[Canniseur: Finally, glass art bongs are getting the recognition they deserve. While most simple glass pipes these days share a common design, the high end is something else entirely. These artists are at the high end of the high end with their fantastic artwork.]
“Degenerate art” is a euphemism used to describe highly stylized pipes, bongs, dab rigs, and other smoking apparatuses, coming from a fascinating 2011 documentary that looks inside the world of functional art glass.
Artists working in this largely underground scene have always been marginalized, but in February of 2003, they were quite literally criminalized: Hundreds of businesses and homes across America were raided by law-enforcement, the culmination of an elaborate federal undercover sting operation dubbed “Operation Pipe Dreams.”
Fifty-five people were arrested for crimes related to the sale of drug paraphernalia—including famous actor/comedian Tommy Chong—and many of the country’s most talented functional glass artists spent the night behind bars, stripped of all assets and facing the possibility of serving a long prison sentence (although Chong was the only one to actually serve hard time).
But that was more than 15 years ago. Today, the cultural conversation around functional art glass no longer focuses on government censorship and oppression. Now it’s all clickbait stories about how a bong just sold for $100,000, or the opening of a new mainstream gallery show focused on the incredible creativity and technique exhibited by the movement’s leading practitioners.
But how did we get here, and who propelled this degenerate art form to such dizzying heights?
The contemporary history of functional art glass begins exactly where you might expect—with a stone-cold hippie trying to make ends meet as he followed the Grateful Dead.
(Courtesy of Bob Snodgrass)
Long before becoming the “Godfather of Glass,” Bob Snodgrass was an inveterate tinkerer who worked a straight job in a machine shop. But in 1971, he saw a glass pipe displayed in the window of a head shop and met the artist who made it. They shared a smoke and by the time they were done, he had a new calling in life.
Snodgrass would eventually invent a series of groundbreaking techniques that set his work apart—most notably “fuming,” which involves vaporizing silver, gold, or platinum to release fumes that bind to the surface of glass.
He also invented the popular sidecar style of pipe after spending the night on a friend’s waterbed and finding it impossible to set down a standard pipe on the unsteady surface.
But Snoddy contributed the most to the functional art glass scene by selling his one-of-a-kind pipes to Grateful Dead fans as the band endlessly toured the country. Over time, this created a market for “heady glass” from coast-to-coast and well beyond.
“The first time I encountered the Grateful Dead scene, a friend told me he had tickets and I should bring my bus so we could camp in the parking lot,” the artist told Leafly in a feature on his life. “He said I was going to sell glass like I’d never sold glass before.”
Jerome Baker Designs
A talented and influential artist in his own right, Jason Harris (head of Jerome Baker Designs) profoundly changed the game by turning his passion for heady glass into a thriving professional business, paving the way for the modern industry to follow.
His company began in 1991 in a dorm room, and grew to over 70 employees working out of a large production facility—until he was taken down in Operation Pipe Dreams.
But even after the devastation of his arrest and the federal case against his business, Harris refused to back down. He now operates a thriving custom glassware outfit with offices in Las Vegas, New York, and Maui.
For more on Harris and his craft, check out Leafly’s documentary of him and his crew making a giant bong.
A self-taught glassblower working out of a small town on the Oregon coast, Ryan “Buck” Harris often finds inspiration for his work in the beauty of the nature that surrounds him, like his best known piece, a pipe shaped like an angler fish skeleton.
Buck changed the game by consistently pushing for the acceptance of functional glass work in the world of high art, through both the intricacies of his sculpting work and his sharp business acumen.
Jason Lee has been blowing glass for nearly 25 years and specializes in line-work, or what he calls “non-specific geometric patterning.” The depth and precision of his work have created a standard for other glassblowers to follow and these continue to set his work apart today.
(Courtesy of Mickelson)
After dropping out of college in the mid-’70s, Robert Mickelsen apprenticed with a professional lampworker for two years before traveling the country to sell his glasswork at outdoor craft fairs for a decade.
In 1989, he began marketing his work exclusively through galleries, including prestigious institutions like the Renwick Gallery of American Crafts at the Smithsonian Institution and the Corning Museum of Glass. He also served for six years on the board of directors of the Glass Art Society.
As one of the first and most prestigious glass artists to move from the insular arena of fine art to the underground functional art glass scene, Mickelson and his sculpture-like pipes changed the game by bridging two worlds that lacked common ground for far too long.
Jimi Cummins, far better known as “Wicked Glass,” saw a glass pipe for the first time in 1995, while strolling down “Shakedown Street”—a gaggle of unofficial vendors gathered in a parking lot outside of a Grateful Dead concert. There he met Bob Snodgrass.
Inspired by Snodgrass, his art, and his life journey, Jimi would dedicate the next two decades to learning the craft himself and developing his own signature style.
Then, on April 20th, 2013, he set off in an RV converted into a mobile glassblowing studio with nothing more than a vague plan to log four hundred twenty days out on the road.
