by Dr. Nicola Davies
For decades, artists and entertainers (among others) have extolled the creative benefits of cannabis. Bob Marley believed that “music and herb go together.” Lady Gaga has said she uses cannabis when she writes her songs. Steve Jobs claimed that cannabis made him feel creative. The astronomer Carl Sagan even wrote an essay in 1969 for a book by Dr. Lester Grinspoon titled “Marihuana Reconsidered,” in which he wrote that cannabis increased his appreciation of art, music and food.
To test the hypothesis that cannabis increases creativity, researchers from various fields are conducting studies to establish a reliable link . However, what has emerged is that the link to creativity is more complex than previously thought and hinges on many factors, including the dose of cannabis, its quality and the user’s personality. Researchers who have collated their evidence from properly controlled studies do not necessarily agree with the well-publicized perceptions of many famous users. So, who is right?
In pursuit of the definition of creativity
While creativity is commonly defined as the ability to interpret traditional thinking in new and innovative ways, it is not necessarily confined to artists and performers; a person may be able to use their creativity to make more friends or to find fifty uses for a paperclip. In other words, the definition of creativity can refer either to a person’s output or their personality type.
Divergent and convergent thinking
During tests designed to understand how cannabis can affect creativity, scientists measured two types of thinking involved in creativity. There is divergent thinking, where a person arrives at a number of solutions to a problem through brainstorming many different ideas — the more alternate and innovative ideas, the more creative they are. Guildford’s Alternative Uses Task is used to measure this ability.
In convergent thinking, scientists measure a person’s ability to find the most appropriate solution to a defined problem using the Remote Associates Task. In a 2015 Dutch study, the researchers found that if they gave their participants high doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (22mg) versus a low dose (5.5mg) in vaporized cannabis, those on the high dose experienced a drop in creativity, when compared to participants in the low dose and placebo groups.1 Specifically, high THC doses impaired divergent thinking. On a lower dose, participants scored better on verbal fluency tests, an important aspect of divergent thinking. The study found that the THC content in cannabis, the regularity of how much the person smokes, and the personality type influenced the results. It cited a study in which scores on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) went down after smoking a joint for those who smoked cannabis regularly; but, for first time users, the TTCT scores increased.2
When less potent cannabis was smoked, users reported feeling that their artistic inhibitions were relaxed. But the question still remained: Did it really allow for better creativity? Scientists looked to neurotransmitters in the brain for answers.
It all comes down to dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can increase communication between the neurons and is commonly responsible for activating hormones to produce a “feel good” effect. In a University College of London study, researchers found that low doses of THC allowed neurons in the brain to fire with less inhibition.3 This meant that everyday thoughts were more united rather than random, allowing for deeper concentration. Many studies have documented that cannabis can increase the cerebral blood flow, allowing frontal lobe activation and increased neuron activity, thereby allowing artists to live in the moment and, as Carl Sagan mentioned, increase their appreciation of whatever is in that moment.
At the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, researchers looked at the dopamine receptors of people termed ‘highly creative.’4 They found that a low density of these dopamine receptors in the thalamus allowed many thoughts to get through without the dopamine performing its usual filtering task. This process could be responsible for the divergent thinking of highly creative people, as well as individuals with schizophrenia. But, what effect does cannabis have on individuals at risk of schizophrenia?
According to Rebecca Kuepper of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, those who take large doses of cannabis to enhance creativity run the risk of psychotic symptoms that could persist long-term.5 Although the researchers involved in Kuepper’s study were cautious, they did say that the natural endocannabinoid system has an important role to play, which could explain why THC affected neurotransmission in people whose dopamine levels were not well regulated, such as those with a psychotic disorder. It would seem from various studies that healthy individuals can cope with low doses of THC, even helping them to focus on their creative output. On the other hand, those at risk of schizophrenia can internalize this creativity in the form of paranoia and delusions.
Cannabis might help those low on creativity
In research conducted by Gráinne Schafer and her team from the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at University College London, two groups were identified — one with high-trait creativity and one with low-trait creativity.3 Researchers measured scores of various functions on a day when there was no cannabis use and again on a day when cannabis was administered. They found that verbal fluency scores for the group with low-trait creativity increased on the days they had cannabis. In fact, the scores matched the levels of those in the creative group, which they believed might be due to the increased dopamine release reducing inhibitions. They also found that THC seemed to have a disruptive effect on convergent thinking when searching for and converging on a single solution to a problem.
Non-users versus regular users
People who smoke cannabis regularly were found to have a fairly low level of dopamine functioning, and with the increase in dopamine activity they would perform better on a divergent thinking task, as long as the THC dose was not too strong. In contrast, for healthy people who have never smoked cannabis and who have no dopamine imbalances, a low dose of THC could stimulate dopamine production to such an extent that they could not perform at optimum levels, therefore reducing their creative ability.
Among highly creative individuals, whether or not they used cannabis regularly, a low dose of THC did not have a negative impact on their creative thinking. It would seem that very creative people have built-in protective systems prevent their brains from being overloaded with neuron activity and an excess of dopamine production.
Overall, it has been established that low doses of cannabis allow most people to focus — in other words, they become more productive rather than creative when they are writing, composing, or painting. In their relaxed state, it seems that cannabis users are able to embrace the ideas normally floating around in their heads and spend the time needed to transform them into a product. So, creative people are right in the sense that moderate cannabis use allows them to concentrate long enough to sit down and come up with the product that proves their innate creative ability. However, whether using cannabis actually makes a person more creative is still under investigation. ♦
1. Kowal, M. A., Hazekamp, A., Colzato, L. S., van Steenbergen, H., van der Wee, N. J. A., Durieux, J., … Hommel, B. (2015). Cannabis and creativity: highly potent cannabis impairs divergent thinking in regular cannabis users. Psychopharmacology, 232(6), 1123–1134.
