European countries have been using hemp as food and for its fiber for many years. Evidence of cannabis use here dates back to the 1800s when Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military leader and emperor conquered much of Europe. It is said that cannabis was originally brought to Europe by traders, slaves and travelers who came from Asia and other neighboring regions. Although the plant is not native to European soil and weather, it quickly adapted and was bred to create many types of cannabis strains.

Many European countries have a special law to govern hemp cultivation, manufacturing and sale. Slovenia is one of those countries with hemp products sold everywhere in their country. This is crucial to understand as Malaysians are still being sentenced to death for the possession of hemp products. The major difference of hemp from ordinary cannabis plants is that it does “not contain Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC)” and grows tall with sturdy stems which are excellent “fibers”. Yes, the plant does come from the same genus “Cannabis Sativa L.” but is grown freely in Slovenia as the government re-classified the plant by limiting its THC content. All cannabis plants that contain less than or equal to 0.2% of THC is called hemp and not considered a “dangerous drug”. This peculiar definition by law allows for CBD products to sprout into the market. Crossbreeding cannabis strains can create thousands of different new strains with a never ending list of chemical composition and uses. Charlotte’s Web for example is a cannabis strain that was produced by the Stanley brother’s company and contain less than 3% of THC (United States limitation). When demand for CBD products for health and cosmetics began to increase, the surge of products in the market drove the government to form the right legislation. The United Kingdom now allows CBD products to be sold in local grocery stores as it pose no threat or harm to the society. Slovenia on the other hand continued to focus on the hemp plants and integrating it into daily life.

The World Hemp Congress (WHC) was started in Slovenia by Miss Majda Robic who loves hemp and all its applications. She hosted the first WHC in 2012 where they invited top cooks who are professionals at making hemp food, scientists, businesses and many more. Despite having hemp as a staple food, cannabis plants with more than 0.2% THC is still prohibited and share the same stigma as the rest of the world. Only through conferences and educational channels like WHC can we better understand cannabis plants. Since the beginning of cannabis activism, the question of human rights, health and freedom have always been the pillars that drove individuals and organizations to come out. With the invention of the internet, global knowledge is accessible in the hands of every smart-gadget user. This however is restricted when it comes to vague topics like cannabis which was kept in the closet for over 80 years since its prohibition. There are more scientific publications online which relate cannabis use to negative impairments and effects to health compared to positive ones. When faced with such a dilemma, countries well excellent national governance will option to carry out their own evaluation on the situation. This is the same when outbreaks like Covid-19 strike the world, scientists scramble to understand what the virus is and how they can overcome it.

Dr Tanja Bagar

Slovenia is one of those countries who take pride on their national resources and people. Scientists and researchers are given the opportunity to explore what cannabis is and what it holds with the freedom that scientific research provides. ICANNA or the International Institute for Cannabinoids is a non-profit NGO which was formed by collaboration of partners from Slovenia, Germany and Austria after the first WHC. Today ICANNA is leading cannabis research, development and education in that region with new studies being shared for everyone. It is the same open source and free knowledge sharing spirit that drives MASA here in Malaysia as well. With growing concern on many different matters around the world, NGOs should come forth to create an impact. Dr Tanja Bagar who is the Chairman of ICANNA says that the mission of the institute is to bring together experts from diverse fields, enable an integrated approach in this field and provide a neutral and independent space for open discussion about cannabinoids. Together, ICANNA is requesting for cannabis to be regulated safely for use in Slovenia as medicine and for recreational use. In 2016, Harish had the chance to speak at the WHC and shared about his book. Since then, MASA has been closely working with experts like Dr Tanja Bagar and others from across the globe to bring the latest research results to fellow Malaysians.

We believe that by sharing knowledge, we save time, treat people more effectively and allow for more diverse research to take place in different countries focusing on a wide array of applications. A global non-profit NGO research coalition is the future for health solutions and the best way to ensure transparency and truth is always taken cared of.