Monday, September 24, 2018

Carter Stevens

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Carter is a staff writer for Green Scene Marketing. He is a freelance writer and attorney who lives in Minnesota. He has lived in seven states, including New York and California. Carter writes about marijuana, politics, and legal issues. His favorite strain is Blue Dream.

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The idea, organizers of the annual 420 Games say, is to “de-stigmatize” marijuana and the stoners who love to smoke it.

420 Games 2016To that end, the 420 Games, which open in Portland later this month, feature “a series of unique athletic events,” along with a beer-tasting garden, speakers, and a live band. It’s a popular and rapidly growing national event, and it has already touched down in California, Colorado, and Washington this year.

This will be the first time the 420 Games are held in Oregon, which legalized cannabis in 2014. Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot in 2012, and California, which has had a loosely regulated medical marijuana industry since 1996, is expected to follow suit in November.

4.2 mile Fun Run

The games themselves include a 4.2-mile running course used for multiple contests. A Fun Run starts at Sellwood Riverfront Park on the Willamette River, travels north 2.1 miles, and then turns around and returns to the park.

Two hours of beer tasting will follow, with the beer provided from the Lagunites Brewing Company of California. Educational speeches and live music will also be included, starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 12:30 p.m. The event will officially wrap up by 1 p.m. Organizers hadn’t disclosed the names of potential performers as of Oct. 9.

“The 420 Games were established to show that cannabis users are NOT lazy, unmotivated or ‘stoners’ and to de-stigmatize the millions who use cannabis in a healthy and responsible lifestyle,” organizers say on their website.

“We are very proud to announce the 1st annual Portland 420 Games,” the site says. “This will be our first event in Portland, OR, and will feature Lagunitas beer tasting, great music and educational speeches. Come run with us and continue to help change the perception of cannabis and the people who use it!!!”

The games will also include a few “great new surprises,” planners promised.

Watch the trailer for a teaser of action to come.

The 420 Games started in California in 2015, and the fact that it has already spread to three other states is a great sign. While marijuana users aren’t exactly known for athletic prowess, many successful athletes use the drug (remember Michael Phelps and his bong?).

In fact, there is little to no evidence that occasional cannabis use has any negative effect on athletic ability or physical health. Heavy toking may make it somewhat harder to engage in high-level exercise but hardly prevents healthy activity.

Some athletes have even been known to use pot covertly to enhance performance. The idea is that cannabinoids in the marijuana plant help the body absorb oxygen molecules more effectively, giving tokers increased energy and stamina. There is little science to back this claim – at least not yet – but if nothing else, it proves cannabis smokers are as good at sports as anyone else.

Leave a comment and tell us what you think: Do you smoke marijuana (yes, you do)? Do you exercise or participate in team sports? Do you think pot makes you perform better? Worse? Or does it make no difference?

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Any old stoner can dress up like a nug of weed for Halloween. Even lamer? The idiots who party hop wearing nothing more creative than a T-shirt with a marijuana leaf stamped on it (and maybe a bad sketch of Bob Marley).

Think bigger this Oct. 31. The marijuana website Leafly profiled some creative DIY costumes that showcase not only your love of weed but your favorite strains. Here are a few of the ideas:

Agent Orange

Agent Orange is a popular hybrid strain, but its sativa genes usually wins out. The high is uplifting, energetic, and creative, with mostly heady effects, while the bud smells of oranges and other citrus fruit.

The costume, naturally, is orange. Bright orange. All orange. All you need to do is find a two-piece orange suit and orange tie. Your shirt needn’t be orange, but it helps. On second thought, these things aren’t terribly easy to find. But you’re industrious and the Internet is always open. Give it a shot!

Agent Orange
Agent Orange

Super Lemon Haze

While not so great for patients who suffer from chronic anxiety, Super Lemon Haze and the high-octane energy boost it provides are great for getting errands done, socializing, or just going for a long, clear-headed walk in the middle of the day.

