Marijuana Already Cuts Opioid Deaths. But Can Addicts Stay Clean with Cannabis Therapy?

Marijuana Already Cuts Opioid Deaths. But Can Addicts Stay Clean with Cannabis Therapy?

For some people, all drugs are more or less the same, and they’re all more or less all bad for you. Unfortunately, that includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Luckily, he’s increasingly a voice in the wilderness (if a powerful one). And in the midst of the country’s opioid epidemic, there is some good news: Cannabis Inclusive Recovery may help those suffering from opioid addiction to kick that dependency for good. Cannabis Inclusive Recovery is currently one of the drug’s most controversial applications. It’s the brainchild of Joe Schrank, a former addict and the founder of High Sobriety, a Los Angeles-based rehab program that offers cannabis to users addicted to objectively more dangerous drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and opioids. The legal and medical communities are split as to the wisdom of this approach. To dive deeper, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the underlying concept of harm reduction. Harm Reduction: Tender Mercy or a Free Ride? Many in the drug treatment community trace their involvement in harm reduction to the 1st International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Harm, held in Liverpool, England, in 1990. Since then, organizations such as Harm Reduction International have spread the concept across the globe. In essence, the idea is to lessen the damage done by drug abuse, even if it means allowing the use and dissemination of those drugs. As stated in the Harm Reduction Coalition manifesto: “[HRC] accepts, for better or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply...
Legal Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Increase Teen Use

Legal Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Increase Teen Use

When the debate over legalizing cannabis in Washington State was raging back in 2012, one of the main concerns of opponents to decriminalization was that decriminalizing weed would lead to an increase in use by teens. But is there really a connection between legal marijuana and teen use? While cannabis policy is very much in flux—as of this writing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions just announced a crackdown—early indications are that legal marijuana and teen use are having beneficial effects. Not only here in Washington State but nationally, increased access to marijuana is leading to declines in negative outcomes such as abuse or dependency. The next few years will provide a better idea of developing trends, but we’re hopeful that legalization will continue to have positive effects on healthcare, public policy, and the criminal justice system. Legal Marijuana and Teen Use: The Numbers Don’t Lie As far as cannabis use by teens goes, the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control is positive. As the Washington Post reported and elsewhere, an increase in access to marijuana has not led an increase in its abuse. This bolsters the findings of an older study which came to much the same conclusion. What’s more, the declines in both abuse and dependency were most dramatic in teens and young adults. Does this mean that more teens are using cannabis, but using it responsibly? Apparently not: Cannabis legalization in Washington State hasn’t led to a noticeable increase in its use by teenagers. Opponents of legalization warn that the expected drop in cannabis prices over the next few years, coupled with its increased visibility...
A Different Kind of “Entourage Effect”

A Different Kind of “Entourage Effect”

As legalization spreads across the country, more and more data is emerging to support—and sometimes challenge—our assumptions about what effect legalization could have. Most recently, more information has been surfacing on the social effects of marijuana. Two recent findings about the social effects of marijuana stand out. The first is that legal cannabis may be having a positive effect on restaurant (particularly fast-food) sales. Even more surprisingly, it appears to have a positive influence on real estate prices. Together, these perspectives are helping naysayers see the bright side of legal weed. Pot and Fast Food: More Than Just the Munchies? Even people who’ve never touched cannabis know what “the munchies” are: The cannabis-inspired sensation that a) food has never tasted so good and b) you are completely, totally, 100%, certifiably starving right now. As reported in respected journals such as Smithsonian Magazine and many others, the munchies are fact, not fiction. So, too, the correlation between legal weed and healthier sales of fast-food, as Newsweek reported in 2017. There’s no real surprise in these findings, which include (Mc)nuggets of information such as the fact that in several weed-legal states, some 43% of recent recreational cannabis users had also frequented a McDonald’s. As analysts point out, this may have more to do with the prevalence of McDonald’s restaurants than any qualities of the food served there; it’s simply more likely you’ll stumble across one of the 14,000+ McDonald’s in the United States than any other fast-food restaurant. Though, of course, when you’re completely baked, a fatty, sodium- and sugar-rich meal with plenty of crunchy textures is probably going to taste...
How Does Cannabis Really Affect Memory?

How Does Cannabis Really Affect Memory?

The creeping legalization of cannabis in this country is having a massive effect on so many facets of life. Social norms are changing, new businesses are sprouting, and millions of Americans now have access to medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis. One exciting side effect? The flood of new research, insights, and knowledge we’re gaining about cannabis and how it interacts with our bodies. One of the most fascinating areas of study is how cannabis affects memory. And—spoiler alert—while cannabis is proving to be a vastly powerful treatment for numerous diseases and chronic conditions, researchers are finding that the stereotypes about stoners being forgetful have a basis in fact. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize how cannabis affects memory. First, let’s talk about what we currently know about why cannabis affects your…um, what was it again? How Cannabis Affects Memory As you’re probably already aware, the way we humans create and then access our memories is a complex set of processes utilizing different parts of the brain for different functions. For instance, “working memory,” or the short-term memory functions we require to learn new things, and spatial memory—your memory of the environment around you—are mainly handled in the part of the cerebral cortex called the frontal lobe. By comparison, long-term memories—which are generally not thought to be as affected by cannabis—are typically processed and stored in the medial temporal lobe. Working and spatial memory are particularly vulnerable to distortion by cannabis consumption. Studies such as a 2004 paper from the San Francisco Brain Research Institute indicate that subjects who had just consumed marijuana were slower and less...
Home Grown: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Home Grown: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

In the continuing celebration over the legalization of cannabis in Washington State, there’s one little detail that escapes most people’s notice: of all the states that allow recreational cannabis, Washington is the only one that prohibits growing cannabis indoors for individuals. Still, there’s some hope that Washington State will amend its policy towards home growers. The right to grow your own marijuana has been enshrined in cannabis culture from its very earliest days. At its roots—no pun intended—cannabis is, of course, merely a plant; a completely natural product requiring minimal processing to be medically or recreationally viable. Now it seems that’s all up in the air…or is it? While many observers agree that federal decriminalization is only a matter of time, it’s impossible to predict whether that’s a short-term, middle-term, or long-term forecast. And that uncertainty has much to do with why Washington finds itself the only cannabis-legal state that prohibits its citizens from growing cannabis indoors. How did we come to this state of affairs, and—more importantly—is there really hope this will change anytime soon? The Cole Memo: A Shaky Foundation for a Legal-Weed America In considering whether or not to decriminalize at all, most states referred to the Cole Memo, a 2013 document outlining a cautious, legally nuanced approach for states to determine their destiny when it comes to cannabis. Now the Attorney General has officially abandoned the Cole Memo. Still, no one is certain what that will mean for cannabis-legal states. The Cole Memo was really just a tentative first step in the legalization process. As we’re seeing under the current administration, it offers states no real...