The big health news Friday was that a botched drug trial in France had left four people with “irreversible” brain damage. One man is now brain dead and at least five others have been hospitalized, according to the latest reports.
Before details about the trial drug could be confirmed, AFP, France’s largest news agency, quoted an unnamed source “close to the case” who claimed the painkiller under trial contained cannabis. The story spiraled from there, picked up by panicked news media in France and the U.K. and spreading across the Internet.
RT dubbed the clinical trial “cannabis-laced.” Vice News screamed that “The Drug Trial of a Cannabis Painkiller Has Left One Person Brain Dead.”
Let’s be clear: That’s not true.
Shortly after the news broke, French Health Minister Marisol Touraine began correcting erroneous reports. The drug being tested, she said, contains neither cannabis nor cannabis derivatives.
Developed by the Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial and tested in France by Biotrial, the drug in question is intended to address mood, anxiety and motor problems linked to neurodegenerative diseases. It works by affecting the endocannabinoid system, a set of brain receptors that cannabis interacts with. But there are other known substances, beyond cannabis, that affect the endocannabinoid system.
Media outlets quickly revised their headlines and stories, but the damage had been done. When it comes to cannabis, deeply-rooted fears have a tendency to seek out reinforcing evidence, no matter how erroneous that evidence may turn out to be. Pairing “cannabis drug” with “brain damage” creates a sticky meme that’s tough to un-stick.
Here’s the story you’re not hearing. There’s currently a scramble going on among researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop non-cannabis drugs that affect the endocannabinoid system. FAAH and MAGL inhibitors in particular have shown promise as non-cannabis enzymes that could interact with the endocannabinoid system to produce healing results. Bial’s experimental drug could be part of that effort — or not. We don’t know enough about the trial drug yet to say for sure.
All of this begs the question: Why develop non-cannabis drugs when the plant is already available? One possibility: Proprietary drugs and patents. If you invent it and patent it, you own it. Nobody owns Charlotte’s Web or Harlequin.
La Jolla, California-based Abide Therapeutics, for instance, is developing a small-molecule inhibitor that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system and could potentially treat pain and neuroinflammation. (To be clear: Abide has no connection to the news out of France.) You can read more about Abide’s effort here.
We’ll continue to follow the story out of France as it develops, and we’ll also continue to look into developments in endocannabinoid research, both cannabis-related and non-cannabis-related. Stay tuned.
Where’s the Difference?
Even though most people who experience the cannabis high produced by THC find it to be pleasant and stimulating, for some reason medicine that makes you feel good while getting you well is frowned upon. Enter cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, as a way to obtain the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the THC psychoactive effects making CBD an acceptable gateway drug to the world of cannabis.
CBD is a powerful cannabinoid with research showing it to be effective in reducing cancer cell growth, minimizing seizures and convulsions in children, decreasing inflammation, mitigating pain and providing therapeutic relief for many other ailments. This newfound interest in CBD has led to an explosion of CBD oils made from industrial hemp.
In terms of its molecular structure CBD is CBD is CBD—it’s the same molecule whether the CBD comes from hemp, cannabis or a test tube. Hemp generally has a CBD concentration around 3.5 percent CBD which is pretty low but the concentration of THC is even lower, usually less than 1 percent. Hemp meets the criteria of being low in THC, but its level of CBD is relatively low especially in comparison to certain cannabis strains, which have significantly higher amount of CBD than industrial hemp.
Whether the CBD comes from hemp or cannabis flowers is not the ultimate factor. The key factor is the process by which the CBD is extracted, concentrated and formulated. Cannabis strains such as Charlotte’s Web, Avidekel and ACDC are low in THC but high in CBD with up to a 20 percent CBD concentration level. By comparison, hemp’s typical 3.5 percent CBD concentration level is rather paltry.
Since the concentration of CBD is low in hemp, it requires large amounts of hemp to produce a small amount of CBD oil. The most efficient and least expensive way to extract the CBD oil is to use solvents, but dangerous solvent residues can remain in the CBD oil. In 2014, Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD, tested several CBD hemp oil products available to the public over the Internet and found significant levels of toxic solvent residues in random samples.
CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp is a thick tar-like substance that needs to be thinned with a compound such as propylene glycol. A widespread additive found in CBD vape oil cartridges, propylene glycol may convert to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, when heated and inhaled.
Hexane, a solvent frequently used to extract CBDs from hemp, has been found by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be neurotoxic producing numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache and fatigue, according to a official statement by the EPA.
Even if it is possible to produce solvent-free CBD oil from hemp, there is another problem in that industrial hemp is a bio-accumulator that naturally absorbs toxic substances from the soil. Hemp is such an efficient bio-accumulator that it was used at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant after the meltdown because it is excellent at sucking up heavy metals and radiation, according to McGraw Hill Education. Great for healing the earth, but not for healing humans.
“The whole effort to harness CBD from industrial hemp is fraught with challenges that are made more difficult by the fact that fiber hemp plants with high amounts of CBD by dry weight—like the ACDC cannabis strain—are not yet available for industrial grows.”
Martin Lee, co-founder and Director of Project CBD, summarizes the problems of obtaining CBD from hemp. “The whole effort to harness CBD from industrial hemp is fraught with challenges that are made more difficult by the fact that fiber hemp plants with high amounts of CBD by dry weight—like the ACDC cannabis strain—are not yet available for industrial grows.”
There are other considerations as well. One of the most important is that CBD by itself does not work as well as CBD in conjunction with THC. In what is known as the entourage effect, the medical efficacy of CBD is enhanced in the presence of THC. The proper ratio of CBD to THC varies from person to person, but as Martin Lee points out “the best ratio of THC to CBD is often the most THC a person can comfortably handle.”
The bottom line is since hemp is so low in THC and other cannabis components, you don’t get much of an entourage effect when you use hemp oil as when you are using oil derived from a CBD-rich cannabis plant.
If certain cannabis flowers are so much better for producing CBD, then why all this fuss over industrial hemp? Rather than anything to do with medical science, it has everything to do with the illegal status of cannabis.
The manufacturers of CBD oil from hemp claim that it is legal to market their products as a dietary supplement even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to recognize hemp-derived CBD oil as a dietary supplement. The FDA singled out for criticism CBD oil producers for making unsubstantiated medical claims about treating pain, spasms, cancer and other ailments. The FDA has never approved CBD as a supplement for any kind of medical use.
Under current state medical marijuana laws, the only way a CBD-infused oil product—derived from hemp or cannabis—can be used legally for therapeutic purposes would be for it to be grown, harvested, processed and consumed by a certified patient in a state that has legalized medical cannabis. That is not the case with products made from CBD hemp oil imported from abroad which remain illegal under both federal and state laws.
For many reasons, CBD-rich cannabis is a better source of CBD than industrial hemp. The only reason CBD derived from hemp is gaining any notoriety is as an attempted end-run around federal law. When cannabis prohibition is ended and cannabis is treated like any other agricultural product, CBD will be extracted from the best source of cannabidiol—CBD-rich cannabis. The need to derive CBD from industrial hemp will end.
Medical research suggests that cannabis may help improve mood, but users also seem to suffer higher rates of depression.
Marijuana is sometimes referred to as ‘green Prozac’ due to the fact that many users find it helpful in lifting their spirits. But can it actually be an effective treatment for depression?
Interestingly, the idea that cannabis can be used to improve mood goes back hundreds of years. And many people today still agree.
“A lot of people report using cannabis effectively to treat depression,” says Zachary Walsh, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who heads a research lab focused on marijuana and mental health.
But whether cannabis has actually been proven to help with depression can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. The answer is more complicated because there are different types of depression, explains Walsh.
Generally speaking, depression is defined as the feeling of sadness or hopelessness over an extended period of time.
Studies on Marijuana and Depression
For depression that is caused by chronic stress, components of marijuana may be an effective treatment, according to a 2015 study by University of Buffalo scientists. The findings showed that stress caused a decrease in cannabis-like molecules naturally found in the brain, leading to behavior that mimicked depression.
Another study published in 2007 by a team at McGill University showed that administering low doses of THC could work like an antidepressant by increasing serotonin. However, in high dosages, THC decreased serotonin and seemed to worsen depression.
