Artist DENIAL Shares Experience with Cannabis and Mercedes Lawsuit

Since 1999, Canadian pop and mural artist Daniel Joseph Bombardier, better known by his artistic alter ego DENIAL, has been creating aerosol and stencil artworks that critique contemporary politics, capitalism, consumerism and the human condition. But one of DENIAL’s latest pieces, commissioned for and by High Times, is a more personal project. Part of a series titled “Shelf Medication,” DENIAL created a giant capsule that looks like a painted pill branded with the High Times logo. But while “Shelf Medication” wants to draw attention to the way people obsess over brands and become addicted to products, DENIAL’s High Times capsule is more about how people are starting to view and use cannabis as a medicine.

Overdose Collection by artist, Enjoy Denial. Aerosol on wood panel. 2019

High Times caught up with Bombardier, who just wrapped up a “Part Art Part Party” at his studio, celebrating the launch of a limited edition English beer DENIAL produced some artwork for. We asked him about the role cannabis plays in his creative process, how it treats his insomnia and why he’s being sued by Mercedes-Benz.

Canadian Mural Artist DENIAL Cured His Insomnia with Cannabis Oil

Artist DENIAL Shares Experience with Cannabis and Sueing Mercedes
Photo Courtesy of Enjoy Denial

DENIAL’s “Shelf Medication” piece for High Times isn’t meant to suggest that people are addicted to weed or overly obsessed with the world’s greatest weed media company. Instead, it’s an expression of Bombardier’s personal experience with cannabis and the massive social movement that’s embracing it, after years of criminalization and denial, as a safe and effective medicine.

For at least a decade, Bombardier suffered from severe insomnia. Despite trying everything from sleeping pills, special pillows, sleep meds, Ambien and drinking any and everything, nothing worked. “It’s the type of mind I have. I just won’t sleep,” he told High Times. He couldn’t fall asleep, and everything he did to make it better made him feel even more out of touch.

Bombardier had smoked weed before, of course, but the stimulating, sometimes anxiety-provoking response didn’t seem like it would help him fall asleep. But then a friend gave Bombardier some of his homemade weed oil. He tried a tablespoon before bed one night and—of course—it worked.

“I slept for nine hours for the first time in over 10 years! It was amazing so I started taking the oil every night before bed and continued to sleep properly. I began to feel younger and had 20 times more energy,” Bombardier told High Times.

For four years, Bombardier has been able to treat his insomnia using cannabis oil. Specifically, he uses oils derived from indica and hybrid strains. And when it comes to dose, it depends on the day. Usually, somewhere between 10-20mg of THC is enough to counteract the anxiety of the day and let Bombardier sleep. Sometimes, though, it takes five to 10 times that much.

“Sometimes it takes 100 mg to shut my crazy brain off.”

Cannabis “Can’t Help But Make You More Creative”

Artist DENIAL Shares Experience with Cannabis and Sueing Mercedes
Photo Courtesy of Enjoy Denial

But finally getting a quality night’s sleep isn’t the only benefit Bombardier is enjoying from his bedtime dose of cannabis oil. He also says it helps his creative process.

Right before he falls asleep, Bombardier says he often gets ideas. So he writes them down. Really interesting ideas, based on other ideas. Cannabis, the artist says, helps him spin those ideas, get a new view on them, turn them into something else, connect them with something else.

But all of that is just a happy coincidence. DENIAL doesn’t consume cannabis specifically for the creative process. Instead, it’s more of a “byproduct,” he says. Cannabis “can’t help but make you more creative. It opens up creative attitudes in people’s minds.”

“It’s kind of like LSD, but not as chemically powerful. I can completely testify to the fact it changed the way I think in a positive and therapeutic way. Marijuana does that on a smaller, not so intense level,” Bombardier told High Times.

Between traveling the world, working on his ongoing Free 4 All Walls project in Ontario, and completing his own mural art works across Canada, the United States and elsewhere, DENIAL always finds himself up to something. But he and a cohort of fellow mural artists have also found themselves embroiled in a legal battle with Mercedes-Benz. It’s a case that has massive implications for artists whose work exists in public spaces.