2. Bourassa M, Vaugeois P (2001) Effects of marijuana use on divergent thinking. Creat Res J 13:411–416.
3. Schafer, G., Feilding, A., Morgan, C. J. A., Agathangelou, M., Freeman, T. P., & Valerie Curran, H. (2012). Investigating the interaction between schizotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(1), 292–298.
4. de Manzano Ö, Cervenka S, Karabanov A, Farde L, Ullén F (2010) Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box: Thalamic Dopamine D2 Receptor Densities Are Negatively Related to Psychometric Creativity in Healthy Individuals. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10670.
5. Kuepper R, Ceccarini J, Lataster J, van Os J, van Kroonenburgh M, van Gerven JMA, et al. (2013) Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol-Induced Dopamine Release as a Function of Psychosis Risk: 18F-Fallypride Positron Emission Tomography Study. PLoS ONE 8(7): e70378.
by Dr. Nicola Davies
Weed, pot, grass, hashish, cannabis, marijuana — whatever you call it, unarguably no other plant in history has been so controversial. Is marijuana an adverse substance that has corrupted users over time? Or does it hold secrets that could change the way it is perceived? Let’s delve into the myths, realities, and possible benefits of this infamous substance.
Myth #1: Marijuana is a gateway to addiction
For decades, marijuana has been nicknamed the “gateway drug” since it is often the first drug people try. In the U.S. and Canada it is the most commonly used illicit drug. According to a survey conducted by Yahoo and The Marist Institute, 55 million Americans have tried the drug at least once in their lifetime.1 Due to its wide use, it may be a gateway drug for some.2 However, the idea that it tempts users to progress to harder substances is mere speculation. There is little evidence to prove that marijuana drives dependence on other drugs. Dr. Karen van Gundy, researcher at the University of New Hampshire, says, “There seems to be this idea that we can prevent later drug problems by making sure kids never smoke pot. But whether marijuana smokers go on to use other illicit drugs depends more on social factors like being exposed to stress and being unemployed — not so much whether they smoked a joint in the eighth grade.”3
Myth #2: Marijuana is more addictive than tobacco and alcohol
Marijuana may lead to substance abuse. Research suggests that people who start using marijuana before they turn 18 are more susceptible to substance abuse than those who start using as adults.4 However, many studies over the years have proven that alcohol and tobacco are more addictive than marijuana. For example, Ruben Baler, health scientist administrator for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in an interview for a Live Science article, that the adverse effects of alcohol are far more direct and immediate compared to marijuana use. Gary Murray from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also believes that alcohol is often more dangerous than marijuana as it is more likely to react with other drugs.5
Myth #3: Marijuana is an herb, so it cannot be harmful
As marijuana is natural, people think it isn’t harmful. While its effects may not be instant, studies have shown correlations between its use and negative health effects. For example, depending on consumption levels, it can interfere with the brain’s ability to process information, which can impact the ability to drive. In 2016, scientists at The National Institutes of Health cited the widespread use of marijuana by American teenagers, with symptoms including slowed cerebral development, depression, and insomnia. 6 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cannabis can also result in chronic bronchitis.7 Thus, while data on marijuana’s negative effects are not enough to make a conclusive connection, it is by no means harmless.
Myth #4: Marijuana has only short-term physical effects
Marijuana, like any illicit drug or even prescription medicine, can have adverse repercussions. However, it boils down to the question of how much is too much. For some, marijuana serves as a rite of passage in their youth. It is unlikely that such users would suffer any long-term consequences. Short-term symptoms can include altered vision and impaired movement and thinking. In contrast, those who become dependent on marijuana and turn into chronic users are likely to have far greater problems, just like an alcoholic or a chain smoker.8 However, to say that marijuana is a killer is a gross exaggeration.
Myth #5: Marijuana leads to crime
Marijuana and crime — this connection is as old as marijuana itself. Negative connotations are typical with anything illicit or socially unacceptable. This is not to say that negative perceptions are entirely baseless. In 2013, a study by the office of National Drug Control Policy suggested a strong connection between drug use and crime.9 In 2016, another study found that the long-term use of cannabis could trigger violent behavior.10 However, it can be argued that conclusions from statistically correlative studies may not consider subjective factors such as socioeconomic circumstances or personality traits.
Myth #6: Legalizing marijuana will increase its use
Legalized marijuana is not new. The drug is already fully legal in eight states and Washington D.C., as well as partially legal in countries such as The Netherlands and Germany. According to the writer Austin Smith, legalizing marijuana has its advantages. For instance, it offers social benefits like employment and increased tax revenue.11 A major argument against legalizing marijuana is the risk of encouraging teenagers to use it more. However, a survey of youth behavior in the U.S. indicated that teenage use of marijuana has declined over the past two decades.12 Federal statistics indicate that in Colorado, teenage use of marijuana dropped after legalization.13
Myth #7: Marijuana causes mental illness and brain damage
Being an illicit drug, marijuana has been shrouded by speculation driven by prejudice and fear. A study by the National Academies of Sciences showed only moderate evidence of an association between the use of marijuana and cognitive impairment. With respect to mental health, the study did suggest a connection to conditions such as schizophrenia in frequent cannabis users.14 But while heavy doses may potentially trigger mental illness, there is no conclusive data to suggest that marijuana causes brain damage.15
Myth #8: Marijuana cannot possibly have medicinal benefits
According to the US National Cancer Institute, the use of marijuana for healing goes back over 3,000 years when it was used to alleviate pain and control seizures.16 It’s not a new trend — prescription drugs such as tetrahydrocannabinol have been legitimately sold in the U.S. for years. Cannabinoids are effective in treating symptoms such as vomiting, pain, and muscular stiffness. In 2012, researchers at the University of Plymouth, UK discovered that marijuana helped ease muscle stiffness in 30 percent of 300 multiple sclerosis patients in their sample group.17 A 2017 National Academies of Sciences report on the health effects of marijuana stated that cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain in adults, as well as epileptic seizures.18 Although current research on the medicinal benefits of marijuana remains inadequate, its healing qualities are well known and it has been legalized for medical purposes in many countries.
