Weed and Western Animation

written and illustrated by Renee Thompson

For me, the relationship between weed and animation has always been clear.

Although it goes unspoken, it is apparently a familial tradition to smoke weed and watch cartoons. First, my grandfather watching Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings in the 60’s, and then there’s present-day me: smoking a bong in the wee hours of the morning watching Ranma ½. There is a certain wonder and magic about animation, about seeing art come to life. It exposes you to different perspectives, and perhaps because people don’t take it as seriously, there is more room to explore the world of cannabis. Animation is relaxing, beautiful, and more often than not, it’s funny. This stellar combination makes watching animation the perfect companion to a cozy night in with a joint (or three).

When cannabis is ingested, perception is altered in many possible ways. While every person reacts to cannabis differently, as well as having varied responses to various strains, most people do report heightened focus abilities and other changes in their senses. Spanish vision researchers at the University of Granada in 2021 found that cannabis use does affect vision, and the participants of the Effects of cannabis on visual function and self-perceived visual quality study reported seeing halos and other small visual distortions. As someone who watches animation both sober and high, I have noticed slight color, hue, and shade changes as well as small light halos which do slightly alter the works while being under the influence. For most cannabis consumers giddiness, hunger, and fatigue are common side effects to consumption that go well together with watching a funny cartoon and eating your favorite munchies.

After consuming animated works for some time, one begins to notice repeated symbols, metaphors, and other coded language that is used to bring cannabis into the audience’s mind. In adult animated T.V. series, like The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, and South Park, references to cannabis, like South Park’s Towelie, are in-your-face even if they were produced when cannabis use was illegal in the U.S. Characters in these types of shows can be seen purchasing cannabis from dealers, consuming cannabis, and may even have a designated stoner character. In some cases, watching these types of shows were many people’s first encounter with cannabis related concepts and rituals. I feel that animation is also largely affected by the creatives that make them, and since cannabis has been known to alter creativity, it makes sense that artists who may use cannabis would slip in these references into the art they make. Even though animators like Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward, Steven Universe’s Rebecca Sugar, and Gravity Fall’s Alex Hirsch have been speculated by fans as cannabis users, none of them have ever made any public comments about using cannabis. 

Animation made after cannabis legalization in America, like Midnight Gospel, seem to be moving away from more joke-like cannabis use and focus on real conversations embedded in the dialogue. Midnight Gospel opens with cannabis activists being eaten by zombies as the main character, Clancy, interviews the President of the United States, played by Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction medicine specialist, about the pros and cons of drugs. Together, the characters have an in-depth conversation about sensations, experiences and research related to psychedelics. The animated fictitious tale combined with real interviews created a new type of storytelling that I had never seen before.

Animated films on the other hand, are not as cannabis-friendly as adult animated T.V. series. Most likely due to the fact that a majority are made for children. However, there are some exceptions. In the animated film Persepolis, a film based on the autobiographical comic The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Marjane recounts her use of cannabis as a way to forget about the troubles she left in war-torn Iran and connect with her new friends in Europe. In the film, which was made in France,  you see Marjane buying cannabis, consuming cannabis, and reflecting on her own use of the substance. Whether displayed as exaggerated use, as shown in shows like American Dad with the golden blunt, or a more realistic use as seen in Persepolis, adult animation is where you see the bulk of cannabis references and use.

 As for non-adult animation, references are more hidden. In season 4 of Hey Arnold!, Arnold’s grandpa insists he cannot go back to school because he, “lost too many brain cells,” and insinuates Woodstock for being partially responsible. There are also more blatant references in shows like Bob’s Burgers, which is rated 13+, but also shows the Belcher children working on an illegal weed farm and selling weed to other characters. In the realm of advertising, the partially animated Expensify commercial featuring rapper 2 Chainz, which aired during Super Bowl LIII in 2019, shows a scene where the musician helps the reindeer he is riding smoke out of a bong. In that same Super Bowl, an Acreage commercial calling for medicinal cannabis legalization was blocked from airing.

There is something extremely nostalgic about cartoons, animated films, and anime that reminds me of simpler times. Even though the days of walking to Blockbuster video to get the latest Studio Ghibli movie are over, animation has never been more accessible. Today’s streaming services offer thousands of choices, and one could watch animated works for years without watching anything twice. Animation has always been a stage to talk about real life, as distorted as some of the creations are. This is also one of the few mediums that has been able to implement cannabis culture, possibly because of the artists behind the animated works and/or the audiences that consume them. I hypothesize that as cannabis consumption becomes more normalized, we will continue to see realistic, and perhaps less humorous, cannabis use in animation. 

For those that are looking for some recommendations, here are some of my favorite animated T.V. shows and movies not yet mentioned in this article. Most of these titles are available on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or HBO Max, but you could also find some of these works at your local library.

Movies:

         1. The Secret of Kells, 2009

         2. My High School Sinking Into The Sea, 2016*

         3. Loving Vincent, 2017

         4. Disney’s Fantasia, both 1999 and 2000 versions

         5. Chico and Rita, 2010*

T.V. Shows:

         1. Bee and Puppycat, 2013

         2. Daria, 1997*

         3. Tuca & Birdie, 2019*

         4. Disenchantment, 2018*

         5. Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin’ Sclopio Peepio, 2016*

*Related to cannabis, or has cannabis references. 

