[Editor’s Note: This WHO recommendation is another step in the right direction towards rescheduling cannabis in the U.S. Perhaps 2019 will be the year. Read the whole recommendation letter here.]
International drug treaties have long stood in the way of cannabis reform on the national level. But in newly issued recommendations, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s time to change course on how the United Nations categorizes cannabis.
It’s the latest sign that the world is warming to the health benefits of a plant that for decades has been dismissed as a dangerous drug. Reform advocates around the globe were quick to cheer the news.
“This is the best outcome that WHO could possibly have come up with,” said Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli, the head of research at For Alternative Approaches to Addiction Think & Do Tank (FAAAT), a Paris-based drug policy nonprofit. In a statement, Riboulet Zemouli called the recommendation “a beginning of a new evidence and health-oriented cycle for international Cannabis policy.”
The WHO recommendations call for cannabis and its chemical components to be rescheduled under international drug agreements. They advise that whole-plant cannabis as well as cannabis resin be deleted from the most restrictive category (Schedule IV) in a 1961 international drug convention.
(Unlike the US Controlled Substances Act, which labels the most-restricted drugs “Schedule I,” the UN treaty defines Schedule IV as its most-restricted category and Schedule I the least-restricted.)
The recommendations came in a Jan. 24 letter from WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres. The letter has not officially been made public, but drug reform advocates circulated it Friday. The complete letter is embedded below.
If the recommendations are adopted, cannabis and its resin would instead be designated as least-harmful, Schedule I substances under the UN treaty. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its isomers would also be moved to Schedule I of the treaty.
Extracts and tinctures of cannabis would be removed from Schedule I of the 1961 treaty. Pharmaceutical preparations that contain THC would be placed in Schedule III.
The recommendations also echo prior WHO conclusions that pure cannabidiol (CBD) shouldn’t be scheduled at all under international drug conventions, recommending the addition of a provision that would read: “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0,2 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol are not under international control.”
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration has issued similar advice, suggesting last year in an internal letter that CBD “could be removed from control” under the Controlled Substances Act. Drug Enforcement Administration officials, however, reportedly advised that the 1961 UN convention would stand in the way of federal CBD de-scheduling.
Adoption of the WHO recommendations could open the doors to further US reforms around CBD. While products containing the cannabinoid are widely available online and at stores throughout the country, their legality is still uncertain.
As for how the recommendations would affect the treatment of THC, well… that’s less clear. Longtime cannabis legalization advocate Tom Angell writes at Forbes that the upshot would be more political than practical:
The practical effects of the changes would be somewhat limited, in that they wouldn’t allow countries to legalize marijuana and still be in strict compliance with international treaties, but their political implications are hard to overstate.
Taken together, recommendations, if adopted, would represent a formal recognition that the world’s governing bodies have effectively been wrong about marijuana’s harms and therapeutic benefits for decades. WHO’s new position comes at a time when a growing number of countries are moving to reform their cannabis policies. As such, a shift at the UN could embolden additional nations to scale back or repeal their prohibition laws—even though legalization for non-medical or non-scientific reasons would still technically violate the global conventions.
For now, the recommendations are precisely that—advice, which has yet to be adopted. The proposals will now go to the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where member nations will vote on whether or not to accept them. It remains unclear how the US will vote.
Original Post: Leafly: World Health Organization Calls for Cannabis Rescheduling
[Editor’s Note: Finally the truth about the efficacy of Berenson’s research and conclusions is coming out. Yes, there needs to be more research. No, reefer madness is not the truth.]
Maybe you’ve seen the former New York Times reporter who’s been hawking a new book that argues cannabis causes dangerous increases in violent crime, psychosis, and other behavioral and mental health problems.
Many of the scientists whose work is cited in the book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, have questioned author Alex Berenson’s methodology and conclusions. Other researchers have called his claims “unsubstantiated,” “cherrypicked,” and “phony.” Our own reviewer, David Bienenstock, described the book as “fear and falsehoods in the guise of objective reporting.”
That hasn’t stopped Berenson, who has a flair for self-promotion, from making the media rounds. And many major news outlets have been all too eager to take the bait.
In recent weeks, Berenson’s alarm bell has earned him op-ed placements in both the Times and the Wall Street Journal. He’s appeared Tucker Carlson Tonight and Fox and Friends. Within a week of its publication, he boasted on Twitter, the book was already headed for a third printing.
But despite the scrum of media attention, some outlets are increasingly skeptical. NPR, Berenson tweeted last week, “canceled an interview bc of unspecified concerns on my ‘methodology and conclusions.’” And now the liberal news magazine Mother Jones is walking back its own report based on Berenson’s spurious reasoning.
