Why won’t your doctor prescribe you cannabis?

Almost 60% of US healthcare providers feel negatively about medical cannabis, while less than 12% view it positively. These results, the product of a survey reported in the forthcoming March 2020 issue of Preventative Medicine, provide a startling insight into the relationship between medical cannabis and those who can prescribe it.

The survey, which investigated the opinions of 1,439 licensed clinicians anonymously from 2011 through to 2017, hints at some of the hurdles cannabis needs to clear for doctors to warm to it. The survey’s authors found that provider advice tended to discourage cannabis use, while the most positive clinician views toward cannabis were for palliative use.

Notably, the findings also reported that the proportion of positive sentiment toward cannabis did increase over time. With the survey wrapping up in 2017, one could hope that contemporary clinicians are better-versed in the therapeutic applications of cannabis.

For those familiar with the current lay of the medical landscape, however, that’s not the case. Leafly turned to Joe Dolce to help unpack this clinician reticence toward cannabis. Dolce is author of Brave New Weed and co-founder of MedicalCannabisMentor.com, an online learning platform that provides evidence-based, research-grounded courses for healthcare providers, dispensary personnel, and in the not-too-distant future, patients. He works alongside Dr. Junella Chin, an expert cannabinoid-prescribing physician who has treated more than 10,000 patients.

For Dolce, the obstacles hindering physicians from getting behind cannabis are clear and need to be urgently addressed. While healthcare providers may be digging their heels in, patients are leveling up with their knowledge of cannabis.

“The problem for patients is that they are often ahead of their providers when it comes to cannabinoid meds, and they often have no one they can turn to for trusted advice on dosing and how to use them for optimal efficacy,” said Dolce.

One glaring omission that disadvantages doctors can be traced back to med school. “The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is not taught in most medical schools, so healthcare providers have no knowledge of what it does, nor that it is the master regulator of all the other receptor systems,” said Dolce. “Because neither the ECS nor cannabinoid medicine are taught in med school, healthcare providers are largely uneducated about it and quite naturally don’t trust it.”

The ECS isn’t new knowledge, though. Scientists have known about the existence of the endocannabinoid system for more than 25 years. More recently, researchers hypothesized that this internal signaling system started evolving over 600 million years ago, dating back to prehistoric forms of life no more complex than sponges.

Today, studies have demonstrated that cannabinoid receptors are present in skin, immune cells, bones, fatty tissue, pancreas, the liver, the heart, blood vessels, and the gastro-intestinal tract. We also know that the endocannabinoid system participates in multiple processes such as pain, memory, mood, appetite, sleep, stress, immune function, metabolism, and reproductive function.

You could justifiably argue—and some experts have—that the endocannabinoid system is one of the most critical physiologic systems implicated in the establishment and maintenance of human health, operating as a bridge between the body and mind.

But among the least educated are those who need to be the most informed. Many healthcare providers are still unfamiliar with the ECS—at last count, in 2013, only 13% of med schools taught the ECS in any capacity. A recent Leafly report suggests that very little has changed.

Use Leafly to find a cannabis doctor near you

According to Dolce, there are additional barriers that impact clinician sentiment toward cannabis. “Physicians are used to single-action targeted pharmaceutical meds. Cannabis is a botanical medicine composed of over 165 active compounds that work synergistically,” he said. “Botanical meds require more patient education and often, hand-holding. The way most clinics work doesn’t allow enough time for this.”

Dolce also points out that it can be challenging for healthcare providers to allow time to familiarize themselves with something new. “Being a doctor is a stressful and high-pressured job,” said Dolce. “They work a lot, and there is always more to learn and read. Convincing a doctor to spend more time learning about a medicine that is still federally illegal is not the easiest task.”

Prescribing medical cannabis also requires patience and time. Dolce, and many cannabis medicine experts, emphasize that it can take some patients weeks, or even months, to reach their optimal cannabis dose. Learning to dose medicine incrementally to find the sweet spot can be empowering for a patient but can absorb more time in consultation.

“All this being said, teaching patients to self-administer meds is not unfamiliar to clinicians. They do it with diabetic patients using insulin or patients in pain who must self-titrate Gabapentin (Neurontin). And don’t forget those SSRIs,” he said.

Finally, the risk of liability represents a further deterrent. “No insurance company will cover healthcare providers for prescribing cannabinoid meds, so there are structural and systemic reasons docs stay away from it,” said Dolce.

Clearly, providers need to familiarize themselves with the unique therapeutic profile of cannabis and stay current with research to support patients who wish to try it. According to Dolce, the release of cannabis from the shackles of a Schedule 1 status at the federal level—which restricts cannabis research—is critical to achieving this. But other initiatives could also shift the sentiment of hesitant healthcare providers.

“We need to encourage more high-profile physicians to publicly talk about how cannabis is as effective as over-the-counter meds for pain, insomnia, and stress/anxiety, not to mention relief from nausea associated with chemotherapy,” said Dolce. “I also feel that nurses, nurse practitioners, and health coaches would be well-served to learn about cannabinoid meds so they could then act as necessary support to docs who are already suffering under time and administrative pressures.”

Overall, however, Dolce maintains a somewhat optimistic outlook. “There is a certain amount of hubris that some doctors have about using botanical or so-called alternative medicines,” he said. “But a small percentage of doctors we encounter are increasingly open and willing to learn about cannabinoid therapies, especially because their patients are telling them that they work. Once they become open to it, they’re often sold.”

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Decarboxylating Cannabis

By Zoe Sigman On February 27, 2020

Cannabinoids are specialized compounds produced by cannabis. The two most well-known plant cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

But THC and CBD are hardly present in cannabis when the plant is rooted and growing.

When the plant produces cannabinoids, they initially appear in their “acid” forms. Acid cannabinoids are sometimes referred to as “raw” cannabinoids. In the case of THC and CBD, these raw cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), respectively.

What is Decarboxylation?

What makes THC different from THCA — and CBD different from CBDA — hinges on a process known as “decarboxylation,” aka “decarbing,” whereby raw cannabis is heated so that the chemical structure of the acid cannabinoids changes to a neutral (non-acid) form. THC and CBD are the neutral forms of THCA and CBDA.

image

Diagram of the chemical structures of THCA and THC. THCA has an extra carboxyl group that is apparent.

The major difference, chemically, between acid cannabinoids and their neutral counterparts is an extra -COOH bond, known as a “carboxyl” group, which consists of a carbon-oxygen-oxygen-hydrogen molecular cluster. In order to transform cannabinoids acids into their neutral forms, they need to go through a process that removes the carboxyl group. This process is referred to as decarboxylation.

As it turns out, the bond holding the carboxyl group in place is pretty weak and easily broken by a combination of heat and time. Decarboxylation is what happens when the carboxyl group is shed due to high temperature or combustion.

Why Would (or Wouldn’t) You Want to Decarboxylate?

Decarbing cannabis converts acid cannabinoids, like THCA and CBDA, into their respective neutral forms, THC and CBD. Acid and neutral forms of cannabinoids share some curative qualities, but they also have distinct therapeutic attributes.

Decarboxylating THCA, which is not intoxicating, changes it into THC (aka The High Causer). If you want to experience the psychological and physiological uplift that cannabis flower is famous for, smoking or vaping cannabis readily decarboxylates the THCA into THC.

Edibles are another excellent option for experiencing the high associated with THC. Typically, edibes are made by infusing a form of decarboxylated cannabis (which can be an extract, oil, or alcohol) into a consumable food. If getting high isn’t your thing, it shouldn’t matter if you’re consuming product with CBDA or CBD. Decarbing changes CBDA into CBD, neither of which impart an intoxicating effect.

Thus far, the vast majority of research — and public interest — has focused on the neutral forms of CBD and THC. But there’s also a burgeoning interest in potential therapeutic applications of acid cannabinoids. Here’s a glance at what medical scientists have learned thus far.