“These findings confirm what has been reported by people who smoke cannabis,” explains Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, who co-authored the McGill study. “Often it produces euphoria, calmness, sociability, but in other circumstances it can produce bad dreams and negative feelings.”
Overall there hasn’t been enough research in the field, Dr. Gobbi says, adding that the type of research needed to confirm whether marijuana can effectively treat depression is quite complex.
“Not only do we have to determine the dose-effect of cannabis on depressive people, but also which kind of cannabinoid may have a positive effect on mood.”
Cannabinoids are a class of molecules found in cannabis, which include THC and CBD. Over 60 different cannabinoids have been identified in marijuana, making it difficult to determine the drug’s overall effect on depression.
Higher Rates of Depression
While medical literature suggests that cannabis can improve mood, studies involving recreational users often show that people who use cannabis are more depressed, says Walsh.
“What those studies have noted is that they can’t really determine what comes first,” he explains. In other words: “Does cannabis cause depression? Do depressed people try to use cannabis to help with depression? Those are questions that are out there.”
An important factor in the answer could be the age of the person consuming cannabis.
According to research conducted by Dr. Gobbi in 2009, daily use of marijuana can cause depression and anxiety in teens.
“Cannabis, when consumed by adolescents, induces depression and anxiety later in adulthood, even if the people did not have any susceptibility for these mental diseases,” she says.
Cannabis vs. Antidepressants
While researchers can’t completely confirm if marijuana is effective for treating depression, Walsh points out that other medicines fall into the same problem.
He says that in some cases, typical antidepressants are no more effective than a placebo and have side effects that may be more severe than those of marijuana.
Dr. Gobbi explains that in order to declare a drug effective for a certain disease, it must go through different stages of clinical trials, which marijuana has not.
“If we want to take a rational approach about medicinal cannabis, we should go through systematic clinical studies and finally determine its efficacy in treating specific diseases and its safety compared to standard antidepressants,” she says.
Walsh agrees that further research should compare cannabis to commonly used antidepressants. “Then I think people can make the choice,” he concludes.
Behind strain names like Charlotte’s Web and Haleigh’s Hope are stories of children whose epileptic seizures were dramatically reduced through medical cannabis. But while evidence so far has been anecdotal, doctors this week are presenting the first scientific studies to back them up.
At the American Epilepsy Society meeting in Philadelphia, researchers are unveiling the results of trials testing the safety and efficacy of cannabidiol. The findings are largely promising. In the biggest study, the number of seizures went down by about half, on average, among children who completed the trial. Benefits for some continued even after the study was over.
“In the subsequent periods, which are very encouraging, 9 percent of all patients and 13 percent of those with Dravet Syndrome epilepsy were seizure-free,” Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the study’s lead author and a neurologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, told NPR. “Many have never been seizure-free before.”
The data represent a significant step forward in legitimizing use of cannabis to treat epilepsy, a syndrome that in both children and adults causes debilitating seizures and can be especially difficult to treat. Patients sometimes exhaust traditional anti-seizure medications to no effect.
Despite the findings of CBD’s potential benefit in epilepsy treatment, the study results weren’t all good. In Devinsky’s three-month trial, 16 percent of participants withdrew due to adverse side effects or after deciding the treatment was ineffective. And in a yearlong study of 25 patients, one participant actually experienced more frequent seizures.
Participants in the studies didn’t smoke or vaporize cannabis flowers or concentrates. Rather, they consumed cannabidiol in the form of daily doses of purified extracts that had been derived from cannabis plants.
Parents across the country have turned to high-CBD strains after hearing about their sometimes life-changing benefits. Charlotte’s Web, for example, was developed in 2011 and popularized after it was used successfully to treat epileptic seizures in a Colorado girl, Charlotte Figi. While Figi’s story has encouraged lawmakers in some states to loosen regulations on high-CBD strains, many desperate parents still obtain the drug illegally. And because of a lack of scientific evidence to justify their decision, they often face stigma — not to mention the risk of jail time — for giving their children cannabis.
Until recently, clinical trials involving cannabis have been almost nonexistent. As a federally controlled substance, the drug has been impossible to study except with government approval. But as legalization spreads, information about the efficacy of cannabis in treating various ailments will likely become ever more available.
