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The Grateful Dead, With a Side of LSD-Laced Venison Stew

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 11:52
The band’s legendary shows at Ken Kesey’s drug-fueled Acid Tests melted the line between performer and audience Excerpted from “Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead” by Buzz Poole (Bloomsbury, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Bloomsbury Publishing.

We need to go back to the beginning, when the Dead were still known as the Warlocks, an electric blues band unlike most electric blues bands. Their first gig happened on May 5, 1965, at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park, California, the next town over from Palo Alto on the peninsula south of San Francisco that separates the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. That summer, they landed a residency more like a prison sentence, playing five 50-minute sets six nights a week at the In Room in Belmont, “a heavy-hitting divorcee’s pickup joint” (McNally, 2002). It was a formative period. The band would hang around together all day, some of them often high on LSD, arrive at the club, smoke pot, and play for a few hours. The songs became louder, longer, and weirder the later it got. It was how they began to learn to play together, and this led to people showing up not to get lucky at the In Room, but to hear a band making music fusing elements of Junior Walker, John Coltrane, and even the passing trains that regularly rattled the bar—“as the band grew more and more attuned to the schedule, they learned to play with, instead of against, the sound.” By November, their reputation had extended beyond the Peninsula, sharing similar musical and ideological freedoms with other Bay Area bands, like the Charlatans, the Great Society, Quicksilver Messenger, and Jefferson Airplane.

That November, the Warlocks learned of another band called the Warlocks. In fact, there were two bands using the same name at that time. The Velvet Underground were known as the Warlocks in their early days, and there was also a garage band out of Dallas, Texas, that used the same moniker (and happened to include Dusty Hill who would go on to be a member of ZZ Top). High on DMT at Phil Lesh’s house on High Street in Palo Alto, Jerry Garcia discovered the term “grateful dead” in a 1956 edition of Funk and Wagnall’s "New Practical Standard Dictionary." These two seemingly incompatible words refer to a folktale about a corpse being refused a proper burial because of a debt owed. The tale’s hero unselfishly pays the debt, permitting the corpse’s spirit to be released from the dead body; later, the hero then encounters, and is rewarded by, the spirit he helped. As Dennis McNally writes: “The motif is found in almost every culture since the ancient Egyptians. Unknowingly, the Warlocks had plunked themselves into a universal cultural thread woven into the matrix of all human experience.”

Garcia and Lesh had been experimenting with LSD before the formation of the Warlocks, but between the advent of the Dead and the recording of "Workingman’s Dead" the band had earned their reputation as psychedelic trailblazers during the Acid Tests, the LSD- and lightshow-drenched gatherings devised by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." The Dead, like the Pranksters, were born out of the 50s bohemian scene in and around Palo Alto. Kesey had showed up from Oregon to attend Stanford University in 1958 and found himself living on Perry Lane, “Stanford’s bohemian quarter . . . It was a cluster of two-room cottages with weathery wood shingles in an oak forest, only not just amid trees and greenery, but amid vines, honeysuckle tendrils . . . Everybody sat around shaking their heads over America’s tailfin, housing-development civilization.” With his country boy genuineness Kesey made his presence known right away on Perry Lane. His reputation boomed, however, after he volunteered for drug experiments conducted by Stanford scientists at the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park. All sorts of drugs were administered to him, but it was the LSD that changed everything—“suddenly he was in a realm of consciousness he had never dreamed of before and it was not a dream or delirium but part of his awareness.” Kesey wanted to share this profound awareness with anyone brave enough to try so he started bringing the experimental drugs home to Perry Lane. He’d make LSD-laced venison stew and local artists and musicians, including Garcia, would come on over to get hip to new realms of awareness.

The founding members of the Dead – Garcia and Bob Weir on guitars and vocals; Phil Lesh on bass and occasional vocals; Bill Kreutzmann behind the drums; Ron “Pigpen” McKernan striding back and forth between an organ and a front-and-center microphone into which he sang and played harmonica – had met through the overlapping scenes on the Peninsula. They’d been running into one another starting as far back as the early 60s. Near the end of 1963 a developer’s vision of modernity brought the high times on Perry Lane to an end. Kesey, having made a name for himself as a prominent novelist with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion," moved up into the hills of La Honda, where he bought a “log house, a mountain creek, a little wooden bridge . . . a redwood forest for a yard.” By 1964, Kesey and the Pranksters were throwing weekly Saturday night parties during which most everyone ate acid and then ran through the woods, played music, and made noise, sound recordings, and movies. When the Dead showed up for the first time the Acid Tests really came together. They went from house party to publicized events that took place around California, including on the campus of San Francisco State University and a Unitarian Church in Los Angeles, and beyond. The Dead also began to formulate their core creative ethos. The Acid Tests were about facilitating the freedom to experience the awareness acid had unlocked for Kesey. At any given Test, all present were equals; there was no distinction of us and them, performer and audience, straight-laced or radical—anyone and everyone could “Turn on, tune in, drop out” (a Timothy Leary expression that became famous after he declared it at the Human Be-In in San Francisco in 1967, at which the Dead played). As Garcia remembered the Acid Tests in a 1988 interview, “Everybody got high and stuff would happen . . . Everyone there was as much performer as audience” (Garcia, 2013).


The Dead weren’t at every Acid Test—and sometimes even when they were scheduled to play they didn’t because the drugs got the better of them—but it was the blurring of the line between performer and audience and the freedom it permitted to all that was the greatest takeaway for the band at this early stage in their career. During the Tests they reveled in music’s power to possess both performers and audience; everyone joyously surrendering to rhythms and harmonies, and arguably touching on something even more profound that reaches back to the origins of theater and art, connecting the temporal realm with the mystic. This is what the Dead sought to share with their fans through music. It wasn’t about getting high; it was about creating a space to be free from convention.



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Ben Carson Slams War on Drugs

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 11:47
The HUD secretary deviated from the Trump administration's hard line on drug policy.



Ben Carson Slams War on Drugs

Ben Carson slammed the war on drugs last week, saying it "disproportionately affected minority communities" in a break with other Donald Trump administration officials' stances. ... to drugs. When Sessions was a senator in Alabama, he supported the death penalty for drug trafficking, including for marijuana dealers. He has asked Congress to give him the power to prosecute even medical ...

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4 Reasons for a Surprising Change in Racial Incarceration Trendlines

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 00:20
Click here for reuse options! The prison population is getting whiter.

It's long been a given that racial disparities plague the nation's criminal justice system. That's still true—black people are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than that of white people—but the disparities are decreasing, and there are a number of interesting reasons behind the trend. 

That's according to a report released this month by the Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Researchers reviewed annual reports from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting system and found that between 2000 and 2015, the incarceration rate for black men dropped by nearly a quarter (24 percent). During the same period, the white male incarceration rate bumped up slightly, the BJS numbers indicate.

When it comes to women, the numbers are even more striking. While the black female incarceration rate plummeted by nearly 50 percent in the first 15 years of this century, the white rate jumped by a whopping 53 percent.

Make no mistake: Racial disparities in incarceration haven't gone away. As the NAACP notes, African Americans account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 34 percent of the population in jail or prison or on parole or probation. Similarly, black children account for 32 percent of all children who are arrested and more than 50 percent of children who are charged as adults.

When it comes to drugs, the NAACP reports, African Americans use drugs in proportion to their share of the population (12.5 percent), but account for 29 percent of all drug arrests and 33 percent of state drug prisoners. Black people still bear the heaviest burden of drug law enforcement.

Still, that 5:1 ratio for black vs. white male incarceration rates in 2015 was an 8:1 ratio 15 years earlier. Likewise, that 2:1 ration for black vs. white female incarceration rates was a 6:1 ratio in 2000.

"It's definitely optimistic news," Fordham University law professor and imprisonment trends expert John Pfaff told the Marshall Project. "But the racial disparity remains so vast that it's pretty hard to celebrate. How, exactly, do you talk about 'less horrific?'"

It behooves analysts and policy-makers alike to try to make sense of the changing complexion of the prison population, but that's no easy task.

"Our inability to explain it suggests how poorly we understand the mechanics behind incarceration in general," Pfaff said.

Still, the Marshall Project wanted some answers, so it did more research and interviewed more prison system experts. Here are four theories, not mutually exclusive, that try to provide them.

1. Shifting Drug War Demographics

The black vs. white disparity in the prosecution of the war on drugs is notorious, and a central tenet of drug reform advocacy. But even though black Americans continue to suffer drug arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment at a far greater rate than whites, something has been happening: According to BJS statistics, the black incarceration rate for drug offenses fell by 16 percent between 2000 and 2009; at the same time, the number of whites going to prison for drugs jumped by nearly 27 percent.

This could be because the drug crises of the day, methamphetamines and heroin and prescription opioid addiction, are problems mainly for white people. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the drug crisis du jour was crack cocaine, and even though crack enjoyed popularity among all races, the war on crack was waged almost entirely in black communities. The war on crack drove black incarceration rates higher then, but now cops have other priorities.

The shift in drug war targeting could also explain the dramatic narrowing of the racial gap among women prisoners, because women prisoners are disproportionately imprisoned for drug crimes.

