by DJ Reetz
You wake up from a vivid nightmare so real that the act of waking is like being instantaneously transported away from the horrible scene.
The fear is real though, the re-creation of something terrible you’ve already lived through. Maybe the memory is twisted somehow through your perception, amplifying guilt you feel for having survived an event that is beyond the comprehension of the average person living in the relative safety of the Western world.
You are drenched in sweat, the terror of a past experience still clinging to your being. You likely won’t get much more sleep tonight, or any other night for that matter. When you do wake, you are anxious, on edge, and definitely not well rested.
Your conscious mind knows you are not in danger, not anymore at least, but your subconscious is stuck on fight or flight. It frequently supersedes control of your actions.
Your days are a haze. You’re constantly on edge, easily startled, exhausted from the constant vigilance that your psyche demands as well as a lack of sleep. Calm is never part of your equation. It means your interactions with the world will never quite be normal. You try your best to stifle these feelings, but you do not control when they will take hold.
This is what living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be like. For people who have experienced severe trauma, the feeling of helplessness can linger long after the event.
While PTSD can affect survivors of any traumatic event, the contemporary discussion usually centers on veterans returning from war zones, and who are succumbing in staggering numbers to the condition. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 22 veterans kill themselves every day in the U.S. as a result of PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD can be a harsh regime of drugs designed to shut down the overactive panic centers of the brain, combined with mood elevators and stimulants to counteract some of the negative effects. The result can be a pharmaceutically induced haze that can be as much of an impediment to life as the condition it is supposed to treat.
“PTSD made it to where I was extremely introverted, I was angry, I was a shell of the person that I am,” says Sean Azzariti. “It made me into an unfunctionable [sic] human being. I couldn’t sleep, I’d ruminate on things, it was just generally a terrible thing to be living with.”
Azzariti was diagnosed with severe PTSD shortly after returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq in late 2006. Doctors recommended an inundation of prescription medicine to treat his symptoms. At one point Azzariti says he was supposed to be taking six milligrams of Xanax, four milligrams of Klonopin, 30 to 50 milligrams of Adderall to counteract the daze created by the first two, and Trazadone at night to help with sleep. This cocktail of drugs made life nearly unlivable for Azzariti.
“If I had kept taking those drugs I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now,” he says. “It was bad, and it was sending me down a really bad path, and that’s when I started to look into cannabis and research how cannabis can be beneficial.”
Azzariti found little information about marijuana as a treatment option outside of anecdotal testimony due largely to its status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. When he applied for a medical marijuana recommendation, Azzariti found that PTSD was not among conditions approved by physicians to be treated with marijuana.
“A lot of other veterans would look at that and that would be the end of their road with cannabis,” he says. But Azzariti pushed forward and got his recommendation for chronic nausea, hiding the true reason he needed medical cannabis. The experience left him determined to help others facing a similar situation.
In April, a bill adding PTSD to the list of treatable conditions in Colorado’s medical marijuana registry made its way to the Colorado House of Representatives. After hours of heartfelt testimony from PTSD sufferers who treat their condition with medical marijuana – including Azzariti – members of the State Veterans and Military Affairs committee decided to let the bill die without allowing it to the floor for a full vote.
Three medical doctors took the podium against the inclusion of PTSD during the measure’s final committee hearing. Among those physicians was Dr. Larry Wolk, Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the government body that maintains the medical marijuana registry. Wolk cited the lack of FDA-approved studies on the efficacy of marijuana as a treatment for PTSD, apparently oblivious to the fact that none of the conditions listed on Colorado’s registry have been approved by the FDA for treatment with marijuana. In his testimony, Wolk suggested that veterans should simply take advantage of the state’s adult-use dispensaries.
“That seems incredibly dangerous when you’re talking about a disease that can ultimately end in death through suicide,” says Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), who sponsored the bill.
Singer says PTSD isn’t a condition that should be left simply to the discretion of a budtender at a retail marijuana shop. “Should they be using this as an over-the-counter medicine for something as serious as PTSD?” he asks.
“That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” says Azzariti. “That’s not the way they should have to go about it.”
Dr. Wolk may have been protecting his authority with the CDPHE, speculates Singer. Established as part of Colorado’s medical marijuana program under Amendment 20, the chief medical officer can hold hearings to add conditions to the state’s list of qualifying conditions, provided there is clear evidence of a benefit. However, in the 14 years since the passage of Amendment 20, not a single condition has been added. This, says Singer, has created a stonewall for those seeking to expand the list.
“Legislation really is a kind of brute force,” he says.
Including PTSD in the registry is important to all who suffer from the debilitating condition, although it is particularly important to vets who rely on the federally managed Department of Veterans Affairs for health care.
In 2010, the VA stated that it wouldn’t withdraw coverage for veterans who test positive for marijuana provided they are part of their state’s lawful medical marijuana program. With only six states including PTSD as a treatable condition, this means the vast majority of vets who seek to use marijuana as a treatment could potentially lose their VA benefits.
“Not having that as an option is hindering a lot of veterans from getting the medication that could potentially save their lives,” says Azzariti.
Detractors who cite a lack of definitive scientific evidence may soon find themselves without that flimsy leg to stand on. A new study sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies designed to test the efficacy of marijuana for treatment of PTSD is set to begin next year at the University of Arizona. The federally approved study will be the first of its kind through the Department of Health and Human Services.
“That’s really, really exciting,” says Brad Burge, Director of Communications for MAPS. “It’s an indicator that there’s progress.”