He ended up spending the next four and a half years crisscrossing the country, creating commissioned works in his vehicle and hand-delivering them to customers.
Best known for his octopus motifs, Jimi didn’t change the glassblowing game so much as bring it back to its roots, while using social media to connect with the community.
“Bob Snodgrass was one of my major inspirations for getting in the RV,” Cummins told Leafly in a feature on his life. “I didn’t want to sell to shops, I wanted to sell my glass direct-to-consumer like he did, but I had no idea how. Until I discovered Instagram and realized I could connect with people while I’m traveling and sell my work that way.”
Having worked his way up by building a network of followers on social media, Cummins’ pipes are currently in high demand. His use of social media to create personal connections around his art is an inspiration to both fellow glassblowers and the collector community.
Inspired by the intricacies of sacred geometry, Justin Cothren (a.k.a. WJC) consistently creates breathtaking patterns in glass while pushing the boundary of what’s considered possible in the glass medium. He’s also a pioneer of a technique called a desk flip.
Banjo began making pipes in 1995, inspired by everything from Legos and farm tractors to Star Wars and the visionary art of Alex Grey. Over time, he’s earned a reputation for bringing skill and vision to crafting intricate and organic forms.
His best work imbues a whimsical, almost psychedelic feeling to pieces based on musical instruments, motorcycles, and what he calls “throne goddesses.”
Technically and stylistically, Slinger’s biggest contribution to the world of functional art glass can be seen in his marriage of Graal-style glassblowing with traditional functional pipe forms. Graal is a high-level style of glassblowing developed in Sweden in 1916 that requires multiple artists to work at once, who using molten glass to carve and shape layers, encase them in clear glass, and then add more layers on top.
Slinger is best known for producing the documentary Degenerate Art, which helped bring the movement out of the shadows and inspired a new generation of artists to take up the torch.
One of Japan’s best known glass artists and among the finest crafters of borosilicate glass pendants and marbles in the world, Junichi Kojima (a.k.a. Rose Roads) creates “dottacellos” or “thousand-dots designs,” which take a pointillism approach to creating patterns and images of mind-blowing complexity.
While she boasts a diverse body of work, Tammy Baller is best known for bringing verve and wit to her satirical glass sculptures of iconic figures, allowing you to puff out of everyone from Jerry Garcia to the Wicked Witch of the West.
Original Post: Leafly: 11 Glass Artists Who Changed the Game
[Canniseur: I admit it, I love to get high alone. This article motivates us creatives to regularly carve out 24 hrs to practice our crafts, solo & stoned.]
A Canadian study published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review looked for differences between people who consume cannabis socially versus those who consume cannabis solo, and found:
Compared to individuals reporting their most recent cannabis-using occasion as social, solitary users were signiﬁcantly more likely to screen positive for psychosis, endorse more symptoms of cannabis abuse/dependence, report using cannabis to cope, and use cannabis on more days within the previous 30 days.
In its own words, the study “sought to examine the extent to which the social context of cannabis use is related to patterns of use and associated harms.”
Harms, but What About Benefits?
Please note that this statement of purpose doesn’t even consider the possibility that there may be associated benefits to cannabis in addition to associated harms. In fact, Toni Spinella—a master’s student in psychology and neuroscience and the study’s lead author—seems to think anyone who uses cannabis for “coping” treads in dangerous waters.
The study’s author seems to assume that anyone who uses cannabis for ‘coping’ treads in dangerous waters. But don’t we all cope with something?
“It’s possible that they lack other coping strategies,” Spinella told the CBC. “If you’re alone, why are you using alone? That’s something that you might want to ask yourself and if you realize, ‘OK, I’m using alone because I’m sad tonight or I’m stressed,’ then maybe that’s a red flag that you should think more about.”
Fair enough, but a red flag compared to what other coping mechanisms? Whiskey? Junk food? Internet scrolling? Gambling? Binge watching? Xanax?
Is Solo Smoking Making Me Psychotic?
As for the idea that consuming cannabis alone might lead to psychosis, allow me to start by asking a couple of common sense questions:
- Is it possible that people with mental health conditions are more likely to use cannabis in an attempt to self-medicate that condition?
- Is it possible that people using cannabis to treat mental health conditions would be more likely to do so alone rather than in a social setting?
The answer to both questions is pretty clearly yes.
Studies have shown that cannabis and cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. And if you’re using cannabis to treat one of these conditions, doesn’t that seem like something you’re more likely to do at home with some frequency (compared to someone who smokes weed maybe once a month whenever it’s offered to them at a party)?
A Link Is Not a Cause
So while there may indeed be a correlation between psychosis and getting high alone, that’s a far cry from causation. Even the study’s author admits this. That’s why the CBC had to use a fudge term in its otherwise alarming headline:
Getting High Alone Linked to Psychosis, Dependence, Study Suggests
Can you can spot the fudge term?
Trick question. There are two of them: linked to and suggests.
Linked to means there’s no actual evidence to show that cannabis causes psychosis. Rather, someone with psychosis may be more likely to use cannabis than someone without psychosis.
