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Exclusive Content

The (Possibly) Best and Worst Countries To Get Caught With Pot

Returning to world travel and current events has recently brought cannabis travel back into the spotlight.

People are traveling again despite ongoing COVID-19 worries and increasing Moneypox cases.

At the same time, the 9-year sentence of WNBA star Brittney Griner in a Russian court for two cannabis cartridges sparked outrage and worries about traveling with pot.

Griner's case closely resembles Marc Fogel's, who was sentenced to 14 years in a Russian prison in June.

Fogel was found in possession of less than one ounce of medical cannabis at a Russian airport. He claimed to be unaware that medical cannabis was illegal in the country.

No matter the person or country, it's wise to be aware of the local cannabis laws and the nation's approach to policing, even as cannabis acceptance grows.

The World Warming On Weed

A September 2021 global cannabis growth report released by New Frontier Data found that 70 countries have legalized or decriminalized cannabis in some form.

In North America, Canada has approved adult use, the United States has state-by-state legality and Mexico's Supreme Court legalized cannabis, but a marketplace hasn't been established. Meanwhile, the Caribbean is starting to see its first signs of access to medical reform.

South America has seen a wave of reform, with various nations allowing low- or high-potency medical access. Several countries in central and northern South America and Central America prohibit cannabis in all forms.

Africa remains largely prohibitive of cannabis. However, a handful of nations have legalized low-THC medical access. Like Mexico, South Africa's court legalized cannabis, but a marketplace has not been established.

Most of Oceania remains opposed to cannabis in all forms. However, a few nations and US island territories have taken action on medical or adult use. Australia and New Zealand have medical cannabis laws, with the latter losing a narrow adult use ballot initiative in 2020.

Asia and Eurasia collectively remain the strictest block of land on cannabis. So far, only a few southern counties and South Korea have legalized low-THC medical use.

Countries like India allow exceptions, such as allowing the consumption of cannabis leaves for the traditional edible bhang. Other parts of the world, including Jamaica and Pakistan, have legalized or tolerate cannabis among various religious and tribal groups.

The Worst Nations To Get Caught With Pot

The topic is a bit more nuanced than it may seem at first glance. Depending on the criteria, a person can pinpoint various nations as the best and worst for pot possession.

Global possession laws vary, as do opinions on the best and worst places to get nabbed.

In Iran, offenders can be lashed or face a death sentence depending on the kilograms. Contrasting reports in recent years have claimed the nation has removed the death penalty for cannabis, while others claim executions have continued.

Like Iran, several nations, including Singapore and Saudi Arabia, use lashings as punishment. Malaysia, North Korea, Vietnam, The Philippines, Thailand, China, Taiwan and other regional nations are also reported to execute offenders.

Death and long sentences aren't the only parameters worth considering. Even short stints in harsh prisons can result in severe punishment.

Depending on the nation and facility, a person may be exposed to high levels of violence, overcrowding, hunger and other adverse health risks. Some court systems are so backed up that people can be detained pretrial for years while awaiting their day in court.

The Best Countries To Get Caught With Pot?

Nowhere is the honest answer. But if push came to shove, there are nations with friendlier regulations and prisons for cannabis possession offenses.

The best place to get popped is in a legalized or decriminalized nation where people can avoid prosecution, save for a possible fine. Uruguay and Canada, the two countries to legalize adult use, top the list.

Countries or parts of countries have taken measures to decriminalize the plant. As of August 5, 2022, the following have decriminalized or allowed possession through similar legislation:

  1. Antigua and Barbuda
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Belgium
  6. Belize
  7. Bermuda
  8. Bolivia
  9. Chile
  10. Colombia
  11. Costa Rica
  12. Croatia
  13. Czech Republic
  14. Dominica
  15. Ecuador
  16. Estonia
  17. Georgia
  18. Israel
  19. Italy
  20. Jamaica
  21. Luxembourg
  22. Moldova
  23. Mexico
  24. Netherlands
  25. Paraguay
  26. Peru
  27. Portugal
  28. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  29. Saint Lucia
  30. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  31. Slovenia
  32. South Africa
  33. Spain
  34. Switzerland
  35. Thailand
  36. Trinidad and Tobago

Several additional nations are reported to ban the plant but don't enforce the law. In rarer cases, autonomous zones, like Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark, are allowed to sell, possess and consume cannabis.

What About The United States?

The United States presents an interesting state-by-state approach to cannabis laws and sentencing.

As many noted in recent years, the growing legal status of the plant appears to conflict with America's ongoing imprisonment of individuals for cannabis offenses.

It is estimated that over 40,000 individuals are in state or federal prison for cannabis-related charges and that people continue to be arrested on new cases. Others have suggested the figure is closer to 31,000 as arrests decline in recent years.

