Beyond the Streets: Cannabis Isn’t the Only Counter Culture en Vogue

One of the first things that drew me into ‘counter culture’ at a young age was the sense of rebellion it evoked. Part of the ‘cool factor’ of smoking weed was that I wasn’t allowed to do it, and that I’d get in trouble if I got caught… it made me feel like an outlaw. I didn’t realize until years later that part of the reason I was writing my name on everything was because it was evoking similar feelings. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but the same feeling of rebellion that lead me to graffiti years earlier was the catalyst for arguably the longest lasting relationship of my life— my relationship with Mary Jane. 

We often don’t think of these two cultures as being particularly intertwined past the questionable legality—likely because graffiti typically involves a lot of running, and weed makes you, well, slow down. But still, the similarities are plentiful. I won’t dig into the minutia, but here’s the 101: both practices began as less-than-legal forms of expression, developed cult-like followings, exploded into major industries, and eventually moved into the cultural zeitgeist. Now, at a time where CBD is available at gas stations around the country, Street Art is maturing at a similar pace—moving from slaps and tags into coveted (and impossible to obtain) art pieces commanding top dollar. 

Last summer I bought three tickets to a show in Los Angeles that I saw on one of my favorite designers Instagrams. It was called Beyond the Streets. None of my friends had heard of it, but it looked interesting, so I managed to entice two of them to go through promises of a hazy trip over, and by buying their tickets. What we experienced was unlike any of the countless other shows I’ve seen since I moved to California – it was raw, it was creative, and it was FUN. From the split cop car, to the original Keith Haring, to the six-foot LA Hands, this show had something for everyone. Needless to say, when I found out they were opening a new show in New York, I had to check it out.

The show, which runs until the end of August, takes place across two floors of a glass-encased building on the edge of Williamsburg. Nestled along the Hudson river in arguably the most gentrified part of Brooklyn, the show juxtaposes the outlaw mentality that fueled street artists for generations against the vogue-like regard their content is held in today. Not only does it beautifully marry two seemingly unrelated frames of being, but the show really embraces it’s New York setting, recruiting the likes of east coast legends like Taki 183, CORNBREAD and SAMO to not only feature work in the exhibit, but to include Easter egg tags around the venue as well. (Try to find all of SAMO’s—they’re worth it, I promise.)

It’s worth mentioning that the show is MASSIVE. Accounting for roughly one full city block, BTS: NYC is packed with loads of new additions for this exhibition, as well as several fan favorites from LA revamped for round two. New elements include a Beastie Boys retrospective, complete with their original beat machines, logo designs, lyric sheets, and even a hilarious note from one of the hotels they stayed in asking them to stop throwing things from their window, a 30-year anniversary gallery celebrating some of Shepard Fairey’s biggest accomplishments, a slew of the ever-popular totems from Faile, and a beautiful collaborative piece tag-teamed by Takashi Murakami, MADSAKI and TENGAone. My personal favorites include the expanded and redesigned Barminski room, the Parla slabs, Risk’s shark, and the rusty can cart, but there wasn’t a single piece in the show that didn’t deserve it’s own spotlight.

After getting to roam the show for a few hours I caught up with Roger Gastman, graffiti historian and lead curator for Beyond the Streets, to chat about how far the culture has come.

High Times: What made you create Beyond the Streets? The irony of taking what used to be illegal and displaying it in beautiful galleries is not lost on me.

Roger Gastman: This show is all about the evolution of the art form of graffiti and street art. We brought together artists who helped shape and expand the landscape: graffiti and street artists operating at the highest levels with dynamic studio practices, as well as major artists inspired by graffiti and street art. Our aim is to celebrate the heights to which the world’s most recognizable modern art movement has risen.

HT: We’ve noticed that cannabis is undergoing a sort of identity crisis as it shifts from the outlaw / rebel culture into something more commonly accepted. Do you see that happening in street art? 

RG: The mural culture has exploded. And while it is awesome to see the display of public art it is often branded as street art. Legal murals done by artists are not street art just because they are outside. There needs to be more education on the movement, its history and its terms. But overall there will always be the next wave of kids who want to go out and write on things and don’t care about the rules.

HT: Do you see these cultures as being intertwined?

RG: Both have an outlaw, just-do-it nature to them that I don’t think will ever go away, no matter how mainstream they become.

HT: How do you feel about the corporatization of street art? Do you think it’s important that this stuff remains underground?

RG: While it has risen to incredible heights, it amazes me how much more can be done to educate audiences on the people and moments that make up this culture. This show is an attempt to highlight this impact, of mark making and rule breaking, and its impact on and intersections with pop culture. Vandalism as contemporary art—in our own way, without the confines or politics of an institution.