“There’s been a big gaping hole in scientific research,” Burge says, especially when it comes to whole plant treatment. The study will be the first in the nation to examine the direct benefits of smoked cannabis, rather than individual cannabinoids. It will also test the effect of CBD-rich marijuana on 50 veterans suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD.
Burge says he hopes to begin the study in January 2015, but the process of acquiring marijuana was stalled by the revelation that the University of Mississippi – the only source for test marijuana controlled and approved by the National Institute on Drug Abuse – didn’t have strains high in CBD. The crop needs to be grown at an outdoor facility this summer and harvested this fall. It’s the only option to source the marijuana that abides by federal standards.
“It’s the most drawn-out drug deal in history,” says Burge. “I don’t know if it’s incompetence or intransigence, or both.”
That strictly controlled process could be changed easily, says Burge. “What is very clear is that there are policies in place that can be removed with out an act of Congress,” he says. “It’s not like we’re doing something crazy, we’re trying to treat vets with severe PTSD.”
Until the study yields results, the mainstream medical community may cling to the naysaying stance held by Dr. Wolk. In the meantime, veterans and other PTSD sufferers are stuck in gray areas. They must lie on medical marijuana evaluations or purchase medicine from adult-use shops should they be lucky enough to have access.
It’s a dangerous situation, especially since some varieties of marijuana can actually act in direct opposition to the calming effect that is desired. As state legislators wait for federally sanctioned evidence, those suffering from PTSD will continue to suffer.
“We have an epidemic that’s taking over the country, especially now that the [Afghanistan] war is coming to an end,” says Azzariti. “Everybody should at least have that option, to use it in conjunction [with] – or [instead of] the prescription pills that they have right now.”
by DJ Reetz
Coloradans love guns. It’s a fact of western life, part of a culture that was founded on gun violence. We love guns so much we recall state legislators over their support for things as simple as expanding background checks to include private purchases, or the admittedly less common-sense restrictions on magazine size. We love guns so much that county sheriffs will sue the state government to protect the rights of their citizenry to be armed with combat-ready weapons. But we also love marijuana, and pretty overwhelmingly so it would appear.
It seems odd to reflect upon, but there is significant ideological overlap between marijuana enthusiasts and gun enthusiasts. Both groups seem to show a determination for self-reliance rather than depending on systems already in place. Both groups share a libertarian mindset and would rather be left alone so long as they are not harming the world around them. Both groups often see the federal government as the opposition, and both groups find Colorado to be an excellent place to live. Maybe there is something more than simply ideological overlap.
If you’ve ever tried to purchase a firearm, you’ve most likely come across form 4473, the default list of questions from the ATF to establish your legal right to own a gun. One of the questions you will find on this form: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Marijuana users here in Colorado can feel a certain satisfaction when they truthfully state that, “No, I am not an unlawful user of marijuana.” Unfortunately that smart-ass (though undeniably correct) response may not be what the feds consider a proper answer.
“The form they fill out is a federal form,” says ATF spokesperson Tim Graden. “Therefore they would have to answer it based on federal law.” This means that by checking the “no” box like the smug, forward-thinking person you are, you could be violating federal law by lying.
This is a stance made clear in 2011 when the ATF released an open letter to all federally authorized firearm dealers stating that they are not allowed to sell guns to people who they know, or reasonably suspect, of having their medical marijuana card in states where medical cannabis is legal. However, truthfully stating that you are illegally using legal cannabis means you don’t run the risk of violating federal law, but it also means you don’t get your sweet-ass murder machine.
When you complete form 4473, your information is sent to a federal database where your answers regarding your status as a felon or spouse beater are verified. It is at this step that someone registered with the state’s medical marijuana program might be fearful of landing in federal prison. But fear not, because the feds aren’t allowed to access that database.
“I firmly believe that it is a conflict of regulation,” says Brian Vicente of the Vicente Sederberg law firm in Denver. According to state law, it is a criminal offense to disclose the members of the state’s medical marijuana registry. This means anyone who tries to expose your devious criminal behavior is in fact themselves a criminal.
But do the feds really not have access to this tool in their hard fight against violent criminals? “I’m not aware of us having access to that database of information,” says the ATF’s Graden. Looks like the disclosure is yours to make.
“There’s no way for them to really check if you’re a marijuana user,” says Vicente. The only way for the people running the check to know about your marijuana usage is if you do something like use your red card as a form of identification. Or if you smoke up with your gun dealer, but then he’s probably got some things to worry about himself.
However, the feds do seem to take exception to the presence of guns should they be involved in the drug trade. This means if for some reason the feds are in your house on an issue related to marijuana, the presence of a gun could add five to 10 years to your sentence. It’s what they call a “sentence enhancer.”
“You’re looking at a significant amount of time in prison if you’re found to have a large amount of marijuana and a gun,” Vicente confirms.
But as for personal use, the feds mostly have better things to do. “That’s probably not going to be a priority for the federal government,” says Vicente.
However, Graden doesn’t quite seem willing to let the reins slip on this one. “We take all crime seriously,” he says. But the ATF doesn’t seem to be too concerned when the only crime is one so minor. “ATF investigations are focused on impact on violent crimes,” he says.
Once again, this seems like an issue that will cause lawful marijuana users to find themselves in the gray areas of the law, but that’s certainly nothing we aren’t already used to. It certainly seems like an issue that many gun-rights groups won’t take part in. The NRA spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comments for this article, maybe because they’re more concerned with making sure guns are still available after children are murdered en masse than with protecting the Second Amendment rights of lawful citizens.
