“What is it that we vote for when we vote to legalize cannabis?”
The quote above introduces a short series made by Weedmaps. It goes on to demonstrate what the population of California actually bought when it approved adult-use cannabis back in 2016. It’s not pretty.
What did the authors expect? Something different than the and of alcohol prohibition where companies driven by profit were all about the alcohol industry? A marketplace that was devoid of hucksters and companies that put altruism before profits? It is a given that in a market-driven economy, there will be companies that put profit and greed over satisfying consumers. There is no surprise in that.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Original article was posted on marijuana.com. "Uprooted" Weedmaps' New Documentary about California's Road to Cannabis Legalization
I’m just finishing a stay in Ann Arbor and stopped at two of my favorite cannabis vendors to see what the state of this State is. There are some really disturbing trends that I saw.
COVID Buying Procedures
Buying cannabis has changed during our COVID experience. I used to be able to go into a dispensary, look at the different cultivars, and even smell them. No longer. In one place, Om of Medicine, you can order online or go into their ‘lobby’ and place an order on a tablet. Then what I’ve selected magically appears from downstairs. The other dispensary is Exclusive Provisioners. Their COVID procedure has mandatory ordering online. Then you pick up your order in your car. For both dispensaries, delivery is available … for a fee. I get it. We all need to stay away from places where we might get exposed to the virus. That’s good. The bad part is what’s happened to quality. It has deteriorated significantly. What’s going on? I believe I do have a partial answer.
The Quality Factor
Both dispensaries and I admit this is only an “n” of 2 in a city that has 20 or so shops, have seriously gone down in quality. The quality of cannabis and the product they deliver are not up to the standards they had previously. Why? I believe there are several reasons for this.
First, both shops were independently owned and operated before COVID. Now they’re both part of larger chains. I get that. These are businesses. In business profits are important. Profits are what keep a business going. But…it can get carried too far, and apparently that is what’s happening in Ann Arbor. In Colorado, I can still walk into a dispensary and at least look at the bud and decide from there. But not in Ann Arbor. The quality in Colorado has, if nothing else, improved. Quality in Ann Arbor (and most of Michigan too, I’d guess) it seems to have deteriorated.
Om of Medicine
I got two varieties of cannabis from Om; Heavy Trichome and Hash Haze. Heavy Trichome was not. Heavy in trichomes that is. I tried it and it’s not even worth a review. It had no flavor to speak of and definitely not heavy in trichomes. Trichomes have much of the good in a cannabis flower. Terpenes, THCs, CBDs, and other compounds are found there. A bud heavy in trichomes should look like it’s frosted all over. Heavy Trichome had no heavy frost and in fact, had fewer trichomes then I’ve seen in a long time.
Hash Haze seems like it might have promise. Decent aroma, but I have yet to try it. My problem is that it’s prepackaged. I got two ‘jars’ of the product to make an eighth but was delivered in 2-1.75 gram jars. Who buys 1.75 grams of anything? If it’s good, I’ll write a review. If not, you’ll never hear about it again.
Exclusive Provisioners – Ann Arbor
Exclusive had been the source of many happy buds I’ve consumed in the past. While I get the COVID ordering system. what I don’t get is the conga line of cars backed up into the street driving in to pick up orders. OK, their order and pickup system isn’t the most sophisticated. I get that. Pickup is not their primary business. When I got to the store, there was a traffic jam that was backed up into the street. Not only is this not a way to show appreciation to customers, but it’s also dangerous. But to sell bud that looks like shake leaves me feeling ripped off. And I do!
An eighth of Professor Chaos was mostly shake.
My online order was for an eighth of Professor Chaos, mostly because I liked the name and I’d never had it before. Really. I couldn’t see the flower. I couldn’t smell it or see it until I got it. What I received was a vial that was mostly shake. Or almost so. Not only was the little plastic jar filled with mostly shake, but Professor Chaos wasn’t very good. Very frustrating experience. While I loved the name of the cultivar; “Professor Chaos” but I sure didn’t like the result. If a dispensary is going to offer flower, they should deliver flower, not shake. Sell shake as shake and sell flower as flower. This was reminiscenet of 30 or 40 years ago when cannabis was purchased by the ounce (for $40!) and you actually got about a quarter of an ounce after the seeds and stems were taken out.
