Female Forward: Periods, Hormones and THC

Hormones are powerful chemicals that are constantly fluctuating and influencing the ways in which our bodies respond to our environments. Sex hormones, and in particular those produced in the ovaries, have been shown to play prominent roles in regulating cognitive and behavioural functioning of cisgender women.*

There are two studies that examine the relationship between cannabis and the menstrual cycle, both of which were done in the 1980s. Neither study satisfies the ‘gold standard’ of scientific inquiry: a randomized double-blind placebo study, large sample groups and few limiting and/or confounding factors.

The first study was on self-reported cannabis use during the menstrual cycle. The sample size was small with only 28 women included. Further, the nature of the study design did not account for the different ways in which women consume cannabis.

The second study was at least randomized and double-blind, but still does not reflect modern cannabis use: the potency of THC used was 1.8% and the sample size was, again, small. Currently, the average percentage of THC per strain is 7-10% and some strains can go as high as 25%!

The study found that there were no significant relationships between THC and sex hormones in women. However, based on the potency of THC used, take these results with a grain of salt.

Instead, let’s examine the specific effects THC has shown to have on ovarian hormones and vice versa.

Like Hormones, Tolerance Can Fluctuate

Women generally have higher tolerances for THC compared to men, for a few reasons.

Consider the chemical properties of THC. It is lipophilic, meaning that when it crosses paths with fat cells, it will attach itself to them. You may have heard that THC can stay in your system for weeks to months beyond abstinence–this is why.

For evolutionary purposes, women have higher fat percentages than men, resulting in higher amounts of THC going to fat cells rather than the bloodstream when ingested by women versus men. The result? Not as much THC circulates to get to your brain for that ‘high’ effect to take hold.

Another reason women have a higher tolerance to THC is ovarian hormones. However, which ovarian hormone we are talking about matters. The amount of tolerance you experience depends on which phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.

The Estrogen (Estrus) Phase

A menstrual cycle is typically 28 days long. The two weeks is called the estrus phase, or how I like to call it, the ‘sexy’ phase: it builds up until you release your egg and ovulate. Those two blissful weeks where acne and pimples lay to rest and B.O. remains a non-issue is evolutionarily, on purpose.

During this phase your ovaries are producing estrogen, the ‘come hither’ hormone– it’s meant to find you a mate, among other things. It heightens your sexual prowess, which includes your sensitivity. Greater awareness generally indicates an animal-like ‘on the hunt’ state.

Studies using rat models have shown that during the estrus phase, females were more sensitive to THC compared to the diestrus phase, the last two weeks of your cycle. Studies conducted on humans examining the effects of caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants found similar results: during the estrus phase, women felt they were more sensitive to the effects of these substances.

During the diestrus phase (ie. after ovulation), sensitivity to cannabis decreases, along with everything else. Progesterone becomes your ovaries’ best friend and you are left feeling cranky, tired, and agitated when these levels are high.

The Progesterone (Diestrus) Phase

The dynamics between THC and female sex hormones can vary. So far, estrogen and THC seem to have a cordial relationship where they build each other up–but what about progesterone?

Poor progesterone, nobody likes them. No surprise there: it’s the major culprit for PMS.

High progesterone levels are correlated with mood swings, tender/sore breasts, fatigue and acne, among others.

Luckily, studies conducted on rhesus monkeys (at least we’re in the primate category!) show that THC reduced the amount of progesterone produced in the diestrus phase. This was not a direct inhibition, which means it ‘modulated’ the production of progesterone–a safer version than simply arresting its production directly.

It’s no wonder that many women are turning to cannabis products during PMS and menses: it helps to level out the effects of progesterone and satisfy a physiological need for cannabinoids.

What I mean by ‘physiological need’ is that studies have shown that CB1 receptor increases in the hypothalamus during the diestrus phase. This means that your body is in demand for cannabinoids–whether you are producing them yourself or ingesting them through cannabis.