Niche in the Neighborhood

written and photographed by Annie McVay, with additional photos provided from the Oregon Historical Society and Lane County History Museum

Have you ever wondered about the history behind the building a dispensary occupies? Featured below are two local dispensaries with rich background stories you may not have heard before. If any readers out there know of any others, please share them with us @greeneugenemag!

Jamaica Joel’s – 37 W. 13th Ave. Suite 201

photo provided by Lane County History Museum

The building Jamaica Joel’s occupies has a genuinely unique Art Moderne and International Style architecture, popular in the post-war era. The use of aluminum railings, curves, and reinforced concrete may remind you of similar building characteristics from the Fallout video game series. According to the University of Washington’s Pacific Coast Architecture Database, the building design was the first independent commission done by Harry Robert Wilmsen, a local Eugene Architect. Earnest W. Ellis started his photography business in 1920 and requested the commission from Wilmsen. Ellis moved his studio there once construction was finished in 1947.   

Ellis owned the building until he passed away in 1976. Thankfully, Kennell Ellis Photography continues to live on today. The plethora of photos of the building from the 40s exists today precisely because of the Kennell Ellis studio. Upstairs, there was Gredvig Beauty Studio and the Kennell Ellis Photography Studio. Below was Morse’s Women’s Wear, which must have realized how much the curved glass display window added to the elegance of their women’s clothing. The striking Kennell Ellis neon sign continues to decorate the building today.

Locally owned and operated, Jamaica Joel’s truly is a dispensary for the people. Before COVID-19 put a halt on public events, the dispensary even hosted “Joel’s Jams” and featured independent hip-hop artists such as Zion I. Using the dispensary as a venue to spread creativity, art and ideas for the people is something we all hope to see again in the future! Remember to support your local dispensary so they make it through these tough times. 

Cannabliss & Co The Sorority House – 588 E. 11th Ave

photo provided by Lane County History Museum

The Sorority House was built in 1902 for the historically well-known banker, attorney, and State Legislator Windsor W. Calkins. Given the distinctive Queen Anne Style architecture and prime location, the Calkins house is surely as hard to miss these days as it was back then. The fanciful conical-roofed corner tower, wrap-around open-air covered porch, stained glass window panes, and the plethora of ornate interior woodwork are all staples of the Victorian Era architectural style. The Queen Anne Style was popular from 1880 to the early 1900s. Windsor, following family tradition, modeled the design off his childhood home in northern Minnesota. The Calkins family never could have guessed what a delightful dispensary their home would become!   

Way before Green Eugene took an interest in this dispensary’s rich history, another student from the University of Oregon had acknowledged the home’s unique value. Kimberly Goddard, at the time a graduate student at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, prepared the form to have the Calkins house registered nationally. Previously, Eugene citizens voted on keeping the house in the community using  taxpayer money, but the measure failed. Then in 1976, the home was titled a City of Eugene Historical Landmark. Thanks to Goddard, on December 9th, 1981, it was published in the National Register of Historic Places. The Calkins house is one of the last of the elegant homes from this historical period, even outliving the famed Patterson house featured in Animal House.

While the official documents state the Calkins house site was acquired through part of Hillyard Shaw’s first donation of land to Eugene in the 1860s, it is essential to acknowledge this land first belonged to various Indigenous Peoples. Earlier agreements in the 1850s made by the Congress-appointed Willamette Valley Treaty Commission did not end with any Indigenous Peoples agreeing to leave the valley. Unfortunately, these agreements were not ratified because they did not make the tribes relocate East of the Cascades. By January 1855, after constant encroachment, harassment, and diseases brought by American settlers, the Indigenous Peoples signed the Kalapuya Treaty (also known as the Willamette Valley treaty). The Kalapuya, the Clackamas Chinook, and the Molala peoples were removed by force from the Willamette Valley during the following winter.   

In 1886, the property passed from Robert Scott to Mary Scott, who then sold the land to Windsor Calkins on April 17th, 1902. The house continued to stay in the family after Calkins died in 1945, leaving the property to his daughter, Jeannette. In 1975, Thomas and Nelly Link and Anne Kimball bought the house, saving it from otherwise slated demolition. The new owners began many restoration efforts, such as fixing the foundation, porch, siding, roof and replacing support beams plagued with dry rot. The original hardware found in the house was also reused, and missing pieces were replaced with vintage hardware from the period. They later opened the Calkins house as a bed and breakfast, which required few alterations to the building’s authenticity.  

Cannabliss & Co acquired the property in 2016 and dubbed this new location ‘The Sorority House.’ Besides the sign in the spacious and sprawling front yard, many would think it was just that, especially given its prime location near the University of Oregon campus. Cannabliss & Co did an exceptional job in this first year of business, impressing so many customers that The Sorority House took first place for best dispensary in Emerald Media Group’s 2017 Best of Campus. The Emerald Essentials article featuring this accomplishment by Delaney Rea noted how knowledgeable the budtenders were and the wide selection of products – both of which are still true today!  