We hope this show continues to legitimize this art form, and shines a light on the people who have dedicated and risked their lives for their passion.

HT: What’s the most exciting / innovative thing you’ve seen come from the culture lately? Anything you never would’ve thought possible years ago?

RG: The world of graffiti and street art is MASSIVE. They are entire cultures with many subcultures that have spun off of them. I can’t keep up with how much keeps coming up. I find the most joy in continuing to dig up the history, something that as these cultures continue to explode will become more important.

HT: Is that the same thing that excited you about street art in the beginning?

RG: I’ve spent my life surrounded by graffiti and street art. You could say that I’m obsessed with understanding the culture, its origins, its evolutions, and the way it’s infiltrated culture at large… It’s incredible to me how far this culture has come, how large its impact is, and how diverse the creativity is.

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What’s in Your Stash? Sharon Letts, Producer, and Writer

“I identified as a stoner from the 70s for decades, until I presented with cancer in my 50s; now I’m an Educated Stoner.” – Sharon Letts

The first time I smoked weed was in 1975. I was 16 years old and on my way to high school, stopping in at a gas station bathroom, when one of the girls lit a joint and passed it around.

I was considered a good girl and had been a Girl Scout since Brownies. With Florence Nightingale as my first Shero, I became a Candy Striper in high school. I volunteered at the local hospital and delivered flowers, candy, newspapers and books to patients after school, while earning badges for community service.

Sharon smoking a joint in 1975, next to plants she grew in her mom’s rose garden when she was 16 years old – the year she became a patient, but didn’t know it.

But I was never considered a good student. Failing high school, struggling with an undiagnosed processing problem, the general misconception was that I just wasn’t very bright. 

After a few hits off the joint that morning, that was the first time I was able to focus in school. An assignment of writing one Haiku poem turned into writing ten in rapid concession, and I was first published as a poet at 19. 

Even then, I didn’t understand why it felt right; I was only told it was wrong. For decades I thought I was just a stoner who had to hide my cannabis use; even though it helped me focus and feel better, emotionally and physically.

From Stash to Apothecary

After working as a producer in television in Los Angeles, I was brought up to Humboldt County to produce a news show. While working in media in the cannabis capital of the world, I presented with breast cancer (Lobular carcinoma), and was given cannabis oil by Pearl Moon of the Bud Sisters of Southern Humboldt. 

The first night I took the strong oil (alcohol reduction, aka: RSO, FECO) I didn’t need the sleeping pill I’d taken for years. The next day I didn’t need the painkiller needed for a partially disabled knee. In two and a half weeks upwards of ten prescription medications, and numerous supplements needed for treating combined hormonal symptoms from both thyroid disease and menopause, were no longer needed. In two and a half months the cancer was gone, without surgery or the traditional therapies of chemotherapy or radiation.

I’m now part of a 30-year study on prevention with the American Cancer Society. Its director sent me a personal email thanking me for my participation, promising more cannabis questions in future questionnaires. 

Since then (October, 2012) my stash has turned into my apothecary cupboard, and my work has focused on cannabis as remedy, helping people to get back into the kitchen and make their own remedies from the garden. My stories are mostly all patient profiles, written for many publications around the world; translated into several languages.

Courtesy of Sharon Letts

Cannabis: My Gateway Drug to Other Healing Plants

Cannabis has become my main remedy. It was my gateway drug to other beneficial superfoods, or what I like to call, super plants. Superfoods have a wide range of beneficial compounds, with help for a wide range of ailments and symptom relief. This is why most people feel that the many stories of healing are too good to be true. After all, when taking pharmaceuticals, you need one pill per symptom. 

I was diagnosed with thyroid disease at 40. It’s a disorder of the thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, distributing hormones throughout the body; keeping all of our systems in check.

According to, more than 12 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a thyroid condition; with 20 million diagnosed with thyroid disease; and upwards of 60 percent of the population not realizing they have the condition at all. 

The main red flags of thyroid disease, and subsequent hormonal imbalances, are digestive issues, slow metabolism and weight gain; constipation and bloating. Hormone disruptions are also sleep disruptors, leading to chronic fatigue and depression; with body temperature issues, including night sweats and hot flashes.

Women going into menopause already presenting with thyroid disease are in for a double-whammy of hormonal symptoms, including mood swings and increased empathy that can bring tears at the slightest provocation. 

The good news is that cannabis may help. To keep myself from sliding back into a sea of sadness, pain and cancer, I need to keep the beneficial compounds of cannabis and other super plants in my system on a daily basis, and treat it as though I had a prescription – as if they were farmaceuticals.