Additional studies are needed on the subject of female sex hormones and cannabis. Hormones are highly complex: there are layers to which they affect cognitive functioning (short-term and long-term), physiological changes (CB-1 receptor fluctuation), and their role in the female reproductive system.

However, some things are beginning to be clear. The estrus phase can cause a heightened state of awareness, which tends towards greater sensitivity towards mind-altering substances. The diestrus phase produces progesterone and increases CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus–both of these changes can be helped by a spoonful of THC in the diet.

That being said, consume in moderation and consult your physician if you experience severe symptoms associated with PMS.

*This article uses the terms women, females, men, and males in reference to biological sex.

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Hey, Officer! Stop Arresting Grandma for Her CBD Oil

‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s opinion column on cannabis politics and culture.

Hester Burkhalter is my new hero.

Burkhalter is the 69-year-old North Carolina great-grandmother who was arrested last month at an Orlando Disney World security checkpoint after a guard found a small bottle of CBD oil in her purse.

Cops in Orlando opened a new front in the CBD wars when they arrested this badass great-grandmother at Disney World.

Instead of returning grandma’s arthritis medicine to her purse, like a decent person, the guard alerted the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies came a-running.

Burkhalter began her morning expecting to enjoy the Magic Kingdom with her family. Instead she spent 12 hours experiencing all the pleasures the Orange County Jail has to offer. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the cannabis possession charge against her, saying the case wasn’t suitable for prosecution.

Before she left Orlando, though, Hester Burkhalter laid down one of the greatest mug shots I’ve ever seen.

Hester Burkhalter, 69, gives the Orange County Sheriff’s Department a healthy dose of F-you in her mug shot. She’ll see you in court, Orlando.

Smile for the Camera

That is one badass great-grandma. Giving the camera nothing but Blue Steel, pursed lips, no apologies, ready to rip the entire county a new one. And she will–Burkhalter has hired Benjamin Crump, the high-profile lawyer who represented Trayvon Martin’s family. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit is expected to be filed within days. Her gaze at the camera says: I am not wrong.

I wish Hester Burkhalter’s case was an outlier. Sadly, it’s not. The only reason she made the national news is because she was arrested at Disney World.

There are plenty of other grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters being arrested for CBD possession who don’t have the option of retaining the services of Benjamin Crump.

Confusion Reigns Nationwide

Back in December, when Congress ended the federal prohibition of hemp via the farm bill, we here at Leafly worried about the fallout. Hemp is legally defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC, which means it could register as marijuana on a law enforcement field test. Would drivers of delivery trucks loaded with hemp get arrested as drug smugglers? Would people seeking pain relief with hemp-derived CBD get popped for “cannabis oil” possession?

The answer: Yes they would. The cases are piling up:

  • Oklahoma: Andrew Ross, a Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, is facing 18 years to life for providing security for a tractor-trailer load of state-certified hemp from Kentucky.
  • Idaho: An Oregon truck driver was charged with drug trafficking for hauling hemp through Idaho in early April.
  • Ohio: Robert Faulker, 31, was charged with a felony for possessing a half-ounce of CBD oil he takes for anxiety.
  • Nebraska: A mother and her son who opened a CBD shop days after passage of the 2018 farm bill were arrested in Scottsbluff for selling the products.
  • North Carolina: A 16-year-old high-school student was handcuffed and taken to jail when a Gaston County Police Department resource office, conducting a random search, found her medicinal CBD in her backpack.
  • Louisiana: The owner of a Lafayette CBD store was arrested in a raid last month and charged with drug trafficking.

I could go on. (I haven’t even touched on Texas. Hoo boy.)

Well, Is It Legal or Illegal? Yes.

In 2019, we’re living through a transitional phase. Psychologists would call it a liminal state between legality and illegality. It’s a period in which hemp-derived CBD is simultaneously allowed nationwide and prohibited locally.

Today, CBD oil is legal as lemonade in Rapid City, but it’s a felony in Sioux Falls.