I cannot call this was not a good experience. Why purchase cannabis that’s substandard, especially in 2020.
Next week, I’m on my way to Taos, NM via Colorado where I’ll check out Colorado’s dispensary activity. Let’s see if those dispensaries are still as good as they were in the past. Check back.
All the states where cannabis is legal report monthly sales. All the states, except one, have had rising sales all year, even during, or especially during, the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. The one state reporting downward sales at the same time; California. Why? California is the outlier in the states with legal adult-use markets and there appear to be a lot of reasons for this. First the other states.
In Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, Washington, and Massetussets are all reporting increased sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not California though. They’re reporting a downward trend in sales. Why? For starters, California has some of the highest prices for cannabis in the U.S. This is because the state has some of the highest taxes for cannabis. California counties and communities all have different regulations. Many counties and cities don’t even allow adult-use cannabis stores. Additionally, in about half of California, cannabis just isn’t allowed to be sold because of an opt-out provision in the state law.
Rising sales in some states might be just because of the newness of the adult-use program. Illinois, for instance, has only had legal cannabis sales since the start of 2020. In a situation like that, sales are bound to be rising. The other west coast states, meaning Oregon and Washington, sales have been rising especially during the pandemic. In Colorado, sales have been setting new records every month. In California, they’re going the opposite way. Why?
There seem to be several reasons for this. Much of the bureaucratic turf wars are just plain infighting. Coupled with blind regulatory opaqueness and what appears to be plain old ordinary regulatory incompetence is the fault. Too many regulators want to control the market in greater ways than the alcoholic beverage market is regulated. While it can’t just be pinned on the regulators, regulation and implementation is something that needs to be addressed and addressed quickly.
Oregon and Washington Issues
Oregon and Washington have had their own issues. Oregon let the market open up for everyone who wanted to be a grower or retailer. So there were too many retailers and too many growers. There was a huge oversupply of cannabis products because of this. But…in hindsight…always 20/20…it wasn’t that bad a move and now the cannabis is. The best growers and the best retailers prevailed.
Other California Problems
In California, there is a hodge-podge of cities and counties that allow cannabis cultivation and/or retail sales. It’s quite a mess and about 1/2 the population of California doesn’t have ready access to legal weed. Guess where they’re getting their weed? The black market, that’s where. Black market cannabis collects no taxes, is not regulated in any way. It is what it is and the people who buy from black market merchants really have no way to know what they’re getting. The whole situation in California is a hot mess. All the above points to why sales during this COVID-19 crisis are going down in the state.
If you do some simple math, California has about 39 1/2 million total people living in the state and (usually) many visitors. Of the total population, 23 million are over 21. If only 10% of that population consumed cannabis, that would be 2,300,000 people who consume cannabis. We know that the actual number is at least twice or possibly three times that. Let’s stay with twice. So if 5 million people consume cannabis and spend $10 a week for their product, it would annualize at just over $1 billion. That’s billion with a “B”. Compared to Colorado, with 1/5 the population of California has $1.6 Billion in sales last year. Sales in Colorado should pale in comparison to California and obviously they don’t.
What Can California Do?
Obviously. California really needs to get its act together. Regulatory environments need to be open, fair and honest. Tax structures should be modified to face the reality that other states have less expensive cannabis. California also needs to open it’s market to the people who have been exploited when cannabis was illegal; Minorities and economically disadvantaged peoples need to have opportunities to be included in the market. Then California will move to the forefront of legal cannabis. After all, there is no other state with Humboldt County.
If you’re following the media during these quarantine days of COVID-19, it’s obvious the search for a vaccine is the #1 priority. Why? The resources to develop a vaccine should have come after the hospitals, PPP, and everything else. The president wants a vaccine first, so that’s getting the pixels on our screens…a vaccine. And indeed most of the media coverage is about finding a vaccine. Is this what we should be spending most of our scientific time developing? Or are we missing another perhaps more important target? Treatment.
Vaccines don’t treat disease. They prevent disease. Even when there’s a vaccine, there are people who will need effective treatment. Treatments that work for COVID-19 are few and far between. Treatments don’t prevent, but how are we as a society going to deal with all the people who need help getting through and then past the disease?
