Mental Health and Cannabis: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Scores of people use cannabis to treat their mental health conditions, whether using a state-approved ID or by self-medicating on the illicit market. A lack of conclusive data remains due to federal restrictions, limiting understanding the plant’s true efficacy. People in need aren’t waiting for that day to come. Instead, they are going off anecdotal evidence and the available scientific data to justify their self-medicated treatment plans.

We’ve come to find out that many of these cannabis-based regimens have alleviated symptoms in several health conditions. However, in some, cannabis could prove to be either ineffective and even detrimental to the person’s well-being.

For this series, I spoke with medical professionals and those suffering from mental health conditions to better understand how cannabis plays a part in people’s treatment. While this won’t provide the conclusive data the market needs, it will hopefully shine a more focused light on how cannabis affects people and their conditions.

In this edition, I explore Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

The Science

The public has noticed PTSD more in recent years thanks to an increased awareness by returning veterans and trauma survivors. Today, we are more knowledgeable of the condition that has common symptoms such as flashbacks, hyper-alertness, avoiding people and places, negative thoughts and a heightened flight or fight response.

Col. Dr. Philip Blair is a family physician. He is also a consultant in disease management as well as the medical director of Pro Health Advisor and the CBD brand Elixinol. Dr. Blair is also a graduate of West Point’s 1972 class. He noted that with PTSD, scientific evidence shows that there is an imbalance in cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This includes a 2013 New York University study that discovered a connection between cannabinoid quantities and PTSD.

While the first study to examine the clinical benefits of CBD for PTSD patients began in May 2019, many doctors warmed to cannabis as a treatment option years ago. That includes Col. Dr. Blair.

For the past five years, Blair has helped patients with PTSD using organic hemp-derived CBD. “I’ve seen some stunning results,” he said. “I’ve conducted pre-clinical trials with veterans with PTSD with cannabidiol, and in many cases, within a week of including CBD oil as part of a daily routine, participants reported sleeping through the night, reduced anxiety, and feeling calm and peaceful.”

Dr. Mandeep Singh is a psychiatrist at the Apollo Cannabis Clinics in Toronto. He has over a decade of experience treating veterans, first responders, and civilians. He elaborated on the condition. “PTSD involves changes in the pathophysiology of the brain as well as dysregulation of neurotransmitters which the endocannabinoid system can play a role in,” he explained in an email. He also noted how medical cannabis can stimulate this system, alleviating many of the symptoms of PTSD.

For the past three years, Dr. Singh has utilized cannabis as a treatment option. “I have seen great results in terms of controlling PTSD symptoms when regular pharmaceutical medications were not improving their symptoms and were causing negative side effects,” said Dr. Singh.

With PTSD patients, Dr. Singh says medical cannabis use is encouraged when traditional treatment options like when selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics and sedative medications, for example, do not work. Even when these medications work, they can have significant side effects.       

“In the veteran population specifically, some of these patients may have tried 10 or more medications and be on a combination of pharmaceuticals. With medical cannabis, I see veterans reducing their pharmaceuticals, sometimes even able to eliminate them, because of their medical cannabis use,” noted Dr. Singh. He added that cannabis can also help PTSD patients connect with their emotions, which can help the therapeutic process.

The First-Hand Accounts

The effects of PTSD are hellish on its patients, often depriving them of sleep, the ability to work, manage pain, or live a life without anxiety. In many cases, it has driven people to take their own lives. With people seeking solutions, cannabis has become one of the preferred treatment options.

The Veteran Farmer is an organization that grows and consults in Canada’s medical cannabis space. Founder Lloyd Farmer compiled answers from several veterans who gave their permission to share their experiences for this story. Each set of answers appeared to mirror the other. Combat and several deployments led to the previously mentioned pains that come from PTSD. Each veteran opted to use cannabis to address their pain.

One unnamed person detailed how cannabis changed their life. “I went from six or seven pills a day [multiple doses] to no pills,” they wrote. Another anonymous veteran wrote, “I will never go back to pharmaceutical meds again.”

The group appeared to show no regret in their cannabis use. When asked if they had the option, would a veteran choose marijuana as a treatment option again? One person wrote: “I wouldn’t wait as long before trying it.”

In the United States, former Green Beret Adam Smith has taken up a similar mission to help Veterans and first responders. The 17-year veteran has never been officially diagnosed with PTSD but wrote via email he experiences all the symptoms. Smith used cannabis to self-medicate. This includes during a 2015 bicycle ride he was doing with a friend and fellow PTSD patient to raise awareness for the condition.

“During that trip, it was the first time that my counterpart and I were completely disconnected from the military and were in a state where we could try cannabis to treat symptoms,” described Smith. “We went to a dispensary and bought cannabis legally. The effects were absolutely astounding.” He reported experiencing a pleasant sleep, no anxiety and the ability to process information slowly.

