New York Weed Arrests Are Up for People of Color, But Down for White Residents

New York Weed Arrests Are Up for People of Color, But Down for White Residents

Canniseur: Why am I not surprised at this? Because the intentional and unintentional bias toward people of color by their own police forces. Cannabis is decriminalized in New York, but arrests of people of color are up. Racial profiling is pervasive and we need to stop it now. It will take a generation though. That’s life.]

In 2018, cops in Upstate New York charged twice as many black people for low-level weed offenses than they did in 2016, illustrating that racially-biased policing is still a pervasive issue.

Despite the public’s rising acceptance of legal weed, and the increasing liberalization of cannabis laws, police are still targeting black and Latinx Americans for low-level pot offenses.

New police data from Albany and Schenectady counties — New York state’s Capital Region — highlights that weed arrests for black and Latinx Americans went up over the last few years, while arrests for white residents went down for the same crimes.

“Nothing has changed in terms of what we are hearing on the street,” Alice Green, the executive director at the Center for Law and Justice, told the Times Union. “People are still being stopped and arrested.”

For instance, in 2018, police in New York’s Capital Region charged twice as many black people for low-level weed offenses than they did in 2016, reported the Times Union.

The data shows that weed arrests across all racial demographics began dropping in 2009, five years before the state legalized medical marijuana. From 2011 to 2012, weed arrests for white and black people decreased slightly, while arrests for “Other” ethnicities went up.

Then something changed between 2016 and 2017, when arrests across all races increased. But the trend dramatically reversed from 2017 to 2018 — around the same time New York lawmakers were seriously discussing legalizing recreational weed — with the arrest rate for white people plummeting and arrests for black people soaring.

The data contradicts Albany’s drug policy. Last year, Albany District Attorney David Soares said he would stop prosecuting anyone charged with possessing less than two ounces of weed. Yet since January, Albany police arrested dozens of people for holding less than two ounces, and, not surprisingly, almost all of them were black or Latinx.

“The Albany Police Department routinely analyzes and assesses data to ensure that operations are consistent with contemporary best practices,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins in a press release. “We are currently conducting such an assessment with respect to the latest data regarding marijuana arrests.”

The easy solution, of course, would be for the cops to stop charging people — regardless of ethnicity — for holding less than two ounces of marijuana. Y’know, like the District Attorney ordered.

Things aren’t much better in the Big Apple, either. Last year, a report showed that 9 out of 10 people arrested by the NYPD for low-level weed offenses were black or Latinx.

New York certainly isn’t the only state to see the War on Drugs’ bullshit continue in an age when most Americans favor some form of cannabis legalization. Last month, a study found that weed arrests for black Washingtonians doubled after the state legalized in 2014. Previous studies have shown arrest and citation rate disparities for black and Hispanic people in Colorado after 2014, too.

This article first appeared in Merry Jane as New York Weed Arrests Are Up for People of Color, But Down for White Residents

Recreational Weed Hurts Medical Cannabis Programs, Study Finds

Recreational Weed Hurts Medical Cannabis Programs, Study Finds

[Canniseur: This is not surprising given the difficulty in obtaining a medical card in many states. Real medical cannabis patients, who are benefiting from the plant, may be doing themselves a disservice by not staying in the medical part of cannabis in adult use legal markets. Lapsed patients are finding higher prices and a lack of what they need (like Rick Simpson Oil) in the adult-use dispensaries. Patients should go back to medical cannabis dispensaries and states should make it easier to get a medical card.]

Recreational cannabis may be great for creating jobs and keeping folks out of prison, but liberal weed laws may be hurting the people who benefit most from cannabis: the patients.

Recreational marijuana laws lead to a sharp decline in state-registered medical cannabis patients.

A new report from the Associated Press found that when a state legalizes recreational pot, up to half of the state’s registered marijuana patients drop out of the program. Although the reasons for this weren’t clear, the report’s authors suspected it could be due to medical registrations being “the only way to buy marijuana legally” before recreational legalization, ABC News reported.

So, naturally, once a state legalized recreational weed, patients who simply wanted to get lit — and stay out of jail — no longer felt like they needed to buy from their state’s medical market.