Endocannabinoid Deficiency and Cannabis Use Disorder

an opinion piece written by staff writer Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

It is my opinion that psychiatrists and psychologists may be misdiagnosing some people who use cannabis with Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD). Now, my argument is not that people cannot misuse cannabis or cannot be addicted to it. Instead, I want to focus on how some symptoms of endocannabinoid deficiency can fit in with the diagnostic profile of Cannabis Use Disorder. It wasn’t until recently that cannabis education for medical and mental health professionals became more common, and maybe even more desirable to those professionals. Let’s start with some basics. Cannabis Use Disorder is defined as having 2 or more of the following symptoms; 

  1. Cannabis is often taken in larger amounts over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or insignificant effort to cut down or control cannabis use.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain cannabis, use cannabis or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving or a strong desire or urge to use cannabis.
  5. Recurrent cannabis use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home.
  6. Continued cannabis use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of cannabis.
  7. Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of cannabis use.
  8. Recurrent cannabis use in situations which is physically hazardous.
  9. Cannabis use is continued despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems that are unlikely to have been caused or exacerbated by cannabis.
  10. Tolerance, as defined by either:
    1. A need for markedly increased amounts of cannabis to achieve intoxication and desired effect, or
    2. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of cannabis.
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either:
    1. The characteristic withdrawal symptoms for cannabis, or
    2. A closer related substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Again, I am not saying that cannabis is not addicting or that people don’t misuse it. It is very understandable for criteria such as failing to fulfill major obligations due to your use of cannabis to be cause for a CUD diagnosis. I generally agree with criteria 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. The reasons I didn’t include 1, 4, and 8 are because I think that they can be easily misinterpreted in sessions, however, they do have standing when paired with other criteria and situations. For criteria 10 and 11, this is where I think endocannabinoid deficiency can provide a different explanation.

Cannabis tolerance is still a new research topic. It is very dependent on one’s own endocannabinoid system, for example, some people have developed a high tolerance in order to function on their dosage of medication. Some doctors may misinterpret this high dosage use of cannabis to indicate the cannabis tolerance is negative. One withdrawal symptom of cannabis is stated to be a lack of appetite, but what if that is the reason you choose to medicate with cannabis? Other withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, depression and irritability, several of the many reasons why people choose to medicate with cannabis in the first place. Therefore, it would make sense that these symptoms would occur when cannabis use is stopped. However, therapists and other mental health professionals often stigmatized the use of cannabis and may misdiagnose their patients, creating a problem that does not exist.

Humans have two major endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Research has found that the endocannabinoid system in humans plays a large role in several bodily processes and functions, including ones that occur in the above-mentioned conditions. The purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis. When someone is deficient in certain endocannabinoids, this can cause dysregulation of that homeostasis, which in turn may be the possible cause of several conditions and symptoms. Endocannabinoid deficiency has been suggested to be the cause of several types of disorders that before have not been found to have a specific cause. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, glaucoma, bipolar disorder, and more have all been suggested to be linked to endocannabinoid deficiency. 

As an example, let us take a brief look at migraines and the endocannabinoid system. From 1843 to 1943 when cannabis was put on Schedule I, cannabis was one of the main treatments for someone suffering from a migraine. While there are limited human clinical trials, the case studies and survey research that have been conducted have shown that cannabis use may help to treat migraines. From the research that has been done, individuals who suffer migraines show decreased anandamide and 2-AG levels. CBD acts via the TRPV1, a specific cannabinoid receptor, and also limits the production of the enzyme fatty acid amidohydrolase (FAAH) which is responsible for the breakdown of anandamide. THC on the other hand activates the CB1 receptors which may help treat migraines by potentially inhibiting the trigeminovascular system which plays a huge role in migraines and headaches. Supplementing with cannabis, THC and CBD can help bring the endocannabinoid system back into homeostasis. 

In addition to phytocannabinoids, there are things that an individual can do to naturally boost the body’s endocannabinoid system. We call these “cannabimimetic agents” and they include activities such as exercising, eating foods, or taking supplements high in Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Activities such as these help to boost your body’s endocannabinoid system without using any part of the cannabis plant. While you may be able to boost your endocannabinoid system without cannabis, there are still many unknowns when it comes to treating things like migraines, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. If using cannabis helps mediate symptoms than your standard pharmaceuticals, then the concern needs to be focused on researching why cannabis is working to treat that disorder instead of stigmatizing and misdiagnosing patients.

References

Russo E. B. (2016). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 154–165. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0009 

Cannabis and The Climate

written and photographed by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

If anyone has ever grown a cannabis plant or two, you know that they require a lot of love and can be a lot of work. There are both genetic and environmental factors that influence how a plant will develop and what it will look like. It is commonly known that the difference between “indica” and “sativa” varieties is the morphology, but somewhere down the line, it became misconstrued into describing the effects.  

