Zurich To Launch Cannabis Legalization Pilot Program

The government of Switzerland has approved a plan to legalize the possession and consumption of cannabis in the city of Zurich as part of a three-year pilot program to assess the social and economic impacts of legalizing cannabis. Through the trial, thousands of Zurich residents will be able to purchase cannabis for personal use beginning this summer.

“The trial will have a broad focus to gain data on the effects of different strengths of cannabis, on what helps individuals make informed decisions and on the pros and cons of different models of sale,” said Barbara Burri, a project manager at Zurich’s municipal health department.

The pilot program will allow a test group of up to 2,100 Zurich residents to purchase regulated doses of cannabis for personal use from pharmacies, social clubs and special dispensaries. Researchers have made arrangements for a total of 21 supply points to be located throughout the city. Sales of cannabis for the study are expected to begin at the supply points beginning in August of this year. 

The study’s participants will have the option of a variety of cannabis products with different potencies of THC and CBD. All cannabis products obtained through the pilot program will be organically produced by licensed Swiss companies and lab tested for purity and potency. Prices of cannabis available at the study supply points will be set to reflect prices of the city’s illicit market.

After receiving government approval, two producers—Pure Production AG and Swissextract—will begin cultivating cannabis for the study, according to a report from Forbes. The first harvest of cured cannabis flower is expected to be ready in July, with cannabis concentrates coming to the pilot program’s supply points in October.

Participants in the study, which is being conducted by the Zurich city council in association with the University of Zurich, will be required to answer a questionnaire every six months during the three-year study period. The questionnaire will ask participants about their cannabis consumption habits and the health effects of their cannabis use. 

Study Focuses On the Impacts of Legalization in Zurich

The leaders of the study say that the goal of the pilot program is to determine the conditions under which cannabis legalization in Switzerland can be compatible with “promoting individual and public health and safety,” according to a report from CNBC. Data collected from the trial will be released on a rolling basis beginning next year.

“The idea is to get robust real world evidence that serves policymaking for new [national] regulation on cannabis,” Burri said

Researchers conducting the study will compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of different cannabis products and supply sources. The study will also assess the current illicit cannabis market in Zurich, with the research focusing on maintaining public health, ensuring public safety and protecting young people from the risks of cannabis use.

Zurich residents interested in participating in the cannabis legalization pilot study can register for the program online. Participants must be active cannabis users at least 18 years old. Pregnant women, professional drivers and those with underlying health conditions are not eligible to participate in the research pilot. Study candidates who show signs of drug dependence or poor health due to drug use are also ineligible.

Public health studies have determined that about a third of adults in Switzerland have tried cannabis. Zurich, the alpine nation’s most populous city with about 420,000 residents, has about 13,000 regular cannabis users, according to research. 

In 2020, the Swiss federal parliament passed a so-called experimental article in the Narcotics Act, which allows studies to be carried out on the regulated sale of cannabis. On May 15, 2021, the amendment to the Narcotics Act went into effect, enabling pilot trials with the controlled sale of cannabis for recreational purposes.

The city of Basel was the first municipality in Switzerland to conduct a pilot study, launched last year with 400 participants. Other pilot studies planned for the Swiss cities of Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Biel, Thun, Olten and Winterthur will be conducted in the upcoming months.

Malta is the only country in the European Union that has legalized recreational cannabis for personal use, although sales of adult-use cannabis have not been legalized on the tiny island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. Germany will likely be the next EU member to legalize recreational marijuana, with legislation expected from lawmakers soon. The Czech Republic has also announced plans to legalize cannabis for adults, although details of the plan have not yet been released.

Cannabis legalization plans that would allow cultivation for personal use have been proposed by officials in Luxembourg and Belgium. And last month, the Netherlands launched a pilot program for cannabis sales in the cities of Tilburg and Breda.

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If I Can’t Stop the Munchies, What Can I Eat To Stay Healthy?

Stoned snacking, especially late at night, can prove detrimental over time. For example, when I was in my early 20s, I could take down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a plate of buffalo chicken well into the early morning hours without feeling it in the morning. Today, when I do those things, I’m in the bathroom for the better part of the morning. Or, even worse, I’m more backed up than the Manhattan bound F train during morning rush hour. In either case, it ain’t pretty.

The long-term effects can be much worse. Unhealthy eating can lead to an array of adverse conditions, including diabetes. Daily side effects include the aforementioned digestion issues and slowed metabolism. 

From gross to potentially life threatening concerns, it’s high time you revise your munchie options. But since I’m a 36-year-old that still snacks like a child, I asked people with more control over themselves about their healthy munchie approach.

Science Behind the Munchies

Before diving into healthy snacking, let’s unpack what causes the munchies. Most know from experience that THC increases appetites. You may also know that THC binds to your body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors found throughout the brain and body. Increased hunger sensations are common during this effect. The past decade has helped us begin to better understand this reaction more. 

Somebody call the band Boston, because those hunger pangs may be more than a feeling. A 2014 mice study found that when influenced by THC, the brain’s olfactory bulb experiences an increased ability to smell food, leading to more eating. Researchers felt a similar effect occurs in humans who consume THC. 

We’ve continued to learn about cannabinoids’ influence on the brain. Additional research has shown that when cannabinoids are injected into the brain, its POMC (pro-opiomelanocortin) neurons nerve cells saw increased activity in cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R). What’s interesting is that these cells typically produce feelings of fullness. But, as researchers noted, when triggered by cannabinoids, the cells fooled the brain’s central feeding system into thinking that it’s hungry. 

Select research has suggested that humans are hardwired to crave high-calorie food. This desire is possibly connected to early human’s lack of food security. And while some may fear packing on pounds with late night snacks, that might not be the case. There is a belief that after munchie bouts, most people won’t eat again for a prolonged period.

We’re far from finished on researching the brain-hunger-cannabis connection. Expect more research to come in the near future. 

Healthy Snacking Options

How can we satisfy the hunger feelings without putting ourselves at a higher health risk? 

Consumers and health experts provided High Times with dozens of healthy options and approaches. On the snacking front, most seem to agree that a combination of fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy is the way to go. These were some of the most commonly mentioned snacks according to respondents:

  • Bananas
  • Carrots 
  • Celery   
  • Cheese sticks   
  • Fruit, nuts and dark chocolate plates
  • Fuji apples with peanut butter
  • Granola   
  • Greek yogurt 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Popcorn
  • Red peppers   
  • Smoothies   

Your options may change depending on preferences or medical conditions. Mary Pryor bases her entire diet around managing Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed in 2013, the condition compelled her to “make the strongest pivot I could do,” for her health. She dropped staples like soy, dairy, gluten, wheat, and certain fruits and vegetables as part of her change. 

She also turned to medical cannabis after a ten-year layoff. 

“If you’re smoking weed, munchies are a thing,” Pryor said.

She switched her snacking accordingly. Mangoes became a go-to. 

“Mangoes are known for enhancing your high,” said Pryor. She credits the terpene myrcene for increasing the effectiveness of the cannabis while producing pleasurable aromas and flavors.  

All-fruit options became the norm as anything artificial went into the bin. She now uses a healthy subscription service to curate monthly snacks. 

Keys To Successful Satisfying Snacking

With our brains pushing for food, it’s likely best we lean in. The key is to do so with the right foods. But sometimes, we want those snacks with empty calories, sugar or grease. Thankfully, there are several approaches to consider.