Those laws are so confusing that they can vary wildly even within a single state. In South Dakota’s Pennington County, the prosecutor recently declared that he would not prosecute any CBD cases because the products “are not scheduled and are not marijuana under our statutes.” Meanwhile, last month in Minnehaha County, police arrested 57-year-old Bernard Davis, a visiting Alaskan, for having a small bottle of CBD oil in his carry-on bag at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. So basically, CBD oil is legal as lemonade in Rapid City, but it’ll earn you a felony charge in Sioux Falls.

A number of state legislatures have attempted to deal with the new reality thrown at them by the farm bill. Louisiana, among other states, recently tried and failed to agree on regulations surrounding hemp and CBD. In other states, like South Dakota, the British company GW Pharma has successfully lobbied to keep CBD illegal while creating a loophole for its own FDA-approved CBD product, Epidiolex. (For what it’s worth, that’s the exact position the DEA has taken on CBD extracts: Epidiolex is now Schedule IV, while all other extracts remain Schedule I.)

Police: Exercise Common Sense

As we wait for state laws to catch up to the federal farm bill, it falls on individual police officers to carry out the most single most important part of their job: exercising discretion and common sense.

Here’s a tip, officer: Read a damn newspaper. Take five minutes to learn what CBD is.

Many of the cases cited above made news because the officer on the scene simply hadn’t taken the time to read up on CBD and hemp. They went into robocop mode: If the oil smells like weed, cuff ’em and book ’em.

Here’s a tip, officer: Read a damn newspaper. Keep up on what’s happening in the world. Take five minutes to learn what CBD is and how it differs from marijuana. And put that knowledge into action. Police exercise discretion and judgment every minute they’re on the job. Some drivers get warnings, others get tickets. Some beer-drinking kids get sent home to their parents, others get taken to juvie. (The well-documented racial inequities that result from this discretion is a national outrage, of course. But that’s a column for another day.) When cops throw up their hands and say “I don’t write the laws, I just enforce them,” they’re lying.

Sadly, the substance we’re dealing with here is a form of cannabis, and police departments have spent the past 80 years treating people who possess cannabis as if they’re street thugs preying on grandmothers. That’s a lot of institutional culture to combat. But it’s got to happen. Because in 2019, the police are now the ones preying on the grandmothers.

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A Vet Weighs In on CBD Oil for Dogs

This article is presented by Honest Paws, providing pet owners with all natural, lab-tested CBD oil, infused chews, and other treats for dogs and cats.


With a growing list of potential health benefits and no known side effects, CBD is gaining in popularity among US consumers and their pets. While the research is more robust for humans, promising results are starting to come in for the use of CBD in treating ailments of cats and dogs.

With CBD products for pets easily available online from companies like Honest Paws, more and more pet parents are finding they have questions about this cannabinoid.

A recent Cornell University study found that once the right dosage is determined for a pet, cannabidiol can improve pain stemming from arthritis. In addition, some consumers have had success in using CBD oil for dogs to help relieve a variety of ailments. It was that sort of success in fact, that led to the founding of Honest Paws.

The company was born when co-founder Chelsea Rivera saw its effects firsthand in her dog Baby Rose. Now 13 years old, Baby Rose is healthy and thriving, but that wasn’t always the case. From a young age, the malti-poo suffered from serious seizures. In her efforts to treat this condition, Chelsea decided to try CBD. A month later, Baby Rose’s seizures had stopped, and her health and quality of life was on the upswing. Having seen the impact that it had for her pup, Rivera and her co-founders started working to bring CBD to more pet owners.

In most states, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe or recommend a cannabis product for your pet. But some vets have seen the benefits of CBD in animals up close and have opinions about its use. For example, Dr. Gary Richter, a holistic veterinarian practicing out of Oakland, California, found that cannabis had extraordinary results for his own dog, Leo, who also suffered from seizures.

We asked Dr. Richter about what is understood about cannabis for pets and how to safely unleash the benefits of CBD for your furry friends.

dog posed next to Honest Paws CBD oil
(Courtesy of Honest Paws)

What conditions may CBD be beneficial for in dogs?