Make the costume with the following supplies: an orange fitted bodysuit, a cape made from 1-1.5 yards of yellow fabric, and scraps of yellow, orange, and green felt (representing the lemon/citrus aroma and deep-green nugs of Super Lemon Haze).

Affix the cape to the jumpsuit, cut the letters “S,” “L,” and “H” out of each of the felt scraps, and attach them to the front of the bodysuit. Finally, stick a couple green felt marijuana leaves somewhere prominent so nobody gets the wrong idea.

DIY Super Lemon Haze costume
Super Lemon Haze

White Widow

This all-white DIY costume, geared (mostly) toward women is a bit harder to make, but it’s sure to be a hit. Everyone who has smoked more than half a dozen joints has heard of White Widow, an even hybrid with potent euphoric effects, so they’ll get the gag as soon as they see you light up on the patio during a break from the Halloween party.

Here’s what you do: Take a plain white dress, white fishnet stockings, and white shoes. Make six fake legs out of white cylindrical foam (found at crafts stores) and attach them to the back of the dress. That makes eight total, including your real legs, and as we all remember from high school biology, spiders have eight legs.

White gloves are optional.

White Widow
White Widow

Cheese

There’s a simple way to tackle a costume based on this favorite indica-dominant hybrid: Take a road trip to Wisconsin and buy a Packers/Badgers cheese hat. But what self-respecting pothead would ever choose the easy way out of anything? Uh . . .

So here’s a better, if still pretty simple approach. Buy a full-torso cheese costume online, add some tight black pants, a long-sleeved black shirt, black shoes, and black socks. The combination leaves you looking like, well, a giant slice of cheese. Perfect for a hungry stoner on Halloween.

DIY Cheese costume
Cheese

Leave a comment: Do you plan to wear a costume on Halloween? What about a weed-themed costume? Let us know.

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There’s a good reason sativas reign supreme when it comes to the most popular marijuana strains. They offer pep, euphoria, and a heady high perfect for the middle of the day.

But some sativas are in a class above the rest. From Sour Diesel and Blue Dream to Headband and Durban Poison, the best sativa weed comes in many stripes. Here are our choices for the 10 best sativas of all time.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel is a top-notch sativa weed strain that has earned both its name and its unbeatable reputation. It’s been around for a long time, first appearing in New York City in the early 1990s, and it is known above all for the strong aroma of gasoline it produces.

The taste and smell are also quite sour, naturally, with notes of citrus, earth, and pine needles. The high is mellow, relaxing, and cerebral. You can’t go wrong with this original, one of the best sativa strains in history.

Sour Diesel
Sour Diesel

White Widow

The name doesn’t come up in pop culture as often as it used to, but White Widow is easily one of the best strains of sativa weed on any market, legal or otherwise. First bred in Amsterdam in the early ’90s, this still-popular staple is often described as a balanced hybrid, but the effects definitely swing sativa.

Those effects include potent euphoria, powerful bursts of energy, social pep, and increased creativity. The “white” part of White Widow come from the dense layers of silvery trichome glands covering the bud of this sativa weed. That alone gives a sense of just how strong this strain can be.

White Widow
White Widow

Blue Dream

Easily one of the best sativa strains of all time, Blue Dream can be found in almost every corner of the United States. It’s a hybrid, but the sativa side almost always wins out. That’s obvious in the upbeat high of this super-soothing sativa weed.

Blue Dream has a long history in California, the state with which it is usually associated. But it was actually born in Florida in the early ’90s before making its way to stardom on the West Coast.

Blue Dream
Blue Dream

Jack Herer

If Jack Herer is one of the all-time best sativa strains, its namesake was an even bigger deal. Jack Herer – the real Jack Herer – was a tireless advocate for reform on behalf of stoners and medical marijuana patients. Within the community, he remains a hero.

