Category Archives: Issues

Should Marijuana be Classified as a Psychedelic/Hallucinogen

Classifying psychoactive drugs into different categories is usually a pretty straightforward process.  The consistently documented effects of a substance are compared to one of the three main drug categories: stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens.  Some drugs have many properties that make it possible for them to fit into more than one of these groups.  Determining how drugs affect the central nervous system is the key to differentiating between stimulants and depressants.  Stimulants are known for increasing the activity in the CNS, leading to feelings of energy and alertness.  Depressants do the opposite, while hallucinogens interact mostly with the chemical serotonin.  With drugs like alcohol or cocaine, it is extremely easy to figure out where to classify them.  That’s because alcohol will always slow users down mentally(reaction times) and physically when it comes to heart rate and breathing.  There aren’t different strains or types of alcohol or cocaine that allow users to have a different experience.  The only difference will lie in how potent those depressing or stimulating effects will be from batch to batch.  Cannabis is much more difficult to throw into one category.

Everyone has heard the phrase that drugs affect everyone differently.  This is true in a sense, but it’s also true that drugs have basic effects that will happen to the vast majority or all of its users.  For example, cannabis will make users feel very euphoric and more sensitive to sounds and taste.  I’ve never come across someone who has argued food doesn’t taste better while high.  The same goes for listening to music.  It just sounds so new and full of detail.  There are so many strains available now that users can customize their high by selecting a strain that was bred for a specific effect or medical condition.  This is the main reason why its difficult to categorize marijuana.  If someone were to get their hands on an extremely powerful indica such as Gorilla Cookie or Banana Kush, there would be no stimulant properties to be found.  If you manage to stay awake after using one of these strains, the strong feeling of relaxation will make it very tempting to just kick back.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, sativas can make people so alert and sensitive to their surroundings that paranoia kicks in.  However, no strain will ever cause visuals or make users see things that are not really there.

This doesn’t mean that high-grade cannabis can’t be too powerful or overwhelming to new users.  High doses of this new substance can cause distortions in time and cause some people to panic.  I don’t believe that this means it should be classified as a hallucinogen. That is because these type of effects will not continue after using the substance several times and they will not happen at all if the dosages are proper.  Another reason why it shouldn’t be classified with other psychedelic drugs is that cannabis will never take the user into the deep depths of their mind like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms do.  Even the most potent of edibles will not have you rethinking the meaning of life in the way a trip can.  The potential for a negative experience is also much higher when dealing with these stronger drugs.

I don’t believe weed should be placed in just one of these categories, it qualifies as both a stimulant and a depressant based on the strain and the user.  I know friends who say that weed makes them tired every time they try it, regardless of the strain or grower.  Then there are people who are obsessed with figuring out what their ideal strain is, and acquiring it regardless what the cost may be.  The stoner stereotype would make it seem that weed is a 100% depressant substance that destroys productivity.  At the same time, the successful stoners in our society have modeled that it can stimulate the best of our creativity.  Cannabis really is a one of a kind drug.

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Researchers Look to Study Pot’s Pain Killing Properties

The long existing problem of opioid abuse and addiction is receiving a valuable response from a group of researchers at UCLA.  They’re determined to figure out the optimal combination of cannabinoids when it comes to treating pain.  Almost everyone knows someone who has been negatively affected by the opioid epidemic, and it’s encouraging to see this team prove/disprove this commonly substituted solution.  Pain patients have been sharing their success with making the switch to cannabis for years, but medical science has remained far behind.  Today, there are still many people that are unconvinced cannabis can provide relief similar to hard narcotics when it comes to severe or chronic pain.  This is much-needed scientific data that can lead to a serious change in opioid usage rates.  Opioid painkillers have been the go-to drug doctors have been prescribing for pain since the late 1800s.  No other options have really been considered as medically prescribed substitutes for all this time.