2. White People Blues

Declining socioeconomic prospects for white people may also be playing a role. Beginning around 2000, whites started going to prison more often for property offenses, with the rate jumping 21 percent by 2009. Meanwhile, the black incarceration rate for property crimes dropped 9 percent.

Analysts suggest that an overall decline in life prospects for white people in recent decades may have led to an increase in criminality among that population, especially for crimes of poverty, such as property crimes. A much-discussed study by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that between 1998 and 2013, white Americans were experiencing spikes in rates of mortality, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse. That's precisely when these racial shifts in imprisonment were happening.

And while African Americans also faced tough times, many whites were newer to the experience of poverty, which, in an explanation the Marshall Project says is "speculative," could explain why drug use rates, property crime, and incarceration rates are all up:

"Perhaps, says Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, whites are just newer to the experience of poverty, which could explain why their rates of drug use, property crime and incarceration have ticked up so suddenly."

3. Reform Is More Likely in the Cities, Where More Black People Live

Since the beginning of this century, criminal justice reform has begun to put the put brakes on the mass incarceration engine, but reforms haven't been uniform. They are much more likely to have occurred in more liberal states and big cities than in conservative, rural areas. And while people are still being arrested for drugs at sky-high rates—more than 1.5 million drug arrests in 2016, according to the FBI—those reforms mean that fewer of them are ending up in prison. 

In big cities such as Los Angeles and Brooklyn, new prison admissions have plummeted thanks largely to sentencing and other criminal justice reforms. But in counties with fewer than 100,000 residents, the incarceration rate was going up even as crime went down. In fact, people from rural areas are 50 percent more likely to be sent to prison than city dwellers.

Even in liberal states, the impact of reforms varies geographically. After New York state repealed its draconian Rockefeller drug laws, the state reduced its prison population more than any other state in the country in the 2000s. But the shrinkage came almost entirely from the far more diverse New York City, not the whiter, more rural areas of the state.

4. Crime Has Been Declining Overall

Arrests for nearly all types of crime rose into the mid-1990s, then declined dramatically, affecting African Americans more significantly than whites since they were (and are) more likely to be arrested by police in the first place. In the first decade of the new century, arrests of black people for violent offenses dropped 22 percent; for whites, the decline was 11 percent. Since those offenses are likely to result in substantial prison sentences, this shift has likely contributed to the changing racial makeup of the prison population.

Whatever the reason for the shrinking racial disparities in the prison population, there is a long way to go between here and a racially just criminal justice system. If current trends continue, it would still take decades for the disparities to disappear. 

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We Need to Talk About Rudolph: Sex, Drugs, and Aerodynamic Reindeer

Sat, 12/23/2017 - 13:06
Let’s look at the science behind the world’s favorite reindeer.

It is coming up to Santa’s busy time. Last minute preparations are being made, lists are being checked and double checked, routes are being analysed and optimised. Elves will be working overtime to put the finishing touches to their orders. But please spare a thought for Rudolph and the team of reindeer called on to drag tons of presents over thousands of miles in the most appalling weather.

It’s worst for Rudolph, of course. The world’s most renowned reindeer has to put up with all the name-calling and laughter from fellow reindeer. Not only that, but ever since he first came to prominence in a 1939 story written by Robert May, followed by real fame a decade later with Gene Autry’s hit song Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, we’ve been getting Rudolph completely wrong.

For a start, Rudolph and team are probably female. All the images I’ve seen of Rudolph clearly show a reindeer proudly sporting antlers. Reindeer are the only deer where both sexes grow antlers, but the males lose them around Christmas time and regrow them in the spring ready for the mating season. The only way a male reindeer can hang on to his magnificent headgear through the festive season is to be castrated. Losing the source of the sex hormones upsets the antler cycle – and probably the reindeer too.

We need to talk about that nose as well. The red glow from Rudolph’s most famous attribute is probably caused by something more serious than a bad cold. Reindeer noses are a brilliant product of evolutionary adaptation to a harsh environment. The nasal passages contain many elaborate folds covered in blood vessels. When a reindeer breathes in, the abundant blood vessels warm up the air keeping the inside of the reindeer nice and warm even when the air around it is sub-zero. On the way out, the same blood vessels cool the air, minimising heat loss and retaining as much water vapour as possible.

The unfortunate downside of such an intricate nasal arrangement is that it is a very comfortable spot for parasites to lurk. There are 20 parasites unique to mainland reindeer, and many others that are just as happy in reindeer or other ruminants. That red nose is therefore probably due to parasitic infection and increased blood flow to the area where the body is doing its best to fight off invaders.

All-in-all, Rudolph must be feeling dreadful as she slogs through a foggy Christmas Eve dragging a heavily loaded sleigh behind her. Rudolph and her reindeer companions do have one very enviable trait though: they can fly.

At first glance reindeer would not appear to be physiologically suited to flight. But it’s possible reindeer have gone one better than aerodynamics – antlerdynamics. It is possible that those antlers create distortions in the air currents as they race through the sky that could give them some lift. However, other deer don’t seem to become airborne, no matter how big their antlers or how fast they run. There must be more to it.

One theory of the cause of flying reindeer also explains Santa’s dress sense. It all comes down to one mushroom: Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric. Father Christmas’s colour scheme may be in honour of the white-speckled, red-capped mushroom so beloved of fairy tales. The mushroom is closely related to several highly toxic species such as the death cap (Amanita phalloides) and destroying angel (Amanita virosa). Freshly picked fly agaric contains ibotenic acid, which converts to muscimol when the mushroom is dried. Muscimol is a powerful hallucinogen, ten times more powerful than ibotenic acid.

Muscimol interacts with receptors in the brain resulting in hallucinations; inanimate objects appear alive, objects distort in size, time and space become distorted. It is probably eating the fly agaric mushroom that made Alice grow alternatively tall and short when she visited Wonderland. Other effects of the mushroom are less appealing and include anxiety, nausea, vomiting, twitching, convulsions and coma.

Fly agaric was the recreational drug of choice in several parts of Europe before vodka was introduced. Shamans of the tribes that herd reindeer in Siberia and Lapland would collect the mushrooms and carefully prepare them to optimise the mind-enhancing properties – and minimise the other dangerous toxins within the mushroom (of which there are several). The amount of muscimol also varies enormously from mushroom to mushroom, so trying this yourself is a risky business and definitely not advisable.

The shamans had the benefit of generations of practical knowledge and years of experience. They believed they could use the mushrooms to travel to the spirit realm in search of answers to local problems, such as a sudden outbreak of illness. The effect of the muscimol gave the impression of flying out through the chimney of the shaman’s abode and travelling to the spirit world where they could seek advice.

Muscimol passes through the body relatively unchanged which means that the shaman’s urine also had potent hallucinogenic properties. The effects of the mushroom can still be felt even if the drug has passed through five or six people and this is probably the origin of the phrase “getting pissed”.

Reindeer happening upon these patches of yellow snow left by the shaman might well frolic, gambol and skip around in the snow, off their antlers on mind-altering drugs. Perhaps, even, as they jumped up in the air, the sun in the northern regions would be low in the sky, silhouetting them in a characteristic flying pose ...

So Rudolph may be under the influence, and given her working conditions, I’m not sure I blame her. Then again, maybe science doesn’t have the answer. Maybe Santa and his reindeer really do fly.

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Bigfoot, Bullets and Bud: My Insane Humboldt County Weed Harvest

Sat, 12/23/2017 - 12:13
At the camp where I worked, a revolution brewed.

“All aboard,” Brady snickered, as he opened the rear door of a horse trailer hitched to a narcoleptic mid-‘90s Suzuki Samurai. The trailer’s windows were boarded over with stained scraps of plywood. I climbed right in, along with 16 others who had trekked to this remote mountain farm in Humboldt County, California, to trim marijuana. Brady slammed the door shut and padlocked it from the outside. Inside was pitch black and filthy. I fell on my ass when we started winding down the road. The trailer creaked and swayed with every bend, threatening to come loose and tumble off the mountainside. It was my first day of work.

In my real life, I’m a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. I’d been lured to the farm with the promise of choice footage and cold hard cash. My friend Summer had been living up in Humboldt for the past few years trimming weed during harvest season and thought the scene would make a great subject for a documentary. I agreed. She ran the idea by the farm’s owners, who said if I came with her to work, they’d be open to me shooting some interviews. Growers are a notoriously insular and suspicious bunch, and they don’t take kindly to outsiders. I’d seen a few documentaries that touched on the subject but never one in which the director immersed herself in their world and portrayed it from the inside. This level of access was unprecedented and promised to be exciting.

I didn’t realize how insane this project would turn out to be.


Since 1996, growing medicinal marijuana has been legal in California under Proposition 215. The state is set to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of the plant in January of 2018, but it’s still illegal federally. Which means that at any point, the DEA can bust one of these pot farms and arrest everyone on it. “If the feds show up, just run into the woods,” Summer said nonchalantly. “But don’t worry, they won’t.”

Most Humboldt growers actually opposed legalization out of fear that it would completely decimate the county’s almost exclusively cash economy. With legalization came a whole slew of problems, starting with the permitting and licensing fees. Grows would be subject to taxation and government regulation, and growers would have a harder time paying trimmers under the table. Then there was the concern that the process would favor large industrial farms and push mom-and-pop operations out of business. The black market also kept marijuana prices high; when it became less dangerous to grow, more product would be available, and that would drive prices down.

