Texas Lawmaker Lies about Pot & Veteran Suicides to Block Medical Access

Texas Lawmaker Lies about Pot & Veteran Suicides to Block Medical Access

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Texas Lawmaker Lies about Pot & Veteran Suicides to Block Medical Access

[Canniseur: A politician telling a lie??? Gasp. This particular politician has a lot of gall to prevent vets access to medical cannabis. She feels she has to lie, outright lie, to get what she wants. It’s not what vets with PTSD need, it’s what Donna Campbell wants. Her egregious deception of the facts around cannabis and her disdain for the truth in the legislative process is beyond telling.]

Donna Campbell is a licensed and practicing physician who represents a suburb of San Antonio in the Texas Senate. A Republican, Campbell has also been involved in Texas’s long, slow, and often onerous and arduous journey towards legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

Campbell’s resume on the cannabis question is, in a word, diverse. It includes turns as both a reluctant and unreliable advocate — and now, according to recent reports, as a disingenuous adversary who saw fit to lie about veteran suicides in order to block expanded access for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Earlier this spring, Texas lawmakers voted to expand access to the state’s extremely limited medical cannabis oil program. Previously available only to sufferers of intractable epilepsy — for whom access was no small feat even then — medical cannabis with little to no THC is now also available for sufferers of terminal cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis.

PTSD, a malady common among the millions of people who have become military veterans over the past 20 years of combating terrorism, might have been included in the bill.

At least that was the plan, before Campbell made a very bold claim during a debate on the matter — that 70% of the military veterans who have taken their own lives had THC in their systems.

Suicide by current and former members of the military is a very big deal. According to one regularly cited statistic, one pulled from Veterans Administration data, as many as 20 military veterans commit suicide every day. In normal countries, this would an epidemic, a public health crisis. In ours, it’s an excuse to not legalize medical cannabis.

“A study was done, a post-mortem, so a retrospective study done, looking at autopsies and drug levels, what drugs were in the blood of veterans that committed suicide, and 70% had THC,” the senator and doctor said, according to PolitFact.com.

A bold claim — and utterly baseless, as outlets including the Austin American Statesman pointed out. Campbell did not indicate the source for her claim because there is none. She made it up, out of whole cloth. Sen. Donna Campbell, M.D., lied outright in the Texas Senate, on record, in order to limit access to medical cannabis in Texas.

Why did she do this? Politifact tried to contact the senator several times before publishing an item rating her testimony as “not accurate” and making “a ridiculous claim,” its still-euphemistic terminology for an outright lie, a Texas-sized whopper, a dump-truck full of bullsh*t. So we can’t know, but we do know that Campbell appears to have it out for military veterans.

During a 2016 committee hearing on this exact same matter — allowing veterans with PTSD to access cannabis, a drug that many military veterans say is what brings them relief — Campbell stopped a military veteran mid-sentence.

“We already legalized medical cannabis,” said the senator, offering the beatific, “you are an idiot, sir” smile reserved for someone asking directions in a Walmart.

“Yeah… but it doesn’t help veterans,” the veteran responded, according to the Houston Press. “It helps intractable epileptic patients only. So…“

“Well,” Campbell interrupted again, “that is a subject for another day.”

Indeed, and a subject that Campbell, a fabulist, has no compunction about compromising her reputation in order to thwart.

Military veterans as well as secular humanists have descended on Campbell’s Facebook page to call her out because in addition to being a dishonest doctor, Campbell is also apparently a very proud Christian, who frequently posts this or that biblical reference. We seem to recall something in the Ten Commandments about this sort of thing. Then again, maybe Campbell has her own version of the Bible, too.

Texas Lawmaker Lies about Pot & Veteran Suicides to Block Medical Access was posted on Cannabis Now.

Got Terps? Cannabis Extracts Lack the Same Compounds as Flower

Got Terps? Cannabis Extracts Lack the Same Compounds as Flower

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Got Terps? Cannabis Extracts Lack the Same Compounds as Flower

[Canniseur: VINDICATED!!!! At least that’s the way I feel. I’ve been a proponent of whole flower for years. Extracts and concentrates fine in their way, but they are not flower and don’t have all the chemistry of whole flower. If you take a holistic approach to cannabis, you’ll know that even a vaporizer that uses whole flower like a Volcano just isn’t the same as putting the whole flower (ground up, of course) in a bowl or a joint or a bong. The effect from the Volcano is just…different. Not bad different, but different.]