If you’re not familiar with Charlotte’s Web, watch this video about Charlotte Figi and her family:
Will 2015 be remembered as the year legal marijuana first encountered — and eventually figured out — its pesticide problem?
The national conversation surrounding pesticide application on cannabis blew up this year. The hot topic has made headlines in Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, California and elsewhere — but nowhere was the conversation more heated and involved than in Colorado, the first U.S. state to start selling legal cannabis.
It began after more than 100,000 plants were put on hold because of pesticide concerns. Inspections were stepped-up in cultivation facilities. A lot of questions were asked — but not a lot of them had answers. The industry reacted to the changing landscape — but the industry also flexed its political muscle in an effort to delay state and city efforts to enact pesticide regulations.
My colleagues and I at The Denver Post and The Cannabist commissioned independent tests on marijuana concentrates, and the results — which showed high levels of banned pesticides in one popular brand, Mahatma — spurred a Denver Department of Environmental Health investigation thatrecalled Mahatma products, and now many others.
The pesticides-and-pot conversations in Colorado served as a gateway to other related issues. The Post learned that Colorado’s attorney general was investigating several marijuana businesses overconcerns the word “organic” in their names or advertising might be misleading to consumers. Colorado’s former agriculture commissioner said the marijuana industry “was the biggest obstacle we had” in devising any effective pesticide regulation. And more than two months after their first pot recall, Denver health officials started requiring marijuana companies that recall products tainted with unapproved pesticides to use their websites and social media accounts to alert consumers, who weren’t returning many of the recalled products, The Post learned.
Even though no sicknesses have yet been attributed to the use of these banned pesticides, a pair of marijuana users in Colorado — one of them a medical-card holder with a brain tumor — have sued the state’s largest pot grower for allegedly using a potentially dangerous pesticide on the pot they later purchased. The state proposed new rules that would further restrict which pesticides can be used to grow marijuana. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order telling state agencies that any marijuana grown with unapproved pesticides is a threat to public safety and should be removed from commerce and destroyed. TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agency put the onus on the makers of pesticides to prove their safety.
And meanwhile, the recalls of marijuana and pot products keep rolling. Because each recall of pesticide-tainted cannabis involves long lists of items associated with often-lengthy batch numbers, The Cannabist has compiled all of the available information in one place for readers concerned about the purity of their pot. So below you’ll find our reporting on each recall — as well as the city of Denver’s press releases on the recalls, which contain exact information to help users identify any tainted pot and cannabis products they might have.
Do you have pesticide-peppered pot in your stash? Find out now — and we will keep this list updated.
Colorado cannabis Tours llena rutinariamente sus autobuses. Los pasajeros pueden elegir una clase de cocina, una demostración de soplado de vidrio, o una visita a un centro de cultivo.
Los asientos llenos, el pequeño autobús turístico circula por las concurridas calles de Denver, exponiendo a sus pasajeros una demostración de soplado de vidrio. O también pueden elegir una clase de pintura, clase de cocina o visitar una granja de cultivo
Este autobús es una fiesta llena de humo y de gente feliz, huele a una residencia de estudiantes de arte. El soplador de vidrio tatuado elabora bongs y pipas de alto precio. La clase de cocina es para gourmets que quieren dar sabor a su cocina con marihuana. La creatividad de los pintores se agudiza por el cannabis. Y la granja de cultivo es de 40 000 pies cuadrados con una gran”facilidad de cultivo” y de uno de los principales productores de cannabis de Colorado.
Es la siguiente fase incipiente del cannabis legalizado: el turismo de marihuana. Y está alcanzando nuevos máximos en Colorado, en el Estado de Washington y en el de Oregon, con viajeros procedentes de estados que se frustrado la legalización y de otros por la lentitud con la que el movimiento de la legalización de la marihuana trabaja.
“Es una locura cómo muchas personas vienen aquí para esto”, dijo Heidi Keyes, un artista que dirige el Puff, Pass, y la clase de pintura para Colorado cannabis Tours, y que ahora se está expandiendo en Washington y Oregón.
La versión a la gira de degustación de vinos del siglo XXI, el turismo de marihuana proporciona una forma para que los empresarios capitalicen la marihuana legalizada sin la molestia de las regulaciones que controlan el cultivo y la venta de la misma directamente (y no por casualidad, llegan realmente nombres ingeniosos para los negocios).