Some state medical programs got hit harder than others. For example, Oregon, the most extreme case, saw its medical marijuana registry fall by two-thirds after legalization. The slump triggered a widespread closure of medical pot shops, as Oregon went from 400 medical dispensaries to just two since launching recreational weed sales.

Alaska, Nevada, and Colorado also saw marijuana patients exiting their medical programs shortly after legalization, with drops of 63 percent, 40 percent, and 19 percent, respectively.

California, the US’s largest cannabis market, wasn’t included in the AP’s analysis because the Golden State doesn’t keep data on its marijuana patients. Washington State and Maine were also excluded for the same reason.

And while the media lauds legal cannabis as an economic panacea, the market shift from medical to recreational hasn’t benefited some chronically or debilitatingly ill patients.

“Some of the products that these patients have relied on for consistency — and have used over and over for years — are disappearing off the shelves to market products that have a wider appeal,” David Magone, the director of government affairs at Americans for Safe Access, told ABC News.

The price differences between recreational and medical pot products are negatively impacting patients, too. Severely ill patients, such as those suffering from cancer or AIDS, require large quantities of cannabis to manage their symptoms. In California, an ounce of weed, according to one patient, only cost $35 for medical patients. That same ounce on the recreational market costs $100.

In Oregon, a cancer patient was forced to grow his own weed and make his own cannabis oil, since purchasing the same oil from a recreational pot shop – at $60 a gram, his daily dose – would be unfeasible today.

“Patients have needs. Consumers have wants,” Anthony Taylor, a member of the Oregon Cannabis Commission, told ABC News. “Patients are in crisis right now.”

From Merry Jane Recreational Weed Hurts Medical Cannabis Programs, Study Finds

Could Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome Be the Cause of IBS and Migraines?

Could Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome Be the Cause of IBS and Migraines?

[Canniseur: This could be groundbreaking. There are now two large systems in our bodies that we know almost nothing about. The endocannabinoid system and the interstitium, a new organ that was described earlier this year. Why shouldn’t the endocannabinoid system in our bodies be subject to all the ills and foibles of the other systems in our bodies? It will be interesting to find out if a lack of endocannabinoids is partly responsible for many of the diseases outlined in this article.]

A small group of scientists and doctors believe a lack of endocannabinoids could explain the causes behind little-understood medical conditions like fibromyalgia, IBS, and migraines.

Cannabis seems to treat an impressively wide range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to eating disorders to depression to cancer. Researchers suggest that weed may appear to be a universal panacea — a miracle drug, if you will — because the plant’s compounds may help maintain our body’s endocannabinoid system.A refresher: The endocannabinoid system is a physiological system like the respiratory system or the nervous system. Although scientists only discovered it about three decades ago, it may be one of — if not the —  most important developments in medical history.The endocannabinoid system regulates our body’s homeostasis, a state of harmonic balance where everything works as it should. It’s also key to our nervous system’s ability to communicate with other cells, tissues, and organs. Learning, memory formation, appetite, immune response, and healing are all controlled by the endocannabinoid system. Think of it as the part of our bodies that connects the brain with everything else, both inside of us and out in our surrounding environments. Without this system, the evolution of ‘higher’ lifeforms likely wouldn’t have happened (at least, not according to our current understanding of biology).1559590999679_dc57d8c83e7bcbb1cc9ba794c4b49d55.jpg“We all have an endocannabinoid system,” said Robert Melamede, PhD, during a recent talk at Harvard University. Melamede is a molecular biologist and cannabis activist who’s served as a scientific advisor to NORML and other cannabis advocacy groups.“The miracle of this is that the endocannabinoid system regulates everything in your body — immune, digestive, cardiovascular, skin, bone, reproductive — from your conception until your death.”To self-regulate the endocannabinoid system, our bodies naturally produce chemicals called endocannabinoids (endo- for “inside” and –cannabinoid for “related to cannabis”). Two of the most studied endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG, which interact with the same cannabinoid receptors on our cells that plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD also act on.

Cannabinoids bind to cell proteins called cannabinoid, or CB, receptors. CB receptors act as locks on a cell, and cannabinoids essentially unlock them to trigger cell signaling. One of these receptors, CB1, mainly resides in the nervous system. Another receptor, CB2, can be found in the spleen and on immune cells.

