Cannabis Culture

POLITICS

Mexico Legalizes Medical Marijuana

A decree issued by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto today confirmed that Mexico has legalized cannabis for medicinal use after overwhelming support from Mexico’s Lower House of Congress. Peña Nieto was once a vehement opponent of cannabis legalization, but has since called for a re-examination of global drug policy after a nationwide public debate on legalization in early 2016. “So far, the solutions [to control drugs and crime] implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient,” Peña Nieto told the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions in April 2016. “We must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention.”

Last year, Peña Nieto even went so far as to introduce a measure that would allow Mexican citizens to possess up to an ounce of cannabis without repercussions, but the bill stalled in Congress. The medical marijuana bill sailed through the Senate with ease in December 2016, and Mexico’s lower house in parliament passed the bill in April with a vote of 347-7 in favor of approval. Mexico’s Secretary of Health, Dr. José Narro Robles, voiced his support for the measure, saying, “I welcome the approval of the therapeutic use of cannabis in Mexico.”

The decree was issued by the president today and specifies that the Ministry of Health will be tasked with drafting and implementing the regulations of “public policies regulating the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol, its isomers and stereochemical variants, as well as how to regulate the research and national production of them.” Peña Nieto’s decree effectively eliminates the criminalization of the medicinal use of cannabis, THC, CBD, and all cannabis derivatives, as well as legalizing the production and distribution of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic uses.

“The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes,” stated the Lower House of Parliament, known as La Cámara de Diputados.

Currently, the only cannabis that will be permitted must contain 1% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, and the Ministry of Health will be required to study the medicinal and therapeutic effects of cannabis before creating the framework for a medical marijuana program infrastructure.

There will certainly still be hurdles to overcome on the bumpy road to medical marijuana, but Mexico just surpassed the biggest obstacle so far.

STRAINS & PRODUCTS

What Are the Strongest Cannabis Strains

The strongest strains are obviously those with the highest THC content. Generally speaking, anything that surpasses 20 percent could be considered pretty potent. However, let’s say one grower’s harvest of Kosher Kush tested at 22 percent THC. Due to differences in environmental conditions, growing techniques, and genetic phenotypes, another grower’s Kosher Kush could come out wildly below the mark and test at, let’s say, 15 percent.


Even with this variability, there are strains that tend to express higher levels of THC thanks to strong genetics and selective breeding. Let’s take a look at some of the champion THC heavyweights that have earned awards for their potency as well as some user reviews that testify to their strength.


Girl Scout Cookies hauled its way up the ladder of fame in recent years, and it isn’t hard to see why. The genetics in this hybrid are strong: according to Steep Hill’s lab data, Girl Scout Cookies typically tests upwards to 28 percent THC, and even the low end of its average is a decently impressive 17 percent. The Girl Scout Cookies experience begins with a crushing wave of blissful euphoria, one that enshrouds both mind and body with warm relaxation for hours.

Kosher Kush first blessed the world with its presence in 2010 and has been nabbing Cannabis Cup awards ever since. Its genetic background may be a mystery, but this indica’s keepers at DNA Genetics have refined a champion strain that consistently breaches 20 percent THC. Wrapped in a thick blanket of crystalline resin, you’ll hardly need a closer look to see that this tranquilizing indica is not one for the novices.


Bruce Banner, appropriately named after the Hulk’s alter ego, is a heavy-duty hybrid with a THC high-water mark of almost 29 percent. Rated the strongest strain in 2014 by High Times following its victory in the 2013 Denver Cannabis Cup, Bruce Banner has since carved itself quite the reputation. Powered by OG Kush and Strawberry Diesel genetics, Bruce Banner delivers a dizzying punch of euphoria that anchors your body in deep relaxation.