Smith found himself in a state with no cannabis allowance after his ride completed. He stopped using marijuana and was without any medication. Smith turned to alcohol to sleep, and in order not to feel. He couldn’t find work and attempted to take his own life. This was the lowest point, Smith recalled.

Eventually, he turned a corner and began to feel better. “Once I had a new mission brought forward, a way to provide for my family, and serve a purpose, I began to find light. Once CBD became legal, I immediately began using it. It increased my clarity 10x and ability to speed my recovery.”

Today, Smith works as an advisor to the R&D company Allied Corp., which focuses on creating cannabis health solutions for veterans with PTSD.

Zoey Bullock, also known as Betty Chronix, experienced PTSD at a young age after being raped when she was 12. She explained the ordeal of having to locate her attackers with police and the impact of having a parent with alcoholism.

She turned to cannabis for treatment at a young age. “Not long after going through trauma, my friends from the neighborhood introduced me to cannabis,” she explained. “The doctors had me on a number of medications that made me even more depressed to the point where I would cry my eyes out unbearably. Cannabis was the only thing that gave me relief to be able to cope with my symptoms.”

The following years would be a combination of psychiatrist visits and multiple antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, which she said did not work. At 14, she attempted to take her own life. By the time she graduated high school, she was working two jobs, living on her own, putting herself through college, graduating with an MBA and a 3.97 GPA. She also quit her medications cold turkey.

Today, the 26-year-old mother of two is a global cannabis strategist and has a medical recommendation she uses to manage anxiety and other symptoms. “[Cannabis] will almost immediately help to calm down my panic attacks and flashbacks,” she added.

What to Keep in Mind About Cannabis and PTSD

Cannabis can prove itself to be part of a viable treatment option for PTSD sufferers in some cases. Dr. Singh pointed out how it can serve as an adjunct treatment option in addition to pharmaceuticals as well as psychotherapy and social support. He reiterated how it can be a good option for those who failed pharmaceutical therapy for a number of reasons. That said, each case is different. “All factors that have to be considered as the goal is improving the quality of life with this disabling condition.”

Today, scores of trauma sufferers have turned to, or are considering, cannabis. While medical professionals recommend medication remain in treatment plans, some patients have made the choice to cut them out altogether. Whether this choice is effective or not may come down to the feedback the patient provides.

“I wish I had the choice when I was a young teenager for cannabis to be a medical treatment option,” explained Bullock. “It really has been the only thing to give me hope for healing from PTSD.”

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140 People Scheduled to Testify on First Day of FDA Hearings on CBD

When the word dropped that the federal government was interested in knowing our conclusions on CBD, it seems to have spurred a wave of action. 140 people are signed up to testify at tomorrow’s public hearing in Silver Spring, Maryland, where agency representatives will consider testimony on the use and utilization of the drug.

Topics that may be covered include potency levels, potential drug interactions, and delivery method for CBD products. The agency selected speakers among respondents to its open call for comment. Attendees of the upcoming meeting will hear the opinions of individuals from the business community as well as medical professional, academics, agriculturists, and consumer advocates.

Perhaps, given the expansion of the CBD industry as of late, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of people who want to weigh in on the future of products made with the cannabinoid in the United States. Confusion has reigned ever since CBD was effectively legalized by the U.S. Farm Bill, which okayed production of the hemp from which the cannabinoid is derived.

Even so, many states continue to arrest people for CBD sales and possession. Several high profile cases of arrest have gotten media coverage recently, including a small town Louisiana shop owner and a great-grandmother who made the mistake of visiting Disney World with a bottle of oil in her purse. In New York, the Health Department has cautioned restaurants known to be selling edible products that have been infused with the cannabinoid.

Current estimates for the CBD industry’s growth are quite massive — one firm says sales could soar to $22 billion within the US by 2022.

There are currently 17 states that have laws that explicitly allow some usages of CBD. But at the moment, many of those involved in recommending, consuming, and distributing the product face some potential repercussions from state and/or federal agencies, while the substance’s exact authorization from the FDA remains in doubt.

So the question that the public has asked to weigh in on — the fine points of how CBD should be bought and sold in the country — is not inconsequential.

The agency has warned companies that CBD is not currently legal to add to food, drinks, or supplements. This spring, the FDA sent out warning shots to three companies in violation of current CBD guidelines; New Jersey’s Advanced Spine and Pain LLC, Washington’s Nutra Pure LLC, and Florida’s PotNetwork Holdings Inc. The warnings were based on unsubstantiated health claims that the brands had been making. It was far from the first time the agency had made such a move, but perhaps the most well-known incident since federal hemp legalization.

The agency’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb put together a working group this spring to examine the issue, including potential for liver damage.

One potential approach is that of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which has presented to the FDA that CBD regulations run similar to the dosage guidelines used for Vitamin C.

