One year after legalization, some cannabis industry professionals say they are mostly happy with how British Columbia has rolled out recreational pot.
Tom Ulanowski, president of NextLeaf Labs, a cannabis processing company that partners with cultivators to provide contracting and wholesale services to the industry, says growing pains like licensing issues and product quality issues are to be expected.
“But overall, for something of this magnitude and something as new as this to be done on a federal level, I think its been pretty positive,” Ulanowski said.
Mike Babins, co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis Society, Vancouver’s first retail pot shop, says major challenges for cannabis business owners have been learning to work within the new federal and provincial legal cannabis systems, and dealing with customers who are used to buying pot illegally.
“Every day we get someone coming saying: ‘why should I buy this? I can get ounces from a guy for 100 bucks’ … but when they come back, nine out of 10 say, ‘wow, it’s amazing.’ And they switch,” Babins said.
Babins says he often hears on social media that the government is too slow to issue licences for cannabis shops. But he says the system is reasonable.
“I think a big issue is that a lot of people get their information from people who have ulterior motives and are very good at social media.”
Babins says getting a licence is a lot of work, but more often than not it’s the pot shops who drag their heels.
“We’re a year past legalization and there are many stores who are still happy to sell unlicensed products at a huge markup and not pay any taxes. And I understand that. It’s a lot of money that you make that way.”
Ulanowski says some provincial governments, like B.C., have begun to take measures to speed up the licensing process.
Studies shows 10% of users consume two-thirds of the weed in Canada
It’s been nearly one year since cannabis was legalized in Canada and a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia says knowing who is using it is important to develop sound policy aimed at reducing cannabis-related harms.
Russ Callaghan, medical professor at UNBC, is the lead author of an article in the forthcoming December issue of the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence that identifies who consumes the most cannabis in Canada.
Callaghan and a team of researchers looked at data from the federal government’s 2018 National Cannabis Survey to find out who are the biggest users and how that should inform public policy.
According the survey conducted prior to legalization — which did not distinguish between legal and illegal cannabis — 10 per cent of people use roughly 66 per cent of the cannabis in Canada. The data also showed males reported higher use than females and males aged 15-34 were the highest using subgroup.
Callaghan said the usage rates are similar to alcohol statistics which show the heaviest users consume a high proportion of alcohol in Canada.
Possible harms from cannabis use include impaired driving, lung cancer and personal injury, although he noted there is not a lot of evidence yet linking weed to non-traffic related injuries.
“We’ve legalized it so it’s a real large societal experiment,” said Callaghan in a phone interview on CBC’s The Early Edition, adding particular risks associated with edible cannabis products may become evident after they become legal this year.
With weed, as with alcohol, consumption rates can be influenced by prices and taxation, the availability of stores in a neighbourhood and their operating hours.
The study included a team of researchers from UNBC, the University of British Columbia, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria.
The anniversary of Canada’s recreational cannabis legalization arrives Oct. 17, just days before the federal election. Legalization was a Liberal campaign promise from the last election, so it’s timely to review how it’s worked out.
Consumers evidently like legalization. Statistics Canada just reported that July’s recreational sales hit $104 million.
So legal sales have roughly tripled. But illegal sales remain the majority.
By contrast, StatCan seems more optimistic. Its surveys ask users whether they buy at least some cannabis legally. It estimated that number at 47 per cent, or 2.5 million Canadians, for the first quarter of 2019. That’s up sharply from 23 per cent, or 954,000 people, in 2018’s first quarter.
Unfortunately, those estimates aren’t really plausible. The only people who could legally buy cannabis in March 2018 were Health Canada’s 296,702 registered patients. And just 132,975 did so. That implies StatCan’s estimates are three to seven times too high.
So while survey participants reported purchasing legally, they mostly didn’t.
One reason legal sales haven’t done better is a lack of retailers in some regions. British Columbia and Ontario were especially slow to open stores.