Cannabis has two main subspecies, Cannabis sativa subsp. Sativa and Cannabis sativa subsp. indica. The domesticated varieties of these subspecies include: Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa var. sativa (Broad-leaf hemp or BLH), Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa var. chinesis (Narrow-leaf hemp or NLH), Cannabis sativa subsp. indica var. indica (Narrow-leaf drug or NLD), Cannabis sativa subsp. indica var. afghanica (Broad-leaf drug or BLD). If you’d like to read more about the indica vs sativa debate, you can do so here, but today we’re going to focus on Cannabis sativa subsp. indica var. indica (Narrow-leaf drug or NLD) and Cannabis sativa subsp. indica var. afghanica (Broad-leaf drug or BLD). These are the “drug varieties” of cannabis with moderate to high levels of THC. Plants within the narrow-leaf drug category are what some consider to be the standard morphology of a “Sativa” and plants within the broad-leaf drug category would be considered to have the morphology of an “Indica.”

Cannabis morphology is largely based on the genetic origins of the plant. Certain plant adaptations occur in cannabis due to certain climates that they develop in. This is why many Afghani/Hindu Kush strains can have purple shades to them—because they evolved in colder mountain climates, they genetically adapted to their climate by producing more anthocyanins. These plants are also shorter and bushier than other varieties due to their adaptations to colder climates. Through selective breeding of these purple genetics, we have strains today like Sirius Black from Oregon Breeders Group. In the case of your “sativa” narrow-leaf drug varieties, the plants are typically taller and the leaves less dense due to the hotter climates they developed in and adapted to. Next to genetics, the weather is one of the most important factors. The colder the weather, the more stressed the plant can become if it is not native or adapted to the climate. If the climate is too hot, the plant can get burnt by the heat. 

The cannabis plant comes in many shades, such as greens, reds, and purples. Much like chlorophylls give plants and leaves their green color, flavonoids like anthocyanins give plants their orange, red, pink, purple, blue, and even black colors. To begin, flavonoids are consumed by humans through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods and drinks. Anthocyanins are a specific group of flavonoids. This group of flavonoids includes over 400 different kinds of anthocyanins. Just a small fraction of the anthocyanins you may see expressed in the cannabis plant include cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and petunidin.

In addition to providing color to the plants, flavonoids and anthocyanins have shown to have both neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties (Weston-Green, 2019). This is among the many reasons that people recommend using whole-plant extracts and concentrates like RSO and tinctures to aid in certain medical conditions. In particular, the cannabis plant also contains two specific flavonoids, Cannflavin A and Cannflavin B. Most recently, researchers have looked at their potential to help fight pancreatic cancer. Although the research is still new, it is something to keep an eye on in the future (Moreau et al., 2019).

References

McPartland, J. M. (2018). CannabisSystematics at the Levels of Family, Genus, and Species. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 3(1), 203–212. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0039  

Moreau, M., Ibeh, U., Decosmo, K., Bih, N., Yasmin-Karim, S., Toyang, N., Lowe, H., & Ngwa, W. (2019). Flavonoid Derivative of Cannabis Demonstrates Therapeutic Potential in Preclinical Models of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. Frontiers in oncology, 9, 660. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2019.00660

Weston-Green, K. (2019). The United Chemicals of Cannabis: Beneficial Effects of Cannabis Phytochemicals on the Brain and Cognition. Recent Advances in Cannabinoid Research, 83–100. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.79266  

Campfire Cannabis

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex photographed by Kimberly Harris

Oregon, California and the rest of the West Coast have had their fair share of wildfires throughout the years. Here in the city of Eugene, we have been fortunate enough to not be directly affected by these wildfires outside of the smoke. However, many cannabis farms have not been so lucky when it comes to wildfire, and outdoor operations across Oregon have all had to deal with second-hand effects such as smoke and ash. 

Outdoor growing and greenhouses operations were some of the most affected by this year’s fires. The OLCC reported that over 20% of their licensees were in evacuation areas for the fires. Several dispensaries were lost in Southern Oregon, including Talent Health Club, Grateful Meds, Canyon Cannabis, Fireside Dispensary, and Blue River Grass Station. Roganja Farms and Primo Farms were two farms we are aware of that had plants destroyed by the fires. One cannabis testing lab, EcoTest Labs, reportedly lost their building as well. 

I took this opportunity to speak with a couple of growers located in Oregon to get some information about their experiences with the fires and smoke. Heroes of the Farm is one of several northeast Oregon farms that had plants affected by the wildfire smoke and ash. Pat, head grower and owner, combated the ash that fell on his plants with a backpack leaf blower which seemed to blow most of it off. Pat also noted that the heavy smoke from the fires turns the pistols of the plant dark orange. This, he stated, gives the appearance of plants that are ready to harvest when in reality, the plants have a few weeks to go before they are fully mature. He says he hopes the smell of smoke doesn’t stick through the harvest and curing process.

The next is a southern Oregon farm located at the top of the infamous “Emerald Triangle.” 42 Degrees Farms is an outdoor hemp farm that is focused on growing craft hemp. Shane has been growing cannabis for over 10 years and this last year decided to grow hemp varieties of cannabis. 42 Degrees was extremely thankful that their farm was spared from any flames coming from the Alameda Fire, which started just about three miles north of their property. While the plants did have some days where the sun was clouded in thick smoke, they believe the rains in the days before harvest may have helped clean up the plants. While their plants didn’t show any significant changes, they did have other friends experience similar changes to what Pat described above in their own plants. During the fires, the 42 Degrees team continued to put in the hard work through the hazardous air conditions in order to have a successful harvest this October. 