Healthy Sweet Alternatives

Samantha Ward, a fitness assistant and trainer at the European American Supplement Sciences Organization (EURASC), supports a munchie menu of fruits, veg, nuts and seeds. When someone is struggling with a sweet tooth, she recommends healthy snacks like honey and fruits. She added that people with sugar addictions may want to use Stevia or another substitute instead. 

Ward and many others recommend drinking plenty of water and eating foods rich in protein and fiber. 

“Protein and fiber can help to keep you feeling full, which can help to curb cravings,” said Ward. 

Or try drinking some water. Zack Squier, a cannabis chef and the founder of Squier’s Specialty Edibles, likes sparkling waters to feel full. He said he likes to experiment with his beverages “adding a few muddled berries or sangria-style fruit chunks to sip on with my drink.” 

Fill Your Plate

In this case, we’re talking less about physically filling your plate and more about eating something that checks all the boxes. When snacking or having a meal, make sure it fills you up. 

Jamie Nadeau, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, suggests having a variety of healthy snacks. But when you want chips or any less than ideal option, combine them with something more beneficial. 

“If you pair those chips with something with protein like a cheese stick or a Greek yogurt, you’ll find that you’ll end up eating less because you’ll be fuller, quicker,” Nadeau said. 

Fitness coach Mitch Webb offered a similar take, prioritizing protein. Compared to sugar and fat, Webb said protein is the most satiating macronutrient. 

He added that protein, “Makes you feel fuller with less food because it suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin while boosting leptin, the hormone that tells your body it’s satiated.”

Webb said consumers can find protein in a variety of healthy options, including various meats, eggs, protein powders, nuts and seeds. 

Avoid Unhealthy Snacks Altogether

If you’re like me and can’t put down the Doritos, ice cream, soda or what have you, you may need to go cold turkey. If so, you’ll need to work on self control at home. More importantly, you’ll want to do so when buying food in stores, at restaurants or using apps like GrubHub, Instacart, etc.

“I exert all my self control at the store,” said cannabis consumer Jerry Tindall. Like many, he claimed to have “zero self control once junk food makes it home.” 

You’ll have to trial and error your way into finding self-control at the stores. You may just be able to will yourself. Or, thanks to inflation, you may just never be able to afford anything again soon. 

Carly Fisher, a cannabis consumer, author and James Beard-nominated journalist, supports having only healthy food at home to avoid temptation. Those handy in the kitchen may want to follow Fisher’s approach with some healthy prepared meals of your own. 

“I love the air fryer and instant pot because it cuts down on cooking time to make dishes that you might be too impatient to make when you’re in a haze,” said Fisher.  

Today, it’s easy enough to find healthy recipes on popular blogs and social media accounts. Pick which items please your palate and start meal prepping. Or if you’re a stoner with greasy hair and questionable tattoos like me, get stoned and then cook. You’ll feel like The Bear in no time. 

Snack Stoned Wisely

Enjoy yourself how you see fit. But be aware of the toll you may be putting on your body. The weed-alcohol comparison is played out and often overreaching. But in this case, the effects of bad late night eating can be similar to a hangover.

When you’re young, you can pound back whatever you want and barely blink the next morning. But over time, your body ages. All that junk you’ve been putting in there wears and tears the system down. Now, at 30, 40, 50-plus, those same unhealthy options are likely to bite you in the behind—and stomach, chest, legs and various other parts of your body. 

Reduce the chances of excessive wear and tear tomorrow by choosing healthy options today. 

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No Evidence of Cannabis ‘Hangover’ Effects in Recent Study

The University of Sydney (UoS) announced its findings on Feb. 6, sharing that there isn’t any evidence of cannabis “hangovers,” or effects of cannabis that continues hours or days after consumption. The study is slated to appear in the print version of the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research soon but is currently available for viewing online. The authors analyzed 20 different research studies that examined THC and its lingering effects, or lack thereof, at least eight hours after consumption occurred.

According to Dr. Danielle McCartney, UoS research fellow at the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, there wasn’t much evidence of cannabis affecting individuals long term. “Most studies didn’t detect ‘next day’ effects of cannabis use, and the few that did had significant limitations,” McCartney said in a press release. “Overall, it appears that there is limited scientific evidence to support the assertion that cannabis use impairs ‘next day’ performance. Though, further research is still required to fully address this issue.”

Of the 20 studies reviewed, 61% reported no “next day” effects, 35% reported “unclear or unambiguous ‘next day’ effects,” and only 4% reported negative “next day” effects (which were noted as low-quality studies, or studies that were published over 18 years ago).

“We can’t really comment on the magnitude of these effects because they weren’t all that well reported,” McCartney said. “They didn’t appear to be associated with a specific dose of THC, route of THC administration or type of assessment.”

Pinpointing impairment in individuals continues to be a challenge for cannabis consumers, especially when it comes to detecting such effects on drivers or those who work in specific types of workplaces. “THC can persist in blood and oral fluid for an extended period of time,” McCartney explained. “So it is important to find out whether impairment can persist, too. People are being advised not to drive or perform other safety-sensitive tasks for 24 hours after cannabis use. However, we found little evidence to support this recommendation.”

The research authors cautioned legislators to consider how individuals who use medical cannabis, and are not impaired, still suffer from lack of accurate testing methods. “However, policy makers should bear in mind that the implementation of very conservative workplace regulations can have serious consequences (e.g., termination of employment with a positive drug test) and impact the quality of life of individuals who are required to abstain from medicinal cannabis use to treat conditions such as insomnia or chronic pain for fear of a positive workplace or roadside drug test,” the authors wrote.

Such evidence of this is seen in a study that appeared in Natural Scientific Reports in March 2022, which also found that THC levels in blood or breath tests do not correlate to impairment. The study was also led by McCartney, and also came to a similar conclusion. “Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users,” McCartney said. “This suggests that blood and oral fluid THC concentrations are relatively poor indicators of cannabis-THC-induced impairment.”

Many patients continue to be negatively affected by the lack of accurate testing, potentially preventing them from using cannabis as a medicine. A recent study from the University of Michigan found that 31% of adults use cannabis to treat chronic pain. Another study from December 2022 found positive effects of cannabis for those who suffer from bipolar disorder. The same goes for other psychedelics such as psilocybin, which was recently found to be beneficial to calm patients and help them when undergoing an MRI.

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Cannabis Pilot Program Kicks Off in Switzerland

Weed is for sale in one of the largest cities in Switzerland—for a select few, anyway.

The country officially launched its pilot cannabis project on Monday, clearing the way for a few hundred selected participants to purchase marijuana for recreational use in various pharmacies throughout the Swiss city of Basel.

Swiss officials last year gave the go-ahead for the pilot project, with the country’s “Federal Office of Public Health [saying] the idea of the project is to increase understanding of ‘alternative regulatory forms,’ such as regulated sales at pharmacies that could be a basis for future legislation,” according to the Associated Press.

“Basel’s project, which involves the local government, the University of Basel and the city’s University Psychiatric Clinics, will get under way in late summer,” the AP reported last year. “Nearly 400 participants will be able to buy various cannabis products at selected pharmacies in Basel, the city government said. During the 2 1/2-year study, they will be questioned regularly on their consumption of the substance and on their physical and mental health.”

Participants in the program will be strictly monitored by government regulators, and they are barred from sharing the cannabis with anyone outside the program. 

