Semper Fidelis: Twenty22Many Hooks Vets Up With Free Clones And A Healing-Based Community

Twenty22Many, a nonprofit suicide-prevention, PTSD-awareness and medical-cannabis organization for veterans, has a mission to give out 8,000 cannabis clones to as many US military veterans. Sadly, that figure is approximately the number of veterans who kill themselves in the United States over the course of a year. Most of these fatalities involve Vietnam War vets, who take their own lives more frequently than their younger peers.

Speaking to High Times, project founder Patrick Seifert points out that this general age group makes up the bulk of the crowd that comes to the Twenty22Many center—located alongside the Olympia outpost of Washington State’s annual marijuana festival, the Seattle Hempfest, in a building that used to house Seifert’s dispensary, Rainier Xpress. Within these walls, people can make CBD purchases, pick out hemp clothing and access a truly special program for cannabis-using veterans.

Seifert takes photos of the vets who come in for complimentary clones and posts them on social media to mark the occasion—and perhaps as a method of motivating the program participants’ peers. They are photographed in front of a United Stales flag flanked by framed collections of marijuana-themed patches: “Drug War Veteran” and “Narcotics Task Force” peek out among them, as well as an NBA-logo parody in which the initials have been swapped out for “THC.” The vets’ expressions run the gamut from startled to hopeful to giddy at the notion of taking home their own cannabis plant.

Seifert says that few turn down the request to be photographed for Twenty22Many’s Instagram account. That speaks volumes to how much they appreciate the Olympia advocates, especially when one considers that veterans across the country are often penalized for seeking out medical marijuana, despite the many benefits the plant offers to vets in particular.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has not made it easy for veterans to get access to cannabis. Veterans are not supposed to risk losing their VA health benefits due to marijuana usage. Residents of VA hospice facilities cannot consume marijuana on site, and VA doctors were instructed in a 2017 memo that although they could discuss marijuana usage with patients, they cannot make any official recommendation for a state’s medical-cannabis program.

“Unfortunately, the scene hasn’t changed much,” says Brad Burge, director of strategic communications for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which recently completed the first clinical trial to examine the effects of CBD and THC on veterans suffering from PTSD. “The VA continues to prohibit its health-care providers from recommending medical cannabis or helping veterans obtain it, despite numerous state laws acknowledging its efficacy.”

And though there are rules barring the removal of health benefits over cannabis use, a handful of recent cases have shown that the VA can and will penalize veterans for marijuana. In June, the VA denied a Massachusetts vet and his family a housing loan because it didn’t find his job “stable and reliable” enough. His profession? Assistant manager of a thriving cannabis dispensary. Another vet working in the cannabis industry, retired Army Maj. Tye Reedy, lost his pension when the VA took away his position as an academy liaison officer at the US Military Academy at West Point. The academy explained to Reedy that his job as director of operations services at Acreage Holdings “brings discredit upon the US Military Academy and the Army.”

“We are still a long way from medical cannabis being supported by the VA,” says Burge.

It makes you wonder why the Twenty22Many vets agree to pose for the camera at all. In some shots, the vets hold the crown of their new plants at face level, obscuring a mouth or a cheekbone with a winsome green leaf. Still, those who pose for the pics are risking something. But for many, the importance of accessing cannabis—and convincing other vets suffering from similar symptoms to try marijuana—outweigh the risks.

“Anecdotally, hundreds of veterans have publicly testified that cannabis access has saved their lives after being driven to near-suicide under a pharmaceutical load of dozens of pills a day,” Eric Goepel, CEO and founder of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition advocacy group, explained to Forbes. “Current research supports the potential efficacy of cannabis in dozens of different applications, all of which could have direct positive impacts on overall veteran health. Whether for pain relief, as a sleep aid, or for help in overcoming stress and anxiety, so many veterans find relief in cannabis because it provides an alternative way to manage their conditions far better than a slew of toxic pharmaceuticals.”

Seifert offers his story as an example. He started smoking marijuana in 10th grade when suffering from PTSD from sexual abuse. “Lo and behold, I probably was using it to help me with those feelings that I was having at such a young age,” he says. After high school, he served in the Marines and was stationed in Hawaii from 1992 to 1995, then came back home and worked private security jobs. Then he got into a car accident, which would lead to narcotic pain-pill prescriptions and eventually to addiction. “It was tough on me,” Seifert remembers. However, “Slowly but surely, I was able to get off of those, and start healing myself with cannabis.”

Years later, he opened his dispensary—or “safe access point,” as it’s called in Washington—in Olympia. “Within the first year, we started seeing something pretty marvelous happening,” Seifert says. “Veterans just coming [in]—pouring through our doors.” Any veteran could bring in a service photo, and Seifert would frame it and hang it on the dispensary’s “Wall of Fame.” Vets could also usually count on a free gram of marijuana every time they visited the shop.

