What is a cannabis vape cartridge?

When it comes to ease of use, portability, and functionality, one cannabis product stands tall above the rest—vapes. You may know them as vape carts or pre-loaded cannabis oil vape cartridges, and they have quickly become the go-to concentrate-based product for both cannabis novices and enthusiasts.

However, when it comes to choosing the right vape pen, various factors come into play. Many of these products seem similar at first glance, but there are many nuances that distinguish them. Understanding the differences between these disposable pens can help you make an educated decision on which product is right for you.

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A vape cart is a glass cartridge pre-filled with a gram or half-gram of cannabis oil. This oil contain various combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from cannabis.

Most oil vape carts are high in THC, however, more and more CBD-dominant vape cartridges are entering the market, as are 1:1 THC:CBD products. Vape cartridges come in many forms: 510-threaded cartridges (the most common), as well as some proprietary forms like Pax Era Pods and Airo Pro oil cartridges.

Vape cartridges work in conjunction with vape pen batteries. The vape battery will power an atomizer in the cartridge that heats up the oil, activating the various chemical components in it. You then inhale the vape smoke, which produces the effects of cannabis. Some vape batteries have multiple functions that enable temperature customization and dose management.

(HighGradeRoots/iStock)

Here are some of the benefits to using oil vape cartridges.

Ease of use

Vape cartridges take the guesswork completely out of the equation. Contrary to other methods of consuming oil, such as a dab rig and nail setup, carts require little to no effort—just press a button and inhale.

Portability

Oil vape carts are the easiest method of enjoying cannabis while on the go. Their sleek and minimalist design allows for discreet vaping, free of the distracting traits of larger setups, and they don’t produce noticeable smoke or odor.

Dosing

For uninitiated cannabis concentrate consumers, dosing can be a major concern. Nobody wants an overwhelming experience when attempting to enjoy cannabis. Unlike dabbing, using a pre-loaded vape pen allows for a highly controlled dose with each inhalation, giving you more control over how much or how little you consume.

While vape cartridges are great for ease of use, portability, and dosing, there are a few drawbacks over other consumptions methods.

Cost

Vape carts can be pretty pricey, with costs between $20-60 or more per half-gram or gram of hash oil, depending on the market and extraction method. When you can get a gram of flower for a lot cheaper than a one-gram vape cartridge, it makes it a little tougher to choose the latter.

Physical effects

Vape cartridges tend to provide a shorter-lasting high than other methods like joints, dabs, and edibles because you consume them in smaller doses. However, while the effects may last shorter, they can also hit harder if overconsumed, so make sure to monitor dosing appropriately.

Battery life

Having to monitor a vape battery’s usage and power levels can be pretty annoying as frequent usage can drain them pretty quickly. To avoid this nuisance it’s best to charge your vape battery each night before bed or have a backup on hand that’s fully charged.

It’s pretty simple: Just attach your cart to the battery and start puffing. If there’s an On/Off button, use it.

Here are a few quicks tips to remember when smoking an oil vape cartridge:

  • If your device has an On/Off button, chances are you turn it on by clicking 5 times. The same number turns it off.
  • Make sure your cart is completely attached to its battery to avoid any oil leakage.
  • Keep your vape pen upright to avoid oil leakage.
  • Start slow with dosing as it is very easy to overconsume with vape carts.
  • Monitor temperature to make sure your cart isn’t burning too hot, which could alter some of the oil’s chemical components—usually 3 clicks will adjust the temp.

Remember to always buy carts from a reputable vendor for the safest products!

An extract pod of Cinex cannabis oil for the Pax Era

An extract pod of Cinex cannabis oil for the Pax Era (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Familiarize yourself with the many types of oil vape cartridges on the market so you can purchase the one that best fits your needs or preferences.

Cartridge/battery combos vs. disposables

Most products typically come with a standard 510 thread that a battery screws into. The exception is a pre-loaded cart designed by a specific company to be used with their own vaporizer/battery systems—an example is PAX Era Pods.

Alternatively, some vape pens are available as “disposables,” which contain a pre-charged battery designed to support the device until the cart empties. These pens require no charging and are meant to be disposed of after use. They contain no threading and are not meant to be separated from their battery.

What is a 510 cartridge?

A 510-thread cartridge is the most common type of vape cartridge. 510 describes the type of threading that is used to screw the bottom of the cartridge to the appropriate vape battery.

Distillate cartridges vs. CO2 oil

For a vaporizer cartridge to function properly, its contents must have the proper viscosity, otherwise the oils will either be too thick or too thin to properly vaporize within the device. Depending on the starting material used, cartridge manufacturers use several methods in order to create the perfect oil for their pens.

CO2 oil. Certain high-grade winterized CO2 oils are uniquely compatible with vaporizer cartridges due to the fact that they do not require additives of any kind to meet the viscosity levels needed to vaporize in an atomizer. If made properly, these oils are able to retain modest levels of plant-based terpenes, which act as natural thinning agents as well as give the oil their signature strain-specific flavor.

Distillates. A cannabis distillate cart is a highly refined oil containing pure cannabinoids and almost nothing else. The upside to using distillates in vaporizer cartridges is that the oil can be produced from a range of starting materials. Virtually any cannabis oil variety from CO2 to BHO and everything in between can be purified into a distillate with the right equipment.

The downside to using distillates in vape cartridges is that because there are no residual terpenes left behind, there is nothing to cut the viscosity of the material. In order for a distillate to be used in cartridges, a thinning agent of some kind is often required.

Additives. These are sometimes used in vape cartridge oils as a supplemental thinning agent. In some cases, methods have been taken to cut or infuse various cannabis oils with certain substances such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), or even medium chain triglycerides (MCT), such as coconut oil, in order to maintain a less viscous and lasting oil consistency conducive to standard atomizer functionality.

This process has become highly controversial due to raised health concerns, and products containing these thinning agents are showing up less on the market.

One way that vaporizer cartridge manufacturers have been able to steer away from artificial cutting agents is by using terpenes.

Terpene infusions and strain-specific flavorings

The use of terpenes in vape cartridges has been found to help lower the viscosity of cannabis oil as well as increase flavor and aromas, making them a potentially safer alternative to other cutting agents.

Terpenes not only add flavor and aromatics to the experience, they can also help alter the effects of a product due to their ability to influence how cannabinoids interact with our bodies.

There are several ways to use terpenes with vape cartridges. Some manufactures rely on CO2-based extractions—when refined with ethanol, they can actually retain plant-based terpenes at a percentage conducive to achieving proper viscosity. This is how manufacturers are able to sell flavors based on natural strain profiles.

Natural cannabis-derived terpenes that have been fractioned through refinement can be re-added to cannabis oils in small percentages, creating a spectrum of flavors and effects while also giving an oil the correct consistency required to function in a cartridge.

Products labeled by effect

Sometimes, oil vape cartridges are labeled and marketed by their supposed effect on the consumer. Products of this variety tend to claim they provide “relaxing” or “energetic” effects, with some are labeled as indica, sativa, or hybrid.

Many of these vape cartridges incorporate carefully mixed combinations similar to what would be traced in a strain or strain type. How well these infusions imitate a specific strain is debatable.

CBD-specific vape cartridges

Although many oil vape pens are labeled by flavor or effect, some focus on cannabinoid concentration. Aside from the typical high-THC product that most pens offer, some manufacturers offer products containing elevated levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

High-CBD pens may or may not contain added flavors, but they do guarantee a ratio of THC to CBD that can range from 2:1 all the way to 20:1 and greater. These types of pens offer great wellness benefits for those looking for CBD in an easy-to-consume product.

Full-spectrum vape cartridges

The pinnacle of oil vape cartridges in terms of overall quality rests with full-spectrum extracts. These products are created using the entire spectrum of bioavailable molecules found within a given cannabis strain. A full-spectrum oil does not add, reintroduce, or remove any active compound within a strain and offers flavors and effects with more depth than most other products.