Then again, maybe things are changing. An ATF representative actually talking with a cannabis magazine? Now that may show some progress.
by Skyler Cannabaceae
“It’s the people that I meet.” That’s Chad Larrabee’s favorite part of his job as Store Manager for The Clinic’s Capitol Hill dispensary. “When you have those repeat people — the fact that I have people come in to get away from their life. I have people who are like, ‘Oh god, my house is so stressful, I figure I’d just come over and hang out with you for a while.’”
Larrabee spoke to THC Magazine about his four years of experience working for The Clinic. Before he took a job in the cannabis industry, Larrabee was a massage therapist, trying to incorporate massage as another healing option for the dispensary. The massage idea was tossed, but he obviously made an impression on the owners of The Clinic. They offered him a job.
“I jumped at the chance,” Larrabee says. “They moved me to a management position, I think it was about six months after I started.” He took the promotion about three-and-a-half years ago and has been with The Clinic ever since.
Asked about trends in the cannabis industry, Larrabee says that concentrates are very popular these days. The Clinic is known for some very tasty and potent budder and shatter. The price of everything goes down if you become a member.
Have you ever thought about signing your plants over to a dispensary? If you look at the dispensary system in Denver, most have some kind of membership program with discounts if you make them your primary caregiver.
Originally, this was important because dispensaries needed to be assigned as caregivers to patients in order to increase the number of plants they could grow. However, since the dispensaries are not required to reduce their plant count when a patient leaves them, caregiver assignments to dispensaries are often used as loyalty membership programs.
I recently made the decision to sign up with a dispensary and sign over my plant count in June, after living in Denver for eight months and trying out over 20 different dispensaries. The benefit? In addition to lower prices, patients who sign up to a commitment of as little as a month receive a $100 store credit.
“The Clinic has great $30 to $40 grams of their traditional extracts,” says Giddy Up, creator of the Emotek Obe-Dos extraction system and supplier of concentrates for The Clinic. Giddy Up also told THC in a phone interview about his new addition to the concentrates market: live resin.
“Your traditional extract is made from cured material, but just like if you sell your weed to a person, it has to be cured first. When you cure it, you dry it. The water-soluble terpenes that were there leave during the cure. With live resin, they extract the plant the same day as it’s cut down. That gives you a taste closer to what the plant smells like during growth, as opposed to what your sack of weed smells like after cure. The color and palatability of live resin is improved, as well as the taste. It’s truly the best extracts on the market.”
The Clinic has six locations; four in Denver and two in Lakewood. I researched the Capitol Hill store to write this article, but I have also been to the main location at 3888 E. Mexico Avenue, The Clinic Highlands, and The Clinic on Colfax as a medical patient. The Mexico Avenue dispensary is the only one that caters to the adult-use market. I’ve received consistently good service from knowledgeable people behind the counter at each location.
If you want to find out more about The Clinic, check out the company’s website at TheClinicColorado.com. With a detailed virtual strain book and a Marijuana 101 section, everyone can benefit from it.
By Skyler Cannabaceae
The U.S. House of Representatives delighted cannabis advocates by passing a Department of Justice funding bill with amendments attached requiring that none of the money can be used by the Drug Enforcement Agency to impede state regulated medical cannabis, hemp growing and industrial hemp research.
The future of the amendments is hazy since the bill still needs to be reconciled with the Senate version before it lands on President Barack Obama’s desk. Many Congressional members are not waiting around. After passage of the bill in the House on May 30, they began pushing the Obama administration to adopt the changes.
The House approved the medical marijuana amendment to H.R. 4660 with a majority of yes votes from 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans. One of those Republicans was California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who put forward the amendment.
“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of …” the amendment begins. It goes on to list each state with current MMJ laws and then adds “… to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
While only a single-year appropriations bill, which means the same amendments have to be re-approved next year, it sends a message loud and clear to the DEA: Hands off medicinal cannabis. To underscore the importance of the issue, House members sent an open letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on June 17.
Thirty Representatives signed the bipartisan message, led by Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill). It requested that policy be changed so that any “non-National Institutes of Health funded researcher” will be able to access cannabis for research, so long as each one meets normal conditions required for drug testing on the federal, state and local levels.
“We believe the widespread use of medical marijuana should necessitate research into what specific relief it offers and how it can be delivered for different people and different conditions.”
The letter went a step further stating, “[T]he scientific research clearly documenting these benefits has often been hampered by federal barriers.” Since 1999, federal law only allows research to be conducted using the cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since NIDA has always been firmly opposed to cannabis use, it only approves research if the study’s goal is to find harm caused by cannabis, not the plant’s medicinal benefits.
Commenting on the vote, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said, “For the first time, a majority of federal lawmakers are acknowledging that states that seek to regulate the controlled use of medicinal marijuana ought to be allowed to act in a manner that is free from federal interference.”
As the fight for medical marijuana rages on, hemp seems to be having an easier time garnering political support. Rohrabacher’s MMJ amendment snuck into the bill with a simple majority of 53 percent. Two hemp-related amendments proposed by Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky) were approved by more representatives. Massie’s amendment to protect the “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” passed with 60 percent while Bonamici’s amendment protecting the cultivation and use of hemp for industrial purposes made it into the bill with 58 percent in support.
U.S. hemp farmers and researchers ran into problems with federal red tape recently. The DEA stopped two shipments of hemp seed that were bound for Kentucky and Colorado, both of which now have laws making hemp legal. The seed comes from Canada because it is not currently legal to use seed produced in the U.S. That is something the amendments would change.