The current legal gray area also means that banks won’t take marijuana money, so growers dig holes in the forest and bury their cash. Rumor was, this farm’s owners had around $250,000 stashed on their property. The average wholesale price for a pound of marijuana in California is around $2,000, and a medium-sized farm like this one can easily produce 400 pounds of weed in a season. All of that cash and all of that crop makes growers paranoid. They don’t want workers to be seen coming or going, so trimmers live in tents on the mountain for months at a time. Security is necessary — staff is well armed, and the property is gated and locked. Once I drove onto the land, I couldn’t leave without someone letting me out.

I’d met up with Summer a couple of days earlier at her place in Arcata, a quaint northern California coastal town known for Victorian architecture and marijuana. My new boyfriend Paul was with me. We’d been together for all of a month and a half, so I’d thought it was a great idea to bring him along. By the time I left trim camp, we’d spent half our relationship sharing a tent in the woods. Before we headed to the mountain, Summer took us shopping for the supplies we’d need: ultrasharp scissors made in Japan specifically for trimming weed (at least two pairs were necessary), small plastic perforated baskets to collect trimmed buds, aprons to protect our clothes.

As we left town, we passed clusters of gutter punks roaming the streets, some hitchhiking, some holding up signs saying things like “Looking for 420 Work.” These were “trimmigrants,” Humboldt speak for the seasonal workers who flood the area during the harvest hoping to land a trimming job. They came from all parts of the U.S. and the world, mostly in their twenties and broke. There was the potential to earn a decent amount of money in a short amount of time — some would make around $60,000 cash in a season, then spend the rest of the year traveling the world — but many would show up without knowing anyone, not realizing how difficult it would be to find a job with no connections. They’d run out of money and end up squatting in the town square, essentially homeless. Others would head to a supermarket parking lot in neighboring Garberville, a place growers cruised in their pickups, looking for extra labor. It was very dangerous to find work this way. “You never know who’s going to pick you up,” Summer warned. “There’s a reason why they call it Murder Mountain.” The area above Garberville had first earned this nickname back in the ‘80s after a string of serial killings, and a spate of recent deaths and disappearances kept it going strong.

It was a ten-minute hike through the redwoods to the decrepit single-wide trailer that functioned as the trim room. Fluorescent lights, folding tables and chairs, no ventilation. The smell of weed worked its way into every pore, every fiber of clothing.

I sat next to Summer so I could watch her work. “You’re basically giving the bud a haircut,” she explained, her scissors furiously snipping away, tiny leaves flying off in all directions, as she rotated the bud in her hand. The pay was between $175 and $200 per pound of trimmed weed. Summer was really fast — she did between three and four pounds a day. I was lucky if I made two.

The trim boss, a short, round-faced woman named Aylen, inspected our work and made sure no one pocketed any weed. Every night, Tyson collected our trimmed buds and weighed them in private. We’d get paid in cash when we left the mountain for good, not a moment before. I had no way to know if I was being shafted. But even if I was, what could I do about it?

Sometime during my second week, I finally met the owners, Wanda and Rex, a married couple built from hardcore Humboldt farming stock. Wanda thought the idea of a documentary sounded “interesting.” She offered to come by the camp after work so we could discuss it further. She never showed. She’d do this a few more times over the next couple of weeks. None of the other trimmigrants agreed to be filmed, especially not without the owners’ permission, so I decided to work and wait until they all felt more comfortable with me.

One day bled into the next. Rise with the sun, work all day, whiskey and weed by the fire before bed. Repeat. The temperature dropped until it reached the point where it became necessary to choose between foregoing any semblance of hygiene or contracting pneumonia. I went with the former. The only place with heat was the trim room, where Rob would play back-to-back episodes of “Coast to Coast AM,” a radio show devoted to the paranormal, junk science and conspiracy theories, while we worked.

Sitting in a folding chair under screaming fluorescent lights trimming weed for 12 hours a day while listening to George Noory really starts to mess with your mind. Maybe that noise I’d heard really was Bigfoot tree-knocking. “Did you hear that gunshot last night?” Rico asked one morning. I hadn’t. He said he’d gone to investigate and saw someone running out of the camp towards the road. Aylen insisted the noise had been a car backfiring. I didn’t know who to believe.

When they found the mold, things really started to go south. “See this?” Aylen asked, holding up a nug flecked with tiny white dots. “These buds you guys trimmed are no good. You gotta cut the mold out.” She returned the bags we’d handed over the night before. The first day we did as she asked. Then Tyson showed up with a truckload of 30-gallon trash bags filled with weed we’d already trimmed. They wanted us to redo it all. For free.

According to the experienced trimmers, the mold had erupted because the weed hadn’t been dried or stored properly, which wasn’t our fault. They whispered that what we were doing amounted to slave labor. But no one spoke up. Day after day we trimmed that moldy weed.

The air was thick with bud rot and revolution. Tyson took to carrying his pistol in plain view, stuck in the back of his dad jeans. Rex got wind of a potential worker uprising and showed up to set us straight.

“My 12-year-old daughter thinks you’re all a bunch of babies,” he taunted. “Stop complaining. Get through the mold, then you’ll get the good stuff. Anyone got a problem with that?”

No one dared look him in the eye. People like Tracee and Vance couldn’t afford to complain. They’d banked on this money. They had to hope that the new crop would be healthier, the buds would be bigger, and the money would start flowing. There was no other option. I was lucky — I had a life I could go back to. When Wanda flaked on me again, I decided to cut my losses.

Tyson cashed me out in the morning. Five hideous weeks of work amounted to just under $4,200. Before my time on the mountain, I’d had a romantic idea of hippies living on the edge of the law, getting stoned every day, trimming weed and raking in cash. The harsh reality was that this was mind-numbing, back-breaking work, and trimmers had no recourse to fight back against unfair or dangerous employment practices. People who were slow like me could work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and barely make more than minimum wage. It wasn’t worth it. I left Paul there — it turned out he was a trimming prodigy and wanted to take advantage of it. Aylen unlocked the gate and I hit the road, driving back through the fog and the redwoods towards Highway One. I’ll never look at weed the same way again.



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Where All Those Marijuana Slang Terms Came From

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 12:03
Ganja? Weed? Grass?

Because of its illegal status over the past 80 years, the controversial cannabis plant has taken on a number of names. But where did these marijuana slang terms come from?


As many will attest, cannabis stokes the imagination. It generates revelations and epiphanies. We see things differently. On sailing ships, the act of reefing a sail reduces the sail’s area by folding or rolling one edge of the canvas in on itself; a “reefer” is the sailor who rolls it. Apparently, a reefed sail resembles a joint. But there’s also evidence that the Spanish slang word grifo had some influence on the rise of the word “reefer.” Grifo has a few different meanings including “curly-haired,” “tap” and “spigot.” It’s unclear, but in the 1920s, somehow it gained popularity as a derogatory term for a cannabis user and became a common adjective to describe inebriation.


It’s the most common term for cannabis—and pretty much everyone believes it means “maryjane” in Spanish, with roots in Old Mexico. But not so fast. Certainly it was popular slang used by Mexican immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, but many etymologists believe the origins of “marijuana” spring from Chinses: ma ren hua means “hemp seed flower.” There’s also speculation that the word is derived from Hebrew and Arabic languages; marjoram, the aromatic spice, could be related to the word, as well as “mejorana,” a Spanish word for marjoram. History suggests that anti-cannabis politicians and bureaucrats latched on to “marijuana,” in order to demonize the plant with racial overtones, claiming that Mexicans and blacks would be preying upon white women in a marijuana-induced frenzy. To that end, cannabis was criminalized in 1937 via the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.


Although it’s a widely used term for cannabis, many activists and advocates dislike the word “pot” because it connotes a stoner sensibility. To be sure, you’ll rarely hear Tommy Chong refer to cannabis as anything else! But how did pot come to be known as “pot?” Its etymological roots aren’t hard to trace. Potación de guaya, a Spanish term, is a wine or brandy in which cannabis leaves or buds have been steeped. Literally, it means “drink of grief.” The concoction predates cannabis prohibition, giving credence to the fact that the plant has been used traditionally as medicine for eons. Over the years, its name contracted to “potiguaya.” Then in the 1930s, it was shortened to “pot,” further fueling the racializing of cannabis use.


Not widely used any longer as a term for cannabis, primarily because it’s also a common term for heroin. “Dope,” in fact, has been commonly used to describe drugs en masse. Illegal drugs like meth, opium, cocaine, cannabis and heroin have all been placed under the “dope” umbrella. The word springs from the Dutch word doop, which means a thick sauce. It wasn’t too far a leap to call a thickheaded individual a doop. It gained popularity as a drug-oriented term in the late 1800s, a word to describe the act of smoking a semi-liquid opium preparation.


Ask most people and they’ll tell you “ganja” is the Jamaican word for cannabis. (Um, Jamaican isn’t a language.) Without a doubt, ganja is inextricably attached to Jamaica, but the word’s roots are from the Hindi term for cannabis—ganjha. But how did the term travel to Jamaica? In 1833, Britain outlawed slavery but it still needed laborers for its massive plantations in the Caribbean. The British Empire shipped 40,000 indentured laborers from India to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917. As Indian and Jamaican cultures merged, “ganja” became the common term for the cannabis that the field workers smoked. Today, smoking ganja is a central component of the Rastafarian religion.


