The active compound in marijuana, tetra hydro cannibal (THC), was first discovered in 1964 by an Israeli investigator. He felt it odd that morphine was discovered in opium in 1805 and cocaine from coca leaves in 1855, but that scientists had no idea what the principal psychoactive ingredient was in marijuana. Of the 10 compounds isolated from the plant, it was the only one that produced a “high”. The other active ingredient of most interest is cannibadiol (CBD), which has many potential medical uses (especially interesting is its effect in moderating electrical activity in the brain and its anti-seizure activity), but no psychoactive effect on humans.
There has only been one society on earth with no known “intoxicants”, the Inuit of the arctic simply because few plants grow there. One or two drugs are accepted and used in every society, each making its own choice. Marijuana use has been accepted by all societies but by few governments. A major attraction to marijuana is that overdose is unknown, and thus the general consensus is that it is “safe”. This is in contradistinction to pharmaceutical drugs that are responsible for fatal medical overdoses every 16 minutes.
In Siberia charred seeds have been found inside burial mounds dating back to 3000 BC. The Chinese were using cannabis as medicine thousands of years ago. It spread out from Central Asia after the last ice age and went out across the planet with man. Humans evolved with marijuana practically since the dawn of time. It’s older than writing and has always been part of us. George Washington grew hemp at Mount Vernon. For most of US history, cannabis was legal, commonly found in tinctures and extracts.
With the production of the documentary “Reefer Madness” in 1930, it became public enemy #1. Declared illegal in 1937 in the US, the plant went into hiding and medical research largely stopped. The federal government made it even harder to study marijuana in 1970 when it was made a Schedule I controlled drug with no medical value and a high potential for abuse, in the same category as heroin. When marijuana use became popular in the 1970s, governments felt that they had to take action. In the United States, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) blocks all marijuana research by producing many bureaucratic loops to getting approval. Only 6% of studies done in the US look for the good effects and the rest for the harm. It is a strange kind of scientific trade deficit. The US leads the world in studies of marijuana’s harm but is also a net importer of data dealing with its healing potential.
In the late 1990s, both the US and British governments commissioned separate studies on medical marijuana. And both produced similar conclusions: that medial pot held real therapeutic potential for specific conditions. The British responded by licensing GW Pharmaceuticals to develop cannabinoid drugs. But America instead doubled down on the war on drugs claiming the opposite of the report’s conclusions. Tougher strictures on the study of marijuana as a medicine were instituted.
In 2015, the Colorado department of public health awarded $9 million in grants for medical-marijuana research, funded with tax revenue from state-licensed pot stores. They will be the first US clinical studies to look into the effectiveness of marijuana for childhood epilepsy, irritable-bowel disease, cancer pain, PTSD and Parkinson’s disease.
Initially most of the drug came from Mexico, but when the US government became involved in spraying paraquat on Mexican fields, smokers became worried about exposure to the herbicide. This encouraged domestic cultivation especially in California. When the government started to spray paraquat on this, it moved indoors. However the native strain, cannabis sativa was tall and sparse and not well suited to indoor growth. It was then crossed with another strain, cannabis indica that was a fast, short, strong, hardy, mountain strain. Hybridization is continuous always selecting for qualities that are most desirable.
Now, as medical uses are becoming more known, the science of marijuana is experiencing a rebirth.
HEMP. Hemp produces fibres of unparalleled quality. It’s a tremendously high biomass crop that replenishes the soil and doesn’t require much in terms of inputs. It is illegal to grow in the US and tons are imported each year from China and Canada. It is a crop with huge profits. Now it is used to make CBD oil.
Israel is the only country in the world actively involved in research into marijuana. An Israeli, Raphael Mechoulam isolated THC and CBD in 1963. Mechoulam is widely known as the patriarch of cannabis science. He’s a respected member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and an emeritus professor at Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School, where he still runs a lab. The author of more than 400 scientific papers and the holder offbeat 25 patents, he has spent a lifetime studying cannabis, which he calls a “medicinal treasure trove waiting to be discovered.” His work has spawned a subculture of cannabis research around the globe. Though he says he’s never smoked the stuff, he’s a celebrity in the pot world.
Israel has one of the world’s most advanced medical marijuana programs. Mechoulam played an active role in setting it up, and he’s proud of the results. More than 20,000 people in Israel are on medical marijuana for glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, inflammation, pain, loss of appetite, Parkinsons disease, dementia, hand tremors, nightmares (especially useful in holocaust survivors and PTSD), Tourette’s Syndrome and asthma.
Despite that, he’s not particularly in favour of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. He doesn’t think anyone should go to jail for possessing it, but he insists that marijuana is not an innocuous substance – especially for young people. Many studies show that the prolonged use of high-THC stains of marijuana can change the way the developing brain grows. In some people cannabis can provoke serious and debilitating anxiety attacks.
He desires an earnest and enthusiastic embrace of cannabis – but only as a medical substance to be strictly regulated and relentlessly researched. For it to work in the medical world, it has to be quantitative, If you can’t count it, it’s not science.
DNA. The genome of marijuana is a relatively short sequence of 800 million nucleotides. A sketchy outline of the cannabis genome exists but is highly fragmented into 60,000 pieces. Once these fragments are assembled into the right order and the map is complete, it could be used to breed strains that contain much higher levels of one of the plant’s rare compounds with medically important properties. Besides understanding the biochemistry of the plant, insight will be gained into the human brain, neurology and psychology. Industry, agriculture, medicine and biofuels all have something to gain.
Brain Function 101: Human gray matter contains around 86 billion neutrons that talk to each other through chemicals known as neurotransmitters – dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and endocannabinoids – which in turn send instructions to your body about what to do. Endocannabinoids activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Only one plant produces a similar compound that hits those same receptors: marijuana. Just as poppy-derived morphine mimics endorphins, marijuana derived cannabinoids like THC and cannabidiol (CBD) mimic endocannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors are especially widespread in the brain, where they play a key role in regulating the actions of other neurotransmitters. Practically every neurone either releases endocannabinoids or can sense them using cannabinoid receptors.
