Tag Archives: Marijuana

The Origins of 4/20: The Weed Lover’s Holiday

As almost everyone who attended college between the mid-1990s and the current day can tell you, there is a strong association between the number 420 and the Schedule 1 illegal substance commonly known as marijuana. (It’s also at times called pot, weed, green, herb, dope, grass, lawn, turf, and yard. Actually, I think those last three words refer more to natural ground cover than to narcotics; I’ll get back to you on that.) On any given day, at 4:20 p.m., pot smokers all across America and even abroad enjoy a fine toke of their preferred cannabis strain. (Dedicated aficionados arise at 4:20 a.m. for a puff and then return to bed for some first-rate slumber or begin their day bright and early and high.)

Continue reading The Origins of 4/20: The Weed Lover’s Holiday

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Breaking News: 85 Sinaloa cartel members arrested in U.S.-Mexico border raid

A cross-border raid by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials resulted in the arrest of 85 Sinaloa cartel members, authorities said.

The sting occurred Friday around the Arizona border with Mexico, local media reported.

It also netted “assault-type weapons” and hundreds of pounds of narcotics, said spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Continue reading Breaking News: 85 Sinaloa cartel members arrested in U.S.-Mexico border raid

What’s next for Mexico’s drug cartels after El Chapo

As Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman awaitsextradition to the United States, he leaves behind what appears to be a new landscape for Mexico’s drug cartels.

Last week, his son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman, was kidnapped by men authorities believe were members of a rival cartel. Sources tell CNN he was released Saturday, but his abduction signals that the game of thrones for Mexico’s next top drug cartel has already begun.

Continue reading What’s next for Mexico’s drug cartels after El Chapo

Colorado’s new cannabis laws make it a top spot for pot tourism

A woman blows smoke rings with marijuana smoke in Denver

Cannabis tour operators are heading for Colorado where new dispensaries (shops), and weed-friendly clubs and hotels are popping up to make the most of the relaxation of marijuana laws

As the sun rises over the Rockies, a tour bus pulls up outside the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver and deposits a new load of tourists. It’s not your usual busload, though.

This group has come from Texas for a weekend organised by Spiro, a luxury cannabis tour operator, and its package includes a visit to a spa, dinner, a trip to a farm and a weed-infused cooking class. Some of them will buy and smoke, some are just curious, but they’re all here for the pot.

Marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Until now choices for pot tourism have been limited. There’s Amsterdam, of course, where tourists can buy up to five grams and smoke in coffee shops, but this year in the US, since Washington state and Colorado legalised personal recreational purchasing and consumption of marijuana, there’s been a rush to open dispensaries and growing operations, particularly in Denver.

Medicinal marijuana has been available in Colorado since 2000, so many existing suppliers are investing in more plants, space, shops and staff. There are, as yet, no Starbucks-style chains though; many of the dispensaries (selling everything from ready-rolled joints to smoking paraphernalia) are small and independently owned.

Drawn by the mountains and the laid-back atmosphere, tourists arrive daily in Colorado from other US states and, increasingly, from overseas. Buying cannabis is the easy part; smoking it is another story, as Colorado also has tough anti-smoking laws.

Whether in edible or smokeable form, marijuana use is prohibited in public spaces, including streets and parks, and in places visible from public spaces (such as your hotel balcony). You can smoke inside at clubs such as Studio A64 in Colorado Springs, and a new wave of hotels allow smoking (of tobacco or weed) in 25% of the rooms.

Cannabis-infused trail mix is put into containers for participants in a cannabis cooking class in Denver, Colorado.

Cannabis-infused trail mix is put in containers for participants in a cannabis cooking class in Denver. Photograph: Alamy

Since the beginning of 2014, it is estimated that cannabis sales have brought Colorado $47m in tax revenue, with an estimated third of those sales to customers from out of state. From resorts in western Colorado, such as Aspen, to the university town of Boulder, new dispensaries are opening to take advantage of those looking for a more-refined buying experience.

They tend to look like luxury fashion boutiques, with no tie-dye or Bob Marley shirts in sight. You’ll find ads for cannabis yoga, pot reading groups, arts clubs and other social activities meant to help take some of the stigma out of smoking and make it more communal. Edible products are becoming popular, with treats from chocolates to cocktails on sale – their serving sizes limited to 100mg (milligrams) of active ingredient THC per product.