The high is clear-headed and energetic, much like the man himself. Also a product of the ’90s, this strain mixes a heavy dose of sativa weed with a smaller portion of indica genetics. That makes it more potent (indica) but also headier and more effective (sativa).

Jack Herer
Jack Herer

Haze

Haze ranks near the top of almost every list of history’s best sativa strains. A parent of countless other favorites, this California native first popped up in the 1960s and has since spread to every corner of the globe. It’s a mix of genes from plants in Mexico, South America, and Asia.

Haze has a spicy aroma with hints of earth and citrus fruit. More importantly, the high produced by this great sativa weed is powerful, energy-inducing, and creative.

Haze
Haze

 

Super Silver Haze

One of the many sativa descendants of the original Haze, Super Silver Haze is a great choice for medical marijuana patients who suffer from stress, nausea, or lack of appetite. Like its famous parent, this popular sativa strain is thick with trichomes and generates an uplifting, long-lasting head high.

There are physical effects, too, giving Super Silver Haze just a touch of indica. That fine-tuned combination of effects has made this strain a top choice since the late 1990s, when it won three Cannabis Cup awards in a row.

Super Silver Haze
Super Silver Haze

 

Headband

Anyone who buys pot off the black market has heard the name “Headband” more than once. Probably many times. It’s easy to find almost anywhere, it’s usually pretty cheap, and yet it is clearly one of the best sativa strains available.

A cross of OG Kush and Sour Diesel, Headband comes with frosty buds, a Kushy taste, and an aroma that combines coffee, diesel, spice, citrus, pine, and soil. Potency varies widely, but the best batches are quite strong.

Headband strain
Headband

Maui Waui

This near-ancient sativa weed strain has made appearances again and again throughout pop culture history. It first came on the scene out of Hawaii in the 1970s. It’s alternately known as Maui Wowie, Maui Wowi, and Mowie Wowie, with little agreement on the proper spelling.

But we do know this strain is a favorite for its aroma of pineapples and the tropics. The high is pleasant if not exactly punchy, but Maui Waui is one of the best choices for a day when you don’t need to get blasted.

Maui Waui
Maui Waui

 

Green Crack

Don’t let the name fool you: Green Crack sativa weed isn’t especially addictive or bad for you. It certainly won’t kill you. In fact, you may go to your grave with regret if you never try it.

Likely a product of the 1970s, Green Crack remains one of the best sativa strains out there. The taste and smell are sweet and fruity, while the high is powerful, uplifting, and relaxing. This sativa is perfect for reducing stress and relieving chronic pain.

Green Crack
Green Crack

 

Durban Poison

Durban Poison, the last on our list of the best sativas, hails from Africa – specifically, the South African port city of Durban. Its sugary smell and happy, energetic head high have made it a low-key favorite, especially among hardcore stoners.

Few sativas are better for a busy day, but Durban Poison is also great for making edibles and concentrates. Trichomes are plentiful, making this a strong, effective choice, one of the all-time best.

Durban Poison

Leave a comment and let us know: What is your favorite sativa strain?

See also:

The 10 Best Indicas of All Time

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No one wants to get arrested. Jail sucks, fines suck, the simple inconvenience sucks. Even a low-end bust for marijuana possession can be a decidedly unpleasant experience.

But the consequences for many people are much worse than a few days in jail for a pot bust. Even a simple misdemeanor conviction carries a criminal record, a rap sheet that sticks forever.

There is almost no part of a person’s life that isn’t touched by a criminal record. It makes it harder to take out a loan, get a job, secure government benefits, even find a place to live. Here is a look at the three most serious effects of a marijuana rap sheet.

behind bars

Jobs

Federal law prohibits businesses from rejecting job applicants strictly on the basis of criminal convictions. But hiring managers are free to conduct criminal background checks, and even a misdemeanor marijuana charge could lead to rejection in most places.

Some states allow exceptions for applicants with simple drug convictions, but this is hardly guaranteed. And in many states, it’s relatively easy for employers to find records of arrests that never resulted in conviction. This could be enough to cost you a potential job.