Eso incluye el transporte (el Cannabus, Seattle; Mary Jane Tours, Telluride), alojamiento (the Bud and Breakfast; the Wake & Bakery Inn, both in Denver), guías personales (Colorado Cannabis Concierge), y las ferias y festivales (la Copa Cannabis , Portland, Ore., y en otros lugares). Ski Buds Shuttle Service amenizará su paseo a las pistas en Vail, incluyen recogida en el aeropuerto que le llevará desde su vuelo a Denver a una tienda de marihuana al por menor antes de que esté incluso vaya a su hotel. También hay planes en Colorado para un estilo de bodega “weederies” con tiendas de regalos y restaurantes, y un complejo de estilo de campamento de cannabis programado para abrir el próximo año.
“Para alguien que, digamos, veinteañero que disfruta del cannabis, la idea de que puede ir a un lugar donde puedan consumir legalmente y no verse tratado como un criminal por hacer algo que es demostrablemente menos peligroso que el consumo de alcohol, es atractivo “, dijo Kris Krane, un defensor de la legalización y socio gerente con sede en Boston de 4Front Advisors, una empresa de consultoría que trabaja con las empresas relacionadas con la marihuana.
La venta de la marihuana con fines recreativos es ahora legal en Colorado, Washington y Oregón, y está previsto que comience en el 2016 en Alaska. (Un referéndum para legalizar el uso recreativo y venta de marihuana será en Massachusetts en el 2016, y los posibles beneficios del turismo son algunos de los argumentos de los partidarios que están a favor de ella.)
Unos $ 700 millones en marihuana se vendieron en Colorado el año pasado, y Oregon predice sobre $ 257 millones en ventas este año. Los defensores dicen que el turismo de marihuana ayudó a elaborar el récord de 15,4 millones de visitantes y $ 4.6 mil millones en Denver solo el año pasado.
“Estas son las nuevas Ámsterdam del mundo”, dijo Eli Bilton, propietario de Attis Trading Co., un dispensario de marihuana en Portland, que también está empezando una empresa turística y busca lugares para abrir una “420-Este bed-and-breakfast” . Y mientras que el negocio apenas está comenzando allí, la marihuana recreativa se hizo legal en Oregon el 01 de octubre – “Ya estamos viendo un montón de forasteros”, dijo Bilton.
Las restricciones tales como la prohibición en Colorado en publicidad interestatal son entre muchos obstáculos enfrentados para esta industria naciente. ¿Otro? Las leyes, la que dicen que mientras que los visitantes pueden comprar las marihuana, no pueden fumar en sus hoteles.
Fiel a su estilo, astutos han descubierto maneras de evitar la norma: Encuentran alojamiento en 420-amigables en Airbnb o a través de empresas como Colorado cannabis Tours, que Keyes dijo haber reservado 1.700 habitaciones en hoteles amistosos con el cannabis solo entre julio y septiembre.
La gente que viene desafiando los estereotipos, dijeron los operadores de viaje. “Es por todo el lugar”, dijo Keyes. “Los profesionales de negocios, parejas de 35 a 55 años. Tuvimos una chica de 20 años que vino con sus abuelos, que eran de 80 años.”
El noventa por ciento de los pasajeros en el Cannabus de Seattle son de fuera del estado, dijo el director de marketing deNate Johnson. “Tenemos un montón de gente de Boston y Nueva York.” Y mientras que los funcionarios debaten si se debe permitir cafeterías o salones del estilo Ámsterdam, donde la gente sería capaz de fumar libremente, el Cannabus transporta a sus pasajeros a un cultivo y a continuación a un dispensario de venta donde se pueden degustar diferentes cepas y comestibles, y luego a un “punto de visión” que domina la ciudad, donde se puede disfrutar de lo que Johnson llama “el punto más alto.” Luego los lleva a un restaurante.
“Mucha gente no quiere el dolor de cabeza de tomar un taxi y no saber a dónde ir”, dijo Johnson.”Tomamos el dolor de eso, y te llevamos a algún lugar si tienes el deseo de picar.”