It was discovered that the receptors for THC in the brain resided in highest concentration in three parts of the brain: the hypocamus (memory), cerebellum (movement) and the frontal cortex (thinking). These different receptors regulate food intake and cravings and dopamine causing a sense of euphoria. It was reasoned that these receptors were not there to get high, but that there must be a “THC like” human molecule. In 1992, Mechoulam’s quest for quantification led him to isolate the chemical made by the human body that binds to the same receptor in the brain that THC does. He named it anandamide – from the Sanskrit for “supreme joy.” Since then several other enocannabinoids and their receptors have been discovered. Endocannabinoids interact with a specific neurological network – much the same way that endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine do. They apparently play an important role in such basic functions as pain, mood, appetite, memory, balance, movement, immune health, and neuroprotection. Marijuana contains numerous substances – cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes – that have never been investigated in depth. The low-THC strains are particularly high in these compounds. Encannabinnoids also play a life and death role of individual cells. Interestingly, cannabinoid receptors aren’t densely packed in the medulla in the brain stem that controls breathing and the cardiovascular system. That’s why a heroin overdose generally can be fatal (the drug shuts down the respiratory control centre), but a marijuana overdose can’t.
Pharmaceutical companies making cannabis-based medicines have sought to isolate individual compounds from the plant. But it is suspected that those compounds work much better in concert with other compounds found in marijuana. It may well be discovered that cannabinoids are involved in some way in all human diseases. Only the surface has been scratched.
Endocannabinoids have all the same properties of THC and affect appetite, pain and memory. Why would there be a natural substance that affects memory? What adaptive function could that have? When thought about, it becomes obvious that you do not want to remember everything – there are hundreds of things we encounter every day that are irrelevant and would overload our brains if remembered. Forgetting may be just as important as remembering. It has an editing function.
Neurotransmitters carry out brain communication through synapses, but too much synaptic excitation is poisonous and damages cells. Endocannabinoids are a mechanism for putting on the brakes when that toxic level of excitation is approached. Cannabinoids like CBD may be thought of as neuroprotectants, The US National Institutes of Health actually owns a patent on cannabinoids as neuroprotectants. This was based on research that showed CBD showed particular promise intimating neurological damage in patients wit Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and in those who have suffered a stroke or head trauma.
Its use in PTSD owes its role in extinguishing unpleasant memories. Part of PTSD is due to the brains’s stress buffers being blown out by trauma. Endocabinnoids in the amygdala (the brain region important for emotional learning and memory) act as a key mechanism for memory extinction.
It is also thought that anandamide has significant evolutionary importance. When hunting, it is often necessary to be silent for long periods of time, for example when sitting in a blind waiting for that deer to walk by. There would be value in forgetting (that you had just sat there for 4 hours), concentration (focusing on just one thing), and appetite (what better drive could there be when hunting). This is thought to be a new physiologic system of immense importance.
Running triggers the release of endocannabinoids (anandamide) that create a potent feeling of pleasure and are a main cause of “runners high”. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense. Remaining fit enough to run after game and away from predators and enemies was vital for survival. Other animals that gain an evolutionary benefit from being fast on their feet (antelopes, horses, and wolves for example), have a greater response to cannabinoids, and thus experience a runners high, than animals that are known for being quick and aggressive (ferrets). The latter do not reward cardiovascular activity, since such exercise consume a lot of energy, may cause injury and is not crucial to the stealthy hunting technique.
THE YOUNG BRAIN
Endocabinnoids appear to play a critical role in the development of the adolescent brain. Adolescence is when the wiring and plumbing get finished.Neural networks are defined and strengthened through pruning. the strong synapses, axons and dendrites are preserved, the weak culled. At a time when the brain relies on a finely calibrated dowse of endocannabinoids, the adolescent weed smoker floods the system, overloading it and disrupting it.
Regular use in the young brain before 24 and especially 16 can produce white matter connectivity problems disrupted at a critical time in brain development. At age 13, the brain reward center is mature like adults but the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed before 24. Before 16, users are slower at tasks, have a decreased IQ, impaired impulse control, increased psychosis and increased strokes. It is a damaged brain and these form a majority of marijuana addicts. 9% of marijuana users are dependent as opposed to 23% with heroin, 17% with cocaine, and 15% with alcohol. Both psychologically and physically addictive, they often drop out of life and school. Regular marijuana use causes the brain to stop producing natural canniboids like anandamide, which when marijuana is stopped can be slow to return especially with the drug’s long half life. With its high THC content, modern marijuana is more addictive due to the high pleasure reward received. In 1972, average THC content was less than 1% and now is 13%. Withdrawal can produce irritability, nausea, and insomnia. However, it has not been shown to be a gateway drug. There are no changes in the body produced by marijuana that cause one to crave other drugs when they are exposed to them.
The first receptors stimulated by THC induce pleasure, with impaired coordination and increased appetite – a good-all-over feeling. Most become more creative due to a drug induced release of dopamine which causes one to see things differently and decrease inhibition. However too much in an inexperienced user especially in a non-supportive situation, can lead to panic and anxiety. As many as 36% have a negative high with emotional lability and paranoia. Even simple tasks can become difficult. There is slower cognitive function, and decreased memory due to prefrontal cortex involvement responsible for planning, thinking and coordinating behavior. Driving for the inexperienced user is impaired but poses little difficulty for the regular user as he will have little motor disruption. For the regular user, THC is often a stimulant and not sedative. Dreams tend to be not remembered in the chronic user.
GENES, CANNABIS AND SCHIZPRENIA. The Economist, June 28th, 2014
THAT cannabis and schizophrenia are linked is widely accepted. Several studies suggest the drug can set off short-term psychotic episodes in those already suffering from the condition. Other research, though, does more than this. It shows that people with schizophrenia are twice as likely as others to use cannabis. This leads some to argue that the drug is actually a cause of schizophrenia rather than just a trigger—a line of evidence sometimes employed by those who wish to keep it illegal.
But there is another possible explanation for the association. This is that schizophrenics are, for some reason, more drawn to the stuff in the first place. And support for this idea has just been published in Molecular Psychiatry by Robert Power of King’s College, London, and his colleagues. Their work suggests that people who have gene types associated with schizophrenia, even ones who do not have symptoms, are more likely to take cannabis.
Dr Power and his team drew their data from a study of twins in Australia which had asked relevant questions. The first part of their analysis did not depend on the participants being twins. They looked at 2,082 unrelated individuals aged between 23 and 39 who had been questioned by the study’s organisers about their alcohol and illicit-drug use, who had no symptoms of schizophrenia and who had also given blood samples. Specifically, these volunteers had been asked whether they had ever used cannabis, how old they were when they first tried it and how many times in their life they had taken it. Dr Power and his team then analysed the blood samples for genetic markers associated with schizophrenia.