Suggests means that even the evidence showing a “link” between the consumption and the medical condition is pretty paltry.
In Defense of Crutches
Toni Spinella’s aversion to using cannabis as a coping mechanism reminds me of a joke by Doug Benson, a longtime cannabis comedian and the host of Getting Doug With High.
Some people say marijuana is a crutch. Yeah. Crutches help people walk.
Someone should tell Spinella that while we’d all like to live in a world where nobody ever gets stressed out or feels sad, that just ain’t happening. In the meantime, we need to find relatively healthy ways to cope.
A Therapeutic Option
Even if you live the life of a fully-optimized self-actualizing perfect person, you’re still going to be touched by trauma, depression, and anxiety—all of which can be treated with cannabis, a therapeutic option that’s demonstrably safer and less habit-forming than pharmaceutical drugs.
Cannabis has even been shown to help those suffering from loneliness itself, which the medical establishment increasingly sees as a real and growing epidemic. A recent study by Cigna, a health insurance company, found that a full 47 percent of Americans often feel lonely or left out. Thirteen percent say not one person knows them well. This has serious health consequences.
Loneliness as a Public Health Issue
In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University published a groundbreaking study that showed chronic loneliness can take about 15 years off of a person’s life expectancy—roughly the same impact as obesity, or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes per day.
But the good news is cannabis can greatly diminish the negative impacts of loneliness.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Kentucky published findings from a study that asked, “Can marijuana reduce social pain?” The answer was yes:
Marijuana buffered the lonely from: negative self-ratings of self-worth and mental health, depression over time, and even distress following exclusion… Marijuana has been used to treat physical pain, and the current findings suggest it may also reduce emotional pain.
Again, the researchers make clear that cannabis also has potential harms. And that coping with loneliness is not the same as overcoming it.
Put another way: You don’t want to use crutches for the rest of your life, but it’s better than trying to walk on a broken leg
You Don’t Have to Be Lonely to Be A Lone Stoner
“The Lonely Stoner seems to free his mind at night.”— Kid Cudi
We’ve already pointed out that Toni Spinella’s research ignores the considerable evidence that cannabis may be a therapeutically beneficial treatment for someone dealing with loneliness and depression. But she also fails to recognize that a relatively healthy person may find significant benefit from a little alone time with the bong.
I don’t have a study to back me up here, but I do speak from personal experience when I say that just as getting high together can help two or more people connect in a profound or at least interesting way (i.e. “get on the same wavelength”), cannabis can also help us connect with our own authentic selves.
Enlighten Up Yourself
“When you smoke the herb,” Bob Marley once said, “it reveals you to yourself.”
What’s revealed is not always flattering, but even a difficult realization about one’s self can yield helpful insights and spur true psychological growth.
Again, I can’t cite a study for this since most cannabis research continues to ignore the plant’s benefits, but I can call in an expert witness: Famed astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, best known as the host of Cosmos, a 13-part exploration of far-out space science that became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.
Astronomer Carl Sagan, professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell University, was one of the first scientists to speak out about the positive properties of cannabis. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Sagan contributed an anonymous essay to Marijuana Reconsidered (1971), a book written by eminent cannabis researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of Sagan’s closest friends. Identified only as Mr. X., Sagan explained that his support for ending cannabis prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal.
He found real value in using cannabis introspectively:
Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness… that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.
A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us.
There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.
Tips for a Solo Flight
As the author of a book called How to Smoke Pot (Properly), I feel compelled to close with a few practical thoughts on how to optimize your solitary cannabis experiences.
- Before you get stoned, decide what you’re going to do after you get stoned, and then do it.
- If possible, get out into nature before you spark up. This is particularly good advice if you’re battling depression.
- Turn off your phone and instead utilize an archaic technology known as a “notebook” to jot down all your brilliant highdeas before they slip away.
In his hit song “Day and Night,” Grammy winner Kid Cudi introduced The Lonely Stoner, an alter-ego based on a period in his life when he spent a lot of time engaged in what jazz musicians used to call woodshedding. Which back in the day literally meant spending a few months holed up in a woodshed practicing your instrument nonstop. Often with the help of a little reefer to keep in the flow.
You probably don’t have a few months to spare right now to fully focus on a creative pursuit, but why not try it for a day? Find a time and place to be alone for 24 hours without distraction, track down some strains known to boost creativity, and set the intention of creating or learning something new.
Then drop a note in the comments and let us know how it went.
Original Post: Leafly: What Getting High Alone Can Teach You About Yourself
[Editor’s Note: I’m not a fan of vape pens for precisely the reasons here. Including cartridges from dispensaries. I don’t really know what’s in them. Does anyone other than the people who made them. There is no transparency about vape pens or cartridges. We deserve transparency.]
The market for cannabis concentrates in the United States is on fire—well, not literally, because fire leads to combustion, and combustion leads to smoke (instead of vapor).
