[Editor’s Note: Ultimately we want cannabis users to truly be treated as alcohol consumers. In Michigan there may be a rise in the ‘member club’ scene, but is this enough? Will it work?]
One Kalamazoo brewery owner thinks he can circumvent Michigan cannabis consumption law by turning his bar into a private cannabis club after hours.
Although marijuana is now legal for recreational use in 10 states — in many places regulated “similar to alcohol” — cannabis consumers in those jurisdictions still do not have the same freedoms as many social drinkers enjoy on a regular basis.
Aside from a few minor exceptions, the concept of the cannabis lounge continues to struggle to gain any traction in the United States. The introduction of weed into the crevasses of civil society is still too new for the powers that be to give the people the same kinds of consideration that it does for everything alcohol. Some of them believe that unleashing this idea into the public will only serve to drive the country in the mouth of madness and contribute to crushing levels of stoned driving, reckless homicide and other menaces to the streets.
But in Michigan, a state that went fully legal last November, cannabis consumers are getting some support from local brewers. Kalamazoo brewery owner Mark Rupert told MLive that he plans to turn his beer-slinging operation (Rupert’s Brew House) into a part-time cannabis lounge as a means for giving pot-forward individuals the opportunity to socialize with their people. Rupert will hold private events — hosting gatherings after his business is closed — to avoid trouble with the law. These soirees will be BYOW (bring your own weed) and Rupert will not be selling cannabis products of any kind. A modest membership fee of somewhere between $5 and $20 will also apply. The collected dues will be used to pay for key fob access to regular events.
“There are not a lot of places that are welcoming to the new idea of cannabis being recreational,” he told the news source.
“I think it’s important for the community to have a place where they can feel comfortable talking about cultivation or the culture of cannabis on top of everything we already do with the craft beer,” he said.
Unfortunately, there could be some trials and tribulations with launching a social cannabis use scene — even if it is through private events at local businesses. Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Spokesman David Harns says that Rupert might be in violation of the terms of his license by opening his doors in this manner. “A brewery may not act as a private club unless they surrender their liquor license to the Commission or put it into escrow,” Harns explained.
Prohibition Blues in a Legal Gray Area
Considering that the state’s marijuana law doesn’t allow cannabis consumption at any place of business, Rupert could face fines or even a suspension of his license by moonlighting as a private club.
But the thing is social marijuana use is not something that Michigan lawmakers have hashed out. This one of those grey areas that allows a shadow cannabis industry to have a certain level of free rein. Still the key to maintaining a legitimate social club, according to Kalamazoo-based attorney Sarissa Montague, is making sure to establish a private space for pot-friendly events. It has to be private. This is not to say that social clubs will not experience their fair share of hassles — they probably will — but falling in line with the current standards for these types of private clubs may keep the train on the tracks until a more definitive law is put on the books.
Similar members-only clubs have opened up in other legal states, but many have been shut down or raided by law enforcement. This has happened quite a bit in parts of Colorado, one of the first states to legalize for recreational use. Police there have used a variety of slip-ups (advertisements, selling food and beverages) to build a case for why these establishments are not operating as private.
Regardless of the possible snags, Rupert’s inaugural event seems to have been a success. Some reports show it attracted somewhere around 100 people. And even though city officials did come in to check the place out, there were no issues and the event was allowed to carry on as planned.
“We’ve had the health department OK us, give us permission, written permission. Even the Kalamazoo Police Department came in and said, ‘Well, we just wanted to check in on how things are going and it looks private,’” Rupert told WWMT.
Rupert’s Brew House is planning more social marijuana use events. The next one is set for January 19 at 10 pm.
Michigan Brewery Becomes Part-Time Cannabis Lounge, In Search of Legal Loopholes was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: The anti-cannabis faction won’t go away. But why do they have to continue to do the same old-same-old untrue and undocumented trash talk about cannabis? This is a review of Alex Berenson’s book Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.]
It’s Reefer Madness all over again, somehow.
High Wire is Maia Szalavitz’s reported opinion column on drugs and drug policy.