They learned from the interview data that 1,011 members of the sample had taken cannabis, that the average age at which they had started was 20 and that the average number of times they had taken it was 63. The blood analysis let them calculate, from the number of genetic markers each participant had, and the strength of the association each marker had with the development of schizophrenia, a value called the polygenetic-risk score. This ranged from a low of -0.3 to a high of +0.3, values which correspond to a 50% lower-than-average genetic risk of developing the condition and a 50% higher-than-average risk respectively.
From this part of the study the team found two things. One was a correlation between a participant’s risk score and whether he or she had ever taken cannabis. The other was an association between the amount of someone’s cannabis use and those genetic markers most associated with schizophrenia.
The researchers then conducted a second trawl of the data, this time looking specifically at 990 pairs of twins. In this, they found that when neither of a pair had ever used cannabis, which was true of 272 of them, their average genetic risk score was -0.18. When one twin had used the drug but the other had not, which was true for 273 pairs, the genetic-risk score for both averaged -0.02 (ie, almost the same as the general population). When both members of a pair had taken cannabis, which was true for 445 of them, their average score jumped to +0.12.
Together, these findings suggest that people born with a lot of the genetic variations that seem to predispose to schizophrenia are more likely to take cannabis than those born with few of them. The study’s samples are small, so follow-up work will be needed to confirm this result. But if it is so confirmed, that will show the link between cannabis and schizophrenia to be a two-way street. It will not eliminate the possibility that taking cannabis increases someone’s chances of becoming schizophrenic. But it will mean that those predisposed to the condition are indeed more drawn to the drug.
Many genes are involved in risk for schizophrenia, but there are still a host of social or environmental influences at work. For a subset of the population, the earlier the initiation of marijuana use, the earlier the onset of psychosis. And that matters: the later schizophrenia emerges, the greater the likelihood of recovery. Schizophrenia onset in a 15-year-old is often permanently life-altering. In a 24-year-old, it can be less damaging, because the person has had the chance to accomplish more psychological social-cevelopmetnal milestones. Perhaps most people can safely use marijuana, but schizophrenics cannot.
THC may have epigenetic effects (also found in heroin and cocaine): studies in rats show that exposure to marijuana’s effects in parents and grandparents is passed through DNA – it changes the way genes express themselves in the brains of offspring. This doesn’t necessarily mean that parents who smoked weed in high school will have damaged kids but there is the potential.
Protection from physical and emotional trauma. Cannabinoids and anandamide protect our brains. Our brain needs to remember things but it also needs to forget things. You need to forget what is unnecessary and what is not good for your mental health – a war, a trauma, a aversive memory of some kind. The cannabinoid system is crucial in helping us push bad memories away.
Cancer. Palliative role in alleviating side effects of the disease and chemotherapy especially nausea, loss of appetite, pain and sleep disorders.
The Internet has thousands of claims that it can cure cancer, most anecdotal and very weak at best and fraudulent at worst. Manuel Guzman is a biochemist from the Complutense university of Madrid, Spain, who has been studying cannabis for 20 years. Brain tumors induced in rats with human brain tumour cells and then treated with THC for one week disappeared completely in one-third and reduced in another third. But it is not known if this can be extrapolated to humans. A combination of THC, CBD and temozolomide (a moderately successful conventional chemotherapy drug) works well in treating brain tumours in mice by preventing their spread but also triggering them to commit suicide. The THC-CBD is supplied as an oral spray called Sativex developed by GW Pharmaceuticals. Many more studies are needed.
AIDS. Increases appetite and decreases nausea. There is an FDA-appoved synthetic version approved.
Glaucoma. Decreases pressure in the eye.
MS. Decreases neuropathic pain, spasticity and muscle spasms. An extract has been approved for MS patients in Europe and Canada, but not the US.
Post-traumatic-stress-disorder – PTSD. Decreases memory of war events, nightmares and dreams. Its use in PTSD owes its role in extinguishing unpleasant memories. Part of PTSD is due to the brains’s stress buffers being blown out by trauma. Endocabinnoids in the amygdala (the brain region important for emotional learning and memory) act as a key mechanism for memory extinction.
Dementia. Neuroprotectant role.
Parkinson’s Disease. Neuroprotectant role.
Strokes. Neuroprotectant role.
Tourettes syndrome. Decreases tics.
Widely used anti convulsants are paid for by insurance, are highly addictive, highly toxic, very sedating but legal. Marijuana should be part of the tool box of any doctor treating epilepsy.
Gervais Syndrome is a form of intractable epilepsy with ADHD features, self-destructive behavior, and very delayed development that results in death by early childhood. Charlotte Fiji was a five year old girl having 300 seizures per week and was featured on the CNN show “Weed”. No traditional therapies worked but marijuana with a high CBD content of 17% (and low THC content of .4%) reduced the seizures to one per week and the child started to develop normally. It took the family a long time to come to the decision to use marijuana and then it was very difficult to get high CBD/low THC marijuana which has minimal commercial value. The less than 2% THC content produced no high. This strain of marijuana is called Charlottes Web in honour of her.
At the time of the documentary in August, 2013, there were 41 children using marijuana for epilepsy with many more waiting. By 2015, more than a hundred families with children have moved to Colorado, especially near Colorado Springs, where there is a growing knowledge base of cannabis producers, the kinship of parents coping with similar orders, the quality of the dispensaries and the expertise of the test labs in ensuring consistent cannabis-oil formulations. Realm of Caring is a nonprofit organization in Colorado that assists families. Go to ngm.com/more to see a video on stories of families who have elected to give cannabis to their kids.
Schizencephaly is a congenital brain malformation caused by an abnormal cleft left when one of the hemispheres of the brain did not develop fully in utero. Adelyn Patrick from Maine started having a few seizures at 6 months, was having 20-30 within a few months, then 100 and then 300 per day. Anticonvulsants reduced the seizures but also put her to sleep for the most of the day. Mother quit her job and Adelyn was hospitalized 20 times in the next nine months. The family moved to Colorado Springs to obtain high-CBD oil and the seizures all but stopped – one or two per day – but even those are less intense. Her other meds were weaned and she woke up, has had no hospitalizations. She listens more, she laughs, sh’s learned how to hug and vocalize.
Myoclonic diaphragmatic flutter, an uncommon condition that results in intractable frequent contractions of his diaphragm that make talking and breathing difficult and is life threatening. All other treatments including many addictive medical drugs were ineffective but marijuana produced immediate relief.
Head injuries. It may protect the brain.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Long term effects of meth addiction. Reduces anxiety.