Vigia AG, a Swiss company that provides track and trace software, said this week that it “has developed the Cannabis Dispensary System in partnership with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in order to reliably document the dispensing of the products,” which in turn “makes it possible to track the cannabis goods transparently and gives the foundation for scientific research.”

“We are in an emerging industry where various paths to legalisation are currently being discussed. With a structured legalisation process, maximum conformity and transparency, Switzerland is setting an example. With our existing Cannavigia software and the Cannabis Dispensary System, we provide the various stakeholders involved with the necessary tools to track and document every step along the supply chain. We are proud to be part of the Swiss pilot projects and this historic milestone,” Philipp Hagenbach, the chief operating officer of Vigia AG, said in a press release on Monday.

The release contains more details on Vigia AG’s involvement in the landmark Swiss program:

“Vigia AG is the FOPH’s official track & trace partner for the pilot trials. This kind of partnership between the government and a commercial business in the cannabis industry is unique to the sector. Vigia AG has added a Cannabis Dispensary System (CDS) to its existing Cannavigia software solution. Thanks to the combination of the two, the companies cultivating cannabis for the projects can monitor their cultivation and supply chain, which serves to ensure the quality of the final products.

“Those in charge of the projects can use the software to register the study participants, with those responsible for the Weed Care study starting this as early as September 2022. It allows the dispensaries to keep track of sales as well as individual quantities dispensed to participants, guaranteeing that only authorised persons can purchase the products. This ensures consumer and especially minor protection and results in a transparent and traceable supply chain which can also be maintained in a future legalised environment. The Cannabis Dispensary System provides the FOPH with an overview of the circulation of cannabis in Switzerland and supports the reporting obligation to the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board. The data of the participants are always stored pseudonymously in order to ensure data protection.”

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I Just Moved in With My Partner; How Can I Still Smoke Without Stinking up the Place?

For nearly the last quarter century, American couples have been moving in together at higher rates. In 2019, the Pew Research Center analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth, concluding that the rate of U.S. couples cohabitating increased from 3% to 7% between 1995 and 2019. 

Whether planning to marry or for other reasons, millions of couples live together in America. It’s a rather significant milestone that takes people by surprise. Challenges come in many forms, from communication changes to financial worries to losing personal space. Differences in opinion and living habits are sure to rear their head early and potentially often. One significant sticking point can be pot use, specifically its dank, lingering aroma.

I recently moved in with my girlfriend after a year and some change of dating. The stress of moving in together has undoubtedly been real. Thankfully, pot smoke hasn’t been a terrible issue, but it has been one we’ve discussed a few times over the past few months. Coming from my last apartment, where my dog and I ran the place and smoke dominated the bedroom and bathroom, my girlfriend had minor concerns about the smell of the new place. 

I agreed with her for a few reasons: As a mostly vape and edible consumer, heavy pot smells were something she didn’t dislike but didn’t regularly surround herself with. Additionally, our new nine-unit Brooklyn building had at least one set of kids aged five or under. The last thing I wanted to do was cause some situation between the parents and me over the smell. That concern may seem over the top to some, but hey, this neighborhood is Park Slope adjacent. That’s where Williamsburg’s aging hipsters go when they want to become bougie-rich Brooklyn parents with opinions nobody asked for. 

I had a few options to test out and possibly collab for the perfect solution. My top choice was the balcony. While an ideal outdoor option, I did run into two potential pitfalls. The neighbor I share a balcony with sleeps with their window open, and I don’t know how 420-friendly they are at this point. Also, it’s cold as hell in New York in the winter. Not like a Midwest cold, but it’s still brutal until at least mid-March.

Without wanting to get off on the wrong foot with my neighbors, and more so not piss off my partner, I turned to a few classic options to varying success:

  • Smokeless options: Weed tech is a beautiful thing. Today, we can enjoy weed in numerous odorless forms, from vapes to edibles to distillates to topicals. To some extent, oil and flower vapes work for me, and I enjoy high-dose edibles to end the night. But I have to admit that smoking flower is still my preferred option. The others are fine but don’t make me feel as satisfied as flower does. 
  • Smoke Outside: Aside from days when the New York weather is unbearable, smoking outside may be the best option. As part of New York’s legalization bill, adults can consume cannabis anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed. This option could get riskier depending on how the law is in your state or city. 
  • Opening the Windows and Doors: A little fresh air is always good for you and any dank parts of the apartment. Kind of like the balcony, this option can make the place colder than you’re comfortable with. I typically do this when my girlfriend is out, but if she’s cool with it, I’ll close the door in the living room and open the balcony door while I re-watch the hit TV show Oz. 
  • Odor Killers Of Many Kinds: Our place is fragrant as all get out. From incense to candles to Palo Santo and more, we burn a bunch of stuff to make the home smell pleasing. I also use plenty of them to mask weed smells. I also use an air purifier. 

But two options stand out above the rest. Ozium is by far the best at killing odors and sanitizing air. They make some intense aromas to choose from. Still, the original should do fine at covering up weed smoke smells and other aggressive odors. 

You could also turn to the spice rack. Reach for a pan, lightly oil it and toss in a hefty dose of fresh, minced or powdered garlic. Set the pan to around medium heat and let the garlic warm up. In no time, that pot smell will be masked by waves of garlicky goodness. This is also my preferred choice for masking odors when decarbing flower. I love this approach for many reasons but beware. With a house full of garlic, your partner may expect you to have a fire meal to accompany the aroma. 

How Could Someone Hate The Smell of Pot?

The rationales can range from understandable to frustrating. They include:

  • Medical: Cannabis smoke has been linked to some adverse medical reactions, affecting people with lung, airway, and other issues. People suffering from various conditions, including bronchitis to cancer, may be negatively affected by the aroma or presence of smoke.
  • Lingering Stigmas: A tainted view on pot remains across age groups, particularly in older and more conservative communities. These groups often still hear cannabis prohibition from leaders in law enforcement, religion and other influential sources. It’s certainly less likely that you’ll hear someone calling pot the Devil’s Lettuce or a gateway drug these days. However, many young and old still have much concern and uncertainty over the plant and its effects.
  • Personal Preference: Some people don’t like the smell of weed. That’s fine, though frustratingly baffling at times to enthusiasts. It’s like how my best buddy Greg thinks chocolate and peanut butter are a revolting flavor pairing. He’s stone cold wrong with that atrocious opinion, but I still like him and his terrible palate. Kidding aside, many Americans and Canadians continue to dislike the aroma as of just a few years ago. Respect their choices, especially when living with them.

Expecting parents need to be particularly aware: Sensitivity to cannabis and other intense aromas is common during pregnancy due to a regularly heightened sense of smell.

“Just recently, my wife stopped liking the smell when she got pregnant,” said Kevin Amaya, a consumer responding via Instagram DM. Amaya, whose baby is due in August, now smokes outside and showers after.

In another DM response, Gerald Moore Jr. said his wife became sensitive to various smells during her first pregnancy, pot included. He said he now goes to his garage, deck, or shed to smoke.

Moore has taken up alternative consumption options as well. “I’ve also been smoking less and consuming in more alternative discrete ways,” including edibles, pills, vapes, tinctures, and patches.

Making It Work

Every relationship is different, but making a relationship work comes down to communication, compromise, and mutual comfort. 