Stories about cannabis are like catnip, so it was only matter of time before someone with an aura of credibility decided to capitalize on the growing consensus in favor of legalization with an extreme contrarian perspective. And what could better troll the legalizers than arguing, in essence, that Reefer Madness is real—and pot really does cause insanity, murder, and mayhem?
Enter former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, whose new book Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, attempts to do just that. Its main title is literally taken from the original name for that much-mocked 1936 film.
Sadly, judging from the publicity he’s received so far—with op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, a supportive Malcolm Gladwell take in the New Yorker and even glowing coverage in Mother Jones—today’s media is still happy to toss critical thinking aside and revive the idea of marijuana as a menace that must be suppressed. But that notion remains as noxious as ever, even if pot is not the innocuous wonder-drug its most ardent defenders might like to think it is.
The book’s central claim—that marijuana causes violence by inducing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders—relies on a chain of spurious reasoning that falls apart when examined closely. The rest of it is just as specious, propping up a set of laws that were clearly racist in intent and have continually produced racist outcomes, even as the author insists he favors a modest form of decriminalization and is aware of the racial element to prohibition.
Let’s start with the connection between marijuana use and psychotic disorders. While marijuana can indeed cause transient psychosis in some people, a causal connection to chronic psychotic disorders like schizophrenia is much less clear. Studies do find that heavy marijuana use is associated with at least a doubling of risk for schizophrenia—and in cases where people have a family history, an increased risk for earlier onset to the disorder.
But we still don’t really know whether a third factor—such as a genetic predisposition that creates both an affinity for weed and an increased risk of psychosis—accounts for this link. According to Matthew Hill, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Calgary in Canada, candidate genes that do both have already been identified. Moreover, there’s always been a massive problem for people who try to use the weed and psychosis connection to argue for prohibition. That is, when countries experienced their first exponential jump in modern marijuana use—generally between the 1960s and the 1980s—psychosis rates either remained the same or even, in some, declined. For example, a 2003 Australian study compared people born in the 1940s through the 1970s and found no correlation between rates of diagnosis, even though many more people born in the 50s and later smoked weed. A 2012 British study found schizophrenia rates to be stable between 1950 and 2009— a time during which cannabis use exploded in that country.
“Given that the epidemiology of schizophrenia has not changed over time as cannabis use has become more prevalent, nor does it really vary around the world in a manner relating to rates of cannabis use… [I] would argue that this statistical relationship is probably not causal,” Hill said.
Essentially, while correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, if two factors aren’t even reliably linked to each other, it’s pretty hard to argue that one causes the other.
To deal with this, Berenson claims—as many have before him, in many different decades—that today’s marijuana is basically a new and more dangerous drug. The percentage of the active ingredient in the drug, THC, has risen from “less than 5 percent” he writes, to the availability at some dispensaries of potencies of 25 percent or higher. He cites studies showing recent increases in rates of psychotic disorders in Scandinavian countries, which have also seen growing marijuana use.
It’s actually unclear how much potency has increased over time. But even if it has, why would marijuana suddenly start causing new chronic psychotic disorders now? Hashish, which can have a THC content of more than 40 percent, has existed for centuries, and high THC marijuana has been available to those willing to pay for it since the 1970s, if not earlier. By the way, THC remains only a partial activator of key cannabinoid receptors, which means its effects can only go so far. Drugs that fully activate the receptor—like “synthetic weed” product Spice or K2—appear to be much more dangerous. (Ironically, these drugs are chiefly known for popularity among groups with reduced access to real marijuana: homeless people who can’t afford it and people who face drug-testing that will pick up marijuana but not synthetics.)
Further, the link between psychosis and violence is itself complex. The majority of people who suffer from psychotic disorders do not commit violent crimes and less than one fifth of all homicides in the US are associated with schizophrenia. Substance use by people with psychosis is one of the strongest predictors of violence by them, but this risk is not specific to pot. Alcohol, meth, cocaine, and other drugs all increase risk. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of violence in general, violence during psychosis, and addictive disorders overall is victimization including domestic violence and abuse during childhood.