Therapeutic Potential of Acid Cannabinoids:123

  • THCA: Anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-convulsant, fat-storage reducing, metabolic regulator, stress reducing.
  • CBDA: Anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, painkilling, anti-nausea, anti-convulsant.

Therapeutic Potential of Neutral Cannabinoids:45

  • THC: Anti-nausea, weight gain in anorexia and AIDS, anti-inflammatory, painkilling, neuroprotective, muscle relaxing, and more.
  • CBD: Anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, antispasmodic, reduces insulin resistance, and more.

If you’re interested in sampling CBDA and/or THCA, try boiling some raw cannabis flower in water. Researchers have shown that the highest rate of acid cannabinoid extraction in water comes from boiling the raw flower for about fifteen minutes.6

Dr. Dustin Sulak recommends a simple method for accessing the benefits of THCA and CBDA: Steep a small amount of fresh cannabis bud in your morning tea.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis

The rate at which cannabinoids decarboxylate is a function of heat and time. The hotter it is, the faster decarboxylation happens. But if there’s too much heat, the cannabinoids might degrade into their oxidized byproducts. And if acid cannabinoids are left at room temperature for long enough, they will slowly decarboxylate into their neutral forms.7

In recent years, there have been a number of published studies that examine exactly what temperature and time is ideal for decarboxylation.89 Researchers have looked at temperatures ranging from 80?C (176?F) to 145?C (293?F) and mapped decarboxylation rates for up to 120 minutes. They were looking for the ideal time and temperature to decarboxylate several different acid cannabinoids, primarily focusing on CBDA and THCA. Charts available in Wang, et al. (citation 8) and Citti, et al. (citation 9) illustrate the decarboxylation rates of these cannabinoids at different temperatures.

THCA and CBDA decarboxylate at slightly different rates — THCA decarbs a little bit faster than CBDA. Fortunately, it seems that waiting for any lingering CBDA to convert into CBD doesn’t have a negative impact on the THC level.

If you are not concerned about converting all the CBDA into CBD (neither compound is intoxicating or impairing), then you don’t have to heat your cannabis in an oven for a full 40 minutes, as suggested below. Twenty-five minutes instead if 40 should typically suffice to fully decarboxylate THCA into THC.

What you need:

Oven
Baking sheet
Aluminum foil or parchment paper
Cannabis flower

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230?F/110?C.
  2. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy clean up.
  3. Grind or break up your cannabis flower into pea-sized pieces or smaller so that the heat distributes evenly.
  4. Spread the ground cannabis onto the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, let cool, and use to infuse oil or alcohol.

Calculating Cannabinoid Content

Your oven isn’t perfect. There may be fluctuations in your oven’s temperature, and the rate of decarboxylation will vary somewhat. Generally, one can expect about 80% of the acid cannabinoids to convert to their neutral forms. If you are able to access lab results for the cannabis you’re decarboxylating, you can make an educated guess as to the cannabinoid content of the final product.

Here’s a formula to help you figure out the ballpark cannabinoid concentration of your freshly decarboxylated cannabis:

# grams of cannabis x cannabinoid % = # grams of cannabinoids10
# g cannabinoids x 1000 = # mg cannabinoids
# mg cannabinoids x 0.8 = approximate mg of cannabinoids in your final product

Example:

7 grams of cannabis (quarter ounce)
10% THC 13% CBD

THC Content:
7 g x 10% = 0.7 g THC
0.7 x 1000 = 700 mg THC
700 x 0.8 = 560 mg decarboxylated THC

CBD Content:
7 g x 13% = 0.91 g CBD
0.91 x 1000 = 910 mg CBD
9.10 x 0.8 = 728 mg decarboxylated CBD

Total cannabinoid content in decarboxylated cannabis: 560mg THC and 728mg CBD.


Zoe Sigman is Project CBD’s Program Director and the Science Editor at Broccoli Magazine.


Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.


Footnotes

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How to clone a cannabis plant

Did you know that you can clone a cannabis plant? It may sound like a mad scientist experiment, but there are benefits to cloning a plant vs. growing from a seed, and cloning weed is easier than you think.

Jump to a section in this article:

Check out these additional resources for more info on cannabis clones:

There are two ways you can go about reproducing cannabis. You can grow from seed, in which you will have to acquire seeds, germinate them, sex them out, and then continue to grow them. Seeds are created through sexual reproduction, which involves crossing a male plant with a female through pollination, after which, the female will produce seeds. Breeding male and female plants will allow you to create a hybrid of the two parent plants.

You can also reproduce cannabis through cloning, otherwise known as asexual reproduction. A clone is a cutting that is genetically identical to the plant it was taken from—known as the “mother.”

Through cloning, you can create a new harvest with exact replicas of your best plants. Because the genetics are identical, a clone will give you a plant with the same characteristics as the mother, such as flavor, cannabinoid profile, yield, grow time, etc. So if you come across a specific strain or phenotype you really like, you might want to clone it to reproduce more buds that have the same effects.

With cloning, you don’t have to get new seeds every time you want to grow another plant—you just take a cutting of the old plant—and you don’t have to germinate seeds or sex them out and get rid of the males.

Not having to do these steps will save you time as well as space, both of which will help you save money.

Cannabis plant roots

Cloning cannabis is relatively easy and requires just a few key items:

  • Scissors (for cutting branches off the mother plant)
  • Razor (for trimming up cuttings)
  • Rooting setup (tray/dome/root cubes, or an auto-cloner)
  • Rooting hormone

Choose a rooting medium and setup

Common rooting mediums include rockwool, rooting cubes, or another non-soil equivalent like peat or foam. Rockwool is melted rock that has been spun into a fine thread, and it has terrific airflow and moisture retention. You can find any of these cubes at most grow stores or online.

If you’re using cubes, you’ll need to invest in a tray, a tray-cell insert, and a dome. The clones will go in the cubes, the cubes in the tray-cells, and that sits in a tray which will hold water. To keep in humidity make sure to use a dome over your tray, and you may even want to use a heat mat. For more info on this setup, check out our guide to cannabis cloning equipment.

Another method is to use an auto-cloner. These cut down on the amount of labor needed to feed and care for clones. Using aeroponics, these machines spray the bottoms of your cuttings with nutrient water at set intervals to promote root growth. They are more expensive than the traditional tray/dome/root cube setup, but they are becoming more and more popular.

Experiment to see which setup works best for you. Whichever method you choose, make sure your new clones get plenty of light—preferably 18 hours—and humidity.

How to take a cutting

Cannabis plant clones

When selecting a mother plant to clone, look for plants that are healthy, sturdy, and at least two months into the vegetative cycle. You shouldn’t take a clone off a plant once it starts flowering.

Here’s how to take a cutting:

  • Don’t fertilize mother plants for a few days leading up to taking cuttings. This will allow nitrogen to work its way out of the leaves. When you take cuttings, an excess of nitrogen in the leaves and stems will trick your clones into attempting to grow vegetation instead of diverting energy to rooting.
  • Work in a sterile environment. Use gloves and disinfect razors and scissors.
  • Look for branches that are sturdy and healthy. You want at least two nodes on the final cutting, so pick a branch that is healthy and long enough. A sturdy clone will lead to a sturdy plant.
  • Cut the clone off of the mother, cutting above the node on the mother plant. It’s OK to use scissors here; it may be hard to get a razor in the middle of the mother plant.
  • Then, using a razor, cut below the bottom node on the fresh cutting at a 45° angle to the branch. This will increase the surface area of the rooting surface, promoting faster growth.
  • Place your fresh cutting immediately into a rooting hormone. Then, put it directly into a root cube. If using an auto-cloner, you’ll put rooting hormone in the cloner after you take all your cuttings.
  • Once done taking a cutting, remove unnecessary leaves toward the bottom and clip off the tips of the remaining fan leaves on the cutting. This supports photosynthesis, helping your clones uptake nutrients and water.