Product shortages have posed bigger problems. While there’s ample oil, producers until recently hadn’t processed enough dry products. And legal foods, drinks, vapes and lotions aren’t yet available.
Those shortages are predictable side effects of the government’s legalization strategy. It chose a regulated pharmaceutical approach, rather than the more hands-off approach many U.S. states have used.
That hands-off approach has several drawbacks, however. Ex-black-market producers don’t always prioritize consumer safety. Some reportedly fudge their product lab tests.
Yes, legalization has been a muddled mess of compromises and glitches. It still needs years of work. But at least it happened. And it’s taken a bite out of black markets. So it should be considered a typical Canadian success story.
Washington: As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, researchers are constantly uncovering positive aspects of the plant. A study by the University of Colorado suggests that cannabis can be used to increase the survivability of a heart attack. (Marijuana use and short-term outcomes in patients hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction) The study collected over 1.2 million medical records of acute myocardial infarctions (AMI) and among those records, it was discovered that 3,854 of those patients were cannabis consumers.
“Perhaps the most striking finding of our study is that marijuana use prior to AMI was associated with decreased in-hospital mortality post AMI,” writes the study authors
The study debunks the assumption that cannabis consumers would have more risk factors than non-consumers. Researchers noting that the cannabis consumers had a decreased risk of death, shock, or need to insert a balloon into a blocked artery.
The researchers mentioned that they do not exactly understand the scientific reasoning behind increased survivability. However, they speculated that the activation of cannabinoid receptor type 2/ CB2 found in the endocannabinoid system can provide therapeutic cardioprotective effects.
A new study conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas has found cannabis can improve a person’s health by enhancing the blood and oxygen flow, thus reducing the risk of blood clots and the possibility of a stroke.
The study conducted by Dr. Francesca Filbey and her team claims the “primary psychoactive ingredient present in cannabis —tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — relaxes arterial walls resulting in lower blood pressure and increased blood flow to tissues.”
Chronic marijuana use is associated with a decrease in HR, disappearance of orthostatic hypotension, increase in blood volume, and decrease in the circulatory responses to exercise which are consistent with reduced sympathetic and increased parasympathetic activity (18).
Image by Jacquie Kubin
Unfortunately, as many studies exist that claim habitual marijuana use can be detrimental to heart health. It is important that individuals contrast their own heart health against available information on the effects of cannabis, and CBD oil. Like choosing to use any medicine to treat your health issues, it is important to do your own research.
Nonetheless, a multitude of studies and empirical evidence concludes that cannabis can effectively treat other medical conditions. Positive benefits from THC and CBD use include assisting with cancer pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. Chronic pain from injury and lessening of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is promoted for a wide range of medical conditions. Recently, a review for doctors weighed the science behind the claims.
The Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils was published earlier this month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. It is not intoxicating, Health Canada said.
As of October 2018, the sale of dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis plants and cannabis seeds are permitted under the the Cannabis Act.
As consumer interest in CBD grows ahead of the Oct. 17 legalization of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals, here’s a primer to answer common questions about its health claims for seizures, pain and other conditions.
What is CBD approved to treat?
Epidiolex, a purified form of plant-based CBD, is the only CBD-related treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy. Epidiolex isn’t listed in Health Canada’s database of medications approved for use in this country.
Health Canada assigns a drug identification number (DIN) to all drug products evaluated and authorized for sale in this country. To qualify, a drug manufacturer needs to provide information including dosing, strength and how it’s taken.
“Currently, there are two cannabis-related drugs that have a DIN and are authorized for sale in Canada,” a spokesperson for Health Canada said in an email.
Nabilone, a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, product is approved to treat nausea. THC is the main psychoactive component in cannabis that gives users a high.
The other drug with a DIN is Sativex, which is manufactured from whole botanical extracts and contains THC and CBD, according to Health Canada. Sativex is added to treatments aimed at relieving spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis. Spasticity is a muscle-control disorder.