Photo by Kindel Media: https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-road-man-people-7785075/

EXCLUSIVE: Rarible Building Custom Decentralized NFT Marketplace For Pixel Vault

For roughly two years, OpenSea has been the dominant NFT marketplace. In many ways, the OpenSea experience has lived up to its name: vast, inescapable and uniform in appearance, with page after page of colorful images floating by like so much debris on a sea of digital ownership.

Rarible (CRYPTO: RARI) doesn't have OpenSea's market dominance, but it is an innovator among marketplaces. Since the launch of its open protocol in 2021, Rarible has focused less on being a single destination for buying NFTs and more on being the means to help people everywhere mint and transact NFTs better.

In an exclusive with Benzinga, Rarible announced Friday that it will soon launch a new custom marketplace for Pixel Vault, a Web3 development platform that has produced popular NFT lines and associated IP for properties such as PUNKS Comics and Metaheroes. 

The Pixel Vault marketplace will serve as a home for its properties. It will provide a customized user experience that supports the value of its PUNKS Comics and Metahero brands, aggregates all valid listings and offers reduced transaction fees.

We spoke to Rarible co-founder and Chief Product Officer Alex Salnikov and David Litsk, head of communications at Pixel Vault, about the upcoming new marketplace and creating customized, community-focused NFT-buying experiences.

punks_issue_3_cropped.jpg

Image: Used with permission from Issue #3 of PUNKS Comics. This is the moment where PUNKS crosses over with the Metahero Universe. 

BZ: What is Rarible's goal here working with Pixel Vault?

"We are super impressed by the Pixel Vault team's innovativeness. Creator companies like Pixel Vault are evolving into multimedia businesses, like the

Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) of the digital world. It feels weird if you're a big company, which has created tons of IP, and you're sending buyers to some centralized marketplace controlled from a single office," Salnikov said. 

"Rarible offers a protocol that is open source and decentralized. We have a vision of all big intellectual property companies having their own marketplaces, built on top of the protocol, so they control the experience. The marketplace is available on their own website, in their own domain, with their branding, on the infrastructure that is decentralized and that they have a stake in. So that's why we approached the Pixel Vault. We also grant them some governance rights for the protocol it's built on, to make it truly a shareable piece of infrastructure."

What has been Pixel Vault's trajectory since its launch in May 2022?

"Pixel Vault aims to be the world's first multi-franchise Web3 beta development platform. So the best way to explain how our ecosystem looks today is there are two separate IP pillars. We have PUNKS Comics, which was born out of the desire to bring NFT entities to life — and that began with the 16 CryptoPunks that were reimagined by Chris Wahl. And that's what created the 16 Punx characters. Then with the Metahero universe expansion, it's ultimately a decentralized and community-governed social gaming platform. And there are multiple pieces to it. Metahero has both the core and generative identities, which are PFPs, that will also be usable in the upcoming gaming experience. The planets represent nine planets and one moon where the Metahero characters exist. And each token represents one vote for planetary governance in a social gaming platform launching soon. So that is the updated platform. We're hoping to see that launch within the next couple of weeks," Litsky said. 

Why aren't more big NFT creators using customized marketplaces?

"There are a lot of eyeballs looking at the big marketplaces, and if you're traded there, there is a chance that somebody else will find your collection. So your listings get a higher chance of being sold. And when you buy, you have a higher chance of buying something at a lower price.

"We offer the chance for projects to build their own marketplaces that aggregate listings from everywhere. So when users go to the project's website, they will find all of their assets, including those cross-listed from other marketplaces. If you go to the Pixel Vault's site, you will see everything that is on sale on OpenSea and everything that is on sale on Rarible," Salnikov said.

What makes Pixel Vault a good partner for this custom marketplace?

"They are one of the core collections that actually have a big need for a customized marketplace because they have so many collections, divided by sub-collections, comics, one type of assets and another type. There is no specific section of the OpenSea website that you click on to see all the Pixel Vault collections. Because Pixel Vault is very innovative, they need their own custom solution that reflects all of their assets," Salnikov said.

Has Pixel Vault always visualized itself as an IP holder first and foremost?

"Yes, that's how it's always been visualized. Many of the projects that came up over the past year started with a profile picture or as a comic, but this has always been the path," Litsky said.

What were the advantages of working with Rarible to create your custom marketplace?

"One of the benefits of working with Rarible is it allows for heavy customization. I don't know if there are any other products out there that would be able to handle the heavy customization that Pixel Vault needed to build the right experience for its collectors.

"The Pixel Vault ecosystem is complex. And having a custom community marketplace will allow us to curate how we show our various collections to our collectors to make it easier for them to find exactly what that they're looking for. Without having a custom marketplace, it's very hard to curate that with the standalone solutions that are currently out there. As a media and IP company, we tell stories, and there will be more stories to tell besides what we're currently focusing on as we look down the road," Litsky said.

What should people be getting excited about now that 2022 has taken some of the rampant enthusiasm out of the NFT market?

