First, Marijuana. Are ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Next?

In Oregon and Denver, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, activists are now pushing toward a psychedelic frontier: “magic mushrooms.”

Groups in both states are sponsoring ballot measures that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of the mushrooms whose active ingredient, psilocybin, can cause hallucinations, euphoria and changes in perception. They point to research showing that psilocybin might be helpful for people suffering from depression or anxiety.

The recent failure of a nationally publicized campaign to decriminalize hallucinogenic mushrooms in California may not portend well for the psilocybin advocates in Oregon and Denver — though their initiatives are more limited than California’s.

In Oregon, advocates face a steep climb to qualify their measure for the ballot, because such statewide initiatives typically require hiring paid signature gatherers, said William Lunch, a political analyst for Oregon Public Broadcasting and a former political science professor at Oregon State University.

Still, familiarity with recreational marijuana may have “softened up” voters and opponents of drug decriminalization, he said. Oregon legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2015, Colorado in 2012.

Read more at Oregon Live

Time To Tax Narcotics As War On Drugs Will Never Be Won

The war on drugs was lost the moment it started but it continues relentlessly, morphing into a narrative favored by dystopian novelists.

One of the growth areas of academic finance in recent years has resulted in psychologists winning Nobel prizes for economics. The ways in which we are different to the rational, utility-maximising caricature of the textbooks has been usefully explored by researchers and has yielded a stream of insights that have guided policymakers in many jurisdictions.

Researchers are fond of finding weird anomalies in human behaviour that conflict with standard predictions, coming up with theories about why we behave in this way and then suggesting policy “nudges” that lead to better outcomes for both individuals and societies.

Each year, drug use rises. The range and availability of drugs rise. Terrorists rely on valuable income from drugs. The United Nations estimates that up to 85 per cent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is under the control of the Taliban, with half of its income coming from heroin – and most of the world’s supply of that drug is from those fields. Even waging actual war doesn’t work.

In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health have joined the calls for decriminalization. All these bodies are keen to stress that they do not condone drug taking but have just looked at the facts and concluded that the current legal framework is not fit for purpose. It simply doesn’t work: drug use is not deterred. Drug users need education and treatment, not legal sanction.

Continue Reading at Irish Times

Here’s How Much Marijuana Costs in the United States vs Canada

In the United States, medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states. Not only that, but the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 10 states. You can walk into a licensed store in places like California, Oregon and Colorado and purchase cannabis nearly as easily as buying beer.

Similar dynamics are taking place in Canada. Medical marijuana consumption was first legalized in 2001, and in 2017 legislation paved the way for the legalization of recreational use throughout all of Canada — a development that’s expected to be implemented in the summer of this year.

We analyzed data from Priceonomics customer Wikileaf, a company that tracks cannabis prices at dispensaries across the US and Canada and aggregated the data at the national level and find out the answers.

We discovered that cannabis is 30% less expensive in Canada than the United States. When you look at different cities, the price differential can be even more pronounced. Legal marijuana is 39% cheaper in Vancouver than San Francisco, for example.

Across dispensaries tracked by Wikileaf in the United States, the price of an eighth of marijuana is $40.0, compared to $27.9 in Canada, where it is 30% cheaper.

Read more at Priceonomics

Things That Matter about Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive drugs chemically alter the brain and change the way we feel, think, perceive and understand our world.

We are in a psychoactive drug epidemic in our country, most notably the opioids, because of their tragic death toll.

Here are nine things that matter when it comes to drugs:

1. Age. It’s one thing to start drinking or smoking dope when you are 21. It is very different when at 12 or 13 or 15, even 18.

2. Set. Set means the unique biological, neurological, psychological and experiential qualities of the user. Set creates a personal vulnerability and selective responsivity do substances.

3. Route of Administration. How fast a substance gets to and bathes our neurons with its receptor-loving chemical configuration makes a big difference.

Continue Reading at Scientific America

Are psychedelic Mushrooms The Next Legalization Frontier After Cannabis?