No CBD-specific product has a DIN.
As well, no other “cannabis-related drug (including fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil) has been approved to be marketed as a drug for therapeutic use and sale in Canada,” Health Canada said.
What is CBD commonly used for?
There are anecdotal reports from users of CBD helping with certain types of pain, such as nerve-related back pain.
“Chronic pain management continues to challenge patients and physicians alike, and investigation into potential therapies such as CBD and hemp oils is a promising area for the future of clinical pain management for both pain relief as well as addiction management,” Dr. Karen Mauck, an internist at Mayo Clinic, and her co-authors wrote.
Dr. Hance Clarke, director of pain services at Toronto General Hospital who wasn’t involved in the U.S. paper, said he starts by asking patients what symptoms they want to use CBD to treat.
It’s one of the first times in Canadian history where a medication has made it to the population without the science actually leading us there.– Dr. Hance Clarke, director of pain services at Toronto General Hospital
“The evidence has not caught up to the story that’s in the public,” Clarke said. “It’s tricky. It’s one of the first times in Canadian history where a medication has made it to the population without the science actually leading us there.”
Physicians need to work with patients to figure out what people are using, the levels in their body and what’s actually helped and what hasn’t.
“The world is looking to Canada over the next five to 10 years,” Clarke said. An evidence-based perspective on cannabis is needed rather than solely industry’s, he said.
CBD now is widely used by people for all kinds of disease, in particular anxiety, panic attack, bipolar disorder, depression. But we don’t know if CBD is really good for these kind of diseases.– Dr. Gabriella Gobbi
“CBD now is widely used by people for all kinds of disease, in particular anxiety, panic attack, bipolar disorder, depression,” said Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, the study’s author and a psychiatrist at McGill University’s faculty of medicine in Montreal. “But we don’t know if CBD is really good for these kinds of diseases.”
Only clinical trials in humans can show if CBD is really effective for an illness, Gobbi said.
In Canada, pharmaceutical companies are sponsoring clinical trials to test CBD products in people.
How do you know what’s in the product?
Depending on what part of the plant is extracted, different components will be present in the oil, the Mayo Clinic authors said. Their list of what clinicians should look for include:
Manufacturing standards certification, such as pesticide or herbicide testing.
European Union, Australian or Canadian organic certification.
Lab testing to confirm cannabinoid levels and the absence of heavy metals.
“We see variations from batch to batch where patients are doing well on something, and potentially the next time they seek that same product, potentially they’re not seeing the same effects,” Clarke said.
A research letter published in 2017 in JAMA found nearly 70 per cent of CBD extracts sold online were mislabelled.
“A lot of CBD oil can have very little or contain lots of THC, so you must be very careful,” Gobbi said. “We need more quality control.”
What side-effects have been reported?
In larger studies on CBD treatment for epileptic patients, it was associated with drowsiness, decreased appetite and diarrhea in up to 36 per cent of people, the Mayo Clinic authors said, adding the side-effects were less severe and frequent compared with a conventional anticonvulsant medication.
The FDA said its review of a marketing application for Epidiolex suggested potential for liver injury associated with CBD.
You can’t just self-treat.– Dr. Gabriella Gobbi
“You can’t just self-treat,” Gobbi said.
What about drug interactions?
The main drug interactions doctors and pharmacists look for are drugs, such as morphine, oxycodone, sleeping pills, antidepressants or antipsychotics, that already make you sleepy, confused or impair co-ordination.
“If you’re taking those medications to begin with and you use cannabis, we’d expect that those side effects would get worse,” said Kelly Grindrod of the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy.
People should talk to their physician, nurse or pharmacist to discuss potential drug interactions when determining whether to try CBD.
Maddie Brown, a registered practical nurse and cannabis consultant based in Ottawa, helps patients with medical cannabis prescriptions understand how CBD works and obtain it.
