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.
Update 1/15/19: LARA has done the right thing. If LARA adopts new, proposed rules on Wednesday, January 16th. Read more at michigan.gov. The proposed rules will take us back to last year’s status, with the addition of complete testing. Many of the shuttered dispensaries will reopen. These new rules are only good until March 31st, but it’s a start.
The medical marijuana market in Michigan is in a critical state. There is a shortage of cannabis for medical patients in the few dispensaries still open as of Sunday January 13, 2019.
At the very least, The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is not doing its job. LARA is probably obstructing the will of the people. The technical word for that is malfeasance. How bad has LARA made things for patients in Michigan? I spoke with several different dispensary managers or owners in Ann Arbor over the past few days. There is almost no medical cannabis in any of the few shops LARA has licensed. There are several reasons for this, all of which could have been avoided with a little forethought and honesty. Instead, what the citizens of Michigan got was doublespeak from a LARA representative. Cannabis in dispensaries all over the state was from the (only) four growers LARA has licensed, so far. The price and selection was the same in each store and in very limited supply. Probably it’s mostly gone by now. One shop had only one lonely variety of flower and a few vape cartridges for sale. Another shop was closing early today (Saturday January 12) because they no product to sell. They would open for business on Sunday, but would be turning customers away. Has any good come out of this? Or is it all bad? And what’s plain ugly? Most importantly, how did we get here?
LARA has done a few good things. In their defense, LARA is trying to bring order to an unordered market through regulation. This isn’t bad in and of itself but LARA was the agency that was responsible for the chaos in the market previously. LARA has also mandated testing for all manner of things in cannabis growing like pesticides, bugs, molds and other nasty surprises you might not want to know about in your favorite flower. The concept of seed to sale is a great idea. In Michigan it’s called METRC. This seed to sale software is used in several states besides Michigan, like Colorado. One of the things the software is supposed to do is track lab results. I like to know the provenance of what I’m consuming and that there are no pesticides, bugs, fungus, mildew or carcinogens, etc. Tracking is a good thing for us consumers. (Implementation is a different issue.) This is about it for the good. For now.
LARA has been malfeasant in its application of the medical marijuana regulations they made up. On January 1st of 2019, the medical marijuana dispensaries who had not been licensed were to shut down. Let’s say you were a dispensary who complied to the letter with the regulations that LARA had set forth last year. LARA then moved the goal posts. Several times. There have been several injunctions against LARA and the bureau just doesn’t seem phased by anything. They set their arbitrary deadline for January 1st and that was it for a majority of applicants who spent a lot of money with the state, had extensive background checks, and jumped through countless hoops. Most of these dispensaries were then told they could not operate their business because of a bureaucratic bungle beyond anything rational and reasonable.
LARA does not care or want anything looking like a normalized or regulated market. Voters approved medical marijuana in Michigan in 2008. LARA was empowered to issue cards and caregiver certificates. LARA made no attempt to regulate dispensaries and through a jumble of regulation licensed ‘caregivers’ who could grow and patients who had to find their own caregiver. Really? That was how medical cannabis operated in Michigan from about 2009 until this year. LARA, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided that rather than ease into a regulated and orderly market, they would just draw a line in the sand. Before January 1st, 2019, whatever license was OK. After January 1, 2019 you had to have the official blessing of LARA, and that was not easy to come by.
Now we get to the licensed growers. The state only approved 4 growers before the end of the year. Four. Four for the whole state of Michigan including the Upper Peninsula. Four growers is not enough to supply the state’s dispensaries. There was not an adequate supply to begin with. It takes from 16-20 weeks to bring a plant to market. If the grower is conscientious, drying and curing can take a month. Then there’s trimming, weighing, packaging, etc., etc., etc. There’s a whole lot of etcs in growing. And still, the state only approved 4 growers. Unless they’re giant growers, four isn’t going to adequately supply the state. Ten times that probably won’t handle the state demand for medical cannabis and adult use cannabis, which is looming around the corner later this year.
Now we find ourselves in the sad situation where patients who had access to their medicine, now have no access because there’s no approved product. Whether a patient’s preference is flower, oil, balm whatever, there is no product. And frequently their favorite dispensaries are closed. The dispensaries that are open have nothing to sell. Gee, where are all these patients going to go?
