychedelics could be used to help treat the mental health repercussions of lockdown.

"Addiction increases 19% in isolation, so the COVID-19 crisis is going to have serious long term implications for mental health. We need solutions and psychedelics could offer a way of helping people as we deal with the impact of the pandemic.” - JR Rahn, Founder, MindMed

Already, studies have indicated that individual doses of ketamine have the power to reduce opioid cravings and tolerance for a significant time period following the initial dose. Similarly, ibogaine has been used for this in clinical settings within Latin America for decades. As research capabilities progress, so too will this field of medicine.

Going further into these practicalities, Psychedelics for Treatment: Set & Setting explored exactly how such treatment can be best administered. Simply taking a psychedelic is unlikely to unravel the complexities of a substance abuse problem or affect post-traumatic stress — but when administered by a professional well-versed in therapy who can provide psychological support, this likelihood increases. By fully characterising the effects of mindset and environment, or ‘set’ and ‘setting’, on patients who receive psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy sessions, clinicians and treatment providers can begin to piece together the most effective routes of access for patients in need.

“This is not drive-through medication, it can’t be that way. The set and setting is critical.” Dr Roger McIntyre, CEO, Champignon Brands.

In addition, panelists also discussed wider issues relating to the psychedelic medicine space, with moderator Todd Shapiro stressing that the space is about “trying to merge everyone together”, whether that be academics, those who have the capital to support research and developments in the space, or the “pioneers who paved the way” for psychedelic medicine.

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Once more delving further into the practicalities and logistics of psychedelic medicine, the Supply Chain and Patient Access panel set out the current state of regulatory considerations that apply to the psychedelics in medicine, and theorised as to how patients in the future might be able to access these medicines.

Researcher Timmy Davis explained his belief that “the way forward is medicalisation”, which from a strategic perspective would help to ease the current barriers to academic and medical study that are currently in place due to drug scheduling laws.

“What we’re currently finding is as a Schedule 1 substance, psilocybin is difficult to study. There are many barriers to navigate due to its scheduling.” Timmy Davis, Researcher, Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group.

Judy Blumstock of Diamond Therapeutics and Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP) added that the campaign she has been involved in has also sought to facilitate medical research, but with a focus on actively convincing policymakers to pursue the rescheduling of important psychedelics such as psilocybin.

“We have a mental health crisis happening right now, a reflection on the war on drugs being a failure. The paths well-trodden haven’t worked.” Ronan Levy, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, Field Trip Psychedelics Inc.

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Closing out the PSYCH stage, Prohibition Partners’ Managing Director Stephen Murphy spoke with Rick Doblin, Founder and Executive Director of MAPS, in a keynote and live Q&A titled What Lies Ahead? The Future of Therapy, where the pair considered the major barriers that psychedelics must still overcome — such as restrictive drug scheduling, and scare research funding — as well as the more positive future directions for the field as a whole.

Cannabis Americana

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Proceedings began on the Cannabis Americana stage on day two with a LATAM Overview, covering the most important issues and features of these national cannabis markets, as they move from an unregulated to a regulated market model in a bid to compete on the global stage.

In Brazil, Viviane Sedola (Founder & CEO, Dr Cannabis) explains, there are around 15,000 patients looking to access medical cannabis. In 2015, the nation began to allow the prescription of cannabis medications containing greater than 0.2% THC to terminally ill patients on compassionate grounds, and to those who have exhausted all other treatment options.

In Colombia, the commercial sale of cannabis remains prohibited, although cannabis can be legally prescribed for certain medical uses. As a result, the domestic industry remains a “100% export industry”, says Mario Pinzon (Founder and CSO, SIACOMEX Cannabis Division), with a pressure on Colombian cannabis firms to be the most compliant and reliable producers of cannabis in the region if they wish to remain competitive on the global market.

“We have always had a clear debate: do we export lower value added products as soon as possible to markets like Europe? Or do we take our time and export something which is more processed, with more added value that will take a little longer? There is no one answer.” Javier Hasse, Co-Founder & CEO, El Planteo.

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Market fluctuations in the North American cannabis market have led to a significant shift in investor behaviour in recent months, as investors instead look to seek out new international opportunities within the cannabis sector. In the panel Investing in New Geographies, a panel of business and investment experts examined the potential of some of these rapidly emerging markets being seen across the globe.

With a population of around three-quarters of a billion people, Europe can be a particularly attractive region to many who would have traditionally invested in the North American market. “The socialised medicine and company commerce associated with Europe is a nice foundation for growth”, explained cannabis investment management expert Roderick Stephan. Additionally, there is a growing perception which considers EU Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations as a strong world standard, which can also give these European companies a strong edge.

No matter which region you represent, Narbé Alexandrian (President and CEO, Canopy Rivers) advises, if you are seeking investment it is important that you are able to pitch yourself to investors as the expert of your industry and your region.

“China is the underestimated market in cannabis. Everything you see in pharma today and that is required in a pharmaceutical market — China knows how to do it. We've already learned from COVID-19 just how dependent we've become on China in virtually every other market.”  Roderick Stephan, Partner, Altitude Investment.

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In The Global Cannabis Consumer keynote, Prohibition Partners’ Insights and Reports Director Alexandra Curley presented a wealth of insights and data focussing on global consumption patterns, consumer preferences, and important regulatory changes that industry players should be aware of.