“I’m definitely most concerned about blood thinners,” Brown told CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art. “CBD can make Coumadin [a blood thinning medication] more potent.”
The general advice is to start low and go slow, especially if taking medications that are known to interact, Grindrod said.
Stunning new research has confirmed that cannabis has liver-protective benefits, and can even help prevent alcohol-induced liver damage. However, researchers caution that while cannabis may help keep your liver healthy, alcohol should still be consumed in moderation. While the benefits of cannabis for liver health are incredible, alcohol is still a dangerous drug. While it may be legal to drink once you’re of-age, that doesn’t mean that alcohol can’t be harmful to your health. It is easy to over-consume alcohol, even without binge drinking.
The daily recommendations for alcohol are far lower than one might expect: One a day for women, two a day for men. If you’re drinking more than that on a regular basis, evidence shows you’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and several types of cancer. Science shows cannabis might help reverse that risk — but that isn’t a free pass for binge drinking.
Cannabis for liver health?
Many people use cannabis to treat current health conditions, including everything from seizure disorders to cancer. But new research shows that the compounds in cannabis may help prevent some health conditions, too. Specifically, research shows that regular use of cannabis may help prevent alcohol-induced liver damage. As Vice reports, researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec recently conduced one of the largest surveys on the subject. After examining patient records from 320,000 people with a history of alcohol abuse, the team discovered that patients who smoked cannabis were less likely to have alcoholic liver disease.
Dr. Terence Bukong, hepatologist and lead study author, commented on the findings and stated, “We found that if people are using cannabis in the dependent manner, they actually are much more protected from alcoholic liver disease.”
The difference was astounding: Bukong and his team found that patients who drank heavily and did not use cannabis had a 90 percent chance of developing alcoholic liver disease. Conversely, patients who were heavy drinkers and “light users” of cannabis had just an 8 percent chance.
The risk of alcoholic liver disease in heavy drinkers was lowest in “dependent” cannabis users, who boasted a 1.36 percent risk. To put it simply, the reduction in risk of liver disease among heavy drinkers who smoke weed is remarkable. However, that is no excuse to binge drink. While it appears cannabis can help protect your liver, there are still other concerns to be had.
What kind of damage does alcohol do?
Alcohol is easily the most socially accepted “drug” on the market. Most people don’t even consider it a drug at all. But it also has the potential to be extremely damaging. While the average drinker may think they imbibe with moderation, statistics show that nearly half of American adults who drink are drinking too much.
“These findings suggest that not only do many people who drink, drink amounts associated with health consequences, but that without intervention they are likely to continue to do so,” study leader Richard Saitz, professor at Boston University of Public Health, said.
Drinking too much on a regular basis is bad for your health. While research shows that cannabis can help prevent some of the damage booze does to your liver, it is not a cure-all and damage to the liver can still occur. Additionally, there are other health consequences of high alcohol consumption to be concerned about. For example, over-consumption can cause damage to your heart and inflame your pancreas. It can also increase your risk of multiple cancers, including liver, throat and stomach cancer. Drinking too much can also inhibit your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infection. In other words, don’t start drinking more with the hopes cannabis will keep you healthy.
Ever since legalized recreational marijuana has become a reality in America, the powers that be have been brainstorming new ways in which to prosecute the legal marijuana user. Obviously, driving stoned is high on the list of no-nos, but the police state will exponentially increase now that cops will soon have marijuana breathalyzers.
As there are now 33 states with some form of legal marijuana, the government has been chomping at the bit for ways to find out how much THC you have in your system. Because THC metabolizes far differently than alcohol, this has presented a challenge to the authorities. Until now.
Current THC testing procedures have relied on blood, hair, and urine samples which test only for the presence of THC. Merely having THC in your system, however, is no way of indicating impairment.
Interdisciplinary researchers in Pitt’s Department of Chemistry and the Swanson School of Engineering claim to have overcome these limitations by using carbon nanotubes in their breathalyzer. The THC molecules in your breathe reportedly “bind with the tubes and alter their electrical properties, while sensors detect levels of the compound with an accuracy comparable to, or better than, mass spectrometry, the gold standard for THC detection.”