Legal Battles With Mercedes-Benz

It all started when Mercedes-Benz published a wide-reaching advertising campaign featuring photographs taken in Detroit against a background of murals created by DENIAL and other artists. Every year, Detroit hosts a Murals in the Market mural festival, and the mural work artists have contributed to Detroit’s Eastern Market have transformed the entire area. DENIAL tells the story of a building he and other artists working with Interstate Gallery and One Time Run bought for $300,000. Five years and 150 murals later, that building is now worth $3.5 million.

But when Mercedes showed up to shoot its advertisements, it did nothing to compensate the mural artists whose public artworks graced the glossy pages of the mega-corporate ad campaign. In fact, Mercedes didn’t even acknowledge the vital work of DENIAL and other artists did to revitalize the East Market.

So DENIAL hired a lawyer and threatened to sue Mercedes unless they gave the artists some compensation for the work they used in the ads. In response, Mercedes sued them back, aiming to change the copyright laws to make it possible for them to use representations of artists’ work without paying them. And “if they win,” Bombardier told High Times, “you could produce a mural and without any permission a company could use it in a hemorrhoids ad.”

The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court in Detroit, where Bombardier wants judges to dismiss it “because it’s stupid.”

High Times asked about any upcoming projects. “I want to do Mercedes stuff,” said DENIAL. “But my lawyer is currently advising me against it.”

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The Future of Cannabis: Trends to Watch Out For

The value (and fun) in data analysis is its capacity to help divine the future and ascertain where best to invest time, energy and money. A new year hints at what’s coming—giving a clearer view of things ahead.

For a decade, overall rates of cannabis use in the United States have significantly increased. Since 2009, the reported past-month usage of adults 18 years and older increased 38 percent, from 6.6 to 9.1 percent, representing 7.45 million more Americans regularly partaking. With nearly two-thirds of Americans supporting some form of legal cannabis, expect to see increased acceptance across all demographic groups. Those with the traditionally highest consumption rates (e.g., males, college students, the unemployed) will maintain them, but those with lower rates (females, Asians, full-time workers) will pick up some of the slack.

Nevertheless, certain trends bear closer examination. Men use at nearly twice the rate as women (11.7 percent versus 6.7 percent), but since 2009 women’s usage rates have risen faster, whether due to female-focused products, services and marketing, or growing science about cannabis’s efficacy for women’s medical conditions. Meanwhile, use among full-time workers reflects broader cultural acceptance along with changes in workplace policies (such as phasing out pre-employment drug screenings). Among things to expect:

Increased Accessibility

A bevy of businesses are striving to become the (already clichéd) “Amazon of cannabis,” and they are certainly assisting cannabis delivery and consumption. Whether it’s Dosist developing a dosing pen for various predefined purposes (e.g., with its “calm,” “bliss” and pain “relief” formulas), or MyDx offering a handheld chemical analyzer designed to instantly identify and measure chemicals and potency in a given sample, users are becoming better informed. Other companies are refining cannabis oils, tinctures, edibles and other products, and better crowdsourcing and databases will help identify and express cannabinoid effects to aid repeat and future customers in their decisions.

New Frontier

More Health and Wellness Applications

The total number of US medical-cannabis patients who are treating serious conditions has surpassed two million, and that’s projected to grow as states with recently legalized medical programs begin sales. Florida and Michigan, particularly, are set for strong medical-market growth, while California and Massachusetts will see the largest annual growth rates through 2025.

Meanwhile, the US opioid epidemic remains a national crisis. Nearly 2.5 million Americans struggle with opioid addiction, and (though significant additional research is needed) growing evidence suggests cannabis’s potential to mitigate dependence and prevent overdoses. There is also support to expand access for at-risk patients, particularly those with chronic or severe pain.

Wellness brands across all major categories—food, beverage, beauty and more—are embracing cannabis. While more research is needed, cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are used to treat mood disorders, inflammation, chronic pain and other medical conditions. According to Hemp Business Journal, a division of New Frontier Data, total 2017 sales for the US hemp industry alone were $820 million. Among those sales, $190 million went for hemp-derived CBD products, $181 million for personal-care products and $137 million for food products. As consumer education spreads, HBJ estimates that the US hemp market will be worth $2.6 billion by 2022.

Popularity With Women

Women have been catching up to men in terms of consumption. In 2017, the Cannabis Consumer Coalition conducted a survey that showed how 40 percent of female respondents used it to help manage menstruation, menopause or mental-health concerns, and 39 percent used cannabis to relieve premenstrual pain and cramps. Additionally, 35 percent of menopausal respondents preferred pot as a sleep aid, and 27 percent found that it enhanced their sex life.

Political Appeal

With the 2018 midterm elections finally over, policymakers are now focusing on the 2020 election season. New Frontier Data projects that within two years states with either adult-use or medical programs will number 40 or more. Public support for cannabis legalization keeps growing in the United States, as it will with expanding markets and greater social acceptance. Those are expected to gain even more as Canada’s nationwide legalized market matures across the world’s longest internationally shared border.

Jobs With Juice

With medical cannabis legal throughout more than half of the United States and adult-use markets opening in an increasing number of states, cannabis companies are expecting to employ an estimated 340,000 people nationwide by 2020, according to the 1,500-member National Cannabis Industry Association trade group. These new jobs offer employment opportunities for botanists, marketing and branding experts, finance managers, HR professionals and many others. 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue. Click here to get a subscription!

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What Experts Have to Say About the Endocannabinoid System

“For decades, scientists and mental health physicians tried to figure out how THC worked on the brain and body,” explained Dr. Paul Song, Chief Medical Officer of Calyx Peak Companies via email. A significant breakthrough came with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Additional research has since identified endocannabinoids as the cannabinoids produced within our own bodies. The endocannabinoid system regulates and interprets a series of processes in the body, including memory, pain, reproduction, appetite, immune function and many others. The two major endocannabinoids to be identified today are Anandamide and 2-AG, or Arachidonoylglycerol.

In an email to High Times, Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts, gave a brief overview of the endocannabinoid system. “The system consists of two main receptor types: CB1 and CB2. The endocannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters that elicit effects on the entire nervous system, from your brain to your fingertips.”

Stem added, “Although we have much still to learn, it appears that in some situations, the ECS acts as a volume control for a variety of processes and factors, modulating the way our body interprets signals, whether they be pain, hunger, excitement, etc.”

Dr. Song added another significant benefit of the ECS. “Having this biologic basis of the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids has provided more credibility and justification for the medicinal use of cannabis.”

How THC and CBD Interact with the ECS

This may be the part where people understand the endocannabinoid system more than they might have imagined. The reason why a person feels the effects of a high when consuming THC is because it binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, giving an effect throughout the body and head. On the other hand, CBD does not have the same effect on the receptors but does have an effect by activating other receptors in the body.

Stem elaborated on CBD, which she considers the most fascinating of the phytocannabinoids that have an affinity for the ECS, which also includes THC, CBN, 11-Hydroxy THC, THC-V. “[CBD] acts on serotonin receptors and members of the G-Protein coupled receptor family, which are entirely separate from the ECS. There is evidence that it acts as a modulator for the way other cannabinoids act on the ECS, for instance blocking THC activity, or modulating the effects of other ECS stimulants.”

Cannabis is far from the only influencer on the endocannabinoid system. Other drugs interact with it, as well as an array of daily actions and lifestyle choices ranging from sleep and diet, to exercise, sex, and acupuncture therapy. However, it is far from a one size fits all sort of assessment.

Stem explained how each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique. She wrote, “Cannabinoids, or other things that affect the ECS, will have different effects on different people based on their individual physiologies. Thus, there’s no “magic bullet,” and people will experience varied benefits of using cannabis depending on their ECS system.”

Ian Jenkins, CEO of Frelii, a provider of DNA sequencing and genome analysis, wrote how nourishing the ECS can extend well past the two most popular cannabinoids. “Although most of the research is around THC and CBD, just about every cannabinoid can be thought of as nourishing.”

He expanded on his point: “They are ligands that bind to a receptor that create nourishing physiological reactions, even though they themselves don’t necessarily “nourish” the system. It all comes down to homeostasis and health and not necessarily nutrition or nourishment in the classical sense.”

Multiple Misconceptions Remain

Information surrounding the endocannabinoid system continues to develop and expand. As such, misconceptions often arise. Dr. Song mentioned several, including that the ECS did not evolve due to cannabis use. Jenkins agreed with this opinion. “Although there may have been co-evolution, the ECS is an essential part of the human body, and both cannabinoids and terpenes are found in more plants than just cannabis….It is however likely that we have had a long term relationship with all plants that have cannabinoids due to the benefit they have on the body.”

Dr. Song also pointed out that cannabinoids can be found in plants other than cannabis. He also acknowledged the misconceptions about how CBD and THC bind to the body’s receptors. Jenkins discussed a similar point concerning the location of the critical receptors. “Although the highest concentrations of CB1 are in the brain and CB2 are in the peripheral nervous system, both CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the body.”

Latest Developments

Dr. Song noted the changing sentiment around cannabis as a prime driver to better understand how the system works in the prevention, development, and treatment of various diseases. He added, “Great work is also being done to develop highly specific synthetic cannabinoids for pharmaceutical purposes, and highly customized cannabis strains are being developed to provide even greater therapeutic response.”

Stem discussed the increase in discussions around ECS deficiency syndrome. She said the syndrome “could be the etiology of a variety of serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.” The belief is that a lack of endogenous cannabinoids can lead to the immune system spiraling out of control. As a 20-plus year sufferer of Crohn’s disease, the developments hit close to home for her.

In addition to the developments, Stem is on a research team that aims to study different methods of consumption and how they are absorbed and metabolized. In time, they hope to begin exploring the different terpene profiles of various strains and how they affect the ECS in concert with the phytocannabinoids.

Jenkins acknowledged improvements in AI, a space his company works closely with. Discussing the broader scope of the ECS space, he said: “Regardless of whether or not you believe the co-evolution theory, there is an incredible interaction between humans and cannabis.” He added, “we have only just begun to unlock the benefits.”

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Michigan Issues First Medical Marijuana Home Delivery Licenses

Medical marijuana patients in Michigan are about to see improved access. Thanks to new rules approved and put into place by the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency, medical marijuana providers can now legally deliver to patients. The change is the latest development in several key changes to Michigan’s medical marijuana program.

Home Delivery in Michigan

Last week, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued the state’s first three home delivery licenses.

One license went to a dispensary called Lake Effect, which serves patients in Kalamazoo County. And the other two home delivery licenses went to BotaniQ and Utopia Gardens. Both are located in Detroit.

Under the new rules, these and any other dispensaries to receive licenses in the future will now be able to deliver orders directly to patients’ homes.

Not surprisingly, the new home delivery program will be heavily regulated by the state. Here’s home delivery will work:

  • To complete home deliveries legally, dispensaries with a license must hire their own delivery drivers.
  • Dispensaries licensed for home delivery must document and track all delivery inventory.
  • All delivery vehicles must be tracked with a GPS system.
  • Dispensaries will have to get a copy of the patient’s identification card and medical marijuana card before doing deliveries.
  • The delivery address must match the patient’s address as listed on both their identification card and their medical marijuana card.
  • Patients can order up to the daily maximum, which is 2.5 ounces of flower.

Above and beyond those rules, many dispensaries plan to implement their own additional guidelines. For example, local news source MLive reported that some shops plan to install dashcams in delivery vehicles.

Similarly, some dispensaries will take additional security measures. This could include giving delivery people body cameras.

“It’s the first time it’s ever been done in the state of Michigan legally,” Jevin Weyenberg, general manager of Lake Effect, told MLive. “We want to make sure everything is secure. We want to make sure we’re a hard target for any criminal that might try anything.”

Expanding Access

The new rule is being hailed as an effective way to improve patient access. In one key provision, home deliveries will be available even in places that have not yet allowed any dispensaries to open.

As a result, patients who live in a city or town that has banned dispensaries, or that has not yet joined the state’s medical marijuana program, can get deliveries from elsewhere.

Of course, each dispensary will have different rules for how far they will deliver. At this point, Lake Effect plans to take phone orders. Additionally, the dispensary will deliver to patients throughout Kalamazoo County.

Meanwhile, Utopia Gardens will deliver to patients within a 20-mile radius of the shop. For now, this shop will take online or phone orders.

At this point, many in the state hope that home delivery will make it easier for a broader range of patients to access the medicine they need.

“We know a lot of the patients we’re going to be delivering to,” Weyenberg told MLive. “A lot of them are in wheelchairs. Convenient access to medicine—you can never put a price on that. It’s life-saving for some people.”

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