Myth #9: Marijuana works miracles in glaucoma treatment
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which optic nerves are damaged due to high eye pressure, or intraocular pressure (IOP). Glaucoma can be managed by lowering IOP. In this context, studies indicate that smoking marijuana could reduce IOP. However, marijuana can only reduce IOP for a few hours, which is why ophthalmologists do not recommend it as a treatment.19
Myth #10: Medicinal marijuana reverses cancer
Marijuana can reverse or cure cancer — it’s the buzzword that’s gone viral across social media channels in recent times. However, while it has been proven that medical cannabis provides cancer patients relief from chemotherapy’s side effects and studies in animals have indicated that cannabinoids lower tumor growth, there is not enough research to state definitively that marijuana can cure cancer. 20
Marijuana Mysteries: The Journey Continues
The world is in the midst of medical innovation, including heightened speculation on marijuana. In this context, it remains to be seen whether marijuana is exalted to the higher echelons of healthcare or if it simply continues its colorful journey through time. But one thing is certain: The myths and misconceptions will also evolve along the way. ♦
1 Yahoo News & Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. (2017). ‘Yahoo News/Marist Poll: Weed & The American Family’. [pdf] USA: Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. Available at: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/Yahoo%20News/20170417_Summary%20Yahoo%20News-Marist%20Poll_Weed%20and%20The%20American%20Family.pdf [Accessed 20/06/2017]
2 Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin CJ, Wang S, Blanco C. (2015) ‘Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study,’ International Journal of Drug Policy, 26(2):135-142.
3 Gundy, K. (2010). ‘Sep 07, 2010 Researchers Debunk the Gateway Theory … Again’ [blog] 7 September. Available at: https://blog.mpp.org/tag/karen-van-gundy/ [Accessed 20 June 2017]
4 Winters KC, Lee C-YS. (2008). ‘Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age.’ Drug Alcohol Depend. 92(1-3):239-247.
5 Brownstein, J. (2014). ‘Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Really Worse for Your Health?’ [blog] 21 January. Available at: www.livescience.com/42738-marijuana-vs-alcohol-health-effects.html/ [Accessed 21 June 2017]
6 Zajicek JP, Hobart JC, Slade A, et al. (2012). ‘Multiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial.’ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 83:1125-1132.
7 World Health Organization (2017). ‘Management of substance abuse: Cannabis Facts and Figures.’ Available at: www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/cannabis/en [Accessed 21 June 2017]8
9 Executive Office of the President of the United States. (2013). ‘National Drug Control Strategy’. [pdf] The White House. Available at: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/ndcs_2013.pdf [Accessed 21/06/2017]
10 Schoeler, T et al. (2016) ‘Continuity of cannabis use and violent offending over the life course’ Cambridge Core; Psychological Medicine, 46(8):1663-77.
11 Smith, A. (2016). ‘4 marijuana stats that will blow you away’ [blog] 17 May. Available at: www.usatoday.com/story/sponsor-story/motley-fool/2016/05/17/motley-fool-marijuana-stats/84326712/ [Accessed 21/06/2017]
12 Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. (2016). ‘MMWR Series: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2015. [pdf] USA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf [Accessed 22/06/2017]
13 SAMHDA—the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (2015). ‘National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Comparison of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Population Percentages
(50 States and the District of Columbia).’ [pdf] USA: SAMHDA. Available at: http://samhda.s3-us-gov-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/field-uploads/2k15StateFiles/NSDUHsaeShortTermCHG2015.htm [Accessed 22/06/2017]
14 National Academy of Science (2017). ‘The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research’ [pdf] USA: National Academy of Science. Available at: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain [Accessed 22/06/2017]
15 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (2017). ‘Marijuana’ [pdf] USA: NIDA. Available at: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2017/Cannabis-Health-Effects/Cannabis-report-highlights.pdf [Accessed 22/06/2017]
16 National Cancer Institute (2017). ‘Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version’ [blog] 13 April. Available at: www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq#link/_7 [Accessed 20/06/2017]
17 Zajicek, J.P. et al (MUSEC Research Group) (2012). ‘MUltiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial’ [pdf] UK: University of Plymouth. Available at: http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/83/11/1125 [Accessed 21/06/2017]
18 National Academy of Science (2017). ‘The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research’ [pdf] USA: National Academy of Science. Available at: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain [Accessed 22/06/2017]
19 Turbert, D. (2014). ‘Does Marijuana Help Treat Glaucoma?’, EyeSmart, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 27 June [online]. Available at: www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/medical-marijuana-glaucoma-treament [Accessed 21/06/2017]
20 Kossen, J. (2016). ‘Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?’ [blog] 27 March. Available at: www.leafly.com/news/health/can-cannabis-cure-cancer [Accessed 21/06/2017]
by DJ Reetz
Jason Cranford in his greenhouse
“I’ve been growing weed since 1979,” Jason Cranford says nonchalantly. It’s the kind of statement you’d expect from a grizzled baby boomer sporting a long, gray beard with his long, gray hair pulled back into a ponytail. But Cranford is a spry 40-something, and while his demeanor could be described as grizzled, an old hippy he most certainly is not.