In 2012, the VA published a suicide-data report that found 22 veterans kill themselves every day in the United States—that’s 8,000 lives lost each year. (There’s some debate about the exact number of veteran suicides, but the figures published by the VA are generally accepted.) The investigation studied death certificates from 1999 to 2011, and concluded that veterans made up 22 percent of self-inflicted deaths in the United States. That’s particularly troubling because they only made up 13 percent of US adults in 2012, according to that year’s Gallup poll.

When Seifert read about the study’s findings, he decided that his dispensary was not doing enough. A 2014 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 51 percent of veteran respondents knew a fellow vet who had taken their own life. Seifert was determined to do more to help his peers.

In the early days of Twenty22Many, the group would order pizza and talk about veterans’ health over slices and cups of coffee. How could they make more of a difference in getting vets access to cannabis? Their first goal, they decided, was getting PTSD on the list of Washington’s qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The VA says that 15 percent of Vietnam vets, 12 percent of Gulf War vets, and 11 to 20 percent of vets from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have the condition, and that it can be caused by military sexual trauma as well.

The group did its research and found that no one had ever presented the addition of PTSD to Washington State’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana on a standalone State Senate bill. It had always been bogged down by a long list of other potential qualifying conditions that sent it back to committee again and again. Twenty22Many took advantage of its location in the state capital and presented its plan for a standalone PTSD bill to State Senator Steve Hobbs. Within days, Hobbs signed on as the legislation’s main sponsor and the bill passed the State Senate unanimously. Now a more seasoned lobbyist, Seifert thinks back to that early success in awe, especially as other senators followed up by adding traumatic brain injury (TBI), another condition that affects many veterans, to the list of qualifiers.

The early win energized the group, and soon the address that housed Rainier Xpress became the headquarters of Twenty22Many. Seifert says that central to the organization’s mission is educating veterans about home grows. “I don’t know if you’ve ever grown before,” he says. “But there’s something spiritual about growing your own medicine.”

Twenty22Many looks to build a seamless circle of support for vets to get started with their own plants. The group’s technique starts with the first roadblock: steep state authorization fees that can be daunting for vets with limited earnings. In 2019, Nancy Murphy, a nurse, stepped in to fill that void, holding $22 discount authorization days— the price drops to zero for vets that are homeless or otherwise financially compromised. In June, the organization held its fourth such event. “It’s such a blessing to finally see those guys coming out of the shadows,” says Seifert.

Once they are properly signed up, program participants receive clones from Twenty22Many, some of which are donated by fellow vets like Caleb Ray Neal. Participants can also help themselves to lights, fans, buckets and barrels that have also been donated. The group often holds free three-hour home-grow classes taught by expert growers Eric Rhetta and Alex Stubbs. There’s also a 24-hour cannabis-growing hotline for veterans. Additionally, the group has already assisted running a veteran help line for four years now. “If they need a sandwich, if they need help getting their DD214 [a form that documents military discharge], we don’t care, you can call for anything and we’ll listen,” says Seifert. “If we can drive to you, we’ll drive to you.”

Establishing a sense of camaraderie and purpose among veterans is at the heart of the group’s mission. In addition to encouraging participants to stay in touch by sharing photos of their cannabis crops, the organization also hosts stoner movie nights. “Some of these guys, you don’t know if they’re sitting at home alone on the side of their bed, or what they’re thinking,” says Seifert. “And we just don’t want to take that chance.”

Seifert knows that things are unlikely to change when it comes to the federal government’s policy on vets consuming cannabis. He is, however, heartened by the work of people like Mike Krawitz, a fellow vet who sits on the Twenty22Many board and has worked tirelessly alongside Americans for Safe Access and other activists to change the World Health Organization’s harsh scheduling of cannabis.

In the photos of the vets that Twenty22Many posts on social media, Seifert is often in the frame, an arm thrown around a flannel-clad shoulder or standing akimbo, thumbs in his front pockets. “There’s really nothing out there that’s doing more to fight veteran suicide than cannabis,” Seifert, who still signs his emails with “Semper Fidelis,” says softly. “So that’s why it’s so frustrating. Having it as a Schedule I drug is really hurting us.” While that is of course true, Twenty22Many has improved the lives of many veterans through both cannabis and camaraderie. Perhaps the biggest asset veterans have in the fight for safe access is each other.

Originally published in the September, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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California Governor Signs Several Marijuana-Related Bills

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a passel of bills affecting the cannabis industry, his office announced on Saturday. Among the legislation that is now law is AB 37, a proposal sponsored by Democrat member of the California House Reggie Jones-Sawyer that will allow cannabis companies to make tax deductions.

AB 37 requires that eligible companies file their taxes as sole proprietors or partnerships. A similar bill was vetoed last year by former Governor Jerry Brown.

At the federal level, such write-offs depart from official Internal Revenue Service policy. But Newsom showed he had little problem with that conflict—despite the fact that on the same day, he announced that he had “begrudgingly” vetoed SB 305, which would have legalized medical cannabis treatment for terminally ill patients at California health care facilities.

Of that proposed legislation, Newsom wrote in a veto message, “This bill would create significant conflicts between federal and state laws that cannot be taken lightly.” In his statement, he suggested that such institutions could lose their federal funding were they to allow patients to use medical cannabis, even though he stated that he finds the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug (and therefore devoid of medicinal value) a “ludicrous stance [that] puts patients and those who care for them in an unconscionable position.”

But hopefully some of the other pieces of legislation the governor put into effect will expand the medical community’s understanding of cannabis. AB 420 (heh) will establish a new cannabis research program within the University of California system.

Other bills that Newsom signed into law include a social equity measure that waives or defers the fees associated with getting licensed as a cannabis business for “needs-based” applicants. SB 34 will make it possible for dispensaries to supply free cannabis to medical patients—an important continuation of the compassionate care programs that play an important role in the history of California marijuana activism.

But Wait; There’s More

Another important piece of legislation signed into effect was Assembly Bill 1291, which requires cannabis companies that employ 20 or more people to provide a notarized document confirming that they will adhere to a labor peace agreement. That’s a promise that the company will not interfere should workers decide they want to form their own union, and also means that any potential union will not encourage strike activity.

That legislation has already been on the books in California since last year, but the new law gives businesses a 60-day deadline to produce such a notarized communication. Should the business fail to do so, workers can lodge a complaint with state labor authorities.

New York state also requires cannabis businesses of a certain size to sign labor peace agreements. The spread of such legislation is one indication of a growing movement to unionize marijuana workers, led in part by the United Food and Commercial Workers national labor union. UFCW now represents workers in California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington State.

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Bill Would Remove Cannabis Possession As Grounds For Deportation

A bill introduced by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. recently would remove possession of cannabis as grounds for deportation under federal law. Under the bill, the Remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act (S. 2021), the offenses for which an undocumented immigrant could be deported would be amended. The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey in June and in the House last month with an identical companion bill from fellow Democrat Assistant Speaker Ray Ben Luján of New Mexico.

“This Administration’s efforts to use marijuana possession as a tool for deportation is misguided and does not make our communities safer,” said Booker in a press release. “Limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on deporting people for something two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing. This legislation will remove another one of ICE’s weapons that have been deployed to execute this Administration’s hardline immigration policy.”

Why This Bill is Necessary

With the bill, the Immigration and Nationality Act would be amended, adding the phrase “other than the distribution of marijuana” to the section that defines “illicit trafficking in a controlled substance” as an offense that warrants the deportation of an undocumented immigrant.

The measure also adds that “any offenses involving the use, possession, or distribution of marijuana shall not be considered as grounds of inadmissibility.” The bill would also allow immigrants who have been deported or denied a visa to reapply for admission to the country or have their visa reissued.

“The Trump administration’s decision to use marijuana as a weapon against our immigrant communities is despicable,” said Luján. “The federal government should not be wasting resources to wreak havoc on immigrant families when there are children held in border camps that are desperate for legal services, hygiene products, and basic humanitarian care. Providing care for these children and families should be where the Trump administration devotes its funding—not working as a deportation force.”

“I’m proud to be fighting for this legislation to hold President Trump accountable and defend our immigrant communities from senseless and hateful policies,” he added.

More than 34,000 immigrants were deported between 2007 and 2012 for marijuana possession, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Since President Trump rescinded guidelines that listed misdemeanor offenders and cannabis convictions as a low priority, the crisis has worsened, according to Luján’s office. He adds that “this anti-immigrant agenda from the Trump administration stands in contrast to the policies of dozens of states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and possession.”

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Eight Months After Ban, Food And Drink With CBD Is Still Being Sold In NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — Food and drink are still being sold with CBD in New York City, months after health officials banned restaurants and cafes from selling edibles spiked with or accompanied by the trendy cannabis derivative because of safety concerns.

The city’s health department surprised bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, and other food sellers in February by telling them they were not permitted to put cannabidiol, or CBD, in prepared foods because it hadn’t been approved as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They also can’t provide CBD to customers to add it themselves.

City health
inspectors started seizing CBD-laced products, then backed off and gave
food establishments until Oct. 1 to comply with the rules or face a fine
of up to $650.

Yet on a recent spin around Manhattan in the days
after that deadline passed, an Associated Press reporter was able to
find CBD-infused coffee, cookies and other food items still for sale.

In
the coffee bar at Le District, a fancy grocery near the World Trade
Center, a sign read: “Add an extra dose of CBD oil to any drink for $5.”

At the Fat Cat Kitchen cafe in Manhattan’s East Village, freshly baked CBD cookies and brownies sat on display in a glass case.

CBD-infused
drinks — including lavender matcha latte and white peach iced tea —
were also on sale at the Forever Coffee Bar, near Columbia University’s
new satellite campus in upper Manhattan. Customers could get 10
milligrams added to their beverage for $2.50.