But should the issue prove to be beyond the arbitrating capacities of agency officials, there is a Plan B — they can simply punt the issue back to Congress to be hashed out there.

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[UPDATED] New Jersey Senate Expected to Vote on Medical Cannabis Expansion Today

Updated (May 30th, 2019):

The New Jersey Senate voted in favor of the bill, with a tally of 33-4. The measure now heads to Governor Murphy’s desk.


2019 has been an up and down year for cannabis law in New Jersey. With lawmakers considering new legislation on both the recreational and medical fronts, cannabis has received a fair amount of attention.

Now, the state Senate is expected to vote today on a new medical marijuana bill. If the bill eventually passes into law, it would significantly expand the size and scope of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

New Jersey’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Expansion

The new bill features several provisions that would all add to a rapid expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program.

For starters, the new bill would scale up the number of medical marijuana providers in the state. Currently, there are six growers/dispensaries licensed in New Jersey. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health reportedly approved six more providers. So far, however, licenses have not yet been granted.

If the state’s medical marijuana expansion bill passes, it would bump up the number of licenses. Specifically, the bill seeks to set a cap of 23 licensed growers in the state. Additionally, the state has set the goal of having 30 percent of all licenses go to women, minority, and veteran-owned marijuana companies.

Along with increasing the number of providers, the new bill would also allow for home deliveries. And it would also make it possible for patients to consume medical marijuana in designated areas inside dispensaries.

Additionally, the bill calls for the creation of a new independent commission to oversee the state’s medical marijuana program. Currently, the state Health Department handles that work.

And finally, the new bill would gradually phase out the state’s 6.625% marijuana sales tax.

What’s Next for the Bill?

Although the Senate is expected to vote on the bill today, it is unclear what the bill’s future might look like. That’s largely because of the uncertainty over whether or not Governor Phil Murphy would sign the bill.

As reported by, sources close to the governor said he does not fully support the bill as it is currently written. In particular, he reportedly has issues with the bill’s proposed independent commission and the number of licenses it proposes to issue.

As a result of all this, there is speculation that Gov. Murphy might partially veto the bill if it arrives on his desk. As per, the governor may favor a route that would more directly expand access to cannabis under the purview of the governor’s office.

Cannabis Laws in New Jersey

Today’s vote would be the latest step in what has been an active year for cannabis law in New Jersey.

Earlier this year, it looked like a bill to legalize recreational cannabis was picking up momentum. Among other encouraging signs, Gov. Murphy has long advocated for legalization.

But progress stalled in March. That month, lawmakers canceled a vote on legalization because it was unclear if there was enough of a majority for the bill to win.

Then, earlier this month, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said that lawmakers were dropping any attempt to legalize recreational weed. Instead, he said, they would leave it up to voters in 2020.

But in the meantime, pro-cannabis lawmakers said they would focus on efforts to grow the state’s medical marijuana program instead.

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Illinois Senate Approves Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization Bill

Illinois cannabis advocates have been eagerly awaiting a recreational regulation bill forecasted by the governor and last night, they got the forward movement they craved. On Wednesday, the state’s Senate passed a bill legalizing a regulated cannabis industry, along with consumption, possession, and sale for residents 21 years and older.

The plan, which will now go to the House for approval, was part of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s campaign promises. At the start of the month, the politician told the press that he was deep into negotiations with other policy makers about the form that legalization would assume.

Unsurprisingly, Pritzker seemed thrilled to see the momentum gaining for his marijuana master plan. “Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote,” he tweeted after news went out of the senators’ affirmative decision.

Text of the bill contains instructions for a social equity program that will prioritize industry leadership by people from communities that have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. The bill also features language prioritizing pardons for people who were targeted by the War on Drugs, which was among the issues that raised red flags for Republicans regarding the legislation, but whose social justice aspect was a stated priority of Pritzker. Language around the issue was toned down to insure that it had the necessary number of votes to clear the Senate vote.

The governor’s office says that past offenses of up to 30 grams will be eligible for expungement, if the crimes were not associated with violence. The Prisoner Review Board will be recommending to the governor whether pardons should be issued. Those with past offenses that involve possession of quantities over 500 grams will require an official petition by the individual or their attorney.

The legislation would make it legal to possess 30 grams of flower, five grams of concentrate, or cannabis products containing 500 milligrams of THC. Separate limits are established for visitors who are not official state residents, like a 15 gram cap on flower possession.

Approval of the bill largely fell along party lines. Senator Jason Barickman was one of only three Republicans that okayed the measure, commenting that he thought the bill met “the primary role of government … to adopt safeguards to protect minors and safeguards to protect the public when an individual’s use puts others in harm’s way.” He also said that he saw marijuana use as “largely a personal choice.”