But it’s figuratively on fire, as evidenced by a report from Arcview Market Research that shows almost $3 billion in legal concentrate sales in 2018—a 49% increase over the previous year. By 2022, researchers estimate annual sales will reach $8.4 billion, putting concentrates roughly on par with smokable flowers.
What if everything about your vape game—from the pen itself to the oil inside—is fake?
As a catch-all term, concentrates can mean everything from BHO to rosin to distillate to hash, but according to the same report, 58% of concentrate spending last year came in the form of pre-filled cartridges designed to work in vape pens.
Consumers have been gravitating to vape pens because they’re portable, easy to use, easy to self-titrate, and potent, with THC levels of 70% or higher.
But what if this ubiquitous symbol of the cannabis legalization era has a dark side? What if everything about your vape game—from the pen itself to the oil inside—is fake?
While it’s undeniable that vape pens deliver discretion and important safety benefits, questions do remain about what exactly is inside those cartridges (popularly known as carts). A recent report by Leafly’s David Downs, California Cannabis Labs Are Finding Toxic Metal in Vape Carts, has raised concerns within the cannabis industry, among regulators and for consumers.
Since January 1 in California, all legal cannabis vape carts are subject to stringent new testing for heavy metals. At SC Labs, founder Josh Wurzer reports that about 0.5% of the vape cart batches he’s tested have failed for lead. “We’ve seen some issue,” he said. “Out of the thousands we’ve tested, we’ve had a very small portion over the limit.”
The specter of inhaling heavy metal vapor into your lungs should be of serious concern to anyone who has chosen vape pens as a healthier alternative to smoking flower. But it’s also important to recognize that we only know about this potential hazard because California’s new regulations are working as intended.
Vape pens (along with all other cannabis products) get tested in an accredited lab where standards are rigorous, and anything that fails for contaminants of any kind gets pulled from the supply chain before it reaches dispensary shelves.
But what if you’re not buying your vape carts at a licensed dispensary, because you don’t live in a place with legal cannabis, or you get a better deal on them off-the-books from a guy at your gym? A vape cart is a vape cart is a vape cart—right?
Sure, unless your vape cart is counterfeit.
It’s Not Just the Carts
Vape pen manufacturers have been aware of a growing counterfeit market for well more than five years, though until recently, there’s been little public discussion of the problem. And it’s not just the cannabis-filled vape cartridges that are getting knocked off. Sometimes it’s the actual pen.
Grenco Science manufactures the G Pen (retail $35 – $125), a leading line of high-end portable vaporizers that boasts celebrity endorsements from Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Burton snowboards, and other lifestyle brands.
In 2017, the company was awarded $47 million after suing 65 different online retailers for selling counterfeit versions of their products. They took the legal action not just in hopes of recovering lost revenue and deterring future violations of their trademarks and copyrights, but also to protect consumers from potentially dangerous hardware.
Counterfeit vape pens generally use non-certified batteries and materials, which either function improperly or not at all. If they fail to sufficiently heat, the vapor output will be minimal or nil. If the heating element gets too hot, whatever’s inside the cartridge will combust instead of releasing vapor. Or potentially hazardous materials surrounding the cart could release noxious fumes. Sometimes fake vape pens leak. And there has been multiple instances when they’ve exploded, badly injuring people.
Some people knowingly buy these counterfeits, but most don’t realize they’re getting conned. According to Grenco Science’s complaint:
Many of the unauthorized [retailers] named in the lawsuit are based overseas and go to great lengths to conceal their identities and thwart shutdown. This includes operating under multiple fictitious names, using numerous merchant accounts and illegitimate search engine optimization tactics to drive traffic away from the genuine Grenco Science online store. The defendants often used logos and images directly sourced from Grenco Science to further deceive possible customers.
Nobody Heats Up a Handbag and Inhales
While Grenco (and other vape pen makers) say counterfeiting of pens has been “rampant” since 2013, the thriving illicit market in fake vape carts appears to be a more recent phenomenon.
In a December 2018 article published by Marijuana Business Daily, Hannah Davis, chief marketing officer for Heavy Hitters, a line of disposable cannabis vape cartridges in California, said the company was “alarmed” just a few months prior when they learned that fake Heavy Hitters vape carts were being sold at unlicensed dispensaries in California.
There are unlicensed shops in California selling this product at a lower price. This could be potentially unsafe to consumers … buying it thinking that they’re getting a better deal from these unlicensed shops.
Just like with a knock-off Gucci handbag, counterfeit vape pens cost far less than their authentic counterparts because they’re made on the cheap, out of inferior materials, by companies that don’t pay taxes, don’t have to market or promote their brands, and don’t have to meet any standards whatsoever. The obvious (and ominous) difference is that nobody heats up a handbag and then inhales it deeply into their lungs.
So what’s inside all the fake vape carts currently found at unlicensed dispensaries and on offer from underground dealers in prohibition states? And how do they get them to look so much like the real thing?
Merry Jane’s Zach Harris found the answer on Instagram.