In the last few years, the Cannabis Cup leaderboards saw a new rising star: the lively and vigorous sativa known as Ghost Train Haze. Bred by Rare Dankness Seeds, Ghost Train Haze had the highest THC content of any 2011 Cannabis Cup submissions, weighing in at a staggering 25.5 percent THC. Inheriting genetics from Ghost OG and Neville’s Wreck, this sativa’s potency takes form in a jolt of euphoric energy that goes straight to the head, feeding focus and creativity.


Gorilla Glue is named for the stickiness of its resinous buds, and this hybrid certainly lives up to her name. It isn’t rare for Gorilla Glue to hit the mid- to upper-twenties in a potency analysis, and she’s got multiple Cannabis Cup awards to back that claim up. But we doubt you’ll need the proof when this hybrid’s got you gorilla-glued to the couch in stupefied contentment.


What smells like a bushel of fresh strawberries and has a THC content that’ll make even the most seasoned veteran cough? It’s Strawberry Cough, winner of numerous Cannabis Cups and the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts around the world. The story goes that Kyle Kushman inherited a really sad-looking mystery clone from a friend’s garden and polished it into the sweet-smelling THC engine that now boasts heights of 25 to 26 percent.


Named for the whiteout of crystal resin cloaking her buds, The White has become a godsend for breeders looking to improve the potency of their genetics. Routinely testing between 20 and 28 percent THC, The White delivers a disorienting blizzard of euphoric delirium that commands relaxation.


With a THC profile that typically dances between 20 and 24 percent, Death Star will surely wreak as much havoc as the Galactic Empire. Using its great psychoactive forces, this Sensi Star and Sour Diesel hybrid commands you to chill out as it imposes powerfully euphoric and sedating effects.


A Barney’s Farm creation, Red Dragon is another familiar name among Cannabis Cup winners. Fiery red hairs shoot out from resin-packed buds, giving this strain a fierce dragon-like appearance. Accurately so, because this strain’s path of destruction entails an intoxicating cerebral blast that’ll knock bad moods and stress (and possibly common sense) right out.


Born from The White and Fire OG, White Fire OG (also known as WiFi OG) is a force not to be trifled with. Steep Hill’s testing data shows the impressive THC potential of this hybrid, with average levels falling between 22 and 30 percent. Its uplifting effects launch your mood into the clouds, an elevated feeling that will shake creativity and happiness wide awake.


Which other heavy-handed strains belong on this list? Tell us about them in the comments section!

CANNABIS 101

What Is Dabbing and How Do Dabs Work?

If you’re involved with cannabis at all, whether recreationally, medically, or from a business standpoint, then you either know about or have probably heard of “dabbing.” Smoking dabs as a method of consumption has been around for at least a decade, but the advent of more advanced extraction methods have led to a flood of cannabis concentrates that have boosted dabbing’s popularity.


A dab usually refers to a dose of concentrate that is heated on a hot surface, usually a nail, and then inhaled through a dab rig. It doesn’t sound so controversial in those terms, but dabbing has become somewhat of a dividing point within the community both because of the intense high that it produces and for the image that it presents to outsiders.


While there are valid concerns to be addressed about the safety of the production and potency of popular concentrates, this new trend isn’t all bad. Here’s the breakdown on the issues surrounding dabs and how it might actually be a good thing for the legalization movement.

What are Dabs and How are They Made?


Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in sticky oils also commonly referred to as wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil (BHO). While it’s possible to extract non-psychoactive compounds like CBD, THC is what’s behind the potent effects of dabs, making them the fastest and most efficient way to get really, really medicated. Terpenes, or the aromatic oils that give cannabis flavor, can also be extracted, although it can be difficult to preserve these volatile compounds in the extraction process.


What are the Perceived Dangers of Dabbing?


Let’s start with the bad news first: dabbing can be dangerous. Actually, it’s the extraction that can be dangerous.The process can be tricky, but thanks to online forums and videos, many amateur “scientists” think they have mastered the technique enough to try it on their own. In cases when things go well, the product is probably still pretty poor. When things go bad, houses blow up. A few explosions by ignorant DIYers and suddenly cannabis is being talked about in the same cautionary terms as meth. That’s not good.