One issue that reportedly delayed the approval of the legislation was senators’ concerns over whether individuals should be allowed to grow cannabis in their homes — an issue that has seen very diverse resolution in the states that have thus far legalized recreational cannabis. In Illinois, the senators’ answer was to authorize five at-home plants for the state’s 65,000 medical marijuana patients, but not for recreational users.

That’s not the only notable restriction in the legislation. There would be a “zero tolerance” policy for marijuana in the workplace, and the Illinois State Police will be in charge of examining ways to institute DUI laws for cannabis users.

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Illinois Senate Passes Bill To Legalize Adult Use Cannabis

Illinois lawmakers came one step closer to legalizing adult use cannabis this week. The Illinois Senate voted 38-17 to pass HB 1438, which is now headed to the House for a vote. Sponsors of the bill, Senator Heather Steans (Chicago-D) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (Chicago-D), along with Governor J.B. Pritzker, have been viewed as the architects of this piece of legislation.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker

This is not the first time that Democrats in the Illinois legislature have attempted to legalize adult use cannabis. Back in 2017, state Representative Kelly Cassidy and state Senator Heather Steans, the two lawmakers sponsoring this bill, sponsored a legalization bill that failed to garner support.

Governor Pritzker, who campaigned on cannabis legalization, has been vocal about his support to push this bill through the legislature. Back in January, the sponsors of the bill announced their plans with the bill, backed with full support from the Governor’s office. Then in early May, the coalition announced the formal introduction of the bill.

It is clear that Illinois is excited about cannabis, including the less-than-0.3%-THC variety, or legal hemp under the Farm Bill. Within two days of announcing the opening of license applications for growing hemp, the Illinois Department of Agriculture received roughly 350 applications.

Regarding the bill that just cleared the Senate, one particularly contentious issue raised was the allowance for “home grow.” The Senate approved the bill after a provision was added allowing just medical cannabis patients to grow their own, not everyone.

If this bill manages to pass through the House, Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill immediately. The bill would legalize and regulate sales of cannabis and cannabis products on January 1, 2020.

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Arizona To Implement Mandatory Lab Testing

Good news came to patients using medical cannabis in Arizona earlier this week: Lawmakers in Arizona unanimously passed SB1494 through the state’s House and Senate, the bill requiring mandatory lab testing for medical cannabis products. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign the bill and has ten days to do so.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

When Governor Ducey signs the bill into law it will mark the first time since the state legalized medical cannabis in 2011 that a measure to protect patient safety via lab testing will be implemented. According to the bill, beginning November 1, 2020, all cannabis products shall be tested prior to sales “to determine unsafe levels of microbial contamination, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators and residual solvents and confirm the potency of the marijuana to be dispensed,” (Page 6, Section 36-2803).

The bill requires dispensaries to provide test results to patients immediately upon request. Dispensaries need to display a sign notifying patients of their right to see “certified independent third-party laboratory test results for marijuana and marijuana products for medical use,” according to the text of the bill (Page 7, Section 36-2803.01).“There will have to be some serious planning, but other states have achieved this and we can too.”

Under the new bill, the Arizona Department of Health Services will adopt rules to certify and regulate labs, establishing requirements like health and safety protocols, mandatory quality assurance program and standards, chain of custody and sampling policies, adequate records, accreditation, proficiency testing, among other requirements (Page 6-7, Section 36-2803).

Ryan Treacy, co-founder of the Arizona Cannabis Laboratory Association (ACLA) and CEO/Founder of C4 Laboratories, says this is a major turning point for Arizona’s cannabis industry. “We have been devoid of regulations with regard to testing the entirety of the program since it was legalized; This will be a significant change,” says Treacy. “Now patients can make sure they are getting a safe and clean product and getting exactly what they paid for.”

For those in the know when it comes to cannabis testing in the United States, the new requirements will look very similar to other states with testing requirements. One particularly unique aspect of the new program, however, is the establishment of a “Medical Marijuana Testing Advisory Council,” made up of stakeholders representing different interests in Arizona’s cannabis industry. Members of the council will include representatives from dispensaries, labs, cultivators, concentrate producers, edibles producers, as well as registered patients, caregivers, a representative from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, a licensed health care provider and “any other members deemed necessary by the director,” reads the text of the bill (page 16, Section 36-2821).

Ryan Tracy, co-founder of the ACLA and founder/CEO at C4 Labs.

“Other states like California have complained about detection limits, while Arizona is taking a unique approach with an advisory council with stakeholders in the cannabis industry,” says Treacy. “So that when the Department of Health Services promulgates rules, they are taking into account the challenges in the cannabis industry specifically. We have a chance to do this right and avoid pitfalls we’ve seen in other states.”

One problem worth mentioning for Arizona’s cannabis industry: Dispensaries have not been required to test products for patients since medical cannabis was legalized back in 2011. That means many producers could be very used to operating procedures that don’t account for lab testing. With mandatory lab testing, some producers may be behind the curve when it comes to mitigating contamination.