Little Stashes Everywhere

My medicating begins in the evening, as I’ve replaced sleeping pills with a cannabis oil capsule I make myself (recipe on my website). This dose covers a lot of territory, as cannabis strengthens the immune system while fighting off infections. It also gives much needed REMs, warding off fatigue and subsequent depression. 

I also take a chamomile oil capsule nightly (same recipe), after finding a study on chamomile treating depression. Chamomile capsules also replaced Valium for me; and I’ll take one, as needed, during the daytime for anxiety and stress (info on chamomile on my website).

If I’m not feeling 100 percent in the morning, I’ll take a capsule with combinations of moringa and guanabana – both superfoods. The moringa is uplifting for daytime use, combatting fatigue. Moringa is getting to be more commonly known; while guanabana is a popular superfood from South America, commonly used in Baja California, Mexico, where I live.

Throughout the day I’ll take one or two hits of flower with one of my favorite bongs, a retro 70s piece from My Bud Vase; or my cobalt blue bong by Jane West, Inc.

Smoking lifts endorphins quickly, easing depression. Taking just a hit or two of cannabis also helps me focus on my work – dealing with my ADD, on the spectrum. I’ve been known to grind chamomile flower up with cannabis for a calming smoking mix. 

Because of my anxiety issues I tend to choose hybrid cultivars that lean Indica to calm, and don’t pay too much mind to the names of flower. I do pay attention to THC counts – preferring them lower, as I’m not in this for the high, I’m medicating for real ailments. I’m honestly just trying to feel alright each day, using plants instead of pharma for diagnosed disorders, illness and cancer prevention.

I’ll also use a homemade tincture, as needed, depending on the symptom. Chamomile to calm or for tummy upset; Stinging Nettles for allergies; and a THCA (non-psychoactive) tincture for infection or pain. My go-to is a cold-gin-infusion, as alcohol infuses in a cold process and doesn’t activate THC.

My body and face lotion is also infused with any number of the superfoods named, as I no longer use retail sunscreen; but do aftercare with plants that have antioxidant compounds, namely cannabis, chamomile, moringa, and guanabana, or combinations thereof; adding rosemary or citrus peel as natural bug repellents.

Courtesy of Sharon Letts

Growing up on the beach in Southern California, then spending many years as a professional gardener, I’ve had my share of skin cancers, with a few removed – but, they typically come back worse. Most skin cancers I’ve been able to treat topically with a stronger cannabis oil salve (whole plant extract).

I also add fresh herbs to my cooking throughout the day, keeping vases of herbs on the kitchen counter for easy access. Most produce loses efficacy if stored in the refrigerator where perfectly good food goes to die. Keeping produce in bowls and vases on the countertop encourages daily and immediate use. 

You might say my own personal stashes come from the garden into just about every room in the house. Whether it’s made in the kitchen, smoked from my tray, or found in my apothecary cupboard – it’s all remedy, all day long. 

Quoting Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” My medicine happens to be in my stash, and my stash happens to be my medicine.

For more information on Sharon Letts and recipes from her Apothecary page, visit

The post What’s in Your Stash? Sharon Letts, Producer, and Writer appeared first on High Times.

Sustainable Plastic Packaging Options for Your Cannabis Products

A large part of your company’s brand image depends on the packaging that you use for your cannabis product. The product packaging creates a critical first impression in a potential customer’s mind because it is the first thing they see. While the primary function of any cannabis packaging is to contain, protect and identify your products, it is a reflection of your company in the eyes of the consumer.

For all types of businesses across the US, sustainability has become an important component for success. It is increasingly common for companies to include sustainability efforts in their strategic plan. Are you including a sustainability component in your cannabis business’ growth plan? Are your packaging suppliers also taking sustainability seriously? More and more, consumers are eager to purchase cannabis products that are packaged thoughtfully, with the environment in mind. If you are using or thinking about using plastic bottles and closures for your cannabis products, you now have options that are produced from sustainable and/or renewable resources. Incorporating sustainable elements into your cannabis packaging may not only be good for the environment, but it may also be good for your brand.

Consider Alternative Resins

Traditionally, polyethylene produced from fossil fuels (such as oil or natural gas), has been used to manufacture HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottles and closures. However, polyethylene produced from ethanol made from sustainable sources like sugarcane (commonly known as Bioresin) are becoming more common.

HDPE bottles produced with Bioresin.

Unlike fossil fuel resources which are finite, sustainable resources like sugarcane are renewable – plants can be grown every year. For instance, a benefit of sugarcane is that it captures and fixes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every growth cycle. As a result, production of ethanol-based polyethylene contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional polyethylene made from fossil fuels, while still exhibiting the same chemical and physical properties as conventional polyethylene. Although polyethylene made from sugarcane is not biodegradable, it can be recycled.