Additionally, the actual process of dabbing can look quite scary. Glass bongs and oddly-named substances being heated with blow torches have led to the comparison that dabs are the “crack” of pot. It’s not that BHO has any similarity to these harsher drugs, but to the uninitiated, unless it’s a baked Alaska or a creme brulee, lighting something with a torch never looks tasteful. While this is a matter of choice for most consumers, there are fears that dabbing’s ugly looks may hurt the legalization movement.


Another side effect of these home extraction experiments is “dirty” oil that may contain chemical contaminants that could present health hazards to consumers. If the concern is butane, the dangers are most likely minimal since it already occurs in everyday products such as scent and flavor extracts. Whether or not the equipment used in the extraction process is adding additional contaminants is a more viable issue. When done correctly, these extras can be avoided, so as is the case with growing cannabis, it’s best to leave it to those who know what they’re doing.


One of the most unsettling facts about dabs is that thanks to the super-concentrated power of BHO, for the first time it seems possible to “overdose” on cannabis. While still not lethal, taking more than your personal limit of dabs can lead to uncomfortable highs and, in some cases, passing out. After all of the chanting that “you can’t overdose on marijuana,” concentrates could be undermining advocates’ message of safety. There have also been reports of more intense withdrawal symptoms for dabbers, but again, the information is limited.


What are the Medical Benefits of Dabbing?


The biggest positive of concentrates are that they give a powerful dose of medicine to those who truly need it. Patients dealing with severe or chronic pain or extreme nausea report that dabbing can be one of the best ways to get immediate and effective relief. The amount of flowers that would have to be smoked or vaporized to get the same effect is just unfeasible for some patients who need potent medicine quickly.


Yes, the safety issues associated with making extracts are real, but they can be easily controlled in a professional environment. Professional extractors eschew the dangerous “open” extraction method that can be done at home and instead choose closed extraction, which is safer but requires more sophisticated equipment. Also, there are other extraction methods, such as CO2 or ice-water extraction, that are safer and reduce or remove the possibility of explosions.


The relationship between concentrates and technology is symbiotic with the product in need of more research and testing that labs are excitedly advancing technology to meet. Because the industry is expanding and more and more producers are improving and upgrading their methods, it seems most likely that these homemade disasters will remain anomalies. As more places that can legally sell concentrates emerge, there will be less of a need to make your own (though intrepid home chemists will probably still exist). Technology is also probably going to lead to less dabbing in the future, anyway. Improvements in vaporizers mean that more people are using these “no-torch necessary” products to heat their oils. Conveniently, this is the most publicity-friendly path for concentrates to go.


One of the more surprising side effects of the dabbing trend is that it has created an interest in activism in the community’s younger members. Industry events such as the Cannabis Cup, which used to focus on flowers, have also become proving grounds for the best concentrates and extraction experts. Most popular among consumers in their twenties, dabs are under the same legislative crackdown as other forms of cannabis, and more activists are starting to get involved.


While dabbing may be going through its awkward phase, overall, concentrates have much to offer patients and cannabis consumers in the future, and dabs are just one option among many.

CANNABIS 101

Ways to Counteract a Too-Intense Cannabis High

Any cannabis consumer can tell you that if there’s one feeling no one enjoys, it’s the moment when you realize, “I’m too high.” Maybe the edible kicked in three hours late. Perhaps you tried to impress a group of friends by breathing in a little bit too deeply. You might have just tried concentrates for the first time and were caught off-guard by their potency. Or maybe you are just a low tolerance consumer. There are a thousand ways it can happen, but once it does, the resulting experience can be uncomfortable and enough to turn off even the most seasoned cannabis lover.


Fear not! Most of us have experienced the unpleasantness that can come with overwhelming cannabis effects. Thankfully, there are ways to help come back down when you feel too high, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable from excessive cannabis consumption.


Tips on How to Stop Being So High

1. Don’t Panic
Lotus Pose.


Let us start with the infinite wisdom of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:


DON’T PANIC. YOU ARE FINE AND EVERYTHING IS OKAY.


