This site’s Google Analytics show that marijuana and Slovenia are often searched for together, and while the country has a reputation as a place that grows good pot it remains illegal, with even the medicinal kind in limbo.
That’s for those varieties with high contents of THC, though, the most well-known cannabinoid and the one most responsible for the high that comes with smoking, vaping or ingesting the dried flowers of the plant. Those low in THC and high in CBD, the second most famous cannabinoid and the one most associated with the wellness industry, are legal to grow and sell, and many stores, including pharmacies and petrol stations, now offer products that claim to offer many of the benefits of marijuana without the *cough* “disorienting side effects”.
Earlier this year I wrote about Sena Flora, a retail store on Ljubljana’s Trubarjeva cesta that sells CBD buds, hash, crystals, chocolates and lotions, but today’s story moves a little further up the chain. It’s an interview with Oliver Muldoon, a British man who’s lived Slovenia for about 10 years, about his latest venture, Responsible Post, which sources and packages high CBD and low THC marijuana buds for further distribution and sale, albeit for use as “tea”.
I got in touch with Oliver and asked some questions about the business, and he was kind enough to both answer my questions and provide a few samples to help with the story, which did indeed have a pleasant, calming effect.
How long has Responsible Pot been running, and how did you get the idea?
The core mission of my company, Noodlum, which specialises in communications, is to help raise awareness of emerging industries and revolutionary technologies, and we are currently working on several projects in Slovenia, with this being the most recent.
My main work involves writing and editing, which is how I first came across this idea towards the middle of last year. Not long after helping professors at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Medicine get their articles published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, I was hired to edit a series of CBD research papers. When reading through the results I realised that the received wisdom about cannabis was completely out of step with the facts. The positives associated with the plant were evident, and empirically verifiable, but their dissemination was being restricted by taboo, misinformation and a lack of knowledge — even fear. I decided to do something about it and found reliable partners to move ahead with the project.
Observing the trend for cannabis with THC values below 0.2% to be marketed in Slovenia as a tea, as demonstrated by Vutra, BeHempy and others, we set up Responsible Pot to help support their awareness-raising efforts. As many will confirm, the aroma of cannabis has been drifting around Ljubljana’s bars, parks and coffee places for several years. Wanting to acknowledge the elephant in the room, we decided to try making the business case for a legal cannabis culture in Slovenia.
We started by approaching bars where cannabis was being used to ask the owners if they wanted to start providing a legal alternative – legally compliant cannabis buds. So far, we’ve had a great response. There are now 12 Responsible sPots throughout Slovenia, most of which are in Ljubljana, and this number is rising every week. It works for our vendors because they can keep their businesses running lawfully and they now have a completely new product range to offer when the tourists arrive this summer. Legal cannabis has been widely available in other EU countries, such as Austria and Italy, for years – visitors from those countries will be relieved to find a legal supply while on vacation.
For those who are too far away from a sPot, orders can be made online at www.responsible-pot.com. I should also mention that Vutra’s cannabis buds are available in Petrol gas stations throughout Slovenia, and Martin Fon’s Sena Flora is a great place to visit on Trubarjeva cesta. We are delighted to see awareness steadily rising.
Is marijuana legal in Slovenia? No, not quite...
Article 9 of the law on the production and traffic of opium poppies and cannabis in Slovenia (source)
Where do you source your cannabis products?
We have a strong scouting network throughout Italy, Austria and the rest of the EU, which have access to the best quality buds for our customers. Since the market is relatively young and still developing, options are constantly increasing and so we are always keeping a watchful eye on up-and-coming growers in the market. The Slovenian growing sector is still too small for a reliable high-quality supply at present, but we have heard that legislative changes could help Slovenia position itself at the forefront of the regulated growing scene in the years ahead.
Which of your products, if any, do you use?
We have just launched two new strains, Responsible Pot Lemon and Responsible Pot Amnesia. As you would expect, we all use our products.
What do you find are the effects of using these products?
Responsible Pot buds are cannabis buds with low levels of THC, which is the cannabinoid in the plant that gives that “stoned” feeling. With our buds, that sensation isn’t there because the level is below 0.2%. Although cannabis has been used by civilisations around the world for millennia, its general prohibition over the past century or so has not made it easy for the medical community to investigate the health benefits. Nevertheless, enough research has already been done for the World Health Organisation to recommend that CBD, one of the 113 known cannabinoids, be removed from the controlled substance list and that cannabis itself be rescheduled, in effect confirming that the plant does have some medical benefits after all.
As to what those benefits are, I would encourage anyone reading to do their own research, and to refer to their general practitioner. More information is coming out every week. Like Martin Fon, who is doing wonderful work in the centre of Ljubljana, I would recommend CBD – A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. Healing without the High by Leonard Leinow et al., but I would also suggest contacting the ICANNA International Institute for Cannabinoids, which is doing great work to raise awareness.
Do you see your business as being part of a broader push to legalize the sale of products with a higher THC content in Slovenia?
Yes, we see business as being the driver behind acceptance of the cannabis plant generally. Full legalisation, with a sensible measured approach, is the goal because of the many advantages it brings – safety, regulation, standards, taxation, jobs, economic growth and so on. Apart from that, as we are now starting to understand, it’s the ratio of THC to the other cannabinoids that seems to be pivotal, rather than its strength in isolation. And this ratio is becoming increasingly important to people as more details on the 113 known cannabinoids come to light.
Currently the THC limit in Slovenia is 0.2%, but in Austria that figure is 0.3%. In Italy, depending on how you interpret the legislation, this figure is 0.5% or 0.6%. In Switzerland, the maximum level of THC permitted is currently 1%.
To put these figures in perspective, the cannabis typically available on the black market has THC levels of between 15 and 25%, sometimes as high as 30%. Therefore, even this 1% figure is still extremely low and still will not cause any “high” effect. Raising this very low level, even marginally, would help Slovenia’s fledgling industry to flourish.
Opportunities in the Slovenian marijuana business
Where do you see the biggest potential in the cannabis market in Slovenia – in growing, packaging / distributing, or sales to consumers, and do sales seem to be more common online or in brick & mortar stores?
Hopefully one day in all those areas. We see an industry in the making for Slovenian workers, and the foundations are being laid now. Recent months have been spent establishing a network of Responsible sPots in Ljubljana, but we have now switched to promoting wholesale and online sales too.
First and foremost, Responsible Pot is a movement to get people to start using cannabis responsibly. We’re promoting a common-sense solution to cannabis use through business. But this is a quest to get cannabis understood and accepted by mainstream society rather than an attempt to gain market share or profits, which is why we have decided to sacrifice some of the latter for exposure and awareness. At under €9 per gram, our buds are among the most competitively priced on the market.
There are several other cannabis companies joining us in Slovenia, and we all have a common goal – to increase mainstream acceptance of this wonderful plant. Its use is widespread and everyone either uses cannabis or knows someone else who does. After seeing what’s happened with legalisation in Canada and some US states, who lead the way with global trends, we think it’s time to make stronger efforts to help the largely decent and law-abiding cannabis community feel more part of society – and to feel comfortable doing so. We want to remove this ridiculous sense of “shame” a huge chunk of our population wrongly feels, generate some extra taxes, and start to build a new industry so that Slovenia can get new jobs and more options for its young people.
CBD in Ljubljana and Bled
Where can people buy your products, and learn more about your business?
We have several partners in Ljubljana, which is where we’re based, and then in Bled and Slovenj Gradec. These venues are called Responsible sPots and lead the way with providing cannabis to their consumers in a law abiding and regulated environment.
Currently, Responsible Pot is available at Daktari, Icelend on Copova, Etna Picerija, the Craft Room, Kavarna Eipper, Kavarna Zofa, Sunrise Bar, Bar 200, Kafetarna in Trzin, Castle Hostel 1004 in Bled and the Tea Room in Slovenj Gradec. Customers can also now order online.
Anything else you want to add?
When researching the idea, and devising an implementation strategy, we looked at the Netherlands’ coffee shop culture and took some pointers. The quickly realized that friendly coexistence required tact and diplomacy, and so closed their doors during school lunchtimes. We decided to make a similar recommendation that some of our Responsible sPots sell our buds only after 8 pm, so that they can cater to families with young children during the day who might not want to be in an environment where cannabis is consumed. We think that’s important in helping more venues to come forward with a legal cannabis alternative, while still catering to their entire customer base. Long term, working together to find a way forward is the best option.
You can learn more about Responsible Pot at the website, and if you'd like to start selling their poducts in your cafe, bar, wellness centre or elsewhere then you can contact them here. All our stories about cannabis and Slovenia can be found here