Eso aún es mejor que una ruta del vino, dijo Keyes, quien realizó una gira de vino una vez en la que recuerda a alguien vomitando en el autobús. “Eso no ocurre con la marihuana. La gente está en calma, se están riendo, están teniendo un buen momento “.
Boosters dice que el turismo de la marihuana está ayudando por el hecho de que la mayoría de los lugares en los que la marihuana es legal también tienen otra empates – senderismo y esquí en Colorado, la pesca en Washington y Oregon.
“Las personas atraídas por actividades al aire libre tienden a ser un poco más atraídas por cannabis en general”, dijo Krane. “Si el cannabis se legaliza de repente en el centro de Siberia, es probable que se vea un gran repunte en el turismo.” Estados incluyendo Colorado se jactan de tener “un montón de actividades hermosas que realizar: la montaña, la nieve, el senderismo, el centro de Denver, y ahora se agrega a esto la oportunidad de probar todo este nuevo entorno de la marihuana recreativa “, dijo Chris Carroll, co-propietario de de Denver 2 Chicas Tours, que también ofrece tours de marihuana y cuya Wake and Bakery Inn está programado para abrir en abril .
Los defensores dicen que también hay algo de aventura al visitar los turistas las operaciones de cultivo una vez que sólo lo han visto en las noticias y en las películas de narcos.
“La gente que va a una bodega quieren ver cómo se hace el vino y los que vienen quiere conocer la forma natural del cannabis también “, dijo Krane. “A esto se añade el hecho de que esta es una industria que ha sido ilegal durante tanto tiempo, que ha estado en las sombras y en espacios de almacenes y garajes ocultos. Esto no es algo donde a la gente se le ha invitado para ver el proceso. Y ahora tienen la oportunidad de verlo de una manera que era completamente imposible de ver hasta ahora “.
While some people say we should wait and see, and others are saying now’s the time or it should already have happened, one thing is clear: There will be a debate on marijuana legalization during the upcoming legislative session.
It was during the last legislative session that Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, introduced a bill to allow the possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana. Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, introduced a parallel bill in the House that mirrors Zuckerman’s proposed legislation.
Both bills followed a state-commissioned study from the Rand Corporation that did not make any recommendations, but studied the potential impacts — from financial to health — of Vermont being the first state east of the Mississippi River to legalize marijuana, and the first state to ever legalize it through the legislative process rather than by a ballot initiative.
Zuckerman’s bill is actually one of 10 marijuana-related bills currently pending before lawmakers during the second half of the legislative biennium, with topics ranging from taxation and law enforcement to expansion of the state’s current medical marijuana laws and the packaging of edible marijuana products.
Motivations for legalization vary greatly among supporters, from those who see it as a civil liberties issue — what you do with your body is your own business — to the hypocrisy of alcohol being legal while marijuana is not. For others, the motivation is financial.
The Rand study projects that Vermont could collect anywhere from $20 million to $70 million annually from the taxation of marijuana, an attractive proposition as the state is looking at a projected $66 million budget shortfall. The bills from Zuckerman and Pearson outline how taxation might work.
Both bills call for an excise tax of $40 an ounce on processed marijuana, $15 an ounce for any other type of marijuana and $25 for each immature plant sold by a cultivator.
Rather than go directly into the state’s General Fund, the money raised from the taxes would support public initiatives to educate the public on the hazards of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, criminal justice and substance abuse programs, law enforcement, and medical research on marijuana.
Exactly how much the state would stand to gain is anyone’s guess, with the Rand study saying Vermont would take in more revenue if it were the first state in the northeast to go the legalization route, an acknowledgment that legal marijuana would be a significant draw for many of the tens of millions of people who live within a day’s drive of Vermont.
During its 2015 fiscal year that ended in June, Colorado — which does not have the population density in adjacent states that Vermont has — collected $70 million in marijuana taxes.
Interstate trafficking is one of the issues raised in guidelines to states with legal marijuana from the U.S. Justice Department, which still considers it to be illegal. At the state level, lawmakers are looking to address a different kind of law enforcement issue: stoned driving.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, has introduced legislation that would task the state’s Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety to establish standards to determine what constitutes impairment.