"They should be excited about all the new technologies that are being built. There's a marriage happening between multiple blockchains. So, there is actually a lot of brewing happening behind the scenes. A year from now, we will suddenly have some areas growing as if from nowhere, bringing in new innovation. And people who stay during the bear market and carefully listen to what's happening will be rewarded for buying underappreciated assets that are long-term sustainable," Salnikov said.

Have you seen any changes in buyer behavior during the downturn?

"We can see many retail buyers leaving for safer assets. But I can definitely spot the professional trader trend. Hedge funds that have been trading crypto, stocks and bonds are now starting to develop for teams that will trade NFTs. That's a good thing because the market will become much more liquid. And retail investors and buyers are going to have to compete with that. That means it will be much harder to earn money on the market because professionals will definitely take some of the margin for themselves," Salnikov said.

Any advice for true believers in the NFT space?

"Recently, I spoke to a fellow founder, and he told me about an adventure park in Dubai where every attraction has a note on how to best experience it. And it said something like, "[keep your] butt up and sit tight." So that would be my advice to all the true believers," Salnikov said.

The Last Word

Rarible isn't the first marketplace we've spoken to that is expanding through small, specialized marketplaces. A few months ago, we wrote about >SuperRare Spaces, which have many of the same intentions.

While SuperRare developed marketplaces that serve specific interests, such as poetry and female artists, Rarible is focused on serving the needs of established, proven NFT collections with complex IP to manage.

Rarible has potentially the more straightforward case for the need for a custom marketplace — helping creators that otherwise have trouble presenting their multimedia, multi-storyline universe as a single, consistent experience.

And while other marketplaces use the star power of notable people and media outside of the NFT space to attract attention, Rarible can rely on the popularity of the project itself to attract attention to the new custom marketplaces. 

Examples of other custom marketplaces that have already launched on the Rarible Protocol all serve established, multifaceted NFT and IP projects, including MFers, Degenerate Ape Academy and Rektguy

The Pixel Vault marketplace will include the following collections: PUNKS Comic 1, 2, and 3, Origin Stories, Metahero Universe: Core Identities, Metahero Universe: Generative Identities, Metahero Universe: United Planets, Metahero Universe: Gear Pods, Metahero: MintPass 1, Metahero: MintPass 2, Pixel Vault Founder's DAO, PV IRL, Elite Ape Coins, Elite Apes – Apes Out on the Town, Ape Madness, Heroes Follow Heroes and Bloot Comic. 

Pixel Vault is not ready to share many details about its game development timeline. Still, they have previously shared that they are looking for some type of Alpha or Beta test "roughly by the end of the year."

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The Real Weed Trendsetters: 12 Cannabis Lifestyle Reporters Nominated For This Prestigious Award

The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference has something new for its upcoming Chicago conference, September 13-14, after the overwhelming success of our 4/20 Miami event. As part of celebrating individuals, entrepreneurs and organizations doing amazing things in the cannabis industry, Benzinga will honor Cannabis Lifestyle Reporters in the context of its new Benzinga Cannabis Awards.

Meet the Nominees for the Best Cannabis Lifestyle Reporters

Here are 12 cannabis lifestyle reporters who made it to the last round of the Benzinga Cannabis Awards. Check them out!

Katie Shapiro, Forbes

Katie is an Aspen-based freelance journalist known as "the world's first marijuana style writer" for her work at The Cannabist, The Denver Post's award-winning online vertical.

Since 2014, she has written about the evolution of the legal cannabis lifestyle in "High Country," a weekly column for The Aspen Times. Her vision of the industry has been profiled in Adweek, The Business of Fashion, Cosmopolitan, Racked and Refinery29, among others.

She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder and produced the documentary "Rolling Papers," which follows the historic first year of adult cannabis use in Colorado.

Lyneisha Watson, Various Outlets

Lyneisha Watson, a Florida-based journalist, has covered cannabis for HighTimes, Miss Grass, The Emerald Magazine, Leafly, Farmer and the Felon. Her writing has also appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Blavity, Shine Text Advice and Black Girl in Om.

In 2018, she attended Yale’s THREAD Storytelling workshop to learn and develop her skills. Her time at Yale inspired her to develop the High Times column "High Folks," which is now a series of profiles that explore the many reasons why people fall in love with cannabis.

Her company, VIVRANT WORLD is focused on helping brands rethink how they feel about weed and pleasure. Through her work, she is able to work with brands on social campaigns and offer public relations services to rising cannabis brands and influencers.

Danté Jordan, Weedmaps News

Danté Jordan is a freelance writer, video producer, and media consultant specializing in cannabis culture, strains, products, education, and everything else related to the cannabis industry.

Danté teaches people about cannabis: what to buy, what/how to consume, why, and general FAQs on any level about the incipient industry. He has been featured on Weedmaps, Leafly, Wikileaf, The Bluntness, Ganjapreneur and many other cannabis news outlets. In addition, Jordan worked as an Associate Subject Matter Expert at Leafly. Currently, he writes for Weedmaps.