It can be easy to convince yourself that concentrated cannabis is cannabis, just more of it. You can argue that concentrates have more of the good stuff and less carbon-based plant material: More terpenes, more THC, more bounce to the ounce (or bam to the gram, whatever). Just taste that surge of limonene and feel the impact on your brain and body as that wave of 80% THC crashes over your consciousness and try to say otherwise!

But contrary to what your senses might tell you about concentrate superiority, science has spoken. And science says the extraction process, as sophisticated as it may be, removes significant active ingredients from the plant-based source material — including the material that, for most consumers, determines what strain is their favorite.

More to the point: If a Jack Herer CO2 cartridge has a different terpene and cannabinoid profile from Jack Herer flower, can the dispensary or brand selling the cartridge say honestly that it’s Jack Herer?

This is a question that’s been mulled over by researchers in and out of the cannabis industry. It was the subject of a white paper published by California-based Steep Hill Labs, one of the industry’s older and more established testing labs. It was also the focus of a research article published in the journal Planta Medica in 2018, written by a team of industry researchers affiliated with the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy, a Seattle-based cannabis-centered think tank.

A common answer to the extremely common question “What strain should I use?” is to let the nose decide: to smell a flower’s terpene profile and gauge by the potential user’s reaction whether they might enjoy smoking it. The reason why this works is obvious by now — it’s the flower’s terpene profile the user is judging.

About 60% of cannabis users say they apply the smell-test method when selecting their strain, according to the 2018 study in Planta Medica. That simply cannot be done with concentrates, for two reasons: You can’t crack open a CO2 cartridge to sniff the oil, and even if the dispensary let you destroy product in order to buy it, what’s inside has some differences.

For the Planta Medica article, a research team led by Michelle Sexton analyzed supercritical cannabis oil from six different chemovars. They used liquid chromatography to see how seven different cannabinoids and 42 different terpenes fared during the extraction process. And as they observed, “[t]he relative potencies of terpenoids and cannabinoids in flower versus concentrate were significantly different.”

Most pronounced was the loss of monoterpenes. This makes sense, as terpenes are “typically volatile molecules that evaporate easily,” as Steep Hill wrote in their white paper critiquing the Sexton study. But it also means that there was a significant difference in the end-consumer experience — the recreational experience, but also perhaps the medical effects, depending on the end user’s goal.

“The results identified a potential disconnect in the experience for whole-flower cannabis consumers and concentrate cannabis consumers,” Steep Hill wrote. That is, there may be a need for cannabis-product producers to explain to users that the Jack Herer concentrate is not just the Jack Herer they like in an easier-to-consumer form — it is a different product altogether.

“These results highlight the need for more complete characterization of cannabis and associated products, beyond cannabinoid content, in order to further understand health-related consequences of inhaling or ingesting concentrated forms,” as Sexton put it.

The study was published last fall, and it doesn’t appear that producers or dispensaries have adjusted — if they have acknowledged the study at all. There are some vape-oil cartridge product lines that advertise a more “true-to-the-flower” terpene profile, claims based on post-extraction add-backs of terpenes. At the same time, it’s not clear how close to the original profile the oil products are —  or if they can hope to be the same thing at all.

Let’s try for an analogy. “One might liken the differentiation to ordering a regular soda and being given a diet soda — while it may look and taste similar, it’s not quite the same and isn’t what you thought you’d ordered,” as Steep Hill put it.

While Sexton’s study focused on supercritical CO2 oil, this is a universal problem among extracts, albeit to different degrees. “No extraction method has been proven to fully preserve the terpene profiles of cannabis in its flower form,” as Steep Hill wrote.

Extracts have slowly eaten away at flower’s market share for a few years now, a trend that does not appear to be slowing or reversing. This means more and more new and existing users’ cannabis experience will be with extracts — and it also means that their experience is something different from what the flower heads are getting. There’s no denying this, yet it’s not something the industry is widely acknowledging, in product packaging or product marketing.

Got Terps? Cannabis Extracts Lack the Same Compounds as Flower was posted on Cannabis Now.

