Cannabis and the Environment

Written by Alexandra Arnett

You may notice a lot of farms throwing around the term ‘sustainable farming’, but what does that actually mean? Sustainability is defined as the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. But is sustainability really sustainable? The purpose of sustainability is to maintain. Maintaining what was already there is simply not enough when looking at the bigger picture. As hard as we may try to maintain, the biodiversity of the planet is still suffering from our actions, thus we must make efforts to restore this biodiversity. Methods such as regenerative farming include taking part in a diverse bioecological system and giving back to the earth. Practices include planting complementary plants alongside your cannabis, growing various crops in the offseason to protect the soil, composting, using natural soil and avoiding chemical additives. Some farms have even been successful in dry farming cannabis plants which means they don’t use supplemental irrigation systems for their plants. Now, in a place like Oregon, this may produce cannabis that ends up molding, but for drier climates, this practice does show some promise.

Regarding “organic” cannabis farming, the USDA actually does not certify any cannabis as organic as it is illegal under federal law. Hemp, on the other hand, can obtain a USDA Organic certification. In an effort to obtain similar “organic” certification for cannabis farms, various organizations have been established that helps to ensure farms follow specific “sustainable” standards. Some of these organizations that work with farms in Oregon include Dragonfly Earth Medicine, Certified-Kind, Sun+Earth Certified and Clean Green Certified. Each organization has different requirements for getting certified and some are more stringent than others in regard to certain farming practices. [The various rules for each are linked above.] There are also a number of farms that make claims about having “organic” practices, but the reality is that we can’t be certain. In addition, everyone has their own idea of what “organic cannabis” looks like. Farms should make an effort to practice regenerative farming methods in order to give back to the earth.

I know we would all like to think that growing cannabis does no harm to the planet. But the reality is that growing cannabis in a way that benefits the environment wholly takes much more effort than simply choosing to grow outdoors. There are three main environments in which cannabis is commercially grown: indoor, outdoor and light-deprivation greenhouse. Some farms just grow cannabis using one of these methods, others may implement multiple methods if accessible. Typically, cannabis plants are grown in soil, either directly in the ground or in a planter pot. However, indoor cannabis growing operations may often use a hydroponic method of growing. Hydroponic growing involves suspending the roots of the plants in buckets of water and a medium such as perlite or coconut fiber.

Out of all the growing methods, outdoor growing is the one that would require the least energy and water. Greenhouse growing methods are also another good choice if you may be dealing with inclement weather for growing cannabis. Indoor growing and hydroponic methods are the most wasteful, in both energy and water consumption, especially when the methods are combined. If you want to choose the best method for the environment, growing cannabis in the earth’s natural soil provides a number of benefits to the earth and uses the sun rather than artificial lighting and energy.

While there is an overall lack of research on the effect indoor cannabis cultivation may be having on the environment, in 2020, one researcher Evan Mills published an in-depth follow-up study to a 2012 paper on cannabis energy use and cost. According to his data, indoor cannabis cultivation produces up to 15 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year and can cost upwards of $6 million a year. To compare this, Oregonians produce around 20 million metric tonnes per year in transportation emissions. However, there are ways to mitigate some of the negative effects of indoor cannabis cultivation there are a few steps that can be taken. Implementing things such as renewable energy sources, LED lighting, reusing water through reverse osmosis and even collecting rainwater for use are all ways indoor cannabis cultivators can help lessen their impact on the environment. 

Let us not forget though that there can be negative effects to the consumer if cannabis is grown in less than ideal environmental conditions. Not only does cannabis pull toxins out of the soil it is grown in, when it is grown outdoors there is a chance for dirt and other allergens to contaminate the plant. Overall, knowing your grow is the most important thing you can do to ensure you are getting the most quality product on the market.

Drowning in Plastic: A guide to canna-recycling

written by Skyla Patton, photographed by Lily Brennan 

Do you remember the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Thrifters know this to be a time-honored truth, but it also works in reverse: something that starts as treasure can easily become trash, too easily these days as we find ourselves drowning in plastic and other waste amid a climate crisis. The cannabis industry is famous for innovation and resourcefulness, but anyone who’s ever stepped foot inside a dispensary knows that it’s one that relies heavily on plastic and disposable products. The collection of single-use joint tubes piling up in the corner of my bedroom accuses me every time I add another to the mountain. Here are a few user-friendly ways to make your consumption habits even more eco-friendly. 