“While I cannot personally prescribe it, I have seen CBD and other forms of cannabis be a very effective alternative treatment option,” said Dr. Richter.

While current research on CBD for dogs is focused on arthritis, many pet owners–and vets–have found it to be effective for other off-label uses.

According to Dr. Richter, “it can help with everything from pain and soreness to stress and anxiety, upset stomach…and seizures.”

What’s the difference between CBD and cannabis?

“People don’t understand the difference between CBD and medical cannabis,” explained Dr. Richter. “CBD is a single component found within cannabis.”

Before it’s used in pet products, CBD is extracted from hemp cannabis. While raw cannabis flower can be toxic to dogs, “CBD from hemp is considered to be very, very safe,” according to Dr. Richter.

What should people look for in CBD products for their pets?

Getting products that have been transparently tested is key, says Dr. Richter. “Ask for a certificate of analysis to show the product contains what it claims on the label,” he advises. “Check the [certificate] to confirm there are no pesticides, fungicides, fungal toxins, etc.”

CBD oil and hemp cannabis flower
(Courtesy of Honest Paws)

Can CBD oil interfere or interact with other medications?

“[CBD] can absolutely be used in conjunction with traditional medicine or, in some circumstances, it can replace the need for Western medications,” said Dr. Richter.

It’s always best to discuss with your own vet to determine whether CBD is a good fit for your pet, though. If your vet is not well-versed in CBD, the Honest Paws team recommends that you seek counsel from a holistic vet who has experience recommending cannabis-derived products for pets.

What do we understand about CBD oil dosing in dogs, and what are we still learning?

There’s going to be a certain amount of trial and error in finding the right therapeutic dose for your pet, but a good starting point is going to depend on your pet’s size and age, and what you’re treating with CBD.

To get you started, you can plug some factors into a calculator like the one developed by Honest Paws. As when discussing prescription interactions, it’s worthwhile to find a veterinarian versed in CBD who can offer experienced insights on dosing issues.

How can I get my dog to take their CBD oil?

“The most effective way to administer cannabis to pets is orally, either with an oil or given as treats,” said Dr. Richter. While snacks like Honest Paws dog treats can be an easy starting point, Dr. Richter says oil is typically a more effective way to administer CBD.

“CBD is not particularly well absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract so ideally an oil is best, as some of it will be absorbed transmucosally–through the tissues in the mouth,” explained Dr. Richter. That’s why Honest Paws also offers an array of CBD oil for small, medium, and large dogs–as well as CBD oil for cats.

Are there any potential side effects of CBD oil that we know about?

The currently known side effects of CBD are mild. “As long as the product is of high quality, the worst side effect is likely to be a little drowsiness if the dosing is too high,” said Dr. Richter.

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New Washington Law Will Erase Old Cannabis Convictions

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Monday aimed at erasing old misdemeanor marijuana convictions, seven years after voters in the state approved an initiative that legalized the drug.

Under the new law, judges are required to grant requests to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession charges that occurred before the drug was legalized, provided the defendant was 21 at the time.

The measure goes further than an earlier marijuana pardon process announced by Inslee, which had stricter eligibility requirements.

“This is a matter of fairness and justice,” Inslee said. “We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in this state.”

The new law will take effect 90 days after the end of this year’s legislative session, which finished up on April 28.

When a conviction is vacated, it is generally removed from a person’s criminal record, and isn’t used as part of the sentencing considerations for any future crime. People with vacated convictions are also not required to mention them on employment or housing applications.

Advocates have called having to list a prior misdemeanor conviction a major barrier to housing and employment, and part of a system of barriers that can make it difficult for people with even minor crimes to escape a cycle of joblessness and housing issues.

After a conviction has been vacated, a person is allowed to state that they were never convicted of that crime, according to an analysis of the bill prepared by nonpartisan legislative staff.

Monday’s signing followed Inslee announcing in January a streamlined pardon process.