The Big Problem With the Latest Opiates & Marijuana Study

The Big Problem With the Latest Opiates & Marijuana Study

Original Post: Cannabis Now: The Big Problem With the Latest Opiates & Marijuana Study

[Canniseur: The author here is doing a bit of a mea culpa. He originally jumped on the “cannabis equals lower opiate deaths” bandwagon from one study. Many other authors did the same. They were attempting to make a correlation between medical cannabis use and a lower reported deaths from opiate overdose. Correlation and causation are two different things. While the deaths might have gone down (they did not) there is no evidence one way or another that medical cannabis use equals lower deaths from opiate overdose.]

America’s worst-ever drug problem, the ongoing opiate-fueled overdose apocalypse, is by now a chronic condition and one for which both easy and simple solutions as well a single easily identifiable cause have been elusive.

Continuing a steady upward trend, overdoses killed 70,000 people in 2017, the most-recent year for which data is available. Opiates — and mostly synthetic opiates — were identified as the mortis causa in 47,600 of those deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of the states with the worst increases year-over-year were the same states that have been on this same trend for years: Ohio, Pennsylvania. Michigan, Florida. One thing all of those states have in common: They all went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. And they have all have passed laws expanding access to cannabis, either medical or recreational, since 2010.

Is there a connection? Nobody can say for certain, and that includes the authors of the study published June 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the U.S’s premier scientific journals, who found that a previously identified link between liberalized cannabis laws and a decrease in opiate overdoses reversed itself.

Researchers, including some of the country’s top drug policy experts, followed up on a prior study, published in the also-prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), that identified a dip in overdose deaths in states that had legalized cannabis access in some way through 2010.

That study has since been much touted in drug-policy reform circles and accepted by public-health officials as a potential balm for the overdose crisis. Several states, including Illinois, which legalized recreational marijuana via the legislature last month, have expanded medical-cannabis access specifically to patients prescribed opiates. And there were more than a few legalization zealots who abandoned caution and nuance and pushed the line that cannabis access directly led to fewer overdose deaths. (Among those who tread incautiously? This author, I’m unhappy to admit.)

Seeking some clarity, researchers at Stanford University used the same methodology as the earlier study to looked at what had happened between 2010 and 2017. They found that despite increased cannabis access, many states, including Ohio, still experienced significant increases in opiate-overdose related deaths. But still, there’s a problem.

What does this mean? Maybe nothing, as the study’s authors themselves admitted. Or maybe something else.

It could be that the “correlation” was mere coincidence. That the states with bad opiate problems also approved medical or recreational legalization measures because it followed a nationwide trend, and drug-overdose deaths continued along the same trend, independent of one another.

It could also be that the drug-overdose crisis would have been worse without cannabis. Nobody can say, since the study cannot say. What they are sure is that there’s no causal link so far.

“If there is a relationship between medical cannabis use and opioid overdose on an individual level, this kind of study can’t reveal it,” as Chelsea L. Shover, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a lead author of the second study, told The New York Times.

At the same time, the study falls into another trap. It was the states with the worst pre-existing opiate overdose crises that happened to legalize cannabis between 2010 and 2017 — Ohio and Pennsylvania among them. That’s a complicating factor that the study simply could not control for, which means that while cannabis cannot be called a solution, it also cannot be ruled out as a change agent of some kind.

Problems this big, this bad, and this persistent have no single cause nor one single, simple solution. In Dayton, a struggling city in Ohio, which has consistently had one of the worst year-over-year increases in opiate deaths, officials managed to cut the overdose death rate by 50% in one year. And as they told the New York Times, they still aren’t exactly sure why.

Maybe expanded access to treatment, maybe expanded access to overdose-reversal drugs like Naxolone, maybe all of the above. One factor the article did not consider: the nine medical-marijuana dispensaries within a three-hour drive of the city, a thin concentration compared to states like California but significant in the Rust Belt. What did that do? Nobody can say for certain, but the answer is likely “not nothing.”


The Big Problem With the Latest Opiates & Marijuana Study was posted on Cannabis Now.

What Cannabis Legalization Opponents Have Right

What Cannabis Legalization Opponents Have Right

Original Post: Cannabis Now: What Cannabis Legalization Opponents Have Right

[Canniseur: Not everything about cannabis legalization is positive. The negative issues have stopped legalization in several states. The cannabis industry in legal states is mostly owned and run by white men with money. SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) understands this and is trying to capitalize on this problem. The legalization movement must ensure minority engagement and not cater to the financial elite.]