“We are now going to spend the next five years dealing with pearl-clutching screams from the alarmists…”—Matthew Hill
Both criminologists and economists have been affronted by the way Berenson and his media enablers have selectively employed data to make claims about violence and psychosis. For instance, in his Times op-ed, Berenson claimed the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales saw a sharp increase in homicide rates since 2014.
However, the choice of that year as a cutoff point is questionable and telling, as Jesse Singal pointed out in New York—2014 was the recent national low-point for homicide rates. Basically, many states saw a rise beginning around that time, and, you can’t just compare state homicide rates in legal and non-legal marijuana states without taking into account other variables that may affect them. This is why people run studies of these issues instead of simply presenting raw and often misleading numbers.
“That ignores other trends and confounders also occurring in the background [like] the age of the population [and] gun ownership,” said Benjamin Hansen, professor of economics at the University of Oregon. Using appropriate controls, Hansen compared the homicide rates in Colorado and Washington to projections made with data from comparable states from 2000 to 2016. He found that the rates in legal-weed states were lower than predicted: in other words, if marijuana legalization had any effect, it may have been a small but positive one.
“The claim that cannabis increases criminal violence seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the medical literature on the one hand and some over-hasty statistical work on reported crime rates on the other,” said Mark Kleiman, director of the Crime and Justice Program at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management and a longtime skeptic of commercialized legalization. “No expert I know has cannabis-induced violence anywhere near the top of the list of things to worry about as prices fall and heavy use expands.”
Added Hill, “What frustrates me the most about what Berenson is doing is that there are tangible harms associated with cannabis use, especially when it relates to earlier onset of use and the use of higher potency products, but a lot of these harms are more directly associated with the development of dependency and the impact this can have on someone’s life.”
But instead of focusing on targeted campaigns that would help protect the most vulnerable people, “We are now going to spend the next five years dealing with pearl-clutching screams from the alarmists about how cannabis causes schizophrenia and homicide,” he said.
Berenson also claims—in line with the widely-debunked “gateway theory”—that marijuana use is strongly linked to increased use of other drugs like opioids and cocaine. Once again, he ignores data to the contrary—such as the Dutchexperience of quasi-legalization, which has not found increased rates of other drug use. And he dismisses the now repeatedly-replicated finding of reduced rates of opioid prescriptions, addiction and overdose associated with the availability of legal medical marijuana.
Sadly, Malcolm Gladwell seemed to fall for this too, writing in the New Yorker:
There are two possibilities. The first is that marijuana activates certain behavioral and neurological pathways that ease the onset of more serious addictions. The second… is that marijuana offers a safer alternative to other drugs: that if you start smoking pot to deal with chronic pain, you never graduate to opioids.
Actually, there are far more than two possibilities, and one he doesn’t mention is the most likely explanation. That is, people who like altering their consciousness—or hate their experience of the world—are likely to try many ways of getting out of their heads, and if you get marijuana from a dealer, that person likely can introduce you to the more dangerous drugs. Indeed, the Dutch research suggests this: separate the market for marijuana from that for other drugs and you close the gate. (Gladwell also repeatedly emphasizes how much we “don’t know” about pot, which is odd given we probably know more about marijuana than we do about the overwhelming majority of FDA approved drugs. None of these have had the added safety valve of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government agency, spending decades and millions of dollars searching for—and identifying not so much—harm.)
To give him credit, Berenson does recognize that continued criminalization of marijuana possession is a lost cause. But he doesn’t realize or just can’t reckon with the fact that that this will do nothing to protect the most vulnerable people in society.
Prohibition has clearly not been a deterrent: more than half of young adults in the country have tried marijuana, and simply removing penalties for possession will not touch the risks associated with a continued black market. In an illegal market, higher potency will be more attractive because smaller products are easier to hide, and many dealers will not refuse to sell to teens.
In a legal market, however, potency can be regulated. Which brings us to another irony: marijuana itself contains a chemical that has potential to treat schizophrenia, which mitigates the effects of THC. Popularly known as CBD, it has been shown in two clinical trials to reduce schizophrenia symptoms without producing a high—one found that it was as effective as current drugs, with none of their terrible and sometimes irreversible side effects. In a legal market, levels of CBD and THC can be regulated to reduce risk, and CBD could finally be studied properly as an alternative to some of the most harmful drugs in psychiatry.