During the 1960s and 1970s, the term “grass” was in vogue. It seems quaint now, a word that hearkens back to the days of hippies and flower power. Widespread use of the term was no doubt fueled by its appearance. Most of the cannabis available then was green and of lesser quality, often resembling lawn clippings. But it’s important to know that cannabis is mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda(Science of Charms) as “sacred grass,” one of the five sacred plants of India. Sacred grass is used both medicinally and ritually as an offering to Shiva.


Unfortunately, this innocent-sounding word carries some serious baggage. Chiva is Spanish slang for heroin. Literally it can mean “beard’ or a “young female goat.” But on the streets of the inner city, “cheeba” became the name for black tar heroin. Perhaps, “cheeba” gained popularity as cannabis slang as growers upped the quality of their product and buds became stick and gooier.


This one’s a puzzler, because mota in Spanish means a tiny bit or a speck of dust. Spaniards in the 18thcentury referred to the fuzz residue left behind from making linen as “mota.” How mota became a widely used term for cannabis by the late 1800s is a mystery. Regardless, a mota smoker can be called a “moto” or “motorolo.”


In the West Side Story song “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the Sharks, one of the rival street gangs, sing: “My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me, my grandpa is a commie, my grandma pushes tea, my sister wears a mustache, my brother wears a dress… goodness gracious that’s why I’m a mess!” You probably understood everything in the lyrics but “my grandma pushes tea.” “Pushing tea” is slang for pot dealing. Tea, of course, is the pot itself. Why “tea?” Once again, cannabis has long used for poultices and medicinal beverages in folk medicine. The plant is steeped in hot water, just like tea—ergo this archaic term, which was coined in the 1930s.


Just one more inaccurate term for the cannabis plant spawned by generations who didn’t understand its benefits. “Weed” is defined as a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. How could a term for cannabis be so off the mark? Cannabis is definitely “wanted” and if it’s “in competition with cultivated plants,” it’s winning hands down, now the most valuable cash crop in modern America.


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Legal Pot: Mexico to Sell Marijuana Food and Drinks

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 12:39
Cannabis-based foods, drinks, medicines and cosmetics are coming to the Mexican market.



Legal pot: Mexico to sell marijuana food and drinks

Mexico is set to legalize the sale of marijuana-based products early next year, despite the country’s struggles with the illicit drug trade. On Wednesday, Mexico’s health regulator announced plans ...

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U.S. Life Expectancy Down for Second Year in a Row Amid Opioid Crisis

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 12:07
Decline marks first time in half a century that longevity has declined for two years in a row – with drug overdoses "the key driver," researcher says.

Life expectancy in the US has declined for the second year in a row as the opioid crisis continues to ravage the nation.

It is the first time in half a century that there have been two consecutive years of declining life expectancy.

Drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans in 2016, an increase of 21% over the previous year, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics found.

Americans can now expect to live 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years. The US last experienced two years’ decline in a row in 1963, during the height of the tobacco epidemic and amid a wave of flu.

“We do occasionally see a one-year dip, even that doesn’t happen that often, but two years in a row is quite striking,” said Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch with the National Center for Health Statistics. “And the key driver of that is the increase in drug overdose mortality.”

Especially disconcerting, said Anderson, was preliminary data researchers received about overdoses in 2017: “It doesn’t look any better.” Together, the drug overdose epidemic and a plateau in improved mortality rates from cardiovascular disease are “affecting the entire national picture”.

“We haven’t seen more than two years in a row in declining life expectancy since the Spanish flu – 100 years ago,” said Anderson. “We would be entering that sort of territory, which is extremely concerning.”

Widely available prescription painkillers opened the gates for a new universe of legal and illegal opioid abuse beginning in about 1999. The number of Americans killed by overdoses has increased each year since then. As of 2015, more than half a million Americans had died from drug overdoses.

This is going to take a good 10 to 20 years to really turn around

Anna Lembke, addiction expert

The new data from NCHS shows that powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have emerged as the latest threat. Between 2015 and 2016, the rate of deaths from synthetic opioids doubled, from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 to 6.2.

In 2015, 16.3 people for every 100,000 living in the US died of a drug overdose. That rate increased by 21% in 2016, when 19.8 people for every 100,000 died of a drug overdose.

“What we’re seeing now is the second wave of this epidemic,” said Anna Lembke, a behavioral sciences professor at Stanford University and an addiction expert. “The first wave started with physicians overprescribing … The second wave has translated into widespread, increased use of illicit opioids, of heroin, of fentanyl, of heroin laced with fentanyl.”

Those numbers vary widely by age and geography. For example, while drug overdose death rates increased in every age demographic in 2016, people between 25 and 54 had the highest rates of overdoses, at 35 deaths per 100,000 people.

The five states with the worst death rates topped even those numbers. West Virginia nearly tripled the national average – 52 people for every 100,000 died of an overdose there. Ohio, New Hampshire, Washington DC and Pennsylvania followed: all hovered around 38 overdose deaths for every 100,000.

The life expectancy of men was especially affected in the US. Women’s life expectancy at birth remained at 81.1 years in 2016, but life expectancy for men declined by 0.2 years, to 76.1 years. It also made accidental death the third-leading cause of death in the US, replacing chronic lower respiratory disease.

“This is going to take a good 10 to 20 years to really turn around,” said Lembke.

“We’ve got multiple generations of people that are already addicted, and it’s going to be a real struggle to help those people.”

Despite years of warnings about the growing epidemic, congressional leaders have often failed to do more than convene commissions and panels and draw up white papers. Most recently, Donald Trump declared America’s overdose epidemic a public health emergency, but little new funding has materialized. Further, Republican proposals threatened to gut government health programs, such as Medicaid, that treat a disproportionate number of opioid addicts.

“One-time grants are ultimately not going to change the course of this epidemic,” said Lembke. “It’s going to require systemic changes, infrastructure changes, changes in the ways that healthcare delivery happens.”

Data in the latest NCHS report was collected from death certificates in all 50 states, and compiled into the National Vital Statistics System.

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U.S. Government Lifts Ban on Making Viruses More Deadly and Transmissible

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 10:13
Click here for reuse options! Like a horror movie prologue.

Some horror movie tropes just come off as unbelievable, they’re so ridiculous and overused. Like, “Girl who falls down for no apparent reason while being chased by a killer." Or, “Group of friends that decides to split up when it’s obvious being alone will get you murdered." And then there's this one: “Science laboratory creates horrible disease that will inevitably escape and kill all of humanity,” which might be the most unbelievable, since it defies both logic and actual laws. Or rather, it did until Tuesday, when the U.S. government announced it was lifting a three-year ban on federal funding for experiments that alter viruses to make them even deadlier.

“Gain-of-function” research, in which scientists make pathogens more powerful or easily transmissible, is aimed at preventing disease outbreaks by better understanding how they might occur. The studies allow scientists, working in a highly controlled environment, to learn how a flu virus might mutate into a superbug capable of killing millions—a sort of game of wits played to gain insight into nature’s unpredictability. The ultimate goal is to proactively create vaccines, medications and other solutions to stop contagion in its tracks.

The new National Institutes of Health policy reverses a 2014 Obama administration funding ban on gain-of-function research projects specifically involving all forms of the influenza virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The new rules would extend beyond those viruses, “apply[ing] to any pathogen that could potentially cause a pandemic,” according to the New York Times. “For example, they would apply to a request to create an Ebola virus transmissible through the air.”

Possibly aware that this sounds like the prologue to a very hacky horror movie, the NIH accompanied its announcement with a list of criteria that proposals must meet before funding will be granted. According to those terms, a panel will only greenlight projects if the work promises to yield practical solutions, such as an effective antiviral treatment; the research benefits must sufficiently outweigh the risks; and researchers must prove their experiment outcomes cannot be obtained using safer methodologies. Contenders will also have to prove their researchers and facilities “have the capacity to do the work safety and securely and to respond rapidly if there are any accidents, protocol lapses, or security breaches.”

“We have a responsibility to ensure that research with infectious agents is conducted responsibly, and that we consider the potential biosafety and biosecurity risks associated with such research,” NIH director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. “I am confident that the thoughtful review process...will help to facilitate the safe, secure, and responsible conduct of this type of research in a manner that maximizes the benefits to public health.”

Despite those reassurances, critics continue to express concern about potential mishaps. There’s some precedent for this. In 2014, CNN reported that dozens of workers at the CDC had been accidentally exposed to anthrax, while others had mishandled samples of the bacteria. No staff were found to be infected by the disease after prolonged monitoring. A Vice Motherboard report notes that between “2003 and 2009, there were 395 events reported that could have resulted in exposure to toxic agents, although this resulted in just seven infections.”

Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch offered tepid support, telling the Times the approval panels are "a small step forward,” but cautioning that gain-of-function experiments “have given us some modest scientific knowledge and done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, and yet risked creating an accidental pandemic.”

Conversely, Stony Brook University president and biomedical researcher Samuel Stanley worries that the NIH decision, after three years of funding prohibition in this area, may be too little and just a wee bit too late.