Switching to a plastic bottle that is made from ethanol derived from renewable resources is a great way for cannabis companies to take positive climate change action and help reduce their carbon footprint.

For instance, for every one ton of Bioresin used, approximately 3.1 tons of carbon dioxide is captured from the atmosphere on a cradle-to-gate basis. Changing from a petrochemical-derived polyethylene bottle to a bottle using resins made from renewable resources can be as seamless as approving an alternate material – the bottles look the same. Ensure that your plastic bottle manufacturer is using raw materials that pass FDA and ASTM tests. This is one way to help reverse the trend of global warming due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere.

PET bottles derived from 100% recycled post-consumer material.

Another option is to use bottles manufactured with recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Consisting of resin derived from 100% recycled post-consumer material, it can be used over and over. This is an excellent choice because it helps keep plastic waste to a minimum. Regardless of the resin you select, look for one that is FDA approved for food contact.

Consider Alternative Manufacturing Processes

Flame Treatment Elimination

When talking about plastic bottle manufacturing, an easy solution to saving fossil fuels is eliminating the flame treatment in the manufacturing process. Historically, this process was required to allow some water-based adhesives, inks, and other coatings to bond with HDPE (high density polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) bottles. Today, pressure-sensitive and shrink labels make this process unnecessary. Opt out and conserve natural gas. For instance, for every 5 million bottles not flamed approximately 3 metric tons of CO2is eliminated. This is an easy way to reduce the carbon footprint. Ask your cannabis packaging manufacturer if eliminating this process is an option.

Source Reduction (Right-Weighting)

When considering what type and style of bottle you want to use for your cannabis product, keep in mind that the same bottle may be able to be manufactured with less plastic. A bottle with excess plastic may be unnecessary and can result in wasted plastic or added costs. On the other hand, a bottle with too little plastic may be too thin to hold up to filling lines or may deform after product is filled. Why use a bottle that has more plastic than you actually need for your product when a lesser option may be available? This could save you money, avoid problems on your filling lines, and help you save on your bottom line. In addition, this will also help limit the amount of natural resources being used in production.

Convert to Plastic Pallets

If you are purchasing bottles in large quantities and your supplier ships on pallets, consider asking about plastic pallets. Reusable plastic pallets last longer than wood pallets, eliminate pallet moisture and improve safety in handling. They also reduce the use of raw materials in the pallet manufacturing process (natural gas, metal, forests, etc.) aiding in efforts towards Zero Net Deforestation. And, returnable plastic pallets provide savings over the long term.

If You Don’t Know, Ask Your Cannabis Packaging Partner

It is important to find out if your plastic packaging partner offers alternative resins that are produced from renewable sources or recycled plastics. It is also prudent to partner with a company that is concerned about the impact their business has on the planet. Are they committed to sustainability? And, are they eliminating processes that negatively affect their carbon footprint? What services can they provide that help you do your part?

When you opt to use sustainably produced plastic bottles and closures for your cannabis products, you take an important step to help ensure a viable future for the planet. In a competitive market, this can improve the customer’s impression of your brand, increase consumer confidence and help grow your bottom line. Not only will you appeal to the ever-growing number of consumers who are environmentally-conscience, you will rest easy knowing that your company is taking action to ensure a sustainable future.

The post Sustainable Plastic Packaging Options for Your Cannabis Products appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.

Daniel Sloss: Sometimes They’re More Than Just Jokes

Daniel Sloss is backstage at The Largo nursing a bruised foot. He feels like the foot’s broken but can’t remember how or why. Then he leans back in his chair and gleefully admits he’d had a few beverages the night before in Studio City. While the reason behind the pain doesn’t matter, he’d love to be free of podiatry issues, having just kicked off a massive world tour across the US, UK, Europe and Asia. And while it’s not required, telling jokes on two healthy feet is certainly easier.

Growing up in Scotland, what inspired you to get into comedy?

Fuck, I’m not smart enough to do anything else. I’d always enjoyed comedy and my mom and dad are huge stand-up fans. When they lived in London after university, they used to go to a comedy club nearby where all the great British stand-ups legends were starting out. They would watch comedy all the time in the house, so I would watch comedy all the time in the house. And I loved making my family laugh because they would make me laugh. I remember being young and being in my bed and listening to my parents laughing downstairs and just being like, “I have to fucking know what makes my parents laugh so that I can make them laugh.” And I’d go downstairs and my mom and dad were watching Bill Hicks. I wasn’t even listening to what he was saying, I just liked the fact he was swearing and shouting. 

It took me until I was 16 to realize [comedy is] an actual fucking job. I mean, it’s not a real job, but you know, it’s the way some people make a living.

Did that realization coincide with writing for Frankie Boyle?