Cranford belongs comfortably to Generation X, something evident from the Converse All-Stars he wears as he sits in the office of the grow he runs in Park County. He’s been growing cannabis for longer than many of those counted as his senior, and he’s not shy to talk about it.
Cranford’s tenure as a cannabis cultivator began when he was only eight, maintaining the plants grown by his father. “He always told me it was corn. So around the time I was 12 and I got a hold of some real marijuana and we were getting ready to smoke it, I’m like, ‘This stuff smells like corn,’” he recalls with a chuckle.
In the decades since, cannabis has remained a consistent part of his life. Cranford has gained notoriety as a firebrand medical cannabis activist and breeder, advocating for patients while developing his own varieties of medicinal cannabis and applications for it. He’s the man behind Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD, low-THC cannabis strain named for Haleigh Cox, who came to Colorado as an infant in order to treat her intractable seizures. Cranford is also the founder of the Flowering H.O.P.E. Foundation, an organization dedicated to expanding patient access to cannabis medicine. He’s fought against Colorado’s crackdown on the caregiver model, he was instrumental in passing medical cannabis legislation in his home state of Georgia, and he’s been the target of a $100 million lawsuit for his involvement in a saga that exposed the alleged contaminated product of an international CBD importer.
He’s been consistently involved with cannabis since those early days growing up in Macon, Georgia. After unknowingly assisting his father’s cannabis grow for several years, he was allowed in on the secret when he was 13, watering and tending plants. “I got to see him selling weed, growing weed, stuff like that,” says Cranford of his father; behavior that would land the elder Cranford in prison for much of son’s childhood.
His father rode with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, an organization most would describe as a biker gang. But while Cranford saw some of the rowdy behavior and drug use, he says he never saw his father as the kind of criminal that would intentionally do harm to others. Instead, Cranford describes a fun-loving party animal who once brought his six-year-old son to a biker party where he snuck beers and even fired off one party goer’s .357.
Cranford says he’s never been sure what the exact charge was that sent his father to prison; neither of his parents has discussed the incident with him in detail.
Listening to him recount these stories, one gets the distinct impression that the outlaw mentality of his father still resides somewhere inside him, explaining his need to push boundaries and court the ire of rule makers. “It’s something that gave me the balls to do what I do,” he says. “There’s no way I would have made it to where I’m at if I’d have listened to my lawyers.”
With an incarcerated father, growing up in a rough area of Macon was made all the more difficult, forcing Cranford to rely on his mother and grandparents for guidance and supervision. In eighth grade, he was kicked out of his school’s gifted program after being caught smoking weed. At the age of 13 he was shot in the chest by a neighbor following a dispute over a bike handlebar pad. That .22 round is still lodged in his sternum to this day, and the wound is the centerpiece of a chest tattoo featuring dueling dragons circling a heart of gold. The incident highlights a chaotic childhood, though he blames the shooting on undiagnosed emotional and developmental issues rather than the shooter himself. “He’s my friend on Facebook now,” says Cranford, shrugging it off.
Coming out of a seemingly perilous childhood, Cranford continued to dabble in underground cannabis growing, including during his tenure as an intern in the greenhouses of the University of Georgia’s horticulture department. Eventually, he was called to the Humboldt County area in 2006 to put his carpentry skills to work building grows for his friends in the area. He soon found himself schooling them on the finer points of horticulture, he says.
In 2008, Cranford came across the works of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the venerated Israeli chemist who is considered the father of medical cannabis. Mechoulam’s work opened Cranford’s eyes to the potential of medical cannabis, specifically CBD. Cranford had watched his grandfather die a slow death due to cancer, and the idea that cannabis could have helped alleviate some of his pain in those final days affirmed Cranford’s path in medical cannabis, sending him to Colorado on a quest to create more medicinally beneficial strains.
By 2009, he found himself in a small, woodland cabin in the town of Ward in the hills west of Boulder. With no access to the electrical grid or running water, Cranford was reliant on the stream running through the 20-acre property to power a small generator and provide water for his plants, which he soon had growing in abundance. “We planted about 200 plants wide out in the open in the sunlight,” he recalls.
Part of the “cigarette” rolling machine.
Cranford quickly established himself as a caregiver under Colorado’s Amendment 20, growing for more than 100 patients. And when the state began issuing dispensary licenses in 2010, Cranford seized the opportunity. “I’m like, ‘I gotta get one of those,’” says Cranford. “Basically we scrimped, we saved, drained my wife’s 401k, drained my savings and we rented a farm, built a couple of greenhouses and applied for one of the state licenses.”
The couple established a modest farm in Longmont where he continued to breed his plants for CBD. Cranford’s first break was in 2010 with a strain he named Cannatol, which had seven percent CBD.
While Cranford had read of CBD’s potential applications, he says, his eyes were truly opened to its effects in 2011 when one of the trimmers working for him suffered a seizure on the job. Having none of the THC-heavy oil that he would have normally used as medicine on hand, Cranford offered some of the 1:1 CBD to THC oil extracted from his Cannatol plants. The trimmer’s girlfriend administered the oil, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. “She rubbed it on his gums while he was seizing and he snapped right out of it. He got back at the trim table and he was able to keep working the rest of the day,” says Cranford. “It almost felt like I witnessed a miracle.”
The experience solidified Cranford’s commitment to producing CBD medicine, and through several generations of selective breeding he was able to create the plants that would become Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD strain that tests low enough in THC to be legally considered industrial hemp.