Planting cannabis

Check your clones daily to make sure they have enough water by checking the bottom of the tray or auto-cloner. To increase humidity, you can spray water on the leaves with a spray bottle. If any clones die, discard them so they don’t cause mold in the rest of the clones and also to give the remaining clones more space.

Most clones will be ready to transplant into soil in 10-14 days, but some may take longer. You’ll know they’re ready when the white roots are an inch or two in length.

When getting ready to transplant, be sure to keep the environment sterile. Transplant shock can occur so be sure to use gloves when handling clones.

To transplant:

  • Put soil in your pots first.
  • Water the soil before you put in the clone, so soil doesn’t move around once the clone is in its new home.
  • Once the water has drained, with two fingers, dig out a hole 1-2 inches deep, or just enough to bury all the roots.
  • Put the clone in and gently cover with soil.

Cloning can do wonders for your cannabis garden by saving you time and money, and ensuring a genetically consistent crop. You don’t need much to get started, and if done correctly, you can have a perpetual harvest of your favorite strains year-round.

This post was originally published on June 28, 2016. It was most recently updated on February 27, 2020.

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Cannabis Botany and Breeding with Ryan Lee

Transcript

Project CBD: Welcome to another edition of Cannabis Conversations. I’m Martin Lee with Project CBD and today I’m delighted to have as our guest Ryan Lee, an expert cannabis botanist who works with a company called Chemovar Health as one of the founders. It’s based in British Columbia. Ryan, thanks for joining us.

Lee: Thanks for having me.

Project CBD: Tell us a little bit about your background as a cannabis botanist. How does one become a cannabis botanist?

Lee: It was really through personal interest. There hasn’t been a lot of educational courses in this space. You know, I was a cannabis cultivator when I was going through university and really enjoyed the plant and enjoyed the diversity of the plant. And I started growing and studying genetics at university, and that really just pushed me down a path where I was able to learn some things through school that I guess weren’t really available in the cannabis community. I became very lucky to meet our mutual friends Rob Clarke and David Watson – they really kind of took me under their wing and introduced me to a lot of folks and gave me a hands-on experience.

Project CBD: I think Dave Watson and Rob Clarke would be professors at a cannabis cultivation university, if there ever was one. But you mentioned university — where did you go to school?

Lee: In Ottawa. I actually started in the kind of bio-psychology, neuroscience field. I was really interested in drugs and behavior. Studying cannabis at that time wasn’t really possible, pre-the acceptance of medical cannabis. None of the professors were really too interested in it. I also have family members with addiction issues. And so just understanding drugs and behavior was an interesting thing for me. I really used that opportunity to learn about the endocannabinoid system. Every time I had a project that I had to study, a personal study project, I would investigate the cannabinoid system in some way, or the endocannabinoid system, which was really just starting to be discovered.

Project CBD: Now we’re talking late ’80s.

Lee: Early ’90s really was when it was.

Domestic cannabis cultivation

Project CBD: Let’s roll back the clock a little bit to the time when I, as a teenager, was first exposed to cannabis. We didn’t really call it cannabis — it was just weed or grass or marijuana. But in those days, when we got some stuff, a dime bag, a nickel bag (and we’re talking about a few decades back), we had access to cultivars called Panama Red, Acapulco Gold, and later came Thai Stick and Colombian and Jamaican. It was always a name associated with a place. And yet these days, it’s quite different. You’ve all kinds of crazy names for cultivars, but not typically associated with a place. What happened there? What’s the difference between the cultivars of old, those place-located cultivars, and today?

Lee: Well obviously those place-located cultivars involved smuggling, right. I think back in the 70s and the 80s that was a very different world: People bringing in boatloads of cannabis and hashish from various countries into the States. The States has always had the largest market for cannabis consumption. As that market shifted to more of domestic production, people realized that the seeds that came from those populations that were brought in didn’t really perform in the same way that they might have grown in their native environments in Columbia or Mexico or Thailand. And so there had to be this adaptation process of the cultivars to be able to grow in the California environment. Then subsequently as the pressures came on from projects like CAMP [Campaign Against Marijuana Cultivation], the eradication projects all over the world (mostly the States, but also state-sponsored all over the world) that really forced growers indoors. Again, the type of plant that’s needed to grow indoors is very different than outdoors. So domestic home breeders have actually made some quite significant progress in being able to create varieties that are suitable to cultivate indoors and that also have increased market appeal.

Increasing THC

Project CBD: So, would you say that compared to the old landrace strains that we’ve got something up on them these days? Or that we’ve improved upon these landrace strains? Or the place-located strains or cultivars, they weren’t as good as what we’ve got today? Because you know we hear this phrase “right now the weed is so strong, it’s not like your grandmother’s or your grandfather’s marijuana.” Was the cannabis of old, as it were, was it weaker? What’s the difference?

Lee: On average, population average, the cannabinoid content was lower. There was probably individuals in those populations that had high THC content, or higher THC content, even the varying THC contents that we see today. But most of the imports were probably in the 5-10% THC range.

Project CBD: And does that suggest that its quality is not as good? What does that say about that?

Lee: That depends on who you ask. I know a lot of folks from your generation that they just don’t want to smoke the cannabis today because it’s too damn strong. They prefer something in that 7-10 percent [THC] range. We’ve done a lot of lab testing and characterized a lot of varieties, and some of these populations and families were created by people through what we call organic elective sampling. You evaluate the plant based on its characteristics, sense characteristics, with our five senses. I guess the sixth sense being how the cannabis makes you feel. We’ve come to see something, there’s this kind of weird biphasic curb where at low to moderate doses THC can actually feel quite invigorating, but if you turn the volume up and make these very strong THC varieties they can actually be quite sedating. And a lot of people will have a couple of puffs on these very strong cannabis, and they’re not regular users with tolerance, and they just end up stoned and staring at the wall or kind of zonked out on the couch. That’s not very social cannabis, you know. I think there’s really something to be said about the interplay between tolerance and the level of THC. Unfortunately, our market and production statistics, everybody wants to see, you know the most amount of not only grams per square foot, but also the total cannabinoid content per square foot.

Interpreting THC percentages

Project CBD: If it’s a THC-rich strain, the cannabinoid content is going to be mainly THC. So if someone walks into a dispensary these days in California, typically the products are labeled with numbers. Different cultivars have different numbers. Should we assume that the higher number for THC means it’s better?

Lee: It definitely isn’t. I mean in terms of enjoyable experience. I think that that’s the dogma that we operate under but I make this comparison with the wine industry: You don’t go into a liquor store and ask for — if you’re trying to buy a nice bottle of wine — you don’t ask for the highest alcohol content wine. And even with whisky, you don’t do that. There’s so much more to the user experience than just the sheer strength of the product. If it wasn’t like that, everybody would be drinking this grain straight alcohol, the almost pure ethanol, Everclear, that type of thing. That’s just not a user preference. Yeah, it’s a thing that exists on the market but it’s not the largest selling SKU.

Project CBD: You know, when I see some of the numbers associated with the THC-rich cultivars, it seems a little bit crazy to me sometimes. They say 20 percent, 22 percent, sometimes up to 30 percent – is that really what’s going on here? I don’t want to say the maximum – what is a realistic number in terms of cannabinoid content for a cultivar that would be a cannabinoid-rich cultivar? What’s the sort of the top that we’re looking at, that if we exceeded it, it would kind of make you wonder was this the correct lab test, or this is a marketing ploy?