Now that states have proven that issues like cannabis legalization can be successful at the ballot box, activists are establishing a new front for legalization: magic mushrooms.

In Colorado, that form of activism comes from a group called Denver for Psilocybin led by Kevin Matthews, the organizer of a new ballot initiative. Matthews’ initiative aims to take the question of decriminalization to the voters this fall and, if he’s successful, the city and county of Denver would allow residents to carry up to 2 ounces of dried mushrooms and grow up to 2 lbs at home.

Under the new regulations, psilocybin mushrooms would be placed among the lowest law enforcement priorities and would not carry felony charges or the threat of imprisonment. The most an individual could get for being caught with psychedelic mushrooms would be a $99 fine, which could increase by $100 for every subsequent offense up to $999.

So why legalize psilocybin? Is this just the next logical step after cannabis? The answer for Matthews and other activists is in the science. Since the early 2000s, there’s been a growing body of research into the promise of psilocybin—the psychoactive component of psychedelic mushrooms—as a treatment for a number of mental health conditions from severe depression to cigarette addiction.

Read more at Herb

Some Businesses Stop Drug Testing For Marijuana

A low unemployment rate and the spreading legalization of marijuana have led many businesses to rethink their drug testing policies for the first time in decades. A small but increasing number are simply no longer testing for pot.

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” said Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, New York-based firm Jackson Lewis. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states plus Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.

Here are some questions small businesses need to consider when deciding on what drug testing policies to follow:

– IS IT A FEDERALLY REGULATED POSITION, OR SAFETY-SENSITIVE?

If your business is regulated by the federal Department of Transportation or is a defense contractor, you are likely legally required to drug test for all drugs illegal at the federal level, including marijuana.

– DON’T DISCRIMINATE

In states where medical marijuana is legal, small businesses increasingly risk running into legal trouble if they deny a job to someone who has obtained a medical marijuana prescription.

Read more at Eyewitness News

How Does Medical Marijuana Help Glaucoma Patients?

One of the many uses of medical marijuana is its use as a treatment for glaucoma. This optic nerve condition can lead to loss of vision or blindness without medical assistance. Marijuana has long been hailed for its ability to reduce eye pressure, which causes glaucoma. Here we explore the question: How does medical marijuana help glaucoma patients?

An estimated 3 million Americans live with glaucoma. The demographics most affected by glaucoma are people over 60, specifically African Americans. Anyone with a family history of glaucoma should look for loss of peripheral vision.

Difficulty seeing objects at the edges of your sight is the first symptom of open-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma won’t be painful, so the best way to diagnose it is to watch for slow vision deterioration. Contrastingly, angle-closure glaucoma manifests as nausea, blurry vision, and head or eye pain.

How does medical marijuana help glaucoma patients? The main way to treat glaucoma is by reducing the pressure on the optic nerve. Though research isn’t conclusive on the extent of marijuana’s effects on glaucoma, some studies show it can reduce inner eye pressure.

This research goes back to the 1970s. These studies showed that smoking marijuana could reduce inner eye pressure for people with glaucoma. The promising nature of these studies leads to more research. The National Eye Institute found that smoking, ingesting, or injecting THC, specifically, did lower eye pressure.

Read more at High Times

Bad Stuff Is Good Medicine?

Chewing betel nut isn’t as common here as it used to be and, to my knowledge, not many people here chew it with tobacco leaves as they do in southeast Asia. There, many users are addicted to that combination, which can create a sense of euphoria and alertness. Strangely enough, scientists at the University of Florida have found that compounds derived from betel nut could help cigarette smokers and betel nut chewers kick their habits.

The researchers say the two addictions share many traits and they want to develop drugs that target both. They’re studying compounds from the areca nut (the scientific name of betel is Areca catechu) to make new molecules that work better than existing smoking-cessation drugs.

“Some new findings say that things we know are bad for our health may actually be helpful. The first bad boy? Chewing betel nut.”