My girlfriend and I are only two months into living with each other, so I’m no expert. Plenty of other relationship hurdles will come up in time, and weed smoke could be a part of the conversation again. Hopefully not, but that is the reality. I’m not terribly concerned because my girlfriend is open to pot, and the conversations have always been respectful and light. 

One way we’ve helped ease her further into that comfort is through education. Answering her questions and explaining aspects of weed that excite and intrigue me helped fuel conversations. Over time, she’s sampled various types of cannabis at her leisure. 

In turn, I need to keep an open mind to her thoughts and feelings about the smell. I have to respect our space and not fill the place with pot odors whenever possible. With hope, by spring, when it’s warm, I’ll be able to get a good read on the neighbors and mostly smoke out on our balcony. 

Other couples may run into more complicated conversations about pot and the smell. You two probably should’ve hashed these issues out before moving in, but hey, you’re here now. The topic could get sticky for some. 

Be prepared for the worst possible outcomes: You may have to give up cannabis indoors or possibly altogether. For many, myself included, that’d be a deal breaker—just as pot smells could be a deal breaker for your significant other. This possible impasse could lead to your time as a couple ending. But in most cases, you won’t need to reach an “It’s me or the weed” scenario. Just talk it out and find a solution that works best for you. 

With plenty of options, find what makes both of you happy. As long as you two go to bed happy each night, all should be well regarding your relationship and weed. 

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UNI and The Urchins Are More Than Music—They’re an Art Collective

New York City is home to many artists, and among those who live under its gloriously creative umbrella is glam rock group UNI and The Urchins. The band—comprised of vocalist/bassist Charlotte Kemp Muhl (who goes by Kemp), frontman/vocalist Jack James, guitarist David Strange, and drummer Andrew Oakley—has recently celebrated the drop of their debut album Simulator via Chimera Music, the artist-run label from Kemp and Sean Lennon, and is gearing up to have a fruitful 2023 in its wake. As part of the band’s debut record release, High Times has the exclusive worldwide premiere of the music video for the single “Dorian Gray,” which provides a trippy experience through both sound and visuals: 

To learn more about the album and the group itself, we drop in a Zoom interview which, per UNI’s request, takes place at 4:20pm.

Kemp then kicks things off with her thoughts on cannabis in a free-flowing chat that morphs into an exploration of the group’s creative inspirations, how drugs and psychedelics can open new and different creative doors, and how authenticity pertains to the relationship between art, commerce, and creation as a whole.

Kemp: I feel like a lot of weed puritans are actually against the legalization in a sort of roundabout way because it fucks with their pipeline.

David Strange: But true or false: Part of the fun of doing drugs is that you’re not supposed to be doing them? I feel like part of [weed] being illegal is it made it so that you really had to want to do drugs. You had to really seek them out and you usually had to do something super sketchy to get them. I know I sure did when I was in junior high.

We would take the train down to the worst place in the Bronx—so dangerous—and buy it from legitimate gangsters with fifty-dollars worth of crumpled up ones and fives that we’d scrounge together from all of our friends’ lunch monies. We got mugged a couple of times doing that.

Kemp: And they just sold you tic-tacs.

David Strange: God knows what was in that weed. When we got it, we were so fucking stoked to have lived through the experience that it made it that much more meaningful—the fact that [weed] was difficult to come by. Nowadays, in Los Angeles especially, you can go to the health food store and they’re like, “Have some flaxseed or pot brownies.”

Kemp: Or CBD lube.

High Times: Everything is now so infused.

Kemp: Well, isn’t music kind of the same way? It’s so easy-access now with Spotify and all of these apps. You just discover band after band that it takes the fun out of discovering them from an odyssey to the record shop or a friend making you a mixtape from some other city or something.

David Strange: With all of these technological advances making parts of life easier to attain, it takes the fun out of the experience and makes the experience less meaningful. It’s like the harder it is to do something the more you appreciate it, is what it boils down to. With weed being so normalized, I think we need to up the ante now.

Jack James: To David’s point on how drugs used to be hard to find or how music used to be hard to find, we did pick a band name that was universally very difficult to find on any streaming platform. And then we changed our band name and everyone was like, “Well, why on earth would you change it?” It’s the same thing with “Weed should be legalized, weed should be legalized,” and then it’s no longer fun.

Courtesy of UNI and The Urchins

High Times: Is the band name now more of a conversation piece than it was before?

Kemp: The unsexy truth of it is that the Spotify algorithm thought “UNI” was a prefix, so it would be the last thing to come up after “unicorn,” “university,” everything “uni.” But it’s a Japanese word that means “sea urchin,” which is one of my favorite foods. UNI and The Urchins is technically redundant, but it’s cool because “Urchins” makes it feel more like a collective and a Warhol factory. We’re UNI, but the “Urchins” is anyone who wants to be involved in this movement.

There really haven’t been any art movements happening, and New York used to be such a hub for that. We’re very nostalgic for those times. Videos of Bowie hanging out with Dylan. It was such a scene. The Beach Boys used to be competitive in a friendly way with The Beatles and it made them make their best work. There’s not a lot of that, so the “Urchins” sort of represents the community we imagine we would like to have.

Jack James: For every video we do, there are so many people who come on and we can’t pay them what they’re worth, but they come on because they love it and it’s representative of the art collective like Kemp is saying. But the brass tax of it is no one could find us on Spotify [laughs].

David Strange: I also had a really funny joke about the real reason we had to change our name from what it used to be but I can’t say it.

Kemp: We’ll just have to take your word for it that it’s the best story.

David Strange: I just wish people weren’t so sensitive these days.

High Times: Sometimes it seems people want to go out of their way to be offended, which often takes more energy than to simply live your existence.

David Strange: What’s the last thing that offended you, Andrew?

Andrew Oakley: Me? I’m always offended.

David Strange: Just my question offended you, huh?

Kemp: We have a culture within our band of really hazing each other and it really takes the pressure off. There’s no feeling of walking on eggshells because we just call each other horrible things that I can’t even say here. It’s in a loving way.

Jack James: It’s nice, weirdly.

Kemp: And it’s very hard to offend us internally because we all come from a place of love and camaraderie.

In terms of the album, the thing that we were saying earlier about access and deflating value, technology has done that with recording in a lot of ways. I spent all of my last money on investing in vintage music gear, for example. Over the course of the pandemic, I decided to go to the dark side a little bit and flirt with some of these more sample-based programs. It’s been interesting, but I am nostalgic for our old way of making music, which was tracking live-to-tape as a band. It does make me really think about the ratio of satisfaction-and-value to ease-and-accessibility.

It’s great how egalitarian these new techs have made everything now. People who are barely a musician can now just push a button and make a track that sounds like a hit. I feel like such a grandpa about it.

High Times: There’s an authenticity that’s lost in any type of art when you can just press a button and it spits out something that wasn’t coming from a place within somebody.

David Strange: But maybe soullessness is the new soul?

Kemp: [Laughs]

David Strange: No, really. Warhol said the best kind of art is “business art.” He had the whole factory and he wasn’t even making his prints. Now there’s a huge argument in the Warhol community over whether the prints were real or not, or which printmaker was making them. Talk about going to the dark side, I’m kind of with you Kemp—I don’t think you can fight against the tide. I think it’s going in that direction and maybe there’s some new soul to be discovered within all the soullessness.

One thing that Kemp has really gotten into lately and turned me onto is the new AI renderings that are creating original content. It’s putting to the forefront: What do you do to become a good artist? You study other artists, you learn your craft, you go to school, and you take inspiration from the things you want to take inspiration from. These AI generators are doing that by condensing a lifetime full of references and learning them down to thirty seconds and just processing the AI in a computer and spitting it out. Surely it’s the same thing if you’re one of the cool people in New York who lives downtown—like a DJ who knows all the cool references and Iranian psychedelic music from the seventies and afro-pop from the sixties—and you can put all of that into your pot and have these cool original tracks based upon it. Why is it then that we should look down upon AI for being able to do the same thing in a matter of seconds? Is it less authentic or is it evolution? I don’t know.

Kemp: What it is is like a gun to the samurai; it levels the playing field. It’s like Uber to the taxi driver. It’s inevitable, but it creates a class of resentful Luddites. It’s the Industrial Revolution 3.0.

David Strange: If I really feel something while I’m creating it, does that make the end result more important or better compared to if I feel nothing at all when I’m creating and the end result is really awesome?

High Times: Though if you’re feeling something in the moment of creation, people can pick up on that through the work.

Kemp: I agree with you, except a lot of people’s most successful work is the shit they cared the least about. There’s that scene in Of Mice and Men where he’s strangling a girl and he doesn’t mean to be strangling her and he’s like, “Why aren’t you smiling? Why aren’t you smiling?” She dies and he doesn’t mean to kill her and I feel like artists do that to their own art when they care too much. So, I think there’s a sweet spot there of being too precious.

I think also with putting out a first album, you’re always overly precious and second guessing. That was definitely a factor for us in that we had like forty songs and we didn’t know which ones to put on the album. We were losing perspective, so we were finally just like, “Fuck it,” lets just throw out these ten songs and then put out the next one. We’re learning to be less precious, which is good. But I agree with you, you do have to have a boner for what you’re working on.

Courtesy of UNI and The Urchins

High Times: How did the song selection process work with having so much material?

Kemp: For Me, Jack is really my read on stuff because I go into a jazz trance and lose perspective on everything when I’m working on tracks. Each one that I’m working on at the moment becomes my favorite child. The way that Jack will respond to a rough mix will kind of be a gauge for me on what we should pursue.

Jack James: Although to be fair, the last single we put out—when I went upstate to the studio and [Kemp] was showing me the song “Subhuman Suburbia,” I was like, “I dunno, I’m just going to roll with it,” and then it turned out to be my favorite song I think off the album.

David Strange: Not to bring it all back to drugs, but sometimes when you think things are good, it’s really hard to trust yourself and your own internal experience versus other peoples’ external experiences.

For instance, I went on a really heavy trip recently—a full day thing—and went immediately to this party at the house where I was staying and just tripped my balls off. The other people at the party hadn’t been tripping, so I was explaining to them what had happened to me and how incredible and life changing the experience had been and it was so uninteresting to everyone at this party. The only person who it was interesting to was me.

I was telling them, “There I was in the jungle and I could see the fabric of the universe,” and people were like, “Oh, cool. Anyway, is that juice over there? I think I’m gonna go get a cup.” My point is, you can imagine [thinking] That song, I’m really feeling it, the way I was feeling after that trip and then other people are like, “Yeah, it’s cool that you’re feeling it, but I’m not feeling this at all.” It’s really hard to tell.

Jack James: For our songs, eventually we decided the songs we chose for the album encompassed whatever the hell we’re trying to say and we thought they were the best to fit on a ten song vinyl.

High Times: Creatively, is there something you hope that the audience and fans take from the debut record Simulator?

Kemp: This is where it gets like that Frank Zappa quote: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s always hard to put it into words. David Lynch was like, “If I wanted to put it into words, I would have just written a book instead of making a movie.” I think the best art is open to interpretation.

Jack James: Yeah, whatever they take from it is really nice and I appreciate them listening to it. It’s whatever you take from it. We keep an audience in mind, but it’s like-minded outcast weirdos like [us] and I hope they find some solace in that they have another friend who is out there when they listen to it.

Kemp: We’re all drawn to each other being weirdos and outcasts but we’re all very different and that’s what makes us feel like the motley crew from Lord of The Rings or something.

I am very dark and nihilistic and Jack is very spiritual and positive. Andrew is the cool metal Black Sabbath analog rock dude and David is the insane freak poet charlatan hobo. Normally if we saw each other at a bar and we didn’t know each other, we’d probably never talk to each other. But we somehow ended up together and it’s this beautiful synthesis of our very different personalities. The thing that binds us is sort of feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Courtesy of UNI and The Urchins

High Times: Is there a lot of parallel thinking that happens when you’re creating or are you each bringing something unique to that process?

Jack James: I think both, though it depends, especially if we’re doing a music video and we’ve been around each other enough. You sort of finish each other’s sentences very quickly and there’s a simpatico thing going on. Other times, one of us will come with an idea and the others will look at it like, “What are you fucking talking about?” I think for as different as we are, we are very like-minded in what we enjoy to see and enjoy listening to.

High Times: How does cannabis and/or psychedelics play a role in that creation process?

Andrew Oakley: I’m pretty into edibles these days, especially something with heavy CBD.

High Times: Sativa or Indica?

Andrew Oakley: Sativa for sure, especially if you’re playing music. It gives you a little energy, gets you focused. It’s the way to go.

David Strange: We have all partaken on the spiritual quests together on multiple occasions and what I think is pretty cool about psychedelics is that they tend to open up doors. Those doors lead to rooms within you that already exist and there’s a lot of ways to open up those doors. Psychedelics are just one way to open those doors.

Kemp: I don’t think you can make rock or psych or glam or any of the genres that we love without having done psychedelics. It’s really what created the genres.

Jack James: I remember growing up thinking, “I bet all the coolest shit was written on drugs,” but then you try to do it and you find how difficult it actually is.

David Strange: That’s what I was saying about the doors—the drugs are the training wheels that show you those doors because, truly, a lot of the experiences that we’ve had either on stage or in studio have been psychedelic without any drugs at all. But if you can’t access those rooms on your own, sometimes doing a drug like that is the key that can open up that door and give you access to it. If you treat drugs in the right way, you will retain the combination or key to that door so you can go through it again and again when you need to.

Kemp: That being said, I think drugs should not be done flippantly. Yeah, it’s fun to occasionally do them at a party, but they definitely are spiritual keys and should be used with purpose like creativity, sex, thinking, and introspection.

Follow @uniandtheurchins and check out https://uniandtheurchins.com/ for tickets, tour dates, and their debut album “Simulator”.

The post UNI and The Urchins Are More Than Music—They’re an Art Collective appeared first on High Times.

Damian Marley Feeds You the Medicine of Music

Damian Marley continues to honor the Marley legacy in his own way as an artist carving his own path. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and producer remains at the forefront of the reggae genre for his music, collaborations, producing of other artists, and his very own reggae cruise.

The Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise set sail last month for its seventh installment, the first annual voyage since the cruise was put on hiatus due to the worldwide COVID pandemic.

In advance of the ship’s departure, we were able to catch up with Marley via Zoom and learn more about his music creation process, his relationship with cannabis—cannabis consumption, cannabis activism, and cannabis reform—and the inspiration behind creating a reggae festival on water.

High Times: You’ve been performing music for most of your life. Do you remember the starting point?