The federal government held up the shipment to Kentucky, but eventually sent it on its way. In Colorado, Jason Lauve of Hemp Cleans is hoping that the seeds arrive in time for a good harvest, but says the shipment is still being detained. Lauve told THC that he is sending a letter requesting the seeds and says Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo) is assisting him in his efforts. Polis supported the hemp and medical cannabis amendments.
“History was made by politicians from both sides of the aisle, as we now have a majority of Congress on the record saying that states have the prerogative to regulate marijuana as they see fit,” Polis told CQ Roll Call. “I don’t know where this bill is going, but it sends a message.”
by Skyler Cannabaceae
After passing legislation in the New York State Assembly, the Empire State will become the 23rd state, including Washington, D.C., to allow medical cannabis after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, which he is expected to do. Some states, however, are choosing to only take on the heart-wrenching issue of treating epileptic children with cannabidiol while ignoring the other benefits of the plant.
Some legislators want to prohibit THC, which is a part of the medicine that they consider undesirable. The problem is that THC shares many similar healing properties with CBD and even has some health advantages that CBD does not have. Most cannabis advocates favor a “whole plant solution.”
Ten states already have CBD-only laws: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. The laws allow for the use of cannabis oil that contains mostly cannabidiol, or CBD, and only a minor trace of THC, the compound that causes the “high” feeling when cannabis is smoked or ingested.
There are other states with CBD-only laws in various stages of the legislative process. On June 20, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed the “North Carolina Compassionate Use Registration Act.” The bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the governor to become law.
Martin A. Lee is Co-Founder & Director of Project CBD, a non-profit group based on raising awareness and furthering study of CBD for medical use. Lee wrote an article published on the Project CBD website on March 22, explaining that CBD is important, but it can’t do the job alone.
“Scientific research has established that CBD and THC interact synergistically and potentiate each other’s therapeutic effects,” Lee wrote. “What’s more, marijuana contains several hundred other compounds, including flavonoids, terpenes, and dozens of minor cannabinoids in addition to CBD and THC. Each of these compounds has particular healing attributes, but when combined they create what scientists refer to as an ‘entourage effect,’ so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant exceeds the sum of its parts.”
Keith Stroup, Legal Counsel for the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is another well-known cannabis activist who has made known his opinions of CBD-only laws. On June 17, Stroup published an editorial on the subject on NORML’s blog.
“[E]ven if a patient from out-of-state could find these products in California or Colorado,” Stroup said after noting that the oil in question is mostly made in those two states, “it would be a violation of federal law (and also likely state law) to take the medicine back to their home state.”
Stroup pointed out in his post what he sees as lessons to be learned from the swift passage of CBD-only laws. He cited claims that elected officials are heavily influenced by popular media, opining that lawmakers “would get their scientific understanding of the medical properties of marijuana from a popular television doctor” rather than research the matter themselves.
Cannabidiol is known to help control seizures, but Lee pointed out in his March article that it leaves people with other illnesses without relief. He said that people with cancer, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders will not get relief with CBD alone.
While some advocates say that CBD-only laws are a good first step toward legalizing cannabis, others think that it sends the wrong message to the public. In the meantime, the focus on CBD is giving the impression that it is better than whole plant solutions – safer because CBD doesn’t get you high.
The war against THC rages on.
by Rick Macey
This is part one of a two-part series. Next month THC will feature NCIA’s discussion of Post-Prohibition America.
Fascinating. Intriguing. Compelling.
Those are three words that convey the National Cannabis Industry Association’s “Cannabis Business Summit.”
For two days in late June, the Colorado Convention Center was ground zero for the explosive cannabis scene. The NCIA promised to cover a lot of territory, including:
➢ Experts to discuss dispensary management strategies.
➢ New trends in cultivation.
➢ New rules and opportunities in banking.
➢ Innovations in cannabis business technology.
➢ Responsible business practices and community engagement.
Add to that list the opportunity to develop relationships with the industry’s top movers and shakers. The NCIA delivered on those assurances as each of those bullet points were covered by seminars, workshops, exhibits, and roundtable discussions.
The first day’s keynote session was supposed to feature California’s Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center. DeAngelo was sick with the flu, and Troy Dayton, co-founder of The Arcview Group, did a fine job standing in for him.
Dayton’s remarks touched on public policy (“When no adult is ever again punished for the plant …”) and the ongoing maturation of the industry. He predicted “real” acquisitions of cannabis companies to begin in two years, since most businesses are still startups or in early stage growth.
And since a business summit is supposed to be about, well, business, let’s dive right in and take a look at some of the companies competing in today’s cannabis marketplace.
“We Work With Monsanto”
One of the more intriguing stories at the summit wasn’t on the agenda of panel discussions and workshops. It involved the proliferation of companies offering turn-key indoor growing facilities.
From the outside, most of the ready-to-grow systems resemble cargo containers commonly seen on freighters plying the seas, or trailers pulled along by semi trucks. This is true of PharmPods.
The eight-page brochure for PharmPods gets right to the point, encouraging growers to think in terms of cubic feet instead of square feet.
Potential customers may wonder why the sales material did not list an office or physical location, but that wasn’t unusual among the various businesses. Many listed only a website and phone number.
PharmPods pitches its two-week setup time as a big advantage over more traditional build-outs, which require more than six months, it says. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, considering an empty warehouse space outfitted with Argus Controls could be ready in a couple of months, but it’d be more apples-to-apples if PharmPods added its delivery time of four weeks – which it doesn’t guarantee – to the comparison.