THC, the cannabis compound that gets people stoned, binds tighter to CB1 receptors in the brain than it does to CB2 receptors in the immune system. This may be why THC couch-locks tokers and CBD doesn’t.

If we take this model a step further, anandamide may be our body’s version of THC, whereas 2-AG could be the body’s version of CBD. How do we know? Anandamide and 2-AG both bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but anandamide binds better to CB1 (like THC) and 2-AG binds best to CB2 (like CBD).

Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, the “godfather of cannabis science” who first isolated and characterized THC in the late 1960s, believes anandamide behaves just like THC in the body. He suspects that anandamide, administered in the correct amounts, could even generate a “high” identical to THC’s, though, to date, no human subjects have been given pure anandamide to test this out.

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According to one neurologist, certain medical conditions — namely fibromyalgia, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — share one thing in common: the patients typically exhibit low endocannabinoid levels. Furthermore, these three conditions are comorbid, meaning patients diagnosed with one usually have another, if not all three.

In 2001, while working as a scientific advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Ethan Russo first proposed what he calls “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency,” or CECD, in a paper about migraines. In recent years, this term started going by another name, “endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome,” or ECDS (Russo prefers the former). Both terms refer to the same hypothetical condition.

What is endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, and what are its symptoms? Many of the details are still being worked out, but chronic pain, rampant inflammation, insomnia, fatigue, depression, lack of appetite, and irritability are common issues associated with it.

Rather than being a disease that always triggers a specific set of symptoms, ECDS may manifest differently among patients, depending on their environments, lifestyles, diets, and genetic make up.

But what if there’s more to this? What if these various maladies are all connected somehow? And what if cannabis, by restoring endocannabinoid function, could successfully treat conditions caused by low endocannabinoid levels, conditions that have proven difficult, if not impossible, to control through conventional medicine?

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A Medical Diagnosis Based on the Body’s ‘Natural Marijuana’

Initially, Russo suggested that migraines could be caused by low anandamide levels in the brain. Because sharp, throbbing pains always accompany migraines, research suggests a pain-killing compound like anandamide could keep them at bay. Both anandamide and THC — the intoxicating part of cannabis — activate the endocannabinoid receptors in our nerves. In other words, migraine patients who consume marijuana may be self-medicating by adding the plant’s version of anandamide back into their bodies.

Since Russo first proposed endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, its related disorders expanded to include several other ailments. And their causes have eluded medical science, not unlike fibromyalgia and IBS. But given news that medical schools didn’t teach their students about the endocannabinoid system until the last few years, is the medical community even aware of this syndrome?

“There’s an awareness of this condition, and it is getting noticed. And there’s a good deal of research that’s been done on it,” Russo told MERRY JANE over the phone. “What’s happened in the ensuing 18 years [since proposing ECDS/ECDS] is we’ve gradually built up objective evidence showing that people with some of these syndromes [like IBS or fibromyalgia] do have differences between their endocannabinoid content either in their blood or in the cerebrospinal fluid in their brain.”

Russo cited a few eye-opening studies that back him up. One 2013 paper looked at people diagnosed with PTSD shortly after witnessing (or outright experiencing) the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Serum analysis showed these patients produced less anandamide and 2-AG, which are both crucial for regulating stress responses.

Additional studies confirmed that constant stress dulls the endocannabinoid receptors from responding to chemical signals, which may explain why the body reduces its anandamide and 2-AG production when life gets extremely difficult.

Researchers have also detected abnormal endocannabinoid function in people with autism spectrum disorder, some cancers, motion sickness, and epileptic seizure disorders. These conditions, like migraines, can be treated with cannabis, too.

How does ECDS explain these disorders, and how can cannabis treat them? Let’s take a look at one endocannabinoid deficiency-related condition, irritable bowel syndrome, to get a better understanding of how cannabis could treat it on multiple levels.

 

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IBS and ECDS: How Are the Conditions Related?

Irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disorder is a common ailment that affects anywhere between 25 million to 45 million Americans. Two-thirds of IBS patients are female, and the condition appears in patients across all age groups.