‘A Whale of a Correction’
Mother Jones went big as Tell Your Children was set to hit the stands. Days in advance, the magazine published a nearly 2,500-word writeup under the headline, “This Reporter Took a Deep Look Into the Science of Smoking Pot. What He Found Is Scary.”
Scary, yes—but maybe not entirely accurate. As a new correction by editors acknowledges, Mother Jones “overstated” the conclusions that can fairly be drawn from the data Berenson cites:
Correction: An earlier version of this article overstated the connection that NASEM researchers found between marijuana, bipolar disorder, and the risk of suicide, depression, and social anxiety disorders. It also overstated the connection between the increasing number of pot users and the number of people over 30 coming into the ER with psychosis; the researchers in that case “did not directly examine whether marijuana had led to any psychotic diagnoses.” A handful of other facts and statements in the piece have been updated for accuracy.
Christopher Ingram, a Washington Post data journalist who covers drug policy, called the update “a whale of a correction to that uncritical look at Alex Berenson’s reefer madness book from earlier this month.” It’s the kind of correction that seems to acknowledge, Yes, we were maybe a little too eager to buy what Berenson was selling.
Smoke and Mirrors
After decades of prohibition and limits on clinical research into cannabis and its effects, a better understanding of the drug’s potential risks and benefits is long overdue. Most legalization advocates don’t dispute that. And while Berenson’s dire warnings correctly identify areas that need more research—the complexity of the connection between cannabis and schizophrenia, for example, is only beginning to reveal itself—they also wildly exaggerate the drug’s dangers.
Rather than seek to answer questions with intellectual honesty, Berenson appears content to fall back on age-old fear-mongering.
Are there risks to cannabis use? For certain populations, such as children, the answer is clearly yes. But there are also plenty of unknowns that require further research, such as: Does cannabis cause schizophrenia, as Berenson claims—or are people predisposed to develop schizophrenia simply more likely to seek out cannabis? A peer-reviewed study published in Nature Neuroscience last year, for example, found that “individuals at risk for developing schizophrenia” experience symptoms “that make them more likely to start using cannabis to cope or self-medicate.”
These are big and important questions. But rather than seek to answer them with intellectual honesty, Berenson appears content to fall back on age-old fear-mongering—the kind championed by the 1936 film Reefer Madness (originally called Tell Your Children) and specious claims by Henry Anslinger, who led the charge against cannabis in the US during the 1930s.
Anslinger is remembered today as a propagandist who played on people’s fears in order to criminalize cannabis. Most consumers were “Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers,” he once said, warning that “makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
He also called cannabis “the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
“You smoke a joint,” he said, “and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
As for Berenson? He writes that Anslinger “may have been a racist jerk, but 85-years ago he was right about marijuana.”
Original Post: Leafly: Mother Jones Admits it ‘Overstated’ Cannabis Mental Health Risks
[Editor’s Note: One day, maybe this year, Washington state legislators will get that growing up to 6 plants at home is a great way to keep the illegal market at bay, while supporting the legal market.]
In the world of legal cannabis, Washington is unique: It’s the only adult-use cannabis state that entirely prohibits adults from growing cannabis at home.
A pair of bills introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature would change that, allowing people 21 and over to grow up to six plants at home for personal use. But whether the bill can pass remains an open question. Past efforts to legalize home cultivation have withered at the Capitol.
This year’s effort could be different. Both bills boast bipartisan sponsors, and supporters say they’re optimistic.
“I am absolutely convinced that if we get this to the floor, we can get it passed,” John Kingsbury, a longtime medical cannabis and homegrow advocate, told The Stranger.
Kingsbury helped lobby the Legislature to get the measure introduced and described lawmakers as cautiously supportive of the change. “I have gone to dozens and dozens of legislators asking for their support,” he said, “and the thing I kept hearing was, ‘I don’t want to sign my name on it, but I will vote on it if it comes to the floor.”
The newly introduced bills, filed late last week, do away with many of the strict limitations suggested by cannabis regulators at the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), which was tasked to study the issue the last time it came up, in 2017. The LCB’s recommendations included mandatory government-issued permits, a four-plant limit, and—in the case of one proposal—even a system to track each individual cannabis plant across the state.
Under the latest proposal before the Legislature, adults would be allowed to grow up to six plants, and neither permits nor tracking would be required.
Skeptics of homegrow worry the allowance could expand Washington’s illicit cannabis market, which continues to function in much of the state, especially in areas where access to legal cannabis is limited. In its 2017 report, the LCB warned that “home grows have operated as a cover for the illicit market and diversion and could undermine the regulated system.”
“Any approach that allows for private citizens to grow marijuana at home will carry considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement,” the agency said.