So we have to ask the question, what does all this smoke and ash mean for the plants? You may remember back in 2017 when the entire state of Oregon was harshly affected by several wildfires, much like summer 2020. That year’s outdoor harvest of cannabis was extremely difficult for growers and many lost money on their harvests. Almost any pound of outdoor cannabis you could find was never more than $800, some were as low as $300, which means that there was plenty of cheap cannabis to go around at the dispensaries. This cannabis had some caveats though. No matter what strain you got, it all smelled like a campfire. 

Back in 2017, as a budtender, I did not hear many customers complaining about the prices for this campfire cannabis. However, no one seemed to be wildly concerned about the quality of the product either, or how the fires may have affected it. Oregon currently has four testing categories for cannabis products; pesticides, water activity/moisture content, cannabinoids and microbiological contaminants (Salmonella, E. Coli, etc). 

Cannabis products in Oregon are not tested for mycotoxins (mold), heavy metals and terpenes unless requested and paid for by the grower. In addition to these testing requirements, there are also strings attached. For example, in Oregon, you can take cannabis flower that did not pass its initial testing and then process it into an extract instead. As long as that final product has a passing test it can be sold. These products can range from not only the dabs you buy at the shop, but cartridges, edibles, topicals and tinctures.

A large part of what makes smoke and ash so toxic is the materials that it burns through. Think about what you have in your own house; cleaning supplies, electronics, wood, paint, kitchen appliances, etc. All of these create toxic chemicals when burned, including heavy metals, which are then present in the smoke you breathe and the ash you see. Fire retardants can also pose risks if used near plants and any water supply.

When dealing with cannabis that has been contaminated by wildfires it is important to run a thorough laboratory analysis. However, this isn’t always an easy thing to do as there are no set procedures on how to analyze potential hazards resulting from smoke and ash damage. Laboratories also are not held to a single standardized testing method.

Aside from testing the cannabis for safety to ingest after being exposed to wildfire smoke and ash, another thing is overall quality. Cannabis plants that have been exposed to smoke and ash undergo a lot of stress, which can be a huge detriment to the plant. This affects the maturity of trichomes, which are what contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes we all love so much. In extreme situations, you could end up with a far more inferior product that is not likely to smell, taste, or look good.

This season, dispensaries may not be letting you smell the cannabis before you purchase because we are still in a pandemic, so trusting your budtender and taking their word for it will be the best way to avoid smoking some campfire cannabis. 

If you would like to donate money to help cannabis businesses that are in need, Southern Oregon grower Noah Levine of Benson Arbor graciously set up this GoFundMe fundraiser. 

Cannabis, COVID-19, and our Lungs

Written By Alexandra Arnett, photographed by Danny Avina

Shortly before the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, the US was suffering another lung crisis. Vape pens were all over the news in 2019 for reports of illnesses and deaths related to smoking them. The most recent update by the CDC was on February 18th, 2020. It showed that there have been 2,807 cases of illnesses related to nicotine or cannabis vapes, with 68 deaths. Among these patients, 2,022 of them reported which substance was being vaped, with 82% reported using THC containing products, while 33% reporting the use of exclusive THC containing products. Of the affected, 50% reported where their product was sourced, with 16% having obtained them from retail businesses and 78% obtaining them from friends, online, or other dealers. Overall, since the last article in February, there has not been a large rise in cases. However, it’s possible that the pandemic took front row for CDC priorities and it simply was not viable to keep reporting vaping illnesses, especially with what we know about the virus.

As a recap from the last Cannabis & The Lungs piece, we know that cannabis, specifically the terpene pinene and the cannabinoid THC, are both bronchodilators. As a bronchodilator, they help open up the airways to the lungs and may even help with conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma. However, there are several ingredients that companies have been found to use in vape cartridges that have not shown to be safe for vaping—or have not been tested for inhalation safety at all. These ingredients include MCT oil, natural and artificial flavorings and non-cannabis derived terpenes.

So far, the vaping crisis seems to have been subdued and the focus has been shifted. Other than Colorado, no other states pursued permanent bans on anything other than Vitamin E acetate. Currently, in Oregon, the OLCC is in the process of putting together a cannabis vape-additive ban which would ban all additives other than natural cannabis-derived terpenes. This means no more natural and artificial flavoring, no non-cannabis-derived terpenes, and no MCT oil or other additives. California has similar pending legislation but it would allow for botanically derived terpenes and other natural flavors. 

More recently, COVID-19 and cannabis have been in the news as researchers have been scrambling to find some sort of medicine that can help ease symptoms and/or treat the effects of the virus. As mentioned in the paragraphs above, we know that THC and pinene are bronchodilators. Currently, researchers have been analyzing CBD and specific terpene formulations for potential to help fight against the virus. 