"There has been increased scrutiny of laboratories working in this area, which can lead to an even more robust culture of safety,” Stanley told NPR. “But I also fear that the moratorium may have delayed vital research. That could have long lasting effects on the field. I believe nature is the ultimate bioterrorist and we need to do all we can to stay one step ahead."

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Planning to Get a Little Intoxicated This New Year's Eve? Here Are Some Ways to Be Safe and Have Fun

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 14:08
Click here for reuse options! A guide to safer partying.

It’s the end of the year, people are getting excited about the holidays, and millions of people are making plans for partying on New Year’s Eve. And for lots of people, their version of partying includes using drugs. So for our final Drugs & Stuff episode of 2017, who better to talk to about harm reduction and partying than DPA’s Stefanie Jones?

Back in 2014, Stefanie wrote a great piece called Five Tips on How to Party Safely on New Year's Eve. We all want to have fun, and we all want to come home at the end of the night without having any problems, so in this episode we unpack those tips and give listeners some useful information.

As the director of audience development at the Drug Policy Alliance, Stefanie runs DPA’s Music Fan program, which introduces harm reduction principles and drug policy alternatives to partygoers, public health officials and city nightlife regulators across the U.S. She also oversees communication and outreach to specific communities on drug use and drug policy topics, including on novel psychoactive substances (NPS) and DPA’s youth drug education.

So this New Year’s Eve – and really any time you’re going to use drugs – follow this Safer Partying checklist and check out all the other resources we have to offer on how to party safer.

And for anyone who needs one, be a buddy.

Happy New Year!

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog.

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The Case For Giving Free Massages to the Homeless

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 14:01
Click here for reuse options! Holistic health and pursuit of happiness should be available to all, especially those in poverty and struggling.

If ever there was an age of anxiety, it is now. We all seem pushed to the limits at work, personal debt is rising, and the housing market is shrinking, while the world around us seems to be going politically and ecologically out of control. This anxiety is a stress factory that spawns mental, physical and behavioral diseases that, as we know, cost a fortune to contain, let alone fix. On its own, work-related stress accounts for $300 billion dollars a year. 

Many of us are taking an alternative route to deal with this toxic stress. We run to Whole Foods to get the organic kale, we take a yoga or meditation class, get on a massage table, or receive acupuncture or reiki. We can relieve stress by going to a tai chi or a qi gong class, or we do the latest thing and take a “forest bath” by going for a walk in the woods. We see how these things change not only the quality of our lives, but also our health, as measured by blood pressure, stress hormones, immune response and number of doctor visits. 

So, are these things luxuries for the middle class or are they life-changing and money-saving medical interventions? It may sound comical in an age where the battle lines are being drawn around whether low income people should receive healthcare at all, to suggest that they should be getting acupuncture or a free massage, but why not? Since these interventions are proven to work, they could be used on a routine basis to reduce hospital visits, relapse to drug use, and maybe even recidivism to incarceration.

Gandhi once said that poverty is violence, and today 40% of New Yorkers live below the poverty line. This violence is generated by homelessness, by the criminalization of poverty, and the soul-crushing trauma of racism. Can holistic interventions be a significant help in stemming this tidal wave of misery?

We work together at New York Harm Reduction Educators, a social welfare program in East Harlem that does just this. Do tough guys enjoy yoga and acupuncture? Yes they do. Are they interested in following a guided meditation, actively participating in a drum circle, an art group or a walk in the woods? Yes again.  We have seen people locked into a cycle of drugs and incarceration start to turn a corner in their lives. We see those at the margins of our society actually finding room to breathe, room to move, cry, laugh, be human. We see destructive behavior change – this with a very limited budget and space.

The challenge is to make the things that we know work for us and the ones we love available to our neighbors. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have already been used in prisons and jails and rehabs to great effect and at little cost – but what about when people hit the streets? There is absolutely no reason to withdraw the stress-reduction just at the moment that stress increases exponentially.

At NYHRE we have found a template for continued destressing that can be duplicated and improved upon throughout the city and in fact the country. This is a case where doing the right thing is doing the practical thing – by opening the space that we have found effective in our own lives and making it available for our less fortunate neighbors we can practice compassion and practicality. In an era when poverty is punishment, the pursuit of happiness should be open to everyone.

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Alabama Town's Brazen Scheme to Stop Speeders, Accuse Them of Drugs, and Steal Their Cash and Cars

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 12:18
Not in the name of justice, but in the name of revenues. And now there's a revolt.

The police department of a small Alabama town was nearing bankruptcy due to a lack of ticket revenue, according to The cash-strapped department and city council took drastic measures with an assets forfeiture program for those caught speeding.

Now the mayor of the city is blaming the bad press about the sketchy scheme and a seven-plaintiff lawsuit for a drop in revenue, Reason reported. What the department would do is impound vehicles they pulled over using the state’s assets forfeiture law. It allows them to keep 100 percent of the items taken by police. The claim would be that there was a suspicion of drugs or anything they could come up with. That then required owners of those vehicles to pay a $500 impound fee.

The town hired officers and worked with a judge to maintain the program. Those that were hired were often dressed in camouflage that was tucked into dark assault boots. One alleged victim was Trey Crozier, who lost $1,750 to the Castleberry Police Department.

The 550-person town was so furious about the program Mayor J.B. Jackson, who came up with the idea to stop and confiscate vehicles, was booted from office. A municipal court judge and prosecutor were also ousted. Police chief Tracy Hawsey was forced to resign in February.

Lead attorney Richard Nix thinks more than 100 people were probably impacted by the city’s program. All of the belongings and alleged drugs that were seized by police haven’t been located in the investigation. The totality of cash taken estimates $5,500. He claimed that the chief didn’t follow minimal procedural requirements to perform an asset forfeiture.

One plaintiff claimed police stole $3,800 from her vehicle because they said the cash was obviously part of “proceeds from an illegal drug dealing or activity.” She still doesn’t have her car back but there was no record of a civil forfeiture request being filed.

“We didn’t have much so Hawsey come to me and said ‘There is a lot of crime in this town and a lot of drugs coming through this town,'” Jackson told “So he said why don’t we set up a court system to get some money coming in.”

The department was created in 2009. At least five police officers were paid more than five times the national per capita average.

“We hired our own DA and own judge,” Jackson revealed. “The revenues started to grow and we built out the police department.”

There’s even evidence of Hawsey gloating on Facebook, according to Nix. He allegedly posted photos of those he arrested and videos showing him joking with them about the arrests. Jackson never denied the department’s program was set up to garner money and turn the department into “policing for profit.”

In wake of the town’s financial crisis, word of the lawsuit spread fast. Suddenly the city was slapped with $60,000 in unpaid bills and six figures in debt. The town is split on whether or not to keep the police department, but townspeople are split on where to go moving forward. The city council voted 3-2 to keep the police department active on a “limited basis.”

Former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was one of the greatest proponents of civil forfeiture in the Senate.

“With care—we’ve gotta be careful—and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures,” Sessions told a crowd of law-enforcement officials in Minneapolis in July.


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To Fight the Opioid Epidemic, Take Big Pharma to Court?

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:39
There have been more than a hundred cases filed by state and local governments.

Litigation against drug manufacturers that produce and distribute opioids could be a promising option in the fight against the opioid addiction crisis, according to a new article.

In the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Rebecca Haffajee of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, along with Michelle Mello of Stanford University, analyze the history of litigation efforts to hold those parties accountable.

To date, lawsuits have enjoyed limited success, at best settling for amounts not likely to financially harm manufacturers and distributors in the $13 billion-a-year industry enough to prompt change, says Haffajee, assistant professor of health management and policy and an attorney. She also is affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“Early litigation brought by individuals harmed by prescription opioids against drug companies was minimally effective at mitigating the epidemic, in terms of guilty verdicts, large payouts, or industry changes in behavior,” she says. “However, in more recent years, litigation holds greater promise to succeed and reduce public health opioid harms, thanks to the large numbers of suits waged by governments and innovative legal theories they employ.”

Haffajee says there have been more than 100 cases filed by state and local governments, and more are in the pipeline.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription pain pills and illicitly manufactured substances like heroin and fentanyl. According to the authors, more than 300,000 people have died from opioid-related overdoses since 2000, and it’s expected another half million lives will be lost in the next decade. Health professionals across the country are attempting to slow the epidemic by encouraging physicians to prescribe fewer of the medications and raising awareness about the dangers with the public.

In the piece, the authors note that opioid lawsuits bear similarities to tobacco litigation, in that the suits involve addictive substances and are being brought by classes of similarly situate individuals and by governments.

Treat opioid addiction in hospital ED for better results

Some of the legal arguments are also similar: that the companies were fraudulent in how they represented the harms of these products and promoted product use in a manner that enabled unjust enrichment—or company profiting at the expense of the government.

“But prescription opioids differ from tobacco, in that they are FDA-approved substances,” Haffajee says. “So many claims around defective design and failure to warn (such as on packaging) are less credible for opioids than they were for tobacco.”

Add to this that individuals that opioids harm often did not take them as prescribed and doctors overprescribed them, and company liability is a bit more difficult to establish, she says.