IBS’s symptoms include bloating, digestive inflammation, rampant flatulence, upset stomach, diarrhea at random hours (especially in the middle of the night), constipation, ulcers, and a hypersensitivity to all sorts of everyday foods and food additives. Untreated, IBS can lead to anemia, iron deficiency, or dehydration.

The symptoms of IBS have been thoroughly identified, but how it happens remains a mystery. Doctors know that genetics, immune response, serotonin dysregulation, and the digestive system’s microbiota all play a role. But to what extent these factors influence IBS, and how they’re all connected, is unknown.

Enter a new perspective on IBS, one viewed through the lens of ECDS.

According to Russo, the endocannabinoid system regulates every level of IBS, from anti-inflammatory signals to serotonin signaling to maintaining the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut. Traditional medicine takes an inefficient approach to dealing with IBS. Doctors typically treat it by prescribing drugs for its various symptoms: a pill to reduce the gas and bloating, another pill to reduce inflammation, another pill to reduce gastric acid, another pill to make the ulcers go away, a laxative for constipation, and so on.

Yet, if ECDS can explain why IBS even happens, then consuming some cannabis could both replace all those pills and correct the condition’s root cause, a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system.

 

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Medical syndromes, like the proposed ECDS, are not disease-states in and of themselves. Rather, they describe a set of symptoms that share underlying causes, usually genetic in nature. Since the genetic science behind endocannabinoid activity is still in its infancy, endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome remains hypothetical. Doctors can’t diagnose it because it’s not officially recognized by the big-name medical associations.

If the science pans out, and Russo’s hypothesis is proven correct, then cannabis could be one of the most prevalent and effective medicines for treating ECDS and its related conditions. Depending on where the research takes us, it’s possible that cannabis breeders could produce new marijuana strains tailored to endocannabinoid-deficient conditions like fibromyalgia or IBS.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies will want in on the game, too. (Just kidding: They’re already in the game.) Pharmie-grade mixtures of less common cannabinoids — like CBG, CBN, or THCV — could alleviate the chronic symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraines, IBS, or other issues related to ECDS that conventional pharmaceuticals have failed to treat.

And it’s also possible that new drugs or designer weed may not be necessary for avoiding some endocannabinoid deficiencies. Researchers like Robert Melamede believe endocannabinoid deficiency can be prevented by adding more omega-3s and plant-derived cannabinoids to one’s diet.

“We should view cannabis not as a medicine, but as an essential nutrient,” Melamede said during the Harvard lecture. “Every illness that cannabis helps reflects a nutritional deficiency.”

Supplementing a balanced diet with omega-3s helps the body produce more endocannabinoids — which is why doctors and health-nuts promote omega-3s, even if they don’t know why, exactly. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, and fish, are the precursors to our own endocannabinoids. Our body basically makes its own weed from healthy fats.

But the body can only produce so many endocannabinoids at a time, regardless of how many fish oil capsules you pop. For those who suffer from persistent endocannabinoid deficiencies, consuming cannabis could make up for the gaps, since the cannabinoids in cannabis could, potentially, supplement the body’s life-sustaining endocannabinoids.

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What Would It Take for ECDS to Become a True Diagnosis?

So let’s assume that ECDS is a real thing. How would medical scientists get the syndrome into medical textbooks?

“There’s abundant evidence now, but it’s not widely recognized or necessarily accepted by the medical community,” Russo said. Achieving said recognition may prove difficult, as he described the same medical community as one “which has managed to ignore a lot of high-quality work on cannabis-based medicines.”

As an example of American medicine’s denial of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, Russo mentioned Marinol, a synthetic THC formulation used to treat spasticity and nausea. Marinol doesn’t contain THC extracted from the cannabis plant. Rather, its active ingredient is a purely artificial, human-made version of THC. The drug, which received FDA approval in the early 1990s, is currently classified as a Schedule III drug, whereas plant-derived THC remains at the most-restrictive category of Schedule I. This is despite the THC in Marinol being nearly identical, chemically, to the THC found in cannabis.

“To be honest,” he continued, “given the availability of Marinol in the US, a prerequisite to [getting ECDS recognized] would be clinical trials showing safety and efficacy [of cannabinoid-based medicines]. That’s what most physicians would accept.”