According to Treacy, this could disrupt the supply chain a little bit. “When testing becomes mandatory in November 2020, dispensaries will need a full panel of tests performed on their samples,” says Treacy. “With the entire market now required to complete a full panel in depth analysis on each product, product testing will become a more time-consuming stop in the supply chain. So companies will need to work that into their plan to meet regulation requirements to prevent a bottleneck and maintain patients’ access to their cannabis medicine.”

Arizona has a chance to prevent that type of bottleneck seen in states that implemented testing requirements, like California for example. “When you have a habitual history of not testing products, it can be very hard to change, which adds to Arizona’s challenges,” says Treacy. “We need to make sure this does not affect access for patients and the ability of the industry to continue to flourish and grow.”

While Treacy thinks the transition will be difficult for some, it’s absolutely necessary for Arizona’s patients to access clean and safe medicine. “There will have to be some serious planning, but other states have achieved this and we can too.”

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Woodstock Wasn’t The Beginning: A Brief History of Music Festivals

Humans are born alone, but we get together to listen to music and party. You might even say that the history of humans is the history of music and festivals. Parties have been popping long before Coachella’s lineup was announced because we’re social creatures and even the most introverted people still get FOMO. Throughout history, people all over the world have been getting together to play music and rage like college sophomores at festivals.

We have early proof of festival and party culture thanks to something that makes every party special: the music. Before humans ever settled into farming around 6,000 years ago, when we still were migratory hunters and gatherers, people were already getting together in sacred places to eat, paint, and have jam seshes. Hunting and gathering required teamwork and planning, so early humans were already getting together to create surpluses of food, which allowed for leisure time and creative expression like music and cave paintings.

Translation: even cavemen were working for the weekend.

Paleolithic flute; Wikimedia Commons

Most importantly, the archaeological record shows that paleolithic humans were enjoying crunchy beats at least 35,000 years ago. In modern Germany, flutes have been discovered in regions where people were gathering to paint caves of animals and carve small female forms. The weather wasn’t the only thing that made the Ice Age pretty cool.

When people began farming, civilizations formed along with a new reason to party: the harvest. Harvests allowed humans to enjoy the fruits of their labor with bountiful food for feasts. Learning how to garden also gave party people nature’s greatest gift—hemp—along with grains and grapes, which people quickly figured out how to ferment into beer and wine. The word festival actually comes from the Latin festum or feast. These early civilizations even had music. Ancient groups celebrating with weed, beer, wine, and music can’t have been too far off from our modern festivals. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine has been dated to 7000 BCE in China, and beer has been dated at archaeological sites to 11000 BCE in Israel. Hemp and marijuana have been grown and utilized for millenia. These early festivals often had the same ethos as Woodstock and Coachella. Take Mehregan, for example. It was a Zoroastrian festival in 5th century BCE in ancient Persia that celebrated friendship, love, and affection.

The first recorded contemporary-style festival took place in ancient Greece. Every four years, the Greeks held athletic and artistic competitions at the Pythian Games (a precursor to the original Olympics). Musicians would play stringed instruments like the cithara (which is where we get the word guitar) and aulos (an ancient pipe), and the best players were rewarded with a crown of laurels not unlike the flower crowns that have become compulsory at Coachella. Cities would send their best to compete, and people from all around the Greek world would travel to see the festivities.

A Bacchanalian Revel before a statue of Pan; Nicolas Poussin

While the Pythia (in whose honor the games were held) was not a teetotaler, the festival itself lacked the more recreational aspects we seek at modern festivals. However, the ancient Greeks were also known to party in other ways. And, while the Greeks may not have invented drug-fueled ragers, they may have perfected them as an art. Some Greeks and Romans worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine and partying, whose followers would congregate, get wasted, and have group sex. These followers would get so high they would become enthusiastic the Greek word for “possessed by god.” Allegedly, these parties (called bacchanalia) were originally women-only orgies, but later versions were open to everyone from every social class.

Around the world, it is common for festivals to take place around the winter and summer solstices and fall and spring equinoxes. Saturnalia (the pagan version of Christmas) was an all-out rager where slaves and masters traded  places, exchanged gifts, and had sex with everybody. Or, as the Roman poet Catullus said of Saturnalia. “the festival day of Saturnalia, the best of days!”

Steven Gerner/ Flickr

In India, the Holi festival occurs around the spring equinox and celebrates color, love, and forgiveness. Like many spring festivals, it asks us to celebrate the new spring and to forgive and forget the past. Holi is also known for its dramatic throwing of colored pigments into the air. And, of course, some groups celebrating Holi consume bhang, an powdered form of cannabis put in drinks or on food. A celebrant of Holi stated to a Western researcher: “Holi, he said with a beatific sigh, is the Festival of Love!”