Lee: It’s always very important to, not just say the number because when we’re talking about THC the plant actually doesn’t contain — it contains very little THC — as you know it contains a molecule called the THC-acid [THC-A]. That’s the pre-decarboxylated state of the molecule. When you convert THC-acid to THC, they’re not a 1:1 ratio because THC-acid obviously is a heavier molecule so as a percentage of the total compounds in the flower it makes up a larger ratio. And when you convert it into THC, the number is different. So, it’s always, it’s kind of like saying, it’s like a vector without a direction. You know, it’s like saying we’re traveling 100 but we don’t say it as miles an hour or kilometers per hour. It’s not just the number. It’s always important to have a context with the number. We do see plants that are above 30% total cannabinoid acids. The highest one I’ve seen is about 34-35 percent.

Project CBD: And that’s the plant itself, not the extract?

Lee: That’s a single plant. That’s a flower from a single plant. So you can have these higher numbers. When a laboratory has a result that’s above 30% THC-acid, that really merits what we call a re-prep, where they re-run the sample through the laboratory to make sure that there wasn’t a problem either with the calibration of the machine or the measuring of the sample before it’s put in.

Rediscovering CBD

Project CBD: Let’s talk about CBD for a moment. Back in the old days people didn’t really know much about CBD. But some of these cultivars coming in from Nepal or from Morocco or these different places – and this is before we did a lot of domestic breeding – did these have CBD in them? Because the CBD, if it was there, it seems to have disappeared for a while and it had to be rediscovered about 10 years ago in northern California. What happened with CBD? Did it disappear, and if so why?

Lee: CBD was essentially effectively bred out of the plant by humans.

Project CBD: Was that intentional?

Lee: Again, you have to remember, at this point in time we weren’t doing the laboratory analysis.

Project CBD: What time are we talking about here?

Lee: I guess really domestic cannabis production, I would say, really took a boom in the 80s. But even in the 70s, I think even the native populations that were growing these location-of-origin genetics, were able to through sampling and cross-breeding — you know people would always save the seeds from the most beautiful smelling or the largest yielding plant, to plant for next year’s crop. Through doing that over a couple of generations, especially if you’re limiting the pollen contributors from that family, you’re actually quite easily able to shift the population to either THC-dominant or CBD-dominant, just by sampling the plants that make you the highest. And I think that that’s probably what happened. You know, we weren’t going after these compounds through chemical analysis. We just weren’t monitoring these things. So, all of that type of selection pressure was really done by consumption and determining how the plants made us feel. As you know, a mixed CBD and THC plant might have a different effect from a THC plant. And so people that were really focused on that strength of effect could effectively segregate those THC plants from the population. And when you breed them between themselves you effectively purge the CBD from the population.

The art of breeding cannabis

Project CBD: Final question, about breeding. You are an expert breeder. When one breeds, how much of it is just rolling the dice and chance and, hey, you come up with something interesting? Or how much is intentional, that you’re looking to get somewhere with the work?

Lee: You can do it both ways. To me breeding is both a science and an art. So if you bring in tools from a scientific understanding and you use your passions that you have for the plant, I think that’s the most effective way. Humanity and breeders have been using just art and no science for years, and you can make certain gains to a degree. But we’re at this point now where cannabis is becoming a legitimate agricultural crop and that kind of production merits the scientific investigation and actual expenditure of resources to use science to improve the crop. And we just haven’t been able to do that through prohibition.

Project CBD: Well thank you Ryan Lee for joining us on Cannabis Conversations. We’ll see you next time.


Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.


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Male vs. female cannabis: How to determine the sex of your plant

In the world of plants, reproduction can happen in a variety of ways. Monoecious plants produce two different types of flowers on the same plant, and hermaphrodite plants grow single flowers that have both male and female reproductive organs.

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning male or female reproductive organs appear on different plants.

With cannabis, females are usually isolated away from males—introducing males into a garden will result in pollination, causing females to create seeds.

This is important for a breeder to achieve new genetics, but most growers remove the males to allow females to produce seedless buds, also called sinsemilla. These are the resinous buds that appear on the store shelf; they all come from female plants.

Seeded buds are generally regarded as low-quality cannabis. When seeds are present, the smoke is harsh and unpleasant.

Female genetics can be guaranteed by obtaining clones and feminized seeds. If, however, you’re working with regular seeds and are unsure of your seed’s sex, knowing how to determine the sex of your plant is vital to developing new genetics, gathering seeds, or growing sinsemilla.

Sexing cannabis plants is easy. Let’s see how to tell.

Check out these additional resources for more info on cannabis seeds:

Female cannabis pre-flowers grow as tiny bracts with hair-like stigma peeking out. Male plants produce small, round balls at the nodes. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stalk). Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they actually start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

Pre-flowers begin to develop four weeks into growth, but they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and confidently determine the sex of your plant.

Pre-flowers can initially be extremely small and hard to identify with the naked eye, but you can use a magnifying glass to get a better look. Examine the nodes of the plant and look for either the early growth of small sacs on a male, or two bracts on a female, which will eventually produce the hair-like stigma.

Though there are other methods to determine what sex the plant is, examining pre-flower formation is the most reliable.

Removing males early on is important for two reasons: it frees up space in your garden so females can grow bigger and stronger, and it prevents males from pollinating females.

Hermaphrodite cannabis can express both sex organs and self-pollinate. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

When a female plant develops both male and female sex organs, it is considered a hermaphrodite. This means your cannabis plant is now capable of producing pollen that can pollinate your entire garden. “Herming out,” as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some plant stressors include:

  • Plant damage
  • Bad weather
  • Disease
  • Nutrient deficiencies

There are two types of hermaphrodite plants:

  • A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs
  • A plant that produces anthers, commonly referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance

While both result in pollen production, true hermaphrodites produce sacs that need to rupture, while anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.

Because this occurs when cannabis is under stress, it’s important to monitor plants after they have been exposed to stressors—indoors: high temperatures or light leaks are often the cause; outdoors: a snapped branch might be repaired and then turn into a hermaphrodite.

The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in the plant’s genetics. A plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphrodite development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice any pollen sacs or anthers at any point, remove the plant from your garden immediately to prevent pollination of female plants.

If you’re interested in pollinating portions of your crop, remember that pollen is extremely potent and very good at traveling. Keep your males intended for pollination far from your garden space and work carefully with that pollen.

This post was originally published on September 19, 2017. It was most recently updated on February 11, 2020.

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‘Help, I’m terrified of THC!’

Getting high isn’t always giggles and gaiety for everyone. In fact, too much of the euphoria-inducing cannabinoid, THC, can give a number of people unwanted symptoms of paranoia, dizziness, racing heart, fatigue—or sometimes a hellscape of all four.

If this all sounds familiar, or you’re new to weed but wary, you might feel you’re just not cut out for cannabis. But consider hot sauce: some people drown their food in fiery spice, while others are content with a single drop. THC is sort of the same, and how you experience this cannabinoid has more to do with your unique genetic makeup than other factors such as age, gender, what you ate that day or even the number of times you’ve consumed it in the past.

Dr. Rattan Pasenar, medical director of Cannaway Clinic, explains cannabinoid receptors have genetic variations from person to person, which is why two people can consume the same amount and yet have vastly different experiences.

“Each of us has a unique receptor physiology. Some people may react differently depending on their receptors, which may contribute to whether someone has an enjoyable experience or not,” he says.

He also points out the feeling of being high is subjective, much the same as alcohol is enjoyed by some, but not everyone. “Some people may not like any feeling of impairment, and this holds true with cannabis,” he offers.

So you might have sensitive cannabis receptors. Now what? The good news is we’re in the age of legal cannabis, which means you can access clinical expertise combined with an enormous range of regulated products. In this day and age, medical patients and recreational consumers alike can get the most from weed without the unwanted side effects. Here’s how to make it work for you:

It’s said over and over (and over) again, but Pasenar reiterates this wise cannabis adage: Start low, and go slow.