A drug that helps with two different kinds of addiction is really a good thing, but here’s one for you: What if eating chocolate helped prevent and treat diabetes? “Yeah, right!” you say.

Read more at Post Guam

Canadian Marijuana Stocks Fall to Lowest Level in 4 Months

Canadian marijuana stocks climbed steeply between October and January as investors piled in in anticipation of a sales surge when the country legalizes adult use this year. But government delays, stringent packaging and distribution rules, limited product choices and high valuations have dampened investors’ enthusiasm, analysts said.

Canada’s Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences exchange-traded fund (ETF) has slumped 45 per cent since its January peak. The U.S.-listed ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, which began trading on Dec. 26, is down 32 per cent from its high, just a hair above a record low on April 4.

“Licensed producer power won’t be quite the same in the post-medical (marijuana) world,” said Alan Brochstein, founder of cannabis-sector information provider 420 Investor. “They’ll be the suppliers, but they won’t capture the whole retail margin. And the packaging is … kind of a retardant to the growth of the market.”

Jason Zandberg, a research analyst at PI Financial, predicted 2019 sales may be lower than expected, in part due to initial shortages and slow consumer conversion from the illegal market.

Continue Reading at BNN

Feds Want Input On Marijuana Reclassification

The Trump administration is asking Americans for input on whether marijuana should be reclassified under international drug control treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

Currently, under both U.S. law and global agreements, marijuana sits in the most restrictive category of Schedule I. Domestically, that means it is not available for formal prescriptions and research on its effects is heavily restricted. Globally, it means that nations signed onto drug treaties are not supposed to legalize cannabis.

Specifically, FDA is inviting input on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of” cannabis and its compounds, the agency wrote in a Federal Register notice scheduled to be published on Monday.

Marijuana itself has never been subject to formal review since first being placed in Schedule I of the international agreement enacted in 1961, FDA notes in the new Federal Register notice.

Full article at Forbes

Feds Want Input On Marijuana Reclassification

The Trump administration is asking Americans for input on whether marijuana should be reclassified under international drug control treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

Currently, under both U.S. law and global agreements, marijuana sits in the most restrictive category of Schedule I. Domestically, that means it is not available for formal prescriptions and research on its effects is heavily restricted. Globally, it means that nations signed onto drug treaties are not supposed to legalize cannabis.

Specifically, FDA is inviting input on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of” cannabis and its compounds, the agency wrote in a Federal Register notice scheduled to be published on Monday.

Marijuana itself has never been subject to formal review since first being placed in Schedule I of the international agreement enacted in 1961, FDA notes in the new Federal Register notice.

Full article at Forbes

Trump Tariffs Target Key Ingredients for Dozens of Drugs

The Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on thousands of Chinese-manufactured products would target dozens of key products used by drug makers, as well as medical devices including pacemakers and artificial joints.

More than 80 percent of the ingredients used to make U.S.-consumed drugs are produced outside of the country, according to the Food and Drug Administration. China, along with India, accounts for most of the bulk ingredients and the FDA has called China a “major provider.”

For brand-name drugs, raw ingredients used by manufacturers are typically a tiny fraction of the cost of a product. They can be more important for generic medications that are essentially low-cost commodity products.

Bloomberg Politics

Trump Wants A New War On Drugs

President Trump’s opioid response plan might have multiple prongs, but when he unveiled it Monday, he clearly was most interested in the prong that gets “very tough” on drug dealers. We know this because he said so approximately 5,000 times during a speech announcing the new plan in New Hampshire, a state chosen as the backdrop because it is one of those hardest hit by opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Trump’s get-tough approach is little more than a reboot of the failed “War on Drugs” from the 1980s, in which the federal government spent enormous sums trying — and failing — to stop the crack cocaine crisis by throwing people in prison, a disproportionate amount of whom were African American and Latino.

His first speech on the topic in October, while vague, promised action on this “public health emergency.” A few days later the commission he convened to study the problem and come up with evidence-based solutions released a 131-page report with 56 recommendations, none of which suggested killing people.

