2020 made me too paranoid for THC. Here’s what I’m smoking instead.

I love THC, but THC doesn’t seem to love me back these days. Maybe other low-dose cannabis connoisseurs can relate. My stress has been at an all-time high, but my go-to combos for mellowing out have been backfiring spectacularly. 

While teetering on the edge of a cable-news-induced spiral a few months ago, I reached for my trusty old stress remedy — a 1:1, THC:CBD gummy and some mindless TV — only to rocket right off the edge and into paranoid oblivion. Negative thoughts multiplied faster than I could dissolve them, turning my night of rest and relaxation into a game of emotional whack-a-mole. 

Humanity may be polarizing itself to the brink of extinction (kidding, kind of) but at least there’s one thing we can all agree on: 2020 has been a crap year. 

And in the same way crappiness is the great unifier of 2020, I’d argue that THC brings the ever-evolving weed world together — albeit more positively. We can passionately debate indicas versus sativas versus rejecting labels altogether, but at the end of the day, stoners of all stripes can rally around THC. 

That’s because THC is the “it” cannabinoid. It’s the reason most of us fell in love with weed in the first place. Even for me, a low-dose lifestyler who’s maintained a 5 milligram gummy tolerance for more than a decade, THC has been indispensable in my pursuit of the perfect high. It’s responsible for countless nature doc binges, insane nacho creations, and the note in my phone reminding me “poems are just shrimps.”

But thanks to 2020, I’ve had to scale my THC intake way back. My tolerance has sunken so low that the slightest whisper of THC can sometimes send my mind careening into dark places. As a result, I have fully committed to the non-alcoholic beer of weed, otherwise known as hemp-derived CBD.

Hemp, really?

I used to turn my nose up at hemp-derived drinks and THC-free joints like a high school senior dissing uninitiated freshmen — mostly because federal law mandates that hemp products contain no more than 0.3% THC. Without a significant pinch of THC and the entourage effect that comes with it, I could not understand how these strictly CBD products were supposed to make me feel anything other than sober.

But when anxiety strikes, that’s kind of the point. Everyone responds to stress differently, but for me, the last thing I want to do when my mind is already swirling is adding THC-fueled distraction that can quickly turn into confusion and a sense of helplessness. All I want is a sense of clear, calm groundedness. When dosed appropriately, high-quality hemp flower can help bring me back to earth and prevent an anxious episode from spinning out of control. There’s plenty of research to suggest I’m not the only one who’s experienced hemp’s calming effects. 

That said, not all hemp products are alike and not all consumption methods are perfect for every issue. For muscle aches and minor pains, I reach for weedy topicals; for bouts of anxiety, I like to smoke high-quality hemp flower. 

I smoke out my anxiety for a few reasons: 

  • The range of terpenes and minor cannabinoids in the flower makes for a more effective experience (aka the entourage effect I mentioned above). 
  • Smoking allows me to feel the calming effects more quickly than I would with an edible.
  • Smoking also bypasses my digestive system and increases bioavailability, otherwise known as the amount of CBD my body is able to absorb. 

When shopping for hemp flower, the first thing you’ll want to do is look for independent lab test results. This is the first indication that you’ve found high-quality flower, whether it’s hemp or otherwise. The second thing you’ll want to do is actually read those results. What’s the percentage of total cannabinoids? Any notable terpenes? Everyone experiences cannabis differently, but knowing these percentages and how your body responds to them can help you predict how each new batch of flower might make you feel. 

The hemp flower getting me through 2020 

When I claimed back in April that CBD pre-rolls were the future, I had no idea how true my own prediction would be. Five months ago (1,000 years in corona time), I argued CBD pre-rolls were worth considering and sharing with lightweight or weed-cautious friends. Now that my stress is manifesting into migraines, stomach pains, dizziness, and nausea, CBD pre-rolls are essential.

Lately, I’ve been relying heavily on Friend Leaf, an organic hemp flower and pre-roll brand. This brand goes above and beyond when it comes to lab testing by showcasing results on their website and via scannable QR codes right on the packaging. I was in terpene-nerd heaven looking up the stats on the joints I’d chosen — a three-pack of the cheekily named Trophy Wife strain — and finding high levels of myrcene. Myrcene is known for having sedative qualities and anecdotal evidence suggests high-myrcene strains are more likely to be relaxing. No wonder a few puffs helped me narrowly avoid a full-blown panic attack. 