Worst of all, by providing ammo for continued prohibition, Berenson callously dismisses the profound damage done by the war on marijuana to people of color. In his epilogue, he writes:
Yes, marijuana arrests disproportionately fall on minorities, especially the black community. But marijuana’s harms also disproportionately fall on the black community. Black people are more likely to develop cannabis use disorder. They are also more likely to develop schizophrenia—and much more likely to be perpetrators and victims of violence. Given marijuana’s connection with mental illness and violence, it is reasonable to wonder whether the drug is partly responsible for those differentials.
It would take another whole article to debunk the racist assumptions packed into that paragraph. For one, cannabis use disorder rates are actually probably lower in black communities when factors like socioeconomic status are taken into account, and there are many far more documented contributors to schizophrenia risk (poverty, living in cities, immigration, childhood trauma—to name just a few). The major risk factors for violence are similarly diverse, and to claim marijuana makes a significant contribution based on the level of evidence he presents is, well, premature.
Suffice it to say, Berenson completely fails to deal with the role of marijuana arrests in feeding mass incarceration. The largest number of arrests in any category in the US is for drug crimes, and of these 40 percent are for marijuana, with 90 percent of marijuana arrests involving simple possession. While these arrests often do not lead to incarceration, they typically begin and then sustain the process of feeding people into the criminal prosecution system and reducing their chances for higher education and career success.
And black and Latinx people are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for marijuana crimes at rates far disproportionate to their populations. In New York, for example— which was supposed to have decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s—the arrest rate for blacks for marijuana is eight times that for whites.
“Three big things are missing from the conversation that he is trying to trigger: one is any assessment of the harms of prohibition, he pooh-poohs racism, and he never weighs the cost of millions of arrests,” said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, executive director of the pro-reform Drug Policy Alliance. “Knowing how many lives have been destroyed by the criminal justice approach, it’s so irresponsible to put this out there.”
Trolling the libs who make overblown claims about marijuana’s harmlessness may be one thing. But suggesting that its prohibition does more good than harm in the face of so much evidence to the contrary is its own form of insanity.
Original Article on Vice
[Editor’s Note: This book is a true must read for people interested in the evolution and re-normalization of cannabis into our culture.]
“There is nothing inherently ecological about the cannabis plant. The environmental problems associated with cannabis are problems of social policy. The ecological impacts are the result of prohibitionist policy regimes that began in the early part of the 20th Century.” Dr. Anthony Silvaggio, author of two chapters in Where There’s Smoke: The Environmental Science, Public Policy, and Politics of Marijuana, uses this quote to begin panel discussions.
And this book proves his point. It’s a must-have for any so-called cannabis expert, policy maker, academic, journalist, activist, or pot smoker. The environmental impacts, sociology, and modern political history of cannabis in the United States are covered in exhaustive and innovative detail that’s academically rigorous and accessible to civilian readers. Recurring throughout the book are pointed examples of how cannabis prohibition and regulation exacerbate environmental damage and magnify social inequity.
Where There’s Smoke: The Environmental Science, Public Policy, and Politics of Marijuana is a truly cautionary tale, showing how well-intentioned proponents of cannabis legalization often provoke the very environmental and social injustices they hoped to ameliorate. Medical and recreational cannabis regulations invariably keep prices so high that unregulated growers will always have an incentive to continue their work.
Courtesy of University Press of Kansas
While decriminalization helps keep some people out of jail, penalties for causing environmental damage manifest slowly and require agents from environmental protection agencies to work in conjunction with law enforcement in dangerous, cumbersome conditions.
No matter how many states legalize, decriminalize, or medicalize cannabis, federal prohibition guarantees jobs for those bold enough to grow for illicit markets. Asset forfeiture laws further incentivize cannabis farming on public lands. The book’s chapter covering the complexities of Appalachian cannabis farms provides the most prescient and interesting examples of how difficult it’ll be to ever fully regulate cannabis. Overlapping and murky ownership of state, national, and private lands combine to make a perfect storm of vagaries that growers (from moonshiners to foreign “cartels”) have been taking advantage of for decades.