But while the pardons were accessible via a simple online form, they had stricter eligibility requirements: Applicants could only apply for the pardon of a single conviction, it had to be the only conviction on their record, and it applied only to state ordinances.

The bill also covers municipal ordinances, and doesn’t require an otherwise clean record.

Some disagreed with the change, however.

State Rep. Brad Klippert, a Kennewick Republican who is also a sheriff’s deputy in Benton County, voted against the bill in the state House, and said Monday that he still opposed it.

“At the time they committed the crime, it was a crime,” said Klippert, adding that consequences should be attached to the decision to break the law, even if the law later changed.

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Leafly Study Debunks Dispensary Myths Around Crime & Teen Use

Evidence-Based Studies Refute Dispensary Fears

When a state legalizes cannabis, local municipal officials are put in a tough spot. They have the power to allow or prohibit cannabis stores from opening in their jurisdiction. It’s done through property zoning.

When the issue comes up for vote, the discussion is often dominated by imagined fears. Law enforcement leaders warn about crime increases. Parents worry about their kids having easier access to cannabis. Real estate agents forecast doom for any neighborhood surrounding a cannabis store. Pew Research has found a 25 point gap between support for legalization (75%), and support for a store nearby (50%).

A review of the research finds that cannabis dispensaries improve public safety, health, and nearby property values–contrary to previous fears.

All too often, the result is a complete ban on cannabis stores–which has the unintentional effect of propping up the local illicit market. Here’s the rub: Cannabis stores actually improve public safety, health, and property values. The research proves it.

In a review of 42 key studies, Leafly’s team of data analysts, researchers, and editors found that the broad body of published research suggests crime near licensed dispensaries has generally stayed flat or decreased. Teen cannabis use in legalization states has fallen since legalization. And property values near cannabis outlets generally are not affected or even rise.

Leafly’s report examined 42 published studies on the effects of cannabis medical dispensaries and adult-use stores. (Click to download.)

Click Here to Download ‘Debunking Dispensary Myths’

That literature review, Debunking Dispensary Myths, is intended to better inform civic debate at the city, state, and national levels. Leafly is sharing the report with elected officials, legislative aides, activists, industry groups, and researchers nationwide, as well as presenting the findings at upcoming events.

Fears surrounding local cannabis stores have prompted many communities to prohibit cannabis companies in their towns, cities, and counties. Millions of adult consumers now living in legal states find it impossible to purchase legally in their own towns. Leafly found that as of May 1, 2019:

  • In California, 75% of jurisdictions have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Colorado, 65% of cities and counties have similar bans.
  • In Massachusetts, 54% of the state’s 351 municipalities have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Washington, 35% of cities and 20% of counties have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Nevada, 75% of counties and 42% of cities prohibit cannabis stores.

Clean Stores, Good Neighbors

In Colorado and Washington, where data is now available from five years of adult-use cannabis sales, many local officials have switched from hesitance to confidence in the positive benefits of well-regulated stores. Cannabis companies “are tremendous employers and socially responsible members of the communities in which they operate,” said Ron Kammerzell, former senior director of enforcement at the Colorado Dept. of Revenue.

The Lux cannabis store in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood is the cleanest, brightest property in a transitional business district. (Photo courtesy of Lux)

Dispensaries Add 6% to 8% to Home Values

Some of the data backing up that conclusion:

  • Crime rates unaffected: An overwhelming majority of studies–including one from the journal Preventive Medicine in 2018, and a Federal Reserve Bank 2017 paper–found no increase in crime related to the location of medical marijuana dispensaries or adult-use retail stores.
  • Teen use unaffected specifically, declines generally: Colorado and Oregon state health reports show teen cannabis use flat or down since licensed adult-use stores opened. In Washington, a 2018 JAMA Pediatrics study concluded use had fallen. Federally administered surveys show the 2016 teen use rate was the lowest in more than 20 years.
  • Property values increase: A 2016 study in the journal Economic Inquiry concluded allowing stores added 6% to city home prices, compared to ban towns. A 2018 study in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy found home prices went up by 7.7% within a half-mile of a new cannabis store

Debunking Dispensary Myths identifies and examines the most reliable studies on medical and adult-use cannabis stores. In the report, Leafly editors David Downs and Bruce Barcott worked with cannabis policy expert Dominic Corva, co-director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HIIMR) at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA.