Amanda Chicago Lewis, Various Outlets

Amanda Chicago Lewis writes about policy, science, economics, culture, criminal justice and public health. She wrote for GQ, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Verge, California Sunday, The Guardian, Curbed, Vice, the LA Review of Books and the LA Weekly, among others.

She was also a story producer on a documentary about cannabis for MTV. In addition, she wrote a column for Rolling Stone, covering everything from pot parties in California to the roadblocks facing tribes in the cannabis business.

Amanda was also a national reporter at BuzzFeed News. Since 2017, she's been in charge of Yale's annual THREAD workshop, a non-fiction storytelling program for adults.

Ashley Keenan, Leafly

Ashley Keenan is the Canada editor at Leafly, as well as a freelance journalist, consultant and cannabis patient advocate. She uses reporting and storytelling to educate, entertain and empower people who are curious about cannabis while covering all elements from industry news to health and beauty.

As a cannabis journalist, she focuses on industry news, medical cannabis & the patient perspective, and creating lifestyle content that matters. She combines reporting and storytelling to reduce the stigma around adult use and medical cannabis.

In addition to being a "woman in weed," she is also a patient who has benefitted from medical cannabis longer than she has been involved in the industry. She offers insight from the patient perspective, using her own experiences to normalize chronic illness and medicinal cannabis.

Mary Jane Gibson, Various Outlets

Mary Jane is an actress, writer, and former lifestyle, entertainment, and culture editor at High Times.

Mary Jane is a prominent female voice in the cannabis industry, traveling the world tracking the legalization of medical marijuana, adult-use cannabis, and CBD with integral public figures, brands, and personalities since 2007. She is the co-host of the top-rated Weed+Grub podcast.

Her perspective on cannabis and world culture has been seen in numerous media outlets, including Rolling Stone, Playboy and PBS. She has been called “one of the 15 most powerful women in the weed industry” by Complex Magazine. She is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada.

Zach Sokol, Various Outlets

Zach Sokol is a writer, editor, and the founder of www.cashonly.studio — an ongoing interview series with interesting people about all things 420.

He works at Bullish Studio and is also the co-editor of Sex Magazine. Previously, he was the editor of MERRY JANE, an editor at VICE, and has written extensively for publications like Playboy, Penthouse, i-D, Double-Blind, and more.

Hernán Panessi, El Planteo

Hernán Panessi, born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a journalist specializing in youth culture. He collaborated as a writer at Playboy, Billboard, Forbes, VICE, Benzinga, High Times and Yahoo.

In addition, Hernán is the author of a number of books such as "Porno Argento!, Historia del cine nacional Triple X;" "Periodismo pop, Una puerta que se abre;" and "Rock en Español." He also worked as a teacher at the Rojas Cultural Center, Argentina.

Panessi's perspective on cannabis and world culture has led him to write for numerous outlets such as InfoTechnology, Rolling Stone, THC, Página/12, Weederia, and El Cronista, among others.

Currently, Panessi works as the managing editor at El Planteo, the most-read cannabis media outlet in the Spanish-speaking world.

Jimi Devine, LA Weekly

Jimi got started in cannabis journalism at the age of 19 while working to help students who had lost their financial aid for college due to drug convictions.

Since 2009, he's been part of the California cannabis industry, which is how he got into one of the oldest dispensaries in the country: CBCB. Jimi has been a contributor to various outlets including Cannabis Now, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, GreenState.com, Marijuana.com and several more.

Lindsey Bartlett, Forbes

Lindsey is an author, photographer, and social media editor who has documented the evolutionary cannabis industry for the past decade. Her career includes roles at The Denver Post and The Cannabist, which was the first cannabis publication ever founded by a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper.

Her reporting grew to include an industry focus at Marijuana Business Daily and Hemp Industry Daily, where she led social media coverage for MJBizCon, the largest cannabis business conference series in the world. She has taken on writing, social media, and editing roles at Forbes and Weedmaps, among other outlets.

Jon Cappetta, High Times

Jon, VP of content at High Times, spent over a decade producing over 500 events before he left New York in 2014, where he honed his logistical and marketing expertise and his ear for talent.​

Finding his niche in development strategy Jon produced branded content for major products, provided data analysis for front-page, Pulitzer-prize-winning news, and developed several new business areas for the enterprises he's worked for. And he still finds time to write some amazing articles for High Times.

Warren Bobrow, Various Outlets

Warren Bobrow, "the Cocktail Whisperer," recognized as the famous American mixologist who makes THC shots, is immersed in the cannabis industry as the author of six books, including The Craft Cocktail Compendium, his famous release in 2017. In addition, Warren has written articles for Saveur Magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, DrinkupNY, Forbes, and many other national and international periodicals.