Natural alternatives such as cannabis or even the Kratom plant will clearly have far less negative side effects for pain patients.  Not to mention the excruciating physical withdrawal symptoms that can develop after short periods of use.  However, the real test is how effective they stand against the notorious synthetic drugs originating from the poppy plant.  The other limited sources of research available involving opioid use and cannabis have shown some positive results.  One 5 year-long study in the JAMA(Journal of the American Medical Association) pointed to the fact that states that have medical marijuana laws in effect saw 6% fewer opioid prescriptions among Medicaid patients than states without laws in effect.  6% is a significant number of prescriptions. However, the fact that the study was unable to determine whether the people in the medical marijuana states were making the switch over to marijuana led to some uncertainty.  It could be attributed to other factors outside of substituting it with cannabis although it’s unlikely.

This study will not be taking place until it is able to secure more funding along with approval from two major governmental agencies.  The DEA and FDA must both give the go-ahead allowing the university to study a schedule one substance.  This study is by no means guaranteed to happen.  It simply is the goal of the cannabis initiative team.  Those that have a financial incentive in marijuana will be prohibited from giving donations in order to establish an environment of “fair research”.  This could also become a hurdle for the researches, but it is a good policy by the university to help strengthen any future findings that they are able to make.  It would be beyond frustrating to see something so beneficial and promising to the cannabis industry stopped in its tracks by the government, although it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.  The constitutionality of marijuana’s schedule one status has been unsuccessfully challenged several times in court over the years despite it’s well known medical uses and safety profile.  So don’t be surprised if officials pull something similar in an effort to further delay federal legalization here in the U.S.

 

 

 

Calgary is Open to Idea of Public Consumption Areas for Marijuana

There seems to be one common similarity among the different states and countries that have moved to legalize marijuana.  Each law mentions the issue of public consumption and explains that it is still illegal.  Even though the punishment for consuming in public is minor in most jurisdictions, the only legal place the law allows consumption without penalty is your own private property.  If you look at any other recreational substance that is popular in our society, it’s clear that it is not a reasonable expectation for people to never consume marijuana outside of their own private property.  The local city council in Calgary is concerned with this issue and wants to address it before legalization even takes effect in Canada.

One of the issues that are brought up by opponents of public consumption areas is that there will be a rise in impaired driving rates in cities that allow these type of businesses to run.  The truth is that if lawmakers were truly that concerned about the dangers of impaired driving, alcohol wouldn’t be served at nearly every restaurant and corner store.  Alcohol has been proven through numerous studies to have a much larger impact on motor skills and leads to more aggressive driving behaviors then marijuana.  Not to mention drunk driving is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year   Anybody that has used both will tell you the same thing.  However, the availability of more dangerous substances for public consumption by itself doesn’t justify allowing these places to operate.  The fact that there are enormous amounts of people who visit/live in Calgary without owning any property means legally they can’t use marijuana at all.  Why make it legal in the first place if only property owners have the right to consume?  This essentially keeps prohibition in place for the rest of the local population.  People will of course not abide by these rules and smoke in public places regardless, so it’s only sensible they establish designated areas to help regulate where it is used.

Canada’s legalization measure not only banned public consumption of marijuana but it also prohibited its use in apartment buildings, condominiums, and hotels.  It seems counterintuitive that the country wanted to eliminate smoking in these locations but did not offer any alternative in order to make this law reasonable.  This is why the city council is taking matters into its own hands.  It is proposing that there be four separate locations that were selected in relation to their distance from schools and areas frequented by children.  All of these locations would be located in Ward 9 and within a relative proximity of one another.  Even though the public is most likely going to be in agreement and support the availability of cannabis clubs, the government wants to reach out and receive feedback before the 9th of September.  The committee will be holding a meeting on the 9th of October where the public can also make comments in person about the important issue.  Calgary should have a clear decision made by the time the new law goes into effect so consumers won’t have to worry about being prosecuted for consuming a legal product.