Throughout Cranford’s breeding process, the hype around CBD medicine was growing thanks at least partially to Sanjay Gupta’s seminal CNN report. The report spurred an influx of desperate parents to Colorado seeking to treat their children’s intractable epilepsy with Charlotte’s Web, the strain highlighted in the report. The company behind the strain, Realm of Caring, soon found supply outpaced by demand and approached Cranford for assistance. When his offer to provide high-CBD oil was rebuffed in favor of access to his plants, Cranford set out to supply those on the lengthy Realm of Caring waiting list with medicine free of charge. By 2014, Cranford claims he had given away more than $150,000 worth of oil, though he confesses this wasn’t for purely altruistic reasons. “I would say that I’m just that good of a person, but I’m not that good of a person. What I was doing is I was breeding. I was trying to create a Haleigh’s Hope hemp strain without giving up my terpene profile, my ratio, all the stuff I loved about Haleigh’s Hope,” he admits. “I didn’t really want the plant material or the oil, I wanted the seeds.”
The process eventually paid off. After five years of breeding, Cranford had something that would maintain much of the profile of a marijuana plant yet was still low enough in THC to be cultivated and sold as hemp. “When they set the definition of hemp, they only defined it as .3 [percent] THC or below. They didn’t say anything about CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes,” he explains. “What we have with Haleigh’s Hope is we have a marijuana terpene profile, a marijuana CBD level, with a hemp THC level.”
The strain may highlight the absurdity of the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, originating in the category of marijuana only to be bred into what is legally defined as hemp. This isn’t lost on Cranford, who sees the de facto .3 percent THC limit being codified into law around the country as arbitrary and harmful to hemp farmers. “Who the hell made up .3?” he asks. “I’ve never seen any basis for that number whatsoever.”
While some might consider the origins of the strain to amount to gaming the system, Cranford found himself with a consistent, reproducible plant. He was soon introduced to Janéa Cox, the mother of the girl who would give the strain would be named after. At the time, Cox was attempting to drum up support for a medical cannabis law in Georgia, where she coincidentally lived just 20 minutes away from Cranford’s childhood home. The two were introduced through Georgia State Rep. Allen Peake, who knew about Cranford’s activity in Colorado thanks to Cranford’s uncle, a Macon City Council member. Peake, who had been working with Cox to create legislation that would allow people Georgians to possess small amounts of low-THC cannabis oil, flew the young Haleigh to Colorado on his private jet so that she could receive the medicine.
That union bore fruit, giving a name to both Cranford’s strain and the medical cannabis law that would pass in Georgia. Dubbed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, the law allows patients who are suffering from one of a short list of conditions or their caregivers to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with no more than five percent THC content. While the act has been criticized for leaving patients with no method of obtaining their medicine other than smuggling it in from more progressive states, the allowable THC content is slightly higher than many other state CBD-only programs.
Haleigh’s Hope helped establish Cranford in the medical CBD field, and he was soon approached by a concerned mother who claimed that her child had gotten sick from consuming a CBD product bought online. Without delay, Cranford had the sample tested, showing it to contain an illegally high amount of THC, he alleges.
At the time, labs like the one Cranford had used were only capable of testing for potency. To test for contaminants, Cranford took the remaining sample to a lab that typically didn’t test cannabis. The results he was given showed unsafe levels of lead, and Cranford immediately set about broadcasting his findings on social media. Unfortunately, this would make him the target of a lawsuit filed by the Medical Marijuana Inc., the parent entity to the company that had imported and sold the allegedly tainted CBD product. Medical Marijuana Inc sought $100 million in damages from Cranford, the operators of both testing labs, and Project CBD, a non-profit advocacy group that published a report with Cranford’s findings.
At the time of the lawsuit, Cranford had recently left Kannalife Sciences after the company’s acquisition by Medical Marijuana Inc., something he believes may have played a role in their lawsuit. “I had a funny feeling that lawsuit was [about] more than just me posting a lab report,” he says.
Following a hasty settlement by operators of the lab that produced the results showing lead contamination — a settlement that consisted of a video statement claiming that the results sent to Cranford were preliminary — Cranford reached his own agreement. Though he is barred from discussing the settlement, press releases from Medical Marijuana Inc. tout the company’s legal victory, but make no mention of financial recovery, only a similarly suspect recording of Cranford that was never made public.
To this day, Cranford maintains that there was no indication that his initial lab results were in any way preliminary.
Currently, Cranford has some 30,000 Haleigh’s Hope plants growing on a 30-acre farm in Larkspur. Because of their low THC content, the plants are monitored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, rather than the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Adding to his legal footing is the fact that Cranford is listed as a professor at Clover Leaf University, the only cannabis training program in the state to receive accreditation from the Colorado Department of Education’s Private Occupational School Board. This affiliation has given Cranford’s efforts an added layer of federal compliance, which he says has allowed him to export his CBD products to some 40 countries around the world and create efficacy studies in conjunction with Children’s Hospital.
But while medical cannabis has been Cranford’s longstanding passion, he’s recently taken his expertise into the realm of adult-use. He’s now operating a wholesale grow in South Park, where a number of repurposed cigarette machines are producing a line of cannabis cigarettes sold as “Cranfords.” The accompanying ad campaign features Cranford doing his best Marlboro Man impersonation. “We’re waiting for the cease and desist,” he jokes.
While this seems like a natural extension of a lifelong cannabis farmer, it’s not hard to see that this foray into adult-use serves the purpose of supporting his other endeavors, rather than an effort to cash in on his years of experience. “[When] I got into this recreational thing, I wasn’t super excited about it; but it pays the bills,” says Cranford.
In fact, despite operating a licensed marijuana grow and medical hemp operation, he still maintains his caregiver status, serving some 150 patients; a process that is decidedly harder than it was when he first started signing up patients back in 2009.
Following recent efforts by lawmakers to crack down on the black and gray market, both at the state and municipal level, Cranford finds himself forced into precarious workarounds in order to provide medicine for those that rely on him. “It forces me to have little, small grows all over the place instead of just one big grow where I can regulate and quality control,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.”