CBD has been found to be an ACE2 inhibitor and it reduces inflammatory cytokine production. The inhibition of ACE2 expression plays an important role in how COVID-19 enters host cells. When ACE2 expression is inhibited, the virus has a more difficult time entering a host cell. In relation to cytokine production, COVID-19 creates what is called a “cytokine storm.” This cytokine storm is the release of so many cytokines that they become harmful to the host cells. Researchers in Israel are currently looking at CBD in combination with a terpene formulation. This terpene formulation is a blend of 30 various terpenes that have shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. While the research has not gone through any clinical trials, the results the research has produced is promising information. 

Neither the author nor Green Eugene endorses anything in this article as medical advice for treating or curing COVID-19. If you are having symptoms please get tested and speak with your doctor. Remember to wear a mask, practice social distancing out in public spaces, and avoid large crowds.

Humans of Cannabis

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

The cannabis industry is a place where many people from all different walks of life come together, for the cannabis plant. We’d like to take this opportunity to give the people behind the scenes of the cannabis industry a voice so that they can tell us their stories. 

Sue Carlson – Sue is the founder of The Botanical Joint, a hemp farm located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Sue prides herself on being one of the only Latina craft hemp farmers in Oregon!

Instagram: @thebotanicaljoints

For the longest time, I was always fascinated with cannabis and my dream was to always work with cannabis. My friend from college was one of the first people to introduce me to working with the cannabis plant. She also helped me make connections in the industry in Oregon. Working on the medical side of the cannabis industry also allowed me to pay for four years of schooling in full. I began work with a cannabis chocolate company as a chocolatier and then moved onto another position making another line for a company. After working with edibles for a while, I moved into farming at Oregon Girl Gardens. It wasn’t more than two months into the job when the greenhouse caught on fire, and my whole life suddenly felt like it was in shambles. Here I was apprenticing under arguably one of the best female cannabis growers in Oregon and then in a quick moment, it was gone. 

After this, I decided to start consulting again and was feeding my garden—emotionally and physically—and giving it the nutrients I needed at the time. During this time, I also noticed the lack of quality hemp products on the market and as a medical patient, it was important to me that other patients had worthwhile medicine. This helped me develop the business that I have today cultivating premium hemp CBD products. 

My favorite strain that is currently in cultivation includes Orange Glaze, which to me is the closest resemblance to cannabis in effect. It has a very citrus and diesel aroma and taste, something you don’t see on the hemp CBD market often, if at all.

One thing that I aim to do in my business is to bring attention to minorities in the cannabis industry. I myself am Latina and Native American, so this is a very important component to me. Knowing and seeing people I love like my brother, uncles and aunt go to prison for a plant was devastating. As someone with a public health degree, I make it a priority to support out the efforts of minorities in the cannabis industry, specifically minority females.

Cannabis and the Lungs

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex, photographed by Nina Compeau

All too often you will see people make the erroneous claim that smoking cannabis does not harm your lungs. This misconception is often conflated with the statement “smoking cannabis is better than smoking cigarettes,” and while that may have some truth to it, there are still reasons why cannabis smoke is also harmful. This harm comes not so much from the cannabis itself, but the method of inhalation. Cannabis can be inhaled in a various number of ways, from rolling a joint, packing a bowl in a bong or pipe, using a vaporizer or getting fancy with a dab rig. Among other reasons, devices such as a dab rig or a vape pen make research surrounding the effects of inhaling cannabis difficult to conduct.

The current research that has been published on the topic often fails to control for tobacco usage, methods of inhalation and variables like whether or not the flower was free of mold and pesticides. Research has indicated that cannabis smoke has similar carcinogenic effects as tobacco, but there is not a strong correlation between cannabis smoke and lung cancer. Though cannabis inhalation can cause the same symptoms that tobacco inhalation can, like coughing, wheezing and chronic bronchitis, there are some important benefits. Unlike tobacco inhalation, cannabis inhalation is not a primary factor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), nor does it reduce your lungs’ forced expiratory volume. In fact, research has shown that cannabis inhalation may increase your lungs’ forced vital capacity. The active component in cannabis, delta 9-THC, has even been demonstrated as a bronchodilator along with the terpene pinene.

If you’re concerned about the health of your lungs, there are a few things you can do! The number one suggestion would be to use methods that don’t involve inhalation, like edibles or tinctures. If you like cannabis flower and prefer to inhale, try out a flower vaporizer! By vaping cannabis with heat instead of combusting it with fire, the inhalation of several carcinogens can be avoided. The best products on the market for flower vaporizers include the PAX 2 and PAX 3. For a long-term quality vape to use at home, the original Volcano vaporizer is the number one choice.

To keep with your old school style of a pipe, bong or joint, there are a few simple tricks to create fewer carcinogens from the smoke. One is to stick with glass smoking pieces that have a longer stem. If you’re looking to use a bong, a long neck and an ice catcher design to help cool the smoke is best. In addition, use only filtered water, this helps provide the cleanest filter for the smoke. The best way to light your flower in a pipe or bong is by first lighting a candle (the more natural the better), then light up some hemp wick using the candle and from here you can light your flower with the hemp wick! Through this method you can reduce the inhalation of toxic carcinogens that come with using lighters, this can also be used for lighting joints. In addition to using hemp wick to light a joint, use a crutch or filter and stick with unbleached hemp or rice papers. We have probably all had our experiences with smoking roaches from old joints, but this is not really healthy as it is concentrated with tars and other toxins.