Damian Marley: We started off doing performances in my aunt’s living room until my aunt decided to take us on the road. We then started doing things like Mother’s Day shows and Valentine’s Day shows, little girls’ birthday parties—things like that in Jamaica.

High Times: Did you ever imagine you’d one day go from that to headlining your own festival cruise?

Damian Marley: We weren’t the first people to come up with a musical cruise but there had never really been a successful reggae cruise. It’s something my manager, Dan [Dalton], brought to my attention—that there’ve been other genres doing cruises. The whole culture of a cruise—going to an island, being out in the sun, out on the sea and all that stuff—lends itself very well to the culture of reggae music. However, there was hesitation if our fanbase was financially able to go on a cruise, and of course we ended up proving that we do have the market to be able to do that.

The idea of the Caribbean sea, sun, and weather, going to Jamaica, the music, and all these things—it goes hand in hand [with reggae] and it’s kind of surprising that it actually hadn’t been done before. But here we are, the ones who actually executed the idea.

High Times: In terms of ideas, what role does cannabis play in your creative process?

Damian Marley: Cannabis plays a really big role in my life in general. I’m burning a spliff as I’m speaking to you now, so what role does it not play? It’s kind of hard to say. It’s a part of my day-to-day regimen. Most of the things I’m doing are under the influence of cannabis [laughs].

High Times: Is there a specific method of consumption or specific strain you prefer?

Damian Marley: Ocean Grown OG Kush tends to be one of my favorites, but we still enjoy other strains, too. Variety is the spice of life in that way.

I also usually smoke, I don’t really do many edibles or that kind of stuff. It’s mostly smoking, although I would encourage people not to smoke and instead consume edibles because smoking in itself is not a healthy habit—but that’s just what I do.

High Times: Do you feel that the act of consumption opens you up to other ways of thinking or other spiritual activity?

Damian Marley: It puts you in a space where you have time for your own thoughts, where you can hear your thoughts a bit more clearly. It helps you focus less on the busyness around you and you get more exclusive to your own thoughts.

High Times: As in putting your own thoughts under your own sort of microscope?

Damian Marley: More so that you get to hear your own voice more clearly by silencing some of the other voices around you.

High Times: So it’s more that it helps you block out distractions and other external factors and tune you in to you.

Damian Marley: Especially when I was younger. Now, of course, [smoking] is part of my life so I don’t have the kind of jolt and effect from when you just start smoking. But after high school when I was smoking and reading the bible and learning about my faith as a Rastafari, you really get to meditate and zone in on your own voice and certain topics in a different way.

High Times: From a music standpoint, what can we be on the lookout for from you in the coming months?

Damian Marley: I’m about to start making some music for myself right now, so it’s a bit difficult to say specifically what to look for, but you can look for some music from me this year. I would think we’ll probably start with a few singles leading up into an album. We also recently released an album I produced for an artist by the name of Kabaka Pyramid, where myself and the team produced the entire album, and we’re really proud of that.

High Times: Is it the same creative input that you provide when producing a record for someone else that you provide for yourself?

Damian Marley: We give one-hundred percent when making music, regardless of what we’re doing, you know what I mean?

Photo by Tizzy Tokyo

High Times: Whether you’re creating music for yourself or someone else, is there something you hope the audience takes from it?

Damian Marley: Yeah, something that they need. So it’s not for me to say what they must take, but we want them to take something that they need, something that will benefit their life in some kind of way.

Something I always find very interesting and such a joy is in how people interpret songs and what they take from them. Sometimes with certain songs and certain lyrics, someone might find a completely different meaning from what I was trying to say in the conversation of the lyrics. They interpreted it completely differently, and that’s always very interesting to see. So, it’s not for me to say what people take away from it, but we want them to take something that brings substance to their life and somehow impacts their life in a positive way.

High Times: So you’re creating the substance from which other people can have an experience, but you’re not here to dictate what that experience is.

Damian Marley: We’re not telling you how to take the dosage, we’re just making the medicine.

High Times: In terms of the medicine, what types of cannabis endeavors are you currently involved in?

Damian Marley: Right now, the brand that we’re working on and supporting is called Evidence, but the overall brand that I and Dan are a part of is called Ocean Grown. The product that Ocean Grown is now presenting is called Evidence, which is obviously herb that you buy and smoke. But the great thing about Evidence is the work that we’re doing to help people who have been locked up for herb become free.

With Evidence, we’re also partnered with the organization Last Prisoner Project (LPP), and the whole aim of this organization is to help people who are locked up for marijuana and help them gain their freedom now that the cannabis laws have changed. So we have a greater purpose other than trying to just sell herb and make money. We want to do that—don’t get me wrong—but we’re doing some great work within the community through this Evidence brand and through LPP and through what the whole movement stands for. We’re encouraging people to check out that part to fully understand what the movement is all about, while also enjoying the cannabis.

High Times: So the brand has that social impact element, which is really important.

Damian Marley: Yeah, really important. Cannabis users tend to be good people who want to do good, so it goes hand in hand.  

Follow @damianmarley and check out https://damianmarley.com for tickets, tour dates, and the latest on the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise.

The post Damian Marley Feeds You the Medicine of Music appeared first on High Times.

Study Shows Rise in Weed-Related Emergency Room Visits Among Older Adults

A new study by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has revealed a dramatic spike in emergency room visits related to cannabis consumption among older adults. The study, which was published on Monday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealed a 1,808% increase in marijuana-related trips to the emergency department among California adults aged 65 and older between 2005 and 2019.

Benjamin Han, M.D., the lead author of the study and a geriatrician in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said that the dramatic increase in emergency room visits related to cannabis consumption among older adults is a concern for many physicians in his field. In an interview with UC San Diego Today, he noted that the increase is significant because older adults are at a higher risk of adverse effects associated with cannabis and other psychoactive substances.

“Many patients assume they aren’t going to have adverse side effects from cannabis because they often don’t view it as seriously as they would a prescription drug,” said Han. “I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it — yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger.” 

The study, which was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was conducted using a trend analysis of data obtained from the California Department of Healthcare Access and Information. The researchers determined that the number of cannabis-related emergency department visits among adults in California aged 65 and up jumped from 366 in 2005 to 12,167 in 2019. Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, and regulated sales of adult-use cannabis began in the state on January 1, 2018, following the legalization of recreational marijuana by the state’s voters in 2016. The study found that while emergency room visits jumped sharply between 2013 and 2017, they then leveled off, suggesting that the availability of recreational marijuana did not increase the risk of a visit to the emergency department.

Cannabis Use Increasing Among Older Americans With Legalization

Over the past two decades, the consumption of cannabis by older adults has increased sharply as marijuana legalization efforts gained ground across the United States. Older Americans are increasingly using cannabis socially and for a variety of health conditions, leading to a drop in the perceived risk of regular marijuana use.

The researchers say that the new study illustrates that cannabis use among older adults can lead to unintended consequences that require emergency health care for a variety of reasons. The use of cannabis can slow reaction time or impair attention, which may increase the risk of injury or falls. There is also evidence that cannabis can increase the risk of delirium, paranoia, or psychosis and that using marijuana can interact with prescription medications or exacerbate pulmonary or cardiovascular problems.

“We know from work in alcohol that older adults are more likely to make a change in substance use if they see that it is linked to an undesirable medical symptom or outcome — so linking cannabis use similarly could help with behavioral change,” said Alison Moore, M.D., co-author of the study and chief of the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We truly have much to learn about cannabis, given all the new forms of it and combinations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), and this will inform our understanding of risks and possible benefits, too.”

The study reveals the need for older Americans to have honest discussions about their use of cannabis with their healthcare provider. Moore says that such conversations should be an element of routine medical care, but screening protocols often include the use of cannabis with the use of illicit drugs.

“Instead, asking a question like, ‘Have you used cannabis — also known as marijuana — for any reason in the last 12 months?’ would encourage older adults to answer more frankly,” Moore said. “Providers can then ask how frequently cannabis is used, for what purpose — such as medically for pain, sleep, or anxiety or recreationally to relax — in what form (smoked, eaten, applied topically) and if they know how much THC and CBD it contains. Once the provider has this type of information, they can then educate the patient about potential risks of use.”

Han agreed that patients should discuss their cannabis with their doctors before deciding to use it for medical purposes.

“Although cannabis may be helpful for some chronic symptoms, it is important to weigh that potential benefit with the risk, including ending up in an emergency department,” he said.

The post Study Shows Rise in Weed-Related Emergency Room Visits Among Older Adults appeared first on High Times.

Cash Only: Visual Artist Clare Gillen on Breaking Up With Weed To Embrace San Pedro

This article was originally published on Cash Only. Sign up for the newsletter here and follow Cash Only on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Clare Gillen is a visual artist, photographer, and creative director — a true visionary, if you ask us. Her work often mixes beauty and the grotesque, and it feels informed in equal parts by Cindy Sherman and Tim & Eric, though only in spirit. Clare has developed a visual universe that’s all her own. 

The Philly-born artist is known for art directing, designing, and producing the live shows for a who’s who of iconoclastic musicians — including Rihanna, Blood Orange, Jack Antonoff, and King Princess — and she’s worked on music videos for the likes of KP (“Pussy Is God”), Lil Miquela, Lana Del Rey, and most recently Eric Wareheim’s Las Jaras Wines.

The wine spot is a great entry point to Clare’s work. In the frenetic clip, Spider-Man, Goofy, Mickey Mouse, and the Grinch get lit and spray suds on each other while T-Pain’s “Spray That Booty” soundtracks their shenanigans. The short is edited perfectly, including a montage of each mascot jumping off a hill and tripping, as well as a moment where the lyrics “It’s gonna sound like I’m pissing” lines up with a shot of Goofy pretending to let a stream rip behind a tree. Truly one for the books!

Outside of her brain-blooming portfolio, Clare is a super thoughtful person with a dedication to wellness and self-care. When asked if she’d be down for a Cash Only interview, Clare explained that she had recently taken a hiatus from weed in order to prepare for a San Pedro and Kambo retreat. For the unfamiliar, San Pedro is a psychedelic cactus that’s been utilized for self-healing and religious rites for thousands of years. Kambo, on the other hand, is a purge that involves skin secretions from the kambo frog that get burnt into your skin. 

As a regular toker and “Philly Cheesesteak girl,” the ceremony’s required pre-cleanse presented an opportunity for Clare to embrace some lifestyle adjustments, including changes to her diet and the aforementioned weed break. We thought this was interesting and wanted to learn more about other takeaways she gleaned from the unique psychedelic experience. So, instead of our 420 Recs series, Cash Only wanted to present a conversation with Clare about the San Pedro / Kambo retreat. 

Below, the artist discusses how she changed her consumption habits prior to the ceremony, what actually went down there, and how it’s influenced her day-to-day life since. Inspiring stuff from an inspiring person. Thanks Clare!!

So you recently did a cleanse to prepare for a San Pedro ceremony. What did it entail?

Clare Gillen: My friend invited me to this San Pedro ceremony in Connecticut, and it also included a Kambo ceremony the next day. I had to prep for it, so you don’t drink alcohol, you can only eat pretty much vegan food — and then no coffee, no sex, and you don’t consume THC (specifically for the Kambo). 

I was smoking weed pretty regularly before, but I wanted this plant medicine experience to be life-changing in a fundamental health way. I did the ceremony a couple weeks ago, and I haven’t smoked since, with the exception of one Saturday night when I hit a delicious joint. Other than that, I haven’t been using weed at all and I’m off coffee, too. This is the first time in my life I’m off coffee, so it’s a huge deal for me. I’ve been eating pretty close to vegan, which is also a huge deal to me because I’m a Philly Cheesesteak girl at heart.

How long do you have to do the cleansing routine before the ceremony?

They suggest a week, but some start only three or four days out. You want to be pretty clean for it. I transitioned to green tea and said my goodbye to weed with a fat joint that I shared with some friends. I was excited to jump into this new chapter. It’s really weird, dude. I never felt like I had a reason to stop smoking, but this was a reason. It’s been really inspiring because it works. I have no real desire to smoke now, and I think something changed with my mental addiction to it. 

Can you tell me more about what went down at the retreat?

So we got there on Friday, did some yoga, and then had a vegan dinner where we got to know everyone and talked about San Pedro. The next day we woke up, did some Pranayama (breathwork), and then we drank the San Pedro. We did some mantras, did some singing, and then made super cozy spots for ourselves outside in a big circle around an altar.

I realized it was the first time I’ve taken psychedelics with the intention of doing literally nothing. I’ve obviously taken psychedelics with friends where we sort of did nothing, but you’re still expected to make jokes or talk to each other or report on how you’re feeling. You often want to make it an adventure, right? But this was the opposite. It was like, “Let’s do nothing and literally just lay and process.” You can cry if you want to, listen to songs if you want to, go on a walk, etc. But I really just laid around.


How did the San Pedro make you feel?

The San Pedro felt really, really mild and positive. Not everyone there had positive experiences, and everyone came to it with different stuff they were going through, but I just felt really integrated with the Earth. And it weirdly made me horny. It made me want to be in touch with my body more and eat more plants. The night ended with us around the fire and we came down and played music and ate. It was amazing. The next day we did the Kambo. For that, you don’t eat, but you chug a gallon of water, meditate, and then they burn the poison into your arm. I still have a couple dots on me. 

The San Pedro high was so clean that I felt like I could have gone to work or driven a car. It wasn’t as heavy as ayahuasca is. It was very, very body. And San Pedro is known as “the grandfather,” whereas ayahuasca is known as “the grandmother.” You’re gonna hear it from your grandmother — grandma is prone to drop a bomb in your face, right? But grandfather is a little more passive about it. That’s the gendered connotation.

I definitely was tripping and was aware of that. Acid can sometimes feel chemical-y, and mushrooms can be overwhelming, especially visually, and they can also feel a little swampy. But San Pedro felt very clean and very supportive. Plus, I was in a really good and grounded place when I went into it. I had been prepping with yoga, plus the diet integration stuff. I was just ready to receive what it had to give.

How did the Kambo experience compare to the San Pedro?

Kambo is not psychedelic. Kambo is just a poison [laughs]. It’s over very fast. And, I’m not going to lie, I was very afraid of it. From what I had read, I thought it would be very heavy and intensely scary on a physical level. I thought I’d almost be in pain because the poison hits you immediately. But I’d also read that it can feel euphoric. And when I took it, I felt the heat rising and the poison flowing through my body. I felt my face getting hot. But I didn’t feel afraid. And the woman leading the ceremony told me, “Be brave. The medicine likes when you’re brave.” Interestingly, Kambo was used for centuries by hunters so they could have super clear, unanxious minds. 