“The semiconductor carbon nanotubes that we are using weren’t available even a few years ago,” said Sean Hwang, lead author on the paper published in the journal ACS Sensors. “We used machine learning to ‘teach’ the breathalyzer to recognize the presence of THC based on the electrical currents recovery time, even when there are other substances, like alcohol, present in the breath.”
The main question which is most controversial here is the rate at which the body metabolizes THC and the ability of a breathalyzer to determine just how high a person is. This is the problem researchers admit they are dealing with now.
Despite claiming the device is nearly ready for mass production, Ervin Sejdic, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who’s also at the university, to build the prototype, admits they have no way of telling how stoned someone is with their breathalyzer.
With alcohol, you can figure out impairment by measuring the amount of alcohol in someone’s blood, which you can determine from a Breathalyzer using the “blood to breath,” or “partition,” ratio. Make that translation from breath to blood to brain, and you have a relatively accurate sense of how drunk someone is.
“So when it comes to these marijuana breath tests, that’s the million-dollar question right now,” says Chris Halsor, a Denver lawyer who focuses on issues around legal cannabis.
Is there a ratio that links the amount of THC in someone’s breath to the amount in the person’s blood — and then to exactly how stoned that person is?
No, says Sejdic. The correlation “is basically missing, from a scientific point of view.”
So, there you have it. We have a device that can tell police that you have THC in your system, but it cannot tell them how high you are nor is there any standard for what denotes being stoned. Rest assured that the police state is still salivating over the existence of this breathalyzer.
The good news is that the report indicates there are still plenty of tests to conduct before cops have these in their hands. However, their mere existence most assuredly foreshadows more checkpoints in our future.
“In legal states, you’ll see road signs that say ‘Drive High, Get a DUI,’ but there has not been a reliable and practical way to enforce that,” said Dr. Alex Star, whose lab developed the prototype. “There are debates in the legal community about what levels of THC would amount to a DUI, but creating such a device is an important first step toward making sure people don’t partake and drive.”
As stated above, it is certainly never a good idea to drive while impaired. But comparing driving after smoking weed with driving while under the influence of alcohol is most assuredly apples to oranges. Rest assured that the amount of THC in a person’s system to denote a crime will be highly debated over the next few years.
Despite having no set limit on the amount of THC to constitute impairment, police have already been conducting similar stops but with mouth swabs. As TFTP reported last year, the Massachusetts State Police are testing a saliva swab to detect if people are driving under the influence of cannabis. State police have recently tested roughly 170 people at sobriety checkpoints and drug treatment clinics with these swabs, but even they doubt that the tests will hold up in court.
Boston is not alone either—there have also been similar programs announced in Colorado, California, Kansas, and Michigan.
What’s more, as TFTP previously reported, legal weed appears to be making drivers safer. According to a recent report from the Nevada Department of Public Safety, deaths from traffic accidents in Nevada have dropped by over 10 percent in the first year that marijuana was legalized in the state for recreational use.
Prior to legalization in Nevada, between July 2016 and May 2017, 310 people died in traffic accidents, but in the year since legalization took effect, between July 2017 and May 2018, that number was reduced to just 277.
Similar numbers have been seen in other states that have implemented legalization. A study published by the American Public Health Association found that states with legal medical cannabis have lower rates of traffic fatalities than states with full prohibition.
Although correlation does not automatically mean causation, it does seem that legalization is actually making the roads safer, debunking many of the claims that DUI would increase. Critics of marijuana typically cite statistics of how often people test positive for marijuana after car crashes. However, what these assessments usually leave out is the fact that these people often have numerous other drugs in their system, usually alcohol or opiates, which both have a much greater impact on motor skills.
About the Author
Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on Twitter, Steemit, and now on Minds.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone