Is Growing Your Own Cannabis the Future?

In relatively recent news, a snapshot of the expansive, illegal drug market was revealed to the world when The Silk Road was shut down by the FBI. The site, which was the largest online marketplace where illegal drugs, made over $1.3 billion in its short run and could be used to purchase anything from marijuana to heroin anonymously.  For the public who believe the war on drugs is working, it may have come as quite a shock that the demand for illegal drugs is still immense and was being catered for at the simple click of a mouse. For others, it showed a desperate need for reform; an action to direct this activity and money into a legal, controlled market that could boost our economy for the long haul.  Most importantly, however, is that the very idea of the site showed there is demand to cut out the middle-man. Many users (of cannabis or otherwise) do not want to have to find connections and dealers to buy their goods from, finding themselves in shady areas of town to pick up $30 worth of marijuana. They want to be able to buy direct from the source – avoiding carrying it on the bus or train by having it delivered directly to your door. Although it won’t be long before a similar avenue surfaces, for now however, this option is gone. But what about those that are tired of being part of this back and forth, cat-and-mouse game?

While sites such as The Silk Road made itself a target given that hard drugs were available through it, sites that openly sell marijuana seeds and supplies have flourished, with Seebay, WeedPortal, Nirvana to name a few. The recommended solution it seems? Grow your own. While I don’t intend to go into a step-by-step process of how to do it just here, there are dozens of guides of how to grow manageable plants outdoors and indoors that will act as enough to cater for your daily smoke. Legal bodies, it seems, have turned a blind eye to these sites as they don’t see it as much of a threat, though it is illegal to buy cannabis seeds and cultivate any plants. But if you’re growing your own small plans for personal use, who are you harming? Even in a legal market I believe people would still be inclined to grow for similar reasons to home-brew. It’s cheaper and you know exactly what goes in it – allowing for endless customizations etc. No dealers, no stores or anonymous online servers. Just sweet green right at your fingertips. Such an ideal is going to proliferate as people become more and more disenfranchised with the blackmarket and it speaks a lot for the attitude towards cannabis from a police perspective if these sites are able to keep running. They do not want to dealing with petty ‘criminals’ who have 2 or 3 crops in their backyard, but rather stop the flow of large quantities in a blackmarket that would not exist in a legalised market.

What are your thoughts on growing marijuana for personal purposes? If you don’t believe marijuana should be completely legalised, consider the legalisation of small-scale cultivation for personal use and the decriminalization of having small amounts. Please, as always, share your thoughts and comment below.

 

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Up In Smoke: Consumption Methods of Cannabis in a Legal Market (Pt.2)

Earlier this week I looked at making a list of ways to consume cannabis, a variety we can perhaps only achieve realistically in a market where marijuana is legal. While some methods in part one did not require any kind of inhalation whatsoever, part 2 of 2 will look at methods that still involve inhalation, albeit in a much healthier way. These will cater to a clientele that still want their stone to hit them hard and the onset to be quick, so without further ado stoners, weed enthusiasts, or those just generally interested in the prospects of what a legal market will have to offer, here they are:

Vaporization

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Volcano-brand vaporizer in action. Source: Flickr Creative Commons

While it may sound like something out of a 1960’s science fiction film, vaporization has become a common form of consuming cannabis as the technology has progressed. How it works is through a machine which heats the cannabis buds (or oils in some vaporizers) to a temperature (between 185-210 degrees, generally) that is enough to extract the THC but just under the temperature of combustion that a traditionally smoking device would use. The vaporized gas is then consumed through a tube or a balloon that the machine has pumped into it. There are many different types of vaporizes on the market, but this is the basic premise of how they work.