  • “Low” means a really low dose of cannabis
  • “Slow” means allowing your body enough time to absorb the product fully, which can take up to four hours

“This [rule] applies to the ingestion of cannabis oils as well as the inhalation of cannabis flower or vapour from a vaporizer,” he explains. Health Canada recommends consuming edibles with less than 2.5 mg THC, and waiting up to four hours to feel any effects. If smoking or vaping, Health Canada says to start with just one or two puffs from a strain with less than 10% THC, and wait up to 30 minutes.

For medical patients, including recreational consumers who are self-diagnosing, Pasenar emphasizes the importance of getting assessed by a cannabis-specializing physician who can guide you to the right dosage and method of ingestion. “This is especially important for people who are already taking other medications to ensure interactions or risks associated with their existing treatment plan are managed properly.”

The legacy market laid the groundwork for today’s legal cannabis. But in the decades leading up to legalization, weed was bred to contain very high THC levels—not ideal for sensitive types. Buying from legal sources not only takes the guesswork out of product potency, Pasenar stresses it’s the only way you can be sure of exactly what you’re getting.

“Current day cannabis is different than the cannabis of the past,” he says. “Today’s cannabis is highly regulated by Health Canada, and includes a variety of different strains, formulations and intake methods; this is beneficial to the medical patient as well as the new recreational consumer.”

If a party joint from back in the day made you freak out, Pasenar assures this isn’t a reason to avoid cannabis forever. “Individuals who have historically had negative experiences with cannabis should not feel anxious or nervous to try cannabis for medical purposes under the supervision of a medical team.” He says the approach in this instance is a treatment plan of predominantly CBD with low doses of THC. For patients who are still hypersensitive to the effects of THC—which he says is rare—the medical team can quickly adjust and refine dosage and treatment.

In this age of CBD hype it can be tempting to think of CBD as the therapeutic sibling to intoxicating THC, as if they’re opposite sides of a cannabis moral coin. This is simply not true. Both cannabinoids—which are just—two of many—have therapeutic qualities. A recent study published in Nature suggests cannabis that includes THC provides greater symptom relief for a broad range of health issues compared to consumption of CBD alone. Pasenar explains the entourage effect is a theory suggesting that the entire cannabis plant provides greater therapeutic results than any individual component on its own.

“We have observed at Cannaway that full-spectrum cannabis products provide better symptomatic relief, which may be attributed to the entourage effect,” he says. “When we prescribe a low dose of THC in combination with CBD and a complete terpene profile, we have seen better efficacy in many patients anecdotally than when CBD is taken on its own.”

And no, patients don’t have to suffer through unwanted funny feelings. Says Pasenar: “When we introduce THC to a patient, they will often start by taking it at nighttime, before bed. Nighttime is when feelings of euphoria are minimized since the patient is sleeping, and there is less risk of the patient driving or operating heavy equipment.”

First of all, Pasenar reassuringly points out that no one—neither patients nor recreational consumers—has ever died from an overdose of cannabis. He suggests feelings of paranoia, fatigue, palpitations or dizziness from a high dose of THC can be countered with a high-CBD product, which can block the effect of THC at the CB1 receptors, and may help alleviate some symptoms. (Although in very rare case of psychosis or hallucinations, he says seek immediate medical attention.) But for the vast majority of people, time in a comfortable space is the best course of action.

In addition to taking CBD, Pasenar says you can also try eating a meal to slow down THC absorption in the gut, and that taking a nap may help alleviate some symptoms (and kill time).

Pasenar reiterates that medical patients are in good hands, and that they should have no apprehension to using low doses of THC in conjunction with CBD. “We have seen that this allows us to successfully treat a variety of medical aliments, and our patients are able to achieve better symptomatic relief and increase their quality of life.”

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Seniors, it’s okay that you still love cannabis

When people think of cannabis consumers, the first image that usually comes to mind is someone in their early 20’s—that fun time in life. But today’s older adults are the people who created the foundational cannabis subculture for the industry that exists today. And some of them never stopped toking! (Why should only one part of life be the fun time?) Others put it aside while raising children, then returned once their responsibilities let up. And still others know it as a wonderful remedy for their many ailments.

We caught up with some of our elder cannabis fans, getting their perspective on matters of today, and some great tidbits from times past. Read on to find out (or remember) what a ‘lid’ is, munchie memories of the ‘60s, and lots more.

seniors enjoying cannabis, older adults consuming marijuana

(Courtesy of Paula Janowiec and Ken Hale)

Paula and Ken are a married couple residing in Oregon, living in a picturesque country home with several towering cannabis plants growing in the yard. Ken reports that he’s been using cannabis for 50 years, mostly recreationally, but currently uses a CBD balm on his knees and back, as well as edibles for sleep.

However, Ken says that he also has a great time with it. “Cannabis lets you notice one form of sensory input and really let it all in. It makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin. Like I can’t dance, but when I smoke marijuana it makes me feel like I can—and I almost can!”

Paula’s mostly uses cannabis socially, saying, “When we have friends over I just have one hit on the pipe and I feel like I had three cocktails—we laugh and laugh, and it’s so much healthier!” They like using a pipe when friends come over, and often when they’re hanging out at home together in the evenings.

Since they grow their own cannabis, they’ve also got plenty to share. Ken makes a lot of CBD cookies for medical needs of loved ones; a friend of theirs actually used them to get off of opiates, now able to sleep through the night with only a cookie for aid.

Though they’re happy with the current state of canna-affairs, they are shocked at the prices of cannabis these days. Ken remembers that he bought a lid, which was slang for about an ounce of cannabis, for $10. He says, “People now call it the ‘good old days’ because of that, but they weren’t the good old days—it was illegal! We were always worried, and now you drive down the road and there’s signs—‘NEED WEED?’—I’d have thought that was heaven back then!”

seniors enjoying cannabis, older adults consuming marijuana

(Courtesy of Paula Janowiec and Ken Hale)

Ken started smoking in college, during the ’60s, sharing that people mostly carried joints at the time, but sometimes at parties someone would bring out a bong. Though Paula and cannabis didn’t hang while her kids were still growing up (picking it up again when she met Ken), she was introduced to cannabis while she was in college, in 1966. She told us that it was usually 8-10 people sitting around listening to all the great music from the 60’s, just talking and laughing.

When asked for their favorite munchies of yore, the two were quick and decisive in answering. Paula’s was rather inventive: a can of Spanish rice and a can of refried beans, served on a tortilla (warmed directly on the stove burner). And Ken’s: “Jack in the Box’s hot apple turnover, vanilla milkshake, combined!” He shared that once the guy at the Box asked if they had the munchies and they responded, “If it weren’t for munchies, you wouldn’t be in business!”

Though Paula’s kids didn’t know her as a cannabis fan growing up, legality and adulthood have made it a family affair. The first time they all did it, they’d gotten together for dinner and Ken said, “Want to smoke a joint before dinner?” And one of the adult children replied, “This is just too weird.” But they did it nonetheless—and it was a great experience.

They say now it’s pretty normal, passing a pipe around while hanging out playing games or vaping at Christmas.

Carol is another person who blends medical and recreational cannabis use, but she says these days it’s mostly medical. Between a bad back, symptoms from surgery, a couple of collapsed discs, a hurt rib, arthritis, and more—cannabis has got its hands full.

“I’m stable, and part of it is because four years ago I was able to get my medical card and become legal,” Carol said. “It helps everything, including the depression. But mostly what it does is helps me by giving me something I can concentrate on so that I forget about the pain.”

She started enjoying cannabis in 1961 while living in New York. She had an easy connection to get cannabis until she left the city in 1981, but since she was in nearby New Jersey, she’d just take a quick trip into the city to get what she needed.