Read the full article in Los Angeles Times

Research Says: Magic Mushroom Could Lead To Help For Addicts

“Getting drugs to the brain can be so difficult, but fungi have already figured out how to do that,” said Hannah Reynolds, assistant professor of biology at Western Connecticut State University and co-author of the new study.

Magic mushrooms owe their mind-bending properties to the production of psilocybin, a brain-altering compound that mimics the neurotransmitter serotonin.

In 1970, national laws swept psilocybin into the category of banned Schedule I drugs, which also includes other psychoactive substances such as LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana. Federal restrictions also extended to the use psilocybin in laboratories and clinical trials, which meant that for decades researchers have had extremely limited opportunity to explore its therapeutic potential.

But science is on the cusp of a psychedelic research renaissance, Slot said.

“It’s been a sea change,” he said.

Understanding what environmental conditions cause the natural evolution of mind-altering substances such as psilocybin opens up the possibility of discovering more of them and harnessing them for human use, she said.

Continue Reading at The Alliance Review

Bill To Refine West Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Rules Fails

A bill that would have made several changes to West Virginia’s medical marijuana law failed when the state’s legislative session ended last weekend.

West Virginia’s medical marijuana program was set to launch in 2019, but the bill’s failure Saturday night and an opinion from the state treasurer have put the rollout on shaky ground, WVNews.com reported.

Democrat Mike Pushkin, a sponsor of HB 4345, believes issues with the bill can be resolved quickly.

Here’s what you need to know:

• The bill didn’t return to the House floor after the Senate made significant amendments to the first version that passed Feb. 28. The Senate voted to approve it Saturday night.


• Before being altered by the Senate, the original bill would have allowed dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients. It would have also made a push to allow the sale of smokable marijuana, which isn’t allowed under the current law. And the Bureau of Public Health would have been required to issue 100 dispensary licenses throughout the state.


• By the time the Senate passed the amended version, much of those stipulations had been stripped away and the dispensary number was cut in half.


• State Treasurer John Perdue wrote a letter to the governor and other state leaders on March 1 expressing concerns about the state’s MMJ program in context of the federal illegality of cannabis, particularly marijuana businesses’ difficulty finding banking services.

Marijuana Business Daily

Marijuana Legalization Becomes Issue In Democratic Race

Attorney General candidate Patrick Miles, an Obama-appointed official who served six and a half years as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, has taken a position on legalization of marijuana in Michigan. He said last week, upon further reflection, he’s for it.

Conversely, fellow Democratic candidate Dana Nessel, has been very pro-marijuana from the get-go. Attorney Nessel is a hero of the LGBT rights movement for her work to legalize same-sex marriage, although she’s also feuded with elements of her own movement. Last week, she won the endorsement of the group pushing to legalize marijuana in the state.

Until now, the attorney general race has largely been a battle of resumes. But, it appears the issue of marijuana is now on the map as the landscape has changed. Support for legalization is growing.

The pro-legalization movement is organized and well-funded. Petition signatures have been turned in to put the question of marijuana legalization on the November ballot.

In Democratic politics, marijuana is a bit of a proxy for progressive bona fides in a state won two years ago by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Read the complete article at Michigan Radio

Reason ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Evolved to Get You High

“Magic” mushrooms seem to have passed their genes for mind-altering substances around among distant species as a survival mechanism: By making fungus-eating insects “trip,” the bugs become less hungry — and less likely to feast on mushrooms.

The researchers studied a group of mushrooms that all produce psilocybin — the chemical agent that causes altered states of consciousness in human beings — but aren’t closely related. The scientists found that the clusters of genes that caused the ‘shrooms to fill themselves with psilocybin were very similar to one another, more similar even than clusters of genes found in closely related species of mushrooms.

HGT isn’t really one process, as the biologist Alita Burmeister explained in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health in 2015. Instead, it’s the term for a group of more or less well-understood processes — like viruses picking up genes from one species and dropping them in another — that can cause groups of genes to jump between species.