The (Mostly) Ugly
The original intent was that a medical marijuana patient would get to know a caregiver, a grower, who would provide the plant material to the patient, grow the correct strains, etc. As nice as it sounds, it could never work. It was an unworkable system. LARA created a market without providing much of a structure for the market. Because of the vague regulations, dispensaries started to pop up as LARA changed the rules. Some of the rule changes allowed for dispensaries to operate. The ‘providers’ were allowed to continue to grow cannabis and sell their cannabis to the dispensaries. There was no regulation over pesticides, bugs, molds or any of the other nasty things that can happen to cannabis. So LARA, rightfully, so, decided to roll out ‘saner’ dispensary and grower licensing and regulations. All this is good, however LARA has not followed its own directives. Now there are somewhere between 70 and 90 fewer dispensaries, until LARA licenses those who were following the regulations for application and dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s. That’s bureaucratic bungling of the worst sort. LARA needs, at the very least to allow those dispensaries to operate and allow the growers to operate as well. But it may be too late. A lot of the legitimate product may have moved to a different market.
The implementation of METRC has been a disaster for the state and the dispensaries and growers. Like most software systems, there was no time to learn and test the system. It’s as though LARA just told the dispensaries and growers they had to use it. Period. No software has ever been implemented and work like it’s supposed to the first time out of the box. There should have been a gradual implementation of the product from the grower to the dispensary to the consumer, which would have made everyone’s life easier. And the software never should have been implemented at the same time as the new license laws. What was LARA thinking?
Cannabis Jobs Lost
There’s one other thing. If 70 dispensaries closed and they had an average of 10 employees. That’s 700 people out of work. Their salaries are off the market. Their taxes aren’t being paid. There’s also the rent due on those 70 or so dispensaries. And the patients. What about them. Michigan has around 300,000 medical marijuana card holders. If the cannabis has run out of the market where are they going to go? The answer is obvious. DO THE RIGHT THING LARA. Do the right thing.
We’ll look back at 2018 as the watershed year, not just in the U.S. but worldwide for cannabis legalization. A watershed year is when so much happens, everything seemed to have hinged on that year moving forward. A tipping point if you will, and that pretty much defines 2018 and all the activity around the re-legalization of cannabis in the U.S. and globally.
Without getting into the weeds (pardon the pun) on the details, here’s a brief overview on why 2018 will go down as the year cannabis re-legalization efforts achieved critical mass. It doesn’t mean cannabis will be legal everywhere all of a sudden. But 2018 will be seen as the tipping point where re-legalization appears inevitable. Here are the 8 reasons cannabis may have hit a watershed in 2018.
Real investment broke through in 2018. John Boehner, Altria, and Constellation Brands just to name one well-known figure and a two companies that made cannabis financial news in 2018. Altria makes Marlboro cigarettes and Constellation Brands owns Corona beer among other alcoholic beverage companies. John Boehner (R) was Speaker of the House and previously an outspoken opponent of legal cannabis…until 2018. These are just three of the names that continue to add mainstream credibility to the cannabis sphere. More and more people are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. The amount of celebrity and corporate investment in cannabis companies this year is staggering. Now that mainstream Republicans are investing, we won’t have far to go until cannabis is a normalized part of life. When the world begins to see investment in cannabis industries as a positive, this is a sign that things are changing. And things certainly changed in 2018.
2. States Legalization
Both Vermont and Michigan have legalized adult-use cannabis. Vermont legalized cannabis legislatively and is the first state to have done so. Several other states (New Jersey and New York) are considering legislative legalization. This is an amazing change in the legislative tenor of the states in the U.S.
Michigan voters legalized adult-use cannabis with a ballot initiative, by a large margin. Several other states opened dispensaries in 2018 after legalizing several years ago. Even Oklahoma has legalized medical marijuana. 33 states of our 50 United States now have legalized medical marijuana. A majority by any measure. More are scheduled to come on stream in 2019. In 2018, many states saw the positive results from legalization and now want to jump on the cannabis bandwagon, and not all of the reasons altruistic. But whatever the reasons are, legalization is a good thing. The aggregate population in states that are legalized, or have begun legalization, is about 65% of the overall population in the U.S. Coming into 2018 about 35% of the population in the U.S. had legalized cannabis in some form or another. Heading into 2019, it’s a majority of the U.S. population with legal cannabis. This seems like the tipping point into Federally legalized cannabis.
3. Expungement Programs
Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Oregon have expungement programs. California is just passed an expungement program. Several other states are either passing laws that would expunge non-violent crimes like small quantity marijuana dealing, where people should never have been thrown in jail in the first place. We need to release people who are in prison for non-violent, cannabis-related crimes.
Expungement (vacating) of convictions of ill-conceived cannabis laws will allow many good people to leave the prison system. Perhaps this will end the prison cartel in the U.S., where many prisons are run by for-profit, private companies. Private companies make more money when there are more prisoners. They are not in favor of expunging non-violent crime from their prisons. The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. The Federal, 2018 far-reaching criminal justice reform law, along with the legalization of cannabis, will help reduce our prison population. We’re beginning to see the prison population fall. All because of laws and expungement that occurred in 2018.