I love the reusable glass packaging they use for their pre-rolls and flower. Just be sure to store Friend Leaf products in a cool, dark place to prevent sunlight from penetrating the clear glass and degrading the flower inside. Because these are hemp products, you can shop all of their products online and have them shipped nationwide. Buy a pack of three pre-rolls for $26 or an eighth for $36.

When I’m feeling calm enough to handle a touch of THC, Alive and Kicking is still my go-to brand. Their high-CBD, cigarette-like joints are so small it’s nearly impossible to overdo it. Even if you do manage to overdo it, the barely-there “high” fades quickly and leaves a shimmery aura of calm in its wake. These are currently only available in California, but they also have hemp pre-rolls you can buy online for $29 a pack.

Keep in mind there will never be a one-size-fits-all cannabis product, and even when you find a product that works for you, there’s no guarantee it’ll work forever. A year ago, I relied on edibles and nature documentaries to relax. This year, I’m all about hemp pre-rolls and text-banking for my favorite local candidates.

As the king of stoner wisdom, Heraclitus liked to say, “The only constant is change.” That’s certainly true of my relationship with cannabis. 

Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps

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Can comedy normalize cannabis use?

With cannabis legalization continuing to spread across the US, the opportunity to make jokes at the plant’s expense has never been greater. From shopping at dispensaries to experiencing edibles for the first time, comedians have the unique opportunity to help shape public opinion surrounding modern-day cannabis consumption — a power they can use to convey both positive and negative experiences.

Openly discussing cannabis usage was more taboo in previous years, but this didn’t deter comedians such as George Carlin from discussing it in a non-sensationalized way. In a previous interview, Carlin stated:

“By the time I was 13, some friends and I were using marijuana fairly regularly. The Reefer Madness myth was still very strong then, but I’d been into jazz and those lyrics included so many casual references to pot that it was completely demystified for me.”

Carlin also went as far as to actively advocate for cannabis consumption, explaining that it often assisted him in his creative process. Watch him discuss his experience with weed to help him refine his writing in an interview with Jon Stewart below.

Dave Chapelle is another comedian famously associated with incorporating weed into both his stand-up and comedy sketches. While Chapelle often pokes fun at the usual stoner stereotypes, he often does so in a way that portrays these perceptions as harmless and positive. For example, in his Netflix special, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” he jokes that he bonded with his dog, Baba, after Baba realized that when the house smells like weed it means Dave is about to eat.

Sensationalizing weed through stand-up

When discussing modern-day cannabis culture, comedians often get caught up in over-sensationalizing the plant and their experiences while imbibing.

“The older comedians exaggerate it [marijuana use] and younger comedians haven’t gotten the grasp of it yet,” says comedian Bruce Jingles. “I let people know that it is part of me, but that I’m not a ‘full-on stoner’ as I don’t want to be typecast as dumb. Stoners are always typecast as dumb, but comedy is smart. Comedy in itself dispels the stereotype of the ‘dumb stoner.’”

Rachel Wolfson, comedian and host of the “Chronic Relief” podcast, echoed Jingles’ sentiments around the importance of presentation when incorporating weed jokes into a standup set. “People are talking about weed more than ever and are naturally going to cite experiences about being so high they ‘greened out.’ Finding the humor in your own experiences and ultimately breaking stigma through humor is important. The fact that I’m up there working hard at something I love is already enough to break the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype.” 

Where’s the sweet spot?

Sara Weinshenk is another comedian who often collaborates with Wolfson and normalizes cannabis discussion through her podcast “Shenk” and her web series “Shenks For Smoking,” where she invites fellow comedians to discuss a variety of topics while consuming cannabis.

“It’s our role as comedians to normalize taboo subjects such as cannabis, mental health, and alternative forms of medicine,” she said. “Being high doesn’t impair me to the point of not being able to function, and actually helps me be more creative in my writing.”

I asked all three comedians how they’d like to see the cannabis discussion move forward in comedy. All three agreed that they’d like to see the topic continue to be destigmatized as well as diversified.

“In the past, I wasn’t able to incorporate marijuana usage into my sets because I had a day job. When I did begin to discuss it, I was labeled as a dirty comic,” said Jingles. “Now that it has become more mainstream, I’m able to take greater risks. People need to continue communicating about it — and communicating about it an intelligent way.”