It’s easier to avoid the question in some settings than in others. Police agencies, for example, do thorough background screening and typically refuse to hire applicants with any kind of criminal history. The same is true of lawyers and anyone else who hopes to work in the legal system.

Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has pushed in recent years to remove barriers for ex-cons looking for apartments. Because there are no legal or constitutional protections for convicts as a class, landlords have long been free to deny housing to anyone with a rap sheet.

Such blanket bans are on the decline, but ex-cons still have an especially difficult time finding landlords willing to rent to them. Even in the face of new tenant protections, landlords have an easy time inventing alternative legal explanations for their refusal to rent to convicts.

With nowhere to live and no job, many ex-cons wind up homeless. That makes it more likely they will re-offend and add to their already growing rap sheets. And that becomes an endless cycle.

Benefits

It should be no surprise that a person with a criminal record might need access to welfare, disability insurance, or other government entitlement programs.

While the federal government and most states allow people convicted of misdemeanors (including low-level drug offenses) to secure government benefits, people with drug-related felonies on their rap sheets are barred for life from enrolling in any federal welfare programs.

That includes a lifetime ban on SNAP (food stamps), general assistance (a small monthly cash stipend), and TANF (welfare for families). Social security payments and even veterans’ benefits can be stopped during incarceration, though ex-cons can reapply to these programs.

Many states allow exceptions to these rules, but roughly half do not. That puts recently released inmates in a nearly impossible bind, especially if their crimes were felonies and they cannot find jobs to keep them afloat. The only way to end the problem? Legalize cannabis.

What do you think: What can lawmakers do to ease the burden on Americans convicted of drug crimes? Leave a comment.

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Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton got herself into a fair amount of trouble in September when she suggested marijuana can kill in combination with other drugs.

Marijuana Joints and PillsReformers pounced on the comments, pointing out that there has never been a credible recorded instance of a fatal cannabis overdose. The belief that the drug can kill, even though it can’t, has fueled decades of failed drug policy.

But was there any truth to what Clinton said? Is it even possible for marijuana to mix with another drug, legal, prescription, or otherwise, and lead to death?

The short answer is no. Not only is there no recorded instance of pot fatality, there is no science to back up the claim of lethal drug interactions. No drug has ever proven to kill simply because it is mixed with weed.

Marijuana is never the cause of death

That doesn’t mean such combinations don’t matter. Blending cannabis with other drugs can go south, it’s just that the marijuana itself won’t kill you.

Clinton made the claim during a speech Sept. 24 at a college in Youngstown, Ohio. She said that while her mother, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, supports medical marijuana and would push for it in office, the drug isn’t always safe when taken in combination with other substances. Hillary Clinton is widely considered the front-runner in next month’s presidential election.

“But we also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado, where some of the people who were taking marijuana for [medical] purposes, [and] the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking,” Chelsea Clinton said during the student forum.

Her spokeswoman later clarified that she “misspoke” and knows cannabis isn’t lethal. But that still left confusion about where the former first daughter got her information. More importantly, it raises questions about how marijuana and other drugs really do interact. What does the science say?

As a starting point, only a handful of modern physicians have even tried to link fatalities to marijuana overdose, and those conclusions were widely rejected by other experts. Even the DEA acknowledges no one has ever died from a pot overdose.

Chelsea Clinton speaks at Youngstown State University in Ohio, Sept. 24, 2016
Chelsea Clinton speaks at Youngstown State University in Ohio, Sept. 24, 2016

What’s more, evidence that cannabis interacts poorly with other chemicals is limited at best. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy found that while marijuana can have negative interactions with certain drugs, the effects are rarely severe.

Mixing weed with alcohol, sedatives, muscle relaxants, or other central nervous system depressants can slow breathing, reduce heart rate, and cause loss of consciousness, a potentially dangerous combination, the study found. But death under these circumstances is caused by the other drugs, not marijuana.