That stopped around the turn of the century, leaving her with only sporadic cannabis connections—but her passion for poker saved the day. After she joined a game with some young people—“poker kids,” as she fondly calls them—she “found a source for some supply.” Then, four years ago, legal medical cannabis really started hooking her up.

Carol recalls the first time that she tried medical cannabis. “It was so intense. The first day I came home and smoked on my porch legally, the first thing I did was to go inside and write a letter to the dispensary asking if they had a position in the garden.”

She says she was blown away that there are people fighting for legal cannabis. “This magnificent movement around the country to make nature’s miracle pain medicine available…I never thought I’d live to see it happen. It is just wonderful.”

And she wound up becoming one of those people fighting for legal cannabis. After discovering that she went to high school with one of the organizers, she joined the New Jersey cannabis community last November. She went to a social event with the group and it was the first time in 20 years she had smoked with people who were used to smoking.

“For the first time, I was in the company of people who were not only using marijuana medically, but were fighting actively for homegrown and other aspects of legalization that should be the right of everyone, and isn’t.”

They gave her her very first dab, and she proved to be a champion. “I took an enormous inhalation and everybody was astonished and labeled me ‘Sturmella Iron Lung’ on the spot,” Carol said. (‘Sturmella’ is a nickname that comes from her maiden name, ‘Sturm.’)

Though friends her age are generally tolerant of her use, she doesn’t yet get to share her love of cannabis with many of her peers. “Younger people always think I’m cool because I’m very forthright. The older people…I don’t know.”

She told us that her friend was dying of Parkinson’s disease, and she wanted to help her with cannabis, but her husband refused to consider it because he saw Reefer Madness when he was young, and now nothing’s going to change his mind. “That is the danger of misinformation of that kind,” she told us wistfully.

“I love, love, love the people I’ve been meeting through [cannabis],” she told us before emphasizing how much Marijuana Mommy (Jessie Gill) has helped. Together they got Carol off of painkillers by using specific strains for specific problems.

Without the drug-induced lethargy, she’s been able to get moving again. “It’s gotten me up and out of bed and it’s got me doing things again; it’s gotten off the weight I put on from sitting around doing nothing—and I’m not going back.”

She’s lost 55 pounds since cannabis helped her quit the sedentary life four years ago, telling us that she has a normal BMA “for the first time this century.”

But there are also definite elements of “recreational” use at play, she shared with happiness in her voice. “[Cannabis] heightens music, and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel alive,and it makes me want to get up and out of bed. And at this point that’s what I need.”

Kate (who preferred not to give her last name) started smoking in the 1970s and hasn’t stopped since. She says she used to smoke sticks ‘n stems before she moved to NYC in 1976 and discovered sensimilla, and it was a whole new experience. Kate still spends most of her time in New York, where cannabis is only legal for medical use, so continually getting high-quality cannabis can be an issue.

Luckily, she met that hero of a dealer who introduced her to sensi; and when he left town he passed her onto another. The next dealer did the same. And the next. And now, nearly 44 years after arriving in NYC, she shares that this chain remains unbroken, even though her last connection died of cancer.

“On our last phone call, he said, ‘And don’t forget, you can always see PJ’. Here’s this guy, dying of cancer, and he’s worried about me and my pot connection!” Kate said.

Kate says she’s not too worried about getting caught. “You walk in Manhattan and you smell weed all the time. It’s not enforced, and, if anything, you get a ticket. Or, I should say, it’s not enforced if you’re a white person, to be honest with you,” she shared, with irritation in her voice. “Whenever I read about people getting busted for marijuana smoking, it’s disproportionately people of color. I’m white and I’m old—so I’m not going to get busted.”

When asked what she likes about cannabis, she replied, “I like the high. And it’s different from drinking. I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten so stoned that I fell down, which happened to me drinking in the past.” She enjoys cannabis a few times a week, loving the ritual of rolling up a joint, the puffing, and how it looks sitting smoking in the ashtray.

Kate also lives in a building where she’s not worried about anyone complaining about the smell associated with her hobby, as she resides in an artist’s community. In fact, many of her neighbors smoke, too. Since most of the tenants move in, love it, and never leave, she says it’s become a “naturally occurring retirement community.” She enjoys having neighbors who are like-minded peers, sharing that she enjoys smoking with a couple different neighbors her age, as well as flying solo.

All-in-all, cannabis life for Kate hasn’t changed all that much since the 70’s, though she does enjoy a vape pen when she goes to the Jersey Shore, where the houses are close together and the smell of a joint is too conspicuous. She also reminisced about one stoney pastime from back in the day, one that we’d have loved, too: ironic showings of the 1936 anti-cannabis propaganda film, Reefer Madness, which played at midnight.

“We were probably stoned out of our minds, but we thought it was hilarious.”

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8 ways to sober up from being high

Any cannabis consumer can tell you that if there’s one feeling no one enjoys, it’s the moment when you realize, “I’m too high.” Maybe the edible kicked in three hours late. Perhaps you tried to impress a group of friends by breathing in a little bit too deeply. You might have just tried concentrates for the first time and were caught off guard by their potency. Or maybe you are just a low-tolerance consumer.

There are a thousand ways it can happen, but once it does, the resulting experience can be uncomfortable and enough to turn off even the most seasoned cannabis lover.

After smoking weed, how long you stay high depends on a variety of factors: consumption method, dosage, and unique individual variables that can vary from person to person. Typically, the higher the potency of a cannabis product, the longer the high will last. Concentrates are the most potent form of cannabis, with flower and edibles following behind. This could mean that it would take longer to sober up from dabs than smoking a bowl, however dosage and your body’s chemistry would still be the decider here. It’s also important to note that the everyday smoker with a higher weed tolerance will sober up a lot faster than the occasional consumer who hits the party joint a couple of times.

Anecdotally speaking, the average cannabis high can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours at its peak, with some lingering effects still felt for a period of time after. Some highs have been known to last a lot longer. Thankfully, there are ways to help come back down and sober up when you feel too high, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable from excessive cannabis consumption.

what to do when you're too high, how to help when you're too high, smoked too much marijuana

(Amy Phung/Leafly)

1. Don’t panic

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

Let us start with the infinite wisdom of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

DON’T PANIC. YOU ARE FINE AND EVERYTHING IS OKAY.

Most symptoms of “greening out” (imbibing too much cannabis) will dissipate within minutes to hours, with no lasting effects beyond a little grogginess. Give it some time and these feelings will eventually pass, trust us.

Also, contrary to what you may have heard, there have been zero reported cannabis overdose deaths in the history of ever, so despite how freaked out you may feel or how sweaty you get, you won’t expire from excessive consumption. (Don’t take that on as a challenge, just keep in mind that if you accidentally overdo it, you’ll be OK in a while.)

2. Try water and light snacks

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

Water, water, water—don’t forget to hydrate! Whether you prefer water or juice, make sure you have a nice, cold beverage on hand (preferably non-caffeinated). This will help you combat dry mouth and allow you to focus on a simple and familiar act—sipping and swallowing.

Keep in mind that by “hydrate,” we don’t mean “knock back a few alcoholic beverages.” If you’re feeling the effects of your strain a little too aggressively, stay away from alcohol as it can increase THC blood concentrations.

Some people find that a light snack helps to feel a little more grounded. Consider grazing on some fruits, nuts, or cheese, and see if it’s a little easier to connect mind and body.

3. Know your limits before consuming

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

If you can, try to prepare for your cannabis session according to your tolerance level. Okay, this tip won’t help you once you’re already over the edge, but it can help you avoid an uncomfortable situation next time.

Consume with friends you know and are comfortable with, and don’t feel pressured to consume more than you can handle. It’s all well and good to make new friends, but being surrounded by strangers when you can’t feel your face is unpleasant at best and anxiety-ridden at worst.