Full-spectrum cartridges are hard to come by and are only offered in certain markets, and their price tends to reflect their rarity as well. If you’re fortunate enough to live where these products are available, we recommend forking up the extra cash to give one a shot. In terms of strain comparability, the flavor of a full-spectrum cart is incredibly similar to what you would experience with flower.

How long a vape cartridge lasts entirely depends on an individual’s rate of consumption. The only thing we do know for sure is that a one gram cartridge will last you a lot longer than a half-gram cartridge.

How to refill a vape pen cartridge

Some vape cartridges can be refilled with fresh oil from a syringe. It’s important to use a syringe as it reduces the potential for making an oily mess. Proprietary carts like Pax Pods are not refillable, so you have to dispose of them and buy a new one.

Browse nearby stores for vape cartridges

All in all, there are many types of oil vape cartridges to consider, each one with pros and cons. If you’re interested in learning more about these types of products, always ask your local budtender before committing to a purchase.

Often, labels only offer a fraction of the information compared to the knowledge and expertise of a cannabis professional like a budtender. Regardless of your taste, there’s bound to be a cannabis oil cartridge available to suit your individual needs.

This post was originally published on October 17, 2017. It was most recently updated on March 10, 2020.

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What is cannabis reclaim and how do you collect it?

If you’ve ever smoked weed from a pipe, you’ve seen the black greasy gunk form inside it. This substance is called resin, and it’s the residue left behind after you smoke cannabis flower. A similar substance forms inside your dab rig when you smoke concentrates, only instead of resin, this yellow/gold/brown sticky substance is called reclaim.

Reclaim is best described as the re-condensed form of cannabis concentrates left behind after a dab sesh. Think of it as the cold solid that remains from the hot oily liquid. Reclaim coats the walls and base of your dab rig and dropdown, and also collects in the water. Cannabis extracts are oils, and as we all learned in 2nd grade science class, oil and water do not mix.

Great question. The short answer is: yes, it is safe to consume reclaim, and yes, you will get high from it. According to MCR Labs, a state-certified cannabis testing lab in Massachusetts, reclaim still has the main active cannabinoids that promote physiological changes.

The long answer is: yes, you can get high from smoking reclaim, but it will not be the tastiest or most enjoyable experience because truly, reclaim is oily sloppy seconds with zero terpenes and no taste or smell.

Also, quality matters, so the higher the quality of the original concentrate, the higher the quality of the reclaim. But overall, it’s still going to have a pretty gross taste as the terpenes were zapped during the original burn.

marijuana reclaim, dabbing, marijuana concentrates

(Leafly)

There are couple ways to collect reclaim from your dab rig, both pretty simple.

The first way is to pour the water out of your rig and then pick out the little goldish clumps. Chances are there won’t be many as the majority of reclaim will be stuck to the inside of your device.

The second way to collect reclaim is to melt it out. All you need is a torch and some wax paper:

  • Pour the water out of your rig
  • Let it dry (you don’t want water in your dabs/reclaim)
  • Remove the banger and hold the connector/dropdown over the wax paper
  • Torch the reclaim enough to liquify, and it will drip onto the wax paper

Just don’t let it get too hot because you don’t want to burn out the cannabinoids.

There are 3 possible ways to use reclaim after collection: dab it, eat it, or trash it.

If you dab it, just be aware that it will not taste anywhere near as good as your original dab.

Since reclaim has already been decarboxylated, you can just straight up eat it as is and you’ll be fine. However, we suggest consuming reclaim alongside something flavorful like a handful of grapes or a Reese’s cup to mask that dirty hash taste. To completely avoid that taste you can also infuse food with reclaim.

If consuming reclaim doesn’t appeal to you, but having a squeaky clean bong does you can also just collect your reclaim and toss it into the trash.

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What are full-spectrum cannabis extracts and how are they made?

Full-spectrum extracts, often called whole plant extracts, maintain the full profile of the cannabis plant. They contain a variety of cannabinoids, including THC, THCa, CBD, CBDa, CBG, and CBN, as well as terpenes and other compounds such as flavonoids, proteins, phenols, sterols, and esters.