From sea to shining sea, states are watching how the situation in Colorado develops – with, of course, an eye on the tax dollars. It must only be a matter of time before you can book a marijuana tour of the entire US – yoga and chocolate brownies included.

My 420 Tours has packages from $1,295pp, including two nights’ accommodation. Spirotours has half-day tours from $399pp

​Was Marijuana Really Less Potent in the 1960s?

One of the strongest known strains of marijuana in the world is called Bruce Banner #3, a reference to the comic-book scientist whose alter ego is the Hulk. This is probably an appropriate nickname.

With a THC concentration of 28 percent—THC is one of the key chemicals in marijuana—Bruce Banner #3 packs a punch. It’s something like five times as potent as what federal researchers consider to be the norm, according to a 2010 Journal of Forensic Sciencespaper. High Times marveled in a review: “Who knows what you’ll turn into after getting down with Bruce?”

As marijuana goes increasingly mainstream—and, crucially, develops into big (and legal) business—more super-potent novelty strains are likely to crop up. Bruce Banner #3 is the marijuana industry’s answer to The End of History, an ultra-strong Belgian-style ale that the Scottish beer-maker Brewdog made in a specialty batch—which was then served in bottles inside taxidermied squirrels—in 2010.

Its alcohol by volume was 55 percent. That’s way, way stronger than most beers. “It’s the end of beer, no other beer we don’t think will be able to get that high,” James Watt, one of the founders of Brewdog, told me when I visited the Brewdog headquarters in Scotland in 2010.

Yet three years later, another Scottish brewery had whipped up a batch of barley wine called Snake Venom that boasted higher than 67 percent alcohol by volume.

This is human nature. Or maybe it’s just capitalism. One person makes a superlative product, which prompts the next person to best them. Given the opportunity to try something extreme—the biggest, the strongest, the best, the craziest—plenty of people will go for it. But most people don’t pick Snake Venom as their typical pint. And Bruce Banner #3 probably is not representative of the average joint.

But what is?

For years, people have talked about increasing marijuana potency. The idea that pot is getting stronger—much stronger than the stuff that got passed around at Woodstock, for instance—is treated like conventional wisdom these days. Maybe it shouldn’t be.

“It’s fair to be skeptical,” said Michael Kahn, the president of Massachusetts Cannabis Research, a marijuana testing and research lab in New England. “Back then the predominant method for quantitation was gas chromatography, which is not quite appropriate for cannabinoid quantitation. This is because [it] heats up the test material before analysis, which also alters the chemical profile—including breaking down the THC molecule.”

Kahn’s lab uses a technique called liquid chromatography instead. Another potency tester, Denver-based CannLabs, uses a similar method. “Depending on what the sample is—flower, hash oil, hundreds of edibles ranging from ice cream to pasta sauce to seeds—you use different solvents to do the extraction,” said Gennifer Murray, the CEO of CannLabs. “You mix it with a special solvent, basically shake it around, centrifuge it, and then it goes onto the instrument… That’s the liquid chromatograph.”

The federal government has been testing marijuana potency for more than 40 years, and has long acknowledged the limitations to its methodologies. Along with some of the issues with gas chromatography—which it was still using at least as recently as 2008—the National Institute on Drug Abuse potency testing has always depended on what researchers have been able to get their hands on.

Since 1972, tens of thousands of test samples for the Potency Monitoring Program have come from law enforcement seizures, which have varied dramatically in scope and type. A drop in THC concentration in the early 1980s, for instance, was attributed to the fact that most of the marijuana researchers analyzed came from weaker domestic crops.

In National Institute on Drug Abuse studies over the past several decades, the age of samples has varied from a few weeks old to a few years old—and researchers made no attempt to compensate for the loss of THC during prolonged storage, according to a 1984 paper. They also get different results when taking into account how the potency of a particularly large seizure could skew the overall sample.

For example, measured one way, researchers found what looked like a continuous and significant increase in potency in the late 1970s. But normalizing those findings showed there was “an increase up to 1977 with slight decline in 1978 and a significant decline in 1979,” according to a 1984 paper in the Journal of Forensic Science.

More recently, researchers found a THC concentration that “gradually increase[d]” from 1993 to 2008, according to a 2010 paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. And despite testing limitations, researchers have always maintained potency is likely trending upward. But they’ve also always been upfront about the limitations to their findings:

“The change in cannabis potency over the past 40 years has been the subject of much debate and controversy… The [Potency Monitoring] program has strived to answer this cannabis potency question, while realizing that the data collected in this and other programs have some scientific and statistical shortcomings.”