Vape pens fall into a unique category. These pens are made using either ceramic, glass or metal coils, and depending on the battery can be vaped at various temperatures. Words of wisdom for purchasing vape pens include purchasing from brands that don’t use artificial flavorings, botanically-derived terpenes, or MCT oil. Along with using the lowest heat seating, this limits the risk of inhaling any harmful compounds or toxins.

Moving into using dab rigs, there are some very important notes to make. The first is to remember that products used with a dab rig are likely made with hydrocarbons. It is very important to be purchasing these products from a legal dispensary where you know the product has been tested for residual toxins. Temperature is extremely important when using a dab rig and there are a few reasons for this. One is that certain terpenes, such as myrcene, can turn into toxic compounds if heated at high temperatures. Your dab nail should never turn red hot while heating for a dab—you should stop as soon as you see a color change. Dabs should not be taken at temperatures of more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The safest nails to use on a dab rig are ceramic or quartz glass that is made in America. Don’t forget to let your nail cool for just under a minute before dropping that dab in your banger!

Overall, the research we do have to go off of tells us that smoke inhalation of any kind is not particularly best for your lungs. Until more research on the subject is done, the precautions listed above are the best steps you can take right now to protect the health of your lungs.

Terminated for (Legal) Toking

written by Emma Routley, photographed by Nina Compeau

Spike Kirumira used to work for the service responsible for cleaning dorms at the University of Oregon.  He said he was fired from the seasonal job on the accusation that a coworker saw him smoking weed while the crew was taking a cigarette break.

“They just accused me and then let me go,” said Kirumira.  “Show me one witness that will tell me I was smoking a joint in front of them while they’re all smoking cigarettes.  I’d stand there on my break and talk to people.”

Kirumira argued against the accusation, but the issue remains that people like Kirumira live in a legalized marijuana state and yet cannot work or keep federally funded jobs if they consume cannabis products. 

“I’m just stuck with other people in a hard place where you need cannabis for medication but you can’t get the job you want because of the weed,” said Kirumira.

Oregonians live in a recreational marijuana state and cannot consume cannabis products without putting their careers at stake.  People can be fired for THC present in their bloodstream when they are not impaired on the job, or are not hirable because of THC present in their bloodstream during a pre-screening drug test for potential employment.  Businesses that are federally funded have to follow a zero tolerance policy for cannabis, which is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. There is no current testing system for active cannabis impairment like there is for alcohol, and hemp-derived CBD products are not a reliable substitute to medicate with and still pass a drug test.

Most employers follow a zero tolerance policy—a system that automatically terminates anyone who does not promote and adhere to a drug free workplace.  Megan Livermore has been a cannabis attorney since 2014, and is an executive committee member of the Oregon State Bar Cannabis Law Section. She says even after the legalization of recreational cannabis over the last five years, there has been no change to employment law.

“You can use this substance legally, and yet if your employer wants to drug test you for marijuana and terminate you for a positive test, they still may do so,” said Livermore.

Federally funded businesses are unlikely to change the current zero tolerance policy system because random drug testing protects them from legal action by the employees they test.

Dr. John Hudak, marijuana policy expert at the Brookings Institution stated, “If you accuse someone of being intoxicated at work, and you’re wrong, that could create a tremendous liability for a business, where random drug testing does not.  So I don’t think businesses are going to voluntarily, in a large scale, transition away from this zero tolerance policy. I think it would require public policy changes to do that and it’s not going to happen all that much in terms of internal workplace changes.”  

Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the federal government reports a high risk of abuse and a lack of medical value..  Federally funded businesses, such as the University of Oregon, have to comply with federal laws when it comes to cannabis, and if they don’t exercise a zero tolerance policy then they are likely to lose their funding.  A bill has been introduced called the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019, which would remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 drug category.  If marijuana is no longer a Schedule 1 drug, the cannabis industry will be able to expand financially.   

“It will change the industry dramatically, to be taxed like all other businesses and to have access to banking services and lending. It will be another seismic shift,” added Livermore.

Livermore says the potential for medical insurance coverage for medicinal cannabis is thwarted by the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies. “What MDs are shell taught in medical school is that marijuana has no medical use and is actually harmful. Further, for insurance to cover it, it needs to go through the healthcare system they understand. Any decriminalization can certainly loosen restrictions and lead to that kind of change.” 

Changes are occurring within the nation.  Nevada has issued a law that states not hiring a person due to a positive cannabis drug screening is unlawful. The point of Nevada’s new law is to address the dilemma between holding an employee accountable for the cannabis they might have consumed weeks ago. This law will be active in January 2020, and is careful to exclude jobs involving the safety and care of other people.

Oregon does not seem to be heading in that direction, mainly because while regulations for cannabis were being discussed, hemp became nationally legalized and stole the conversation.  Livermore said that the focus has been less directed on issues regarding employment and instead catered to the hemp legalization and “a whole new mountain of regulations” that comes with it.    

Livermore added, “Just the fact that this plant was taken away from people for so long is unfortunate at best, considering what an amazing plant it is and how much good it can do folks.”