Nonetheless, the ready-to-grow solution is a great concept, and PharmPods seems prepared to cash in. It may face stiff competition from American Cannabis Company and several others.
But it was not the designs, the bells and whistles, nor the obvious early stages of these companies that made this sector of the market particularly interesting. It was the presence of Conviron, literally the elephant in the room.
Conviron is short for Controlled Environments Limited, a company headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada with satellite offices in North Dakota, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Australia.
The company has more than 200 employees. In the past few years, it has transitioned from a primary supplier of plant growth chambers to university researchers – a worldwide niche it occupied for five decades – to a company working with large agricultural corporations, including Monsanto.
Did someone mention genetically modified crops?
The company’s booth was not among the popular ones at the convention center. It projected a button-down corporate image that was short on hype and long on experience.
Bill Mukanik, vice president for client services, said Conviron recently signed up its first medicinal marijuana customer in Canada, where small grow operations are being replaced by a limited number of very large indoor grows. (See the article on Canada’s new regulatory system in this issue of THC.)
This may be the first significant foray into the cannabis industry by an established mainstream corporate player familiar with the demands of agribusiness. Can a tobacco brand like American Spirit be far behind?
As Conviron re-positions itself as a provider of large-scale indoor cannabis grow systems, recent acquisitions suggest it’s playing hardball. It bought Argus (control systems) in 2013 and in April 2014 reached an exclusive distribution agreement with Valoya of Finland.
The Valoya deal is farsighted, since the company’s expertise is in wide-spectrum LEDs developed specifically for high-volume grows. It’s only a matter of time before LEDs, which reduce energy consumption, become the industry standard for indoor grow lights. In some Colorado communities like Boulder, efforts are underway to legislate mandatory LEDs.
If Conviron doesn’t blunder along the way, it’s difficult to see how it cannot establish a serious – perhaps dominant – market position.
After all, business is business. Who’s going to care about that GMO stuff, right?
More Cannabis Competition
Bhang Medicinal Chocolates splashed the summit in a big way, including as the event’s one and only “Industry Pioneer” sponsor – the top of the sponsor pyramid.
There were more than 50 business sponsors of the summit, which meant lots of other companies jockeying for position in the rapidly growing cannabis marketplace.
That’s good, because the cannabis industry needs some important solutions, not least for financial services. As most of us know by now, the lack of access to banking relegates marijuana shops to dealing in a large amount of cash.
The federal government has made a few positive noises about not prosecuting banks, which work with cannabis companies, but so far no mainstream financial institution is willing to take the risk.
One way to solve that dilemma, at least temporarily, could be a service resembling GreenStar Payment Solutions. A brief visit with co-founders Chris Mills and Mark Newbauer revealed that two other companies, Advanced Content Services and SinglePoint are part of the mix.
The idea is to let consumers pay for cannabis using PIN credit cards and debit cards. The sale is processed through the ATM network, creating an electronic cash transaction. Funds are deposited within 48 hours. It seems workable.
A company that appears to have a nifty niche carved out is Boulder’s Surna, which promotes its water-chilled cooling systems as a more efficient, cost-effective alternative to conventional air conditioning.
Brandy Keen and Megan Veschio talked about Surna’s upside. One advantage is that more cooling compressors can be added to the same reservoir as the grow operation expands. And they know the business. As Keen said, “I’ll ask you questions that matter” when consulting for cannabis grows.
Another Boulder business, Miller Soils, will appeal to those of us who still love to play in dirt. “We’re the first in the nation developing a bio-char based all-in-one soil,” said Howard Sprouse, a company representative.
SPEX SamplePrep is a New Jersey outfit that sees an emerging opportunity. “Our equipment allows people to prepare samples before sending them out to labs,” said Sandy Mangan, a company executive. “That means a much quicker turnaround … to address the backlog that’s impending with mandatory testing.”
To wrap up this informal survey of businesses at the summit, let’s turn to Cannabase, an online marketplace, which allows companies to list their wholesale products and make requests for sought-after products in real time. “We connect the dots between buyers and sellers,” said co-founder Jennifer Beck.
Cannabase was first on the scene with this type of service, but the company may have competition soon from MJ Freeway, the seed-to-sale software business.
MJ Freeway’s sales manager, Ian Jones, was reluctant to concede too much information. “Let’s just say we will have enhanced B2B functionality,” he said.
And let’s also just say that the NCIA did one heck of a job on this event. The only criticism this observer had is that the industrial hemp industry was practically non-existent, and it would have been chill to see hemp businesses there.
Next month, THC will report on the “Post-Prohibition America” panel discussion moderated by Colorado attorney Brian Vicente. It was an excellent overview of the social, legal, economic, and public policy challenges confronting the legal marijuana movement. Please join us for that article in August.
by Skyler Cannabaceae
Regardless of the threat of stormy weather, the Hemp Seed Revival Festival celebrated the close of Hemp History Week on June 7. The event was held at Avogadro’s Number, a bar and restaurant venue in Fort Collins.
Hemp Seed Revival co-founders John Patterson and Josh Rabe, along with Rabe’s wife, Melissa, put the event together. It was a gathering for the whole family as children played in the outside venue area. Green and white banners overhead mostly blocked out the gray sky in place of a tree canopy.
“Over 200 people attended, getting informed by industry professionals and leaders, picking up free samples, making new and lifelong Hempster connections, eating fresh made hemp foods from Avogadro’s and drinking fresh brewed hemp beer from High Hops Brewing Co.” Melissa Rabe told THC in an email.