Medical Marijuana and Universities

Medical marijuana legislation in the United States currently provides essential protection from prosecution to approximately 2.3 million patients.  These patients are allowed to take their medicine almost everywhere, but when it comes to a federally funded college campus, those protections can vanish.  Medical marijuana use is viewed as narcotics use thanks to the controlled substance act that still lists marijuana as a dangerous drug.  Colleges are continuing to enforce a complete prohibition of the plant, and I’m afraid some people are not aware that bringing their medicine on campus can have serious consequences.  Not only have some students faced criminal prosecution, but they have also suffered additional penalties from the school administration.

One of the best ways to eliminate running into any trouble would be to seek off-campus housing.  It simply isn’t a viable solution to live in a dorm and hardly ever be able to find relief.  There would be nowhere safe to store it and even the idea of smoking off campus would mean getting a new small supply each time.  Edibles would be effective and stealthy, but many people prefer smoking/vaporization because the effects are immediate and much more predictable.  Storing edibles may be harder to detect but I would still not recommend keeping it anywhere on school grounds.  It wouldn’t surprise me if university police decided to weigh the whole edible and charge as if it were normal cannabis.  Having your medicine at housing near campus guarantees no legal trouble and allows you to use it as needed.  Patient possession limits are often set high enough to be considered intent to sell by police/universities.  In Michigan, patients are allowed to have 2.5 ounces in their possession which would easily land non-patients a felony charge for intent to distribute.  Always remember you’re subject to different laws on school grounds, regardless if it’s a college, high school, elementary etc.

I’m uncertain how long this type of prosecution will continue but I would expect to see some legislation taking effect before federal law officially changes.  Arizona has already made headlines this year when the supreme court ruled that banning medical marijuana on public colleges violated the protections of the voter-approved law.  Students in Arizona who have medical marijuana cards will not face criminal prosecutions but they have faced administrative penalties.  The possession, use, and sale are all still prohibited on college grounds due to the federal funding provided by the U.S. government.  That funding would not be threatened based on whether students are criminally prosecuted, but instead would be based on whether schools still prohibit the substance.  This is definitely a step in the right direction as students will likely be willing to risk administrative action in order to have their medicine easily accessible.  While other states have yet to enact similar policies, colleges across the country are removing the requirement that first-year students need to live on campus.  Universities are doing this so patients can continue using their medicine and pursue an education without the risk of endangering their future.  We still have a long way to go to ensure protection in the educational environment is not limited to those who treat their illnesses with pharmaceutical drugs.

 

Legalization’s Impact on the Value of Cannabis

The monetary value of cannabis is obviously going to depend on the location at which it is produced and subsequently sold.  Ten years ago the price of cannabis was still location dependent, but now legalization in select states has had a unique impact on the prices of pot products.  In states where it is recreationally or medically legal, the value of bud grown from local growers is lower then it ever has been.  This is because they need to undercut the legally operating dispensaries in order to remain in business.  The addition of legal suppliers along with the original black market growers means supply is growing.  While demand remains as high as it always has been, the expanding number of suppliers will continue to lower weed’s value.  For those states that have not experienced recreational or medical dispensaries, there has been little to no impact.  A lot of the marijuana that is grown in legal states by caregivers or individuals is being transported to these states in order to maximize profits.  For example, a top-shelf $1800 pound in a state like California can easily be resold for $3000-4000 in places like New York or Florida.  That discrepancy is only for wholesale prices. If it were broken down into smaller quantities, the difference in value would become much more apparent.

Many growers like myself are hoping that the demand for high-quality craft cannabis will survive the transition to commercially grown weed.  It’s not going to be feasible to give 5,000 plants the individual attention they need in order to maximize potency and flavor.  Small-time growers have much more control over the environment and are better able to prevent insect outbreaks and nutrient deficiencies.  On top of that, many of the people entering the industry have the required financial investment but no previous experience in the illegal culture.  Those who have been operating in the shadows for years and dominating the market will always have the obvious advantage of experience.