“Observational weed humor is lame to me. I want to know what your unique perspective and point of view is,” explained Wolfson. “Anyone can get up there and talk about weed, but what have you done to help the [cannabis] community? I really respect comedians who have given back to the community and are helping to break the stigma.”

“I’d like to see more women in the space of both comedy and cannabis,” said Weinshenk. “There are so many great female cannabis connoisseurs out there and it’s always good to hear about them.” 

Feature image by Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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Yes, you do like sativas

Whenever someone starts to say that they don’t like sativas, I want to interrupt them, “Shut up. Yes, you do.” 

Too many people love to say they hate sativas and that it makes them anxious. Take a look:

But it’s time we add some true context to that conversation — or else people will continue writing off an entire third of the weed types out there. Probably more when you really get into genetics. 

So gather round the fire, kiddos; it’s time to talk about sativas and why you probably do like them.

What are sativas?

Sativa, indica, and hybrid refer to the morphology of a cannabis plant. Cannabis sativa plants grow tall and lanky with long, fluffy flowers, cannabis indica plants grow short and bulky with thick dense flowers, and hybrids fall somewhere in between. Though the cannabis industry uses these plant species as a one-to-one system between strains and effects, these are truly just classifications of plants based on the way they grow, where they grow, and the structure of their flowers.

Most modern sativas can be traced back to the original Haze and Skunk genetics, which can then be traced back to landrace strains from all over the world. Sativas grew in the Middle East, Mexico, Africa — sativas grew everywhere. 

Those genetics went on to be crossed with all kinds of Afghani, Northern Lights, and other indica genetics from all over the globe, and that’s exactly why most of the cannabis strains on shelves today are some form of hybrid. We started crossing strains in the search for perfection and never stopped.


You’re probably smoking sativas and don’t even know it

Chances are you’ve smoked plenty of sativas and enjoyed them. With most products being hybrids, it’s just impossible to avoid them. When you smoke with people at a social function, you don’t ask for strain names (much less a certificate of analysis), you just smoke the weed and go. I guarantee you’ve hit some strange sativa in the wild, and I bet, not once, have you ever regretted it. 

OG Kush is a sativa-dominant hybrid, as are many Kush strains. Have you written off Kush? GSC is sometimes a sativa-dominant hybrid. Have you written off Cookies? To say that you don’t like sativas ignores how broad the world of cannabis can be.

The cannabis shopping experience is why so many people only think of sativas as upper, hyper strains that may make you feel racy and anxious. And indicas are deemed super sleepy strains that will be stronger and better because they pack the hardest punch. The shopping experience is all about getting customers in and out of the door in the fastest time possible, which leaves very little room to educate consumers on the nuance of sativa cannabis strains. From there, customers unwittingly move on with misinformation, and end up writing off the entire realm of sativa strains forever.

Why it’s silly to write off sativa strains

It’s silly to write off cannabis strains because the effects of cannabis do not solely come down to plant type. Nothing about this plant is 1:1. We love cannabis strains because you can walk into a store and choose whichever feeling you want to feel. Those feelings are exclusive to only a third of the products you see. 

If you want to feel sleepy, there are sativa strains that can make you feel sleepy. If you want to feel relaxed, there are sativa strains that can make you feel relaxed. If you want to feel hungry, there are sativa strains that can make you feel hungry. 

Sure, there are plenty of sativas out there like Jack Herer that may make you feel super energized, and if you’re a naturally anxious person, then their cerebral effects may be too much for you. But in the end, those effects are not to be blamed solely on a plant growing tall and fluffy. Instead, that all comes down to a plant’s genetics and chemical makeup i.e. a strain’s parents, cannabinoids, and terpenes. Educate yourself on these, and you’ll learn to shop past classification, opening your options to the entire world of weed.

Sativa strains to start off 

Three common sativas that perfectly illustrate why you can’t shop for effects solely by plant type are: Tangie, Candyland, and Lemon G. They all provide various experiences, dependent mostly upon how much of them you smoke.

Tangie

Tangie comes from a mix of California Orange and Skunk genetics. Skunk genetics are known for producing funky plants with heavy-hitting effects, so it’s easy to see why Tangie sometimes defies the one-size-fits-all nature of sativa classification. 

Smoke it initially and you’ll feel euphoric and uplifted, ready for the world. Hit another sesh, and suddenly that energy will turn into a lazy, stoned feeling that makes you want to chill. Keep smoking it, and your eyelids are going to need a 1-2 hour break from work.