He has also contributed to the Sage Encyclopedia of Food Issues and the Oxford Encyclopedia edition: Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City. Also, Warren was nominated for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award in 2013. His books consistently lead overall sales.

Come and meet these amazing people at Benzinga's Cannabis Capital Conference, the leading cannabis investment conference in North America at the historic Palmer House Hotel on Sep. 13-14 in Chicago.

Get your tickets HERE.

See you there!

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Photo: Alesia Kozik and Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

SurgePays, Leading Telecommunications Company Serving Underserved Communities, Surpasses 150,000 Mobile Broadband Subscribers

Brian Cox, CEO of SurgePays Inc. (NASDAQ:SURG), was a guest speaker at Benzinga’s All Access on July 29th, 2022. 

SurgePays is a technology and telecommunications company that functions as a one stop shop for prepaid products as well as the top 100 selling products across retail stores, bodegas, and tiendas. 

Watch the full interview here:

Featured photo sourced from Unsplash

UMA's Across Launches, Starts Token Incentive Program: Interview With Founder Hart Lambur At EthCC 5

Hart Lambur, the founder of Openfolio and UMA, sat down with Benzinga to discuss the latest developments in DeFi at EthCC 5 in Paris.

Most notable was the undergoing deployment of the cross-chain bridge Across that utilizes UMA’s Optimistic Oracle. The Across referral program had just launched, with Lambur saying that the program had been a massive success just two days after.

Building Blocks: Lambur shared how he got to the position he is in today, and what the transition from traditional finance to decentralized finance was like.

“I learned a really interesting set of skills from 2005 to 2013 at Goldman Sachs, and then I left to start this wealth tech business called Openfolio, which is something that I was excited to do,” he said.

“The desire here was to use individual financial data to help our users make better investment decisions. It's actually where I crossed paths with Benzinga back in late 2014, pretty long ago. [Openfolio] got acquired by an asset manager in 2017. And it gave me time to go full time into DeFi starting early 2018.”

Lambur was at his trading desk when the financial markets fell apart in 2008. He has since dedicated much of his time to building financial tools that bring users more safety and clarity, taking risks away from singular points of failure.

Lambur gave an overview of how UMA works, as well as how it is different from the popular oracle solution, Chainlink.

“UMA is an optimistic oracle. What does that mean? It's a system to get arbitrary data, any bit of publicly verifiable data onto a blockchain in a trustless and decentralized way," he said.

"Chainlink is a good example of a commonly known oracle out there and it functions as an oracle that pushes data to a blockchain, and really pushes price data. So, like the price of Ethereum or the price of Bitcoin, which is kind of like a relatively limited set of frequently requested data types.”

“The Optimistic Oracle is a very different design," Lambur added, “with very different use cases where you can ask it any arbitrary question that's publicly verifiable and it can answer this long tail of data. So for example, we can use our Optimistic Oracle to do sports betting or prediction markets. Who won an election is something that Oracle can easily answer because we can ask it that question.”

Across Update: Lambur went on to explain what the UMA team was up to at EthCC 5: while it was simply to reconnect with friends in the ecosystem, Hart was also sharing updates on Across, the chain bridge powered by UMA.

“One of the things that we launched, released two days ago, was a referral program for Across. Across is this cross-chain bridge that uses the Optimistic Oracle, so it's like an optimistic bridge and it functions remarkably well. I'm biased, but our fees are lower, our speeds are better and we have great security models," he said. 

"The V2 protocol launched about seven or eight weeks ago. A referral program launched two days ago. And this referral program was a pretty interesting way where you can refer users and earn the Across token, which doesn't yet exist."

Lambur added: "This referral program has been remarkably successful in the first 48 hours. It's almost like a bit of a riff on how airdrops work, where instead of doing some action and getting dropped tokens, if you refer users to the bridge and they use them, or if you use the bridge yourself, you are earning a portion of the fees you pay to the bridge. You're earning those back in Across tokens.

"And so people are incentivized to use the bridge to earn these Across tokens that don't exist yet. And so it's been this kind of bridge to earn our tokens that seems to have been working pretty well.”

As the world continues to upload real-world data on-chain, UMA aims to push the transition along in a safe and transparent way. Few are better inclined to lead this charge than Hart Lambur.

Alzamend Neuro Stock Pops After Benzinga Exclusive On Cognition Therapeutics Alzheimer's Data

Shares of biopharmaceutical company Alzamend Neuro Inc (NASDAQ:ALZN) are soaring Thursday afternoon after Cognition Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:CGTX) shares surged following the presentation of a proteomic analysis of clinical biomarker data from a study on Alzheimer's disease.

Cognition Therapeutics presented the data from its SPARC study of CT1812 in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Thursday. The company shared the data with Benzinga in an exclusive look at the analysis.

The results support the proposed synaptoprotective mechanism of action of CT1812, as well as its role in normalizing cellular processes, which are known to be disrupted by Alzheimer's disease.