Respiratory. Unfiltered cannabis, inhaled deeply, has more carbon monoxide and tar than cigarettes.
Heart. Heart rate can double which may lead to a panic attack. Shortly after use, the risk of heart attack can increase significantly.
Panic and anxiety. Too much in an inexperienced user, especially in a non-supportive situation, can lead to panic and anxiety. As many as 36% have a negative high with emotional lability and paranoia.
Impairment. Even simple tasks can become difficult. There is slower cognitive function, and decreased memory due to prefrontal cortex involvement responsible for planning, thinking and coordinating behavior.
Schizophrenia. Its role in inducing psychosis in people predisposed to psychosis has been questioned. See above discussion.
The young brain. Regular use in the young brain before 24 and especially 16 can produce white matter connectivity problems disrupted at a critical time in brain development. At age 13, the brain reward center is mature like adults but the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed before 24. Before 16, users are slower at tasks, have a decreased IQ, increased psychosis and increased strokes. It is a damaged brain and these form a majority of marijuana addicts.
Dependency. 9% of marijuana users are dependent as opposed to 23% with heroin, 17% with cocaine, and 15% with alcohol. Both psychologically and physically addictive, they often drop out of life and school. Regular marijuana use causes the brain to stop producing natural canniboids like anandamide, which when marijuana is stopped can be slow to return especially with the drug’s long half life. With its high THC content, modern marijuana is more addictive due to the high pleasure reward received. In 1972, average THC content was less than 1% and now is 13%. Withdrawal can produce irritability, nausea, and insomnia.
Gateway drug? However, it has not been shown to be a gateway drug. There are no changes in the body produced by marijuana that cause one to crave other drugs when they are exposed to them.
Driving for the inexperienced user is impaired but poses little difficulty for the regular user as he will have little motor disruption. For the regular user, THC is often a stimulant and not sedative.
Dreams tend to be not remembered in the chronic user.
Male fertility reduction.
Short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating.
Bladder spasticity. With long term use, bladder irritability with marked urgency is not rare. Incontinence can occur. When THC consumption is stopped, this improves significantly over a few weeks.
When you smoke pot, the psychoactive ingredient, THC, spreads throughout your body but leaves your body quickly as it is absorbed by your fatty tissues and brain, so that the amount of THC in the blood is not a good indicator of iimpairment. It is even possible to have less THC in your blood when the effects of pot are at their peak, usually about 10-30 minutes after your last puff.
The first receptors stimulated by THC induce pleasure, with impaired coordination and increased appetite – a good-all-over feeling. Most become more creative due to a drug induced release of dopamine which causes one to see things differently and decrease inhibition.
Because of its long half-life and high lipid solubility, it has been shown that using marijuana more than twice per week results in accumulation of the drug. It is stored in all lipid tissues but especially in the myelin sheaths of nerves, the high fat content “insulation” that surrounds all nerves. Large globules of THC can be seen under magnification in the myelin. it is one of the reasons why withdrawal and craving are virtually unknown when stopping marijuana use. Indeed, if the drug was not around, most habitual users never think about it. It is unlikely that craving ever occurs when all drug is eventually gone as withdrawal is so slow.
The agriculture of marijuana has become incredibly scientific and intense. Nutrients, light quality and growing conditions are tweeked constantly to produce the fastest growth with the highest THC concentration. Growing marijuana is now totally artificial and the entire life cycle takes only 90 days. 1000 watt lights 24 hours/day in rooms with sophisticated air conditioning, ventilation, temperature and humidity control are necessary to prevent cooking the plants. Lights are encased in a vented glass cylinders. The air is then vented to the outside allowing the plants to be as close as possible to the light source. Rooms are covered in silver reflective insulation. They are hyperdrug factories.
Female plants produce a sticky resin on their buds to trap pollen. It is that resin that contains high quanities of THC. When males are removed from the room, extreme sexual “frustration” occurs and the female plants produce more and more resin. This results in large buds laden with resin.
It is suggested that the marijuana cultivation is the biggest contributor to the economy of British Columbia. “BC bud” is thought to be the strongest marijuana in the world. In fact many people don’t like it because of the very high THC concentration producing too high a high. Because of very punitive drug laws where property of growers is confiscated, outdoor grow ops continue to be popular. Old plots are known to the RCMP who do aerial surveillance late in the summer every year. As a result new plots are started regularly and attempts are made to camouflage them.
Mindful is one of the largest cannabis growing companies in the world. Their 44,000-square-foot converted warehouse in an industrial part of Denver houses more than 20,000 cannabis plants. Philip Hague, the 38-year-old owner of Mindful grew up in his families nursery in Texas, has been an avid horticulturist all his life and moved to Colorado in 2009 as soon as the US federal government announced that it would not prosecute people who complied with state medical marijuana laws.
Hague is extremely interested in the plant’s historical biodiversity, and his seed bank of rare, wild, and ancient strains is a significant part of Mindful’s intellectual property. Hague develops many of his own strains from varieties loaded with THC to strains that contain almost no THC but are rich in CBD and other compounds.
Many jobs have been created in Colorado in this multimillion dollar business boom called the Green Rush.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
In the USA, there are 750,000 arrests for marijuana possession, cultivation and trafficking every year. It represents one third of all crimes and 30-50,000 people are in jail at any one time related to the drug. It is classed as Schedule I narcotic in the same class as heroin. Cocaine and morphine are Schedule II drugs and attract research. That also means that under the law, marijuana has “no medical benefit”, even though 23 states have legalized pot as medicine. Marijuana researchers face barriers even higher than those faced by scientists studying other Schedule I drugs (heroin, LSD) as pot studies must pass intensive review by the US Public Health Service, a process that has delayed and thwarted much research for more than 15 years. The government’s research restrictions are so severe that it’s difficult to find and show the medical benefit. A bill was introduced in March 2015 to federally legalize medical marijuana in states that have already approved it. The American prison system is overloaded with marijuana related inmates and the cost of their care is bankrupting the system.
Unfortunately Canada has followed in the footsteps of the US, at least partly because of intense pressure from the US government. Our conservative government is devoting huge energy in prosecuting growers and minor possession. Just like the US, these laws will clog our court system, jails and only increase cost. There are many reasons for legalizing marijuana. Revenue from taxation could be considerable. It takes the major player in illegal drug distribution, the Hells Angels out of the system. The cost of incarceration far outstrips the cost of drug treatment and jails hardly seem like the best place for use of a relatively innocuous drug.