In fall, many east-Asian countries celebrate the Mid-Autumn or Harvest Festival (中秋節 Zhōngqiū Jié in Chinese) where attendees worship the harvest moon, light lanterns, and celebrate marriages. Mooncakes, a special sweet pastry, are eaten in celebration of the harvest moon and autumn’s bounty.

Hodaka Kato

What are the equinoxes and solstices? I’d be remiss if I didn’t mark a day or two on the calendar. You may think the calendar is just an ever-shortening stack of daily jokes on your desk at work, but it is actually an ancient calculation (later updated in modern times) of the earth’s wobbly trip around the sun. The four seasons are defined by the earth’s tilt and we often celebrate festivals when the earth is balanced or fully tilted. We live our ordinary lives most days of the year, working and wobbling through weeks and months. It is on special days, the days when the earth’s tilt becomes balanced or changes direction, that time itself changes.

Now, the difference between a festival and kickback is more than the number of people who show up. It’s about that special time in which we celebrate. Because, as much fun as a kickback can be, we all know it lacks the je ne sais quoi that Coachella or a Holi have. When we attend a festival, whether it is a Harvest Festival in China or EDC in Las Vegas, we remove ourselves from the normal passage of time. Just as a holiday (which comes from the Old English for “Holy Day”) is distinct from the normal work week, a festival exists outside of ordinary time.

Our lives don’t stop but we are freed from our normal constraints and can live fully in this time-outside-of-time. Normal, chronological or linear time ceases its too persistent tick-tock where we plan our retirements and wait for 5 o’clock. Special time, or what the Greeks called kairos, allows us to live in the moment, to make love to strangers and consume drugs with impunity and without fear of repercussions. Festival time is part of the magic that keeps us coming back summer after summer and gives relief form the tedium and grind of everyday life.

Recai Cabuk/ Shutterstock

The importance of time is also found in music. Musical time is the heartbeat of life and one we take part in through dance. Before mosh pits or twerking ever danced their way into our hearts, people were getting together en masse to dance the night away. In 12th century Persia, Sufi Muslims began a practice known as semazen or what the West calls the Whirling Dervishes. A form of meditation, a dervish wears a colorful skirt, contemplates Allah, and spins like the wash cycle, entering an ecstatic trance. In a dizzying statistic, according to the Guiness Book of Records, the most sufis spinning together was 755 in Taiwan in 2011.

Die Wallfahrt der Fallsüchtigen nach Meulebeeck; Peter Bruegel

Not all of these group dance sessions are sober. In Europe, during the Middle-Ages and Renaissance, there were episodes of so-called “dancing plagues” where thousands of people would simultaneous and frantically dance for hours or days on end. Culminating in 1518 in Alsace, a dancing plague struck hundreds of people who danced for over a month, some of them dying from exhaustion. These proto-flash mobs affected everyone in a town and are well documented over hundreds of years. One explanation is that ergot, a fungi that grows on rye used for bread and is structurally related to LSD, was accidentally and simultaneously eaten by the entire city. This resulted in unbaked bread getting a whole town half-baked.

The origin of the modern music festival is generally credited to the Monterey Pop Festival where Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, the Dead, and Otis Redding jammed in June, 1967. Distinct from a simple concert that lasts for a few hours at most, the Monterey Pop Festival raged for several days with multiple headliners. Two years later, the definitive 60s music festival was held in Woodstock, New York where nearly half a million people turned out to see and hear what may be the greatest rock n roll lineup of all time including: The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Santana, and Joan Baez.

Derek Redmond/ Wikimedia Commons

Woodstock as a cultural phenomenon transcended the music. It represented the peace, love, and naivete of the 1960s counterculture movement in all of its drug use and muddy sex. It showed the world that hundreds of thousands of young people were more interested in music and introspection than joining the workforce or fighting a war in Vietnam. That despite all of the rain, the bad acid, heat, and lack of facilities or conveniences, people could get together to celebrate human life in its most pure form. Or, as Joni Mitchell said, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism”.

The counterpoint to Woodstock is the infamous Altamont Free Concert in December, 1969. Advertised as the Californian Woodstock and with many of the same headliners, it became a violent riot with at least four deaths and multiple injuries including an LSD-induced drowning. While the Rolling Stones played Under My Thumb, Meredith Hunter, a teenager allegedly on methamphetamines, approached the stage with a gun before being driven off, stabbed, and killed by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang that had been hired to provide security. The dark villainy of Altamont provides chiaroscuro when compared to Woodstock’s sex and peace and together they signal the end of the innocent 60s and the beginning of the jaded 70s: a story arc that inspired Don Mclean’s immortal American Pie.

Although music festivals continued through the 70s and 80s, notably at the Reading, Leeds, and Glastonbury Festivals in the United Kingdom as well as the Newport Folk (where Dylan first went electric and got booed) and Jazz Festivals in the United States, it wasn’t until the 90s that the large scale, recurring festivals like Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, Bonnaroo, and Coachella began.