Related Link: EXCLUSIVE: Cognition Therapeutics Shares Biomarker Data From Alzheimer's Candidate

Alzamend Neuro shares spiked following a sharp move higher in Cognition Therapeutics stock on Thursday. The company is focused on developing novel products for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer's. 

ALZN Price Action: Alzamend Neuro has a 52-week high of $2.44 and a 52-week low of 80 cents. 

The stock gained 10.38% in Thursday's session, closing at $1.01, according to data from Benzinga Pro.

Photo: National Human Genome Research Institute from Flickr.

Six Former Disney Stars Spill The Beans About Their Weed Use: From Miley Cyrus To Justin Timberlake, Could They Be At This Chicago Event?

The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (CCC) is coming to the great city of Chicago on September 13-14, 2022 and we're thrilled to invite several Disney (NYSE:DIS) celebs to tell us their cannabis stories.

As marijuana legalization moves through the halls of Congress, who wouldn't love to hear about how our childhood movie stars and entertainers dealt with cannabis and what it did for their careers and/or personal lives and struggles?  

Miley Cyrus

Destiny Hope Cyrus who legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus in 2008, was the face of Disney Channel's “Hannah Montana” from 2006 to 2011. And fun factDolly Parton is Miley Cyrus's godmother. 

Since recreational marijuana became legal in California, Miley Cyrus has opened up about cannabis and the negative stigma that surrounds it.“I don’t smoke weed when I work, only in my downtime!" Cyrus told to The Sun in 2018. "When I’m just working I don’t think I function at my highest, most intelligent, most being-able-to-be-as-aware-and-as-present."

Bella Thorne

Actress, singer, writer, author, and entrepreneur Bella Thorne is another celebrity promoting the cannabis industry. The young philanthropist became an ambassador of DRIHP, eco-friendly hemp apparel and accessories brand, alongside models Rachel Cook and Jay Alvarrez. DRIHP hemp clothing line, launched by Clone Connect's founder Luke Dandrea, uses 1/20 of the amount of water used to grow and process traditional cotton fabrics.

Thorne, the "Life of a Wannabe Mogul" author and co-founder of Forbidden Flowers cannabis and CBD brand, has millions of fans on both Instagram and Twitter. Her influence on social media raises awareness of hemp as an alternative to other, less sustainable textiles. Thorne highlighted that hemp is vital for saving the planet. "If you can change one person's mind, you can help change the world," she said. Forbes listed Thorne as a pioneer in Hollywood and Entertainment in their 30 Under 30 Class of 2022.

Demi Lovato

Actress and singer, Demetria Devonne Lovato, AKA Demi Lovato, born in New Mexico, came out as non-binary in 2021. They began their showbiz career at the age of ten on Barney & Friends. After that, Lovato guest-starred in TV dramas Just Jordan and Prison Break. In 2007, Lovato moved to the Disney Channel where they had the lead in Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. In September 2008, Lovato released their first album "Don't Forget," which debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200.

Lovato after an apparent overdose joined a treatment program called "California Sober" where they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana and expressed through their networks that it no longer worked for them. "I no longer support my 'California Sober' ways," Lovato wrote last December.

“Sober, sober is the only way to be. The best way to do that, and the easiest way to make something more authentic, is to make it clean and understated. I made this album clean and sober," Lovato told Jimmy Fallon when they performed their latest album on "The Tonight Show" in June.

Joe Jonas

Joe Jonas, born in Arizona, is a singer, musician, actor and dancer. He is a member of the pop rock band Jonas Brothers with his brothers Kevin and Nick Jonas and is the lead singer of the band DNCE. As an actor, Jonas played Shane Gray in Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and Joseph Lucas in the Disney Channel series JONAS. In 2011 he released his first and only solo album, "Fastlife."

In 2013, Joe revealed in an interview that he smoked weed for the first time with Miley Cyrus and ex-girlfriend Demi Lovato when they were teenagers: "I must have been 17 or 18. I tried it and it was fine," Jonas said. "I don't even smoke marijuana that often anymore."

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake, from child star in The Mickey Mouse Club to a controversial singer, who ended his relationship, with great fanfare, with Britney Spears who she scandalized the world with her performance in the thirty-eighth edition of the Super Bowl, along with Janet Jackson. Timberlake then fell in love with Cameron Diaz. But, since 2012, the Disney heart throb has been married to Jessica Biel.

Years ago, Justin Timberlake admitted that he smoked cannabis to get out of his own head. "The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking," Timberlake told Playboy (NASDAQ:PLBY) at that time. "Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high."

Vanessa Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens, another of Disney's most recognizable faces, made her breakthrough with the "High School Musical" series. Recently, she carved out a niche for herself with The "Princess Switch," a Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) Christmas movie.