“The most promising legal claims are those that avoid plausible opioid company defenses—such as that the products were FDA-approved, or that individuals and physicians misused or misprescribed the drugs,” Haffajee explains.

How to treat pain in people struggling with addiction

“So government claims of fraud, misbranding, public nuisance, unjust enrichment, and failure to maintain effective controls (under the Controlled Substances Act) stand the best chance of success,” she says.

Source: University of Michigan

Original Study DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1710756


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A Million People Convicted of Marijuana-Related Crimes in California Could Soon See Their Records Wiped Clean

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 10:31
Click here for reuse options! Prop 64 could provide huge benefits to communities disproportionately targeted for arrest.

Californians who enjoy cannabis have a lot to celebrate this new year. Recreational sales become legal January 1st, and the $5 billion industry and could provide the state with $1 billion in revenu, so both the business sector and state government stand to profit handsomely. But it could be an especially important day for the hundreds of thousands of individuals in California with a drug crime on their record, who may be getting a second chance at a clean slate.

Beginning in 2018, the state will offer anyone convicted of a marijuana crime the opportunity to have the charge dropped or reduced through Prop 64. For decades, even minor charges like marijuana possession have held back many from employment. The state sees the opportunity to have their records expunged as a fresh start, and it could affect up to a million people, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The organization estimates that there have been 500,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in California over the past 10 years.

The policy could especially benefit Californians of color who have been targeted for drug arrests. The Drug Policy Alliance writes that "in 2015, black people were more than twice as likely as white people to be arrested for a marijuana misdemeanor and nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana felony." As for the Hispanic population, "Latino people are arrested for marijuana offenses 35 percent more often than white people in California."

The expungement rule is a common sense measure that shows the state is in step with the times. Possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is legal now in California, so it’s only fitting that those who have a criminal record for similar amounts have this charge erased. With California as the latest state to enact such a rule, there are now nine states that offer expungement to those convicted of marijuana crimes. It’s part of a growing awareness of the hypocrisy of these convictions, at a time when legalization is growing in popularity nationwide. In the past five years, sixteen states have modified their marijuana laws to reduce penalties for possession.

Advocates for criminal justice reform have been especially vocal about seing California adopt this new rule. The Post describes a few such champions:

Last year, prosecutors in San Diego searched for people convicted of marijuana offenses in the prior three years who would be eligible for reductions. When the measure passed, prosecutors got their petitions before a judge as soon as possible.

“We absolutely didn’t want people to be in custody who shouldn’t be in custody,” said Rachel Solov, chief of the collaborative courts division in the San Diego district attorney’s office. She said that as of mid-December, the office has handled nearly 600 reductions.

Of course, those best poised to benefit from Prop 64 are those with the time, money, and access to take their cases back to court. “What I see is the people who have more means are the ones who are taking advantage of this, and the people who have more basic struggles in their everyday life, the last thing they’re thinking about is cleaning up their criminal history for their old marijuana convictions,” one defense attorney told the Post. Still, progress is progress.

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5 Holiday Tips on How Not to Get Arrested in New York City

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:51
This is just common sense stuff, but let's review it anyway, shall we?



5 Holiday Tips On How Not To Get Arrested In NYC

Many people come to New York City for the holidays. ... it, smoking marijuana in public is not legal. Personal possession has been decriminalized, but that doesn’t mean you can smoke it in public. Never smoke a joint on the streets of NYC. You risk being arrested ...

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How Safe Is It to Smoke Marijuana Every Day?

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:11
If you have questions about your cannabis use, ask yourself these questions.

We hear a variation of this question a lot. “Am I an addict if I smoke marijuana every day?” As with most questions, answers will be all over the place. But the most important answer is how you answer it yourself.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive research that you can point to for the complete answer. Someone who has been waking and baking for years is totally different than a cancer patient medicating with cannabis to relieve pain or nausea. So you really need to ask yourself the question and be honest with yourself. And, if possible, have the conversation with your general practitioner or a trusted doctor.

Check out the questions below and use them as a springboard to learning. Once again, everybody reacts to marijuana in different ways. The key is to accurately self-analyze your consumption. And if you think you may have a problem, chances are you might be correct.

How Addictive Is Marijuana?

According to one government-supported study, nearly 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become abusers. But let’s take a slightly deeper look at the answer.

About 15 percent of people who consume alcohol will become addicted. For cocaine, 17 percent; for heroin, 23 percent; and for nicotine, 32 percent.

It is possible that you are among the 9 percent who struggle with addiction. It is more possible that you are among the 91 percent that will not get hooked on weed. Cannabis is less addictive than neatly every legal or illegal drug.

Research has demonstrated that daily marijuana use can lead to increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop.

So be honest with yourself. If you have the slightest concern that you have developed a physical or mental dependence on marijuana, be proactive. Ween yourself off daily use. Take a tolerance break and recalibrate your system. If this becomes too difficult, it is possible you are among the 9 percent.

Does Daily Use Cause Physical Changes To The Brain?

Research is mixed on this question. However, the latest study in 2015, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found “daily marijuana use is not associated with brain morphometric measures in adolescents or adults.”

According to this study, earlier research did not control for alcohol use. When that variable was included, the study suggests “it is possible that alcohol use, or other factors, may explain some of the contradictory findings to date.”

The study concluded that “while the literature clearly supports a deleterious short-term effect of marijuana on learning and memory, it seems unlikely that marijuana use has the same level of long-term deleterious effects on brain morphology as other drugs like alcohol.”

Does this mean daily consumption of cannabis is OK? No. The research does not say that. The data is not definitive on what longtime daily use does to cognitive development.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a professor at the University of Florida, is an addiction specialist and an ardent opponent of the medical use of marijuana, promotes a loss of attention, focus and concentration.

While the medical community continues to study the issue, one thing is clear: Young, developing minds should refrain from cannabis use. And daily consumption for an adolescent or teen is not advised.

Should I Steer Clear Of Waking And Baking?

Similar to morning use of alcohol among alcohol-dependent individuals, morning use of marijuana may indicate dependence and increased cannabis-related impairment, according to a 2016 study in the journal Addiction and Research Theory.

The report, co-authored by cannabis researcher Mitch Earleywine, suggests that “morning users reported significantly more problems than non-morning users, and morning use accounted for significant unique variance in problems.”

The positive news, according to the study, shows that “morning use also has the potential to lend itself to straightforward intervention. … Exploratory mediational analyses did not support the idea that morning use led to problems via withdrawal.”

So if this is one of your habits, now may be the time to wean yourself fr0m it. There are potential negative outcomes, but not in everybody.

Does My Bad Cough Mean I Am Getting Lung Cancer?

While it is true that daily consumption will irritate your lungs and give some users a chronic hacking cough, research shows that smoking marijuana does not cause lung cancer.

“Although cannabis does increase symptoms of bronchitis like coughing and wheezing, it does not appear to elevate risk for lung cancer,” according to Professor Mitch Earleywine, a cannabis researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Albany, NY.

The Journal of the American Medical Association conducted the largest and longest study ever to consider the issue in 2012. According to Dr. Mark Pletcher, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and the lead author of the study, marijuana use did not harm lung capacity. In fact, the study suggests some test subjects experienced improved lung capacity.

“There are clearly adverse effects from tobacco use and marijuana smoke has a lot of the same constituents as tobacco smoke does so we thought it might have some of the same harmful effects. It’s a weird effect to see and we couldn’t make it go away,” Pletcher said.

If you want to minimize your coughing jags, cutting back on cannabis will most likely help. The coughing is a clear sign of an agitated lung, but it is not cancerous.


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Is Kratom Safe Enough for the Fight Against Opioids?

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:56
A new study says "yes," and finds it relieves anxiety and reduces negative moods, too.

A review of 57 years of international scientific evidence may help change the perception of kratom and restore its potential as a public health tool that deserves more research.

As the nation grapples for solutions to the opioid epidemic—now claiming more than 33,000 American lives each year—the potential of the psychoactive plant kratom to become a useful tool in the battle has been the subject of hot debate.

While some in the medical field and many in the general public attest to kratom’s ability to help curb opioid addiction and relieve pain, governmental agencies continue to warn against its dangers to mental health, citing links to psychosis and addiction. In 2016, the DEA briefly recommended criminalizing kratom possession and distribution, before withdrawing the proposal.

The study not only points to the potential benefits of kratom as a safer substitute for opioids, but also suggests the plant’s potential to reduce negative mood and relieve anxiety. Published online this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, it represents the largest systematic review of the scientific literature on kratom use and mental health.

“There is a lot of confusing information about kratom in the media that makes it difficult for clinicians and the public to make informed choices,” says lead author Marc T. Swogger, associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center’s psychiatry department. “This study clarifies that there is no good scientific basis for claims that kratom causes psychosis, suicide, or violence, and the available data do not indicate that kratom is a significant public health problem.”

Coauthor Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia notes that current approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic are leaving large numbers of high-need individuals without effective treatment.

“We need to explore all options, and our findings suggest it’s time to carefully examine the potential of this ancient plant,” says Walsh.

3 harmful myths about the opioid epidemic

Swogger and Walsh reviewed the combined results of 13 studies conducted between January 1960 and July 2017, using data from 28,745 individuals.