The study also found that blending pot with certain older antidepressants can increase heart rate and cause delirium. And so-called vasodilators such as Viagra “may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions” when taken with cannabis, according to the Mayo Clinic. But again, the risk comes from the Viagra.

Mixing marijuana and other drugs isn’t necessarily a great idea, though. Any combination of intoxicants can interact with each other, making it even harder to function. Getting behind the wheel drunk is always a bad idea; getting behind the wheel while drunk and baked is even worse.

But the reality is that cannabis remains the safest recreational drug available – and that’s pretty much true no matter how you take it.

Leave a comment below: Have you ever had a negative interaction from mixing marijuana with alcohol or other drugs?

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Former TV reporter Charlo Greene went viral in 2014 when she announced during a live broadcast that she was resigning to run a cannabis club she had secretly opened. “Fuck it,” she famously said before walking off the air. “I quit.”

Charlo Greene

Marijuana is legal for any adult use in Alaska, where Greene worked at Anchorage TV station KTVA. But lawmakers have been slow to license retail pot shops, leaving tokers no legal place to use the drug and driving advocates such as Greene to help them.

That good deed could land her behind bars for most of the rest of her life.

Maximum sentence of 54 years

Greene faces a maximum sentence of 54 years in prison on drug charges that were filed this year. They include 14 counts of “misconduct involving a controlled substance,” a felony.

“It’s almost dizzying when you try to make sense of it,” Greene said in October. “It could literally cost me the rest of my adult life.”

Charlo Greene Alaska
Charlo Greene is trying to provide easier access to marijuana in Alaska, a state where the drug has been legalized.

Alaska voters legalized marijuana in a 2014 statewide vote, but rules enforcing the new law have yet to take effect. The state has issued 17 licenses for retail cannabis businesses, but none have opened. In the meantime, police have repeatedly cracked down on clubs like Greene’s.

Racist roots of the drug war

Activists decried the charges and potential sentence, saying they reflect racist police policies and the failed strategies of the war on drugs. Enforcement of anti-cannabis laws has long fallen hardest on people of color; Greene is black.

The former reporter, now 28, quit her job during a live segment about a local cannabis club where marijuana smokers could gather away from their homes. The club accepted donations from members in exchange for marijuana, an exchange police view as illegal.

Greene admitted during the broadcast that she owned and operated the Alaska Cannabis Club. She said she would put “all of [her] energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska. As for this job, well, not that I have a choice, but fuck it, I quit.

While marijuana is legal for adult recreational use throughout Alaska (as it is in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and the District of Columbia), retail sale of the drug remains prohibited; so does commercial cultivation. Greene said she wanted to give users more options.

Police raided Greene’s club

But police raided the club after undercover officers bought cannabis there. Legal observers say it’s unlikely Greene will face the full weight of the charges against her, but even a relatively light sentence would play into the perception that state officials have no inclination to honor the legalization vote.

It’s an unusual case in Alaska. Pot has been decriminalized there since the 1970s, medical marijuana was approved in 1998, and full legalization passed by a healthy margin in 2014. Libertarian tendencies are strong in the sparsely populated 49th state, and support for marijuana reform runs deeper than in most other parts of the country.

Charlo Greene
Charlo Greene went viral after quitting her reported job live on air, with “F**k it, I quit.”

But the lack of new regulations means stoners have no legal way to obtain the drug short of growing it at home. That has left many confused about the drug’s status and their right to buy it.

Greene pleaded innocent to the charges and expects to go to trial. Observers said her case is more similar to unlicensed sale of alcohol than any type of serious felony, making it unlikely a judge would give her a multi-decade prison term. But the very fact that it could happen is troubling enough.

“It casts a cloud over every laugh and every triumph and everything that I’m building and looking forward to,” Greene said.

Tell us what you think: Should Charlo Greene get a legal pass for selling marijuana, since it is now legal in Alaska? Leave a comment.