Candyland

Candyland is another strain that can produce a wide spectrum of effects dependent on phenotype, consumption method, and dosage. Candyland was created by crossing the heavily sedative Granddaddy Purple with a Platinum GSC varietal, and the result gives us a plant that will absolutely lay you down if you smoke too much of it. Otherwise, it may bring you the perfect balance of relaxed euphoria and creative focus. Most consumers report the effects as happy, energetic, and relaxed. Realize that they mean all at once.



Lemon G

Lemon G is a third example of sativa cannabis strains that can provide a variety of effects. The name alone might be enough to scare off the no-thanks-sativas crowd, because many lemon strains and also strains high in limonene produce uplifting and energetic effects. Lemon G, however, can be very potent and provide a long-lasting euphoric sensation that pairs great with social activities.

Overall, the point is that you should not write-off cannabis strains because they’re on one side of a dispensary. It’s important to educate yourself on the types of cannabis strain and the genetics they come from. From there, you’ll be able to guide yourself towards the cannabis strains you’re supposed to be smoking. If you don’t, you’ll keep writing off thousands of weed strains that could ultimately provide the effects and experience you truly seek.

Find hundreds of strains and where to buy them on Weedmaps Strains


Featured image by Dre Hudson/Weedmaps

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Quarantine showed me the beauty of indica strains

The hardest thing about being a cannabis journalist is balancing productivity with all the weed I consume. While writing about weed for a living is a dream gig, I’ve lost countless days to overconsumption. Spiraling into the lazy vortex of bong rips and bad TV means deadlines begin to pile up like the emails in my inbox. The only thing I manage to answer on those days is a shameful “Yes” when Netflix asks if I’m still watching. 

Before quarantine, I had been a sativa-only stoner for over a decade. Like many, I viewed indicas as a productivity-inhibiting treat reserved for after work or before bed, a desert but never a meal. Though I was aware of the controversy surrounding the incorrect labeling of flower as indica or sativa, the market doesn’t reflect the weed world’s relatively new aversion to this kind of distinction, and I didn’t realize just how incorrect I was. As someone who has adhered to that method of categorizing intoxication since high school, it was branded into my brain, an inherent bias I had yet to eradicate.

Then, quarantine hit. Things slowed way down. In trying to navigate the overabundance of free-time, I found my sativa-dominant lifestyle was no longer cutting it. The same strain that used to fill me with energy to run errands and finish my articles was turning me into a ball of anxiety with nowhere to go and no one to interact with outside of my own negative thoughts. 

I began incorporating indica strains into my daily routine, realizing that the type of strains I’d written off due to their categorization as indicas held the key to balancing my productivity all along. Exploring this relationship in these months of isolation has forever changed the way I look at flower. 

The mislabeling of indica and sativa

“Labeling strains as indica or sativa ultimately is a disservice to patients and consumers because it sets up false expectations around experience,” said Emma Chasen, a cannabis educator and industry consultant with a degree from Brown University in Medicinal Plant Research. 

“Indica and Sativa are species designations for cannabis plants. Species are defined by their genetics, the physical manifestation of the organism, not how an organism might make a person feel when consumed.”

While most consumers associate sativa with an energized high and indicas with a sleepy “in-da-couch” vibe, the indica/sativa distinction is actually based on the physical characteristics of the plant. Sativa-dominant plants tend to have thinner, sharper leaves with seven or more leaf blades per leaf and take longer to flower. Indicas tend to be squatter with five broadleaf blades per leaf and experience a shorter flowering time. 

“The chemical compounds, or chemotype, of the plant is what has influence on the experience. Those compounds are subject to environmental factors just as much as they are coded for by the plant’s genetics,” Chasen said. “Therefore, there is no guarantee that something labeled as an Indica will make someone feel sleepy and something labeled as a sativa will make someone feel energized.” 

Chemotypes, terpenes, and cannabinoids

The chemical compounds, or chemotypes, that Chasen is referring to describe the terpene profiles and cannabinoid ratios in the flower. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these terms, terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for the plant’s flavors and aromas. They influence the experiences cannabis will produce, as well as potential medicinal benefits. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds like THC and CBD. Each strain has a unique cannabinoid makeup with accompanying effects.