In other words, if you’re waiting to get a medical cannabis recommendation for ECDS, you might have to wait a few years. Or more. With the exception of experimental drugs admitted into the FDA’s Fast Track program, it can take nearly a decade before a pharmaceutical receives FDA approval. Even with Fast Track designation, drug approval can require years of investigation. With cannabis-based medicines containing plant-derived THC, approval could take even longer.

For starters, clinical trials aren’t simple to conduct. Research doctors must apply to the FDA to legally perform the trials on living, breathing human subjects. To even get to the point of testing something on people, drug researchers must pass preliminary clinical trials on animals like rats or monkeys.

If a cannabinoid medicine appears safe in animals, doctors can potentially try it on humans, but only after receiving FDA approval — which the FDA can be pretty stingy about, especially when it comes cannabis. To date, the FDA has only approved one drug made from cannabis, Epidiolex, which is only prescribed to seizure patients. All other CBD products sold in the US are not FDA-approved nor are they regulated by any federal agency.

However, there’s another cannabis-derived pharmaceutical out there, Sativex. Sativex, made by the same company that made Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals, is a mixture of THC and CBD. While it’s available in Europe, parts of Asia, and the Middle East, it’s not available in the US. In 2017, the CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals told MERRY JANE that the company didn’t pursue FDA approval for Sativex in the US because there were too many bureaucratic hurdles, and Sativex likely wouldn’t receive FDA approval in a timely manner simply because it contains plant-derived THC.

Original Article: Merry Jane

Geneticists Finally Discover What Determines a Weed Strain’s Identity

Geneticists Finally Discover What Determines a Weed Strain’s Identity

[Canniseur: It’s finally happened. We can now tell genetic differences between different ‘strains’ of cannabis. With strain genomic testing you can know for sure if the Blue Dream you’re getting is really Blue Dream. We can begin the process of making the grower the most important part of the chain from grower to consumer. It’s not the THC/CBD balance that differentiates cannabis strains, it’s the minor variations of THC, terpenes, and other items we haven’t yet discovered. Soon these tools/tests will be in place to certify strain components]

Last year, a Canadian study challenged the concept of weed strains — meaning plants distinguished by their physical characteristics like smell, flavor, appearance, and psychoactive effects. The Canadian researchers concluded that the differences among strains was so minimal that all weed strains were basically the same plant.

But a new study from Washington State University and Evio Labs found distinct genetic differences among nine strains, different enough to conclude that no, not all weed plants are the same.

The nine strains, for the record, were Blackberry Kush, Black Lime, Canna Tsu, Mama Thai, Valley Fire, Cherry Chem, Terple, Sour Diesel, and White Cookies.

According to the latest study, strains can be distinguished by the genes controlling cannabinoid and terpenoid production, and not just their “minor cannabinoids” like CBN or THCV, as suggested in the earlier Canadian study. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are responsible for the plant’s medical applications, whereas terpenes like linalool and myrcene contribute to the plant’s aromatic qualities.

The production of these two classes of chemicals are linked. The Washington/Evio study discovered that the genes controlling cannabinoid production co-regulate the genes controlling terpenoid production, and vice versa.

In other words, different plants characteristically produce different, but linked, mixtures of cannabinoids and terpenes. The findings indicate that strain identification — so long as it’s done honestly and transparently — is a real thing, and it could help researchers breed new plants for industrial, medical, and commercial purposes.

“I would argue that a combination of genetic/genomic and chemical analyses will be the most powerful approach for differentiating strains (as we did as part of the project that was just published),” Bernd Markus Lange, the study’s lead author, wrote to Forbes in an email. “This will also be important for breeding purposes, as we are beginning to better understand how sequence variation in certain genes correlates with traits such as the chemical composition.”

The new findings lend credibility to a small but growing movement of cannabis advocates who argue that marijuana plants should be designated as chemovars rather than as strains. “Strain” is an outdated term no longer used by botanists, although microbiologists still use it to describe certain kinds of bacteria and viruses.

Chemovar, a portmanteau of “chemo-” for “chemical” and “-var” from “cultivar,” indicates a cannabis plant’s identity based on its chemical profile, rather than a cool, edgy name (e.g. Alaskan Thunderfuck).