Colorado edibles THC stamp

Confused Colorado stoners will have an easier time determining whether their chocolate bars, cookies, and iced coffee contain marijuana.

The new stamp required on all edible products sold in Colorado

State officials started enforcing a new rule in October that requires a stamp on all edible products to distinguish them from traditional food. All products must now contain a diamond-shaped stamp with the letters “THC” on both the packaging and the edibles themselves.

That means, for example, that a cannabis chocolate bar would come with multiple single-dose squares (usually 10 milligrams of THC per square), each with its own stamp. The rule took effect Oct. 1 and applies at every pot shop and medical marijuana dispensary across the state.

Lawmakers adopted the requirements in response to reports children were unwittingly eating marijuana-laced food they mistook for real treats. Parents complained there was no way to distinguish the two.

First state to require product stamping

Colorado is the first state to impose such a regulation. Marijuana is also legal for any use in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.

The new stamps are designed to make it easier for parents to know if their children are using cannabis, intentionally or otherwise. Edibles must include the stamp not only on each product, but on each dose of each product. That should make it harder for students to sneak even small amounts.

Colorado edibles THC stamp
The new stamp required on all edible products sold in Colorado

It should also make it easier for parents to identify THC-laced food without tasting or smelling it. The rule only affects legal sales, so children may still be able to get their hands on unstamped edibles, but the new regulation makes that less likely.

New rules were widely supported

The requirement drew little opposition when lawmakers adopted it in 2015. Even the legal cannabis industry supported the legislation, with many business owners saying tighter protections for children would improve their reputation and make their shops more appealing to adult customers.

The stamp requirement took effect along with several other major regulations, including labeling and packaging rules such as childproof containers and warnings to keep the products away from kids. Users are also warned not to drive after eating marijuana and not to use it while pregnant or nursing.

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, photo, candy bars wrapped in new packaging to indicate that the products contain marijuana are shown in the kitchen of BlueKudu candy in the historic Five Points District of Denver. A new Colorado requirement, which goes into effect this Saturday, makes edible producers to label their goods with a diamond-shaped stamp and the letters T-H-C to distinguish the treats from their non-intoxicating counterparts. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, photo, candy bars wrapped in new packaging to indicate that the products contain marijuana are shown in the kitchen of BlueKudu candy in the historic Five Points District of Denver. A new Colorado requirement, which goes into effect this Saturday, makes edible producers to label their goods with a diamond-shaped stamp and the letters T-H-C to distinguish the treats from their non-intoxicating counterparts. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“We want to ensure that people genuinely know the difference between a Duncan Hines brownie and a marijuana brownie, just by looking at it,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, who sponsored the legislation.

Accidental consumption of cannabis edibles remains rare, even in Colorado. A recent study of pediatric admissions at a Denver-area hospital in the years since legalization found more children have been hospitalized after eating cannabis, but it is one of the least common types of poisoning. Far more children are treated in emergency rooms after ingesting household cleaning products.

The most common reason for unintentional marijuana overdoses, the study found, was “poor child supervision or product storage.” But lawmakers hope the new packaging and labeling rules will cut down on the problem.

Leave a comment below: Do you think edible stamps like this are necessary to protect children? Is it worth the extra cost to consumers?

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Life must be frustrating for Nebraska potheads these days. Just across the western border, tantalizingly close, lies a state where marijuana is legal, pot shops sell it in the open, and no one really cares how much of it you smoke.

Nebraska is not like that. Neither are Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, or Wyoming, all states that border Colorado but ban cannabis for any use. Things are a bit different in Arizona and New Mexico, both of which allow medical marijuana. But Colorado is surrounded by neighbors that frown upon the state’s liberal pot laws.

So how do stoners who live near Colorado – near enough to cross the state line and swing by a retail pot shop every now and then – deal with this problem? And what risks do they face in bringing the stuff home?