Pros: Clean as a whistle! Due to vaporizes avoiding combustion levels of heat, the toxins (carbon monoxide and other carcinogens) and generally left out of the equation. This means a much healthier method of inhalation, that users report is actually a stronger high than through a bong or pipe, but comes on equally as quick. Volcano brand vaporizers, the top of the line in the market, have been reported to extract 95% THC with no toxins – a pure, smooth high. In addition, vaporizers use less cannabis chop, allowing multiple (up to 20-25) hits from one average-sized bud. So while vaporizers may be an expensive route to take, that money will be saved through your actual product

Cons: As mentioned, these things are expensive.  Mid range machines that will vaporize effectively run around the $250 mark, and the top-pf-the-line Volcano brand vaporizers can sell for close to $800. While they may be built to last and considered an investment, dropping this kind of money to enjoy your bud will not be realistic for everyone, however in a legal market where demand is higher, cheaper vaporizers that still retain good craftsmanship and effectively do their job will most likely emerge. Like any machine, maintenance is required, which is always a bummer, however this is generally no more difficult that scrubbing your bong with your mums old toothbrush.

Dabbing

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A jar of butane hash oil harderned in its ‘honey’ form. Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Another quirky-sounding consumption method that was popularised in the 1970’s but is starting to surface in the legal market is dabbing. Dabbing is a concentrated form of consuming butane hash oil (pure THC extract), and is described quite well by Philly 420 columnist Chris Goldstein:

“The term derives from the most common method used today: a piece of metal resembling a large nail is held at the end of a curved glass pipe then heated until glowing with a lighter or kitchen torch; a small ‘dab’ of the thick hash oil (greasy and thicker than cold honey) is placed on the end of a thin glass rod and then touched to the hot nail. The smoker inhales the instantly vaporized concentrate through the glass pipe — and gets seriously stoned.”

If this still has you confused, Vice has a great 10 minute introduction to butane hash oil. Very informative and succinct.

Pros: Dabbing is a strong, intense high that comes on about as fast as it gets. The waxy, honey-like substance is reported to have THC levels of around 70-90%, about 3 times as strong as premium weed strains, and 5-6 times as strong as the average Australia strains available in the blackmarket. Inhaling the oils is not thought by medical experts to be dangerous for the health, either, but rather similar to vaporizing cannabis herb.

Cons: As mentioned, consumption of these oils is a strong, intense high. If one dabbed one too many times in a single session, things may get uncomfortable – with reported anxiousness, paranoia and vomiting around inhaling too much of the stuff. Buying the extract is also expensive, as the extraction process takes time and money and drives up the cost. Many methods of consuming the oil can also be very dangerous. Butane, as you will probably already know, is extremely flammable and can leak unnoticed, potentially causing explosions if a single spark was to come into contact with it. Cannabis Culture did an article on accidents such a these.  Safer ways to consume BHO will surely arise, however, especially within a legal market that will push the demand for a stronger and purer high.

So that’s a wrap. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the many differing ways to consume marijuana and the many different buzzes you get from it. If you’d like to discuss anything with us or just simply voice your opinion, please comment below. Stay tuned for our next blog post.

Up In Smoke: Consumption Methods of Cannabis in a Legal Market (Pt.1)

I’ve met many folks over time that have tried cannabis and not liked it. There can be a plethora of reasons as to why, and many people are simply uncertain about being intoxicated by any substance, especially one with a stigma like marijuana. One common excuse I have heard though is that they like the feeling of being high, but not the actual smoking aspect of it, which for some can be unpleasant, especially if asthmatic (like myself) or not used to inhaling smoke. They either cough most of it out or ‘bum-puff’ and not feel the effects. I thought I would run through 3 ways (more in the next blog post) of consuming cannabis that would be possible within a legal market. They are still practiced in countries where it is prohibited on a federal level, but much less out in the open and tend to be in locations where high-grade medical marijuana is available and circulating (see California, Canada, parts of Europe).

A bong. Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons

 Smoking

The traditional, classic method also known as combustion. This method releases active substances so they can be inhaled through the lungs. Rolled in cigarette style with papers are known as ‘joints’ or ‘blunts’ for a fatter, cigar-like roll , but it can also be smoked through a water-pipe (bong) or standard pipe. Makeshift bongs are sometimes created through plastic bottles, garden hose and foil. A traditional ceramic bong is pictured to the left. Cannabis was consumed through inhaling by native cultures also, however generally through large quantities burnt on a fire.