“2020’s ‘Black Swan’ was undeniably COVID-19, which has turned everything we knew about the world on its head. While this has been bad news for many, it could be that disruption to the status-quo spells an opportunity for cannabis.” Alexandra Curley, Insights & Reports Director, Prohibition Partners.

In a survey of more than 3,100 adults who reported using recreational cannabis within the past year, it was found that 32% of users expected their cannabis consumption to increase as lockdown and social distancing measures continue to affect daily life. However, among the younger aged 18-24 demographic, the opposite is true. Students who use recreational cannabis are significantly more likely than average to say that they’ll be using less during the lockdown. Having most likely been moved out of university accommodation or hunkering down with their parents, and with fewer social occasions with friends, the opportunity to use has most likely dissipated — though usage rates are expected to rise again once education establishments are cleared to reopen.

“Consumer research from Prohibition Partners found that most users either expect coronavirus to have no impact on their purchase habits, or expect their consumption to increase. This is most true in categories that are more likely to be used for health and wellness, such as medicinal cannabis and CBD, e.g. oils, tinctures, gummies etc.” Alexandra Curley, Insights & Reports Director, Prohibition Partners.

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Rounding off the Cannabis Americana stage, Grammy-Nominated performer Kelis Rogers joined TedX Speaker and SXSW Board Advisor Oisin Lunny to discuss all things cannabis and music in The Sound of Cannabis talk, followed by The Cannabis Cookalong — an opportunity for attendees to cook a cannabis-infused dish of empanadas alongside Kelis, who is also a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef.

“When you’re naturally creative, cannabis can help you present and express that in an unanxious way. If you’re an artist and, if you’re any good, you’re bearing your soul to the world and it helps to be able to present that.” — Kelis Rogers, Grammy-Nominated Performer.

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ProCapital, in partnership with MAZAKALI

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Investment expert Alan Brochstien (Founding Partner, New Cannabis Ventures) got proceedings underway on day two of the ProCapital event stage with a talk on the State of the Public Cannabis Markets, providing an overview of the current market landscape.

Regarding a third wave of cannabis investments in the public market, Brochstein highlighted that there is currently a focus on sustainable growth. “Third wave success is essential to the growth of the industry”, he added.

“States are suffering from high unemployment rates as well as budget deficits that are beyond imagination, and as a result cannabis legalisation is likely to take place across many more states in the next couple of years.” — Alan Brochstein, Founding Partner, New Cannabis Ventures.

The next focus of the ProCapital stage was the PubCo Panel, in which attendees were able to participate in an informative and interactive forum with some of the leading minds from the most successful public cannabis companies in the industry.

“Cannabis creates significant challenges for the operators, but those who can navigate it will be rewarded on the backend.” — Nick Kovacevich, CEO, Co-Founder & Chairman, KushCo.

Moderated by Ana Dutra, an experienced corporate board director and CEO of Mandala Global Advisors, panelists Vinay Tolia (CEO, Flowr Corporation), Nick Kovacevich (CEO, Co-Founder & Chairman, KushCo), Kellen O'Keefe (Chief Strategy Officer, Flower One) and Nicholas Vita (CEO, Columbia Care) fielded questions from the audience and discussed their own personal approaches to managing a successful public company in the cannabis space.

“We’ve seen a pretty significant increase in non-traditional buyers come into the market.” — Nicholas Vita, CEO, Columbia Care.

Just as in day one, day two of ProCapital also featured several Real Time Investment Showcases. Powered by MAZAKALI’s Digital Capital Investment Platform, the showcases on Emerging Startups and Institutional Management provided the opportunity to hear from enterprising companies and fund managers, while making use of the ability provided by the Digital Capital Investment Platform to make real-time investment decisions throughout the sessions.

“We believe investing in the cannabis industry provides the opportunity to achieve outsized, risk-adjusted returns in an essential, uncorrelated asset class at depressed valuations with 30% compounded annual growth rates.” — Jon Trauben, Partner, Altitude Investment Management.

Finally, closing the stage, Sumit Mehta (Founder & CEO, MAZAKALI) and Stephen Murphy delivered a joint address, ProCapital: Path to the Future, thanking all those who got involved with the stage and its real time investment opportunities, and leaving attendees with actionable options for networking and investment moving forwards.

Our Closing Remarks

Once again, Prohibition Partners LIVE would like to extend our warmest wishes to everyone who has joined us over the past two days to take part in this ground-breaking virtual event.

We are committed to unlocking the potential of cannabis across the world but this requires constant education, innovation and collaboration. As a result, Prohibition Partners LIVE is building a future platform to help connect and inform our global audience of over 50,000 people. We encourage you to feedback and engage with our community so that we can ensure we continue to create products and services that work for you and your business.

“It’s been a tough period to adapt to, and most haven’t been able to do it. There’s only a couple, like Prohibition Partners, that have figured out a way to actually sustain themselves. So, shout out to Prohibition Partners, and my regrets and regards to who are stood on the sidelines now.” — Bruce Linton, Founder & Former CEO, Canopy Growth.

It has been a joy to facilitate over 15,000 connections and over 9,000 meetings between entrepreneurs, investors and global giants from the FMCG, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors, and government representatives from key cannabis markets, through this event. Stay tuned for more details.

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