Chapters punctiliously detail how Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, and Washington D.C. created their current regulatory structures and provide valuable insights into potential pitfalls. Efforts designed to create access and regulate medical cannabis simultaneously criminalize those who can’t afford testing and licenses. Informal, sustainable collectives and distribution networks are destroyed while privileged (and mostly white) people get rich.
Environmental chapters focus primarily on the pollution left by trespass grows on public and tribal land in California. Exhaustive, Ph.D. level research describes how massive, unregulated cannabis farms in parks and on reservations deplete water sources relied upon by people, salmon, and steelhead trout. Fertilizers, herbicides, and rodenticides further conspire to kill bobcats, birds, fishers, and foxes.
A grey fox poisoned by a California trespass grow/ Courtesy of Lt. John Nores Jr.
The fact trespass grows leave ugly ecological scars is not newsworthy, but their increasing numbers and size in the wake of legalization is. The staggering amount of poisonous chemicals used in some of these operations, their ubiquity, and how difficult they are to clean up are all cause for serious concern. These issues are covered in the text by scientists, researchers, and even an officer from a marijuana task force. And they demonstrate how high taxes, fees, contradictory laws, and perpetually dropping prices incentivize farmers to cultivate in remote, unregulated areas.
Particularly compelling is the book’s coverage of undocumented laborers and how they are exploited by “cartels” and prosecutors. The typical narrative portraying Mexican criminal groups growing tens of thousands of plants in a state park or national forest is described from the perspective of the low-level workers who tend the plants and provide ancillary services. A Mexican defendant in a case involving 91,000 plants was a cook who hadn’t been told he was going to work on a pot farm. While other arrestees pled guilty, provided information, and received reduced sentences, the cook didn’t know anything of value to prosecutors. After serving more than ten years in federal prison, he will be deported. Like many undocumented workers, he was unable to successfully mount a duress defense because he couldn’t prove threats of violence made by his employers against family members living overseas.
Where There’s Smoke does not examine the environmental footprint caused by cannabis consumers, think: butane torches, lighters, and the obscene amounts of packaging used in regulated markets. It also does not address the solvents and chemicals used to produce concentrates. Further, it gives short shrift to estimates that 3 percent of California’s electricity is used to power lights and other equipment for indoor cannabis farms. Currently, few regulations exist that’ll help lessen cannabis’ unsustainable carbon footprint.
Plastic packaging surrounds tiny amounts of cannabis at Washington shop/ John Veit
The book offers some solutions to the marijuana morass. Most important among them is the need for federal action to remove cannabis from Schedule I enforcement. The ripple effects of its current classification—asset forfeiture, inflated prices, the inability of public institutions to grow and study cannabis—have set in motion the cacophony of chaotic, stop-gap measures that contribute to cannabis’ bizarre array of contradictory regulations.
Other solutions are touted, including extensive tax breaks for farmers who use sustainable methods and limits on the size of regulated farms. Currently, California’s Proposition 64 is scheduled to allow unlimited, Type 5 farms in 2020 that will resemble the massive, unsustainable, water-intensive almond and citrus groves that cover California’s Central Valley.
Among the most valuable assets in this book are the extensive bibliographies that conclude each chapter and will undoubtedly serve students and journalists for decades. Where There’s Smoke has only scratched the surface in describing cannabis’ remarkably complex political history and environmental impacts. Hopefully, the University of Kansas Press will produce more volumes as states and countries continue to legalize. Similarly, thorough academic review is needed in countries where cannabis was never stigmatized in the first place, like Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Canada, Jamaica, Uruguay, Israel, and states like Nevada and Massachusetts that are struggling to implement new marijuana regulations, could benefit from their examples.
Book Review: “Where There’s Smoke” Will Light a Fire in You was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: Duff weed, AKA AVB (Already Vaped Bud), still has THC value. Learn how you can put duff weed to good use in a variety of ways.]
Five ways to utilize duff — aka “Already Been Vaped” (ABV) weed — in all your pot pursuits.