As a cultural phenomenon, music festivals are as mainstream today as they were countercultural in the 60s. This is less a reflection on the pop music that now permeates the lineups of Coachella and Bonnaroo, but rather that supply has met the demand of teenagers everywhere and music has become a ubiquitous part of society. By my count, there are currently at least 255 large scale music festivals that occur each year in the United States alone. Just the top 15 festivals drew over 2 million people last year. Attending one of these celebrations of life and music has become as much a rite of passage for young people as taking that first hit of a joint in high school, and playing one of these festivals has become as much a sign of ‘making it’ for bands as appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone once signalled.

Where festivals were once folk, rock, or jazz oriented, they’ve become increasingly eclectic and integrated. This summer alone, bands and acts as diverse but complementary as Phish, Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Solange, Cardi B, Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Fleet Foxes, Moses Sumney, Paul Simon, and Lil Wayne will grace some of the same stages across the country. It is only the communal beauty of a festival that can bring such acts together in new blends of art and music and celebrate the diversity of the nation.

The future of music festivals is as hazy as the smoke and trash covered fields we’ve all frequented in our teens and twenties. The cost of attending can be prohibitive, the acts trend more and more towards multimedia light shows of sensory overload, and festival organizers themselves seem driven by profit. However, we are a celebratory species and as long as people are people we will celebrate with love, drugs, music, and each other.

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Iowa Lawmakers Plan Attempt to Override Veto of Medical Marijuana Expansion

Two Democratic lawmakers in Iowa are calling for a special legislative session to override last week’s veto of a medical marijuana expansion bill by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. On Friday, Reynolds vetoed a bill (House File 732) that would make more patients eligible to use medical cannabis products and increase the allowable THC dosage for therapeutic cannabis products. The bill was passed with bipartisan support in both the Iowa House of Representatives and Senate but was rejected by Reynolds last week.

On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Bolkcom and Rep. John Forbes, both Democrats, said they plan to ask for a special session of the legislature to override Reynolds’ veto.

“By doing that, we hope the governor will know that we are serious, and we really think that this legislation is necessary to enhance the lives of Iowans through better care,” Forbes said.

Special Session Unlikely

Forbes, who is a licensed pharmacist, said that expanding the state’s medical marijuana program would help Iowans with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, and chronic pain. Although the bill was passed by the House with a vote of 96 to 3 and succeeded in the Senate by a margin of 40 to 7, he doesn’t believe the special session to override the veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to prevail, will be convened by the Republican majority. Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer issued a statement that echoed that sentiment.

“While there were many good things in this bill, I don’t know if it has the consensus necessary at this point to override a veto, so a special session would be ill-advised,” Upmeyer said. “The best way forward is to bring everyone to the table over the interim to craft a new bill based on the most recent recommendations from the Board. I am pleased to see that Governor Reynolds is willing to work on a solution that works for Iowans.”

Bill Expands Access to MMJ

Under House File 732, a provision in Iowa’s medical marijuana program limiting cannabis products to no more than 3 percent THC would be replaced with a limit of 25 grams of THC per patient every 90 days. The bill also removes a restriction excluding convicted felons from participating in the program and would allow more patients access to medical marijuana by replacing “untreatable pain” with “severe or chronic pain” on the state’s list of qualifying medical conditions.

In a statement released before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Reynolds pledged to work with legislators and the state’s Medical Cannabidiol Board to reform the medical marijuana program, but said that the changes to the THC limit in House File 732 were not the right approach.

“The health and safety of Iowans is too important for us not to get this right,” Reynolds said.

“Ultimately, I believe Iowa must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion of our medical (cannabidiol) program is thoughtful and deliberate — particularly because Iowa’s program is in its infancy and the body of research that analyzes the efficacy of medical CBD is limited,” she added.

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Study Links Medical Cannabis Legalization to Lower Opioid Prescription Rates

After two decades of going all-in on opioids, the medical community is now desperately searching for ways to de-escalate their use. What a powerful cabal of pharmaceutical manufacturers convinced doctors was a panacea to cure chronic pain and ease suffering has revealed itself to be the agent of a suffering of another sort: the nationwide devastation and death wrought by an opioid epidemic that killed 47,600 people in the US in 2017 alone.

And so the medical community is on a quest for alternatives, and cannabis continues to demonstrate its potential to be one. In fact, according to an important new study just out in Preventive Medicine, medical marijuana legalization is already helping to reduce opioid prescription rates. And that’s even without the wider medical community accepting it as a non-opioid painkiller alternative. In other words, researchers in Texas found, making medical cannabis legal seems to lower the number of patients prescribed opioids.

Researchers Find Significant Interactions Between Age, Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescriptions

A just-published study, titled “Association between cannabis laws and opioid prescriptions among privately insured adults in the US,” analyzed how different cannabis laws influenced the rate of opioid prescriptions among adults from different age groups in 2016. Let’s break down its methods and its findings.