I started with five dots and I was not purging. I was chilling, breathing, feeling it. I knew I needed more because ultimately you want to purge, right? It’s good to purge, they say. Then I was given two more dots, and I hate throwing up, so that was a little weird for me. It ended up being amazing because after you feel very clean and really renewed. It’s supposed to reset your body from a molecular level, and take toxins out. After the Kambo, we did this healing session that was like a sound bath and they did acupuncture and cupping on us. It was fucking amazing, bro [laughs]. 

Were you told to continue any practices after leaving the retreat?

A lot of what was talked about was to notice integration. I’m now on this new age tip where I’m convinced you can manifest stuff and there’s this psychic energy to tap into. My friend was telling me about this French concept called dérive that’s like an intuitive wandering method. During the industrial revolution, some people thought everything was too planned and we needed to be more random and intuitive. So they’d go walking intuitively and see where that led them. I embraced that idea yesterday with the intention to run into someone specific. I knew they hung out at this park, and I thought I’d wander my way there, but then three blocks down from where I started, not even near where they live, I ran into them. Funny, right? That’s fucking cool to me. I think most plant medicine is heart-opening, and our hearts have an intelligence that we don’t necessarily follow. I feel like I’m more open to listening to what my heart says now. People keep asking me, “Did you have any breakthroughs on San Pedro?” And I’m like, “My breakthrough was to eat clean and to lead with my heart” [laughs].

So this is a tangent, but you said the San Pedro made you horny. Do you think human sexuality is more influenced by the heart than the brain?

Wow. That’s such a good question. I know my brain was in charge for a long time because of how it was primed growing up, from things like porn or even the idea or construct of a romantic fantasy. Especially for women, sexuality can often be intellectual and less body-related. As I grow into a woman there’s something about tapping into the next level. And the next level for me is that there is a path towards heart energy — even Kundalini energy. I want to explore that connection.

Now that the ceremony has passed, do you want to continue this new relationship with what you put in your body, like food and weed?

I hope it lasts. Oh, I have a funny story that shows how strong the lifestyle change was. On Saturday, after I was back from the ceremony, I went to brunch at the Butcher’s Daughter and ate pancakes. After eating, I walked around for a little, and I was like, “Oh, no… I need to lay down. I feel terrible.” So I went home to rest, and kept waking up and was like, “I feel so bad. I have COVID. This is terrible.” It legit felt like when I actually had COVID and it came out of nowhere. Then I woke up a few hours later and felt completely fine. I realized I didn’t have COVID, I had just eaten pancakes! But I felt ill! Probably because I hadn’t had that much sugar in a while. The meal geeked me out. I have always eaten whatever I want, since forever, and I had a similar relationship with weed. The pre-ceremony cleanse made me super sensitive. 

How else did the San Pedro make you reconsider your relationship with weed? 

I think for a lot of regular weed smokers, there is this mental addiction that grows. I think we often reach for weed as a crutch, but what we really need is to move our bodies, or to move some energy around. I also have been curious about something I recently read regarding pleasure and pain. We are over-pleasured as a society, which is actually more anxiety-inducing and makes us less happy. Our brains really like the homeostasis of pain mixed in with pleasure. But in our culture, we don’t have enough pain, we don’t force ourselves to run up the hill, we don’t force ourselves to sit with pain and grieve. Instead, we reach for the bong. 

The quick-fix solution is less effective long-term, and it makes our brains freak out. Our brains want equilibrium and homeostasis — pain and pleasure. So for me, being like, “I’m not going to get that sugary drink” like I usually would, and instead having a tea… even something as subtle as that is good for my brain. It’s good not to give your brain that immediate reward. I think it builds this muscle of discipline, too.

What will your relationship with weed be like going forward? 

I think for a while now, I’ve been grappling with the fact that if weed is handed to me, I hit it without thinking. I started smoking like 15 years ago, and I never really stopped because I loved it. And in L.A., it’s everywhere. But going forward, I want to be more intentional with my use. I want to feel who I am raw, without any of this stuff. I want to strengthen my mind to be like, “Can I escape from this rat race or this gnarly world we live in through my own means and strengthened connections to myself, to my heart, to my truth?” It feels like shit, but I think it’s more commendable. Weed has always been a positive thing in my life, and I don’t think it will totally disappear, but I’m really happy to have this reset.

Any last thoughts you want to add?

Yes, to conclude, weed has had such a positive impact on my life. My creative growth is closely tied to it. So shout-out weed, love you girl, thanks for everything, but our relationship is going to change a little. These things shouldn’t be so high-contrast and black and white. I think maturity is all about integration and really being in touch with yourself and what’s serving you in the moment and what’s not. And right now, I know what’s working for me.

For more on Clare Gillen:
Gilly Studio

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U.S. Youth Ditch Alcohol for Cannabis in Record Numbers, Study Says

American youth are smoking pot more than ever before, but according to the same data, they are dropping booze habits at the same time—begging the question if society is better off as a whole.

The findings were published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology, pinpointing precisely 338,727 instances of intentional abuse or misuse amongst American children aged 6-18. Americans did a fairly good job of keeping drugs away from young children, however, as most of the cases involving smaller children 6-12 were accidental and usually involving over-the-counter items such as vitamins and hormones.

Among American youth, cannabis use rose 245% since 2000 in the U.S., while alcohol abuse has steadily declined over the same period. “Young people are ditching alcohol for marijuana,” Neuroscience News reports.

“Ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 until 2013,” stated Dr Adrienne Hughes, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, one of the authors of the study. “Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior.” 

“These edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they are considered more discrete and convenient,” says Hughes.

Researchers pointed out what most of us already know: that problems associated with cannabis usually involve edibles that take hours to creep up.

“Compared to smoking cannabis, which typically results in an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana usually takes several hours, which may lead some individuals to consume greater amounts and experience unexpected and unpredictable highs,” says Hughes.

Researchers noted 57,488 incidents involving children aged just 6 to twelve, but they were cases involving vitamins, plants, melatonin, hand sanitizers, and other typical household objects.

A slight majority of cannabis ingestions were noted in males versus females at 58.3%, and more than 80% of all reported cannabis exposure cases occurred in teens aged 13 to 18.

The report illustrates how drugs fall into and out of favor over time. Dextromethorphan—the most reported substance over the study period—peaked in 2006, but has fallen out of favor among American youth.

Youth alcohol abuse peaked over 20 years ago back in 2000, when the largest number of abuse cases involved exposure to ethanol. Since then, child alcohol abuse has steadily declined over the years.

Cannabis cases, on the other hand, remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2009, with a rise in cases beginning in 2011, and a more acute rise in cases from 2017 to 2020.

The same pattern can be seen as fewer American youth are drinking alcohol. Changes in the types of cannabis products that are being consumed is also apparent. But the rise in unpleasant edible experiences is a concern for the team of researchers.

“Our study describes an upward trend in marijuana abuse exposures among youth, especially those involving edible products,” says Hughes.

“These findings highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”

The findings are not exactly conclusive: Previous, federally funded data dismisses the theory that legalization measures have a correlation with increased teen use of cannabis.

A study published in November in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that cannabis legalization “was not significantly related” to “the probability or frequency of self-reported past-year cannabis use” by teens. It also found that “youth who spent more of their adolescence under legalization were no more or less likely to have used cannabis at age 15 years than adolescents who spent little or no time under legalization.”

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