Under usernames like @vapen.cbd.thc, @cartridge_vape_factory, and @dreamervapor01, black market wholesalers are posting photos and videos of endless stacks of empty cartridges and packaging from three successful California-based brands in particular, King Pen, Brass Knuckles, and Heavy Hitters, as well as a number of other, lesser-known vape labels. There are dozens of near-identical pages across the social media site, each one requesting direct messages for order info and listing WhatsApp numbers and Hotmail addresses in their bios.
These unscrupulous online retailers will sell to anyone with money not just empty vape carts, but also all of the packaging material needed to make it look like a real King Pen. Most of these suppliers are located in Shenzhen, China—the same industrial center where legal companies outsource their non-cannabis production runs.
So the physical carts themselves are no different than what’s in the authentic product. And the branding looks so similar, it’s difficult for even the legitimate manufacturers to distinguish the fakes from the real thing.
But when it comes time to fill those cartridges, who knows what’s in them?
All we know for certain is that whatever’s inside a counterfeit vape cart was added by someone who rips off people for a living. And that it won’t be tested for potency, purity, or anything else before you start puffing away. It could be low-grade, pesticide-ridden cannabis oil, or a blend of synthetic cannabinoids, or something even more nefarious.
Manufacturers continue to pursue legal action against bootleggers and constantly update their packaging to stay ahead of fakes, but it’s essentially a game of Whack-a-Mole.
So What’s the Solution?
Consumers in legal states who want vape pens need to buy them from licensed retailers. And those stuck living in prohibition states will just have to wait for legalization to reach them. But no need to break up with your dealer—just stick with flower awhile.
And if you’re worried about getting high discreetly, maybe do like your elders did, and invest in a one-hitter cleverly disguised to look like a harmless tobacco cigarette.
Original Post: Leafly: Are You About to Puff on a Fake Vape Pen?
[Editor’s Note: Important story that points out the benefits and caveats about using cannabis to treat cancer. Lots of issues are explored in this story.]
If you (or someone you love) just got diagnosed with cancer, that’s obviously very frightening. My heart goes out to you in every way. Now here’s the good news: cannabis can help, and this guide will explain how.
The cannabis plant contains a number of compounds with research-backed benefits for cancer patients. The science-based case that it is a safe and effective medicine will be made below, with plenty of links to double-blind studies, authoritative sources, and leading experts. The takeaway being that the plant and preparations derived from it can provide relief of cancer-related symptoms like pain, nausea, and inflammation. Some research has even shown that some cannabis compounds may slow cancer growth and shrink tumors.
Cannabis can also elevate your mood at critical moments, and even help you psychologically come to grips with the difficult times ahead. This is no small thing.
Cannabis can also elevate your mood at critical moments, and even help you psychologically come to grips with the difficult times ahead. This is no small thing. Many of the medicines you will be prescribed, and procedures you will undergo—helpful as they may be—will leave you feeling depleted (to say the least).
Cannabis is restorative—to body and soul.
To laugh, to escape from pain and anxiety, to step outside one’s self and experience a moment of peace, or bliss, or both—what could be more healing? Now, I don’t have any studies to back up this particular claim, but I have seen it firsthand countless times in my 15 years of meeting cancer patients and writing about their relationship with medical cannabis. And that includes both people who had a lot of experience with cannabis before they got cancer and those who’d never even considered trying it before.
The Case for Medical Cannabis
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)
Let’s start with the bad news: Cannabis remains illegal even for medicinal use in many places around the world. This forces countless cancer patients every year to resort to the underground market, where they risk arrest for simply possessing a small amount of plant matter. Beyond that, it’s also important to understand that cannabis itself is not harmless.
But neither is water, if you drink too much.
So when we talk about the potential risks of cannabis, we need to talk not about it being “safe” or “dangerous,” but in terms of “relative harm.”
When it comes to cancer specifically, there’s been a number of landmark studies proving the safety and efficacy of cannabis.
The first ever study to show that cannabis exhibits anti-tumor properties was originally designed to demonstrate the plant’s dangers, specifically harm to the immune system. Funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society, research published in 1974 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that mice who had tumors surgically implanted and were then “treated for 20 consecutive days with THC” had reduced primary tumor size.
The government immediately pushed the offending study down the memory hole, and pushed on with the War on Cannabis, but three decades later, Dr. Manuel Guzman, professor of biochemistry at the University of Madrid, managed to follow up on the original 1974 experiments, with similar results. In the March 2000 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, Guzman reported that cannabinoids (like THC) not only shrink cancerous tumors in mice, they do so without damaging surrounding tissues.
A year later, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine for the first time demonstrated the efficacy of THC for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
“Cannabis is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite.”
Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of hematology-oncology at San Francisco General Hospital
“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t see a cancer patient who has nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, depression, and insomnia,” Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of hematology-oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco told Newsweek for a 2013 article headlined Marijuana Is a Wonder Drug When It Comes to the Horrors of Chemo. “Cannabis is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite.”