Researchers examined the relationships between a few different variables. First, age, breaking it up into five groups, 18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55, and 56-64 years. Second, changes in state cannabis law, whether decriminalization, medical legalization, or adult-use legalization. And third, the pattern and rate of opioid prescriptions, broken down into greater than 30-day and greater than 90-day prescriptions.

Examining how those three variables interact with each other, researchers made some important findings. Overall, they noticed “a significant interaction between age and cannabis law on opioid prescriptions.” But those interactions changed depending on age and the type of cannabis law.

For the oldest age group, 56-64, researchers found no significant interactions between age, marijuana law and opioid prescriptions. But for everyone else aged 18-55, researchers say the interactions were significant. According to their results, those age groups showed lower opioid prescription rates, but only in states with medical cannabis laws.

In short, patients aged 18-55 were prescribed fewer and shorter opioid prescriptions in states with legal medical marijuana.

When it comes to other categories of cannabis law, such as adult use and decriminalization, however, researchers did not find any significant reduction in opioid prescriptions among any of the age groups. It was just in medical marijuana-only states that researchers observed the decrease in opioid prescriptions.

Bad Science Clouds Study’s Conclusions

So, medical marijuana legalization can help reduce patients’ opioid use, at least for those aged 18-55. It’s a finding that resonates with similar studies that have looked at the relationships between cannabis legalization and opioid use.

In 2015, for example, researchers found that states with legal access to dispensaries experienced a decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths. Then, in 2018, another study found an association between the implementation of medical cannabis laws and lower rates of opioid prescription among Medicaid recipients. That same year, another study found that among Medicare recipients aged 65 and above, opioid prescriptions also decreased where medical cannabis laws were in effect.

The present study, however, attempts to tease out how those associations play out among different age groups of people who have private medical insurance. And that raises a few interesting questions. Previous studies found a reduction in opioid prescriptions among seniors where medical marijuana was available. This study did not see a similar reduction among its oldest cohort, aged 56-64. Why the difference? Are doctors quicker to prescribe dangerous opioids to patients on Medicare and/or Medicaid than they are to those with private insurance?

We Need More Studies on Cannabis as Opioid Replacement

In short, there are a ton of socio-economic factors at play here, in addition to the medical variables. And for that reason, the authors of the present study caution against viewing the correlation their data shows as causation.

They also caution against the “potential dangers related to careless substitution of cannabis for opioids.” And to back up that claim, they cite the controversial and often-rebuked studies that say cannabis use can cause psychosis or act as a “reverse gateway” to addictive drug abuse.

Still, this study’s data, regardless of the views of its authors, merits further and deeper investigation. If cannabis can be a safe alternative to addictive and harmful opioid painkillers, it stands to save tens of thousands of lives.

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Researchers Find Synthetic CBD Effective in Treating Seizures in Rats

Researchers at the University of California Davis have determined that a synthetic analog to cannabidiol can be effective for treating seizures in lab rats. Results of the research led by Mark Mascal, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Chemistry in collaboration with the University of Reading, U.K., were published last week by the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of herbal CBD and a synthetic version of CBD known as 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD) in treating induced seizures in lab rats. They determined that the two compounds were equally effective in reducing both the frequency and severity of seizures.

Mascal said in a university press release that his lab has developed a process to produce H2CBD easily and inexpensively using commercially available chemicals. The manmade version of the drug has several advantages over its naturally derived counterpart, according to Mascal.

“It’s a much safer drug than CBD, with no abuse potential and doesn’t require the cultivation of hemp,” he said.

Hemp cultivation for CBD takes up land that could be used for other agricultural uses, including the cultivation of other varieties of hemp that can be used to produce fiber, grain, or oilseed. H2CBD can be produced more economically with greater purity than hemp-derived CBD plant extracts. Also, the synthetic analog can’t be chemically altered to produce psychoactive cannabinoids.

“Unlike CBD, there is no way to convert H2CBD to intoxicating THC,” Mascal said. 

More Research Planned

Mascal and his colleagues at the UC Davis School of Medicine are continuing their research with animals and hope to begin clinical trials of H2CBD soon. UC Davis has applied for a patent for the anti-seizure applications of the compound and Mascal has founded a company, Syncanica, to further develop the synthetic cannabinoid.

CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for seizure disorders in humans. It is the active ingredient of Epidiolex, the first medication derived directly from cannabis to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Epidiolex was approved to treat seizures caused by two rare forms of epilepsy, but the high cost of the drug, up to $30,000 per patient per year, leaves the medication out of reach for many patients not covered by insurance.

The approval of Epidiolex led to the rescheduling of the medication under the Controlled Substances Act by the DEA in September 2018, although the agency did not reschedule cannabis or CBD. The medication became available by prescription only in November.

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