Ultimately, researchers have found a “large variation within categories and over time,” they wrote. That’s in part because sample sizes have fluctuated. (In the 1970s, researchers assessed anywhere from three to 18 seizures a year. In 2000, they analyzed more than 1,000 seizures.)

In other words, it’s difficult if not impossible to classify average potency in a way that can be tracked meaningfully over time. So while there’s almost certainly more super-strong pot available today—if only by the fact that it’s now legal to buy in multiple states—it doesn’t mean that all marijuana is ultra-potent today, which is how the narrative about potency is often framed.

There’s also a point at which most strains can’t get much stronger. “Anyone getting a reading over 25, it’s really hard to do,” said Murray of CannLabs. “And then it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to quote-unquote get higher. There’s a lot of things that go into the plant—over 500 constituents of the plant that play into this.”

Federal researchers, too, have characterized marijuana strains with THC concentrations above around 15 percent as unusual. “The question over the increase in potency of cannabis is complex and has evoked many opinions,” researchers at the University of Mississippi wrote in a National Institute on Drug Abuse analysis of marijuana potency between 1993 and 2008.

“It is however clear that cannabis has changed during the past four decades. It is now possible to mass produce plants with potencies inconceivable when concerted monitoring efforts started 40 years ago.”

Even without knowing reliably what potency was like in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s reasonable to guess it will increase, says Kahn, of Massachusetts Cannabis Research. “I think the mega-potent strains may soon represent the norm, if not already—the market selects for potency.”

But with customers clamoring for the strong stuff, there’s also a question of whether manufacturers are labeling accurately. A Denver Post investigation last year found wide discrepancies between labeling and THC content—in many cases, products advertised a much higher percentage of THC than an edible product actually contained.

Either way, a shift toward high potency has arguably more to do with contemporary market forces than with a younger generation of marijuana enthusiasts. “The Baby Boomers have been growing for 40 years,” Murray said. “And now they can grow without being worried about the police.”

Marijuana Compound Holds Promise for Alzheimer’s

New research shows that a compound in marijuana can cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychotic component in cannabis, reduced production of amyloid beta, the toxic proteins responsible for the brain disease, to slow and halt progression of the brain disease.

The compound also improved mitochondrial function and helped keep the brain healthy. Mitochondria are those parts of the cells that are responsible for converting sugar and oxygen into energy required for proper functioning of the cells.

Amyloid beta is a protein fragment produced during normal activity of the brain. It is found in the fatty membrane surrounding the nerve cells. In healthy individuals, these toxic proteins get cleared regularly, but as people age, due to various reasons, these proteins build up into plaques, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” lead author of the study Dr Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy, said in a news release.

Several studies on marijuana have linked regular use to cognitive decline, poor attention, memory and IQ. So for the new study, neuroscientists at the University of South Florida in US created a cellular model of Alzheimer’s disease and used low doses of the THC component so that adverse effects associated with the drug including THC toxicity and memory impairment, will be avoided.

At present there is no cure for the brain disease. Researchers revealed their plans to use their findings to develop a proper cure for Alzheimer’s.

“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future,” Dr Cao, added.

Legalization of medical marijuana has been a hot topic of discussion around the world from quite some time.

Previous research has shown marijuana was promising for treating several medical conditions including glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and pregnancy morning sickness. In July, the same compound was found effective in shrinking tumours.

However, the researchers cautioned people against self-medicating the illegal drug. “It’s important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn’t mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” co-author of the study Neel Nabar, said.

Secret pot garden found floating on Hungarian lake

Potted marijuana plants found floating on Lake Neusiedl. (Hungarian Police)

BUDAPEST, Hungary, Sept. 11 (UPI) — Hungarian police said a fisherman was hiding a secret garden of 42 potted marijuana plants among the reeds of a lake on the Austrian border.

Police said they chanced upon the plants floating among the dense reeds of Lake Neusiedl while they were in the area on an unrelated matter and a 35-year-old fisherman admitted ownership of the water-top garden.

The man told police he bought the seeds in Austria and was growing the plants, which investigators said were near maturity, for his own use.

Police said the man could face up to 8 years in prison if he is found to have been selling marijuana.

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