In 2014, Hudgens made headlines when she decided to go for a run in a marijuana-themed T-shirt. The controversy was sparked when, on closer inspection, the shirt read "wet" and bore a striking resemblance to the Disney logo. “The story of cannabis is such a fascinating story to me,” Hudgens told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s mind-blowing to me how many people are incarcerated because of non-violent possession.”

In 2019, Hudgens participated in the opening of the Weedmaps Museum Of Weed in Los Angeles. “It’s really important to educate yourself as well, and I think that this museum will kind of debunk this mysticism that’s been around it,” Hudgens said at that time.

Influence Is Important

Although some of these celebs said they no longer consume cannabis, their opinions can influence millions of people and in turn, lawmakers. Their influence in pop culture contributes to the advance of legalization. Meet us at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference where cannabis advocates, entrepreneurs, and hopefully former Disney celebrities will gather at the historic Palmer House Hotel on Sep. 13-14 in Chicago, to discuss the future of legalization.

Get your tickets HERE.

 

sept_2022_ccc_1200x800_3_0_0.pngPhoto Courtesy Of Kin Li On Unsplash

EXCLUSIVE: Cognition Therapeutics Shares Biomarker Data From Alzheimer's Candidate

Cognition Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:CGTX) presented a proteomic analysis of clinical biomarker data from the SPARC study of CT1812 in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference. 

What Happened: The results support the proposed synaptoprotective mechanism of action of CT1812 and its role in normalizing cellular processes known to be adversely disrupted in Alzheimer's disease.

The analyses demonstrated the effect of CT1812 on multiple Alzheimer's biomarkers, including YKL-40, an inflammation biomarker.

Participants treated with CT1812 exhibited a downward shift in YKL-40 towards levels observed in healthy, non-demented individuals.

CT1812 has been well tolerated in clinical studies to date. 

Mild and transient elevations of liver enzymes without indication of liver injury have been recorded. 

Why It Matters: CT1812 is an oral small molecule designed to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and bind selectively to the sigma-2 (σ-2) receptor complex involved in regulating key cellular processes damaged by toxic interaction with Aβ oligomers, oxidative stress, and other stressors. 

This damage to sensitive synapses can progress to a loss of synaptic function, manifesting as cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease progression. 

Price Action: CGTX shares are down 1.35% at $2.19 during the market session on the last check Thursday.

EXCLUSIVE: Cognition Therapeutics Highlights Presentation Of Proteomic Analysis Of Clinical Biomarker Data From SPARC Study Of Oral Once-Daily Treatment With CT1812 At Alzheimer's Association International Conference
EXCLUSIVE: Self-Driving Startup And Food Delivery Pilot Program With Ford Has Ended. Here Are The Findings

Cepton, Inc (NASDAQ:CPTN) completed a 6-month autonomous shuttle pilot program.

What Happened? Ceptona Silicon Valley innovator and leader in high-performance MMT lidar solutions, completed a 6-month autonomous shuttle pilot program in collaboration with Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F). 

After six months of delivering food to senior citizens across Metro Detroit, the self-driving pilot program concluded.

Cepton's lidar technology helped to support autonomous driving capabilities and traffic data analytics. 

The autonomous Ford shuttle was fitted with Cepton's MMT-powered directional lidar sensors to deliver food to the doorsteps of senior citizens living in the automotive heartland. Cepton also installed lidars along the shuttle's route in "sensor nodes" to provide real-time traffic data to support the shuttle's safe operation. 

Why Does It Matter? The collaboration builds upon the previous cooperation between the leading global automaker and the Silicon Valley-based lidar innovator. 

Ford partnered with Cepton for nearly six years, utilizing the Company's lidar in the research and development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and smart city projects. 

Cepton CEO and co-founder Dr. Jun Pei said: "The future of mobility is not just about smarter cars, but also the building of an overall smarter ecosystem to keep up with and support vehicle intelligence. The Cepton team is dedicated to driving scalable lidar adoption through continuous innovation and bringing transformational intelligence to the next generation of vehicles, systems, spaces, and cities. With that, we aim to contribute to a future where safe, autonomous transportation is accessible to everyone." 

Cepton's high-performance MMT lidar provides high-resolution 3D scanning of environments for both near and long-range applications. 

Cepton's OEM-validated lidar approach helped to achieve an optimal balance between performance, reliability, and cost.

Price Action: CPTN shares traded higher by 9.09% at $1.92 in the premarket on the last check Thursday.

Photo via Company

EXCLUSIVE: Mullen Automotive CEO, David Michery Now Interviewing On Benzinga Live TV

Click To Tune In Here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-B8RxPTVnw

EXCLUSIVE: How You Can Own A Piece Of A Warren Buffett Autograph, An Increasingly Rare Asset

Ever wanted to own an autograph from the Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett? While you may not be able to afford your own autograph to display at your home, you can buy shares of an autograph from the legendary investor thanks to an alternative investment platform.