Currently, the Vermont State Police, for example, employ what they refer to as “drug recognition experts,” who make subjective judgments on the side of the road to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. One lawmaker would like to create a more concrete test.
Rep. David Potter, D-West Rutland, is the sponsor of a bill that require drivers suspected of driving under the influence to submit to a saliva test. Current law states that a driver who travels Vermont’s roads has given consent to submit to a breath test, and the proposed legislation would expand that implied consent to include a saliva test.
The bill would make driving with any level of any drug in one’s system a crime; individuals with a prescription for a drug could use that prescription as an affirmative defense. A defendant would also have the right to have the saliva sample tested by an independent laboratory for analysis.
In 2004, the Legislature gave its consent for the therapeutic use of marijuana, and is today one of 23 states — plus the District of Columbia — to allow the practice.
However, Vermont has some of the highest thresholds to qualify for medical use, restricting prescriptions to people who suffer from what the law refers to as “debilitating medical conditions” such as AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis. The patient must also be under the care of the prescribing doctor for at least six months prior to receiving a prescription.
Rep. James Masland, D-Thetford, has introduced a bill that would add the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that would allow a patient to receive a medical marijuana prescription.
Masland is also the co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, which would similarly add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying diagnosis to receive medical marijuana. Additionally, however, Till’s bill would waive the requirement for a patient to be under the care of the prescribing doctor for six months provided the patient is a military veteran who has received a diagnosis of PTSD from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Early conversation on marijuana legalization has taken up a fair amount of time on a relatively minor facet of the issue, and that is how to address marijuana-infused edible products. Scattered press reports from Colorado tell stories of people either ingesting too much for their own comfort, or unknowingly eating an edible that resembles something as benign as a cookie or cupcake.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, has introduced a bill that would require edible or potable marijuana products for sale to be contained in single dose, child-resistant packaging and be labeled with the amount of THC — the active chemical in marijuana — in each dose.
Lawmakers will return to Montpelier for the 2016 session on Jan. 5.
It’s been a solid year for tabloid-driven drug scares.
First came the panic over the impact super-strength skunk has on mental health. Then it shifted to synthetic legal high Spice, which led to several high-profile hospital admissions (mostly of students) before there were moves to have the synthetic cannabinoid outlawed.
Next up for scaremongering is likely to be ‘dabbing’, a form of smoking a powerful cannabis oil.
Dabbing involves heating concentrated Butane Hash Oil (BHO) – also known as dabs, honey oil, wax, shatter and budder – and inhaling it through a glass pipe or bong. It’s a process that has led to dabbing being dubbed ‘cannabis crack’.
“Dabbing means people can enjoy cannabis without mixing it with tobacco. From a public health perspective that is potentially a real game changer”
Even seasoned smokers are surprised by the strength. Street cannabis has around a 15 per cent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. A dab has up to 90 per cent. It’s been said if a regular joint is like having a pint, a dab is the equivalent of downing a quarter of vodka.
Despite the potency experts say dabbing could be a “game changing” way of getting stoned – because it’s healthier than smoking cannabis with its traditional mix of tobacco.
Dr Adam Winstock who helps produce the Global Drugs Survey told Loaded, “Dabbing could be the thing that means people can enjoy cannabis without mixing it with tobacco. From a public health perspective, that’s potentially a real game changer.”
Dabs can also be rubbed into the skin, gums, or even turned into a suppository, if shoving cannabis up your tunnel is how you like to get on one.
BHO can also be adapted into an odourless form for subtle use in the booming number of e-cigs being sucked.
Dr Winstock added there are still downsides.
“The risks attached – memory loss, paranoia and dependence – are massively escalated with vast amounts of THC,” he said.
Dabbing is most prolific in the US but Dr Winstock stressed how easy it was to smuggle cannabis oil into other countries.
Dr Winstock said, “Clearly, there is a difference between shipping a soap-bar sized piece of cannabis resin and a marble-sized ball of BHO.”
It’s doubtful tabloids will spin dabbing with the same measured consideration as Dr Winstock. In short, dabbing: a scare coming soon to a tabloid near you.
The 2016 Global Drugs Survey is set to carry out the biggest study of BHO ever undertaken. Have your say as a part of it here.