When I started off, Frankie was kind enough to let me backstage at a few of his gigs and introduce me to people and eventually brought me into The Stand, which is my local sort of comedy club. I think at the start, I was just so happy to be doing it, and then eventually started making money. I still have the first tenner I ever made. Framed. It fucking blew my mind that I made money out of telling dick jokes.

Every time somebody laughs at one of your jokes you go, “Oh good, I’m not alone.” You suddenly go, “I’m not alone in this horrific thought or this insecurity.”

Well, yeah. You’ve sold out shows throughout the world. 

Fucking ridiculous, man. It blows my mind. Anywhere from 400 to 500 seaters to a thousand seaters. It’s the coolest thing in the world. I’m really excited about this current tour because I’m going to a bunch of places I’ve never fucking been to.

In a 2016 New York Times piece, you talked about transitioning your material and “abandoning” your earlier audience. Has that switch made your material more universal?

The set that I do in the UK is very similar to the set I do in America. The only thing that changes is I talk a bit slower because of my accent and I make sure references aren’t so localized that they don’t make sense.

My answer to the “is comedy universal” question is it depends what kind of comedy it is. Fortunately, my comedy is about how much of a cunt I am everywhere I go. So it doesn’t matter.

A cunt in Ethiopia is a cunt in America–

Is cunt is a cunt is a cunt. I never expected to have this fucking reach. I love the fact that I get to do the exact same show I do in Lithuania that I do in Australia, that I do in Sweden, that I do in the UK, that I do in fucking Indianapolis or Texas or Los Angeles or New York or fucking Russia at some point this year. I don’t know why [my material] translates, but it does. I’m glad it does.

But do you think any of the current universality has to do with you switching up your material?

Oh, yeah. Yes, absolutely. Instead of doing what I thought people found funny, instead of just guessing and being like “I think people will find this funny, I think people will find that funny” and then trying to convince them, I started going “no, I know what’s fucking funny, it’s my job to be funny, I’ll tell you what’s funny.” It was nice to be able to start talking about the things that made me laugh, the things I found funny.

I used to go out and be like “okay, what are people talking about now?” They’re talking about this tv show? I’m gonna make fun of this fucking tv show. I would talk about my opinions on it and try and force myself into other people’s worlds. Now, I much prefer to talk about my view on things. Either you agree with what I’m saying, or I hope on the other side of things, you’re sitting there laughing “this is such a stupid opinion to have, only an idiot would believe this.” I like to make sure whenever I sound intelligent on stage, to remind my audience I didn’t go to university and that all of this is rehearsed, I just sound smart.

So you initially were doing jokes for others, but then leaned into yourself and your truth?

Man, when you’re able to do that as a stand-up it really stops you caring when people hate [your material]. Because if people go, “I don’t like your stand-up,” I go, “Cool, that makes sense, I would hate if what I did was universally loved.” I don’t think that’s fucking art. If people are like, “I think your comedy’s shit,” I’m like, “Good, comedy is subjective. You’re absolutely entitled to that opinion.” Sometimes I think my comedy is shit, but these fucking morons still come along and laugh at my jokes. I like [the audience] and they make me laugh as well.

Love or hate, at least your evoking a genuine response.

Yeah, man. Sometimes I forget how powerful comedy can be. Because most of the time, at least what I do, it’s just stupid dick jokes. It’s a man on stage having a fucking laugh. And then sometimes – especially with the success of “Dark” and “Jigsaw” on Netflix – you see how much it has resonated with people, on a profound level sometimes. This [current] level of fame is weird for me, man. I’ve been less famous for most of my career, which has really fucking suit me well. It’s been nice and [people are like] “hey, I love what you do.” Whereas now, with “Jigsaw,” people like to break up with their partners.

I saw you reposting those stats on Instagram.

It’s at like 105 divorces now, 40,000 something break-ups. People meet me after shows and they thank me. To me, it was originally just a joke. It was my truth and it came from an honest place. But just to see it resonate with other people so much that they make positive changes to their lives, it makes me occasionally go “I don’t think you can call them just jokes anymore.”

Sometimes they’re just jokes and sometimes they’re not. You don’t really get to dictate how somebody takes a joke. You can disagree with how they take a joke. If they get offended by it, you can stand by it and say, “I don’t care that you’re offended.” But I think you should just have a little bit of empathy sometimes, and when somebody goes, “I am upset with that,” and work out “why.” See if you care. 

Sometimes I’ve said some things and a fan has said to me, “I didn’t appreciate how you said this.” I’ll think about it and I’ll be like, “You know, actually. I get that.” I don’t care if I intentionally offend people. If I accidentally offend someone, that’s a bit like “Ah, fuck. That wasn’t what I meant to do.” I was attacking this thing and you got caught in the crossfire. I’ll check myself to make sure that doesn’t happen again. But then again, I’ll also sometimes be like, “Yeah, you jumped in front of that fucking bullet. You went out of your way to get offended there. And at this point, I don’t give a shit.” As a comedian, I think you can say and joke about anything.