“In their idiocracy in trying to eliminate the caregiver model, they’ve actually forced us into a model that’s harder for them to regulate,” he says. While some in the cannabis advocacy field have taken the crackdown with measured good faith, Cranford sees it as an effort to drive patients into dispensaries. But Cranford, who has previously dared the state board of health to have him arrested for providing cannabis medicine to sick kids, isn’t backing down. “I imagine the state would probably have a problem with the way I’m doing this, but they’ve forced me into this,” he says.
Statements like this demonstrate the subversive leanings that lie just under the surface of a man now fixed within the regulations of the state’s medical and adult-use cannabis programs as well as the international hemp marketplace. Cranford is a man willing to play by the rules, but it’s not where he came from, and it’s not what got him where he is today. His father, out of prison for many years now, still wears his Outlaws jacket to this day, says Cranford. And though he’s never made it out to Colorado to see the legal operation that his son has built, Cranford says he knows his old man is proud of him for turning those skills he started honing all those years ago into something real. ♦
by Matthew Van Deventer, photos courtesy of Heidi Keyes
Heidi Keyes, Owner/Founder of Puff, Pass, Paint
In 2014 Heidi Keyes founded the first Puff, Pass, Paint in Denver on a whim of passion. She didn’t expect it to be so successful and the odds were against her considering Denver was (and still is) lacking a framework that encourages or even allows social consumption.
However, Keyes, like a handful of other entrepreneurs, found a place in the law for her business. Today there are seven Puff, Pass, Paint programs across the country, each navigating the consumption laws of the city it’s in.
“I didn’t know they would be successful. [They] started on passion,” says Keyes. “I think people can genuinely tell we care about the plant and what we do to destigmatize [cannabis].”
In Colorado it’s illegal to consume cannabis in public, and places where locals and tourists can go to smoke it are few and far. Hotels usually don’t allow smoking in rooms, and it’s not allowed in bars or any other public establishment, so people resort to a front porch, risk doing it illegally in a public setting, or find one of a handful of private cannabis clubs.
Keyes’ business is one of a few that has managed to stay afloat. She says a lot of their out of town guests are frustrated and surprised when they land and find out they can’t smoke their cannabis. Many of them are consuming it legally for the first time and they want to do it right.
People who want to puff, pass, and paint, must reserve tickets online. Many locations don’t even give guests an address until they purchase a ticket for the private event. Guests must be at least 21 years old, are required to sign a waiver when they get there, and it’s BYOC — Bring Your Own Cannabis.
They don’t just stick with painting either, says Keyes. There are other classes like pottery, sewing, cooking and even classes for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s not just a fun thing, it’s something that helps people relax,” says Keyes.
Each class is two hours and is instructor-led, but they aren’t overly structured; people can paint what they want because the point is to encourage creativity, fun, and relaxation with a little help from cannabis.
“Even if you’re not an artist, we want to keep it really laid back to encourage creativity,” Keyes continues. “It’s not pressured, even if you don’t typically make art.”
Coloradopotguide.com lists about 10 clubs mostly in Denver and Colorado Springs, where people can consume cannabis. They are private, members-only clubs, most of which require their guests bring their own cannabis and they don’t necessarily have a creative activity set up for guests. They are more just places for people to hangout.
Denver’s longest running club, iBake, charges members $10 a month plus two dollars a visit. It offers T.V.s, movies, video games and board games.
The Lazy Lion in Colorado Springs claims to be the first dab bar in the world. It offers its members concentrates, edibles, and flowers through its “reimbursement” plan, according to the website. Members who have signed an agreement can reimburse the club for up to an ounce of cannabis at one time.
Other programming that has found the sweet spot in the law is touring. Guests on a cannabis tour are shuttled around the city usually in some sort of party bus where they can safely and legally consume.
Mike Eymer is the founder and CEO of Colorado Cannabis Tours. He was involved in the initial talks of I-300, an initiative passed by Denver voters last November that set in motion the creation of a social consumption pilot program. However, after months of back and forth with industry and neighborhood advocates as well as local lawmakers, the initiative came up short in the eyes of Denver’s cannabis industry, including Eymer.
“I don’t think anybody is entirely satisfied with what they’ve gotten approved or passed. It was supposed to be more than it currently is. I’m fairly lukewarm about it,” says Eymer.
People questioned why he got involved in the initiative since his brand, which purchased Puff, Pass, Paint in 2015, is and always has been operating within the law and won’t be affected by the pilot program. Eymer says he wants to see more competition in the industry, instead of businesses being forced to operate in the sliver of legal space available to them.
“We as a company believe competition is good, and competition is lacking in this department. We know we are at often times frustrated by copycat businesses because they think this is the only way to do it,” Eymer says. “So we really wanted more options for people because you simply can’t lock good entrepreneurs and good ideas out of this state.”
Eymer speculates that I-300 was a test of Kayvan Khalatbari, a lead architect of the initiative and now 2018 Denver mayoral candidate, to see how local legislators’ law making processes could incorporate community input in creating a law everyone could get behind.
“I think he might be coming up with his answer right now, which could be behind part of his run for mayor . . . part of this may be proving one way or another they’re going to try to thwart us,” suggests Eymer.
The voter-approved initiative was sold as a way to enact rules that would treat cannabis like alcohol and allow guests at clubs, theaters, and public events to consume cannabis freely. But that didn’t necessarily happen. Instead, after months of committee meetings, it became apparent that the next fight the cannabis community must grapple with is consumption.
At a June public hearing about the initiative, neighborhood advocates, established homeowners, and neighborhood associations like the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association praised the ordinance while some wanted it even more strict. Speakers from the cannabis community voiced their concern that it would crush any potential entrepreneurial spirit and make the city and state less competitive as other parts of the country open up legalization.