Because of the lack of current regulations on hemp products, CBD products sold outside of cannabis retail locations can be mislabeled, causing unsuspecting consumers to test positive for THC.  The products sold at cannabis retail locations can also be misleading if the labels are not clearly understood, some saying hemp-derived CBD and others saying THC-free. Hemp-derived CBD qualifies as containing  0.3% THC content or less, while THC-free products have zero THC content detectable. 

 “There’s a threshold level so the end use product has to be below 0.3% THC,” said Gary McAninch, the hemp program manager at the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “I could imagine that if you’re a person that consumed a CBD product that had a little bit of THC that was less than 0.3% total THC you still could possibly test positive on a drug test or for a THC test.” 

There is no dependable technology to test how much THC is in someone’s system.  Those who work in a job that exercises a federally required zero tolerance policy for marijuana, such as employees of universities, are only safe from termination if they abstain from using cannabis products altogether.

What’s My Tolerance?

written by Alexandra Arnett, photographed by Nina Compeau

We’ve all heard the words “cannabis tolerance,” but what exactly does that mean, and how does it work? 

Developing a tolerance toward cannabis means that your body has become accustomed to the physiological and psychological effects of cannabis. This typically results in the need to use higher doses over time to reach the same level of intoxication as the times before, or the desired level. Cannabis tolerance is most prevalent in daily users of cannabis. The main theory surrounding cannabis tolerance is the desensitization of CB1 receptors by THC. What this means is that, over time, the use of THC can wear out the binding ability to CB1 receptors. According to the research, daily users of large amounts of cannabis develop tolerance at higher rates than those who use occasionally. However, developing a tolerance to cannabis seems to vary by person, and this is likely the result of everyone having unique endocannabinoid systems.

Variations in a person’s endocannabinoid system also relates to dosing; what works for some, may not work for others. For new cannabis users, dosing cannabis can be scary, especially when it comes to edibles. Cannabinoids have a biphasic dose-response curve. What this means is that less can actually be more: after a certain dose, the cannabinoids become less effective. The best dosing strategy is to start low and go slow. Through a campaign called “Try 5,” Oregon put in place the 5mg of THC per serving rule and consequently the 50mg package limit for edibles. These rules are intended to protect people from ingesting too much at once and having a bad or unpleasant experience. In addition, it was also meant to protect children and pets from any negative side effects if they were to get into edibles. Today, you can find “single-dose” 50mg THC edibles made to eat in one bite for those with higher tolerance levels, or you can find packs of edibles with various serving sizes of THC in each bite for smaller doses. 

For extracts, concentrates and tinctures, the OLCC has limited their THC levels per package to 1000mg of THC. So whenever you see a cartridge or a dab and see 87% THC, it means there is 870mg within the entire product. For example, say the serving size for a specific cartridge is 0.05g in a product containing 870mg of THC. Doing the math, per 0.05g dab from a 1g cartridge, you would get 43.5mg of THC in a single serving.

To help remediate a cannabis tolerance, try switching up the strains of flower or concentrate you’ve been smoking for a new profile of cannabinoids and terpenes. If you’ve been using a lot of vape pens, move away from the distillate cartridges and splurge on the Live Resin cartridge next time. By changing up the profile of cannabinoids and terpenes, you are able to help “reset” the receptors they interact with. If after switching up the strain you still find a hard time reaching your desired effect, take a break for a day or two if possible. The longer you wait, the more time your cannabinoid receptors have to get back to baseline. This also means that the longer you wait, the more likely it will be that potential adverse effects, such as dizziness, nausea, and paranoia, may occur as well. Also, it is important to note that just because you aren’t receiving an “intoxicating” high doesn’t mean the cannabinoids and other compounds aren’t working in various ways to benefit your body. For some, like cancer patients, a tolerance to the “high” of cannabis is a good thing because they are often taking very high milligram doses of THC. 

If you’re a customer at a dispensary in Oregon, you should be handed a little card with two warnings on it, one for pets and children and one for pregnant women. While frequent customers and medical patients may take these cards for granted, the OLCC created these with good intent. Dogs have a higher concentration of CB1 receptors in the brain than humans do. This means that THC without higher levels of CBD can be harmful to dogs or make them sick, and may cause respiratory issues that may lead to death if left untreated. The OLCC also restricts any company from marketing a product toward pets to deter people away from giving their pets cannabis products. You may see CBD for pets at your local retail store, but these are unregulated products and many should NOT be used for pets or even humans. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all cannabis is bad for animals, but pet owners should take caution with these products. Sourcing from a reputable company and purchasing from a licensed dispensary are the first steps you should take if looking for CBD products to give to your pet. 

Currently, there is not much research on the topic of cannabinoids and dogs or cats and veterinarians across the country are restricted from discussing cannabis medicine with pet owners. One state, California, passed AB 2215 which gives veterinarians the ability to “discuss” cannabis with pet owners and are working on SB 627 which would allow for medical recommendations of cannabis to pets by veterinarians.

References

Ramaekers, J. G., Mason, N. L., & Theunissen, E. L. (2020). Blunted highs: Pharmacodynamic and behavioral models of cannabis tolerance. European Neuropsychopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2020.01.006