More recently, in 2017, the International Journal of Oncology published a report showing that cannabinoids produced naturally in a cannabis plant possess anti-cancer activity whether used alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy. While according to research by Yale Cancer Center, a majority of pediatric cancer providers now endorse the use of medical cannabis for children with advanced cancer.
Talking With Your Doctor
Many physicians and medical professionals (including cancer specialists) remain wholly unaware of the many ways cannabis can support those going through cancer treatments, so it’s important to show up to every appointment armed with as much information as possible. But you should be cautious as well, particularly if you live in a place where medical cannabis is not legal, and admitting to using cannabis could potentially lead to legal trouble, refusal of medical care, or problems with your insurance coverage.
So research thoroughly and choose you words carefully until you determine if you feel safe broaching the subject with your primary care physician and/or oncologist. Also, consider seeking out a cancer specialist who publicly embraces medical cannabis for a more thorough consultation on your particular needs.
How to Obtain Medical Cannabis
If you live in a place with either legal cannabis or legal medical cannabis, you should have no problem accessing what you need through a dispensary. There may be some legal hoops to jump through to sign up for your state’s medical cannabis program, but as a cancer patient you most certainly qualify.
The Leafly app can help you locate the best dispensary within a reasonable distance from where you live, and then you can search their menu online to make sure they’ve got the specific products you’re looking for before you pay them a visit.
Everything you find on a dispensary shelf should be lab tested for purity and potency, but it’s still a good idea to seek out cannabis grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Federal law prohibits using the word “organic” when it comes to cannabis, but there are third party certifications that mean the same thing, and certain companies only work with growers using organic methods.
If you live in a place without legal medical cannabis, you’ll have to first carefully weigh the potential benefits of having this medicine in your life against the risk of legal consequences.
The medical cannabis movement has been built on civil disobedience, and the foundational belief that any law preventing the seriously ill from accessing a proven medicinal plant should be actively subverted. So feel no shame, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Think of a person in your life whom you trust, and who already has access to cannabis, and let them in on your situation.
Dosing Medical Cannabis
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)
When it comes to identifying your ideal dosage, the most important thing to know is that you should start with very small amounts of cannabis and slowly increase them until you find what works best for you, without going overboard. This detailed dosage guide from Project CBD offers thorough information on how to optimize the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
It’s also vital to understand that different delivery methods will produce vastly different effects, including how quickly they onset and how long they last. Inhalation will have you feeling relief in less than a minute. Just start with a puff or two, see what happens in a couple of minutes, and then inhale more as needed.
Meanwhile, edibles can take up to 90 minutes to onset, and last for up to eight hours. That makes them ideal for long-term relief, but you run the risk of eating too much before you start to feel the effects. So until you get the hang of it, stick to low-dose edibles (five or ten milligrams of THC) and then slowly up your dose as needed—always waiting at least 2 hours between doses to account for the lag time.
Incorporating CBD-rich cannabis products into your regiment gives you access to another therapeutic cannabinoid, one that is also shown to reduce anxiety induced by larger doses of THC. (Note: small doses of CBD can enhance THC’s intoxicating properties, but large doses appear to counteract unwanted side effects.)
Be sure to remain well hydrated at all times, and ideally share the experience with a friend. Definitely stay home the first few times you use cannabis, particularly as you get used to the experience and while experimenting to find your optimal dose.
Mixing cannabis with alcohol is not a good idea. Mixing it with your favorite music and a game of stoned Scrabble, however, is really fun.
Choosing a Delivery Method
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)
Several pharmaceutical drugs have been developed using either synthetic cannabinoids (like the THC drug Marinol), or plant derived blends of THC and CBD (like Sativex from GW Pharmaceuticals). What these products all have in common is that they’re inferior to whole plant cannabis (and whole plant cannabis derived products) in terms of efficacy and price.
As Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a retired Harvard Medical School professor and longtime leading medical cannabis researcher put it:
Needless to say, the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly devoting its massive resources to the development of cannabinoid analogs or other products which can compete with herbal marijuana. But none of these products will be as inexpensive or useful as herbal marijuana. Legality, not efficacy, is their major appeal.
Also known as “buds,” the dried flowering tops of female cannabis plants are ideal for smoking and vaporizing. If possible, get yourself a high quality portable vaporizer. Vaporizing is a lot less work for your lungs than smoking and you’re much less likely to have a painful coughing fit. Here’s a recent consumer test done by The Wirecutter that will give you lots of options by price range.
If you’re sourcing dispensary cannabis, the label should tell you its levels of THC and CBD. Ideally, you want a range of strains at your disposal, including one that you find pleasantly uplifting (like Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, and Super Lemon Haze); one you find pleasantly sedating (like Blueberry, Purple Kush, and LA Confidential), and one that’s rich in CBD (like ACDC, Cannatonic, and Harlequin).
When dealing with extreme pain or nausea, it’s reassuring to have a way to quickly inhale a high dose of cannabis. Depending on how concentrates are made, they can have levels of purity from around 50% THC all the way up to 95%.
