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.

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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.

Do You Even Spliff? Marijuana and Weight-Loss

It’s no secret that gym culture has taken a steady rise in popularity in the last few years. Fitness has, of course, always been a concern to the public at large, but the proliferation of 24 hour gyms and new and emerging supplements and diets are making the idea, for some, more appealing. But what if you could ditch the cardio and infomercial diet scams and trade them in for a toke of a joint a few times a week?

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Could weed be the key to a slimmer wasitline?
Photo source: Free image on openphoto.ent

A study conducted earlier in the year by GW Pharmaceuticals discovered that two compounds found in the cannabis plant, THCV and cannabidol, can increase the speed fat stored in the body is lost, keep cholesterol levels at bay and improve metabolism rates. The study arose in light of data collected by The American Journal of Medicine back in May that gathered statistically, among their test subjects of 5000 people, those who smoked marijuana were leaner than abstainers. Particularly pertinent, perhaps, when 63.7 of the Australian population is overweight

Such research, although intriguing, needs to be furthered by other organisations; a difficult process given that the drug is illegal in most countries across the world. Smoking cannabis is also, as many health professionals would argue, not an effective delivery method for the drug, as smoking any plant matter fills your lungs with unnecessary and harmful carcinogens. In any case, these studies do effectively further reveal that cannabis has medicinal value; a radical concept in comparison to scientific and political mindframes 30-40 years ago  In order to open up the possibilities of how it can be administered, which can include pill form, or healthy edible products, legalization, at least for medicinal purposes, is a must.

What is your stance on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes?

Share your thoughts in a comment below