Pros: Smoking is one of the most direct ways to get high. It is fast and efficient and does not use, especially through a bong or pipe, much cannabis. It is generally the preferred method because marijuana’s illegality means edibles and other forms aren’t readily available. Bongs can be purchased from nearly any tobacconist, as they are legally able to sell them due to it’s ability to have any herb smoke through it.

Cons: Smoking is not the healthiest method of consumption. Burning and inhaling any plant matter releases harmful carcinogens into the lungs that are best avoided. As mentioned above, though, in a illegal market – what choice do you have? Another con is that so many people can make their cannabis last, they ‘spin’ (mix) with another herb to draw it out. While there are many great herbs to use for this purpose, the most common is tobacco – an obviously harmful product that makes many users more dependent on their chop, especially when smoked through a bong as it is a harder hit.

 Edibles

Ever got the munchies during a session of smoking and thought wouldn’t it be great to have some food laced with cannabis so you can keep

Cannabis edibles in Amsterdam shop. Source: Wikimedia Commons

your stone going AND eat? If you didn’t know already, edible marijuana is available in many different forms in the legal and medical market. Some popular products are Kiva chocolate, Nugtella (yes, Nutella with THC in it, it exists) and many other baked goods.

Pros: No smoke! No scratchy throat and dry throat and harmful carcinogens through this route, just a simply tasty treat eaten like anything else. In a legal market, products also specify dosage as well, so it’s easy to keep track of how much Cannabis your actually consuming to know what your threshold is. THC is generally absorbed in butter first when these products are made, so many of the products are baked goods. However, in legal markets, these butters blocks are sold separately, so you can cook your own food. Endless possibilities!

Cons: Eating marijuana is a different high. It takes 1-2 hours to actually effect your system due to your body digesting it and breaking it down, which is annoying for those who want to feel it close to instantly.  When it does hit however, it can be quite stronger than a traditional high through smoking and is often described closer to a psychedelic feeling. Many in the illegal market who make their own brownies with THC/Hash butter often overdo it as they are unaware of how much THC is in the product and eat too much, only to have a strong, intense and potentially uncomfortable high an hour or so later. This could be avoided in a legal market however, as the general populace could be educated to pace themselves with edibles, and companies would need to include dosage on the packaging.

Drinks

Similar to edibles, the legal industry has allowed beverages to also enter the market. These include THC-based drinks such as the range Dixie Elixirs make, which are sugar-free soft-drink style beverages that contain 40mg of active cannabinoids in every bottle (355ml). Juices are also available with similar dosages. Although containing no THC and will not get you high, I found it useful to include that hemp is also used for health juices and energy drinks. Cannabis Energy Drink has dominated this industry, and uses hemp seed extract combined with caffeine and taurine for a “burst of energy”. Cannabis infused alcoholic liqueurs can also be made, but somehow that combo doesn’t sound too great. Indian communities also make a beverage known as ‘Thandai’ – ground cannabis bud and leaf into a paste that is mixed with milk, ghee (a form of butter) and spices.

Pros: THC-infused drinks work faster than edibles. Liquids are absorbed faster into the bloodstream as they do not have to go through the traditional digestive process that food does, resulting in probably the most efficient, non-inhalant form of consumption with rapid effects.

Cons: Sugar-free is is good, as many foods will contain unnecessary sugar and other unwanted attributes, especially if eating large amounts. However artifical sugar, preservatives, colours and other nasties may be lurking in the ingredients. Also, no-one likes to pee while stoned, but it’s a small sacrifice to make and personally I’d rather that than inhaling carcinogens on every toke.

So there you have it folks, three quite interesting ways to consume your bud. In a legal market, it would be interesting to see how much the prevalence of edibles and drinks would deconstruct stigmas around cannabis, and to see if there would still be people sticking to the ‘old school’ method of smoking. Through some quick research of Colorado and Washington in the US, it seems that smoking is still prevalent, as a medical marijuana licence is still required in some shops to buy edibles and food. With a growing industry just waiting to pounce on newly legalised countries, it could also be argued that the variety of ways to consume cannabis, coupled with the value of hemp, could make this a multi-million , if not billion, dollar plant. I will be covering more methods in the next blog post, so please feel free to comment below with any thoughts and suggestions and if these alternatives to smoking appeal to you, support legalisation!