Owner Artem Arnopulo
said he was aware the ban was in place. Health inspectors, in fact, had
already visited another one of his Manhattan cafes in September and
asked it to stop serving CBD-laced items.

“That was before the Oct. 1 deadline, and they said, no violation, no tickets. But it was a warning,” Arnopulo said.

Still,
he said he plans to keep serving CBD drinks until the inspectors show
up at his other location and tell them to stop, too.

“We’re
waiting for them,” he says with a grin. “I’m really a bit upset about
it. If we cannot sell this anymore because CBD is kind of special and
people are so excited about it.”

The Fat Cat Kitchen’s co-owner,
C.J. Holm, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Le District initially
denied any CBD beverages were still for sale, then stopped responding to
inquiries after being told an Associated Press reporter had been able
to purchase a coffee with a packet of CBD that afternoon.

Products
with CBD, a chemical in cannabis that doesn’t cause a high, have become
a fad across the country. The chemical is touted by sellers as being
able to relieve pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and other conditions. Those
claims are unproven, and questions remain about its safety.

The
FDA has approved CBD as a treatment for rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
The substance’s status as a potential medicine, however, has triggered
restrictions on its use as a food additive or dietary supplement. The
agency is now exploring regulations that might allow it to be added to
food at a later date. In the meantime, though, restaurants aren’t
allowed to add it to food, just like they wouldn’t be allowed to add
doses of painkillers or other medications.

Michael Lanza, a
spokesman for the New York City Department of Health, told The
Associated Press that no violations had yet been registered in the days
after the October deadline. In the future, he said, health officials
will confront owners of establishments about any CBD sales while
conducting routine inspections of restaurants, delis and coffee shops.

The crackdown only applies to prepared food, not CBD oil sold by itself in shops and pharmacies.

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Searching for the Good Stuff

Someone approached me the other day, wanting to know what was the real story about hemp and CBD.

He said he had “a guy” who gave him a CBD salve as part of a study, supposedly “the good stuff,” to help his knee. He couldn’t understand why he was the only one out of 20 people in the group that felt no relief. He happened to have this CBD salve with him, along with a second brand that he hadn’t yet tried. The “good stuff” had slick, colorful packaging, a beautiful logo and powerful marketing messages about the phytocannabinoids and essential oils in the jar. The other CBD product was in a dull grey tin, an ugly duckling, and not nearly so impressive on the outside- I’ll call it “Homer’s Brew.” My friend dismissed Homer’s Brew outright, as not even worth trying. I told him that not all CBD products are created equal, that you can’t always believe the claims on the package, including the cannabinoid potency displayed on the label.

The structure of cannabidiol (CBD), one of 400 active compounds found in cannabis.

I told him to search for the Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each of the two products, specifically, lab test results validating the CBD dosage per serving, and also the breakdown of pesticides, heavy metals and microbials. He had to do a little digging and emailing, as it wasn’t readily available for either company, but the next day, results were in. The “good stuff” with the slick packaging and bold claims had mere trace amounts of CBD, with some hemp and essential oils- no tests for pesticides or contaminants of any kind. Hmmm, no wonder he was disappointed. Homer’s Brew’s COA came in with flying colors – a reputable lab had confirmed safe levels of pesticides, pathogens and heavy metals, and the CBD level was substantial, with a detailed cannabinoid breakdown in the lab report.

In spite of the varying legality of hemp-derived CBD products from one state to the next, consumers are gobbling up costly CBD salves, tinctures and edibles in markets, gyms and online. Like moths to a flame, they are pulled in by the CBD name and lofty promises, not always understanding what they are getting for their money. They trust that these products are safe, licensed, inspected and regulated by some agency, otherwise, “they wouldn’t be on the shelves, would they?”

FDAlogoIn spite of the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA still has not recognized the legality of products containing hemp-derived CBD, but some states have gone ahead and given them a green light anyway- check with your own jurisdiction to be sure. In the meantime, hemp-derived CBD products are slipping through the regulatory cracks, depending on the state. It is confusing, for sure, and buyer beware.

Separate yourself from the pack of snake-oil salesmen. Test your products for safety and accurate cannabinoid potency, and make a Certificate of Analysis readily available to your customers. Boldly portray your transparency and belief in the quality of your products through this COA.

Providing this information to consumers is the best path to success- safe, satisfied customers who will refer to their friends and family, and most likely come back for more of your “good stuff.”

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Massachusetts Implements Responsible Vendor Training Program

According to a press release published earlier this week, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission approved Cannabis Trainers as one of the state’s first vendor training providers. The training program, Sell-SMaRT™ is the world’s first state-approved cannabis vendor training.

Regulations in Massachusetts require all licensed growers, managers and employees that handle cannabis to take a responsible vendor training class through a certified provider by January 1, 2020.

The Sell-SMaRT™ program was originally developed for licensees handling cannabis in Colorado. In 2015, Colorado regulators granted the program the first ever certification for its Responsible Vendor Program in cannabis. Since then, almost 4,000 people have taken the Cannabis Trainers class, which has been customized for six states, including Massachusetts.

Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers

Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers, built on two decades of experience in alcohol vendor training before she started the training program for cannabis. “Massachusetts is really setting a new standard with its training requirements,” says McNamara. “We’ve worked hard to customize the Sell-SMaRT™ program for the state’s needs, and we appreciate the Cannabis Control Commission’s recognition of that. We’re excited to help inspire a cannabis workforce in the state that is responsible, compliant and committed to excellence.”

Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions, a Massachusetts cannabis company, says the program helps her employees learn the rules thoroughly. “Cannabis Trainers trained all of my Colorado employees, and my entire team in Massachusetts as well,” says Sanders. “I know every time Cannabis Trainers meets with my staff, we walk away smarter and better prepared to help our customers.”

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Higher Consciousness: The Concentrates Evolution

The Hurdles

With the realization that concentrates that are closer to their pure starting material are of higher quality, there’s a strong push now for products that are clean, smooth, loudly flavored and kept as close to their original genetic expression as possible. The use of synthetic salts, foliar sprays and sulfur burners just won’t do. Even words like “organic” are no longer held in as great esteem these days, as there are many organic elements that one would not want to smoke or ingest. Dead ladybugs, insect feces and even the once popular sulfur burners impart organic material that can affect the taste, quality and healthiness of a cannabis product. Cleaning cannabis is not an option, unlike with most other crops.

Extremely high taxes, fees and exacting regulations make many growers and extractors focus less on quality and more on ensuring that their products can meet the necessary requirements to make it to the open market. What was once a highly profitable endeavor in the black market no longer works in today’s current legal regulated cannabis market (these days, the easiest way to turn a profit is to grow a larger quantity of lower-grade cannabis to make up for the smaller margins).

And as new regulations manifest, a great deal of cannabis fails required testing. What’s worse is that the incredibly popular world of concentrates has seen, in addition to THCA and other cannabinoids, concentrated impurities such as leftover nutrients, sugars, heavy metals and pesticides. These can impart an unpleasant taste, cause headaches, and cause discomfort to the throat, nose or lungs, not to mention making it harder to burn the product. Some of these contaminants can even prove hazardous to consumers’ long-term health. And a focus on regulations and quantity almost always means less attention is paid to detail, resulting in lower-grade products. In contrast, the unregulated cannabis black market had been very lucrative because growers and extractors don’t have to adhere to regulations and requirements that aboveboard companies adhere to, thereby dodging a host of rules, taxes and start-up fees.

Concentrate Awareness

However, the times are changing and the cannabis community is slowly learning not to accept subpar, low-quality products that are possibly untested and potentially unclean.

The concentrates world has quickly evolved to meet these greater standards. Producers are now turning away from the open blasting of concentrates—using cans of butane and glass or metal tubes to extract honey oil from flowers—and instead using highly sophisticated closed-loop machines that can extract 20-plus pounds at a time (and operate much more safely). The concentrates themselves have become cleaner, and the extraction process has gone from being dangerous to relatively safe when performed in the right conditions with the correct setup and knowledge. Better practices are being followed—for instance, using uncured, fresher material, known as live resin, to produce higher-grade concentrates—that result in increased terpene retention and outstanding taste.

Additional refining processes like winterization—a technique that uses cold temperatures and time to allow the fats, waxes and lipids to separate from the main body of cannabinoids—help create a product that is especially smooth and easy on the lungs.

The advent of sauce (named for its similarity in appearance to applesauce)— resulting from an extraction technique that keeps the extracted cannabis material in its liquid solvent, allowing time to separate the THCA from the terpenes— has given consumers another popular form of concentrate. This supported two new advancements, the creation of truly high-potency, beautiful THCA crystals that form during the process as well as the ability to lake cannabis flower that has little smell or zest and turn it into flavorfully loud sauce.

A jar of sauce with a quarry of beautifully shiny THCA crystals swimming in a runny, oily sea of terpenes has great bag appeal and can assault the nose like a fresh pot of coffee. Consumers also have the ability to change the ratio of THCA to other cannabinoids as they apply sauce to their dabbers, allowing them to tailor their consumption to their own taste.

The Vape-Pen Boom

While the dabbing revolution continues among connoisseurs, the most popular way to consume cannabis products is by using vape pens containing distillate. Most vape cartridges are produced using a fractional distillation process. This is a technique that uses a base solvent, such as butane or ethanol, to extract the cannabinoids from the flower. The resulting extract-laden solvent is then run through a roto vape—a flask that rotates in a warm water bath to evaporate all liquids into vapor. These liquids then re-condense in separate chambers, leaving behind a base liquid of THCA distillate with few other cannabinoids. All terpenes and flavor have been removed, giving the extractor the choice of reintroducing terpenes from cannabis, or the less expensive option of adding food-derived terpenes. While the end product when using this technique is not of particularly high quality, it’s cost-effective and allows for the manufacturer to satisfy the palates of consumers whose tastes have been honed to appreciate food flavors instead of the acquired taste of a gassy OG Kush or a funky Big Buddha Cheese strain.