4. Local Municipalities Coming Around
Most of the cannabis legalization laws that have passed in the last decade or so have allowed individual municipalities to deny licenses for cannabis sales in their borders. In California, a majority of cities do not have cannabis shops in their towns and cities. That wall is beginning to crumble as well. It won’t change completely. There are still cities and counties all over the country that are alcohol ‘dry’. If the citizens in a dry county or municipality want alcohol, they go to a community that has alcohol to purchase. Why would cannabis be any different? If your community doesn’t have any pot shops, you’ll go where the shops are to purchase your weed. Then your town will be out the taxation revenue of weed legalization. The towns that are remaining cannabis ‘dry’ are, in the main, going against the will of their populations. We do understand there’s still a stigma associated with cannabis, but it’s quickly becoming an excuse. Each and every argument against legalizing and selling cannabis has been refuted. When the anti-legalization crowd gets into the picture, all they can do is quote outdated and disproved ‘studies’ and stories about the evils of marijuana. Fresno and many other communities in California and Nevada originally outlawed cannabis stores in their city limits. That wall is starting to crumble and 2018 is the year that began. Most towns that wanted to remain ‘cannabis-dry’ are beginning to take another look. 2019 should see many more towns begin to allow cannabis inside their borders.
5. Medical Cannabis Was Legalized in More States for Good Reasons
Texas, of all places, now has medical marijuana. Although there has been medical cannabis in Texas for several years, it was limited to one and only one disease; intractable epilepsy. Utah voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, but the legislature wants to do its own thing. Oklahoma too! And that was voted in as a referendum. Almost all the states who don’t have medical cannabis at the very least, are looking at some way to legalize medical cannabis, if not adult use. Even Indiana is considering it. There will be a few states (Indiana?) that will try to remain draconian in their regulation. If you study history, you’ll find the holdout states to alcohol prohibition, like Mississippi and Oklahoma, had liquor available everywhere. Organized crime was the monetary winner then.
S-T-U-D-Y H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. Let’s not make the same mistakes again. If the laws are too draconian, the black market will continue to thrive. With reasonable laws, regulations, and taxes, states have a better than fighting chance to eliminate much of the cannabis black market.
6. The Pace of Research
There are many real ailments that can be effectively treated with cannabis. There’s the beginning of a body of cannabis research. I don’t normally plug websites, but Prof of Pot is one of the publications that’s reporting on the science of cannabis. Just one example; There are studies now that demonstrate that one of the many forms of THC can help the symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Alzheimer’s is also affected positively by certain compounds in cannabis. There is just so much we need to know about the endocannabinoid system in our brains, how it works, and how cannabis works with it.
The Federal Government is beginning to recognize the needs for research and starting to fund some research. Since cannabis is still Schedule 1, even the government has a hard time creating research funding. But private industry is stepping up to the research plate, and that might or might not be medical. Some private research foundations are giving money for cannabis research. It’s beginning, but only a beginning. Researchers need to get deep into the (pardon my expression) weeds and details about cannabis. There was a major uptick in research in 2018 and the outlook is (so far) better in 2019.
7. Studies Show Children and Teens Use Less Cannabis Where it’s Legal
There have been several new studies designed to understand how teens are using cannabis with the results coming out in 2018. Guess what? All the studies, every single one, show underage use of cannabis is lower. Colorado has lower use rate for teens. Washington State had previously reported lower underage cannabis use. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s actually not. If you’ve studied history of alcohol prohibition and its repeal by the 21st Amendment. While the prohibition of alcohol was in force in the 1920s in the U.S., youth under the age of 21 were normally consuming alcohol, even if it was illegal. After prohibition, teen alcohol use actually went down. Why should cannabis be any different? The realization that underage consumption might decline began in 2018 with several studies published that demonstrated the decline of teen cannabis use in places where it’s legal. There will always be underage cannabis-use just as there’s underage alcohol-use, but it won’t be a free-for-all that the naysayers predict.
Yes, laughter. Even Republicans these days are laughing about cannabis. Is it because they’re high? Could be. Might be. Who knows. Who cares. The main point is, as cannabis becomes normalized in our society, it’s makes us laugh. Cannabis can to do all sorts of positive things for our society, at least in our view. Laugh away Republicans. Laugh away. Now you’ll be laughing with everyone else. We view that as a good thing. Democrats need to laugh too. Our society has become too serious. 2018 saw some humor woven into the conversation about cannabis by both political parties, and that surely is a sign that the times they are a-changing. Let’s hope it continues.
