Synthetic Cannabis and its Dangers

K2, spice, or whatever term you’ve heard to describe synthetic cannabis products, have absolutely nothing at all in common with natural marijuana and the chemicals that the plant produces.  A few years back, it was normal to hear about the drug being sold at convenience stores and the crazy effects it had on the people who chose to smoke it.  On shelves, they were simply labeled “not for human consumption” and sold legally as an herbal blend with unknown synthetic compounds sprayed on top.  None of these chemicals are present in cannabis and were constantly tweaked in order to avoid the expanding list of illegal drugs.  The short-term and long-term effects of the drugs sprayed onto these products have not been tested and remain unknown.  These compounds grew in popularity, largely as a result of the drug testing practices in our country.  The youth are the largest percentage of users of spice and are under the impression that it is similar to marijuana, allowing them to pass drug tests for probation, school, parents, etc.

The reason these drugs are classified and known as synthetic cannabis is that they simply bond to the same cannabinoid receptors that weed does.  HU-210, one of the prevalent compounds in spice products, is 100 to 800 times more potent than natural THC.  This is not to mention it is a single chemical by itself and isn’t balanced out by the presence of CBD or any other natural cannabinoids.  The negative physical effects of these types of chemicals include symptoms as extreme as kidney failure and dangerously high blood pressure.  Whoever markets these harmful chemicals as synthetic weed and legal highs is doing an enormous amount of damage to the community.  Attracting a customer base by selling this poison as “man-made” marijuana has destroyed lives and even killed a few this past month in the state of Illinois.

While it’s great that the years of gas station sales are over, the drug is still being sold by dealers on the street.  In Illinois, four people died this past month due to uncontrolled bleeding from the eyes, ear, mouth, as well as internal bleeding.  Officials are saying this likely is a result of the presence of rat poison in the spice.  Spice that seized from two dealers in the same area of the deaths was tested and came back positive for brodifacoum.  This substance interferes with the body’s ability to blood clot, causing serious amounts of blood loss.  While these people probably died from something added to synthetic cannabis, don’t think for a minute “untainted” spice is in anyway safe.  The psychotic state of mind that is induced by these drugs is not something anyone should want to experience.  On top of dangerous physical side effects, users easily get addicted.  Many users ignore the reports of internal bleeding and continue to use because of dependence.  The Illinois Department of Health says the cases of k2 abuse continue to pour in throughout this month.  These drugs are even more dangerous than many of the traditional controlled substances available on the black market.  It seems the semi-legality of these drugs is fooling people to believe that they are somewhat authentic.

Hopefully this is isn’t the beginning of another deadly trend like the opioid/fentanyl epidemic that’s spread across the country. The best way to minimize more new users from using is to spread factual information about these synthetic drugs to as many people and children as possible.  It needs to be associated with many of the same negative consequences addictive drugs like meth and heroin have on a users health and life.

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Matt Barnes and NBA Weed Culture

A lot of people are probably surprised by the news that Matt Barnes (a 15 year forward in the NBA) is claiming a large percentage of players regularly use cannabis.  Athletes in all sports are supposed to have some sort of drug testing program in place.  Not only for federally controlled substances, but performance enhancing drugs as well.  Both of these pose potentially career-changing consequences for the high percentage of cannabis users currently playing.  Athletes are subject to four random test throughout each NBA season.  Once they complete those tests, they would be free to use cannabis as they please without worrying.  The off-season is free from drug testing as well.  These rules on drug testing do provide an opportunity for those who choose to indulge, and according to Matt Barnes, that number is around 85% of the basketball population.

Many people who play sports for fun like myself would be likely to say that consumption before a game made it much more easy to focus and get caught up in the moment of a big play.  Many professional basketball players are using it for different purposes, like relieving the physical wear and tear on their bodies.  It is a much safer and enjoyable alternative to alcohol, and that’s another primary reason for use among athletes.  For Matt Barnes, he admitted to using it before games and that in his best games he had been under its influence.  Being retired gives him the freedom to say these things, and it makes you wonder how many other guys are blazing before they arrive at the arena.  It shouldn’t matter at all whether they decide to or not, as long as long as it’s not negatively affecting their performance.  An athletes consistently demonstrated ability is what should determine their playing time on the floor, as long as their not abusing performance-enhancing drugs. Cannabis is not like traditional performance-enhancing drugs that boost muscle growth and are made in a lab.  However, like any drug, it affects people differently and if some players indulged before a game, it could be a disaster.  It should be the player’s judgment call, not the leagues on what substances to use.  With marijuana legal in 8 states and medical marijuana legal in a majority of the rest, the prohibited status in the NBA is becoming more questionable.  The actions of some of their players are sometimes 100 percent legal where they live or are traveling to.  Use of alcohol and prescription pills remain allowed but are decreasing in popularity.