At first, low-quality cannabis was being turned into distillate to meet the high demand of vape-pen usage. Commonly referred to as “hot dog water” or the “high-fructose corn syrup” of cannabis, it’s easy to make and works well in cheap disposable cartridges. Some producers use cannabis material that is unfit to consume as flower, turning a profit on what would be considered unusable product. However, this has resulted in a high percentage of cartridges failing testing miserably. And as the word has gotten out, the public is seeking out healthier, tastier and headier products. The best of the vape pens now no longer use distillate to power their cartridges but rather incorporate sauce, oil or rosin, providing a cleaner, higher-grade experience. Yes, there are still many cannabis products that are failing testing. But the situation is improving overall. In fact, cannabis has never been cleaner, healthier and headier than it is right now.

Software Vs. Hardware

Now that we’ve really begun to understand the intricacies of cannabis and the evolution of top-shelf concentrates, there lies a distinct shortcoming in the ways we consume cannabis. In many cases, the medicine is beginning to outpace the technology that we use to consume it. Many vape-pen cartridges use cotton wicks to draw the liquid to the heating clement, imparting a burned flavor and adding impurities to a clean concentrate. Oftentimes, if the wick isn’t wet from contact with the oil, it can burn and lend a distinctly charred flavor. Most cartridges come in 350-milligram to 1-gram sizes, with the concentrate contained in a single chamber and heated by a central clement. This means that the first few hits are fresh and flavorful and rich in terpenes. But after several draws, the concentrate’s flavor degrades and becomes less enjoyable. Three-quarters of the concentrate is turned into a low-grade sludge that one would be hard-pressed to consume if it weren’t in a cart.

More frightful are cannabis vape pens containing solvent-derived concentrates testing clean when they’re produced, but then testing dirty due to being housed in cheap, mass-produced metal cartridges. These disposable units can leach heavy metals, machine oil and other contaminates into the concentrate, adulterating the hash with harmful compounds. Furthermore, cheap, low-quality vape-pen batteries don’t have the capability to consistently reach appropriate temperatures to vape the oil.

The technology of consumption is lagging behind in the concentrates industry. The tech supporting the world’s most popular form of cannabis product badly needs an upgrade.

Fortunately, there have been some advances in dabbing tech. Coupled with the desire to be eco-friendly, many consumers have been waiting for a healthy way to enjoy cannabis that also results in the least impact on the environment as possible. Titanium nails were once the norm in dabbing concentrates. But this method could produce too-hot temperatures that burn instead of vaporize the essential oils, resulting in the flavor being off and an inherently unhealthy process. Titanium also expands and contracts through repeated heating, gassing off impurities and slowly degrading the nail. Yes, there’s even a thing called titanium-fume poisoning, which leads to many health issues. Then came ceramic, which is porous and takes forever to clean and heat up, but retains heat very well.

Concentrate consumers finally ended up turning to the same material that laboratories use due to its cleanliness and durability—quartz glass. The real problem was then twofold, though: the hassle of having to use lots of butane and a torch to heat the nail before waiting for it to cool down to an appropriate temperature, and the social acceptability of using a torch with a big flame in public—it’s a touch crackish. No matter how adorned a torch is and how artfully presented, the bulk of the public will most likely never approve of the sight of someone heating a glass element to consume a substance.

The newest products for consuming concentrates on the market utilize batteries and heating elements to provide a user-friendly and socially acceptable way to dab. Instead of a torch to heat a nail and timers to regulate the heat, electronic rigs now provide an easy and accurate way of enjoying concentrates. Dabbing a concentrate at high temperatures—and burning oil instead of vaporizing it—can result in the inhalation of any number of chemicals; some can even be carcinogenic. The ability to dial in specific temperatures on electronic rigs proves to be not only easier on the lungs but also produces a better flavor and more accurate effect based on the terpene profile.

While these devices do have some drawbacks—like the inclusion of ceramic bowls instead of a quartz surface, which provides the cleanest and safest dabbing experience—they do represent a significant improvement over the old standard. Being able to fully dial in specific temperatures is a welcome addition, especially compared with using the imprecise colored-light settings for low, medium, medium-high and high temperatures seen on older products. If a gram of good oil costs $60 to $80, a consumer is most likely willing to spend a good sum on ensuring the most efficient way to consume the headiest dabs.

Going with quality hardware makes not only for a better-performing device but also for a more reliable one. Nothing is worse than going on vacation to some far-off land and having your inexpensive pen or electric rig stop working. Hot-knifing on a stove is not an option for most people on the road. There are a few devices out there that work well, but they are very temperamental and require the most delicate of hands to clean and operate. Some companies have been forward-thinking, having introduced a plug-and-play ability with their products and allowing for heady glasswork to be incorporated into devices as custom attachments. This allows for opportunities to represent one’s taste in a most unique and individual way. The inclusion of handmade glass art opens up a whole new world of potential collaborations and creativity.