As most tokers know by now, marijuana is legal for recreation in Colorado, as it is in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. There are retail stores across the state, including some near various state borders (Utah and Nebraska in particular).

Colorado’s neighbors are not as friendly to marijuana users

But that is most definitely not true in the states next door. Drug laws are especially harsh in Kansas and Oklahoma, though they’re not much friendlier in Utah or Wyoming. Nebraska has decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis, but only on a first offense.

Marijuana American Map

New Mexico and Arizona, meanwhile, allow medical marijuana. But while most Arizona prosecutors offer diversionary penalties for simple non-medical possession, even that is a felony and is usually punished as such in Maricopa County. New Mexico, meanwhile, treats simple possession as a misdemeanor with a potential sentence of 15 days in jail on a first offense.

In other words, cannabis laws outside Colorado are not remotely as friendly as they are within the state. And that spells potential trouble for stoners who bring weed across state lines.

Attempts to block legalization in Colorado

It’s important to note that Colorado’s most conservative neighbors, particularly Oklahoma and Nebraska, fiercely oppose legalization there and have tried to block it. Those two states sued Colorado earlier this year to wipe out legal pot, but failed.

They haven’t given up, though. Police who operate near state lines have ramped up enforcement efforts to catch drivers carrying marijuana out of Colorado. The vast majority gets through, but the consequences of getting caught can be drastic.

High Driving

And then there is federal law, which makes it a felony to transport any amount of cannabis across any state lines. Even carrying weed from Oregon to Washington, both states where the drug is completely legal, is a federal crime. U.S. attorneys are unlikely to prosecute most cases involving small amounts, but consequences can be unpleasant nonetheless.

The end lesson is that while it’s easy in practical terms to carry marijuana out of Colorado or any other state where the drug is legal, it’s definitely not safe. In other words, traffic at your own risk.

Tell us: Have you ever carried a small amount of cannabis out of Colorado? Leave a comment below.

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It makes perfect sense. Legal marijuana threatens the profit interests of the pharmaceutical companies that make competing medications. But now there’s proof of the outsize role the industry is playing in the fight to stop pot reform.

Reports in September revealed Insys Therapeutics Inc. of Arizona gave $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group formed that month to fight Proposition 205. That initiative, which will appear on the statewide ballot Nov. 8, would legalize purchase, possession, and use of small amounts of cannabis; impose a sales tax; and regulate a new marijuana industry.

The donation was the first widely reported evidence that Big Pharma hopes to stop legalization, but the pattern is likely to continue. Medical marijuana represents a massive risk to these companies as they strive to hold their dominance over Western medicine.

Insys faces a real threat to profits

Insys makes a single product, Subsys, a nasal spray containing fentanyl. That opioid painkiller is significantly more potent than heroin, and drug dealers are increasingly cutting their supply with it, leading to a wave of overdose deaths across the country.

But this danger hasn’t led to any changes at Insys or other pharmaceutical makers. While cannabis remains illegal for most uses in most places, fentanyl and other opioids are still widely prescribed for pain, despite their high risk of addiction and fatality.

Big Pharma Pills

That means marijuana poses a major threat to companies such as Insys. Pot is known to be a highly effective pain reliever for many patients. What’s more, chances of addiction are low and the consequences minimal. Opioid addiction is a national crisis, while pot has never killed a human being.

Cannabis is a safer, more effective alternative

In other words, cannabis is safer for everyone and equally effective for many. Any drug that allows more people to stay off opioids is a good thing for patients. But it’s a bad thing for Insys.

“Insys Therapeutics made $62 million in net revenue on Subsys fentanyl sales in the first quarter of this year, representing 100 percent of the company’s earnings,” The Washington Post reported. “The CDC has implicated the drug in a ‘surge’ of overdose deaths in several states in recent years.”

Studies have found that marijuana helps many opioid users to withdraw from those drugs or at least reduce their consumption. A 2015 survey by the RAND Corp. found opioid-related deaths drop when patients have access to medicinal pot.