But supporters say those blanket statements ignore important distinctions in state homegrow laws, such as caps on the number of plants per household. In an interview with KUOW before the new bills were introduced, state Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma) noted that lawmakers are drawing on “what we’ve learned from other states.”
“We learned what not to do,” Sawyer said. “Colorado had a limit of 99 plants, and law enforcement had no way of taking down illegal operations.” (Colorado has since reduced its homegrow limit to six plants.)
A well-functioning homegrow law could actually help reduce illicit sales, he suggested. “If no other option exists, no retail store, a home grow is a way for at least some folks to provide their own marijuana without having to pay off a criminal element to give it to them.”
Sponsors of Senate version of the bill, SB 5155, include Sens. Maureen Walsh (R-Pasco), Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), and Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle).
The House bill, HB 1131, is sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake (D-Longview), Drew MacEwen (R-Union), Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), Jim Walsh (R-Longview), and Shelley Kloba (D-Bothell), Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), Monica Jurado Stonier (D-Vancouver), and Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor).
Photo Credit: (Dmitry_Tishchenko/iStock)
Original Post: Leafly: Try, Try Again: Washington Lawmakers Introduce Homegrow Bill
Editor’s Note: Contaminant-free weed is critical. We love when industry steps into a void left by government. This is a perfect example of a business doing the right thing and bringing quality to the people.
Seattle’s busiest cannabis retailer is taking lab testing into its own hands, launching a program this month that tests random products on store shelves for heavy metals and pesticides—and then removes any products that fail.
Each month, Uncle Ike’s, which operates three Seattle-area locations, will randomly select five products from its inventory and pay to have them tested. The project, dubbed “Ike’s OK,” is an effort to curb the number of contaminated products that make it through Washington’s state-mandated testing process, which doesn’t require pesticide testing as a matter of course.
The first batch of products selected were:
The Need for Clean Cannabis
Leading the new program are two longtime cannabis watchdogs: Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, a journalist who spent years covering the state’s cannabis testing program, and Jim MacRae, a data scientist and consultant who tracks the state’s cannabis industry. Coughlin-Bogue is also a frequent contributor to Leafly News.
“I spent all that time at The Stranger crowing about pesticides,” said Coughlin-Bogue, who in 2015 began publishing explosive articles about cannabis pesticides in the Seattle-area newspaper. “The state did some moves and did some things—and, as we’ve seen, it’s come out, it’s still a problem.”
“That’s all anyone needed to do: randomized testing at the retail level.”
Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, Ike’s OK
He’s referring to a recent report that found that more than 43% of cannabis tested by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) between March 2017 and July 2018 contained either banned pesticides or levels of pesticides that exceeded state limits.
“Likely tens of thousands of Washington consumers are consuming recreational cannabis during any one day,” Patients United, which release the report, said in a letter to state cannabis regulators, first reported by The Stranger. “With pesticide testing failure rates of 30–40%, it is statistically guaranteed that those consumers will consume product with illegal amounts of pesticides in it in every third use.”
State regulators have said that the 43% number is possibly higher than what’s out in the wild, because at least some of the state’s sporadic testing is the result of complaints against certain producers. But Coughlin-Bogue says the complaint-driven pesticide testing is part of the problem. He wants to see an increase in truly random testing.
“That’s all anyone needed to do: randomized testing at the retail level. Secret shopping,” he said. “The process is completely impartial, completely random. No grower is going to get targeted unless they fail.”
How the Process Works
As the state’s second-biggest cannabis retailer by sales, Uncle Ike’s has access to plenty of products. And state cannabis regulators have established limits for certain pesticides while banning others. All that’s left, said Coughlin-Bogue, is to actually test the products.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel in terms of what we test for,” he explained. “It’s stuff that’s really easy to do these days. We’re just doing it.”
For now, Ike’s OK will test only products meant to be inhaled: flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, and vape cartridges. MacRae, the data scientist, will randomly select five products from the store’s inventory, and Uncle Ike’s will pay to have the products tested by Medicine Creek, a Puyallup-based lab.
The whole shebang costs less than $2,000. “It’s not insanely expensive,” Coughlin-Bogue said, “and it’s something that every single store can do and every single store should do.”
Results will also be posted on Uncle Ike’s website, so consumers will have access to the same data as everyone else. “We’re not doing this to throw people under the bus,” Coughlin-Bogue explained. “The results are going online because ethically we felt like we had to be transparent. We didn’t feel like we could do a program like this and not publish the results.”
If a product is selected and fails testing, that product will be removed from store shelves, he said. Additionally, a second product from the same producer will automatically be selected for the next month’s batch of testing. If two products from the same producer fail in consecutive months, the producer’s entire product line will be pulled from shelves until the producer can demonstrate it has addressed the problem. Only after the producer provides independent testing data showing the products are compliant will Ike’s carry them again.