Most symptoms of “greening out” (imbibing too much cannabis) will dissipate within minutes to hours, with no lasting effects beyond a little grogginess. Give it some time and these feelings will eventually past, trust us.


Also, contrary to what you may have heard, there have been zero reported cannabis overdose deaths in the history of ever, so despite how freaked out you may feel or how sweaty you get, you won’t expire from excess consumption. (Don’t take that on as a challenge, just keep in mind that if you accidentally overdo it, you’ll be okay in a while.)

2. Know Your Limits Before Consuming
Marijuana Pipe, grinder and nug.

If you can, try to prepare for your cannabis session according to your tolerance level. Consume with friends you know and are comfortable with, and don’t feel pressured to consume more than you can handle. It’s all well and good to make new friends, but being surrounded by strangers when you can’t feel your face is unpleasant at best and anxiety-ridden at worst.


Take it slow, especially when consuming edibles. We recommend trying a standard dose of 10 mg (or even 5 mg if you really want to ease into the experience) and waiting at least an hour, if not two, before increasing your edibles dosage. The same goes for inhalation methods – if you’re used to occasionally taking one hit off your personal vaporizer, we don’t advise sitting in a smoking circle puffing and passing for an hour.


3. Hydrate
Pitcher of water


Water, water, water — don’t forget to hydrate! Whether you prefer water or juice, make sure you have a nice, cold beverage on hand (preferably non-caffeinated). This will help you combat dry mouth and allow you to focus on a simple and familiar act – sipping and swallowing.


Keep in mind that by “hydrate,” we don’t mean “knock back a few alcoholic beverages.” If you’re feeling the effects of your strain a little too aggressively, stay away from alcohol as it can significantly increase THC blood concentrations.


4. Keep Some Black Pepper on Hand
Black peppercorns


If you find yourself combating paranoia and anxiety, a simple household ingredient found in kitchens and restaurants everywhere can come to your rescue: black pepper. Many swear by the black pepper trick, even Neil Young! Just sniff or chew on a few black peppercorns and it should provide almost instantaneous relief.


5. Keep Calm and Rest
Tired woman taking a nap in a bed.


Find a calm, quiet place where you can rest and breathe deeply. Remember, the intense discomfort you’re feeling will pass. Take deep full breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breath and just rest a while.


Sometimes sleeping it off can be the best alternative to stopping a strong high, but it’s not always easy to turn your brain off. Once you’ve found a quiet area, lay down and let yourself relax. If drowsiness and sleep are quick to onset, take a little nap to rejuvenate yourself. Should you be unable to fall asleep, just get comfortable until you feel strong enough to spring back up.

6. Try Going for a Walk
Running feet

If you can’t turn your brain off, sometimes a change of scenery and some fresh air to get your blood pumping will help invigorate you. Just remember to stay close to your immediate surroundings — we don’t want you wandering off and getting lost while you’re feeling anxious and paranoid! And refrain from taking a walk if you’re feeling too woozy or light-headed to stand; instead, we recommend going back to Option #5 and laying down for a while.


7. Take a Shower or Bath
Stack of folded white spa towels over blurred bathroom background


While it’s not always feasible if you’re out and about or at a friend’s house, if you’re at home, try taking a nice shower or bath as a really pleasant option to help you relax.


8. Distract Yourself!
Record playing


All of the activities that seem so entertaining and fun while high are also a great way to distract yourself while you try to come back down to Earth. Some suggestions include:


Watch a funny cartoon
Listen to your favorite album
Play a fun video game
Talk to your friends (who are hopefully right by your side, reassuring you)
Snuggle with your significant other
Try coloring as a calming activity (seriously, adult coloring books are becoming all the rage lately)
Eat something delicious
Whatever distractions you prefer, make sure it’s a familiar activity that gives you warm fuzzy emotions. Your brain will hopefully zone in on the positive feelings and give you a gentle reminder that you are safe and just fine.