The passed law requires businesses seeking a consumption license to be in good standing with the neighborhood, have an odor mitigation plan in place, be 1,000 feet away from a school or public park, and prohibits them from serving alcohol, among other rules. A spokesperson for Denver Department of Excise and Licenses says they won’t be able to processes applications until August 31.
In an ideal world, Eymer says, “You should be able to walk into a cannabis club, sit down at a bar setting, pay for a dab, pay for a joint, consume it there, and leave.”
He likens it to going to a baseball game and being able to choose from an array of different brands of beer and liquor. The same could go for cannabis, where guests at a club or event can choose a joint, dab, or flower manufactured by their favorite company.
Businesses like Colorado Cannabis Tours and Puff, Pass, Paint won’t be affected by the ordinance — they were legal before and will continue to be so. However, the fate of the industry’s creative programming is at stake. On the larger scale, so is Colorado’s competitiveness as a cannabis tourism destination.
However, successful ventures like Puff, Pass, Paint not only help people relax, be creative and safely consume cannabis socially, but also progress the industry.
Keyes continues, “These types of events really help to destigmatize cannabis and therefore normalize it, and help push legalization nationwide. Other states do look at us, see tax dollars coming in [as] states [are] trying to figure it for themselves.” ♦
by Matthew Van Deventer, photo by Samuel Farley
The organizer for the Annual Denver 4/20 Rally largely blames big business and big government for prohibiting him from getting a permit for the event for three years, for which he had priority status, and fining him nearly $12,000.
“They want an organization that’s going to be about big business and big government at the same time. And so we’re not prepared or willing to rub arms with the mayor, the governor, or president or anybody unless they’re willing to have a civil engagement about equality,” says Miguel Lopez. Lopez has organized the 4/20 rally for the past nine years, since before there was a permit for the event. The cannabis industry was built on grassroots efforts, he says, which has opened the door to big business that can still serve as a source of racial disparities.
The day after the Denver 4/20 Rally in 2017, clean-up crews found Civic Center Park, where the rally is held every year, completely trashed. Media outlets were showing pictures of garbage strewn across the park, like someone had come through and ripped open the bags, scattering the contents everywhere, which is what Lopez, claimed had happened overnight.
Lopez told us that the company supplying the trash cans had dropped them off late so a lot of garbage went on the ground, which made the detail clean-up the following day after it rained overnight much more challenging. However, that was just one of the reasons the city shut him down.
Rally crews do an initial clean the day of the event and then they go back starting the following morning. The organizer claims to have spent over $2.2 million on clean-up efforts over the past eight years. They’ve been cleaning up the park by utilizing contractors, volunteers and even some of the homeless people who frequent the park.
“It’s not the event being penalized it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.”
“It not only lifts their morale, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility of taking care of their park, because for some it’s home,” explains Lopez who also says they leave the park cleaner
than other events.
About a month after the rally, Mayor Michael Hancock decreed that there would be a full-scale review of the procedures and policies of park permits to make sure they were compliant with the city’s Public Event Policy and Park Rules and Regulations.
Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which issues park permits for events in Civic Center Park, stripped Lopez of his status. DPR in a statement said Lopez violated many policies attached to the permit like properly cleaning the park after the rally, noise ordinances, as well as safety and security protocols.
“We value our parks, especially Civic Center— it’s in the heart the of the city … there’s a lot of big events that are multi-day events that adhere to the policies set forth on the [permit]. So it’s not the event, it’s the permit holder, because we can’t discriminate against content of the event,” explains Cynthia Karvaski, a spokesperson for Denver Parks and Recreation. At least one local news outlets questioned DPR’s decisions; 9News asked them if they could get a permit for an orgy in the park.
Karvaski explains that they wouldn’t be able to issue a permit for an orgy, because that would be illegal. They could, however, issue a permit for something like a sex and orgy education event.
And then maybe they could get what they wanted, if laws weren’t enforced. Similarly, it is illegal to smoke weed in public and parks. It’s pretty well known that at the 4/20 rally a few people smoke cannabis. But there’s not enough resources to clamp down on it. So it happens.
Lopez has since filed for an appeal of the ruling. If it’s reversed, Lopez will be able to apply again in November.
Fear not, though, because if the ruling sticks, Karvaski says the event could still go on: “It’s not the event being penalized, it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.” ♦
by Amanda Pampuro
Never before have cannabis consumers so thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of knowing how their cannabis was grown and by whom. When pot was (indisputably) illegal, scoring was scoring. But the Cannabis Certification Council is seeking to change this.
“Right now, at the retail level at dispensaries, most consumers don’t even think to ask the question about organic cannabis or fairly-produced cannabis, because they are just thrilled that they can buy cannabis. So [we are] educating consumers to start asking these questions,” said Ashley Preece, Executive Director of the newly formed CCC.
By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.
Without trying to ring any alarms, Preece noted that some cannabis producers offer poor working conditions on rural farms, often lacking electricity or air conditioning. Preece accounts for this “because of where the industry has come from, where we’ve had to hide what we do, hide the money.”
By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.
In Oregon, she specified, “During harvest, to manicure the cannabis before it goes to retail, a lot of these trim circles bring in a lot of younger women, because these are men on farms, in some rural farms, where they haven’t seen or spoken to people for a long time, so they will literally hire only women. These kinds of scenarios can create awkward living and working conditions.”
Another issue can be the lack of any work contract laying out terms and duration of employment.
On the horticultural side, the CCC’s adoption of organic standards will also give farmers an incentive to use living soils and avoid synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
The Cannabis Certification Council was formed in June when Portland-based Ethical Cannabis Alliance — founded by Preece — merged with Denver’s Organic Cannabis Association founded by Amy Andrle and Ben Gelt.