Mythical Paths: Marijuana & The Gateway Theory

Although many myths surrounding marijuana have come to pass over time, one that has stuck and still tends to rear its ugly head in arguments against the drugs legalisation is the gateway theory. I have a distinct memory of high-school drug education is PE class; a flow chart diagram of marijuana being the first in a chain of drugs that included MDMA, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin/opiates.  The ‘theory’ (strangely enough, presented as fact), as explained by my teacher, clings to the notion that people who smoke cannabis will naturally be drawn to try the next, stronger high. Whether it be through a build up of tolerance or simple curiosity, marijuana is the catalyst to dangerous paths of addiction, given it is the first taste for many of a euphoric high. While there is a slew of things wrong with such a theory, I’d like to focus on a few in light of a recent blog post that critiques it, posted by the solid folks over at The Weed Blog.

Photo: Kill Your Darlings Journal

The article, written by Russ Belville, firstly argues that one of the main problems with the gateway theory is that works on principles of ‘selection bias’. Police enforcing the drug laws and health professionals who work with addicts are seeing worst-case scenarios on a daily basis; dependent drug users who if asked, will generally say the first ‘drug’ they tried was marijuana. In their eyes, these people often represent the drug-using community at large – a harsh generalisation any way you look at it. Gateway theory enthusiasts here would argue cannabis was the spark that started it all; an obvious cause of their spiral into addiction. The problem with this? Attributing a complex, often psychological, issue to one particular drug is flimsy at best, especially when alcohol and tobacco, legal and without stigma, are generally the first drugs (though often not thought of as drugs) tried by any given individual. A study of marijuana conducted by the Institute of Medicine consolidated this idea back in 1999, stating “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs… In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of legal age.”

And what about straight facts and statistics? If marijuana smokers are doomed to be driven as far as the high will take them, the numbers just don’t seem to add up. Belville uses US statistics in his article, but its also interesting to take a look at our own. Take heroin, for example – mostly seen as ‘the end of the line’, highest-of-highs, whatever phrase takes your fancy. 35.4 percent of Australians over 14 have tried cannabis in their lifetime, with 7.7 consuming it in the past 12 months.  As for heroin, only 1.4 percent of Aussies over 14 have tried it, 0.2% within the last 12 months. Such facts suggests that even if marijuana was the turning point, a baseless claim to begin with, it is a tiny percentage it effects, as many don’t even smoke marijuana again. Sure, this has been selective and reductionist in nature, but doesn’t that begin to show the flawed of theory in general? Yeah! Science!

Taking off from Beville’s post, I’d also  like to add a thought of my own here, as although I do not see any way to prove a gateway theory for any drug, I’m here to discuss it for arguments sake. Could not the gateway theory for marijuana not lie in how the public is educated out about the drug? We are told its bad whichever way you look at it, thrown some myths, and to avoid it and other drugs at all costs. However, when trying it, many realize its not so bad after all.  No vomiting, no hangover the next morning, no violent feelings and no urge to commit stupid acts or dial up the ex. Google is pulled up, some research starts to be done. We’ve been lied to this whole time? So what else are they lying about? Illegality suggests danger (yet ‘legal’ harmful synthetic substances are available currently) and this is where the problem starts to surface, also given that marijuana is sold only through a blackmarket, often in conjunction with other illegal, harder drugs.

What are your thoughts on the gateway theory? If you have any thoughts or experiences to share, please comment below.

Nature’s Perfect Plant: How Hemp Could Change Everything

While I’ve mainly touched upon the legalisation of Cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes (and I’ll continue to discuss that down the line), it seems a better time than any to discuss cannabis’ non-psychoactive brother in arms – hemp. Surprisingly so, many people I’ve had discussions about hemp with either (a) don’t know what it is, or (b) think it’s some kind of funky street name for cannabis. Strains of hemp that are grown most commonly contain no THC (and if they do, not enough to get you high), which means that while similar looking to marijuana plants, it is not cultivated for the same reasons. And what are reasons, you may ask? I’ve decided to go through and choose the best 5 out of the bunch, but if you think of anything else and want to discuss it, please comment below!