If you’re new to cannabis, a vape pen is a good option for exploring concentrates, as you can inhale small amounts of cannabis oil with ease, and they’re very discreet to use when out of the house. But make sure you research a reputable brand, as the quality of vape pens varies widely.
Dabs are definitely the most efficient way to inhale the most cannabinoids all at once, but they should wait until you’re fairly experienced with cannabis, as it’s a lot to take in. When you’re ready, here’s Leafly’s guide to dabbing.
Cannabis Oil or RSO
Some cannabis patients ingest large doses of cannabis oil in an attempt to not only control symptoms, but to destroy existing cancer cells and prevent the disease’s spread. As mentioned before, research is beginning to show the specific ways cannabis may help control cancer growth. But it’s also led to a rash of overblown claims and “snake oil sales pushes” that target vulnerable patients, so be careful what you buy and who you believe.
Again, edibles take up to 90 minutes to onset, and can potentially get you way higher than smoking or vaping because of a chemical conversion that takes place when THC is processed in the liver instead of the lungs. So it’s way easier to overdo it on edibles.
But edibles also have some big advantages: They provide relief for many hours, they’re discreet to carry and consume, you don’t have to inhale smoke, and they can really help you stretch your cannabis budget, particularly if you’re making your own edibles at home. Just follow proper safety protocols.
Prior to the Age of Pharmaceuticals, many prescriptions were delivered to patients via tinctures, a medicinal preparation where an active ingredient is dissolved into a solvent, typically alcohol.
Tinctures give you a smoke-free, vape-free option that still takes effect quickly, since the medicine can be absorbed under the tongue rather than in the stomach. They’re discreet and easy to dose, and you can either make your own at home or find a high quality tincture at a dispensary, including ones that offer a range of different cannabinoid ratios, and even blend in other medicinal herbs along with cannabis.
Topicals can be applied directly to the skin wherever you’re feeling pain, so it’s a great way to get targeted all-natural relief of soreness and inflammation without getting high. At a quality dispensary, you can find a wide range of lotions, balms, bath soaks and massage oils, including lines that also blend in other therapeutic herbs.
Original Post: Leafly: A Patient’s Guide to Using Cannabis for Cancer
[Editor’s Note: These are the breeders who paved the road to our happiness. They’ve changed the cannabis game with the creation of strains you purchase today. This article rightfully honors them.]
Cannabis—like asparagus, dates, mulberry, ginkgo, persimmons, and spinach—is a dioecious species, meaning that the male and female reproductive structures involved in propagation are typically found on different individual plants, rather than on a single plant (as in a monoecious species). Cannabis is also an annual, so it dies off each winter, but not before dropping seeds that will sprout the following spring, allowing the cycle of life to continue for another year.
In nature, those seeds form in the late autumn—when the male plants pollinate the females. Each time such pollination takes place the result is a genetically unique seed—one that contains DNA from both of its parents—but without the direct involvement of human beings, the amount of genetic diversity seen from generation to generation is practically pretty limited.
In theory, each time two unique varieties are crossed in this way, the result is a wholly new strain. But in practice, only the most successful of these hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts. Adding to the complexity (and potential confusion) of this process is the fact that until relatively recently, all of this breeding still took place in the underground, so the documentation of who created what and how is often unknown or in dispute.
But that’s just all the more reason to properly identify and honor the amazing cannabis breeders of yore who performed the alchemical feat of bringing into the world all-new, genetically distinct cannabis varietals that truly changed the game.
Dave Watson (a.k.a. “Sam the Skunkman”)
One of the most fascinating and controversial figures in cannabis history, Dave Watson (far better known as “Sam the Skunkman”) is lauded by some and vilified by others, but nobody can dispute the outsized role he’s played in the once very small world of cannabis breeders.
Watson’s journey began in Santa Cruz, California in the 1970s, where he was linked to two of the earliest cannabis breeding outfits to ever gain notoriety—the Haze Brothers and Sacred Seed Collective—both of which were instrumental in developing the early hybrid strains that helped transform American “homegrown” cannabis from a ditchweed laughingstock to the envy of the world.
In 1985, Watson was reportedly arrested on cannabis charges in California. A month later, he landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, allegedly with a box of 250,000 seeds that included Skunk #1, Original Haze, and Afghani #1—all of which had been bred or stabilized by his cannabis compatriots. Watson met immediately with emissaries from Amsterdam’s burgeoning cannabis scene, which at the time relied largely on imported hashish to supply its coffeeshops.
Along with Robert Colonel Clarke (Author of Hashish! and Marijuana Botany), he would go on to form Hortapharm, a company dedicated to collecting cannabis seeds from around the world, both to create a stable genetic library and to breed new hybrids with desirable traits. By the late 1990s, they were doing business with Dr. Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is now licensed by the British government to cultivate cannabis for use in making “whole-plant extracts” with specific ratios of THC and CBD for use as prescription medicines.