These extracts are desirable for several reasons. From an experiential standpoint, they replicate the flavor and aroma profile of the plant. From a therapeutic or medicinal standpoint, you get the full benefits of the entourage effect—the theory that the various components of the plant work synergistically to enhance the action of the active substances, such as THC and CBD.

Full-spectrum extracts are notoriously difficult to produce. While you need to keep as many of the desirable compounds as possible, you also want to rid the extract of unnecessary components. Some extraction methods filter the latter out using a variety of refinement techniques.

However, those very techniques often strip extracts of some of the more delicate compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids.

The processes used to create full-spectrum extracts must dance a fine line to keep the wanted compounds in and the unwanted out.

Note that the full spectrum of compounds of a given strain is relative to the point at which the extraction is performed. For example, a live resin extract taken from a fresh plant will have a different profile than an extract of dried plant material. This is because some compounds change during the drying process.

What’s more, the profile of a plant can depend on various other factors, including the part of the plant, its age, and environmental factors. As such, you could have multiple full-spectrum extracts of the same strain that all have different profiles.

Hydrocarbon extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction uses butane or a butane-propane blend to create full-spectrum extracts. This method allows for the profile of an extract to be tweaked.

In this type of extraction, hydrocarbon gas is cooled and liquefied before being passed over raw plant matter. The desirable compounds from the plant are dissolved and the resulting solution is refined using various techniques, such as winterization and dewaxing. Both of these processes use additional solvents and low temperatures to remove wax and lipids from the final product.

Full-spectrum extracts can be finicky, so the process parameters must be exact. Small changes in solvent composition and temperature can result in a different product. For example, a small increase in temperature might volatilize certain terpenes, changing the flavor profile of the extract.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

In supercritical CO2 extraction, temperature and pressure are used to create phase changes in CO2. It goes from being a gas to displaying properties of both a gas and a liquid. It has a gas-like viscosity and low surface tension, so it more easily penetrates porous solids than a liquid does. This results in a substance that forces out compounds of plant matter based on their weights.

By adjusting the temperature and pressure, you can “tune” the CO2 to create a very precise environment whereby the supercritical fluid will only extract the most desirable components. While CO2 extraction involves complex pieces of equipment, it requires little or no post-processing, unlike other extraction methods.

Pressure

The idea behind full-spectrum extracts is that unwanted components are removed. For example, some plant lipids can lead to poor flavor or a harsh vapor. That said, certain concentrates containing these lipids, such as rosin, are sometimes considered full-spectrum. Rosin is made by squeezing resin from the starting material (such as dry sift) using heat and pressure, often with a special rosin press.

The main benefit here is that processing doesn’t require the use of a solvent and it is relatively safe. However, because heat is involved, there is a concern that some of the desirable components of the plant, such as terpenes, are lost in the process.

There is little regulation to determine what constitutes a full-spectrum extract, and some products are labeled as such even when they don’t meet the general definition. The only real way to tell is to examine the lab test results for the extract.

Here are some product names to look out for when selecting a full-spectrum extract.

Live resin

Live resin is produced using fresh (sometimes frozen) cannabis plants instead of dried plant material. Not all live resins are full-spectrum extracts, and their composition will depend on how they are processed.

If it’s extracted using one of the above methods, then you could obtain a full-spectrum extract. But, for example, if you use a process that involves heat, you’ll lose certain compounds from the plant profile, such as terpenes.

High terpene full-spectrum extract (HTFSE)

The extraction process for this product is designed to yield a high level of terpenes, sometimes up to 40%. It is viscous and clear with a consistency similar to honey. Some HTFSEs are labeled as “sauce” or “terp sauce,” names that indicate the high terpene content. However, not all sauce is full-spectrum.

High cannabinoid full-spectrum extract (HCFSE)

For HCFSE, processes are tweaked so that the final product has a high cannabinoid concentration. The result is a crystalline structure, similar to sugar or diamonds. Although HTFSE and HCFSE can be produced from the same plant, they are both considered full-spectrum extracts since they still contain the full roster of desirable compounds present in the raw material, albeit at different levels.

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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.


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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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