Like most of us, I’ve been tracking the news about how many pharmaceutical companies are searching for a vaccine, I’ve also been reading how in many other places around the world, research is developing treatments. Vaccine research is hugely important. So is research to find effective treatments.
There are many very good reasons for this; First, it will take time to get the population vaccinated. Second, not all the population will want to be vaccinated. (Think anti-vaxxers and others who are fearful.) Because of this, there will still be people getting sick with COVID-19 and they will need treatment.
There are several promising treatments and many more duds. Think hydroxychloroquine. Voodoo witch doctors tout it, science, evidence-based science, debunks it. One truly promising treatment is remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that is undergoing clinical trials to see if it’s a good treatment for MERS, SARS and COVID-19, all coronaviruses.
What Else is There?
Then there’s THC, CBD, and terpenes. Yes, you read correctly; Cannabis might be a treatment. Specifically, CBD might be a link to the endocannabinoid system that alleviates symptoms, especially the pulmonary issues caused by the cytokine storm that COVID-19 seems to trigger. That “storm” is caused by an overreaction by our own immune system to what it thinks is invading our bodies. THC might be a treatment in other ways as it works with the endocannabinoid system in a different way than CBD. Cannabis terpenes also are part of this system. We’re slowly finding out that we have a whole system in our bodies that we know little about, but our ancestors probably understood on their level. It might not have been scientific, but they certainly knew something was there.
Yes, one or several vaccines are needed to prevent COVID-19 in a large part of the population. But vaccines won’t help everyone. We also need treatments. Probably lots of treatments because COVID-19 has shown itself to be a bit of a chimera. It changes in every person who is infected and shows symptoms. Some of those afflicted only have a fever and very low energy…a fever and low energy that can last for weeks or months, it seems. At the far end, and it’s not that uncommon, our bodies produce a cytokine storm that moves to our lungs and can kill us. That’s when ventilators come in. But ventilators aren’t treatment, they are palliative. They ease the pulmonary issue, but they don’t alleviate it.
Maybe we need to get cannabis removed from Schedule 1. If it’s removed, medical science can work on a lot of treatments that would involve parts of cannabis.
Editor’s Note: The State of Michigan has completed another bone-headed regulatory move that will put more money in the black market. Michigan, which has possibly the most complicated regulations of all legal states, has ‘declared’ ‘caregivers’ can no longer move their product from the medical market to the adult-use market. Guess where this product and its associated dollars are going to go? One has to wonder about dispensary vs. black market cannabis, and why you might select one over the other.
We can obtain cannabis in a far different way than we did 10 or so years ago. Back then, my access to cannabis came through my dealer. My dealer sold one or two (if I was lucky) kinds of weed. I trusted him. I knew he had a high-quality product, even if I didn’t know its exact origin. There weren’t that many kinds of cannabis back in the 70s and early 80s. Mostly it was ‘Columbian’ or ‘Michoacan’ or if you were especially lucky, Panama Red. The dealer started to lose some business as more and more states legalized marijuana for either medical use or ‘recreational’ use. Now there are medical dispensaries (if you have a medical card), adult-use dispensaries (you have to be 21), or you can grow your own. That’s a time consuming and complex process, so most people are happy to go to a black market dealer or a dispensary.
Only having a few kinds of cannabis available at one time began to change in the late 1980s. Sinsemilla was introduced to the market as growers in California began cultivating the highest quality cannabis. Plant breeders started to introduce more cultivars (strains) to the market. Great cannabis became a domestic product in the U.S. Today there are multitudes of cultivars for purchase at most any dispensaries, let alone all the concentrates, oils, salves, balms, edibles, potions, lotions, etc. This product assortment makes dispensaries amazing marketplaces.
I’m a flower consumer. I like it and believe it’s the most natural way to consume cannabis.
Dispensary vs Black Market Cannabis
Today the question is this:
Is the bud you get from a legal dispensary as good or better as the bud you get from your favorite dealer?
Let’s dive into this subject.