A man with starkly black-framed glasses played simple tunes on his guitar as people came in, visited different booths with different vendors, and got comfortable with one another.
Guests ate lunch at tables while listening to guitarist Dave Hill. The air was crisp and damp, but spirits were high. Smiles and laughter among the revelers were plentiful.
“The solid momentum of curious questions about the practical applications of industrial hemp has shown me that we are not only headed in the right direction, but at light speed,” said Jason Lauve. “I feel like I am holding on to a hemp rope tied to a rocket ship as it leaves the ground …”
A passionate industrial hemp advocate, Lauve is the owner of Hemp Cleans, a non-profit organization helping with implementation and regulation of the industry. He was there to talk about the myriad applications of hemp, and was surrounded by curious people most of the time.
After lunch, different speakers enlightened and educated the crowd. Among them were hemp professionals of many different stripes. In addition to Lauve, the lineup included Agua Das of Hemp iScream, Dr. Erik Hunter (Director of Research at the Rocky Mountain Hemp Association), and Mara Brosey from the office of Congressman Jared Polis, an important hemp ally in Washington. Rounding out the roster were David Piller of Vote Hemp, Mark Benjamin (President of Crown Jade Engineering), and Zev Paiss of the Rocky Mountain Hemp Association. Vote Hemp is a hemp advocacy group with a strong political presence, and Crown Jade Engineering is committed to building green solutions.
Among the exhibitors at the event were the Colorado Hemp Company, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Hemp Alchemy, and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Enviro Textiles had a hemp history museum set up in the gazebo which was reminiscent of the simple hemp museum that hemp author Jack Herer had in Washington, D.C. Summer Star of Enviro Textiles also spoke at the event.
The Hemp Seed Revival is a festival, but the group keeps the message up all year on its website and with other events. Touting the tagline “Hemp Seed Revival for Our Survival,” the group celebrates and promotes the use of industrial hemp for many purposes. Some uses include as building material, such as hemp fiber board and hemp concrete, as a healthier nutritional option in recipes, and to make clothing.
Numerous states have passed laws or are in the legislative process to allow for research, cultivation, and application of industrial hemp. After several decades of hemp prohibition, Colorado and Kentucky will harvest hemp in the fall.
Colorado led the way with a hemp crop in 2013, thanks to farmer Ryan Loflin.
by DJ Reetz
A new medical marijuana system took hold in Canada earlier this year. It is designed to increase access among patients and curtail some aspects of the old system that were seen as unsavory by regulators.
The new system known as the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations officially replaced the previous system known as the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations on March 31st. The transition has raised some concerns among patients and activists in the Great White North.
Currently, there are close to 40,000 registered medical marijuana users in the Canadian system, according to Health Canada. Most of those are carryovers from the older MMAR, but the goal of the new system is to streamline the application process. Under the old system, patients needed approval from the Canadian government in order to register – a process that included a 33-page application – but under the new rules a doctor or nurse practitioner can write a recommendation allowing a patient to register with a licensed producer. In at least this regard, the new system seems to be doing what was promised, expanding access by easing the process of application.
While the system was touted as a step toward greater access, many of the MMPR’s detractors see it as a move – at least partially – in the wrong direction. Under Canada’s new rules, only a handful of licensed producers are legally allowed to produce marijuana. As of right now the number of LPs actually providing marijuana to customers is 13 for all of Canada. This small number of producers must operate gigantic warehouses to meet demand. And the reform all but eliminates smaller, mom-and-pop operations.
Much of the media’s coverage of these developments now centers on these 13 enormous ventures, and the business people with the capital to invest in something so massive. One LP, Tilray, has so far invested $22 million into its operation and plans to secure $50 million to $75 million more through private investors.
Additionally, the MMPR calls for an end to the dispensary model, which operated in a quasi-legal limbo not too dissimilar from some parts of the United States. Licensed producers are now required to deliver their product via a mailing system. Canadian patients can’t peruse a variety of strains in person before making a decision, the joys of which we are all too comfortable with here in Colorado.
Most notably, the system outlawed home grows. This is an attempt to either promote public safety by forcing all production into a few highly regulated grows, or to tamp out the gray market of licensed growers selling to unlicensed customers. Or perhaps both.
A Canadian federal court ruled in March that grows already licensed under the old MMAR could remain in operation. This decision is currently being appealed by Canadian government officials. Whether or not this decision stands, any new patients seeking to gain access to medical marijuana in Canada will not have the option of growing their own.
Another point of contention among patients is the marked absence of extracts and edibles, although this is a problem that predates the creation of the MMPR. Only flowers are allowed in accordance with Canadian law (a problem the MMPR did nothing to address), burdening those who wish to consume in a manner other than smoking with the task of creating their own infusions and extracts.
Other allegations have surfaced as well, including a lack of access by some patients, and a limited number of strains. Without a clearly defined method for importation of new genetics, opportunities to develop and implement strains that are found to be helpful by patients in other countries could be in jeopardy.
The Canadian system is flawed, but the competing intentions behind it will no doubt be reconciled in the near future. Here in Colorado we often think of ourselves as pioneers of the legal marijuana market, but it is important to understand that our policy makers are often just as clueless as those in other parts of the world. Legislators often look for other examples of how best to implement policy, and the Canadian model could serve this purpose.
by R. Scott Rappold
Tourism has long been one of Colorado’s top industries. Few places on the planet can rival our state’s mountain splendor, powder skiing, thrilling whitewater rafting and endless hiking opportunities.
And these days, where is there a rival to our legal marijuana?