Even though 2018 was the watershed year in the re-legalization of cannabis, there are still many hurdles our society needs to get past. A watershed is the dividing point, the tipping point where everything that came before is changed moving forward. The next most important thing that can happen is the removal of cannabis from Schedule 1. When cocaine is classed lower than cannabis on this so-called schedule of ‘illegal’ drugs, it’s a problem. Only Schedule 2 (where cocaine is) and below can be used as medicine and have research dollars applied to them. Congress needs to reschedule cannabis before any really great research can happen.
There are still too many people and governments who believe the propaganda and lies that were spread about cannabis starting in the early 1900s.
Original Post: Cannabis Now: Dear Dabby… What’s The Deal with Sungrown Cannabis?
[Editor’s Note: Dear Dabby answers the essential questions everyone has been asking – from Sungrown to why you should know your farmer.]
Why do people prefer sungrown cannabis? — Al Natural
That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say that everyone prefers outdoor, er, sungrown cannabis. I remember 10 years ago, when indoor weed was all the rage and no one wanted outdoor weed, especially during harvest season. We used to have gigantic debates about which weed was better. I personally prefer outdoor to indoor and let me tell you why: OUTDOOR WEED TASTES BETTER! That’s it. Something about sun and dirt make for great cannabis. I think the French winemakers call it “terroir,” meaning like “earth” or something. Don’t take my word for it: a lab in Washington state has reported that outdoor cannabis had slightly more THC and a higher terpene count than cannabis grown indoors.
I’m not saying that indoor weed can’t be fantastic. I just smoked a Strawberry Banana grown indoors with dirt, using a “no-till” method, and it was flavorful and amazing. However, quality indoor is becoming harder to find, mostly because factory farming and commercial pressures have created a lot of mediocre cannabis brands. That Strawberry Banana I smoked and loved was grown in a small garden by a master grower. One would hope that the future of cannabis should be small batch, organic cannabis farms, but we will see if capitalism will allow these sorts of businesses to exist.
Oh, and outdoor cannabis is better for the environment. Sunlight is free, so you don’t need to use nearly as much electricity, nor do you need as many chemicals. And yields are bigger because you can let the plant grow and grow. The sky is the literal limit. Plus, with the new light deprivation technology, a good farmer can harvest outdoor weed 2-4 times a year. I feel like greenhouse and light-dep cannabis will be the wave that strikes a happy medium, and we can find other things to argue about, like cold water hash versus butane extractions.
I hate to throw away all the plastic waste from vape pens. Can you recommend any refillable options? — Petra “Kim” Ikal
I think I can. It’s kinda funny how the cannabis industry, which used to be filled with hippies and environmentalists, has embraced plastic disposable pens and cartridges with a quickness. I get that pens are convenient and very discreet, but does anyone care about leaving a small environmental footprint anymore? We shall see. End rant.
As to your question: PAX, Prohibited and a few other companies sell vaporizers that can be used for waxes and oils. They are fairly easy to use, and once you get the hang of it, you can load up a fat dab hit with minimal muss and fuss. Also, if you need to get rid of your empty cartridges and you don’t just want to throw them into the garbage, many dispensaries have cartridge recycling programs, so you can drop your empties in the box and feel better about yourself.
Can I do anything with the cannabis that I’ve already vaped? — Al Offit
Yes. Yes, you can. Use it to make a cannabis-infused oil or butter. Vaped weed still has a usable amount of THC and making a butter (or a tincture if you are fancy and have the time) is the easiest way to get that THC out of the plant and into your bloodstream.
What’s the best way to figure out how my cannabis was grown? — Praven Nonce
Um, ask the grower? Find the brand on Instagram? As cannabis becomes more and more like the fancy booze industry, it should become easier to find out where and when and how your weed was grown.
I live in California, so it is easy for me to find out the provenance of my pot. Hell, the fancier companies love to tell you that their bud was grown deep in the heart of Mendocino County, under the watchful eye of an ancient and venerable hippie farmer who only visits the big city when it’s time to buy new shoes. But I was just in Nashville, and while they had some good weed out there, no one could tell me where it was from or even what it was. Just a few years ago out on the West Coast, there were a bunch of “farmers’ market” style cannabis events where cannabis users could visit different booths and get a chance to talk to the growers to learn about their techniques and ingredients.
Sadly, farmers’ markets are no longer allowed in the new “legalization” era, although there are definitely a few underground farmers’ markets, especially in Sacramento — where luckily, I reside. However, I feel like in a few more years, legal states will once again be able to have legal farmers’ markets and cannabis users will find it easier to learn about the cannabis they consume.