How We Get our Cannabis
There are only three ways to get your weed; A legal dispensary, a black-market dealer, or growing it yourself. All States with medical and or adult-use cannabis use dispensaries. That’s how people get their weed legally.
At the dispensary, you’re probably talking to someone you’ve never met before. Only seldom do dispensaries offer real cannabis training and the ‘budtenders’ typically don’t have deep knowledge of cannabis. It’s not much different at a wine shop. If you have a question, you may or may not (probably not) talk to a person with real knowledge. Dispensary cannabis is a ‘known’ quantity and quality. ‘Known’ is because the weed has supposedly been tracked from seed to sale…I call it ‘seed to weed‘.
Your dealer is probably someone you’ve known and trusted for years.
The Legal Cannabis Industry
The legal cannabis industry has a problem. Actually two problems; Regulation and big business. Regulation is a HUGE problem in almost all the medical and adult-use legal states. Most regulatory agencies are acting as though they wish cannabis would just go away. It’s here to stay and regulatory agencies need to wake up to this. The regulatory environment has become a hodge-podge of rules and regulations that are frequently a boon for large grow operations while cutting out smaller growers with their onerous regulations and often crazy expensive costs to entry.
The regulators, for the most part, have created very high barriers to entry. They are not regulating for equality. They’re regulating for the easiest way to do things, which means impenetrable rules, insane regulations, and lots of red tape. These agencies also promote capricious regulations and very high taxes. High barriers to entry for both growers and dispensaries mean only people who can afford access into the market are people with very deep pockets or big business. The problem with big business and large grow operations is the ‘large’ part. Yes, they’re capable of producing large quantities of cannabis with high levels of THC or CBD. The problem is homogeneity.
Dispensary vs Black Market Cannabis. What are the Differences?
Dispensaries can be cool. They have a lot of different types of cannabis, edibles, concentrates, and extracts. That’s their job. A dispensary is a retailer, no mistake about it. What about the quality of their weed? Most of the weed I’ve tried from dispensaries are indoor grown (resource intensive) by big companies.
Big operations have different needs. I’m going to draw a line in the sand and call a big grow having at least 1,000 plants in flower with more being raised all the time. Large growers frequently have several installations. Big grow operations can take the harvested cannabis, trim it very tightly and sell fairly uniform size buds.
Smaller grows, which are mostly hand operations are frequently outdoor grows. They have the advantage of having a lot of handwork done on the plants. Handwork, in this case, means trimming and pruning the plants for bigger fuller flowers. Big grow operations also need to maximize the weight of the flower they harvest. That doesn’t necessarily make for the best product.
The Advantages of Dispensary Cannabis
when thinking about dispensary vs. black market cannabis, we need to recognize dispensary cannabis has several advantages. It’s legal. it’s also been tested for pesticides and other potential impurities. Other than this, dispensary weed is usually grown by large operations. The advantage of large operations vs. small growers is scale. A large operation can grow cannabis for as little as ~$200/pound to ~$500 per pound. Per gram, this works out to be between 4 cents and 10 cents. This is the cost before amortization, equipment like lights, irrigation systems, or labor after the plant is harvested.
When a plant is ready to harvest, it gets cut down. Then it’s dried and cured. This is a 5-6 week process. Then the flowers are separated into buds, trimmed of extra leaves, big stems, and other parts that aren’t going to the consumer. Big grow operations want consistency in their product. That makes for easier sales. It also makes for a “blander” product, for lack of any other way to say it.
Rarely is the effect of corporate weed unique. It is, in my experience, a pretty generic buzz. I believe, high THC percentages are partly to blame for this. When you smoke weed with a 25-30% or even higher THC percentage, the abundance of THC in the plant takes away from the overall quantity of terpenes and other substances that are naturally found in the plant. So it might be nice to get so high fast, but it certainly doesn’t produce a unique buzz. The stratospheric THC percentage takes over and you start to feel sleepy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s ‘sativa’ or indica.’ Corporate cannabis is a plain-jane experience. Yes, it gets you very high. But it generally does so with no finesse.