Take it slow, especially when consuming edibles. We recommend trying a standard dose of 10 mg (or even 5 mg if you really want to ease into the experience) and waiting at least an hour, if not two, before increasing your edibles dosage. The same goes for inhalation methods—if you’re used to occasionally taking one hit off your personal vaporizer, we advise not sitting in a smoking circle puffing and passing for an hour.

4. Keep some black pepper handy

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

If you find yourself combating paranoia and anxiety, a simple household ingredient found in kitchens and restaurants everywhere can come to your rescue: black pepper. Many swear by the black pepper trick, even Neil Young! Just sniff or chew on a few black peppercorns and it should provide almost instantaneous relief.

5. Keep calm and rest

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

Find a calm, quiet place where you can rest and breathe deeply. Remember, the intense discomfort you’re feeling will pass. Take deep full breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breath and just rest a while.

Sometimes sleeping it off can be the best alternative to stopping a strong high, but it’s not always easy to turn your brain off. Once you’ve found a quiet area, lay down and let yourself relax. If drowsiness and sleep are quick to onset, take a little nap to rejuvenate yourself. Should you be unable to fall asleep, just get comfortable until you feel strong enough to spring back up.

6. Try going for a walk

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

If you can’t turn your brain off, sometimes a change of scenery and some fresh air to get your blood pumping will help invigorate you. Just remember to stay close to your immediate surroundings—we don’t want you wandering off and getting lost while you’re feeling anxious and paranoid! And refrain from taking a walk if you’re feeling too woozy or light-headed to stand; instead, we recommend Option #5 and lay down for a while.

7. Take a shower or bath

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

While it’s not always feasible if you’re out and about or at a friend’s house, if you’re at home, try taking a nice shower or bath as a really pleasant option to help relax while you wait for the effects of smoking too much weed to dissipate.

8. Distract yourself!

what to do if you're too high

(Leafly)

All of the activities that seem so entertaining and fun while high are also a great way to distract yourself while you try to come back down to Earth. Some suggestions include:

  • Watch a funny cartoon
  • Listen to your favorite album
  • Play a video game
  • Talk to your friends (who are hopefully right by your side, reassuring you)
  • Snuggle with your significant other
  • Try coloring as a calming activity (seriously, adult coloring books are becoming all the rage lately)
  • Eat something delicious

Whatever distractions you prefer, make sure it’s a familiar activity that gives you warm, fuzzy emotions. Your brain will hopefully zone in on the positive feelings and give you a gentle reminder that you are safe and just fine.

Bonus tip: Try some CBD to counter the effects of smoking too much weed

CBD is an excellent anxiety-fighting compound, and for many people it can be used to counteract too much THC. Learn how CBD’s anti-anxiety mechanisms work by modulating the receptor signaling associated with THC.

If all of these suggestions fail and you find that you are still feeling alarmingly uncomfortable, you can always seek medical attention and tell a doctor or nurse that you are having a cannabis-induced anxiety attack. This option is always available, even in states where cannabis is illegal. From a medical perspective, physicians have your best interest in mind and want to do all they can to make sure you’re OK, even if it’s helping you come down when you’re too stoned.

Browse Leafly Market for CBD products

Hopefully, however, the above suggestions were just what you needed to counteract and hopefully stop that too-intense cannabis high. (Or, if none of these work, you could always follow Snoop Dogg’s advice and “put ur face in mayonnaise.”)

How do you stop being high and come down from overwhelming cannabis effects? Share your tips in the comments section!

Authors Lisa Rough and Dante Jordan contributed to this article. This post was originally published on August 15, 2015. It was most recently updated on February 5, 2020.

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Cannabis seeds 101: A guide for growers

Cannabis is grown from one of two sources: a seed or a clone. Seeds carry genetic information from two parent plants that can be expressed in numerous different combinations, some like the mother, some like the father, and many presenting various traits from both. Generally, commercial cannabis producers will plant many seeds of one strain and choose the best plant. They will then take clones from that individual plant to get consistent genetics for mass production.

But for the typical homegrower, it may be easier to obtain seeds rather than clones. Growing from seed can produce a stronger plant with more solid genetics. Read on for more info on cannabis seeds.

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Cannabis can be either male or female—also called “dioecious”—but only females produce the buds we all know and love. However, for reproduction, the flower of a female plant must be pollinated by a male plant, after which the female flower produces seeds. Once the seeds are mature, the female plant begins to die, and seeds are either dropped to the ground where they germinate and grow into new cannabis plants the next spring, or they are harvested for processing into hemp seed oil, food products, or to be sown to become the next generation of plants.

To get the buds you find in medical and recreational stores, female cannabis plants are grown in an environment without males—or the males are removed from the area before they release pollen—so that they don’t pollinate and create seeds. This high-potency marijuana is traditionally known as “sinsemilla,” meaning “seedless.”

Some varieties of cannabis can produce male parts alongside female flowers on the same plant, especially if exposed to environmental stressors. These plants are known as hermaphrodites, and sometimes they can self-pollinate to create seeds.

marijuana seeds in wooden bowl

Feminized cannabis seeds will produce only female plants for getting buds, so there is no need to remove males or worry about the plants getting pollinated. Feminized seeds are produced by causing the monoecious, or hermaphrodite condition in a female cannabis plant. The resulting seeds are nearly identical to the self-pollinated—or “selfed”—female parent, as only one set of genes is present.

This is sometimes referred to as “cloning by seed” and will not produce any male plants. This is achieved through several methods:

  • By spraying the plant with a solution of colloidal silver, a liquid containing tiny particles of silver
  • Through a method known as rodelization, in which a female plant pushed past maturity can pollinate another female
  • Spraying seeds with gibberellic acid, a hormone that triggers germination (this is much less common)

Most experienced growers will not use feminized seeds because they only contain one set of genes, and these should never be used for breeding purposes.

Check out Leafly’s Growing section for more on how to grow cannabis 

Most cannabis plants begin flowering when the amount of light they are exposed to each day is reduced to about 12 hours. This mimics the sun going down in the sky as the season turns to autumn, causing plants to produce buds regardless of size or age. However, a species of the plant, called Cannabis ruderalis, which developed in extreme northern conditions without much sunlight, will begin flowering once the plant reaches a certain age—they automatically start flowering regardless of the amount of light they receive, hence the term “autoflower.”

Some breeders have crossbred the low-THC ruderalis with other more potent varieties to create autoflower strains that start blooming as soon as they reach maturity. These can be easier to maintain and can be especially great in northern climates where summers are short and cold and wet weather comes early in the fall.

Autoflower strains can be started in early spring and will flower during the longest days of summer to take advantage of the highest quality light available. Growers can fit in multiple autoflower harvests in the span of a regular harvest. One drawback, though: Autoflower strains are known for being less potent.

weed seeds in wooden spoon on hemp doily

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the chemical components—known collectively as cannabinoids—found in the cannabis plant. Lately, much has been made of the potential benefits of CBD for treating the symptoms of many diseases and conditions. Over the years, humans have selected plants for high-THC content, making cannabis with high levels of CBD rare. The genetic pathways through which THC is synthesized by the plant are different than those for CBD production.

Cannabis used for hemp production has been selected for other traits, including a low THC content, so as to comply with the 2018 Farm Bill. Consequently, many varieties of hemp produce significant quantities of CBD. As interest in CBD as a medicine has grown, many breeders have been crossing high-CBD hemp with cannabis. These strains have little or no THC, 1:1 ratios of THC and CBD, or some have a high-THC content along with significant amounts of CBD (3% or more).

Seeds for these varieties are now widely available online and through dispensaries. It should be noted, however, that any plant grown from these seeds is not guaranteed to produce high levels of CBD, as it takes many years to create a seed line that produces consistent results. A grower looking to produce cannabis with a certain THC to CBD ratio will need to grow from a tested and proven clone or seeds.

