As 2020 has shaped itself into one of the weirdest years in our history as human beings, many things have changed. One of those changes is that, for the first time ever, cannabis became essential. Any state that had a medical or adult use program deemed the workers of the cannabis industry to be just as essential as grocery workers and restaurants. This came as a shock to some, but to all the patients and consumers nationwide, they were able to let out a sigh of relief and “it’s about time!”
According to the most recent Gallup poll, two thirds of Americans have shown support for adult use legalization. This is the most support cannabis legalization has ever had. The growth of the industry remains steadfast, and while becoming a part of this new industry may not be as easy as it once was, its growth potential is limitless. GRAM wanted to close this year by sitting down with Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). NORML is a grassroots organization that is celebrating 50 years of pushing cannabis reform.
50 years ago, a younger Keith never saw cannabis becoming his life’s work but now, in 2020, he can be proud of how far we have come. “I didn’t think it would take this long,” Keith tells GRAM. But as the political climate feels like one continuous hurricane, more and more states are still trying to create medical cannabis and adult use laws. On the ballot for November 2020 – South Dakota, New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana are all trying to legalize adult use cannabis, and Mississippi and South Dakota have medical cannabis on the ballot.
It’s not just at the state level, Congress is seeing a record number of bills in regards to cannabis. In our conversation with Keith, we learned that there were more than 30 bills in regards to cannabis introduced for this session, and he reminds us, “of course those will all go away, and we will have to start new again next year, and that is exactly what we will do.” We also learned a bit about the MORE Act, introduced by Senator Kamala Harris. According to Keith, “The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.” That is something that is long overdue.
By removing cannabis from the CSA, scientists would be able to research the plant here in the United States using human participants, not just lab rats. This would provide more inclusive data to be used on cannabis patients.
Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 or theMORE Act of 2019.(Introduced in Senate 7/23/19). This bill decriminalizes marijuana.
Specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.
The bill also makes other changes, including the following:
- Replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees
- Establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs
- Imposes a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund
- Makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers
- Prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions
- Prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction)
- Establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
Policy is not the only thing that has changed in 2020. The cannabis industry as a whole has made some interesting transitions as a result of the pandemic.
“If people are looking to find a niche in this industry, it’s not as easy now as it would have been a year ago. This is because it’s hard to travel, everyone is in a mask, in some places people are still under quarantine and afraid to leave their homes to go to the dispensary. But then on the other hand, we have record sales numbers coming out of every dispensary, and that’s not just for one state, it’s for all of them!” Keith explains.
Since the only constant is change and the cannabis industry changes daily, we asked Keith what the best plan of attack should be for those of us at home, feeling helpless, unable to go to our state Capitol’s to lobby, no town hall meetings to attend; what can we do? “It all starts at the state level,” Keith explained. “We will take care of the Federal level within a year or two. That sort of has to be done with lobbyists in Washington D.C. anyways. Of course, we encourage the folks at home to write to their legislators, and we make it easy for them to do so via our website www.norml.org.
A problem we have seen nationwide is the lack of one concise plan to follow when it comes to crafting laws for both medical and adult use programs. “That is why work being done at the state level is so important,” says Keith. “There are states that have set great examples, Colorado being one of them, but there are still no set standards for anyone to follow. One thing I feel makes a lot of sense is to not limit the number of licenses, let the free market determine that. As long as people have the money to start a new business, and they have the ability to apply for a license, then they should do so. Not everyone that applies will pass, some, of course, will fail to meet the requirements.”
“The thing we have to keep in mind is, states like Colorado have already demonstrated that the sky did not fall when legalization takes place. It proved all of the original theories of naysayers wrong when the amount of DUID accidents and deaths did not skyrocket, and the predicted spike in youth usage never happened; it showed the rest of the country what is possible,” said Keith. As new states pass regulations, they have an opportunity to add things to their laws from the beginning that places like Colorado are still working on. One of the biggest issues states are dealing with that have medical and adult use programs is employer rights.
According to Keith, “What our focus needs to be now is a valid test to measure impairment, not the presence of THC, actual impairment. We need this so we don’t discriminate against people unnecessarily. No one should lose their job because they have THC in their system. If the person is in an impaired condition, then fine, then of course disciplinary action should be taken. Employees should already know that they should not go to work drunk or stoned, or impaired in any way.” As companies continue to change their drug testing policies and more states continue to legalize, it is this writer’s hope that states can adopt measures to use a company like Predictive Safety. They have been working on an application for active impairment for a few years now and several businesses have begun using their platform to measure impairment.
A workplace drug testing bill would be a good kind of change that the cannabis industry truly needs. Another change that is long overdue and desperately needed is records need to be expunged. Something that is bringing more awareness to this than ever is the Black Lives Matter movement that is currently taking place. “The movement has focused attention on the fact that the black community has paid a higher price than any other community for marijuana prohibition. Expungement is the most basic of steps. There are other policies that are important such as creating space for licenses to be received by the communities most affected by prohibition. They deserve a space in this industry,” says Keith.
If cannabis policy and making a difference is something you feel passionate about, you should see if there is a NORML chapter near you and get involved. Anyone can change and inspire others to do so too.
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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits.
Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”
The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.
Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms
When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites.
How are Magic Mushrooms used?
Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.
Research on Mushrooms
Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”
Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.
Best way for people to consume?
When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available.
“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.”
My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.