Do you think you have a “home field advantage” when it comes to the enormous success you’ve enjoyed at the Edinburgh Festival year after year?

Yeah, the Scots are disgustingly supportive of their own. Abso-fucking-lutely. It doesn’t matter what part of Scotland I’m from, I’m Scottish. If you’re a New York comic, you’re popular in New York. If you’re a Los Angeles comic, you’re a Los Angeles comic. There’s no “American” comic. It’s the same [in England] – you’re a London comic or a Liverpool comic. I’m just a Scottish comic. It’s the whole fucking country. Cause we’re small and that’s our identity. But truly, at the festival, it absolutely helps because there’s all these international artists coming from around the world and people want to come out and see one of their own boys.

How did talking about being a self-professed “cunt” blossom into a great body of work?

That’s a Scottish thing. Self-deprecation. We have that sense of humor in Scotland where you make fun of everything and everyone regardless. That’s what our version of equality is. Don’t go around thinking you’re the tits. There’s nothing Scottish people hate more. Like, “Reign it in, cunt. Lose the attitude.” If you get too big for your boots, the Scottish people will bring you back down to your level. While some say it can be toxic, I think a lot of time it’s a great equalizer. I like the fact in Scotland, they still take the fucking piss out of me after shows.

Over here [in the US], people scream and they’re so excited to see you and they’re like, “Oh my god, I love you.” You meet them and you hug them and they shake. Whereas, I walk off stage in Scotland, and they go, “What’s up, cunt.” That’s more real.

In terms of my material, rage fuels me. I know some people have a very bad relationship with anger, in that they’ll let it out in bad ways. I’m filled with rage and things but I just channel it into stand-up. Things that annoy me, things I get annoyed by. And I know me being angry tends to be funny to people. Whatever pisses me off, I can rant for hours. I learned when I was very young I’ve got very firm opinions on things and people don’t like listening to your opinions when you’re yelling. But they will listen to your opinions if you put jokes in them. It was such a great way for people to pay attention to me. If I make you laugh, you’ll listen. There are certain things I’m passionate about and I want to talk about on stage. But the only way to do that is to stick a bunch of jokes in there and make myself look like an idiot.

How is cannabis involved in your creative process?

Weed is illegal in Scotland. There’s not really “pot culture” in the UK. I think I was one of the first ever comedians – one of the first ever people – to openly talk on the BBC about using marijuana. They were like, “We don’t normally do this.” I’m like, “It’s fucking weed, man.” It’s way more common…but in the UK, people aren’t as open about smoking weed and stuff, so it’s not really had the chance to thrive like it has in America, where people have for years been talking about how much weed they smoke.

I’m still giddy when I come to places where it’s legal. I can’t not do it. Sometimes it’s good for writing. Like I’ll write something completely sober and then come back to it stoned and re-write and see what works in different places. But over here [in America], to be able to go into a store like an adult and legally buy marijuana over the counter and not be forced to smoke in a back alley…I’m like a kid in a Willy Wonka chocolate factory.

The way you get drugs in Scotland is you text a guy, “Can I get some weed?” And then an hour later he arrives outside your house and goes, “I’m outside.” You go outside, you get in the back of his fucking car and his six year old son’s there. And you’re like, “Well this is fucking weird.” You go, “Can I have some weed?” He goes, “Yeah, sure. 20 quid.” And you go, “What type of weed is it?” And he goes, “It’s weed, get out of the fucking car.” There’s none of this sativa, indica, hybrid shit. No one knows the names of stuff. But it’s getting better. I have a really good dealer in the UK who makes edibles and vape pens, which are great.

I probably need to smoke a bit less. One of the main reasons I do it is because I do think it’s cool. It’s this illegal thing that you’re not meant to do but everyone does it. There’s absolutely a part of me that’s like, “Cool people smoke weed.” Weed also made me a better person. It made me more introspective. I used to be an angry and shitty teenager and I think smoking weed gave me a healthy level of paranoia. Like, I thought I was the best thing in the world. And then I’d get high and my brain would be like, “Maybe you’re not the best thing in the world.” And I thought, “This is actually a really good paranoia.”

Smoking weed taught me empathy as well. Instead of having visceral, instant reactions to things, I slowed down and processed them. Weed made me genuinely less angry. It allowed me to put myself in other people’s shoes. Even if I disagreed with what they’re saying, it allowed me to understand how they arrived at their conclusions. Before, I would say “This person is stupid and fucking wrong.” But instead, I would ask, “Why are they stupid and why are they wrong?”