The Advantages of Black Market Cannabis
When you buy illegal cannabis from your dealer, you’re breaking the law. OK, so you’re breaking the law. Potheads have been a mostly independent group that didn’t care if it broke laws to enjoy their favorite plant. Don’t think it’s not a big deal and not right, but until dispensaries get their act together on quality and regulators get their heads out of some very dark places and allow for small businesses (much the same as the wine industry), the black market will remain and remain strong.
Black market cannabis is of somewhat unknown origin, but your dealer and grower want you to come back for more. That means, no moldy, dank, mildewy weed. No pesticides or herbicides. Black market growers have to be more careful with their growing techniques. They also tend to be smaller, operating more like boutique wineries.
Most legal states don’t accommodate small growers. The barriers to entry are too high: both regulatory and financial. It’s not right and until the States license growers the same way they license wineries, there will continue to be a black market with smaller, specialized growers. Black market growers are also prone to use techniques that take more care, but produce better flower at the end of the day.
A large, legal grower is not going to try dry farming outdoors or no-till farming outdoors, and there’s at least one grower working no-till indoors. These techniques can produce far better cannabis flower than large indoor commercial grow operations. So the bud you’re buying from your black market dealer is probably better than what you generally get at a dispensary.
You have a choice; Either buy your bud in a legal dispensary, go to your black market dealer, or grow your own. In a legal dispensary, you sort of know what you’re getting. Adult-use is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia (although you can’t tell it when you’re there). Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and several U.S. territories. Where medical cannabis is legal, there are many dispensaries. Medical cannabis is no different from adult-use cannabis. It’s an identical product. Cannabis is cannabis, whether it’s ‘medical’ or ‘recreational’ other than a made-up law.
Remember though, when you’re thinking about whether dispensary vs black market cannabis is best, if you buy from a black market dealer, even in an adult-use legal state, you’re still breaking the law.
Is the black market weed better than what you get at the pot shop? You have to decide that.
Cannabis Research Advances, but not in the U.S.
Cannabis research in the U.S. is totally lacking. Even as medical and adult-use cannabis becomes legal in more states in the U.S., it’s apparent we don’t know very much about the plant itself. We know there are THC compounds and terpenes. We do not know how many different terpene compounds there are. Nor do we know how many CBD compounds or derivatives of THC there are. We don’t know what other compounds might be specific to cannabis or how they might work with other compounds found in the plant. We simply don’t know.
A story published in Nature illustrates how much we don’t know about cannabis.
A New THC
Italian scientists have discovered a new THC compound that’s 30-50 times more potent than the delta-9 THC we all know and love. Tetrahydrocannabiphorol or THCP is the proper name for the new ‘discovery’. Also, CBDP and a few other cannabis compounds were discovered at the same time. The story is scientific and if you like science, it’s be right up your alley. If you don’t, here’s the bottom line; The scientists who discovered the new compounds only know that it binds to our endocannabinoid system at a rate far higher than THC alone. Does this mean you get a bigger buzz? They don’t seem to know, as it wasn’t tested for its effectiveness as an agent to get you high.
We Don’t Know Enough about Cannabis
What this tells us is, we just don’t know enough about the cannabis plant to tell us what it can and cannot do. The personal story I wrote about using cannabis for post-surgery pain relief are just that: anecdotal stories. Anecdotal stories are good as far as they go, but scientific inquiry is even better.
The techniques scientists use now involve mass spectrometers. However, the changes in cannabis plant compounds, whether it’s called hemp, marijuana, or cannabis are so subtle they’re sometimes difficult to suss out even with very sensitive instruments.
More Cannabis Research
Here’s the bottom line for me. If we want to find out about the plant in the U.S., we need to do more research. In order to do more research, we need to either reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 or or completely de-scheduling cannabis, and just make it legal like alcohol. This means States would be free to regulate cannabis in whatever manner they desire. But most importantly, rescheduling or de-scheduling cannabis would allow important research to be completed by competent researchers. As things stand right now, there’s very little research done in the U.S. It’s all being done overseas. If anything, the U.S. needs to legalize cannabis research to stay competitive.
Original Post: Cannabis Now: Should Health-Conscious Consumers Really Smoke Medical Marijuana?
[Canniseur: There are two sides to this issue. Mr. Adams outlines both the pros and cons of consuming cannabis via burning and inhalation. Both arguments are fairly obvious, but it’s nice to see both sides of the issue put together.]