The one that will benefit most from the legalization movement will 100% be the consumers.  Outside of being protected from prosecution, they now have the ability to produce their own marijuana or purchase cannabis from a variety of suppliers at a cheaper price.  While the price of legal cannabis is sometimes cheaper then what consumers were paying during prohibition, high-quality buds still sell for a premium.  That provides an opportunity for black market growers to re-claim the connoisseur market.  For now, they are still able to attract customers because they can compete with prices and taxes being charged at retail locations.  Those new to cannabis and those unable to identify characteristics of a desirable strain will be attracted to dispensaries.  Lacking connections among local growers means they will pay whatever their local shop charges.

The immediate impact on legal prices of marijuana will be undesirable.  When Washington opened its doors to anyone over the age of 21, they were charging over $30 a gram.  Those prices are unheard of by those who have been purchasing weed for any amount of time.  Despite the price, the lines stretched long and far the first few weeks of legal sales.  The new feeling of walking into a nice shiny retail location is priceless for some it seems.  Being able to participate in that moment of history after 70 years of prohibition, is what drove people to wait in line and pay high prices.  I would love to take a survey amongst cannabis consumers in states with dispensaries and ask them whether their source is a retail location or local grower/distributor.  Black markets certainly still exist, but it would be great to understand the exact magnitude legalization has had on the cannabis community.

Illinois Police Threaten to Euthanize K-9’s Come Pot Legalization

There seems to be a never-ending list of absurd reasons police and other professions benefitting from the prohibition of marijuana have used to argue against legalization.  The latest comes from a K-9 handler from Illinois, who claimed that dogs currently being used to detect controlled substances would most likely have to be killed.  The fact that current dogs can’t be untrained from detecting the odor of cannabis, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be repurposed within the same department.  Many of these same dogs have already been trained to track down fleeing suspects and could also be used as a threat to criminals hiding in an enclosed space.  Those types of scenarios are routine and seem to happen in every episode of Cops.  While the local police departments would have to procure and train new drug-sniffing dogs for roadside traffic stops, saying euthanization is the likely future for many pups is a desperate scare tactic.  The center of drug investigations in states with prohibition including Illinois has always been marijuana.  These departments have a ton to lose when it comes to funding, staffing, and most importantly, probable cause.  Cannabis has a pungent odor that is the most recognizable among recreational drugs.  This has been used as an excuse to search and arrest countless people for offenses including cannabis but often additional, more serious crimes.

I would like to believe that not all police officers are for the prohibition of cannabis and would enjoy not having to arrest people for simple possession.  This individual officer ( Macon County Sherrif Buffett) was not part of this minority.  He simply knows that the past few years have shown great legislative progress across the nation pertaining to legal cannabis.  The public approval of recreational marijuana has been rising among polls steadily each year and is now said to lie slightly above the 60% mark nationwide.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and in his eyes, this was the last resort speech he needed in order to support the growing problem of mass incarceration. K-9’s were put on the force to be trained and help fight the failed war on drugs.  It’s not the community’s problem that there will be a surplus of dogs that shouldn’t have been used in the first place.  If they can’t be reassigned as mentioned earlier, they could be adopted by gradually removing them from the working environment.  Handlers already live with their dog outside of work hours, so there is no reason they couldn’t adjust to being there all day long.

The impact these type of nonsensical statements have on the public is often opposite from the original intent of the message.  Many more people start to question the true purpose of the anti-pot stance and see right through the distraction and follow the money.  Few still believe the illusion that the government is looking out for your health and the well-being of communities by outlawing plants, but they’re out there.  Opponents like Buffett are simply putting themselves on the wrong side of history before it is written.  Not many people have a positive outlook on Harry Anslinger from the 1930’s or anyone else that put profits over doing the right thing.  The fact that the war on drugs got so out of control and drug squads grew into a local military force, isn’t a reason to keep unnecessary jobs employed.  There are many professions that have been wiped out due to their inability to adapt to change(political or technological) and law enforcement should be expected to do the same.

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.