After a years long, near-unopposed and near-perfect victory parade through the West and the Northeast, cannabis legalization is now on a losing streak.

And now that the movement-turned-industry is staring at obstacles apparently isn’t prepared to solve, anti-legalization prohibitionists are capitalizing. For once, they have an honest point that commercial cannabis can’t honestly counter: legalization hasn’t really been all that good for the people it promised to help the most.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana in his first 100 days in office is now more than 365 days overdue. After state lawmakers abandoned this year’s proposed legalization scheme earlier this spring, legalizing in 730 days is no guarantee.

Next door, in New York State, an industry-friendly legalization proposal floated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of his annual budget proposal was also ditched after a revolt in the New York State Assembly. Lawmakers of color watched other states legalize on promises of “righting the wrongs of the drug war” only to watch cannabis become a well-capitalized white man’s game — and decided that they had had enough of empty promises and wanted a guarantee.

“They thought we were going to trust that at the end of the day, these communities would be invested in,” said Assembly Leader Cheryl Peoples-Stokes in a March New York Times interview. “But that’s not something I want to trust.”

Now Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is hoping he has the secret sauce. Like his counterpart in New Jersey, Illinois’s first-term governor, sworn in this year, also promised to legalize marijuana on the campaign trail. Earlier this month, Pritzker’s allies in the state legislature unveiled a proposal that would legalize possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis for anyone 21 or over, expunge low-level cannabis convictions, and also set up a low-interest loan program for people of color interested in joining the cannabis industry.

But as the Chicago Tribune reported, like his counterparts in New York and New Jersey, Pritzker — a hereditary billionaire whose also-wealthy relatives, scions to the Hilton hotels family fortune, helped fund Prop. 64 in California, one of the successful legalization ballot initiatives — is also having a tough time winning over lawmakers of color, who are also wary of legalization’s overpromises.

Never one to waste a crisis, familiar faces like Smart Approaches to Marijuana, arguably the nation’s most prominent anti-legalization group, have arrived on the scene. SAM is known for its willingness to lie or dial up outrage — last fall, Kevin Sabet, SAM’s founder and director, told a Kentucky state legislature committee the old “fentanyl in cannabis” fib — but for once they’re right on.

As per the Tribune:

Abu Edwards, national director for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the proposal benefits “white men in suits who work on Wall Street.”

This is about creating a big business that African-Americans are not going to have the capital to get into,” said Edwards, who is African-American. “It’s not about a person smoking a joint, this about big corporate greed coming into our communities and benefiting off of addiction in our communities.”

Well — and he’s mostly right! Cannabis isn’t very addictive and certainly is not very addictive compared to other drugs. Nationwide, only 138,000 people sought help for cannabis use in 2015, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse; compare that to the estimated 2.5 million Americans who have an opiate-use problem.

But it’s hard to argue the “big corporate greed” point. Consolidation and corporatization is absolutely happening. Former House Speaker John Boehner, who hated weed until he realized he could make money off of it, is selling cannabis stock tips and taking huge fees to lobby Congress. The point is particularly hard to argue in Illinois, where several existing big-time medical-marijuana companies have been lobbying Prtizker to get first and only dibs in the recreational market.

Pritzker appears to get it. His proposal has the automatic expunging of past offenses, which is a step up from states like California, where jurisdictions like San Francisco had to hire coders to write algorithms to do the expunging. And some kind of equity program for entrepreneurs baked into the bill is also an improvement. Will it work? Remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the cannabis industry has absolutely given its opponents an opening. It’s not just and it’s not equitable, and it needs to address this in a hurry if it wants to be taken seriously — and resume its once inevitable-looking winning ways.

What Cannabis Legalization Opponents Have Right was posted on Cannabis Now.

The Cannabis Industry Has Lots of Jobs, But Few Are High-Paying

The Cannabis Industry Has Lots of Jobs, But Few Are High-Paying

Original Post: Cannabis Now: The Cannabis Industry Has Lots of Jobs, But Few Are High-Paying

[Canniseur: The rise of legal cannabis is an opportunity to do things better. Pay equity is a huge issue and while our business owners and leaders certainly deserve great returns on their work product and risk taking, everyone deserves a livable wage. I hope our industry can rise to an exceptional standard and pave the way to better worker salaries.]