There is a lot of noise these days about medical marijuana and its place concerning wellness. The average American has come to believe that using cannabis, regardless of whether that is whole-plant marijuana or hemp-derived CBD products, may help them ward off all of the despicable diseases put here to destroy us. Some of these people, however, have shown up late to the party, and are just now jumping on board the medicinal cannabis train in hopes that it will keep them above ground.
However, depending on how these people choose to consume this product, they might actually be doing themselves more harm than good. So, we have to ask the question: Should health-conscious consumers really be smoking marijuana to stay healthy or treat disease?
Well, it doesn’t take a degree in aerospace engineering (that’s rocket science) to know that smoking anything is not the healthiest thing to do. The lungs simply do not take kindly to being filled with burnt plant particles. It doesn’t matter if the smoke comes from burning wood, tobacco or marijuana, toxic chemicals and carcinogens can enter the body when it is inhaled. And it’s these toxins that can bring about disease and respiratory issues. Sure, many cannabis advocates argue that marijuana smoke doesn’t pose the same health risk as tobacco, but health experts say that isn’t necessarily true.
“Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke,” according to a report from the American Lung Association.
Regardless of the potential risks involved, smoking is the most common consumption method on the cannabis scene. Even though there are now a variety of presumably safer pot products on the market — edibles, drinks, oils, tinctures — that the medical marijuana community could be using instead. But those products still need more time to catch on. We still live in a society that thinks of cannabis as something that needs to be smoked as opposed to orally consumed like most other drugs. This means it could be a while (we might be talking decades) before we see a drastic shift in the preferred consumption method of the average cannabis user. For now, smoking is here to stay.
But are there any benefits to smoking marijuana, even if the user is trying to manage their overall health?
Most people prefer smoking marijuana to other forms of consumption because the effects are instantaneous. If a person is using cannabis to help them with something like social anxiety, there is no time to mess around — they need to feel calm, and the sooner, the better. So, in situations where the user, for whatever reason, needs or wants to be high right now, smoking is perhaps the best option. And it sure beats going without, that’s for sure. It is also easier for a person to control their buzz through smoking than it is with any other method of consumption. We seldom hear of anyone suffering from a full-blown canna-panic after smoking a joint, bowl or bong. Those types of freak out moments, which are reportedly causing more people than ever to rush to the emergency room, are typically experienced through the use of edibles. The onset time of these products can be an hour or more. And it is easy to overdose (not the deadly kind) when using these products.
Another benefit of smoking weed is the ability to sample a variety of strains at one time. When medical marijuana patients first get involved with a program, it can be difficult at first to find a specific strain that works best for them. Smoking makes it easier for them to find the best possible strain.
Are there any other reasons?
Well, a lot of the old school stoners simply prefer smoking to any other consumption method. These are the people who have been getting ripped up for years, decades even, legal or not, and they’re not about to buy into the neatly packaged corporate cannabis construct. Heck no, these are tokers for life, and most will tell you that they haven’t experienced any health problems yet as a result. This testimony is not scientific by any stretch, but it is what they have chosen to believe.
However, there are plenty of reasons not to smoke marijuana.
For starters, without concrete research to tell us any different, the chemicals produced from burning buds could be damaging to the lungs. There is no real evidence that smoking marijuana increases one’s risk of lung cancer, but there’s not really any that says it doesn’t either. For this reason alone, even if there is only a small chance of it causing lung cancer or any other disease, the health-conscious consumer should avoid smoking. The smell associated with weed smoke is also a concern for some folks.
Instead of smoking, many cannabis experts recommend a microdosing regimen (2-5 mg of THC as needed) using cannabis edibles. The buzz is more of a body high than in the head, but there is no risk of health issues as a result of the smoke — only feel goods. It is also reasonable to suggest that consuming edibles might help a person smoke less marijuana than if they were using the burn method exclusively. Edibles also make it easier and more discreet to get high at work and other places where pot needs to be kept on the downlow. You can’t just fire up a joint in the break room when you need to.
Unless, of course, you have my job.
Should Health-Conscious Consumers Really Smoke Medical Marijuana? was posted on Cannabis Now.