First and foremost, check recycling access near you 

While we can’t toss our cannabis-plastics into SANIPAC or APEX bins quite yet, there are still options for recycling things like joint tubes or cartridges depending on your area. Here in Eugene and Springfield, there are plenty of dispensaries that will accept clean, label-free joint and flower tubes for recycling or refilling with your latest purchase. It’s always a good idea to call first and ask prior to bringing in your bags of recyclables, just to make sure you’re heading to the right place with your haul. Bonus Tip: The fastest way to remove labels from tubes is to soak them. Fill your sink with hot, soapy water and submerge your joint or flower tubes to soak for 10-15 minutes, or until labels are easily peeled off. If residue persists, use the rough side of a sponge to scrub it off. 

Keep exit bags in your car for easy access 

I never remember to bring my reusable grocery bags into the store unless they’re right in front of me, so to fix that problem, I store them in the back seat so I have to see them before I go in. The same rule of thumb applies for the child-safe exit bags we get our cannabis goodies in, a mandatory part of the shopping process but a plastic-creator nevertheless. Keeping one large exit bag in your car (or buying a reusable cloth exit bag to make it personal and stylish) will help you remember to rely on that, and prevent another pile of plastic packaging from growing in your home. 

Seek out sustainable brands to put your money where your anxiety is 

When it comes to issues like single-use cartridges or product packaging, there isn’t a good way to sugarcoat things: it’s wasteful, and we’ve got to work together on a solution to come up with something better than what we’re currently working with. That could look like calling local representatives about cannabis laws, getting involved in the Oregon Cannabis Commission, or even just having meaningful conversations about how to address cannabis waste with your peers. In the meantime, you can also have a direct impact by favoring sustainable products and brands when you shop. Ask your budtender which products have the seal of eco-friendly approval, or do some background research before your next dispo trip to see which companies have made commitments to certain environmental goals or mission statements with a sustainable focus. 

When all else fails, make some rose colored glasses 

The easiest and sometimes most creative way to lower your plastic waste from your cannabis endeavors is to reuse all of it in a newer, better way rather than tossing it in the trash. Pop tops and joint tubes? Clean them out and repurpose into storage for office supplies, vitamins, snacks on the go, homemade joints or blunts, pens or pencils, the list goes on and on. Glass jars? Storage for future nugs, herbs, jewelry, loose change, heck, whatever you want to put in there. I recently saw a Pinterest board of all the different ways to use cannabis-containers for all your plant and propagation needs, with jars as succulents pots and pop tops as seed starters. Grab bags could carry sandwiches to-go or turn into a DIY first aid kit to keep in the car. Gather your favorite art supplies, your best creativity-inducing strain  and start repurposing to your heart’s content. Saving the planet and boosting your serotonin, all in one project. 

What’s the Buzz on Delta-8-THC?

Written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

Delta-8-THC has gained a lot of popularity recently, with products like vape cartridges and edibles being sold through numerous online sources and even being offered in CBD retail stores across the country. Delta-8-THC, like delta-9-THC, does bind to the CB1 receptor but much less so than delta-9-THC. It is important to remember that just like people’s bodies respond differently to delta-9-THC, they also respond differently to delta-8-THC so we can’t say for sure just how potent of a high it may be producing in some individuals. Research has identified that delta-8-THC does have several benefits, including having anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, appetite-stimulation, pain-relieving and neuroprotective properties. 

There can be some confusion regarding the legality of delta-8-THC. When produced by cannabis, delta-8-THC is federally illegal, but when delta-8-THC is derived from hemp it is considered by some to be federally legal. But, there is also the federal Analogue Act which states that if a substance is chemically similar to a Scheduled substance then it can be treated as such. Delta-8-THC is an analog of THC and while it is naturally produced by the cannabis species, it is not typically found in significant levels.

Through a process called “isomerization,” you are able to convert CBD to delta-8-THC or even to delta-9-THC. Without having to go into too much detail, this process involves mixing isolated 99% CBD with an acidic catalyst and heating it. This process may be producing unsafe byproducts that could be harmful to someone’s health. The majority of delta-8-THC on the market is made using this process of isomerization. However, there are currently 11 states that have banned the sale of delta-8-THC; Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island and Utah.