Criminal investigations are underway

There are clean players in the pharmaceutical industry, buy Insys is not one of them. The company faces criminal investigation in multiple states over allegations its executives bribed physicians to over-prescribe Subsys, a practice that has contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of patients.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, for one, sued Insys earlier this year, saying the company’s “desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients’ health and pushed addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes.”

States with Medical Cannabis

Company executives claimed they made the anti-legalization donation because Prop. 205 “fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens and particularly its children.” Few observers have given this explanation much credibility, given Insys’s clear financial interest in the outcome of Arizona’s vote.

The executives admitted as much in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, telling shareholders the contribution was meant to battle a drop in Subsys sales. Medical cannabis also stands in the way of dronabinol, a synthetic form of marijuana the company is developing. Insys acknowledged real pot is more effective than synthetic versions.

“Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate,” the filing stated. “If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced, and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”

Tell us: Do you think Big Pharma will succeed at slowing or stopping legalization? Why? Leave a comment.

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Of all the many health problems marijuana treats, mental illness may be the most controversial. Chronic pain, for all its complexity, is far simpler than depression, psychosis, or other mental disorders. And for all we don’t know about what causes these diseases, we know even less about how to treat them.

Still, we do have some facts. So what do they tell us? Is marijuana an effective treatment for depression – the most common mental disorder? And is it more effective than the medications typically prescribed by psychiatrists?

These questions are not easy to answer, to say the least. For one thing, psychiatry is decades, even centuries, behind any other branch of medicine. Doctors and researchers know little about what ultimately causes depression in the first place.

What they do know is that the disorder involves chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These chemicals deliver information from one brain cell (or neuron) to another by passing through “synapses,” gaps between the neurons. The brains contains billions of neurons and trillions of synapses.

Serotonin is believed to be the most important neurotransmitter involved in depression. The general theory is that stable moods require the adequate presence of serotonin in relevant synapses. When neurons absorb too much serotonin from those synapses, too little remains to prevent depression.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. The oldest of these drugs, Prozac, has been on the market since the 1980s, with new products reaching the market every few years since.

Pharmaceutical companies have developed newer antidepressant models that work on different brain chemistry, but those aren’t widely prescribed. And like SSRIs, the science behind them is limited. But what does it tell us, both about how well SSRIs work and how they compare to medical cannabis?

The evidence on antidepressants is mixed. We know they make a real difference for some people, and we know SSRIs are more effective than any previous antidepressants.

Problems with SSRIs

But there are plenty of drawbacks, too. A large meta-study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association six years ago concluded SSRIs are no more effective than placebo for most patients with depression. The drugs are only proven to work in severely depressed patients, the study found.

Prozac

And there are side effects, too, sometimes nasty ones. Dry mouth, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and other problems are relatively common. And while scientists generally agree the overall benefits of antidepressants outweigh the downsides, they also acknowledge SSRIs are more dangerous than many other treatments.

Marijuana, for one.

Cannabis has never killed anyone, and SSRIs have caused no more than a handful of fatal overdoses. But the side effects of SSRIs can be unpredictable, while the potential adverse effects of pot are limited and well-known: paranoia, dry eyes, dry mouth. They are almost never severe enough to require hospitalization – something that can’t be said of antidepressants.

Cannabis is more effective

For many patients, weed is notably more effective than SSRIs. Regular toking can sometimes stave off depression for years. We also know at least a bit more about how cannabis works: THC molecules in marijuana interact (or “bind”) with specific neurons (“cannabinoid receptor cells”) to produce a euphoric effect that lifts low mood.

So which is better for you? That’s not a question we can answer. The smartest thing you can do is talk to your doctor, research your options, and see what works. One of the many great things about medical weed is that it’s pretty easy to quit if it doesn’t work – and it won’t take long to figure out if it does.

What do you think: Would you rather use antidepressants or marijuana to treat depression? Both? Leave a comment and let us know.

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