Bonus Tip: Try Some CBD
CBD oil/extracts


CBD is an excellent anxiety-fighting compound, and for many people it can be used to counteract too much THC. Check out our article about how CBD’s anti-anxiety mechanisms work by modulating the receptor signaling associated with THC.


If all of these suggestions fail and you find that you are still feeling alarmingly uncomfortable, you can always seek medical attention and tell a doctor or nurse that you are having a cannabis-induced anxiety attack. This option is always available, even in states where cannabis is illegal. From a medical perspective, physicians have your best interest in mind and want to do all they can to make sure you’re okay, even if it’s helping you come down when you’re too stoned.


Hopefully, however, the above suggestions were just what you needed to counteract and hopefully stop that too-intense cannabis high. (Or, if none of these work, you could always follow Snoop Dogg’s advice and “put ur face in mayonnaise.”)


How do you stop being high and come down from overwhelming cannabis effects? Share your tips in the comments section!

HEALTH

How to Talk to Your Doctor or Health Care Provider About Cannabis

While medical cannabis has had a rocky history for the past century, as more people are becoming comfortable with it, each year more places have been legalizing cannabis for medical use. It can be difficult, however, to navigate all of the information out there. So, how do you know that medical cannabis is right for you? The first step is to ask your doctor. It is only through close work with your healthcare provider that you can decide whether or not cannabis will be helpful to you.


We know that talking about medical cannabis can be intimidating and confusing. Our goal is to remove the stigma surrounding this industry and empower patients to ask the right questions so they can get the treatment they need. Here's a list of questions you can ask your healthcare provider to determine if medical cannabis is an option for you and, if so, what your next steps should be. These basic questions will help start the conversation between you and your healthcare provider. However, it may also be beneficial to write down a few questions that are specific to you and your medical history. Use this conversation as a way to debunk myths about cannabis use and figure out the facts.

What are the health risks associated with cannabis use?
What types of ailments can be treated with cannabis? Does cannabis seem like a good option for my ailments?
What is your suggested cannabis consumption method? Should I smoke it, use medibles, or what about vaporizers?
Does medicinal cannabis seem like a good option for my lifestyle?
Where can I find more information on medicinal cannabis?
Will I be able to perform my everyday duties while using medicinal cannabis?
As a parent, will I be able to use my medicinal cannabis around my children?
How do I stay safe while using medicinal cannabis?
Will cannabis interact with my other medications?

If you do some research before you meet with your doctor, you can ask specific questions and will be better prepared to have a thoughtful conversation with your healthcare provider.

TRAVEL

Can You Bring Cannabis Into National Parks?

The world’s first national park, Yellowstone has wowed visitors with its 3,500-sq. miles of wilderness and volcanic action since 1872. The setting is almost too perfect for nature-loving cannabis enthusiasts, with many vacationers undoubtedly tempted to sneak in some product and light up on a trail.


However, Yellowstone like other national parks, lies on federal ground, and with cannabis’s legality currently occupying a grey area between state and national laws, it’s important to not only understand what to expect when visiting national parks with cannabis, but also know your rights on federal land.


National Park Cannabis Policies: What You Need to Know


If you acquire a misdemeanor related to a cannabis charge on federal land, the federal government is still required to check in to ensure you're getting drug tested—even if you reside in a legal state.


To answer these questions, we got in touch with Alex Freeburg, a criminal defense attorney who represents people accused of smoking or possessing cannabis in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. If you think possession in parks is a non-issue, Freeburg would disagree—he’s had at least six cases this year alone, and that number will only balloon once the summer months get into full swing and the parks start to fill.


Freeburg clarifies that just because you’re in a sprawling forested area doesn’t mean you can sneak a puff and get off scot-free. Federal land goes by federal rules. “The feds have way more resources than the states do,” says Freeburg. “The feds are nationwide.” This means that if you acquire a misdemeanor related to a cannabis charge on federal land, the federal government is still required to check in with you in your home state to ensure you’re getting drug tested—even if you reside in a legal state.
“In my experience—in Wyoming—on a first defense pot charge, you can get on probation,” says Freeburg. “If they’re not from Wyoming no big deal, they go back to their home state and there’s no Wyoming probation officer, you know, to check up on you in California. But with the feds, there is.”