Using cannabis while strict testing and rules are in place, speaks volumes about how beneficial it is to those in the league.  Some fans, as well as the sports media, will view a violation of marijuana rules as a big deal.  More importantly, it will be viewed as unprofessional by the coaches and results in some serious consequences for repeated offenses.  The first time a player is caught failing a test, they must simply complete a substance abuse course.  After that though, they face hefty fines and larger game suspensions for each violation of the rule.  It is also likely with the insane competition that a pretty good athlete can be lost about among all the other options who lack a marijuana record.  The time has come for the NBA to catch up to the public’s opinion, as well as the laws being passed across the country that are legalizing and decriminalizing the plant.  Studies have shown how opioid abuse has gone down in states that legalize medical or recreational marijuana and there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen within the league.

Recent Dispensary Closings in Michigan

Since the new year has began, I personally have already had to switch dispensaries that I was using due to the new medical marijuana regulations coming into effect.  Starting December 15th of last year, the state began accepting applications for the various types of businesses including: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail shops.  Retail dispensaries that were operating for years without any problems with local ordinances are now receiving letters ordering them to shut down until they are approved for a new license.  According to the Detroit Free Press, over 200 dispensaries in the state have been sent these cease and desist letters.

While the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs claims that the availability of medicine will be unaffected for patients, there are other consequences to this move.  Although profitable, opening a dispensary demands an enormous amount of overhead and variable costs. All of these business owners who had invested money in both their property as well as the medicine they had in stock, are going to lose patients during the temporary to permanent closure.  This is not right, and if they didn’t want them operating they shouldn’t have ever been given permission.  Yes they technically were unregulated businesses, but that was how the system had forced them to operate for years under the protection of local ordinances.  Some of these businesses in the past had even gone the lengths of relocating in order to comply with the ridiculous zoning requirements imposed by the city of Detroit.  Even playing by the rules doesn’t always guarantee protection of your business in this industry.  This transition period of awarding licenses to applicants is supposed to end in June, but at it’s current pace many in the industry are expecting delays.

There are many different opinions on whether this regulation is a good thing for the cannabis community or not.  The regulation establishes new taxes for those using it for medical purposes.  It also will make a system to track a plants progress from seed form to sale and ensure all products are only produced by licensed commercial cultivators.  Personally, I think regulation is not a good thing and it should be left to the already existing large community of cultivators who produce much higher quality cannabis on a small scale.  The patient- caregiver system that was established in 2008 when medical cannabis passed in Michigan, is still the backbone of the industry.  Dispensaries that are currently existing get their medicine from caregivers or patients, not some 3000 plant  facility that machine trims commercial quality bud.  It seems inevitable that with regulation small time grows will be undercut by those growing on a large scale.

The dispensary that I choose to visit now for my concentrate and edible needs, is much larger then other collectives I had been a member at.  The inventory selection is much larger as well as a higher number of employees working.  Larger dispensaries seems to be the trend as the number of operating dispensaries continues to be squeezed by the state government.  To this day it remains a risky business plan to enter the “not quite regulated” medical marijuana industry in Michigan.  For those looking to get into the trade, it would be best to apply for one of the new licenses and then wait before trying to set up shop during this uncertain time.

My Current Brand Preference on Vape Cartridges

Just like in many other states licensed to sell medical marijuana products, Michigan has a large variety of competitors and brands fighting for their own market share in the industry.  Pre-filled vaporizer cartridges are still a relatively new to the industry, and many different producers are attempting to dominate that niche.  One of the first brands to do it was The Clear.  Although they were one of the originals to introduce the technology of pre-filled vape cartridges, other emerging companies are making a name for themselves.  From better mouthpieces to new heating elements, newer technology is making it harder to stick with the Clear.

Not too long after the Clear’s release, dispensaries began to stock their shelves with an overwhelming amount of options.  I have tried several types of cartridges including: FlavRX, Platinum Vape, Illuminati, Claw Concentrates, Fire Stix, Thon, and Pure Michigan Oil.  The list of brands currently producing cartridges here in Michigan is so long I probably haven’t tried half of them.  One reason for my lack of cartridge exposure is the price point of some of the oils.  I don’t find it sensible to spend more then $40 each time on a refill.  Some of the top shelf or larger gram size cartridges go from $60-90 a piece, and I’m simply not willing to give those a try for something I only use when I can’t smoke flower.