The word “duff” can mean several things: To start with the obvious, it’s a fictional beer that Homer Simpson drinks on a daily basis as well as a real beer brand brewed in Germany that is inspired by The Simpsons beverage. Or, according to the Urban Dictionary, it could mean an “unattractive girl that a hot girl keeps around to make herself and her friends look better,” along with several other meanings.
But for weed vapers, the word means something entirely different. Duff is vaped cannabis. The word “duff” can be used interchangeably with “Already Been Vaped” (ABV) cannabis, or “Already Vaped Bud” (AVB), meaning spent cannabis that is lower in THC. It’s unclear which word came first, but “duff” began appearing in cannabis-related forums between 2000 and 2005.
Contrary to popular belief, duff is definitely not something to be thrown out with the trash. Here’s why: the majority of THC in duff has already been decarboxylated, so you get a stronger effect from eating it than if you were to eat straight weed. For example, Volcano, the vaporizer brand, found that up to 48 percent of the THC remained in a sample after vaping.
The ABV subreddit now boasts over 18,500 subscribers with extensive tips, explanations, and frequently asked questions surrounding duff, ABV, or AVB. The AVB subreddit is home to over 5,300 subscribers and loaded with similar information. “Virgin weed” is non-vaped cannabis, but the THC can be consumed more than once. Some vapers swear that the edible high from duff is more pleasant than the often overwhelming high from traditionally decarbed cannabis in edibles. So how can you get into the duff game? Here are five ways to utilize the seemingly-cashed cannabis.
Make Duff Capsules
Since duff has mostly been decarboxylated, the THC is already somewhat activated and converted to THCA, leading many to attest that it hits harder than regular edibles. Eating non-decarbed weed will do almost nothing to a consumer. However, with ABV, this is no issue. You can even fill capsules with the duff and pop them like prescription medication, perhaps one of the easiest ways to titrate cannabis dosages. If embracing this consumption method, be sure to mix in a little coconut oil before you fill the capsules, or eat some other kind of fatty substance at least 30 minutes before ingesting. This will help you get the biggest bang for your buck.
Store It for EmergenciesEvery cannabis connoisseur should have a survival kit to carry you through at least three weeks, on the off chance your plugs are MIA. In case you don’t want to stash your top-shelf bud, why not use your duff for a pot-friendly prepper kit?
To start, put your duff in an airtight container for later use. Store it in the freezer if you need to save it for long periods of time, meaning 30 days or more. Since you never know when times are going to get tough — your local dispensary or store could get raided, or your connect could suddenly ghost you, or you could run out of crash — this preemptive planning may be a blessing at a later time. Duff may not be as good as fresh weed, but it sure beats having no weed.
Swap It for Cannabis in Edibles
Stop making your life harder than it has to be. Cannabis is better suited for an ingredient in edibles if it’s been decarboxylated, so why not just skip that step and use duff instead? Once you have 4-28 grams of duff saved up, you have enough to make cannabutter, oil, or a tincture. Most forums insist that you should water cure duff to make the flavor more pleasant and manageable in edibles. You’ll find plenty of cannabutter, tinctures, and oil recipes online, as well. For those, you’re going to need to multiply the amount of cannabis times two, but it will still get the job done.
Most cannabis snobs will refuse to re-vape bud, but the science indicates that there is plenty of THC still left in there. According to various forums, consumers report that you can get 2-6 solid hits off of vaping duff. Don’t kid yourself about your standing in the cannabis pecking order, and certainly don’t waste all of that precious THC. It also probably tastes better than whatever leftovers are stuck in your pipe bowls.
Roll It and Smoke It
OK, so this defeats the entire purpose of choosing vaping over smoking. However, according to FuckCombustion.com, smoking duff is harsher than smoking fresh flower, but can produce a high with less of a giveaway aroma, as the terpenes have probably been depleted at this point. (This isn’t the case if you’re cooking with duff, as it will produce a pungent stench if it is not water-cured.) As a result, smoking duff would make senses for people on the clock or in a public setting. It produces more of a body high, as some of the THC is spent, but CBN is largely left behind. Given the rise in popularity of smoking hemp nowadays, smoking duff would make sense as an alternative to cigarettes.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @benbot11
What Is “Duff” Weed and What Should You Do with It? was posted on Merry Jane.