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now
Dear Dabby… What’s The Deal with Sungrown Cannabis? was posted on Cannabis Now.
Adult use of cannabis is legal in Colorado. So why do some dispensaries make me feel like it’s criminal act to purchase weed?
On a recent trip to Colorado, I visited four “dispensaries”. Previous to my Colorado trip, I had spent a considerable amount of time in Michigan dispensaries. I’ve never felt like a criminal in Michigan. In Colorado, just like in both Michigan and Washington, you have to show identification proving you’re of age. Then you can walk into the store and purchase your cannabis.
In Michigan, where medical sales are legal, salesperson relationships seem the same as buying clothes or food or anything else. However, I walked away from three of the four Colorado “dispensaries” I visited with an unshakable feeling that I was doing something that was still illegal. It started the moment I walked in the door at one of the dispensaries. Two of the other three were ‘easier’, but they weren’t exactly consumer friendly. Perhaps it’s Colorado’s laws that dictate the method of allowing customers in the door. It’s also the fault of those three unfriendly shops I went into. The fourth was more like Michigan.
My Denver Colorado Cannabis Shopping Experiences
The first dispensary I walked into was Native Roots in downtown Denver. Before I could even walk into the shop I had to slip my drivers license through a little bank teller window slot. The person in the small booth checked out my license…thoroughly. It felt kind of creepy. There were six of us crowded into a small anteroom. We had to pass this ‘scrutiny’ before we could walk into the shop. After about a minute of checking the computer, then waving a little ultraviolet lamp and doing other sundry things, the ID “checker” allowed me into the showroom. The other 5 people were still behind me.
When I got in the store, it was pleasantly nice and well decorated, yet the store gave me a kind of itchy feeling. The salesperson conjured up old images of dealing with a slick, used car salesperson. Not exactly warm and welcoming, and I had a feeling I was being both watched and duped at the same time.
It also seemed like the salesperson wanted me to buy something and get out as quickly as they could make me decide. HIs entire body language and verbiage said as much. He just wanted to sell me the product and hustle me out the door. Why? So, the police wouldn’t find out I was in there buying legitimate goods? Did I smell bad? I guess I’ll never know.
The combination of the entry and the sales approach would have me never walking into one of their shops again. Native Roots has many locations in Colorado. Don’t walk into any of them if you want to feel like a criminal. None the other dispensaries were quite as bad as Native Roots. Native Roots made me feel like a criminal.
In Aspen, I shopped at a dispensary named Silverpeak Apothecary. Silverpeak is a vertically integrated company, which makes them different from most operations. Seed to weed is what I call it. They were growers and retailers.
After the perfunctory checking of the ID, the first person I met was so overbearing with his ‘knowledge’ that I almost walked out. I may have become a little tart toward him, but he did the one thing a salesperson should never do: Tell me what I already know without first ascertaining what I might know. Not fun and not nice. And I know why – he was never trained in sales.
The driver’s license approach was much less invasive feeling as our IDs were only checked before we walked in. Other than the overbearing sales pitch, it was a better experience but still one where I felt a bit like I was doing something not quite legal. Silverpeak also wanted me in and out as quickly as they could sell me something. The worst part was the ‘magic’. I placed an order and it came out from the ‘back room’ on a silver tray, where it was put in containers. Mysterious. Was I getting what I ordered? I’ll never know.
Telluride was a different scene. More laid back and far more open than Aspen. The first shop I went into was a chain store; Green Dragon. Quite nice to talk to, but the manager had to give the ‘canned’ talk to newbie visitors to the shop. He had to outline about the dangers of marijuana and the legal aspects of having it on their person. It was a draconian speech and one he was required to give in the chain I was in. This made my experience feel quasi-legal. It was tedious to listen to, even if I knew he had to give it.
Then there was a little stand-alone shop; The Green Room. Not a chain, not vertically integrated. Just a store and manager that could not have been any nicer. Asked to see my ID and after he saw I was over 21, we had a lovely chat and I wound up buying something from him.
Why couldn’t all the Colorado stores be like The Green Room?
The Green Room is an independent shop. The manager DOES NOT like the chains. After seeing how the chain’s operate and treat their customers, I can understand why. If the chains continue to treat customers the way I experienced it, the small independent shops don’t have a lot to worry about.
Colorado was an interesting, fascinating experience. Personally, I’ll shop with the independent stores, especially if they have relationships with sustainable and reputable growers. It’s fascinating to see how different stores have reacted to legal cannabis and how differently they operate their shops.