I know I’ve arrived at this conclusion because of the experiences I’ve got, so that’s why I think the way I do. Other people think differently because they’ve lived different lives than me, what are their experiences? When you think about other people’s experiences – even if you still disagree with their opinions – you understand how they arrived at them. It makes them less fucking stupid.

The second you understand why someone believes something, it makes it so much easier to have a dialogue with them. It allows you to be like, “Hey. I know why you think this way. I get it. But here are some facts that you might not know, or here’s my experience. I understand where you’re coming from, can you try and understand where I’m coming from?” We’ll not necessarily fucking meet halfway, but we’ll have some level of empathetic communication.

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Cannabis and Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, equally likely to affect men and women, causes a person’s mood, energy, and mental clarity to vary wildly. Such fluctuation leads the person to experience waves of mania and depression. Most patients experience the onset of bipolar disorder around age 25, although teens and children can develop bipolar disorder at lesser rates than adults. In all, 2.6% of the U.S. population has bipolar disorder. 

Four types of bipolar disorder exist, with symptoms ranging from feeling incredibly positive and energized, to depressed and lacking energy. Depending on the type of bipolar a person has, symptoms can include increased activity, sleep troubles, feeling agitated, fast-thinking, rapid speech patterns, and risky behavior. Others may find themselves feeling low on energy, unable to find happiness, unable to concentrate, experiencing a loss of appetite, and possibly considering self-harm.

Melissa Vitale runs a New York-based cannabis publicity firm. After struggling with her emotions her entire life, she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “My uncontrollable mood would often let me feel like I was on top of the world. I was the happiest and most helpful child. When my mood turned, however, I felt a wall of emotion that kept me from seeing straight. I would be boiling with anger and wanting to punch, kick, hit, or insult anyone who wasn’t telling me everything was alright.” 

By twelve, she turned to self-harm, which made her suspect that she had bipolar disorder.

With millions of people in America alone dealing with bipolar disorder, patients and physicians alike are always looking for the right course of treatment that can help a person. Some turn to marijuana to treat themselves. This is often done through illegal means—bipolar disorder is not a common qualifying condition for states’ medical cannabis programs. Despite this, a portion of people living with bipolar disorder insists on including cannabis in their treatment. 

Some studies suggest this is not a viable method. A June 2017 University of Washington study on the Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health found that “marijuana use and cannabis use disorders are markedly more prevalent among those with bipolar spectrum disorders compared to the general population and those with any mental illness.”

The analysis noted reports stating the contrary, its study found several adverse associations. It said:

“With regard to bipolar spectrum disorders, marijuana use or use disorder is associated with worsened affective episodes, psychotic symptoms, rapid cycling, suicide attempts, decreased long-term remission, poorer global functioning, and increased disability. Bipolar patients who stop using marijuana during manic/mixed episode have similar clinical and functional outcomes to those who never use marijuana, while continued use is associated with higher risk of recurrence and poorer functioning.”

Dr. Paul Song is an authority on medical cannabis, in addition to serving on the national board of Physicians for Health. He pointed towards additional studies that suggest cannabis use is not recommended for people with bipolar disorder. 

“Research has found that patients with bipolar disorder who use cannabis have increased manic and depressive episodes, poorer treatment outcomes and compliance, and present with their first manic episode at a younger age,” he said in a written response, also including the study linked here. 

Despite the suggestions of some of the medical field, many people have turned to cannabis anyway. In some cases, people began using cannabis to treat the symptoms they wouldn’t discover to be bipolar disorder until much later. In others, patients turned to cannabis as a medical option when they were diagnosed. 

Jeff Allen is a 27-year-old Cannabis patient from Ontario, Canada. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nine years ago and began using cannabis two years after, at the age of 20. The musical theatre performer said his symptoms were so severe he couldn’t interact in public for nearly two years. 

In a written response, Allen said that cannabis saved his life and changed his world. “During the extremes, high or low, it’s as if my brain is a car, and the gas pedal is being pushed to the floor. After medicating, it’s as if that pedal comes off the floor, and brings my brain back under the speed limit.”

Vitale found herself struggling in her early twenties before seeking help at the suggestion of her then-boyfriend. Even then, the confirmation of her condition was not welcomed. “It was a long hard road to get there, but once I did at age 22, I immediately detested the bipolar diagnosis, forgetting that I had properly diagnosed myself a decade earlier. My doctor, at the day of my diagnosis, told me that I had been self-medicating with cannabis all through college.”

She said her drive home from the doctor was filled with anger, but that would change after taking a hit from her bowl before leaving home for class. She was no longer incensed. “In 10 minutes and one packed bowl, my mood had done a complete 180. I knew the doctors and 12-yr-old Melissa were right: I was bipolar.”