Instead of going about your life after dealing with legal issues in Wyoming, there’s still a big possibility that you may be obligated to provide urine samples for testing from back home—and if the tests come out positive for cannabis you may lose your probation, even for those surrounded by legal dispensaries in their state of residence.


Not only is probation a headache, you could be dealing with a cannabis charge for at least three to six months, as well as having to fork over some cash. Freeburg says, “Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our national parks and it gets three million visitors, so you’re looking at [about] $795 for a conviction [there], but that’s a ballpark number. At other parks, I believe it’s around $200.”


Three to six months may not sound like a huge deal in the long run, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and Freeburg has seen it all. He had a recent client who pleaded guilty for possession and went on probation, but when that client went back to his home state he ran into some unfortunate issues. “This is the only time I ever heard of this, but they forced him into a group home—he was from Georgia—for pleading guilty on a pot charge. He hired me to deal with all of this and they had him on probation for less than a gram of pot. He left the halfway house and got six months in jail—which is the max you can get. So, in the end, the way you can get jail time on these charges is if you violate probation. It’s an extreme story, but it has happened.”


There are myriad ways that cannabis cases can devolve for the worse, even when you think you’re good to go. According to Freeburg, the most common case occurs when a “person arrives late and finds out that all campsites are full, decides to sleep in the car, and takes a puff before sleeping. Then the ranger wakes them up to say ‘no sleeping in your car’ and smells the weed.” To avoid such a scenario, always check to make sure you have everything tucked away and under a tight lock before letting your guard down.


Play It Safe and Know Your Rights
Not wanting to see others go through the same ordeals as his clients, Freeburg outlines some helpful tips below for if you’re planning on visiting a national park such as Yellowstone:


You can say “no” if they ask to search your car.
If you’re camping and an officer wants to search your vehicle, demand a warrant. Say you’re not going anywhere.


If you’re going to consume, use vape pens and edibles. It’s all about minimizing smell.


Keep cannabis separate from your ID or insurance (e.g., not in the glove box).


Keep alcohol in the cooler and out of sight, too.
If you’re caught, don’t claim shared responsibility. If there is one joint and two people, and both people say it’s “shared,” you’re both getting the ticket. Let one person deal with it.


Don’t agree to probation if you’re not going to stop smoking.


We strongly recommend heeding Freeburg’s advice and always consuming cannabis in a safe, legal, and comfortable setting. While the trail to legalization is well on its way to being blazed, an unlucky run-in can still have a negative impact your life—and that’s not something any of us want to deal with.

FOOD

Once the munchies settle in after a long awaited smoke session, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what your taste buds are searching for. Maybe a bit of candy could quell a sweet-tooth…but no, suddenly that changes and you feel like something salty or sour. But, then that craving is gone…what about something savory?


It hits all of us at some point – the constantly changing craving before actual indulgence – and if you don’t happen to have a pint of rocky road ice cream on hand (the original ‘sweet yet savory’ king), then check out this list for the indecisive bellies that hit salty, sweet, and everything in between.

Popcorn Mix
One early evening my roommate stopped me in the kitchen, exclaiming “You have to try these!” She was holding up a bag of G.H. Cretor’s popcorn mix. The blend of sweet caramel and salty cheese felt like a match made in munchies heaven. Now, inevitably, this bag of delicious mix has a spot on the top shelf of my cabinet, ready for the next round of smoke-induced cravings.


Potato Chip Cookies


Brown Sugar Cookies
From the pages of Smitten Kitten comes the unique blend of salty potato chips and savory cookie dough to bring you the potato chip cookie. Though you may get funny looks while sprawling these ingredients across your countertops, remember what Smitten Kitten says: “They are wrong, the potato chips are right.” Don’t knock it ’til you try it, and we guarantee once you give these a shot, they’ll be a regular addition to any growing snack list.