How do the genes for, say, THC co-regulate the genes for a terpene like pinene? Most weed scientists have focused on DNA or chemical analysis to study the plant, but the Washington State University and Evio Labs researchers focused on another critical but often overlooked aspect of weed genetics: RNA, or ribonucleic acid.

What the heck is RNA? A living organism’s genes — the biological codes that direct all cell growth and activity — are contained in its DNA. But to express those genes from code to action requires a second biological messenger, RNA, which transmits the information from the DNA to the rest of the cell.

Think of it like this: DNA acts like a blueprint for a building (an organism). Proteins encoded by DNA are like the wooden boards, cement bricks, and wiring used to construct the building.

RNA, then, is essentially the workhorse that puts it all together, the jack-of-all-trades construction worker that can read the blueprint then lay a building’s foundation or wire up the building’s lighting system by coordinating with or generating the cell’s proteins.

RNA is relatively weird in comparison to other biological messengers, like genes or hormones. It  can literally do everything in the cell, from transmitting genetic coding to catalyzing reactions just like an enzyme, to even self-replicating, just like DNA can.

So why has RNA’s role in shaping a strain’s properties eluded weed science for so long? Because RNA activity can’t be determined by simply looking at the genes in DNA, where most of the pot genetics research has been done. RNA’s relationship with a cell’s proteins and DNA is incredibly complex, existing in a perpetual feedback loop where gene expression, protein activity, and even the organism’s interactions with its external environment can all influence RNA activity.

Scientists have also failed to plumb deeper into weed’s RNA because of federal restrictions on cannabis research, particularly with “drug-type” cannabis that produces significant amounts of THC.

“Currently, only THC content is regulated, but there are lots of open questions from a regulatory point of view: what are the biological activities of the more than 90 other cannabinoids that have been identified?” Lange, the study’s lead author, wrote to Forbes.

“Is the entourage effect (interaction of several cannabis components in a synergistic manner) more than folklore and are there implications? There are also implications for managing the commercial cultivation of cannabis such as pesticide use and best practices. We certainly need more research in that area.”

Does this mean that the Banana Kush at your local dispensary is guaranteed to taste like banana pudding, or that the Blue Dream clone you bought from some sketchy stranger is most definitely Blue Dream? No, it doesn’t.

While no tried-and-true chain-of-custody exists for commercial (or even medical) weed genetics, this latest study does indicate that there are measurable differences among individual strains, and that these differences are rooted in the strain’s genetic and chemical profiles.

However, cultivation methods will always play a large role in bud quality, and while two clones may be genetically identical, the way their RNA responds to their internal and external environments could mean the difference between top-shelf status or bottom-of-the-barrel shake.

This article first appeared in Merry Jane as Geneticists Finally Discover What Determines a Weed Strain’s Identity

Geneticists Finally Discover What Determines a Weed Strain's Identity was posted on Merry Jane.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your Hair?

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your Hair?

[Canniseur: The follicle test can be scary. There’s some research and debunking of the follicle test, with many false positives being recorded. It’s a test still used by some employers even though it’s expensive and the results can be contested. Check out what’s false and what’s true.]

Most of us have pissed in a cup so an employer — or worse, a court — can see if we smoked weed. But one of the most dreaded drug screenings is the hair follicle test, which is said to be highly accurate and offer a long window of detection. In some instances, hair tests can detect THC in samples up to a year after someone last blazed.

But how long does weed actually stay in the hair, on average? And if you know that a follicle test is coming, is there a way to beat it?

How Weed Gets Into Your Hair

Hair follicle tests use small hair samples, typically 1 centimeter in length, to find traces of THC or THCA, the intoxicating components of the marijuana plant. THC can end up in the hair one of two ways: through oily excretions on the smoker’s skin or by second-hand contact after the hair gets exposed to weed smoke.

The first scenario, where a person’s own skin oils transfer THC metabolites from the blood to the hair, can lead to reliable detection of past cannabis use. Why? Because THC is fat-soluble — meaning it absorbs through fat, not water — and an individual’s metabolism plays a big role in how long THC remains in the body (and how much ends up in the hair). Those with more body fat will retain THC in (and on) their bodies longer than those with less body fat.