A Higher Consciousness

The desire to consume clean products safely and efficiently is finally overtaking the popular reign of cheap-but-inferior products of the past. Still, the battle isn’t over. CBD products and shops are popping up everywhere, and more people are consuming it now than ever before. You can find CBD products for sale in gas stations, grocery stores and at the mall. Even the fine chocolatier in my small hometown offers CBD candies for sale. NYC bodegas offer CBD products and knockoff THCA vape cartridges. However, most of these products are made with unregulated Chinese hemp, most likely grown with harmful chemicals.

US-grown and state-regulated products are slowly meeting the new needs of consumers by providing compliant products without sacrificing quality and reverting to profit over patients. So don’t settle for inferior cannabis products. Support companies that work to represent the plant and community in healthy and beneficial ways. You are what you consume and what you surround yourself with, so never settle for anything less than the best the cannabis community has to offer. Always insist on higher standards.


Originally published in the September, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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Researchers Study How to Treat Cannabis Addiction With More Cannabis

The solution to cannabis dependency might simply be more cannabis. That’s according to a new study from researchers at University College London, which found that cannabidiol (CBD) can help people reduce their consumption of THC. Presenting the study at this year’s London’s New Scientist Live festival, lead author Val Curran called the findings “really remarkable.” Curran, a professor of psychopharmacology at University College London, and her team were the first to test the idea of using CBD extracts to treat cannabis use disorders. And indeed, the results are very promising: Curran’s study found that CBD extracts cut the amount of cannabis people smoked in half.

CBD Extracts Can Help Reduce Cannabis Dependency

Cannabis “addiction” can be difficult to define. With no strong chemical dependencies, cannabis use disorders aren’t as destructive or difficult to overcome as those involving more addictive substances, such as nicotine and alcohol. Still, rough estimates put about ten percent of cannabis users in the “addiction” camp. For these cannabis consumers, reducing intake or trying to quit can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Scientists believe increasingly potent THC products are increasing the number of people becoming addicted to cannabis or struggling with dependency issues.

But Curran thinks her research is pointing to an answer. And the answer, she says, is treating cannabis addiction with more cannabis. But Curran doesn’t mean more flower, edibles, concentrates or other THC-dominant products. Instead, she says therapeutic doses of another cannabis compound, cannabidiol (CBD), can help people quit or reduce cannabis use without withdrawal symptoms.

Curran’s study took 82 people living in the U.K. who were classified as “severely addicted” to cannabis. The participants were divided into three groups, and over the course of a four-week trial, each group was given either a daily 400 mg dose of CBD, 800 mg of CBD, or a placebo. All participants also had access to counselors and other psychological support to help them drop their cannabis habit.

According to the study, the 400 mg CBD group experienced the greatest reduction in cannabis use after six months. Researchers measured cannabis consumption by testing participants’ urine for THC. Not only did the 400 mg CBD group have half as much THC in their urine, they also doubled the days when their urine did not test positive for THC. The 800 mg CBD group saw some improvement, but less than the 400 mg group. The placebo group saw no reduction in cannabis consumption.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and the Fight Against Addiction

Curran’s University College London study resonates with other recent findings about the ability of cannabidiol to both counteract the negative side effects of THC and fight addiction. One recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that CBD prevents the brain from amplifying stressful stimuli. THC, say researchers, sparks off a chain reaction of nerve signals in the brain that can spiral into stress and anxiety. Cannabidiol counteracts the runaway-train effect, blocking the signaling pathway and preventing the unwanted mental disturbances that potent doses of THC can cause. “CBD gets rid of the toxic effects of THC,” Curran said during her “Cannabis: medicine or madness?” talk at the New Scientist Live festival.

“CBD has a variety of anti-addictive properties,” said University of Sydney professor Iain McGregor. McGregor worked on Curran’s study and is also researching the use of CBD to treat alcohol addiction. Anxiety is a major side effect of detoxifying, and McGregor says CBD is very good at reducing anxiety.

These important studies continue to highlight the wide-ranging therapeutic and health benefits of cannabidiol. But it’s important to keep in mind that most of the commercial CBD products available today, especially outside legal cannabis markets, do not have the potency of the capsules used in Curran’s study. And in most places, CBD products face little if any regulatory scrutiny.

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Thailand To Host Inaugural World Ganja Festival in 2020

In a bid to highlight the country’s foray into legal medical marijuana, Thailand will host the inaugural World Ganja Festival early next year. The event is being organized by the Association of Researchers of Thailand with cooperation from the national and local governments.

“We’re the main host. Thailand’s the main host. We’re deciding who we will invite to the Ganja Festival,” said the World Ganja Festival’s Honorary Advisor, Gen. Charan Kullawanit. “There will be Chinese, Japanese and American guests. They once opposed the idea.”