The “War on Drugs” has been a huge failure in the US. It is a campaign of prohibition and foreign military undertaken by the US government, with the assistance of participating countries, with the stated aim to define and reduce the illegal drug trade. In 1937, the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act had the goal to destroy the hemp industry, and was largely the effort of Andrew Mellon, Randolf Hearst, and the DuPont family. Hemp was seen as a substitute for paper pulp and was a threat to the men’s timber holdings and to the new synthetic fiber nylon.
LEGALIZATION – General
As of 2014, the only countries in the world where marijuana is legal are Uruguay and Portugal. The Netherlands has a law – it is theoretically illegal but the law is not enforced. Its use is restricted and can only be sold and smoked in licensed coffee shops. Recently the law was changed so that it can only be sold to residents of the country. Special garden shops are completely dedicated to supplying all the necessary equipment to produce the best growing conditions. It is ironic that the Netherlands gets few of the benefits of legalization as they do not tax marijuana. Israel, Canada and the Netherlands have medical marijuana programs.
In the US, as of 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and a majority of Americans favour legalization for recreational use. Colorado and Washington states both legalized marijuana this year contrary to it being illegal federally. Alaska, Washington DC and Oregon followed suit in 2015. Taxing and controlling its distribution seems only wise in order to remove organized crime from the equation. An unfortunate consequence is that marijuana growers and retailers are unable to access the banking system and thus live in a cash economy.
The war on drugs has not worked. It seems reasonable to try something else – legalization with proper taxation and control. Surely this is the wave of the future. There is no plant on earth with so much technology devoted to it.
DRIVING AND MARIJUANA
Sobriety tests are used to test for impairment from alcohol and increasingly marijuana: walk a straight line, balance with one foot raised in the air and with closed eyes, tilt head back and tell the policeman when 30 seconds have passed.
Getting drunk drivers off the road has been very successful with the advent of breathalyzers and random checks. Sobriety tests thus are rarely used much for alcohol. But it is harder now that roughly a third of all Americans are living in states that have decriminalized marijuana. To put is simply, proving that someone is driving stoned is a thornier problem than determining that a driver has had too much to drink. The body metabolizes pot in a way that makes it nearly impossible for scientists to agree on an appropriate legal limit for motor-vehicle operation, let alone come up with a toxicological test – like a simple breath-alcohol test – to measure how much a driver has inhaled. While it would seem obvious that driving while stoned is a bad idea, there isn’t enough evidence to prove it. Partly because of the roadblocks that years of illegality have posed, there is a dearth of scientific research on exactly how pot impairs driving and precisely how risky it is.
But it is no surprise that solving the problem is a priority for public officials, since there is evidence to suggest that driving high is a real danger. From 1999 to 2010, during a period of widespread decriminalization, the rate of drivers who died n crashes with marijuana in their system tripled, from 4% to 12%, according to a review of some 23,591 deaths in six states. The data does not show whether marijuana caused those crashes, but it does tell us that the number of drivers on the road with pot in their system has been rising fast and at the very lest correlates with mortality. It seems, at least for people at the wheel, there may be such a thing as being too mellow.
Adding to the screening controversy is a more basic debate. Scientists don’t even agree on the level of risk that marijuana poses to drivers who are high. Marijuana reduces motor coordination, slows reaction time and impairs decision making, according to NIDA. Studies have also suggested that marijuana may impair peripheral vision and the ability to concentrate, two vital skills at the wheel. And yet the body of scientific work on marijuana’s effect on motor-vehicle operation is small, and even then the results are all over the map. Some studies show that marijuana brings no extra risk of crash, while others show that it doubles the risk. Alcohol, by contrast, increases by 13 times the risk of being killed for drivers ages 21 to 34.
Other nations are groping for legal and medical standards too. New Zealand uses a system that combines subjective signs of impairment with a zero-tolerance policy. If – and only if – a Kiwi driver fails the sobriety test, any amount of the drug in his blood is illegal. It’s an interesting idea that might help address cases in which a driver has used marijuana and alcohol in small amounts that would have little impact on their own but can be deeply intoxicating when combined.
Educating the public about the dangers of driving while high will help. Many Americans don’t know that smoking pot can impair their driving or that it is illegal to drive while high. Cops will have to rely on what may seem like primitive tells. In sobriety tests of stoned drivers, someone tracking a pencil across their face would struggle to keep an eye from wandering. Poor judges of time, most pot-impaired drivers would overestimate the passage of 30 seconds. The sobriety test is far from perfect, but for now, this is the only game in town.
Technology may come to the rescue. Canadians have created a breathalyzer that will detect marijuana use in the past two hours, a decent measure of impairment since pot’s effects are usually felt for about two to three hours after use. Technology will get more precise as legalization spurs research. We are on the cusp but have got a lot to learn.
DEFINING A LEGAL LIMIT
In 1954, the breathalyzer was invented, and thanks to the activism from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it is now illegal in most of the world to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above. Today toxicological results have mostly taken the place of subjective police testimony in court. The body’s relationship with alcohol is straightforward: as your blood-alcohol content rises, you get drunker, and as it declines, you sober up. While tolerance can alter the effects – at 0.08% blood-alcohol level, someone who rarely drinks is likely to seem drunker than a booze hound – the science says that at 0.08%, all people are impaired to some degree in the skills they need for safe driving.
With marijuana, it is not so simple. When you smoke pot, the psychoactive ingredient, THC, spreads throughout your body but leaves your body quickly as it is absorbed by your fatty tissues and brain, so that the amount of THC in the blood is not a good indicator of iimpairment. It is even possible to have less THC in your blood when the effects of pot are at their peak, usually about 10-30 minutes after your last puff. A recent study of 1,046 drivers in New Zealand who were killed in car accidents showed that, counterintuitively, drivers with lower levels of THC in their system were actually more likely to be responsible for a crash.
The way the body breaks down pot means that scientists have not been able to agree on a level of THC that causes impairment. In the 1980s, when the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), held a summit to do just that, the task proved too daunting. They had a room of toxicologists and nobody could come up with a number. Thirty years later, little has changed, leaving cops, prosecutors and users looking for measuring sticks. Society wants a black-and-white solution – the is, a number. If you are over it, you are impaired. It’s a little clearer with alcohol. With marijuana, it’s less clear. People are trying to fit marijuana into an alcohol box, and it doesn’t fit.
The body’s metabolism of marijuana also makes it harder to equip law-enforcement officers with a toxicological test that can give an accurate measure of impairment when the driver was on the road. As anyone who has smoked pot and taken a drug test for work knows, urine tests can detect marijuana for days – even weeks- after the last puff, especially if you are a frequent smoker. Fat stores THC, and as it trickles out of those tissues over the following days, it is converted into a metabolite that is detectable in urine. That makes urine tests a less than ideal measure of someone’s intoxication level when they were driving. THC disappears from blood quickly as it is absorbed in the brain, making blood tests a more reliable measure of recent use but not a great correlate of impairment. Blood tests are also invasive and logistically challenging – they can require a trip to the hospital or a telephonic search warrant from a judge, creating a lag between the time the driver was on the road and the blood test, leading cops to underestimate the amount of THC in the blood when the person was driving.
These challenges have made it hard for state legislators to write laws that are fair or effective. It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in every state. The question is, how do your prove the driver was under the influence? A handful of states – Pennsylvania, Montana, Washington, Nevada, Ohio and Colorado – have set a numeric limit for THC in the blood, ranging from 1 nanogram (a billionth of a gram) of THC per millilitre of blood, to 5 nanograms. States are in a quandary: set the limit too high, like the 5-nanogram limit in Washington, and it may be a license to drive stoned. Set it too low – like the zero-tolerance policy for THC adopted in Wisconsin and 10 other states – and marijuana lobbyists will accuse you of convicting someone who might have last smoked a month ago. Nevada and Ohio have split the difference with a lower limit for THC found in blood and a higher one for metabolites found in urine, but such distinctions just underscore the confusion.
LEGALIZATION IN THE USA – Legalizing a Drug is Harder Than It Looks July 12th, 2014 Economist.
This is an article I copied and reorganized to my liking. It updates the situation in the US and specifically Colorado and Washington.
SINCE late 2012, two states have voted to legalise marijuana for recreational use; licensed shops in Colorado and Washington now sell it to anyone who wants it. Six states have legalised the drug for medicinal use, bringing the total to 23. Most Americans now say they favour legalisation (see chart 1). The House of Representatives has voted to defund federal raids of medical-marijuana facilities in states that allow them. Serious newspapers (though not, alas, this one) have appointed pot critics. And an Oklahoma state senator has campaigned to legalise the drug because in Genesis 1:29, “God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed…upon the face of all the earth’.”
Campaigners in Colorado used the success of their state’s medical system to argue for the creation of a recreational one. When Colorado became the first state to license pot shops on January 1st, tokers merrily queued in the cold for a puff and a place in history. Colorado’s recreational pot business was built on the back of a well-regulated medical one. Retail licences were initially restricted to dispensary-owners; on January 1st, many stores merely changed their signs.
Colorado allows home-grown marijuana, is opening up its recreational system to non-dispensaries and, for the first time, allowing retailers or producers to specialise. Colorado legislators have copied Washington’s (controversial) provisions for assessing whether drivers are stoned. Drug laws are anything but set in stone. The market is ill-understood; regulators will need to be flexible.
But the mood in Washington state, which opened its shops on July 8th, is more downbeat. Severe shortages meant that barely half a dozen shops opened on day one; including just one in Seattle. Several warned that they probably had only enough weed to last a few days. Washington also has a medical-pot business, but it is an unregulated mess.
The relationship between medical-pot advocates and legalisers can be fraught. In Washington, the main opposition to I-502 came from a medical industry worried, with reason, that it would find itself folded into the same legal regime as recreational pot shops. But more broadly the spread of medical marijuana has softened up voters: fewer now see it as a moral issue.
I-502, the voter initiative that legalised marijuana in 2012, charged the state’s Liquor Control Board (LCB) with building a recreational industry from scratch. Most people think it has done well, but it has not been easy. “We wanted to bring in as many people from the black market as possible,” says Alison Holcomb, a lawyer who drafted I-502. Application fees were kept low, and a lottery determined who would win the limited number of producer, processor and retail licences, regardless of the quality of the applicant. The LCB was overwhelmed by the number of bids—over 7,500—and says it will not finish processing them until early 2015. It has issued only 90-odd licences to producers.
Officially, the LCB hopes that within a year I-502 shops will capture 25% of the market. Others think that is optimistic. For now, prices are high: around $20 a gram, which is twice the black-market (or medical) cost. That partly reflects eye-watering excise taxes: 25% at each stage of distribution, plus normal sales taxes. But wholesale prices are high too, suggesting supply shortages are the main culprit.
Analysts speak of the “Goldilocks” price for weed: not too low (to avoid spurring consumption), not too high (to undercut the black market). For now Washington is erring on the high side, although prices will surely drop as the market settles. Yet the LCB faces an extra challenge. Like Soviet officials organising the tractor industry, it must, under I-502, determine a maximum quota for production. This was originally set at 2m square feet of marijuana plants, although so far only 687,644 sq ft has been licensed, and officials now decline to offer a precise figure. No more than 334 shops may be licensed (although local bans mean that limit may never be reached).
I-502 will create new consumers, but no one knows how many, or how much they will buy. Nor does anyone know how many people will move from the illicit or medical markets to I-502 shops. Meanwhile, the LCB has deliberately suppressed supply to limit the risk of marijuana being diverted to other states or to children, which would upset Uncle Sam. It is as if those Soviet officials were setting local tractor quotas even as the Kremlin enforced a nationwide tractor ban.
After a string of well-publicised incidents in Colorado involving edible products, including two deaths, Washington’s governor tightened the rules. Cannabis cafés may open in Seattle this year (probably vaporisers only). Campaigners in Washington want to change the law to allow home-grown marijuana; Colorado allows this, but Barbara Brohl, head of the Department of Revenue, says its unregulated nature is one of her biggest worries. Drug laws are anything but set in stone.
Benefits of Legalization
Legalisation promises three benefits. First, it will stop governments from wasting lots of cash locking up people who haven’t hurt anyone. Second, it will raise tax revenue. Third, it will put criminals out of business. Washington’s experience suggests that the third promise may be hardest to keep. Even in Colorado, dispensaries rather than shops accounted for two-thirds of sales between January and April.
As support for legalisation grows, more states will do it. Oregon and Alaska will vote on legalisation in November; Floridians will decide about medical pot. California is likely to vote on legalisation in 2016. In other states, particularly in New England, legislators may free the weed.
Research suggests that some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana can help relieve pain and nausea. Others may stimulate appetite. The drug is also linked to more worrying outcomes, particularly among the young, and may raise the risk of schizophrenia. Alas, federal prohibition has made it difficult to investigate pot’s medical properties.
Campaigners have pursued a state-by-state strategy, but for many medical marijuana is more about paving the way for legalisation than about helping the sick. In most states officials and dispensary-owners conspire in the fiction that customers are all “patients” and shops merely non-profit “co-operatives”. The doctor’s “recommendations” needed to procure marijuana are easy to obtain.
They also hinted at the great bounties that pot taxes could deliver to state coffers. Colorado and Washington have earmarked a lot of marijuana taxes (in Washington, 81%) for worthy causes such as school construction and drug education. But revenue forecasts have proved inaccurate in Colorado, and the licensing chaos in Washington will have a similar effect.
A thornier problem for regulators may be that tastes change fast. Walk into a medical-marijuana outlet in Washington and you will be confronted with a vast array of products, from marijuana-infused ghee to cheese sauce. Vaporisers, which allow smoke-free consumption, are a big hit. Concentrates, which can deliver a quick, intense buzz, account for around one-third of sales at Rain City, a dispensary south of Seattle. As Colorado’s experience with edibles shows, officials struggle to keep up with such a mutable market. But to regulate it properly they must try, for some day the idea of rolling a spliff may seem quaint.
FEDERAL LAW in the USA
The other great unknown is the role of the federal government. Not only is marijuana illegal under federal law; it is classed as a Schedule I drug—as bad as heroin. So Washington and Colorado are licensing their residents to commit felonies. President Barack Obama and Eric Holder, the attorney general, have given the two legalisation experiments a cautious green light. But if a drug hawk replaces Mr Obama after 2016, he or she will not find it hard to revive the war on weed in states that thought they had ended it.
In 2014, the US Bureau of Reclamation, which controls water available for irrigation forbid the us of their water on marijuana. This will not have much effect on Colorado where all is grown indoors, but in Washington, where much more will be grown outdoors, it will have an effect.
Thus, the drug still carries a large risk premium. Big banks will not accept deposits from pot shops for fear of violating federal money-laundering laws. Zealous prosecutors have seized assets and threatened landlords. All this puts off investors and makes it harder for above-board operators to acquire the legitimacy they crave. “Either we should wipe out the black market, or we should not,” says a frustrated Brendan Kennedy, the boss of Privateer Holdings, a marijuana-investment outfit. In 2014, the US Bureau of Reclamation, which controls water available for irrigation forbid the use of their water on marijuana. This will not have much effect on Colorado where all is grown indoors, but in Washington, where much more will be grown outdoors, it will have an effect.
That will not happen until the federal prohibition is lifted. That may seem remote, but opinion is shifting fast. “I see [legalisation] as a second-term [Hillary] Clinton thing,” says Mark Kleiman of the University of California, Los Angeles. Earl Blumenauer, a pro-legalisation congressman from Oregon, thinks marijuana will be rescheduled within three years. Bipartisan coalitions can be found for reform.
The Pot Paradox – Marijuana is legal in Washington. But that doesn’t mean it won’t land you in jail.
This Time article (July 21, 2014) profiles Harvey, a 70 year old with a medical prescription for marijuana. He has gout and arthritis and they grow marijuana on their property near Kettle Falls in NE Washington. He mixes it with butter used to bake confections that give him great pain relief. Washington State has had a medical-marijuana law since 1998 allowing doctor-authorized patients to use the drug for palliative purposes. Washington’s first recreational-pot shops opened for business July 1.
On August 9, 2012, eight officers found 70 pot plants marked by the green-and-white sign denoting a medical grow. Returning with a federal warrant, they ransacked the house. Federal prosecutors charged the defendants with growing and
distributing cannabis, citing the legal firearms they recovered, drug paraphernalia and financial ledgers the authorities say were sales records. The records denote overhead costs paid by the members of the medical-marijuana collective (they grow for 3 others who live in Seattle and say they lack the space to grow their own crop). Their records and documents were consistent with personal use, not trafficking. He and 3 friends go to court at the end of July each facing a minimum of 10 years in prison. Barring a plea, they will almost certainly be convicted. His case is a reminder of the risks people may not realize they’re running. Harvey worries he will die in prison.
Their case highlights the legal paradoxes in states that have taken steps to relax marijuana laws. Even though you can buy high-grade marijuana over the counter, it remains a federal crime to grow, sell, or possess the drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act that classifies pot as a Schedule I drug. And while the Obama administration has urged law enforcement to let the legalization experiments play out, that guidance isn’t always followed by federal prosecutors. Which means legal marijuana isn’t exactly legal.
Even in Washington, the standards seem to shift from city to city. In nearby Spokane, billboards point the way to dispensaries. In Seattle, where the district attorney has stopped prosecuting minor marijuana cases, patients can shop at more than 200 medical dispensaries, compare strains at artisanal markets or have it delivered to the door like pizza. The dispensaries are listed on a website called Weedmaps, which collates locations, prices and product reviews. The directory also includes some of Seattle’s cannabis “farmers’ markets,” where vendors pay $1,800 per month to showcase artisanal bud. These sellers are not all licensed business owners but rather growers who say lower overhead costs allow them to “share” quality herb at better prices. To gain entry to a farmer’s market, you need medical authorization. For those who can’t crack the medical market, illegal delivery services can bring high-grade weed to your home within the hour. An iPhone app called Canary, has become so popular in its first few months that its business swelled to 12 drivers selling cannabis at $45 per eighth of an ounce. A website disclaimer states that it’s strictly for medical patients, but in truth, it isn’t. The ease of undercutting the legal market may mean that the law is going to fail. However 13 counties and several dozen cities have enacted moratoriums or bans on pot sales. Nobody knows what legalization means.
The confusion in Washington State bears little to pot’s smooth debut in Colorado, which also voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Shops across Colorado opened on time in January. Since then, crime is down, job growth is up, and robust sales have yielded more than $17 million in tax revenue for the state. But Colorado had an advantage: a
regulatory system in place to govern medical marijuana, on which the state built its recreational market.
Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998 but never got around to licensing or regulating its sale. With little oversight, the industry flourished; until recently, there were more medical-pot shops in Seattle than Starbucks outlets. Doctor-certified patients are permitted to grow their own weed and share it with other patients. It became impossible to separate seriously ill patients from the stoners feigning maladies to finagle medical consent. So most stores stopped trying. Legalization was cast partly as a way to bring order to this hazy scene. To address safety concerns, proponents of the ballot initiative known as I-502 proposed tough penalties for users who exceed a measured threshold for stoned driving. To prevent rogue dealers from shipping weed across state lines, they promised modest cultivation caps. And they built a wall between growers and sellers, using the state liquor industry as a mode. The pitch worked and in November, 2012, 56% of voters made one of the first two states in the world to approve the sale of recreational cannabis to adults over 21.
The immediate challenge was competition. The handful of new, regulated legal sellers will have a hard time luring customers from the hundreds of cheaper medical dispensaries. Meanwhile, a three-tiered tax system called terrible and inefficient may push smokers and sellers alike toward the black market. The hope is to make the legal market about 25% of the overall market for dope in the state by the end of the year. That may be optimistic as the few sellers who have managed to navigate the state’s regulatory labyrinth say there isn’t anything to sell. The balky new system produced a lack of licensed growers.
And then there are the feds. In August 2013, the Department of Justice issued a memo suggesting it would intervene only if its enforcement priorities were threatened. But federal law supersedes that of states, which is why pot merchants are shunned by banks and forced to pay six-figure tax bills with suitcases of cash. Prosecutors have the discretion to crack down anytime. Nothing is legal under I-502 – they can put you in prison for having it, growing it or selling it. To prevent the law from failing, the law is likely to be modified. And as more stores open, legal shops should begin to supplant illicit competitors.
The fate of the experiment will affect everywhere else in the country. Eight states plus the District of Columbia are considering bills to reform pot laws. Legal weed may be on the ballot in several more states in 2016. Supporters hope Washington’s stumbles will be as instructive as Colorado’s successes. An imperfect law in Washington gives an example to the rest of the nation.
WASHINGTON STATE AND MARIJUANA – A Personal Experience August 2014
On my way to Burning Man in NW Nevada, I drove through Washington State. The first big city I hit was Yakima and I stopped at Station 420, a Washington State licensed recreational marijuana retailer. A small chart listed the 8 varieties for sale with their THC concentrations and whether they were indica or sativa. The only product for sale was in two-gram amounts (in plastic bags in nice little cardboard boxes) that retailed for $51 (or $750 per ounce). They thought the price would go down in the fall when more product was expected to be available. Washington licenses separate growers for the recreational market instead of using the medical market sources. They simply had not licensed enough growers and thus little was available, especially outside the larger cities. Medical marijuana sells for $150 per ounce in Washington and $180-200 per ounce for illegal weed in British Columbia. My thought was that this is a ridiculous price and will do little to get rid of the illegal market.
The store had a large supply of a brochure “Marijuana use in Washington State – An Adult Consumer’s Guide”. It details advice on Edible Products, Concentrates and Vaporizer Pens. It is only legal to purchase up to one ounce of bud, 16 ounces of edible product in solid form (72 ounces in liquid form) or 7 grams of concentrate. The Driving and DUI section states that is illegal to drive with 5ng/ml of THC or more in your blood if you are 21 (zero if under 21) with a blood test performed at police stations or medical facilities. This is the same very low level as in Germany. It says that it can take 3 hours for some people to drop below that level after using marijuana (that level is possible the next day in heavy users after having not smoked for 8 hours). It recommends 5 hours especially if edible products have been used.
Consumption is legal only in private residences or in a private hotel room, and is illegal in public view (state parks, public hiking trails and ski resorts), in navigable waters (federal jurisdiction) and in National Parks. It is illegal to take marijuana outside of Washington State.
ALASKA – Legalized Marijuana February 24 2015
Al though it remains illegal to buy or sell marijuana, it is legal, if over 21 years of age, to have up to 2 oz of marijuana and up to 6 plants, three of them “mature”. It is legal to give up to 1 oz of marijuana away for free to anyone but no money or barter can occur in payment. Thus it is only possible to get marijuana legally is to grow it yourself or have generous friends – there are no licensed stores or recreational growers.
WASHINGTON DC – Legalized Marijuana February 26 2015.
In Novemeber 2014, the citizens of Washington DC voted to make it legal for adults to have small amounts of marijuana for use in their own homes. On February 26, it became legal, if over 21, to have marijuana under the terms of “HOME USE, HOME GROWN”. Again there are no stores, recreational growers or anywhere to buy marijuana legally. You can only grow it yourself.
What Happens When Drugs Aren’t Illegal
Countries that have loosened drug restrictions can boast some successes.
Portugal. Decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use in 2001. Since then, overall drug use has fallen, HIV cases among drug users dropped and overdose deaths are the second lowest in the EU.
Switzerland. Has provided methadone for heroin addicts since 1994 and hands out clean needles, halving the number of drug injectors with HIV and cutting crime. Bern also decriminalized marijuana in 2013.
Uruguay.Formally legalized marijuana in 2013 with plans to sell it for $1 per gram. Though the state has struggled to sell retail pot, buying marijuana on the black market is reportedly cheaper, causing drug cartels to suffer.
Netherlands. Although the Dutch policy of tolerance toward soft drugs permits “coffee shops” to sell pot without fear of prosecution, marijuana use per capita is much lower in the Netherlands than in the US.
On June 18 2015, Delaware became the 19th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. But pot remains legal under federal law, which has made studying its effects particularly challenging. But also since June, the White House announce that researchers will no longer have to submit proposals to the US Public Health Service, lifting a major bureaucratic hurdle. Scientists need to be part of making policies, and the only way we can do that is through fast research we can answer some of the questions the public is asking.
a. most of the 75 edible marijuana products purchased in the US inaccurately labeled the potency. Some had 60% less THC than advertised, while around 20% had more – probably attributed to a lack of industry standards and regulations.
b. A review of 79 randomized clinical trials of nearly 6,500 patients, found limited existing evidence of marijuana’s benefit for some medical conditions. Moderate-quality evidence showed that it helped with chronic pain and reduced muscle spasticity in patients with MS. Only low-quality evidence showed that it helped with nausea caused by chemotherapy and weight gain in HIV patients and no reliable evidence that it improved psychiatric conditions like depression or relieved eye pressure in glaucoma – all conditions that can qualify people for medical marijuana under state laws.
Weed behind the wheel. Can adults drive safely after using? People tested 10 minutes after drinking or inhaling pot found that a blood concentration of THC of 13.1ug/L showed a level of weaving similar to drivers with a breath-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the legal limit in most states. But, while alcohol increased the number of times a car left its lane and the speed of weaving, marijuana did not.