Chocolate Covered Bacon


Chocolate covered bacon
What’s a list like this without the inclusion of everyone’s favorite breakfast side (or any time of the day side)? These chocolate-covered maple bacon slices will bring back childhood memories of early Saturday mornings punctuated with stacks of chocolate-chip pancakes smothered in rich maple syrup and piles of sizzling bacon.


Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potato Fries
If you’re like me and happen to have a mound of sweet potatoes that desperately need to be cooked, look no further than this simple sweet and spicy sweet potato recipe. These delectable fries will hit your munchies’ sweet spot while bringing in a little heat.


Peanut Butter S’mores


Homemade Gooey Marshmallow S'mores
While perusing dessert ideas one day I stumbled across this amazing recipe for peanut butter s’mores. Now, I do realize this is sweeter than the other taste elements, but the peanut butter tends to cut through all the sugar to provide a rich and savory experience as well. It’s an easy dish to assemble, and the s’mores are so good they may not last for more than a second.

MEDICAL

How Many Prescriptions Are Replaced by Cannabis?

Canada Study Explores an Answer
Bailey Rahn

In the US, we’ve seen a marked drop in opioid overdoses in legal states, prodding the question of whether patients are replacing their prescription medicines with cannabis. Recent survey data collected from patients enrolled in Canada’s MMPR program indicates this may be more than just a correlation.

Led by researchers Philippe Lucas and Zach Walsh, this investigation surveyed 271 patients purchasing medical cannabis from Canadian LP Tilray. Seeking to understand who is using medical marijuana and why, they discovered some staggering statistics pertaining to substitution–63% of respondents reported using cannabis in place of prescription medications.
Breaking down the results by drug classes, Lucas and Walsh found that:

  • 30% of respondents replaced opioids with cannabis
  • 16% replaced benzodiazepines
  • 12% replaced antidepressants

The reason? “Less adverse side effects,” said 39% of patients. Others responded that cannabis was safer (27%) and more effective in treating symptoms (16%).
“In light of the growing rate of morbidity and mortality associated with these prescription medications, cannabis could play a significant role in reducing the health burden of problematic prescription drug use,” the authors wrote.
Putting to rest concerns of cannabis dependence, the survey also established a strong tendency for recreational use to precede medicinal use, not the other way around as we see with many pharmaceutical medications. A transition from medical to recreational use was only reported by less than 3% of respondents, indicating a low risk potential.
The substitution effect reaches beyond just the medicine cabinet; cannabis also helped patients curb other types of substance use:
25% of respondents replaced alcohol with cannabis
12% of respondents replaced cigarettes/tobacco with cannabis
3% of respondents replaced illicit drugs with cannabis
Though widely supported by anecdotal evidence, this study is one of hopefully many to substantiate what patients have been experiencing for themselves when it comes to replacing other drugs and habits with cannabis. How might these statistics look in the US, where prescription medication use and abuse runs rampant? That’s a question for future research.

Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?

Jeremy Kossen
Given that 39.6% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, cancers affects nearly everyone. Chances are, someone close to you has battled cancer.
Oncologists, more than doctors in any other discipline within medicine, support the option of recommending cannabis as part of a treatment program for patients suffering from cancer. However, while the positive effects of using cannabis to alleviate cancer symptoms have been well documented, the U.S. government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug — high potential for abuse and no known medical use. Consequently, the federal government’s position on cannabis stifles much-needed research on cannabis as a “cure” for cancer.

Moreover, the federal government’s position has fueled massive misinformation about cannabis as a potential cure for cancer. On the one hand, the federal government officially claims cannabis has no medicinal value. On the other hand, many pseudoscience “cancer quacks” unethically exaggerate claims of cannabis as the ultimate cure for cancer providing unsubstantiated help to thousands of cancer patients.