“We’ll invite them so we can listen to their academic ideas, presentations, and statements,” he added. “We’ll see how the event will benefit the global community.”

The Association of Researchers of Thailand announced that the group had signed agreements to hold the first World Ganja Festival next year from January 29 through February 2 with the Thai Nationalism Foundation, the Journalist and Media Association of Thailand, and provincial administrative organizations of Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon, and Mukdahan. The event will be held at a 40-acre venue near the Nong Yat Reservoir in Nakhon Phanom province.

Sharing Knowledge About Cannabis

The World Ganja Festival 2020 will serve as a platform for the sharing of knowledge about the medicinal uses of cannabis, according to Gen. Kullawanit. The event will include educational seminars, information about technological innovations, and opportunities for business negotiations. A music festival and product design competition will also be featured.

Organizers of the festival hope the event will help create new opportunities for Thailand, the first country in the region to legalize medical marijuana. They also hope to provide a better understanding of cannabis and the legal issues pertaining to its cultivation and use.

Thailand legalized cannabis for medicinal use and for research last year, a move that was affirmed by royal decree in February. The government is looking to legalization as a way to benefit the Thai people both medically and by providing new economic and agricultural opportunities for the country.

Thailand has a tradition of cannabis use to relax muscles and for the treatment of fatigue and labor pains that goes back centuries. In August, the Thai government began distributing 10,000 vials of medical cannabis oil to hospitals to be used for patient care.

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CBD In The UK: An Unregulated Marketplace

You have to give it to this industry. Everyone wants in. And well, Prohibition is so over.

The problem is, particularly here in Europe, for the most part, this is either the tedious process of educating doctors, creating medical grade product that insurers will pay for, or of course, trials to look forward to in the immediate future.

In other words, decidedly less colorful (or at least in the North American sense) if not at lower volume than other places.

In the meantime, particularly filtered via American and Canadian coverage and industry success stories, the British are succumbing to the green magic any way they can.

The structure of cannabidiol (CBD), one of 400 active compounds found in cannabis.

Low-THC, CBD products as a result, are flourishing in a way that seems a bit like the “Colorado of Europe.” The early days. When all sorts of strange stories about processing leaked out of the first legalizing state market in the U.S. It is shocking to European eyes, in particular, of late.

“CBD” is, literally, everywhere.

For those with other kinds of experience in the world of cannabis, however, it is both slightly sad and slightly exhilarating. The Brits have the cannabis bug. But they seem a bit lost on where to go next.

What Is The Deal In The UK?

Regulations are weird here. You cannot use the flower of any cannabis flower (including those with under the requisite amount of THC) – also known as hemp. The novel food discussion is lost.

Regardless, there are clearly plans afoot, particularly on the corporate farming level, to begin a transformation of crops to include cannabis sometime soon. And far beyond the farmers, the boys in the city are getting hot under the collar for this kind of green.

London is also turning into (rather predictably) a center of all things cannabis equity.

There are already more specialty funds planning to list on London exchanges than anywhere else in Europe.

Image credit: Flickr

But is this all that surprising?

In the midst of Brexit, a failing NHS, and a society at odds with itself like no time since the 1970’s, the British are facing the cannabis revolution with anything but a stiff upper lip.

When it comes to all things cannabinoids, at least on the CBD side, no matter the odd police raid on a health food store or crunchy vegan experiment on land not protected by the rights of an inherited “country pile”, the cannabis horse, certainly of the broadly stroked CBD variety, is out of the barn.

But What Does this Really Mean?

For the moment? As globally financed companies set up in the UK for all kinds of cannabis trials, the CBD market here is taking on an oddly Bulldog twist.

There is more of a cottage industry of all kinds of CBD products unseen elsewhere in Europe (including from the U.S.). Labeling, testing and sourcing are largely a matter of hit or miss. And just like everywhere else, desperate, sick, depressed people (or those who fear becoming that way) are turning to the CBD miracle to fix a range of conditions.

The problem is that a lot of this is pure snake oil.

Yes, high quality, medical grade CBD does work as a stabilizer (just like THC). But not every oil containing some measure of highly diluted (or worse, contaminated) cannabinoid extract, is the panacea that cannabis offers.

Bottom line? The CBD market in the UK is sort of like Swiss Lite. There are medical trials in the offing, but the country is also in the middle of a constitutional crisis. There are many regulations, and of a bit more fundamentally intrinsic kind, on the line right now. Cannabis is in the room. But so is the Irish Border (the largest if not most existential sticking point in the never-ending Brexit negotiations).

Investing In The UK CBD Market

There are investors who are clearly examining the market, and a few big deals so far, but the vast majority of money flowing into the UK is going into its more flexible (if not frothy) equity market. The British, in other words, may be flailing a bit on domestic implementation, but equity funds in London are in touch with global investors on this issue – even if that money then flows back into Europe.

How very British.

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