Oregon doesn’t necessarily regulate online and other storefront sales on the general market, and this may put consumers at risk. However, this is likely to be changing for the state of Oregon as the OLCC recently issued a statement that they will be considering regulating all sales and production of delta-8-THC. In their statement, they mention that although there may be delta-8-THC products on the regulated market currently, this was an oversight on their behalf and delta-8-THC is in fact prohibited under the Division 25 rules due to how they are produced and because it does increase potency.

845-025-3220 General Processor Requirements (3) A processor may not treat or otherwise adulterate a cannabinoid product, concentrate or extract with any additive or substance that would increase potency, toxicity or addictive potential, or that would create an unsafe combination with other psychoactive substances. Prohibited additives or substances include but are not limited to nicotine, caffeine, polyethylene glycol, or any chemicals that increase carcinogenicity or cardiac effects.

It is recommended against obtaining any Delta-8-THC products until more regulations can be implemented. As much as we don’t like the idea of regulations, there are many that have been put in place in order to protect us from the greed of unsavory companies. Overall, more research is needed on the safety of inhaling and ingesting delta-8-THC that was processed from CBD. Because delta-8-THC does show promise for certain ailments, there is absolutely an opportunity for product development when more research can be conducted.

‘Magic Mushrooms’ and drug decriminalization join forces to reconstruct Oregon justice system

words by Kaylynn Wohl, IG @kdizzler

Oregon is the first state to approve the legalization of ‘magic mushrooms’ while also decriminalizing personal possession of all other drugs. Measure 109 allows the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to lead programs by licensed providers to conduct therapy that uses psilocybin-producing mushrooms. Measure 110 decriminalizes previously illegal substances, such as small possessions of heroin, meth, cocaine. By reallocating portions of the state’s cannabis tax revenue, mental health resources are to expand while repositioning the narrative around drug addiction and supporting Oregonians who struggle with substance use disorder. 

Measure 109 does not allow at home manufacturing, consumption or distribution of psilocybin. In therapy sessions, it can treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction and other mental health disorders. Unlike pharmaceuticals which are taken daily with an array of side effects, psilocybin provides “breakthrough therapy” with plant based solutions. 

Drugs including fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and all others are still illegal to possess, distribute and manufacture. The change lies within Oregonians no longer being jailed for small possessions; instead, they could be cited or fined up to $100, rather than “the existing misdemeanor of one year in prison and a $6,250 fine.” A person can avoid the fine by participating in a health assessment. Large possession amounts and trafficking still remains a criminal offense.

About 58 percent of voters were in favor of Measure 110. This progressive change in legislature addresses a major problem that about one in ten Oregonians struggle with, according to a report released by the Oregon Substance Abuse Disorder Research Committee. About $6 billion is spent annually on addiction through funding policing, jailing and healthcare. Measure 110 mandates expansion of treatment facilities through widening resources partly funded through the state’s cannabis tax revenue. Afterall, jail and prison are not rehabilitation resources.

“My main concern for 110 is really how much it is pulling away from schools and mental health treatment,” said Alexandra Arnett, another staff writer for Green Eugene. “I think it’s unwise to divert funds from either as education and mental health really go hand in hand with steering away from addictions.”

The remaining 42 percent of voters in opposition of Proposition 110 worry about what this means for Oregon schools, which receive about 40 percent of the revenue generated. 

Measure 110 will directly affect people of color within the local criminal justice system. Black people are statistically and systemically more likely to be arrested for drug related offenses, and Measure 110 could benefit racial minorities who are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. 

Discrimination is always present in the U.S. legal system, particularly within policing. Measure 110 reallocates portions of the police fund into the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund and Addiction Recovery Centers (ARCs), which will offer 24 hour access to care every day of the year starting October 1, 2021.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, “Nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison and almost 60 percent of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.” Decriminalizing drug possession could reproportion the representation of arrests and incarceration of people of color. More people will have access to treatment “when law enforcement resources are appropriately redirected to programs that help build healthier communities.”

It is estimated by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commision that Measure 110 will show a decline in over representation of convictions of racial minorities as compared to whites. Specifically, it’s estimated to show a 93.7 percent decline in Black convictions, 82.9 percent for Asians, 94.2 percent for Native Americans and 86.5 percent for Hispanics. 

Measures 109 and 110 join together to reposition the state’s participation in the war on drugs as Oregon continues to prioritize recovery for those who struggle with mental health. 

Is the MORE Act really ‘more’?

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex

Much of the cannabis community was elated to hear that the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. I would like to preface this article by stating that the passing of the MORE Act by the House is indeed a momentous victory for the cannabis industry. The Senate, although not likely to pass it, have until the end of 2020 to vote on this legislation. However, the MORE Act is not without some major flaws that could do harm to the industry. In the days following the passage of the MORE Act, many cannabis and social justice advocates began speaking out about the changes that were made to the legislation before it passed the House. Throughout this brief article, I will highlight some of the positives as well as detail some of the flaws within this legislation.

One of the major things about this legislation, if it were to pass, is that it would completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This specific amendment to the CSA would be a game-changer for those who are currently conducting or who want to conduct cannabis research. In addition to the removal of cannabis from the CSA, the MORE Act ensures no person will be denied federal public benefits due to cannabis use or past convictions. The protection also extends to immigrants who may use cannabis or have cannabis convictions. The MORE Act also effectively changes how legislation refers to the plant, instead of “marihuana” the term “cannabis” would be used. Another positive aspect of the MORE Act would be the ability of cannabis businesses to work with banks and obtain business loans.

The biggest flaw in this legislation has three parts. The first is that you must be issued a federal permit to run a cannabis business, which can still be denied if the person is or has been involved in violations of federal or state laws related to cannabis. There are no provisions in the bill stating that those with permits issued in legal cannabis states will be automatically accepted. This means a higher cost to business owners who are starting out and another hurdle to jump through for those already running a state legal cannabis business. You can read the particular section here (Sec. 5923 (e)). The second is a particular section regarding the distribution of the Community Reinvestment Grant Program funds. Prior to being passed in the House, the text had a 7th provision in Sec. 3052 (a), which states where the funds must be allocated to help individuals harmed by the War on Drugs. This 7th provision stated, “services to address any collateral consequences that individuals or communities face as a result of the War on Drugs.” The Community Reinvestment Grant Program still provides help for those harmed via job training, reentry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth programs, and health education programs. However, the War on Drugs systemically harmed many individuals and their communities in more ways than that. It’s also important to note that from the Opportunity Trust Fund, the Attorney General gets 60% while the Community Reinvestment Grant Program gets 40%.

The third major flaw is that the MORE Act does not exactly call for automatic expungements for cannabis crimes as soon as the bill passes. It allows them one year from the date of enactment to order expungements for those convicted in cannabis crimes. You can read this particular section here. While it does allow for those convicted of crimes to petition the court themselves after its enactment, this puts an undue burden on people who may not have the resources to do so. Those currently incarcerated for cannabis crimes still have to go through a sentencing review hearing before they are released. In addition, only non-violent cannabis crimes will be eligible for expungements and sentencing hearings. Now, we are not saying violent crime isn’t a bad thing, but we know all too well how the criminal justice system treats minorities. This is especially true when it comes to drug crimes. 

Now, we must also consider the financial impact on businesses and consumers if the MORE Act were to pass the Senate and be signed into law. With the current legislation as written, there would be an annual tax on cannabis businesses of $1,000 and an initial 5% federal tax on cannabis products to consumers that is set to increase to 8% within 5 years. In states like Oregon, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington, this can bring the total taxes in these states to anywhere between 30% and 50%. Washington cannabis taxes are currently 37%, by adding an 8% federal tax within 5 years, this would mean consumers would be paying 45% in taxes alone. This puts an undue burden on the working class and makes it unattainable for some who need it the most, such as people on disability with limited income. On top of taxes for the product itself and the annual business tax, there is another tax on the packaging used for the product. This specific tax can also be left up to the discretion of the Secretary. On another note, testing of cannabis can still be required for federal employees.

If you’re interested in keeping up with what’s going on in the fine print, Nina Parks is a great activist and cannabis entrepreneur to follow. Her Instagram and business pages can be found here: @nina_parks, @equitytradecertification. 

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.