Cannabis advocate and patient Mickey Nulf began using pot as early as 11 but was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until roughly 13 years later. That said, the now-29-year-old feels like he knew something about himself much before the diagnosis. “I feel even when I was that young, I was using cannabis to help with something but didn’t quite understand.” 

Nulf explained that for many years, his use would be in conjunction with prescribed pharmaceutical medications. However, he would choose to go with only cannabis around his diagnosis. 

“I have chosen to continue using cannabis because pills have always been temporary fixes or numbing to life where cannabis has allowed me to experience life. For the first time. I am happier overall. My dips aren’t as low, and my ups aren’t as scary. I’m able to regulate and able to enjoy what is around me instead of letting the world pass me by.”

Cannabis business owner Olivia Alexander is another to swear off meds. She did so using CBD. 

The founder of Kush Queen CBD products spent seven years combining pharmaceuticals to treat her bipolar disorder. She said this cycle left her immune system shot. Eventually, she’d begin using 100mg of CBD orally each day. She wrote how CBD plays a part in her care plan. “It was not as simple as pouring CBD on it, but with the combination of therapy, diet, exercise, and oral/topical CBD, I was able to come off medication.”

While Alexander and Nulf both chose not to use any pharmaceuticals, others have opted to keep both in their treatment plan. Alexander explained, “It’s important for me to note that in my experience, getting off meds is not the right choice for everyone. I have seen family members benefit from CBD in combination with prescription medications, overseen by a doctor.”

She added, “Mental health is not one size fits all and neither is CBD; however, it did work for me and change my life in the process.” 

The bottom line is to be sure to speak with medical professionals before making any decisions yourself. Some may struggle to find answers through their physicians, thanks in large part to ongoing U.S. regulations. This problem can lead to a person not trying cannabis as a treatment. Or, they could end up trying it in a less-than-legal way. 

“What I do is not sanctioned by the state that I live in,” says Vitale. “I purchase all my cannabis illegally, but the way I consume cannabis is not criminal. It saved my life and gave me the ability to be a normal human being.”

While that may sound fine, Vitale also emphasized that this won’t always be the case. She calls it “a beautiful allegory for life.” 

“There are some days when my mood, no matter what I do, will be depressed. Just like sometimes no matter how much you plan, life just throws shit at you all at once. You have to wade through hell sometimes, but it will always, always get better.”

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Ohio Lawmakers Advance Measure to Legalize Hemp Farming and CBD Oil

Lawmakers in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would legalize hemp agriculture and CBD products in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 57, was approved by a vote of 88-3 after being passed by the state Senate in March.

Changes to the bill made by the House were also approved on Wednesday. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for his consideration. If he approves the measure, it will go into effect immediately, giving farmers in Ohio a new option for their operations.

“This is the best news that’s going to hit farm country this year,” said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township.

New Option for Ohio Farmers

House Speaker Larry Householder said that in a year that has been tough on Ohio farmers, it was important that the bill was passed before lawmakers went on their upcoming summer recess.

“Farmers are getting hit pretty hard right now with tariffs and weather, I think that it can help them plan a little bit,” Householder said. “Now they know that there’s a path for us to have hemp in the state of Ohio.”

Under current state law, hemp is a schedule I controlled substance like all other varieties of the cannabis plant. Senate Bill 57 changes Ohio law so that it conforms with the federal legalization of hemp passed by Congress with the 2018 Farm Bill.

Under the measure, hemp would be excluded from the definition of marijuana used to enforce drug laws and prohibit the state Board of Pharmacy from listing hemp and hemp products as controlled substances. The bill also requires that CBD oil previously confiscated be returned to the seller, provided that the product conforms with federal law.

In August of last year, the pharmacy board released a statement requiring CBD products to be sold only at state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. That decision led many retailers to pull CBD products from their shelves while others openly flaunted the ruling.

Bill Sets Regulations for Hemp Agriculture

Senate Bill 57 also sets regulations for hemp agriculture, requiring that crops be no more than 0.3 percent THC and that farmers be licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. No cap on licenses has been set by lawmakers.

An amendment from Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse that would have removed a regulation that prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony in the last 10 years from being licensed to grow hemp was not approved by the body.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Kyle Koehler, a Republican representative from Springfield, said that Senate Bill 57 brings Ohio law into accordance with the federal Farm Bill.

“We feel that the bill does what the federal government needs while creating as few regulations as possible,” Koehler said.

But Tim Johnson, the co-founder of the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that he fears that the newly legal hemp industry will be regulated too tightly.

“For the farmers and small businesses alike, let the market work…(for) a successful program for all Ohioans,” Johnson said.

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