“There is a clear need for more rigorous, well-controlled, prospective studies to support a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the plant,” says Swogger. “But data across cultures indicated that kratom has a legitimate role to play in mitigating harms associated with opioid dependence. The bulk of the available research supports kratom’s benefits as a milder, less addictive, and less-dangerous substance than opioids, and one that appears far less likely to cause fatal overdose.”

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa; also known as krathom or ketum) is part of the coffee family and has been used medicinally for centuries in Southeast Asia to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, to relieve pain, diarrhea, and cough, and increase stamina and energy. People chew raw leaves of the kratom plant, boil them to serve as tea, smoke, or vaporize them.

How 30 opioid pills for surgery turn into a habit

In recent years, kratom’s use has expanded beyond Asia, and its leaves, powders, gums, capsules, and extracts are widely accessed through retail outlets and the internet in North America and Europe.

“We need more and better research to be able to outline the risks and benefits of kratom in greater detail,” Swogger says. “Only through well-controlled studies can we elucidate kratom’s potential for good and harm, and give the public, policy makers, and health care professionals the information needed to make informed decisions.”

Source: University of Rochester

Original Study DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.10.012



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These Are the Best Pot Products in 2017

Sat, 12/16/2017 - 13:28
Many old-time favorites are still the most popular with cannabis consumers.

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The 3 States Best Positioned to Legalize Marijuana in 2018

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 15:39
Click here for reuse options! Next year should see more legal marijuana states and also the first state to legalize pot at the statehouse.

Election Day 2016 was a big day for marijuana. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all supported successful legalization initiatives, doubling the number of states to have done so since 2012 and more than quadrupling the percentage of the national population that now lives in legal marijuana states.

Marijuana momentum was high, national polling kept seeing support go up and up, and 2017 was expected to see even more states jump on the weed bandwagon. That didn't happen.

There are two main reasons 2017 was a dud for pot legalization: First, it's an off-off-year election year, and there were no legalization initiatives on the ballot. Second, it's tough to get a marijuana legalization bill through a state legislature and signed by a governor. In fact, it's so tough it hasn't happened yet.

But that doesn't mean it isn't going to happen next year. Several states where legislative efforts were stalled last year are poised to get over the top in the coming legislative sessions, and it looks like a legalization initiative will be on the ballot in at least one state—maybe more.

There are other states where legalization is getting serious attention, such as Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, but they all have governors who are not interested in going down that path, and that means a successful legalization bill faces the higher hurdle of winning with veto-proof majorities. Similarly, there are other states where legalization initiatives are afoot, such as Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio, but none of those have even completed signature gathering, and all would face an uphill fight. Still, we could be pleasantly surprised.

Barring pleasant surprises, here are the three states that have the best shot at legalizing pot in 2018.

1. Michigan

Michigan voters shouldn't have to wait on the state legislature to act because it looks very likely that a legalization initiative will qualify for the ballot next year. The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has already completed a petition campaign and handed in more than 365,000 raw signatures last month for its legalization initiative. It hasn't officially qualified for the ballot yet, but it only needs 250,000 valid voter signatures to do so, meaning it has a rather substantial cushion.

If the measure makes the ballot, it should win. There is the little matter of actually campaigning to pass the initiative, which should require a million or two dollars for TV ad buys and other get-out-the-vote efforts, but with the Marijuana Policy Project on board and some deep-pocketed local interests as well, the money should be there.

The voters already are there: Polling has shown majority support for legalization for several years now, always trending up, and most recently hitting 58% in a May Marketing Resource Group poll.

2. New Jersey

Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R) was a huge obstacle to passage of marijuana legalization, but he's on his way out the door, and his replacement, Gov.-Elect Phil Murphy (D), has vowed to legalize marijuana within 100 days of taking office next month.

Legislators anticipating Christie's exit filed legalization bills earlier this year, Senate Bill 3195 and companion measure Assembly Bill 4872. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) has also made promises, vowing to pass the bill within the first three months of the Murphy administration, and hearings are set for both houses between January and March.

But it's not a done deal. There is some opposition in the legislature, and marijuana legalization foes will certainly mobilize to defeat it at the statehouse. It will also be the first time the legislature seriously considers legalization. Still, legalization has some key political players backing it. Other legislators might want to listen to their constituents: A September Quinnipiac poll had support for legalization at 59%.

3. Vermont

A marijuana legalization bill actually passed the legislature last year, a national first, only to be vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott (R) over concerns around drugged driving and youth use. Legislators then amended the bill to assuage Scott's concerns and managed to get the amended bill through the Senate, only to see House Republicans refuse to let it come to a vote during the truncated summer session.

But that measure, House Bill 511, will still be alive in the second year of the biennial session, and Gov. Scott has said he is still willing to sign the bill. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) is also on board, and the rump Republicans won't be able to block action next year.

Johnson said she will be ready for a vote in early January and expects the bill to pass then. Vermont would then become the first state to free the weed through the legislative process. 


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9 Ways Scientists Are Exploring the Body’s Relationship with Marijuana

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 12:12
Better living through endocannabinoid science.

In recent years, cannabis has been at the center of one of the most important developments in modern science, which has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease.

Research on marijuana’s effects led directly to the discovery of a major biochemical signaling system in the human body – the endocannabinoid system – which plays a pivotal role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes that affect our mood, our blood pressure, our bone density, our metabolism, our intestinal fortitude, our energy level, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and much more.

“By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance,” says Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam. “We wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant.”

Described by Mechoulam as “a medicinal treasure trove,” cannabis contains more than 100 unique biologically active compounds known as “cannabinoids,” including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC causes the high that cannabis is famous for, CBD does not; both have important therapeutic attributes.

In addition to phytocannabinoids produced by the plant, there are endogenous cannabinoids – marijuana-like molecules – that occur naturally in the human brain and body. And there are also synthetic cannabinoids created by pharmaceutical researchers, who are developing new medicines that target the endocannabinoid system for therapeutic benefit.

Some of these novel synthetic compounds activate the same cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 – in the brain and body that respond pharmacologically to THC and other cannabis components.1

Medical scientists are also experimenting with synthetic drugs designed to improve “endocannabinoid tone” without binding directly to cannabinoid receptors.

Here are nine strategies that scientists are currently pursuing in an effort to harness the healing potential of the endocannabinoid system:

1. Single-molecule plant cannabinoids

Dronabinol, marketed in pill form as Marinol, is a single-molecule THC extract combined with sesame oil. It got fast-tracked for approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985 in response to rising patient demand for medical marijuana.

Other THC preparations are also on the FDA’s radar, including Syndros, a liquid THC drug produced by Insys. But patented single-molecule THC is a poor substitute for whole plant cannabis.

Even though it is highly psychoactive and potentially dysphoric, pharmaceutical THC is legally accessible in all 50 states as a prescription medication.

Cannabidiol, unlike pure THC, is not yet legal in all 50 states. But CBD will soon become a legal pharmaceutical, as the FDA is poised to approve Epidiolex, a botanically derived anti-seizure medication produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. Epidiolex is pure CBD with a dash of cannabidivarin (CBDV), a “minor” cannabinoid that also has potent anti-epileptic properties.

Along with the imminent advent of pharmaceutical CBD, several R&D firms have begun to harvest single-molecule cannabinoids, such as CBDV, from a yeast substrate. As this biotechnology improves, drug developers and pharmacists will have access to numerous single-molecule cannabis compounds.

2. Synthetic cannabinoid analogs

Scientists have created synthetic analogs of plant cannabinoids for research purposes and for commercial sale and distribution. Nabilone, a synthetic THC analog, was developed by Eli Lilly and Co. as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Marketed under the trade name Cesamet, this synthetic cannabinoid is used as an adjunct therapy for chronic pain management in Canada and other countries. Clinical trials of Nabilone have indicated some effectiveness for fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, PTSD-related nightmares, irritable bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers are using various synthetic analogs to investigate the biochemical pathways and molecular mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system. Some of these compounds (such as WIN55,212-2 and CP55,940) bind to both cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 – much like THC. Other experimental drugs target only one type of cannabinoid receptor and not the other. 2

A cannabinoid agonist binds to a cell receptor and causes it to initiate a signaling cascade that modulates various physiological processes and protects neurons against toxic insults. A cannabinoid antagonist binds to a cell receptor and prevents it from signaling.

3. Synthetic cannabinoid antagonists

Cannabinoid CB1 receptors, which mediate the psychoactive effects of THC, are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system. When THC binds to CB1, it can make a person feel stoned – and hungry. The “munchies,” scientists confirmed, are linked to stimulation of CB1 receptors in areas of the brain that regulate hunger and satiety. If activated, CB1 receptors induce appetite; if blocked, they reduce it.

“SR141716,” a synthetic CB1 antagonist developed by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, was initially utilized as a research tool: By blocking CB1 and monitoring which functions were altered, scientists advanced their understanding of the endocannabinoid system.

Sanofi strategists believed they had invented the perfect diet pill, and they promoted SR141716 as an appetite suppressant in Europe. But the diet drug, sold as “Rimonabant,” proved to be too blunt an instrument. Before long, the synthetic CB1 antagonist was pulled from circulation because of dangerous side effects – high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, mood swings, depression, headaches, seizures, sleep disorders, and a heightened risk of suicide.