GW has since created “the first cannabis plant-derived medicine ever approved by the FDA,” but at the time, the company was in its earliest stages and still looking for cannabis seed stock to use in developing its pharmaceutical preparations.
In the late 1960s, Netherlands native Ben Dronkers sailed on merchant ships to exotic ports of call, where he initially sought out fabric to start his own clothing company, but eventually began collecting local cannabis seeds instead. In time, his collection was truly unparalleled and boasted genetics from throughout Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. He then used those landrace strains to breed his own hybrids.
In 1985, Dronkers formed Sensi Seed Bank and began offering for sale the strains he’d collected and hybrids he’d created, including after crossing his own discoveries with recently arrived American varietals.
Among his most endearing and enduring contributions: Jack Herer, one of the all time most popular cannabis strains, named for one of the all-time most influential cannabis activists.
“#DjShortNewberry #DjShort. The red hue is from unintentional light bleaching. Photo and grow cred goes to: @secondgenerationgenetics” (@secondgenerationgenetics/Instagram)
According to a lengthy 2013 Grantland profile titled “The Willie Wonka of Pot,” DJ Short—the legendary, nearly mythical cannabis breeder behind Blueberry and many other classic strains—is part of a long line of plant medicine workers. His great-grandmother “used to grow pot, opium, tobacco, sage, and lavender in a backyard garden. The curtains in his grandmother’s house were made of hemp. His family used to joke, ‘If the house catches on fire, stay in for a little while and breathe.’”
Eventually he began collecting cannabis seeds from the bags of cannabis he bought as a teenager, carefully logging them and making detailed notes, as much later related in his own 2003 book Cultivating Exceptional Cannabis: An Expert Breeder Shares His Secrets:
Colombian Gold (“The smell was that of sandalwood incense, almost frankincense, and the flavor was that of a peppery incense cedar … truly psychedelic, powerful and long lasting”), Chocolate Thai (“deep, rich, chocolate, nutty, woody/spicy”); Jamaican (“Too damned strong and speedy! … It is a heart-lifting herb and I have a sensitive heart. So I am careful with the samples of the commercial J-ganga that I try”).
Then one day, in 1973, after moving to Oregon, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the sativa seeds he’d collected as a youth, but he found they took too long to mature and yielded too little. Next he tried smoking some indica, but found it didn’t stoke his inspiration or spark his imagination the same way as sativa.
So he set up a 16-square-foot closet grow and began to breed his own strains, mixing sativa and indica varietals and scrupulously smoking the results until he produced not just Blueberry, a marquee strain with the hue and aroma of fresh berries, but also Flo, Blue Velvet, Azure Haze, Whitaker Blues, Vanilluna, and many other varieties that have collectively changed the game—as has DJ Short’s tireless research into cultivation and breeding practices, a lifelong pursuit he continues today.
Don and Aaron (the D and A of DNA Genetics) met in Southern California and initially enjoyed the symbiotic relationship of weed dealer and customer. Then they became friends. And finally business partners.
There was never any question that they’d enter the cannabis business, as both men share a true and abiding passion for the plant. But rather than try to compete in the still grey market medical cannabis industry developing in the United States at the time, in 2004 they decided to pull up stakes and open up shop in The Netherlands.
The move put them in direct contact with Amsterdam’s legendary cannabis scene, which had been serving as a center of breeding and seed banks since the days of Dave Watson and Ben Dronkers back in the 1980s.
As new kids on the block, Don and Aaron brought with them not just enthusiasm and youthful energy, but also a whole new generation of prized California genetics which they used to create next-level cannabis hybrids like LA Confidential, Chocolope, Tangie, and Kosher Kush.
More recently, they’ve moved their operations back to California, where they’re firmly established among the largest and most respected cannabis brands in the game today.
Before humans began actively breeding cannabis strains for desired traits, the plant produced much less THC than it does now, and lots more CBD—perhaps even a 1:1 ratio of its two best known and most plentiful cannabinoids. But because CBD isn’t intoxicating like THC, underground breeders seeking higher highs for decades unwittingly bred CBD out of the cannabis gene pool.
Well aware of CBD’s therapeutic potential, however, in 2010 a non-profit organization called Project CBD formed to boost research into the compound, and help identify and proliferate what few CBD-rich cannabis varietals remained in circulation. From its inception, Project CBD partnered with California’s commercial cannabis testing labs to flag any bud testing high in CBD, in order to build up a breeding stock of high-CBD strains.
Sour Tsunami—bred by Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt Seed Collective—was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain they found in California, a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.
Ringo himself had begun growing as early as 1971, though he remained largely in the underground until 2010 when he founded his seed company. That’s also when he had his crops lab tested for the first time, and discovered the unique medicinal properties of Sour Tsunami were due to its high CBD content (around 11%). From then until the end of his life in 2014, he focused on developing additional CBD-rich strains, including Harle-Tsu, Canna-Tsu, Swiss-Tsu, and ACDC.
Original Post: Leafly: 5 Cannabis Breeders Who Changed the Game