The most important factor in seed quality is genetics—to grow quality cannabis, you need good genetics. Some less scrupulous breeders will simply cross a nice female with a random male and sell the resulting seeds. A good breeder will take time to cross and backcross plants to stabilize the most desirable traits, while still producing an array of different phenotypes.

Seeds must also be allowed to fully mature before harvest. They also must be properly stored so they don’t acquire mold or other pathogens that can spoil them. Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark place and used within 16 months, or frozen for future use.

Really dedicated breeders have worked for years to create inbred lines, or IBLs, that will produce plants with very little noticeable difference. IBLs represent only a small fraction of cannabis seeds on the market, as they are generally used by breeders and not by producers.

Cannabis seeds can be found on numerous online seedbanks, but note that it is illegal to bring seeds into the US and Customs will seize any cannabis seeds that they find in packages or on a person. In legal and medical states, you may purchase seeds at a dispensary.

Learn more about how to buy cannabis seeds, the legality of doing so, and costs in our Guide to buying cannabis seeds.

This post was originally published on April 2, 2016. It was most recently updated on February 5, 2020.

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What does cannabis look like? A visual guide to cannabis quantities

A gram, an eighth, an ounce–what does it all mean? We’ve all been there at one point. Attempting to make sense of the names associated with different cannabis quantities can be challenging. Central to the confusion is conceptualization of weight, which depends on both product size and density.

If you are new to cannabis, we hope this video and visual guide will provide you with a general framework to wrap your head around the common sale quantities for flower. Keep in mind that these depictions are approximations, given that density varies (at times drastically) between products. In other words, a dense cannabis flower can look a lot smaller than a fluffy bud and still carry the same weight.

Thankfully, cannabis shops and producers use digital scales to determine the exact weight of your weed before it is packaged. And, if you wish to weigh the weed from your own garden or verify your purchased products, digital scales can easily be found for purchase. Remember that moisture is part of the weight. Cannabis flower will lose weight as it ages and dries out.

Cannabis quantity range by weight, from one gram to an eighth-ounce, quarter-ounce, half-ounce, and ounce. There's also a comparison of a half-gram and full-gram pre-rolled joints.

Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)

For reference, here is a quick conversion guide from ounces of weed into grams.

  • Eighth (1/8) ounce = 3.5 grams
  • Quarter (1/4) ounce = 7 grams
  • Half (1/2) ounce = 14 grams
  • Full (1) ounce = 28 grams

The price of flower varies depending on the quality of the product and the market in which it is sold. You can expect to pay between $4 and $20 for a gram of flower—sometimes getting a price break when you purchase larger quantities.

This post was originally published on November 18, 2014. It was most recently updated on February 6, 2020.

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Can cannabis alone cure cancer? We asked oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams

Health

February 4, 2020

Early research on mice has been promising, but no human studies have shown dramatic curative powers. (Mitch/AdobeStock)

Can cannabis alone cure cancer?

The short answer is no. There are as yet no major studies that offer conclusive proof that cannabis alone can cure cancer.

The long answer is more complex.

Researchers are investigating some intriguing anti-carcinogenic effects of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Pharmaceutical companies have tested cannabinoid medications on patients with aggressive brain tumors with positive but not dramatic results. Some cancer survivors have extolled the curative value of concentrated cannabis oil. Entire books have been written on the subject.

But there may be real risk and potential deadly harm in relying solely on cannabis as a cancer-fighting strategy.

Last week two of the world’s foremost clinicians and researchers in the field of cannabis and cancer, Dr. Donald Abrams and Prof. Manuel Guzmán, published a JAMA Oncology article aimed at clearing up the confusion.

Abrams is a renowned integrative oncologist, clinician, medical cannabis pioneer, and medical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Guzmán and his lab at Spain’s Complutense University of Madrid have published a number of groundbreaking studies on cannabis and cancer.

In the article, they acknowledge that “many patients with cancer diagnoses are convinced, mainly by internet testimonials, that cannabis, particularly highly concentrated oils or tinctures of THC and/or CBD, may actually cure their cancers.”

The authors don’t mention it by name, but Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), a highly concentrated cannabis oil, is often mentioned in online cannabis forums as a tool to try in the treatment of cancer.

Cannabis has long been used by cancer patients—with actual proven efficacy—to manage the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and lack of appetite. It also helps many patients manage cancer pain.

Meanwhile, a number of researchers conducting cell culture studies have published data indicating that THC and other cannabinoids may trigger apoptosis (naturally programmed cell death) in cancer cells.

In a recent interview, Guzmán said this about the state of research on cancer and cannabinoids:

“Practically all the research carried out to date on cannabinoids and cancer cells has used cancer cells cultured on plates or animal models of cancer (generally mice, sometimes rats). Based on numerous scientific studies, various cannabinoids…exercise a wide range of effects that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. These include: (a) Activating cell death through a mechanism known as “apoptosis”. (b) Blocking cell division. (c) Inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels in tumours, in a process known as angiogenesis. (d) Reducing the metastatic capacity of the cancer cells, preventing them from migrating or invading neighboring tissues. To sum up, cannabinoids appear to be effective substances for the experimental treatment of at least some types of cancer, at least in small laboratory animals.”

That’s incredibly promising. But results from cultured cells or mice often fail to carry over to the human body.

The main takeaway from the JAMA Oncology article is this: Treatments like RSO may or may not be beneficial to individual cancer patients, but they should not be used as a substitute for all forms of conventional treatment.

Foregoing conventional therapy “for a curable malignant neoplasm while choosing cannabis as a therapy instead is disturbing,” wrote Abrams and Guzmán.

In a phone interview from his home in the Bay Area, Abrams told Leafly that he and Guzmán were asked to contribute the article by an editor at JAMA Oncology—indicating that clinical oncologists may be confronting the issue with increasing frequency.

In his own practice, Abrams said he too often encounters patients who have misguidedly abandoned conventional cancer treatment in favor of a cannabis-only regimen.

“As an integrative oncologist, I see patients who often have waited months to get an appointment with me,” he said. “One of the most painful things I have to deal with are people who have a potentially curable malignancy who choose to forego conventional cancer treatment, and instead choose to try to treat themselves with highly concentrated oils with either THC, CBD, or both.”

“They come to me, and by that time they have diseases that have spread and can’t be cured,” Abrams added. “I find that really tragic. They expect me to give them a pat on the back and say ‘Yeah, you’re doing the right thing, continue.’ But now they’ve lost their chance to be cured.”

The first study to show evidence of anti-cancer effect in cannabis came out in 1975. That study, which Abrams mentions in a 2019 article, “Should Oncologists Recommend Cannabis?”, showed that THC and CBD could inhibit the growth of certain lung cancer cells in test tube experiments. Subsequent studies found that cannabinoids selectively killed glioblastoma (brain cancer) cells in mice while leaving normal cells untouched.

But the results from studies on human subjects battling brain cancer have been mixed. One of Guzmán’s own studies looked at the use of THC by nine glioblastoma patients. It found no benefit beyond that observed with chemotherapy alone.

While other research has shown early signs of promise with regard to cannabis and cancer cells, Abrams offered some perspective on the gap between lab tests and clinical trials in actual human subjects.

“We know there are agents that work against cancer in the test tube that never [become drugs] that we use in fighting cancer, because they just don’t work in people,” he said. “I was an AIDS doctor for many years. We knew that soap suds and gasoline killed the virus in test tubes. But neither of those would be treatments I’d recommend a patient try.”

“Things that happen in vitro don’t necessarily translate into potential clinical benefits,” Abrams continued. “Taking cells in culture and adding chemicals to them is very different than digesting something in the human body. Humans have a digestive system, detoxification systems, and an immune system. All of those things contribute” to the interaction of a drug, the body, and cancer cells. It’s much more complex than what you see in the test tube.”

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