Since Jan. 1, the day Colorado became host to the first legal sales of adult-use marijuana in modern U.S. history, enthusiasts from across the nation have been flocking here to vacation and to get in on the fun. A growing number of cannabis-focused travel agencies have formed to cater to these marijuana tourists.
Marijuana tours range from quick jaunts to the mountains to activities around Denver to all-inclusive, multi-day luxury junkets. Tour guides provide transportation to help people get acquainted with cannabis culture here, find the best strains and stores for their tastes, and perhaps most importantly, to help ensure cannabis users who come here on vacation don’t leave on probation.
“The reason you’d want to have a tour guide is you don’t want to worry about getting pulled over. You don’t want to worry about having five-billionths of a gram of cannabinoids in your system,” said Peter Johnson, founder of Colorado Green Tours, referring to the controversial DUI limit for marijuana in the bloodstream.
“You don’t want to worry about looking at your GPS, trying to find the right exit, trying to find the best locations, the best deals,” he said. “All those things are taken care of for our guests.”
Exactly how many people are coming to Colorado specifically for marijuana is difficult to quantify. Colorado ski resorts experienced their best season ever in 2013-14, but how much of that was driven by marijuana versus ample snowfall?
Denver International Airport set a record high for April passenger traffic this year, but how much did the Cannabis Cup and 4/20 celebrations play into that?
Still, the sheer number of marijuana tourism companies popping up – more than a dozen as of this writing – speaks to their popularity. “It’s been an awesome year so far,” said J.J. Walker, founder of My 420 Tours in Denver.
The Cannabis Sampler tour is Walker’s most popular. For $1,450, excluding air fare, visitors get transportation to and from the airport, three nights in a “420-friendly” downtown Denver hotel and three days of workshops, cooking classes and tours of dispensaries and grow houses. While tour guides aren’t allowed to sell marijuana, they take visitors to the stores that do.
Walker said the average marijuana tourist is over the age of 40. They are are attracted to tour companies for more than the convenience of transportation. They benefit from local knowledge about everything cannabis, and enjoy the camaraderie with like-minded tourists, many of whom are baffled by the experience of legal marijuana and the rules of consumption.
“The reason you’d want to have a tour guide is you don’t want to worry about getting pulled over. You don’t want to worry about having five-billionths of a gram of cannabinoids in your system.”
Indeed, for the tourist without a friend’s house to visit, the tour vehicles and party buses are among the few places they can legally toke up. Hotel guests are in a quandary because clean-air laws prohibit smoking in their rooms, yet smoking marijuana in public is illegal.
Walker has arrangements with a couple of hotels, which he declined to name, wherein tour guests get a vaporizer on loan to use in their rooms and a smoking tent on the premises.
Other marijuana tourism promoters are working to find other ways to solve the consumption issue. On the recently launched website travelthc.com, property owners can list their homes as a cannabis-friendly vacation rental and visitors can arrange accommodations, from luxurious houses to spare bedrooms.
From the Travel THC website: “So, you’re coming to Colorado because we legalized recreational marijuana? Awesome – we want to meet people like you. Come stop by a local dispensary, pick out a great strand, and enjoy it … where? Back in your hotel room? Nope – that’s illegal. On the street? Nope – cops won’t hesitate to write that $150 ticket. In a restaurant or coffee shop? Think again.”
The first people to arrange a visit with Travel THC arrived in May; two New Zealand honeymooners who spent half their trip in Denver and half in a mountain cottage.
You don’t have to be on a noisy party bus to take a cannabis tour. Johnson, with Colorado Green Tours, offers trips around Denver or to the mountains for as few as one person. He also does a lot of business guiding potential investors in the marijuana industry and introducing them to key players.
The jury is still out on how much cannabis tourism will impact overall visitation and boosted revenue to Colorado. As Johnson pointed out, “A lot of people are coming here to check out the legal cannabis scene, but Colorado is a gorgeous place to check out anyway and cannabis makes Colorado that much better.”
And he doesn’t believe marijuana tourism is introducing new people to a plant that remains illegal in 48 other states, except for approved medicinal purposes in nearly half of them.
“People who are traveling to Colorado to use cannabis are aficionados,” Johnson said. “They’re connoisseurs like us.”
by Skyler Cannabaceae
July is a special month for hash enthusiasts (7/10, anyone?) and this article will give readers a look at some well-known hash makers. Questions include how they first got into making hash, what makes their hash special, and tips for new and aspiring hash makers as interest spreads across the country.
AJ Hashman is the owner and operator of At Home Baked, LLC, and Stixx, both of which use hash for edibles. Nikka T is the owner of Essential Extracts, a Colorado concentrate company. Giddy Up is a long-time hash maker who most recently won the 2014 Cannabis Cup for his 303 Live Resin extraction.
The Hemp Connoisseur spoke with the three men in separate phone interviews, asking them the same questions. Here is what they had to say.
The Hemp Connoisseur: What was it that first drew you to making hash?
Giddy Up: About 2002 – I have some buddies on the Internet, on a website grow forum, and there was a guy named Chief Smoking Bud and he had formed the K.I.C.C., which was the Keep It Concentrated Crew. It was the first time I had ever seen amber glass hash and there was about four of them across the country who started making hash as per how Chief Smoking Bud had showed us, which was open blasting.