Cannabis in Chile
Chile is the largest consumer of cannabis in South America, according to Wikipedia.
It is? Can cannabis in Chile be safely obtain by a casual user or visitor? Chileans appear to have very low key approach to weed and it made for a surreal experience and also a bit Machiavellian. Recently, I was in Italy as well. Medical cannabis is legal in Italy as well as Chile, but the other legal differences are huge. In effect though, both countries seem more similar than different. I found out there is a scene in both countries and I didn’t have to look for it at all in either Chile or Italy. What I found is the ‘scenes’ are kind of similar. In both countries, cannabis is sort of there, but not there at the same time. Both governments seem to ‘admit’ that their citizens are using cannabis, but they don’t seem to have the desire to force the issue and arrest everyone who consumes cannabis. There’s still some stigma around cannabis consumption, bit it’s more under the table in Italy and Chile than it is here in the U.S.
Sweet Aroma of Cannabis
The purpose of my trip was to visit as many wine regions and wineries and taste as many Chilean wines as I could during my time there, Whenever I travel, I always try to check out the cannabis scene, just to see what’s going on. I don’t try to buy any (however, if some was offered…). I was successful at the wine tasting part. As for cannabis in Chile, it’s there, but it’s really underground except … Except you can smell it everywhere and see cannabis nowhere at the same time. The Chilean laws are, if anything, even stranger than the Italian laws. In Italy, you can buy cannabis as long as it’s “Cannabis Light”, which means less than 1 1/2% of THC (wink wink nod nod) and made from industrial hemp. And you can purchase it in a store that sells cannabis. But consuming cannabis in Italy is against the law. You can look, you can buy, but you cannot smoke, except for medical cannabis. In Chile, it’s legal to consume cannabis at home, but not buy, grow or sell it. In Two countries, two quasi “legal” medical cannabis markets. Between them, there’s a legal market for adult use cannabis. Alone, they’re just strange.
Chile, like Italy, has medical cannabis. Cannabis in Chile has been legal since 2015, but it wasn’t readily available until pharmacies started selling cannabis products in 2017. There are lots of pharmacies in Chile. Chileans get colds and coughs just like us. In fact, I had to go into one, but I never saw (and didn’t seek out) any medical cannabis. But apparently it’s there and there’s a lot of it. There have also been many protests about medical cannabis in Chile and making it more available. Apparently there is still lots of work to do on the medical cannabis front in Chile. The picture at the right is from one of the many protests that people held in the last few years to make medical cannabis readily available in pharmacies.
If cannabis is legal to smoke at home, as long as you don’t grow it and as long as you don’t buy it, where were all the rolling papers and other paraphernalia needed to complete consumption? None of us saw any head shops where paraphanalia like papers, bongs, pipes, etc. was available. But as we were walking the streets in a piazza in Valparaiso, there was a card table with some papers and a few pipes. AHA! That’s where Chileans, at least in Valparaiso, got their smoking supplies; card tables on the street in public squares. The unmistakable aromas of cured and burning cannabis were everywhere! The country smelled a bit like a pot shop in many places. But card tables to sell the stuff you need to consume the cannabis flowers you’re not supposed to have in your possession? Head shops are not all over the place.
Then we were walking on the beach at Viña del Mar, just beyond Valparaiso, I spotted a vendor who was selling pipes. Strangest pipes I’ve ever seen. Very ornate, with swirls and stones embedded in them, but I’m not sure what they’re made from. Since I’m so unsure, I wouldn’t smoke them. Glass…not a problem. Metal, no problem. But the material is a mystery to me. So while I’m fine with the idea of using a pope like this for ceremonial purposes, I’m not so sure about actually using the pipe.
Grow Your Own is OK…Apparently
A lot of the product you need for growing comes from grow shops. There were signs advertising grow shops in different communities. Medical is legal or is it growing that’s legal for medical purposes? I saw at least three of these shops. It’s OK to grow your own, but not be able to find it in a shop.
If you want to do cannabis tourism in South America, I’d suggest Uruguay. It’s been totally legal there for several years. Or you can just stay or visit in the U.S. and go to a legal state. There’s more of them all the time.