The researchers suggested — but didn’t claim to prove — that the crisis in this case was droves of insects feasting on the defenseless mushrooms. Most of the species the scientists studied grew on animal dung and rotting wood — insect-rich environments (and environments full of opportunities to perform HGT). Psilocybin, the scientists wrote, might suppress insects’ appetites or otherwise induce the bugs to stop munching quite so much mush’.

Live Science

The Trippy Reason ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Evolved to Get You High

“Magic” mushrooms seem to have passed their genes for mind-altering substances around among distant species as a survival mechanism: By making fungus-eating insects “trip,” the bugs become less hungry — and less likely to feast on mushrooms.

The researchers studied a group of mushrooms that all produce psilocybin — the chemical agent that causes altered states of consciousness in human beings — but aren’t closely related. The scientists found that the clusters of genes that caused the ‘shrooms to fill themselves with psilocybin were very similar to one another, more similar even than clusters of genes found in closely related species of mushrooms.

That’s a sign, the researchers wrote, that the genes weren’t inherited from a common ancestor, but instead were passed directly between distant species in a phenomenon known as “horizontal gene transfer” or HGT.

However, HGT is believed to be pretty uncommon in complex, mushroom-forming fungi, turning up much more often in single-celled organisms.

When a horizontally transferred gene takes hold and spreads after landing in a new species, the paper’s authors wrote, scientists believe that’s a sign that the gene offered a solution to some crisis the organism’s old genetic code couldn’t solve on its own.

The researchers suggested — but didn’t claim to prove — that the crisis, in this case, was droves of insects feasting on the defenseless mushrooms. Most of the species the scientists studied grew on animal dung and rotting wood — insect-rich environments (and environments full of opportunities to perform HGT). Psilocybin, the scientists wrote, might suppress insects’ appetites or otherwise induce the bugs to stop munching quite so much mush’.

Live Science

Doctors Warn Against Rush To Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis

Doctors have been warned against rushing to prescribe medical cannabis despite Australians’ acceptance of its use.

To date, the evidence on the effectiveness of medical cannabis remains “limited”, said Jennifer Martin and Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo in an editorial for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the editorial says the usual regulatory processes designed to protect patients from potential serious harms caused by medicinal cannabinoids must be adhered to.

In Australia, medicinal cannabis is legal but patient access is still very difficult.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme (SAS) provides patient access to cannabis on compassionate grounds without the usual quality and safety data requirements.

This means approval is granted on a case-by-case basis provided the correct documentation is given by the prescribing doctor, says Dr. John Lawson, a pediatric neurologist and conjoint senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales.

A recent trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine, led by Australian neurologist Professor Ingrid Scheffer, found cannabidiol – one of at least 113 compounds found in the cannabis plant – significantly reduced the severity and frequency of seizures in children with a rare, yet devastating form of epilepsy known as a Dravet syndrome.

Last year, the Medical Cannabis Council called for more robust research to be done to ensure patients greater access in the future.

Read the full article in The Guardian

Inside The Mexican Towns That Produce America’s Heroin

MEXICO CITY — Journalists in Mexico, foreign and domestic, tend to keep drug cartels at arm’s length. Narco bosses like to stay out of the news. Several Mexican reporters have been killed by drug gangs for trying to expose organized crime. Firsthand reporting from inside the Mexican underworld is rare.

Myles Estey, a Canadian documentary producer, is establishing himself as an exception. Estey has helped produce two documentaries that take viewers deeper into Mexico’s gun-littered badlands: the 2015 film “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, and “The Trade,” a Showtime series about heroin that premiered this month. Both of these projects were directed by Matthew Heineman.

Estey said the goal of those making “The Trade” was to “show the human side of this crisis, beyond the stats and numbers.” He talked to The Washington Post about his experience.

“What was involved in getting this close to the drug business in “The Trade”? How were you able to document heroin producers like this?”

It took months and months and months, probably about six months, before we started getting footage that was useful and started to have the trust and respect of the people where we were working.

Read more at The Washington Post