Nikka T: I grew up in Northern California. Cannabis and hash was extremely present in my upbringing. To be honest, I grew up with the subpar standard bubble hash that everyone was used to up in NoCal. It’s kinda more of that black, gooey hash we grew up with. [I] kept thinking to myself that there must be something better. I was making BHO for a little bit there, then I realized that there is something better. We started controlling variables more. We started working in a controlled environment, like a lab setting in Colorado, and started creating a product that was made similarly to bubble hash. We were able to make a product that looked like the BHO, but not using any chemical solvents.
AJ Hashman: The science behind it. The fact that you could isolate the actual gland itself and utilizing that as medicine while getting rid of the plant matter which is just, kind of, the carrier to make the THC.
THC: How did you learn to make hash?
GU: How I learned to make hash was, like most everybody else who learns how to make it these days; the Internet.
AJ: I learned from a bunch of different sources, but mostly from some of the best hash makers in the world from my experience when I was younger.
NT: Originally, I kind of just taught myself. I had watched people up in NoCal, family farms up in Humboldt and Mendicino. Eventually I got my first set of bags from Pollinator in Amsterdam and when I first got my first set of bag, Mila Jansen (Pollinator’s owner and hash legend) gave me tips and pointers and things like that when I ordered from her and I really started producing in NoCal. Mila is the one who taught me the oral traditions in Amsterdam that we’ve kind of taken to Colorado and even honed in further, because we have the ability here in Colorado to utilize variables by having lab settings, which is something that we haven’t seen anywhere across the world.
THC: What type of hash do you make and why?
GU: I make butane hash and the reason I make butane hash is because I have the ability to do it safely and it gives the highest yields per extraction. It gives the best quality product that comes out.
NT: We really concentrate on solventless products. From our solventless hash to our solventless wax and now we’re even making solventless [hash] capsules, solventless edibles and things of that nature as well along with other ancillary products. The main reason for me is that it’s my passion. It’s what I believe in, personally. I personally am not into smoking BHO or other solvent-based extractions. It’s really what I prefer. It’s become a passion and our whole goal is to create that safer alternative on a patient’s shelf or even on the [adult-use] shelf.
AJ: I make all water-based hash. The reason for that is that it is the cleanest way to extract hash and, obviously, the safest way to consume hash and we found that we can get some of the highest concentrations of THC without adding any chemicals or solvents to the mix.
THC: With so many people making hash these days, what makes your product stand out?
GU: What sets me apart is probably because I use the Emotek Obe Dos extractor. That in itself helps us to produce some of the cleanest quality product that comes out of any other extraction unit around. It’s the one I invented. I’m pretty much the first person to ever take a closed-loop system and make it an active system as opposed to a passive system.
NT: In comparing it to BHO, it really is about the variables that you control and Essential Extracts is extremely OCD about controlling these variables. They can make sure that every single time you process and every time you put a product on a shelf, it’s the highest quality that it could possibly be. I think where we differentiate ourselves from a lot of other companies is we’ll dry [cannabis] for two-and-a-half weeks if it needs two-and-a-half weeks. We want to make sure it’s 100 percent ready when we put it on the shelf. We want to make sure that it’s shelf-stable. I’ve seen a lot of hash that looked amazing when it first hit the shelf and a week later, it looks horrible. Our products are very shelf-stable.
AJ: Experience. You know, we’ve made well over 4,000 batches of hash in the last 10-plus years and every batch you make, you learn something. That’s a lot of lessons learned and a lot of experience under our belt, and that’s why our hash is made the way it is, done the way it is, and comes out the way it is.
THC: Are there any recent trends in the industry that you are noticing?
GU: There are definitely – aside from concentrates, itself. The vaporizer pen trend is emerging, the e-nail trend, you know, the fact that a lot of these glass blowers are making rigs specifically for concentrates now has really re-energized the glass market.
NT: There’s lots of trends. People are going away from BHO, going away from butane extracts and starting to create solventless. I mean, this week alone, we sold over 25 sets of Essential Extracts bags. People are moving toward this industry and the industry is just going more and more toward the solventless.
AJ: We’re seeing a little bit of a revival for water hash, to tell you the truth, especially on the recreational side. We get a lot of recreational shops that want us to make their hash for them because people realize that butane is butane and solvents are solvents. People don’t necessarily want to put that in their body. They want old-school hash. The hash they grew up with, not necessarily dabs because water hash can last a lot longer. It’s a lot less harsh when done correctly and overall is just better for your body. You know, it doesn’t give you the kind of issues that you’re dealing with [in] BHO and you can hold in your hits, which you’re not supposed to do with BHO either. Realistically, people want knowledge. People want experienced people like me to explain what they know about the cannabis plant and about what we deal with on a daily basis. That’s exciting and interesting to me because, you know, on the medical side that was always there and now on the recreational side we have a chance to show that to the world.
THC: With medical cannabis spreading to more states all the time, do you have any tips for new or aspiring legal hash makers?
GU: I do: Do not open blast. If you want to start making hash, save up your money, find a closed-loop system that works for you, but don’t risk your safety, your skin or where you live for hash. It’s not worth it.
NT: The higher quality trim, the better. The best quality starting materials. I would even recommend using fresh frozen so that you’re able to extract the trichome heads that much more cleanly. We also suggest keeping your temperatures very low from your water and ice mixture that is actually extracting it, your drying environment, all those temperatures need to be controlled along with the humidity. Those are some of the things we really stress.
AJ: Be safe. Observe everything that you do. Document everything you do so that you can learn from it in the future and see the difference from one batch to the next. Practice, practice, practice.
There’s an old saying that professionals make it look easy. THC thanks all three of these leading hash makers for sharing their secrets, and we encourage readers to try their products and judge for yourselves.