Cannabis legalization means the new pot jobs look like the rest of America, where opportunity is constricted and inequality is high.

Presidential candidates can be tough on climate change — by some metrics, they must be — but anyone wanting to be president must also say a few nice things about coal. This is because in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states any would-be president almost certainly must win, coal is equated with decent work.

Such appeals are mostly a nostalgic technique, as only 53,000 Americans work in the coal industry today. This is a fraction of the jobs created by the cannabis industry, for which 2018 was a year of record growth. As The New York Times reported over the weekend, as many as 300,000 Americans now work in the cannabis industry. If current trends continue, that figure could eclipse the million-worker mark by decade’s end.

Marijuana-sector jobs increased by 44 percent last year, according to Leafly. In Florida, cannabis-industry jobs spiked by 703 percent alone, an increase that tracked with a tripling of that state’s medical-marijuana patient base. If Florida were to legalize cannabis for adults over 21, well — look out, LinkedIn!

But what are these jobs? The Times has an answer, and it’s not entirely encouraging.

While exact numbers are elusive, as the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics does not yet have a cannabis-industry specific cut-out, it appears most cannabis jobs “are on the lower end of the pay scale,” the newspaper reported. These are the unskilled labor and low-skill retail jobs, the trimmers who do “rote agricultural work” for “$10 to $15 an hour” and the “budtenders” who make “about $25,000” a year, the newspaper reported.

If you have one of these jobs, you may make a little more, maybe closer to the salary survey published in early April by Fortune. If you do, chances are you live in a city like Los Angeles, Seattle or Oakland, where the egregious cost of living eats up any salary increase you enjoy over a counterpart in Nevada or Ohio or Arizona.

This is not to say that there are not good jobs in cannabis. There are! They are just not that many of them — and they’re going to people who already had good gigs in other sectors outside of cannabis. In fact, having a job outside of cannabis is the way to get a very good job inside of cannabis, as per the Times.

“For upper-level managers and executives, companies say they prefer candidates with a background in highly regulated industries like alcohol or pharmaceuticals,” the newspaper said.

The Times mentions a few of these folks. There’s David Dancer, who worked in marketing for Charles Schwab before MedMen recruited him to be their chief marketing officer. He is now producing “slick videos” and doing the labor of making cannabis attractive to people who do not use cannabis (like people who might have been attracted to investing with Charles Schwab, for example). At Oakland’s Harborside, a household name in California cannabis for more than a decade, the new chief operating officer is an attorney whose resume lists jobs in real-estate development.

There is also increasing demand for “chemists, software engineers and nurses,” the newspaper reported — which is to say there is room for educated people with white-collar jobs. These jobs are available for anyone with the opportunity to attain education, maybe at one of the universities offering cannabis-specific concentrations in one of these traditional fields.

But if you are a budtender or a trimmer, your career track is limited — as are your earnings, even as the cannabis industry continues to balloon into an economic force measured in the tens of billions. This is the caveat that every breathless report touting the marijuana industry’s job-machine must carry. There are jobs, but there are not a lot of great jobs — and if there is a great job, it’s held by someone poached from another good job somewhere else.

Okay, but so what? What this means is that cannabis looks like America, where wealth is concentrated at the privileged top and a good job requires a good education or good connections — in other words, privilege. This is not the cannabis industry’s fault. Cannabis has worked very hard to assimilate and to become part of society — and has not always succeeded, even with all of these billions — and this is what society looks like.

So, about those coal jobs. Why were they good, why do they carry such nostalgic appeal, why must every Democratic presidential candidate tread very lightly in Appalachia while Donald Trump cooks up wild fantasies about coal’s “resurgence”? They were good in part because they were union jobs. It is not an accident that the militant and successful strike by teachers happened in coal country — this was how their great-grandparents won decent jobs in the mines.

Will that happen in cannabis? Maybe, but probably not. Most union jobs in the United States in 2019 are in the private sector.

In this way, cannabis just isn’t so special, but isn’t that what legalization wanted all along?

TELL US, do you want to work in the cannabis industry?

The post The Cannabis Industry Has Lots of Jobs, But Few Are High-Paying appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Cannabis Industry Has Lots of Jobs, But Few Are High-Paying was posted on Cannabis Now.

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