Out of the options that are reasonably priced, me and my friends prefer Thon over the rest.  As I mentioned earlier, the mouthpiece and heating element are a step up from the traditional cartridge design.  The heating element is no longer a wick at the bottom of the chamber, but a cylinder that evenly heats the medicine and eliminates any waste that might otherwise get stuck to the sides.  Another must have feature is the the anti-leak design built into the bottom of the chamber.  With other products, its a constant struggle making sure that my pen is sitting upright so none of the good stuff goes below the heating wick.  All these perks to the design are nice, but it wouldn’t be too helpful if I didn’t mention the medicine itself.  After just a few pulls, it has pretty noticeable effects.  A few more and it’ll have you stoned for an hour or so.  With all cartridges duration has been an issue when compared to buds.  There are no test results or cannabanoid percentages labeled on the packaging but it is identified as a distillate.  The various flavors they offer are named by the strain that the oil originated from, which is more helpful then calling it strawberry or peach cream.  Every strain I have tried is tasty in its own way, and if you’re not careful you’ll catch yourself hitting it constantly.  If this brand is accessible in your location I highly recommend picking some out from the overwhelming wave of options.

Maintaining Stealth in the Grow Room

It’s always a pleasure for me to show close friends and others also in the cannabis industry the beautiful results of the garden.  There’s nothing like impressing others with high quality medicine that took hours of tedious work every day to create from a simple seed.  The process of growing is expensive and time consuming and the worst nightmare of any cultivator would be the discovery of the garden by unwanted visitors.  Whether it’s the police or someone looking for the five finger discount, there is far too much at stake if the garden were to be detected.  There are several precautionary steps that can be done to maximize the chances that the flowers are safely harvested and consumed.

The first thing that growers are conscious of when it comes to being compromised, is the strong pungent odor the plants emit while flowering and/or drying.  The most popular solution to this problem is the use of carbon filters.  Regardless of your lighting setup, the filter would be hooked up to a ducting fan, pumping the now clean air out of the tent/room.  The high pressure sodium setup is going to require more equipment then LED’s to effectively clean the air.  In a high pressure sodium grow room there must also be fans used to remove hot air from the hoods of the lighting system before it reaches your plants.  So there needs to be a ducting connector used to combine the hot air from the lights with the clean air coming from the filter.  This is going to use more fans and incur more overhead than LED grows.  LED lighting does not emit anywhere as much heat as a HPS, so there is no need to have a separate ducting fan.  I’s also important that all the air exiting your tent will need to be vented outside to ensure an optimal growing climate is maintained.

Equally important as masking the identifiable smell of cannabis, is avoiding suspicions from the neighborhood.  It’s human nature to get a little to nosy, and there’s plenty of people with too much times on their hands.  The home being used to cultivate needs to look as inhabited as possible.  Many times people transform a properties bedrooms and living rooms into a full blown growing operation, containing plants in various stages of growth.  It’s going to have a much higher chance of drawing attention if someone is going to the house for a few hours a day and leaves, instead of appearing to spend a reasonable amount of time inside the home.  There’s numerous ways to do this so get creative.  It would also be smart to leave designated spaces near the front door and windows full of furniture and other decor.  For those with smaller less organized operations, it’s much easier because they often live where they cultivate.  These types of grows have a far different risk than not looking inhabited.  Other types of activity like having lots of traffic that doesn’t seem to hang out long, is a quick way to receive complaints from neighbors and put you on the radar of the local task force.  The sounds of high output fans combined with bright lighting systems can also give you away if not properly contained.  In a small apartment or condo with neighbors close by, the more centered the grow is in the unit, the better off you’ll be.  Walls aren’t going to block the sound of multiple fans if they’re just feet away from the source.  Both high pressure sodium and LED lights will completely illuminate a room and all windows in that room.  This is one reason why I prefer using tents then an open room.  If you don’t utilize tents, it will be tricky to both ventilate air and block light from the same window.  This is why many people choose use the basement as an open growing space.

Taking steps like these and consistently investing money back into the security of the grow will help your odds and reduce the chance of becoming the target of a violent robbery or a drug investigation.  While cannabis is legal in more and more places each year, it remains illegal federally and attention from law enforcement in this industry is yet to prove beneficial.  Never get to comfortable and cut corners when it comes to operation security.