If nothing else, the CB1 antagonist debacle provided vivid evidence that a well-functioning endocannabinoid system is essential for good health.3

4. Peripherally restricted CB1 agonists

Cannabinoid CB1 receptors, the most prevalent protein receptors in the human brain, influence many neurological functions, including marijuana’s mood-altering effects. CB1 receptors are also expressed in the enteric nervous system (the gut), the liver, kidneys, heart and other peripheral organs.

Stimulating CB1 receptors can deliver significant therapeutic benefits, but THC’s psychoactivity limits its medical utility, according to Big Pharma catechism, which defines the CB1-mediated marijuana “high” as an adverse side effect that drug designers should avoid if they hope to win regulatory approval of their patented synthetic novelties.

So pharmaceutical researchers have created peripherally-restricted CB1 agonists (such as AZ11713908) that only activate CB1 receptors outside the central nervous system, but don’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

A peripherally restricted CB1 agonist won’t cause side effects such as disconcerting dysphoria or useless euphoria. But such a compound has never been approved for therapeutic use by the FDA.

5. Selective CB2 agonists

Scientists have been hot on the trail of another type of synthetic cannabinoid – a “selective CB2 agonist” – that will bypass the brain while acting on the peripheral nervous system, where CB2 receptors are concentrated. CB2 receptors regulate immune function, pain perception, and inflammation.

Tinkering with synthetic compounds (such as HU308 and JWH 133) that selectively stimulate CB2receptors raises the prospect of healing without the high because CB2 receptors are localized primarily outside the brain and thus do not induce psychoactivity.

Cannabinoid researchers have their eyes on the ultimate prize, the pharmaceutical Holy Grail – a non-addictive painkiller bereft of adverse side effects. Animal experiments focusing on the CB2 receptor initially showed promise.

Thus far, however, drug companies have not been able to synthesize clinically effective CB2-selective compounds, though not for lack of trying. “If drug discovery is a sea, then CB2 is a rock that is surrounded by shipwrecked-projects,” remarked Italian scientist Giovanni Appendino.

6. Water-soluble cannabinoids

In their natural form, plant cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are oily, hydrophobic substances that don’t dissolve in water. But these lipid molecules can be structurally altered so that they become water soluble without diminishing their therapeutic attributes.

Scientists have developed several ways of synthesizing water-compatible derivatives of THCand other cannabinoids that are more bioavailable and thus potentially more potent than their oily, naturally-occurring counterparts.

The first water-soluble version of THC was created in 1972. Subsequent research found that water-friendly cannabinoid derivatives can lower intraocular pressure in rabbits. A water-soluble cannabinoid ester, “O-1057,” exhibited stronger analgesic properties than THC in preclinical experimentation.

Internet retailers are claiming to sell water-soluble CBD formulated as a nanoemulsion. Pure CBD delivered via nanotechnology is supposed to provide exceptionally high bioavailability and remedial effect compared to a hydrophobic CBD oil extract.

But a CBD isolate typically requires a much higher dose for therapeutic efficacy than a whole plant CBD-rich concentrate – and this factor may cancel out the alleged advantages of nanoemulsified single-molecule CBD.

7. Allosteric cannabinoid receptor modulators

Because direct, full-on stimulation of cannabinoid receptors in the brain may trigger undesirable psychoactive effects, scientists have developed synthetic compounds that change the shape of the CB1 receptor and influence how it signals without causing a THC-like high. These compounds, known as allosteric modulators, can either amplify or decrease a receptor’s ability to transmit a signal.

A “positive allosteric modulator” increases the potency and/or efficacy of CB1 receptor activation by anandamide and 2AG (the two main endogenous cannabinoids), thereby boosting the protective effects of the endocannabinoid system.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have synthesized a positive allosteric modulator of CB1to treat pain and neurological disorders. When researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University tested this experimental drug (“ZCZ011”) on mice, it reduced inflammatory pain by magnifying the CB1 receptor’s response to anandamide.

But allosteric effects are rarely consistent across species, which significantly impedes drug development in this area.4

8. Inhibitors of endocannabinoid metabolizing enzymes

Medical scientists are experimenting with synthetic designer drugs to enhance endocannabinoid tone without binding directly (or allosterically) to cannabinoid receptors.

Pharmacological augmentation of endocannabinoid signaling can be achieved by inhibiting fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and/or monoglycerol lipase (MAGL), the catabolic enzymes that break down the brain’s own marijuana-like molecules, anandamide and 2AG, respectively.

Simply put, less FAAH and MAGL means more anandamide and 2AG, resulting in greater cannabinoid receptor activity throughout the body. Drugs that suppress endocannabinoid-metabolizing enzymes indirectly boost cannabinoid receptor signaling, causing a natural high without the vivid psychoactive effects associated with synthetic and plant-based CB1 agonists.

Preclinical research suggests that indirect modulation of endocannabinoid signaling could become a treatment option for various inflammatory conditions and stress-related disorders. FAAH and MAGLinhibition have been shown to ease pain, anxiety, colitis, hypertension, opiate withdrawal, diarrhea and arthritis in animal models.

While drug developers investigate synthetic FAAH-inhibitors (such as URB597) and MAGL-inhibitors (such as JZL 184), one need look no further than the kitchen spice rack for phytonutrients that regulate endocannabinoid tone by inhibiting the same catabolic enzymes. Nutmeg, one of many culinary spices that interact with the endocannabinoid system, inhibits the breakdown of both anandamide and 2AG, the brain’s own marijuana.

9. Endocannabinoid reuptake inhibitors

Another way to augment endocannabinoid tone entails delaying the reuptake of anandamide and 2AG. Scientists have synthesized reuptake inhibitors (such as AM404) that target transport molecules known as fatty acid binding proteins. These membrane-penetrating fatty acid binding proteins facilitate the intracellular transport and reuptake of endogenous cannabinoids.

By blocking access to these critical transport molecules, synthetic reuptake inhibitors increase endocannabinoid levels in the brain’s synapses. This results in heightened cannabinoid receptor 

signaling and endocannabinoid-induced protective effects.

THC and CBD also inhibit endocannabinoid reuptake. Enhancing endocannabinoid tone via reuptake inhibition may be a key mechanism whereby plant cannabinoids confer protective effects against seizures and neurodegeneration, as well as many other health benefits.

Fool’s gold?

Despite repeated setbacks, the possibility of healing without the high persists as an idée fixe among cannabinoid scientists and pharmaceutical researchers.

The lack of success with selective CB2 agonists, peripherally restricted CB1 agonists, allosteric modulators, CB1 antagonists and other non-euphoric cannabinoids underscores the challenges and limitations of synthetic, monomolecular medicine that targets a single protein receptor while forsaking whole plant synergies.

Synthetic CBD analogs are also in development. By tweaking the mother molecule and removing, adding or editing a molecular side chain, pharmaceutical researchers hope to create a marketable compound that is more potent and more effective than botanical CBD.

But a CBD isolate is not inherently superior to a whole plant CBD-rich extract. Preclinical studies that compare the efficacy of single-molecule CBD and full spectrum CBD-rich oil concentrates indicate that CBDsolo is effective only at precise, high doses – whereas whole plant CBD-rich extracts have a much wider and safer therapeutic window and are effective at significantly lower doses. Problematic drug interactions are also much likelier with high dose single-molecule CBD.

Regulatory policy should not privilege single-molecule meds over full spectrum cannabis remedies. Patients are best served by having access to a wide range of cannabinoid-based therapeutic options, including artisanal whole plant preparations and synthetic isolates, if and when they become available.

Martin A. Lee is the director of Project CBD and the author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific.


  1. Only four cannabis compounds bind directly to either one or both cannabinoid receptors. THC activates CB1 and CB2. Cannabinol (CBN), a THC breakdown component, activates the CB1 receptor, though with less potency than THC. Tetrahydracannabivarin (THCV), the propyl variant of THC, binds to both cannabinoid receptors, activating CB2 while blocking CB1. And beta caryophyllene, an aromatic terpene found in many cannabis strains, green leafy vegetables, and common kitchen spices, activates CB2. Other cannabinoids, including CBD, interact with the endocannabinoid system indirectly without binding like lock and key to a cannabinoid receptor.
  2. Developed as a research tool to study that endocannabinoid system, JWH-018 is a synthetic cannabinoid compound that activates the CB1 receptor but not CB2. After the formula for this potent CB1 agonist was published in the scientific literature, JWH-018 surfaced as a street drug known as “Spice” or “K2.” Media accounts typically mischaracterize Spice as “synthetic marijuana.”
  3. U.S. government scientists have not given up entirely on Rimonabant. The fact that this compound blocks the euphoric effects of cannabis is a big plus to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has sponsored research on utilizing CB1 blockers to treat various addictions, including “cannabis dependence.”
  4. Canadian scientists have identified CBD as a “negative allosteric modulator” of the CB1 receptor based on in vitro research. This means that CBD, when administered in combination with THC, will alter the shape of the CB1 receptor in a way that weakens its binding affinity for THC. As a negative allosteric modulator of CB1, CBD lowers the ceiling on THC’s psychoactivity, which might be why people don’t feel as high when using CBD-rich cannabis as compared to a THC-infused product.

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