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Is hemp the key to reducing industrial damage to our planet? Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons 

  1. Food – are you vegan or aspiring towards it? Hemp milk has been on the market for quite some time, and is often said to have a nice/more defined taste to it that soy milk. Hemp grains, cereals, seeds and oils would also be greener alternatives to other foods common to many recipes. European companies have also been using hemp in production of beer. The seed itself also contains calcium and iron, so for those with meat removed from their diet – it would be a nutritious addition to many meals such as stir-frys and currys.  For further nutritional information on the hemp seed, have a browse here.
  2. Fibers/Clothing – Hemp has been used for centuries for its benefits as a strong, durable fiber. More widespread cultivation would see us relying less on cotton farming , which can be dangerous to both the environment and those working with it.  Chains such as Braintree Hemp, who have a shop in Newtown, have embraced hemp use for clothing, however increase in cultivation would see prices come down and establish hemp as an affordable alternative for clothing
  3. Paper – As with fibers and clothing, using hemp pulp to make paper has been around for quite some time (some of the first Bibles were printed using hemp paper). If the industry were to be embraced on a larger scale with a processing system superior to current models, hemp for use as paper would be a much more environmentally friendly (using less power and water to produce) and sustainable (hemp grows a lot faster and in larger numbers than wood) method. For more facts on hemp paper, this site is excellent.
  4. Building Materials – Yes, it’s a thing. ‘Hempcrete’ has come to be used in the construction of houses in recent times, through hemp/lime mixture to create blocks. As it is a plant-product, hempcrete can also absorb CO2 emissions and release oxygen, making it an environmentally friendly option that both regulates moisture and insulates the house. The only problem is here is hempcrete is weaker than traditional concrete, so must be supported by a  frame (steel, wood etc). Hemp fibers, as mentioned above are strong and durable, so make a good alternative to wood. Some examples of this are included on the Hemp wiki page.
  5. Fuel – Hemp seeds and stalks can be processed into biofuel. The only issue with this is that it can only be used to power diesel engines. In any case, though, it once again provides an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petrol. The downside? It isn’t wholly sustainable. Converting the actual plant material into biofuel is a process with small yield – perhaps not enough to meet demand. Some argue, however, it should be seen as a transitional fuel until something sustainable and environmentally friendly is discovered.

So there you have it, folks. There are some great ways to use hemp for industrial purposes, and the reduced impact on the environment comes as a bonus. The issue here is that hemp production is conditional, based on approval through licenses in some countries, or in others, such as US, hemp production is illegal completely. There are currently too many hurdles, and a stigma attached to it due to its relation to marijuana, for it to become accepted and mainstream, however complete legalisation of both cannabis and hemp around the world could revolutionize certain industries given a larger scale would see more effective methods of processing the plant. What do you think about hemp use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Cannabis Outside The Blackmarket: How Would It Work?

Throughout my research among the pro-cannabis community, I found a recent article that I believe is very pertinent to looking at how certain facets of society would change if cannabis were legalised. These aren’t, perhaps, as drastic as one would think, however the ideas posed in the article, which I will summarise below, run against stereotypes that people who want marijuana legalised haven’t thought through the complications of it.

The first of these notions that is mentioned in this article, published on The Weed Blog by regular contributor Johnny Green, is that there would need to be a more streamlined way to get licences to sell  cannabis itself, a process that would need to be accommodating to allow for diversity within the establishments that wanted to sell. This would work in a similar sense to how alcohol has been served in public places. Smoking marijuana, as Green argues, can be as social a practice as drinking, and would be a popular choice for a night out for those so inclined. A pub on every corner, a weed cafe on the next; the idea is that small business can flourish on a local level, while also allowing for specialty establishments to crop up (they may sell special strains, offer special foods etc). Green further argues that with alcohol, 40% of annual sales (an absurd amount in $$) in the US is generated from on premises-consumption, and of course, people are always willing to pay more for the convenience.

