Why Is Weed Getting More Potent?

The feds began monitoring the potency of the nation’s pot supply in the ‘70s by drawing samples from stashes seized by law enforcement, and boy was it schwag. The percentage of THC—the main psychoactive component in cannabis—averaged from less than 1% in 1975 to just under 3% a decade later, according to the data.

These notoriously low levels reflected the times, as the weed subculture in America was just starting to take root and could help explain why some of the most memorable old school brands have names like Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, Afghani, Thai stick, and Jamaican sensi; they were all originally cultivated outside of the country.

Now, as some critics have pointed out, it’s impossible to empirically confirm how strong domestically grown pot was back in the day due to inferior testing and sampling methods, however, there does seem to be enough prevailing research, firsthand testimony, and common sense to show that the illicit reefer from decades ago wasn’t nearly as powerful as today’s.

A recent federal study found that “the potency of illicit cannabis plant material has consistently risen over time since 1995 from approximately 4% in 1995 to approximately 12% in 2014.” This marked increase represents a shift when smokers began to pivot from dirt to mid-grade and hydro. In one standout bust from 2009, the DEA nabbed some sticky-icky that scored an impressive 33.12%, the highest concentration of THC the agency has ever seen in a domestic sample of weed.

Continue Reading at Gizmodo

CDC Launches Campaign To Fight Opioid Crisis In US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a national campaign to help fight the prescription opioid crisis in this country.

The campaign will use online advertising, billboards, newspapers and radio/TV ads to increase awareness about the risks of opioids.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is committed to using evidence-based methods to communicate targeted messages about the opioid crisis and prevent addiction and misuse in every way we can,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D.

He added, “Prevention is a key piece of the five-point strategy HHS unveiled under the Trump Administration for combating this crisis, which has left no corner of America untouched.”

WSB Radio

Surprising Medical Marijuana Side Effect: More People Claiming Disability

Medical marijuana laws are becoming more popular across the country, but legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes can have a major unintended consequence.

State medical marijuana laws lead to an increase in the probability that people will make Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims, according to a new working paper from researchers at Temple University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati. The tendency to make a SSDI claim rose 9.9% following the passage of a medical marijuana law, while actual SSDI benefits rose by 2.6%. The report, which was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used data from the Current Population Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to produce its findings.

The researchers also studied the effect state laws on medical marijuana had on workers’ compensation (WC) claims. While their analysis did not produce any statistically significant evidence for these claims, the researchers said the data suggested generally that the laws do cause an increase. “Expanding marijuana access has negative spillover effects to costly social programs that disincentive work,” the researchers wrote.

More of this news at Marketwatch

WING Officials Report Increase In Heroin Usage

GERING — Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman refers to Colorado as the area’s “canary in the coal mine” because law enforcement and drug problems experienced in northern Colorado soon spread to the Nebraska Panhandle.

Use of the powerful painkillers, both prescription and non-prescription, has been rapidly increasing in both the U.S. and Canada since about 2010. By 2015, overdose deaths from opioids surpassed deaths from both car accidents and guns.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, overdose deaths, especially from prescription opioids and heroin, have reached epidemic levels.

Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Brian Eads serves as the WING Drug Task Force commander. He said the area has been dealing with opioids, particularly prescription drugs, for some time. But now heroin is starting to make more of an appearance in even smaller towns in the Panhandle.

Much of the heroin they’re seeing is cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller that has a rapid onset and short duration of action. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Eads said DEA statistics show a large majority of seized heroin has been cut with fentanyl, which is considerably stronger than the heroin itself.

Read more at Starherald

High Number of Applicants for Arkansas Medical Marijuana

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Would-be growers and distributors of Arkansas’ initial medical marijuana crop flooded a state office building Monday, turning in thousands of pages of paperwork and handing over thousands of dollars in application fees.

Arkansas voters last year approved marijuana use by people with certain medical conditions. The new state Medical Marijuana Commission will review applications after the names of companies and individuals have been redacted and then select up to five growers and 32 distributors. The Arkansas Health Department has approved 1,200 people for a medical marijuana registry, making them eligible to obtain the drug.

Continue Reading at US News

Detroit Voters Will Have Say in Cannabis Regulations

Detroit voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the region’s cannabis industry in November when newly proposed regulations appear on the local ballot.

• Amend the definition of a Drug-Free School Zone to correspond to federal and state law that requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, colleges, and public libraries.
• Amend the definition of a Drug-Free School Zone to correspond to federal and state law that requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, colleges, and public libraries
• Would allow dispensaries to open within 500 feet of another dispensary. They would also be allowed to open within 500 feet of exempt religious institutions where religious services are conducted regularly. The current ordinance requires facilities to be more than 1,000 feet from churches and other dispensaries.
• Would allow dispensaries to open near liquor, beer/wine stores, child care centers, arcades, and parks. The current ordinance does not allow them to be open near any of them.
• Would allow dispensaries to stay open until 9 p.m. currently, they’re required to close by 8 p.m.