So what is the truth?

What is a Cancer “Cure?”
On the question of cannabis as a cure, Dr. Abrams, a cannabis advocate and one of the leading oncologists and cancer researchers in the world, cautions on the use of the term “cure”: “Cure is a huge word in oncology. It usually implies that the patient has survived 5 years without evidence of their cancer. We are able to cure more cancers today than we were when I began my career as an oncologist. That has been through advances in diagnosis and treatment with conventional therapies.”
As a cancer and integrative medicine specialist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Mount Zion in San Francisco and an oncologist for more than three decades, Dr. Abrams observes:

“After 33 years of being an oncologist in San Francisco, I would guess that a large proportion of the patients I have treated have used cannabis. If cannabis definitively cured cancer, I would have expected that I would have a lot more survivors. That being said, what we do know is that cannabis is truly an amazing medicine for many cancer and treatment-related side effects — nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia.”
Dr. Abrams’ opinion reflects a consensus within the credible oncologist and cancer scientific community: there is no doubt that cannabis is effective at treating cancer-related symptoms and treatment-related side effects, but the jury is still out on whether cannabis can actually “cure” cancer.

If It’s on the Web, It Must Be True, Right?
Because cancer affects so many people, it’s natural to want confirmation that cannabis can, without question, cure cancer. The Web is rich with stories from people who claim cannabis, particularly “cannabis oil,” cured or reversed their cancer. When we asked Dr. Abrams why he thought there are so many anecdotal claims of cannabis curing people’s’ cancer, he cautioned:

“I note that many of the people who are very vocal about how cannabis oil cured their cancers seem to forget that they also received conventional therapies. If people really have used only cannabis oil and can truly document that they have cured their cancer (other than a skin cancer), they need to submit that data to the National Cancer Institute’s Office on Cancer Complementary and Alternative Therapy’s Best Case Scenario website so that evidence can be documented.”

Further, note that many of the numerous articles available that make declarative claims that cannabis cures cancer misrepresent studies, exaggerate claims, or omit key facts.
Cannabis Cancer Research Shows Promise, But We Need to Do More

As we search for anti-cancer treatments, the anti-cancer potential of cannabis has been examined in numerous scientific studies on cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids, resulting in promising leads. Significant research has demonstrated that cannabinoids may inhibit or stop the growth of cancers — including breast, brain, liver, pheochromocytoma, melanoma, leukemia, and other kinds of cancer — from spreading or growing. Moreover, cannabinoids have proven to promote apoptosis, the programmed death of tumor cells, while stopping angiogenesis, blood vessel production to the tumor. One study, conducted by Madrid’s Complutense University, showed that in one-third of rats treated, the injection of synthetic THC eliminated malignant brain tumors while extending life in another third.

Cannabis and Cancer

The research is promising, but thus far it has been limited to preclinical studies, which are studies of drugs or treatments in animals prior to being carried out in humans. While the preclinical research offers hope, before anyone can confidently claim that cannabis can provide a “cure,” clinical research needs to be done.
Further, because cancer describes a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth, it’s unlikely there will be a single “cure-all” cannabis remedy. Likewise, naturally-derived or synthetic cannabinoid agonists may be need to be combined with traditional chemotherapeutic regimens or supplemental alternative medicines.
In order for cannabis to find its way into routine clinical cancer treatment, rigorous pharmacological and clinical studies need to be done. And to accelerate this process, the federal government should lift the federal ban on medical cannabis.
Paradoxically, the federally-funded National Cancer Institute has warmed up to cannabis as a cancer treatment and has even quietly acknowledged that cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in preclinical studies. Nonetheless, the federal government has yet to make any significant strides to align their position with the scientific community and the overwhelming number of Americans.
With more and more states legalizing medical usage and the majority of Americans supporting medical cannabis, we can hope the federal government will finally modify its draconian prohibitory position and if indeed, cannabis can cure cancer, those suffering will no longer have to turn to questionable sources to learn how cannabis may help them.

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