“Most people that Ike’s is buying from, they have a pretty good relationship with,” Coughlin-Bogue said. “So we’re assuming we’ll have a pretty low fail rate—fingers crossed—and if there is something that fails, we want people to be able to go through their products and make sure it’s not elsewhere.”
Setting an Industry Standard
While the program will begin at Uncle Ike’s, the team behind it hopes to see it expand to other stores in the state.
“If any other retailers are interested in how to implement something like this, we’re more than happy to share the knowledge,” Coughlin-Bogue said. “We’ll come explain how this works, how to set it up with their system. The idea is to make this an industry standard.”
As a journalist, he said, “it feels amazing to be able to come up with a solution to a problem you identified in your reporting.
“Almost never are you able to call something out and say, ‘This is a problem, someone should do something,’ and then have someone show up and say, ‘I will pay you to design and implement the solution.’”
Original Post: Leafly: Seattle’s Leading Pot Shop Launches Random Product Testing
The cannabis plant is an impressive alchemist, capable of producing hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes. Some, such as THC and CBD, are widely known outside the cannabis community. Others, including terpenes like the woodsy alpha-pinene and the citrusy limonene, are just entering the mainstream cannabis lexicon, helping consumers understand what gives cannabis its distinctive taste and smell.
Terpinolene, meanwhile, is a lurker. It’s found in plenty of cannabis strains, but it’s usually present only in small amounts. It may, in fact, be the least-common common terpene—often among a strain’s cast of characters, but rarely in a leading role.
That’s not to say it’s unimportant. Terpinolene plays a key role in defining the taste and smell of many cannabis strains, including the immensely popular, terpinolene-dominant strains Dutch Treat and Sensi Star. It’s also likely to affect a strain’s therapeutic and experiential qualities.
Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)
The Smell and Taste of Terpinolene
Terpinolene’s aroma is more multidimensional than some other cannabis terpenes. Linalool smells like flowers. Limonene smells like citrus. Pinene? It smells like—surprise!—pine. Terpinolene, though, carries an array of smells you might find in cannabis: It’s piney, floral, herbaceous, and even a little citrusy.
One word that comes up often when describing terpinolene’s taste and smell: fresh. It’s part of the reason terpinolene shows up as an additive in soaps and perfumes (though the terpene’s other qualities, which we’ll get to, also help).
Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt)
Like most terpenes, terpinolene isn’t unique to cannabis. It also shows up in lilacs, tea tree, nutmeg, cumin, and apples.
Potential Benefits and Effects
According to scientific research, inhaled terpinolene can create a sleepy, sedative effect in mice. In cannabis, then, it may contribute a relaxing, calming quality to certain strains—though it could also exacerbate couchlock.
As an essential oil, terpinolene may have antibacterial and antifungal qualities, according to a 2005 study—which could be another reason, besides its fresh scent, that it’s a common additive in soaps and cleaning products. Other research suggests it can help repel pests like mosquitoes and weevils.
Emerging research is also looking at terpinolene’s potential to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in concert with other nutrients, and its possible role in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
Keep in mind, researchers are still teasing out the possible effects of terpinolene. In addition, many scientists believe that terpenes and cannabinoids work in tandem to create a strain’s overall effect—so don’t expect a strain that contains terpinolene to necessarily have relaxing, sedative properties.
Which Cannabis Strains Contain (Lots of) Terpinolene?
Terpinolene can be found in a lot of cannabis strains, but only a small number are terpinolene-dominant. Some that are include Dutch Treat, Sensi Star, Super Lemon Haze, Sour Tangie, Snowcap, Shipwreck, and—in terms of high-CBD strains—Sour Tsunami.
Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)
It’s important to note that cannabis strains that are related to one another don’t necessarily share a family resemblance when it comes to terpenes. Sour Tangie is terpinolene-dominant, but its parent, Tangie, isn’t particularly high in terpinolene—its main terpenes are myrcene and alpha-pinene. And while both Sour Tangie and Sour Tsunami are both terpinolene-dominant, many other “sour” strains—including Sour Diesel, Sour Bubba, Sour Kush, and Sour Apple—are not.
Another thing to observe is that while terpinolene-dominant strains can be classified as indicas, sativas, or hybrids, nearly all are THC-dominant. In other words, there currently aren’t many high-CBD strains that have a ton of terpinolene. Why is that? Likely, it’s simply because cannabis breeders have yet to fully explore the full array of terpenes with CBD-dominant and balanced strains. THC historically has been the cash-cow cannabinoid for most breeders. As CBD rises in prominence, that may change. Terpinolene-dominant CBD strains remain rare, but more could certainly be made.
Leafly writer Patrick Bennett contributed reporting.
Original Post: Leafly: Terpinolene: The Least-Common Common Terpene