More of this news at Leafly

How Weed Affects Women Differently Than Men

Everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different, and therefore everyone responds to weed differently. In fact, according to recent research, estrogen might make you more sensitive to the effects of cannabis.

A study from Washington State University found that women are most receptive to the effects of THC when their estrogen has peaked and is on the descent, which happens about a day or two before ovulation.

“What we’re finding with THC is that you get a very clear spike in drug sensitivity right when the females are ovulating, right when their estrogen levels have peaked and are coming down,” says lead researcher Rebecca Craft.

Other research has shown that women also tend to experience an increased libido from cannabis more so than men do. If a heterosexual couple is going to use cannabis to enhance sex, it’s best for the man to stop smoking about half an hour beforehand and for the women to keep on smoking. However, increased libido only works for moderate amounts of cannabis. If the dose is too high, the consumer might get too tired.

According to the study from Washington State University, increased appetite is a side effect of cannabis more likely to be found in men than in women.

Read the full article at Jane Street

Opioid Addiction: Humanizing A Crisis

Serious, chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, represent just a few of the staple diagnoses in developed countries, but few are as stigmatized as addiction. The opioid epidemic is at the forefront of public health issues capturing national attention in the United States, affecting communities from Hollywood to small town USA.

The term opiate is a classification for a drug that contains the highly addictive drug opium, a narcotic derived from the Papaver somniferum poppy plant. Opioids are appealing because the user feels a great sense of euphoria, followed by both decreased pain and increased drowsiness.

Adding to the complexity of this epidemic is the availability of similar, and often illicit, drugs that produce the same euphoric feelings of prescription pain medications. The abuse of, and addiction to, illicit versions of opiates, such as heroin, is growing as regulations and costs make it more difficult to obtain legally prescribed opiates.

It makes sense, then, that the United States consumes 80% of the global opioid supply. Individuals hit hardest by this epidemic are between the ages of 25 to 54, with higher overdose rates seen in non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans or Alaskan Natives. Men die from overdoses at higher rates than women, but that gap is said to be closing.

Continue Reading at Crixeo

Big Weed Will Capitalize On Cannabis At Any Cost To Society

Cigarettes are good for your health. There’s no such thing as global warming, so keep on burning coal. Benzodiazepines like Valium are a godsend — “mother’s little helper.” “Anything’s possible when you learn to handle Smirnoff.” These are some of the vintage ads and canards that we look back upon today with wonder.

What’s stupid is our collective amnesia about what happens in a democracy when a forbidden fruit hits the market: namely, capitalism at its worst. The response of capitalism to legalized cannabis will be to capitalize, as is its nature. To imagine that there will be no Big Weed akin to Big Tobacco is stupid. Consolidation is assured, and Big Weed will be run by executives from the other Big Bad Wolves.

The health benefits of “medical marijuana” will one day be equated with the disservice done by a generation of doctors who overprescribed opiates and benzos, the previous generation of doctors being suckered into smoking and recommending Camel cigarettes as good for you.

Read more at The Star

Synthetic Salvia May Be An Opiate Alternative Without The Addiction

Painkiller addiction has reached epic proportions and this has spurred a search for suitable alternatives to opiates. We’ve seen some potential novel alternatives, such as sea snail venom and using VR to distract patients from pain. One new potential alternative comes in the form of a hallucinogenic drug call salvia and a synthetic version of it with pain-killing properties.

A newly detailed synthetic version of the hallucinogenic compound in Salvia divinorum may be the key. Researchers with The Scripps Research Institute and the University of Southern California have published a report detailing the process of synthesizing this compound, Salvinorin A, into 20-nor-salvinorin A.

This synthetic salvia was found to relieve itching in mice, and it could also potentially be a painkiller without the same addiction potential as traditional opiates. The synthesized variant addresses some typical troubles presented by Salvinorin A and is reported to be stable. As well, this successful synthesis was performed in 10 steps rather than the 20+ that past methods have required.

Slash Gear

Scientists Want to Synthesize Salvia’s Hallucinogenic Molecule

You’re probably familiar with Salvia divinorum, the hallucinogenic plant used for religious purposes in some indigenous cultures, and for watching celebrities giggle in some decaying cultures.

A team of scientists is now reporting that they’ve found an easier way create a slightly-altered version of the chemical responsible for salvia’s hallucinogenic effects, Salvinorin A. They’re not doing it so that you can continue having wild trips with your high school friends, though. Instead, these researchers are looking for a painkiller with opiate-like effects, but with a lower potential to abuse.

“Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, driven largely by abuse of opioids,” the authors report in their paper published recently on the new preprint server, ChemRxiv. “To counter this epidemic, replacement of abused opioids with alternate pain therapeutics has emerged as an increasingly sensible goal.”

The authors write that Salvinorin A is unstable, making it difficult to alter. Others have been able to produce the chemical in the lab and change its structure somewhat, but some complexities have limited the options available to alter the molecule and change the effects it might have on the nervous system.

The final molecule, called 20-nor-Salvinorin A, differs just slightly from Salvinorin A. One single piece of the large molecule, a dangling carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached, is replaced by a hydrogen atom.

Continue Reading at Gizmodo

Powerful Hallucinogen Could bring Relief To Chronic Itching

People who suffer from chronic itching say it’s more unbearable than pain. I’ll never forget a 2008 story called The Itch in The New Yorker.

Chemical and Engineering News reports that a compound in the popular psychedelic plant Salvia divinorum was found to contain a compound that is found to provide itch relief to mice.

Salvinorin A, a hallucinogen produced by the Mexican plant Salvia divinorum, holds promise for treating itch and pain because it activates the κ-opioid receptor while avoiding the μ-opioid receptor, a sister receptor that’s been associated with opioid abuse.

Chemists have tried to synthesize salvinorin A so that they could alter the structure to sidestep the compound’s psychoactive effects while preserving its analgesic properties.

More of this news at Boing Boing

Study: Cannabis May Reduce Number Of Premature Deaths In The United States

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death.’ Those five leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries. According to the CDC, 20 to 40 percent of those premature deaths could be prevented. And according to a study from last month conducted by Indiana University, cannabis could play a big part in significantly reducing the number of premature deaths in America if medical cannabis was legalized nationwide.

Per the study:

To date, no studies have attempted to estimate impacts of Cannabis use on premature death that include both adverse and beneficial effects on physical health. Marijuana use is estimated to reduce premature deaths from diabetes mellitus, cancer, and traumatic brain injury by 989 to 2,511 deaths for each 1% of the population using Cannabis. The analysis predicts an estimated 23,500 to 47,500 deaths prevented annually if medical marijuana were legal nationwide.

Full article at Weed News

Why Michigan’s Marijuana Regulators Want to Shut the Pot Industry Down

Michigan’s medical marijuana industry has had a licensing authority—in this case, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board—for less than three months. It took two meetings before the licensing board, in charge of overseeing and regulating the state’s cannabis landscape, suggested shutting it all down.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008. Under state law, a caregiver is allowed to cultivate up to 72 marijuana plants—no more than 12 plants for no more than six patients.

Retail outlets offering cannabis in Michigan are technically illegal—and will be until the state starts issuing licenses, a development expected to come as soon as later this year—yet dispensaries have been operating with varying levels of transparency in select cities for years.

In Detroit, there are more than 70 dispensaries offering marijuana for sale that has completed or at least started the city licensing process, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Every dispensary out there is open in violation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act,” Bailey said during a recent board meeting, according to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a felony for every sale that occurs from a dispensary.”

Continue Reading at High Times

Californians Might Vote on ‘Magic Mushroom’ Legalization in 2018

Californians might vote on whether to decriminalize the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms as early as 2018, under a newly proposed ballot measure.

The measure — which was filed on Friday (Aug. 25) with the state Attorney General’s office — would exempt people ages 21 and over from criminal penalties for using, possessing, selling, transporting or cultivating psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushroom species.

The measure is not currently on the ballot — supporters need to get at least 365,880 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot, according to the Sacramento Bee, a newspaper in Northern California.

Continue reading at LiveScience

Two Foreign Nationals Arrested With Rare Drug

Port Shepstone SAPS arrested two foreign nationals after being caught with what is believed to be the first consignment of a drug called “khat” that was intercepted on the South Coast.

The two male occupants appeared to be very suspicious and the vehicle was intercepted. The drug is originally from East Africa and contains two stimulant substances, cathinone, and cathine.

“This plant is normally chewed or even smoked. A total of 104 bundles were confiscated and each bundle contained 106 stems.”

The two suspects will be charged with possession of drugs and will appear in court shortly. – Supplied.

News24

It’s Time to Cut the Oil Syringe Some Slack

Cannabis oils are contained, transported, and dispensed from a variety of vessels. “Pucks” and different types of parchments are the most common containers used to package cannabis oils, but the syringe remains the only oil container that can dispense measured doses of cannabis concentrate by design.

The syringe, however, holds an especially loaded place in drug culture for its apparent relationship to intravenous drug use, which is amplified against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic in the United States. The optics of the syringe are challenging to overcome because society shares the preconceived notation that syringes belong in the responsible hands of science and medicine professionals, yet are being abused by hard drug users.