Over the coming years, virtually every city council and county supervisorial board will eventually have to weigh the pros and cons of cannabis retail.”We can all have different opinions, but we have to work from the same set of facts,” said Leafly CEO Tim Leslie. “These discussions should be informed by the best available research, not imagined fears and archaic mythology.”

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Cooking with Cannabis: Tips From a Red Seal Chef

In a survey conducted by the US-based National Restaurant Association in late 2018, almost 700 professional chefs predicted that CBD-infused drinks and CBD-infused foods would be the most popular trends in dining in the coming year.

They predicted that infusing foods with cannabis would create unique culinary opportunities and establish a new dining experience. Many industry insiders expect the same scenario to unfold in Canada after edibles and concentrates become legal nationwide.

People don’t scrutinize cannabis the way they scrutinize food, but they should.

Chef John MacNeil

In anticipation of that development, Zenabis, a licensed producer of medical and recreational cannabis based in Vancouver, BC, has teamed up with Red Seal chef John MacNeil. A chef earns a Red Seal accreditation by demonstrating superior skills and knowledge, and passing a national exam.

MacNeil is from Cape Breton, NS, but worked at Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe and then made a name for himself in Calgary, where he was an executive chef of the award-winning Italian restaurant, Teatro Ristorante. He opened The Black Pig Bistro in the city’s trendy Bridgeland area five years ago. He later sold it to his business partners and started reTreat Edibles, which sells baking mixes formulated to accommodate the addition of cannabis.

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Aware of his credentials, many Canadians approach MacNeil, an expert in molecular gastronomy, to discuss cooking with cannabis. He starts by emphasizing the importance of origin. “You should only use legally produced cannabis to ensure it’s clean and safe,” he says. “People don’t scrutinize cannabis the way they scrutinize food, but they should.”

He fields many questions in those conversations. Here are some of the most common:

How does cannabis affect the flavour of a dish?

Like wine grapes, cannabis comes in countless strains with various flavours including, for example, citrus, berry, mint and pine. These flavours are created by aromatic oils called terpenes, which are secreted in the same glands that produce cannabis compounds including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Terpenes form part of the flavour profile of a cannabis-infused dish so it’s important to select ones that complement the other ingredients.

How much cannabis should be included in a dish?

MacNeil compares learning how much cannabis to include in a dish to learning how to cook steak properly. You overcook then undercook before learning to make it just right. It takes practice to find out where the sweet spot is, he says.

Dosing varies from one individual to the next depending on a person’s previous history of cannabis consumption, gastrointestinal factors, and the sensitivity of his or her endocannabinoid system. Most experts recommend a starting dose of no more than 2.5 mg of bud for beginners. However, since effects vary based on each person consuming, MacNeil does not make dosing recommendations.

Also, it takes awhile for edibles to take effect so beginners often make the mistake of ingesting too much too soon. MacNeil and other experts advise beginners to wait around two hours before deciding whether to take a second dose.

What is one of the most popular cannabis-infused items people make at home?

Many people express an interest in cannabis-infused brownies. MacNeil recommends using Thai coconut milk and French chocolate.

To infuse cannabis into chocolate brownies and other baked goods, many people use the whole plant, drying, curing and then grinding it into a flour-like substance and combining it with cooking oil or butter.

When should THC and CBD be consumed?

This is entirely up to the individual consuming it. Depending on the desired outcome, some prefer consuming high THC, a psychoactive compound, while others prefer high CBD for less of a high. In short, pick a strain based on your desired effect.

Cooking with Cannabis Recipes by Chef John MacNeil

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