How frequently someone smokes weed can also increase the window in which weed is detected via hair. A study from 2017 showed that folks who toked daily came up positive for THC on hair tests 77 percent of the time. Less than half of those who smoked weed on a weekly basis tested positive. Every subject who hadn’t smoked within three months of the test, or who reported never smoking weed at all, came up negative.

The study’s results suggest that those who consume cannabis infrequently could luck out on a hair test. But chronic connoisseurs of the dank would need to abstain from smoking for weeks — if not months — to achieve negative results.

Beating a Hair Follicle Test

But first, let’s get the bad news out of the way: you probably can’t cheat a hair test.

Some companies market special shampoos for washing THC out of your hair, but they’re all — as far as we’re concerned — questionable products. Hair tests work because hairs trap THC in their microscopic fibers as they grow. Shampoos can wash off THC on the surface of the hair, but they can’t remove THC that’s embedded inside of the strands.

Second, shaving off your hair prior to a follicle test won’t accomplish much, either. Samples for hair tests can come from any part of the body, including the little hairs inside of your nostrils or ear canals.

Besides, showing up to a testing facility without any eyebrows will raise the testers’ suspicions that you’re cheating, and that alone can disqualify you as someone who’s clean and sober. So unless you’re undergoing chemotherapy or you’re a champion swimmer, you’ve got no good excuse for being balder than a newborn when it’s time for a drug test.

That leaves sowing doubt as the only way someone could wiggle out of a hair test’s results. Thankfully, there’s some solid science questioning the validity of hair tests and whether they can actually prove if someone recently got lit.

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Are Hair Tests Just as Bunk as the Products Sold to Cheat Them?

In 2015, German scientists concluded that hair testing was wholly unreliable for determining if someone smoked weed. They gave test subjects pure THC or THCA in oral form, then looked at the hair samples. They discovered that only incredibly tiny amounts of THC ended up in the hair, much less than the 50 picogram/milligram detection limit (the absolute smallest amount that scientists can say they measured) set by the Society of Hair Testing.

Their conclusion? Hair tests weren’t detecting THC that someone inhaled, but rather the tests were finding THC that landed on the hair through external contact, like second-hand smoke. In other words, someone who is simply in the presence of weed smoke could come up as a false positive on a hair test.

“Our studies show that… cannabinoids can be present in hair of non-consuming individuals because of transfer through cannabis consumers, via their hands, their sebum/sweat, or cannabis smoke,” the researchers wrote. “This is of concern for e.g. child-custody cases as cannabinoid findings in a child’s hair may be caused by close contact to cannabis consumers rather than by inhalation of side-stream smoke.”

The following year, another German study found that just breaking up nugs and rolling joints – not smoking them – could also produce false positives on hair tests. The researchers hypothesized that fingertips contaminated with cannabis resin transferred THC from the hands to the hair after casual contact.

Problems with hair testing have been known for some time, too. In 2004, yet another German study explored several cases of false-positives with weed and hair tests, including one instance where a cohabiting couple both came up positive for THC through hair testing, even though only one of the partners smoked weed; the other did not.

Although American chemists have acknowledged the German findings, one paper in a 2016 edition of Analytical Toxicology claimed that false-positive transfers were rare, and washing hair samples in an alcohol and water mixture prior to testing could distinguish true cannabis consumers from those who simply walked through a cloud of marijuana smoke.

In the American study, researchers only looked for a single THC metabolite in the hair, 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or C-THC. C-THC is one of the first THC metabolites made in the human liver, so it’s not present in marijuana smoke. Using a mixture of alcohol and water, THC from second-hand smoke can be rinsed from the samples, leaving behind only the C-THC trapped in the hair fibers. However, as per the 2015 Germany study mentioned above, C-THC can still end up in someone’s hair if they touched something contaminated with a toker’s skin oils or sweat.

So it looks like American authorities won’t be ditching hair tests any time soon. Thankfully, due to the costs associated with hair tests, most employers don’t use them, opting instead for much cheaper urine tests, which can be beat. And, thanks to adult-use regulation, some states have even removed cannabis from the list of prohibited drugs companies test for.

Although you could try to defend your hair test results to a judge or an employer using the cited German studies above, we don’t recommend it. Instead, find a good lawyer to do this for you.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your Hair? was posted on Merry Jane.

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