Benefits of Cannabis Oil Syringes

It’s time to push your concerns aside and give this implement a chance. There are myriad benefits of cannabis oil syringes. First, syringes usually come in a variety of volumes. Many have their volume indicated in marks on the body of the syringe, giving you relative measurements for dosage.

Another benefit of the syringe is its minimal to non-existent loss of oil. The plunger in my oil syringe pressed the oil through without losing much to the container. With a puck or parchment, over time oil can get thin and difficult to fully collect. There are different techniques to gather this residual oil, but the syringe requires neither the time nor effort to do so. The full volume is available, measurable, and usable without the fuss of a heating element and tools.

Read the full article at Leafly

How Much Does Cannabis Cost Where You Live?

Cannabis has intrigued me since the first time I consumed it in the early 1990’s. Since that time I, as many others had before me, got particularly fascinated in the types of cannabis that people consume across the country, as well as how much cannabis costs in each state. 

It’s one of the most talked about things in the cannabis world. I find that type of web chatter is more insightful for gauging a state’s cannabis scene than looking at databases.

Perhaps it will change over time, but as of this posting, they have grams for $3.75. As far as I know, that includes tax. That’s an eighth for less than $15, and it’s been lab tested and perfectly legal to anyone over the age of 21. To be clear, I don’t have any affiliation with the linked to the dispensary, but I have consumed the $3.75 gram and it was some decent stuff. I have heard of dispensary ounces being as low as $79 in Oregon.

How much does cannabis cost where you live, and what is the quality level? Some parts of America are still picking seeds out of bricks, while some states have regulated dispensaries. If you live in a state that has prohibition, do your part and fight for reform so that you can enjoy the freedoms that people in legal states do. No state left behind!

Weed News

Could This Back-pain Device End Need For Opioids?

A new pain pellet that scientists are developing in Columbus is about half the size of a grain of rice, but researchers say it delivers a big dose of relief that could one day help fight the opioid epidemic.

The tiny rod holds a nonaddictive painkiller that doctors could insert in the lower back, much like an epidural, to give a patient a break from the chronic or acute pain, said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. He would not reveal the painkiller, saying only that it is a drug that already has been used successfully as a cardiovascular medication.

A small trial of 55 people with sciatica — pain in the lower back and legs — showed that the pellet stopped the pain for up to one year and was safe and easy to use, Fiore said. Researchers will next seek to perform a large clinical trial, hoping to confirm effectiveness and safety. The trial will involve a broader group of people culled from pain centers across Ohio.

Opioids are commonly used to treat chronic pain, Rezai said.

But the highly addictive nature of the medications, Fiore said, is a reason to find alternatives. Someone who takes opioids for a single day, for example, has a 6 percent chance of being addicted a year later.

Read more at The Columbus Dispatch

‘Magic Mushroom’ Enzyme Mystery Solved

Researchers unravel the biosynthesis of the psychoactive drug psilocybin, making the large-scale production a possibility…

The euphoria and hallucinations induced from eating Psilocybe “magic mushrooms” have earned the fungi a cult following. Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann isolated and determined the structure of psilocybin, the main ingredient in mushrooms that leads to the psychedelic effects, nearly 60 years ago. That discovery and subsequent mind-altering experiments by Harvard University psychologist Timothy F. Leary have left scientists longing to develop a large-scale synthesis of the compound for medical uses, which include treating anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients and treating nicotine addiction. Yet no one has been able to unravel the enzymatic pathway the mushrooms use to make psilocybin, until now.

During their study, Hoffmeister and co-workers sequenced the genomes of two mushroom species to identify the genes that govern the fungal enzymatic production of psilocybin. They further used engineered bacteria and fungi to confirm the gene activity and exact order of synthetic steps. This process includes a newly discovered enzyme that decarboxylates tryptophan, an enzyme that adds a hydroxyl group, an enzyme that catalyzes phosphorylation, and an enzyme that mediates two sequential amine methylation steps. With that knowledge in hand, the team designed a one-pot reaction using three of the enzymes to prepare psilocybin from 4-hydroxy-L-tryptophan.

“The publication by Hoffmeister and colleagues highlights a terrific example of genomics-based biocatalyst-pathway discovery,” adds natural products researcher Jon S. Thorson of the University of Kentucky. “While psilocybin biosynthesis derives from a series of fairly simple chemical transformations, this new study identifies the contributing genes and biocatalysts for the first time and, importantly, provides strong evidence to support a revision of the order of the key steps proposed more than five decades ago. This work clearly sets the stage for bioengineered psilocybin production and/or for analogs that may serve as compelling alternatives to existing synthetic strategies.”

C&En News