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The Netherlands has long reaped the benefits of marijuana legalisation and small business. Photo source: free photo on openphoto.net

The second major point he raises is that, given our ubiquitous presence on the web, an online system could be used for licensed vendors that deliver to ‘verified’ (18+) customers. The package would need to be signed for by an adult, and this once again allows smaller operations to surface who may not be able to afford the upkeep of a proper public establishment. While such a service would only be for residents, the public establishments mentioned above would be excellent, as green mentions, for tourism – further injecting more money into the economy.

So how does this effect the blackmarket? Well, it’s simple and common-sense, the more available cannabis is through online vendors, dispensaries and public houses, the less of a demand there will be. Unless there would be a significant difference of price for blackmarket cannabis, it would likely vanish all together. Such competitiveness seems unlikely, as according to submission on The Price Of Weed, medium grade ounces are selling for as low as $50 in Colorado, who have legalised the drug, as opposed to Sydney, where an ounce of medium grade can cost up to $250.

What the average person doesn’t realise here is that cannabis for consumption is not the only market that could be tapped into upon legalisation. I’ll be expanding on this a little more down the line, but for now, type in ‘uses of hemp’ to get you started, and while you’re there read Green’s full article on this subject.

 

 

 

 

 

A Myth In Deconstruction: Is Cannabis bad for your health?

In a world that is progressively concerned with science and prevention of diseases and other illnesses, the role of drugs has become ever more crucial. What is interesting, however, are the ‘facts’ that become pertinent to popular belief; glorified myths, if you will, of certain drugs and their effect both on the physical and mental health of the human being. Many of us are happy, when not feeling the best, to go to the doctor and get a prescription of a pill even your GP can’t pronounce the name of and guzzle 2 down with a Mountain Dew, often oblivious to the laundry list of side effects printed in size 6 font on the back of the box. Doctors orders, right? Trust in the doctor is essential here, and that’s perfectly fine. But what about illegal drugs? There are some studies for them, but their illicit nature proves a hurdle in keeping these constant, so what remains is myths and heresay as to the effects of the drug and its impact on health.

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Doctors hold the key to changing opinions on the health risk of cannabis. Source: free photo on openphoto.net

Cannabis is one of these drugs, and has more myths tied to it arguably than any other given it is        often the most widely used illegal drug in any given country (A 2007 study showed 10% of the       Australian population had smoked cannabis in the past year). Many people I have spoken to hold  the belief that cannabis has been scientifically proven to be bad for your health, is addictive or is a  lot stronger today and therefore more harmful. For those so inclined to believe such propaganda  that was put forth by the US Government in the 1960’s and 70’s and has unfortunately stuck, this  article is a short read and a great start for you. For those of you who want something a little more  recent, the internet was flooded yesterday with articles relating to a new study regarding cannabis  use that thankfully, just gives us the facts.

The study, which was a combination of efforts by the Boston University School of Medicine and  researchers at the Boston Medical Center, honed in on 589 adults who were positively identified as  having used recreational drugs in routine checkups. The research found that 84% had used  marijuana recently, 58% of which used marijuana and no other drugs. It was ideal to know other  drugs in the mix here, as researchers did not want to blame health effects on one specific drug if it  had been take in conjunction with others. What was found, however, says head author Daniel  Fuster, MD, is that “our findings suggest that marijuana use has little measurable effect on self- reported health or healthcare utilization”. This also documented the frequency of use, which did  not change the facts presented.

Such evidence produced here is positive and a step in the direction of raising awareness around the issue of cannabis as an illegal drug. The fact that alcohol and cigarettes remain legal despite the constant reporting of their detrimental effects to health and well-being means that more research needs to be done to consolidate the case and change popular opinion around the drug. For recreational users, this is something solid to go off, though it would be interesting to see a study where cannabis users are compared against those that abstain from any recreational drugs.