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s All-One soaps, donated seed funding. “The CCC with its unique mission, is a perfect vessel for us to support our values in the cannabis space,” Bronner said in a press release. “We are committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and we are excited for the CCC to begin driving that ethos in the cannabis industry.”
This may also be a business opportunity for the artisanal market.
“As Operations Manager of Yerba Buena, this seal will help differentiate our brand from conventional producers, giving consumers a choice and an opportunity to establish a relationship with the farms they trust to grow clean products,” said Laura Rivero, who joined the CCC as Vice Chair. “The cannabis industry is growing rapidly without such standards, and it is incredibly important for this work to contribute to the education of consumers and provide a platform from which to elevate the legitimacy and integrity of the entire cannabis community.”
As a nonprofit, the CCC does not seek investors “because we don’t want people owning the direction of what we’re doing. We have a board of advisors to do that,” Preece clarified. As with any other agricultural standard, like Fair Trade or Organic, all applicants will be audited by a third party prior to being approved or denied certification.
Preece comes to the table with a background in horticulture and a BAS in horticultural sciences form Boise State University. Each standard is an opportunity for “multi-stakeholder engagement …[with] the community,” Preece said. “A standard is a written document and they should be available to the public, and that it is usually curated through a multi-stakeholder process where we engage with the communities nation-wide. So it’s not two people in a room writing the standards and making the decisions, it’s engaging the entire community and all facets of the community in order to write the standard.”
Individuals interested in joining the conversation or lending technical expertise to CCC can reach out to Preece via email at [email protected].
Once the CCC’s standards have been released, the organization will run a three-month pilot and Preece anticipates the seal will be ready to market January 2018. This time next year, she said, “we would like to see our seal on jars and bags and products going onto all those products on the shelves in every dispensary that is legal.”
photo and review by Samuel Farley
Northglenn is home to one of my favorite dispensaries in Colorado, Natural Selections. One of their strains seems to be a rarity in Colorado and is something I have only previously tried when visiting California: Gelato. A strain that originates from the Cookies family, it is a genetic combination of Thin Mint Cookies and Sunset Sherbert. Gelato is one of the best strains I have had
all year. Visually, the Gelato is light green and covered in trichomes with orange pistils mixed in intermittently. Testing at 27.78 percent THC, the slightly dense buds have an aroma that mixes a light sweetness with a hint of fruit. The flavor is fantastic when smoked, leading me to smoke four joints back to back. By the end of my fourth joint, I was happily stoned, planted on the couch
watching Shark Week, still wanting to smoke more of it. Medically, Gelato is useful for anxiety and proved to be a great sleep aid as I smoked it over the course of a few days. The strain would pair very well with a lazy weekend. It’s not so intense that it will induce full on couch lock, but it’s relaxing enough to make a day full of nothing but watching movies sound very appealing. The Gelato from Natural Selections is a great strain in all respects, and one that I cannot wait to smoke again. www.naturalselections.farm
photo and by Samuel Farley
Quality Choice Alternative Care Center is a medical-only dispensary in central Colorado Springs featuring a huge variety of both hash and flowers. I recently had the chance to give their Sour Diesel a try. Their cut is a genetic mixture of Chem Dawg ’91, Super Skunk and Northern Lights, and it lives up to expectations. A pleasant aroma mixes notes of gas with more mellow earthy tones, and it’s not overly intense while still being very enjoyable. The well-trimmed flowers are a light green color with lots of orange pistils spread throughout the longer, lighter buds. Still sticky to the touch, the Sour Diesel rolls perfectly into joints and I was able to enjoy the strain to the fullest following a stressful week. The strain is commonly described as uplifting, useful for anxiety and depression, and I would agree with those statements. After smoking two joints split over the course of about an hour, the effect was uplifting, relaxing and slightly energetic. The flavor comes through well, and the flowers burned slowly and consistently, helping me stay lifted during the weekend. If you live in or around Colorado Springs, stop into Quality Choice ACC for their selection of some great strains, including this Sour Diesel. QualityChoiceDispensary.com
reviewed by Monocle Man
If discreet vaping is your thing, then this is the pen for you. No bigger than an e-cigarette, a Chroma Colors pen by Evolab packs a flavorful punch. Made with pure CO2-extracted oil and natural flavors, each pen is free of butane residue, propylene glycol or any other solvents or cutting agents. These disposable pens come in blueberry and peach, with more flavors in the works. My favorite is blueberry, but both are incredibly tasty and the wafting vapor smells like delicious fruit in the air. After just a few puffs, the resulting high was both mellow and uplifting; I felt very relaxed yet focused on work I was doing. Chroma Colors are also available in 500 milligrams cartridges that fit on a 510 thread battery. These pens are a welcome addition to my vaping arsenal. Check them out at www.evolab.com.
reviewed by Monocle Man
Coda’s line of chocolate truffles are as fancy as they are delightful, so the bar was set pretty high before I tried the Cream & Crumble chocolate bar. While it looks like a bar of high-quality white chocolate at first glance, it is so much more. The depth of flavor hidden in the chocolate is an unexpected and welcome surprise, especially since it was totally absent of any hashy flavor or aftertaste. The bar is made with tart white chocolate, spiced crumble and lemon — reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie. Each square is a strong 10 milligrams; I say “strong” because I ate a square and subsequently passed out halfway through a movie. I proceeded to sprawl out over my entire bed in a deep sleep and awoke at 6 a.m. to find my husband curled up on a tiny sliver of mattress that I so generously left for him. I frequently take edibles at night to help me sleep and this one did the trick for sure. Simply put, the Cream & Crumble bar is delicious and I would definitely
recommend it. www.codasignature.com