The Buffett Autograph: Alternative investment platform and fractional investing company Rally is debuting a Buffett autograph Thursday. 

The autograph from Buffett is on the 2000 annual shareholder meeting guide for Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B).

On Rally, investments are traded similar to stocks, with shares offered in an initial offering. The asset then trades months from its IPO with users being able to submit bids and asks to acquire shares.

The autograph is valued at $15,000 and will be sold in 5,000 shares at $3 each.

“We’ve been looking for Warren Buffett assets and collectibles for some time,” Rally co-founder and Chief Product Officer Rob Petrozzo told Benzinga.

The autograph is on a Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting pamphlet, which represents the “Woodstock for capitalism.”

Petrozzo called the event a “moment in time, something that he’s known for,” adding that Buffett is "somebody that people always want to hear from."

Petrozzo said the annual shareholder meeting is symbolic and has served as a barometer for the market, which makes the autograph important for financial history.

Related Link: Exclusive: Rally Rd Founder On Video Games, Apple Assets And Growth Of Fractional Investing 

Buffett Autograph History: Petrozzo told Benzinga that autographs from Buffett are increasingly rare.

“There are assets signed by Warren Buffett that will pop up on eBay,” Petrozzo said of the auction and marketplace site eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY).

Petrozzo said it’s hard to know where the autographs come from and most are unauthenticated. The asset on Rally is authenticated by JSA with the autograph receiving a “10” grade.

The Rally co-founder said Buffett autographs that do pop up can be on items like a baseball or a $1 bill, but are rarely on a Berkshire Hathaway meeting pamphlet.

Petrozzo said there aren’t a ton of Buffett autographs entering the market, something that isn’t likely to change with his typical very structured daily routine.

At 91 years of age, Buffett’s public appearances might slow down, making autographs more rare and leading to the question of whether the autograph could go up in value when the unfortunate event of Buffett’s death comes.

“It’s hard not to look at someone’s age and think inevitably the story that they’re writing will come to an end,” Petrozzo said.

Petrozzo said he doesn’t foresee Buffett's passing having a huge impact on the price due to the already low number of autographs in circulation.

Autograph Market: Over the years, Rally has expanded its offerings on its platform. Along with trading cards, books, wine, cars, tickets and NFTs, Rally also offers autographs from presidents, athletes and business leaders.

The company has several Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) related products that feature autographs from co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Rally also recently offered an autographed $1 bill from Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, which sold out in its first day.

Petrozzo said Buffett’s name is up there with other top names in their respective fields and he has spanned multiple generations, multiple decades and provided value to shareholders.

“It’s hard to say Warren Buffett’s legacy doesn’t match up to some of the biggest names at the top of their game,” Petrozzo said.

Petrozzo said Rally is always looking to add more autographs to the platform, including some top names in the business world.

The Rally co-founder sees an overlap between Rally users and the stock market, with many of the users on the platform taking finance seriously and always tracking the business market.

This has led to demand for autographs from top names like Jobs, Musk and Buffett.

“I think if it’s a relevant name, it's going to be relevant in the future.”

EXCLUSIVE: MariMed & Emack & Bolio's Bob Rook Team Up To Launch New Line-Up Of Cannabis-Infused Ice Creams

MariMed, Inc. (CSE:MRMD) (OTCQX:MRMD) announced the availability of a new and tasty cannabis-infused ice cream.

MariMed collaborated with the legendary Boston ice cream brand Emack & Bolio’s to develop and market new and innovative vegan and dairy ice cream in several flavors.

The ice cream is an extension of MariMed’s top-selling and award-winning Betty’s Eddies infused fruit chewsbrand and shares the brand’s commitment to being hand-crafted and using all-natural ingredients.

The ice cream contains MariMed’s superior formulations of full spectrum cannabis oil, with natural cannabinoids and terpenes.

“We pushed ourselves to make our infused cannabis ice cream as delicious as the best-tasting, non-infused products found in local specialty ice cream stores,” Tim Shaw, MariMed’s chief operating officer, told Benzinga. “With thanks to the Emack & Bolio’s ice cream magicians and our own rock star team, this new ice creamexceeds that high-quality benchmark. It’s out-of -this-world delicious.”

Two vegan flavors, Cup O’ Coffee Chip and Chocolate Sunny Days, debuted at MariMed’s Panacea Wellness dispensary in Middleborough, MA, this week. Additional flavors and wider availability are expected in the coming months.

“Working on this collaborative project of perfecting our vegan and dairy ice creams with cannabis has been so much fun,” Bob Rook, CEO and creator of Emack & Bolio’s Bob Rook, said.

Photo: Courtesy of MariMed

EXCLUSIVE: Cepton Says Has Recently Completed A 6-Month Autonomous Shuttle Pilot Program In Collaboration With Ford; Co.'s Lidar Technology Was Used To Support Autonomous Driving Capabilities As Well As Traffic Data Analytics