When it comes to determining how a strain will affect you, every plant is unique and there are numerous factors at play. While it depends on the chemical makeup of the plant itself, it also depends on how those cannabinoids and terpenes react with your endocannabinoid receptors, as well as how you react with your surroundings. While cannabinoids like THC or CBD put you on a specific roller coaster, terpenes determine what kind of ride you’re going to have. 

“Effects differ from plant to plant,” said Justin Heady Monster, a legendary grower responsible for the genetics behind some of the most iconic strains in existence, my personal favorite being Pink Starburst. “In the past decade or so, we have found that the terpenes present play a larger role in determining the high than the growing characteristics.” 

Because traditional indicas tend to contain terpenes like myrcene and terpineol, they are associated with couch-lock. If you’re like me and associate that spicy, piney smell with a sativa high, it’s because pinene (pine smell) and limonene (citrus smell) both have energizing effects. These characteristic highs have nothing to do with the plants being sativa or indica, as any of those terpenes could just as easily be found in a plant with the physical characteristics of either one. 

“Pink Starburst is a great example of this situation,” Monster noted. “It grows identical to your stereotypical ‘indica’ plant, however, the dominant terpene limonene gives the high something that is euphoric, creative, and what would be described by most as more of a sativa effect. Then you have some hazes, (hazes are categorized as sativas), that start out racy and intense before becoming a crashing, sleepy high due to the amounts of myrcene present.”

How to pick the right indica for you 

Throughout these months spent quarantined with a large variety of “indica” strains, I’ve gained a far deeper understanding of the cannabis plant. Never have I had so much control over the way I utilize the plant medicinally and recreationally. Instead of falling victim to taking a huge bong hit of a “sativa” that happens to be high in myrcene early in the morning — and spending the day bleary-eyed and slow, bumbling around the kitchen — I can now tell by smell alone how a flower will make me feel. 

When shopping for flower with specific effects, there are a few different methods you can employ. One is to pick a strain you like and look up its lab results. Take note of the dominant terpenes and cannabinoid ratios, then find strains with a similar chemotype. Another much cooler way is to take the time to learn your terpenes and train your nose. The smell of a strain’s dominant terpenes will provide you with a much more accurate depiction of the high than labeling ever could. 

The beaches are closing, Americans can’t go to Europe, and no one wants to order a cute seasonal salad next to a two-gallon jug of hand sanitizer. This summer is clearly shot. We all have a ton of free time coming up, so use this time to educate yourself as a consumer. To get you on your way, here are some  “indica” strains with terpene profiles that produce a broad spectrum of effects, and which helped me handle the ups and downs, closings, openings, and then re-closings. 

Also, strains I’ve recently tried

22Red: Caramel Gelato  

Red22 is a new cannabis brand by Shavo Odadjian, who was not only the bassist of System of a Down but clearly knows his shit when it comes to weed. One of my favorites from this list, Caramel Gelato is sweet and fruity with a bright, fun high that’s as much of an upper as it is a downer.

What it’s best for: late mornings, early movies, and tricking yourself into having fun cleaning the house.

Available: California


Caliva: Alien OG and Venom OG

Here is a perfect example of two indicas with drastically different effects. 

Caliva’s Alien OG has a pungent, sour pine smell, meaning it has high levels of pinene which is a terpene that increases alertness and focus. The high reflects that, as there’s an energized overtone to its euphoric, mellow effects. 

What it’s best for: sex, editing articles, hanging out on Zoom.

Caliva’s Durban Poison falls at the spectrum with its fruity berry smell, berry chocolate flavor, and dark purple buds. As intoxicating as it looks, this flower produces a lackadaisical high that is comfortable and chill.

What it’s best for: menstrual pain, bedtime, dealing with boredom.


Lowell Farms: Strawberry Banana 

The name Strawberry Banana says it all. Fruity and flirty, Lowell Farms’ “indica” tastes exactly like strawberries and bananas. Euphoric and silly, the high is exciting, making everything and everyone around you feel more fun. 

What it’s best for: socially distanced socializing, playing with pets, daydreaming.


Aster Farms: Rainbow Chip

This spicy, herbal strain has a decadent and complex flavor, with an air of black cherries or chocolate. The high is focused and clear but also very intoxicating and heady, like an astronaut flying weightless in outer space. 

What it’s best for: after work, after sex, after hours.

Available: California


STIIIZY: Rosay

This floral, fruity strain from vape god STIIIZY’s new line of flower is more of an upper than a downer. When it comes to Rosay, the high is light enough that it doesn’t interfere with my productivity, but heavy enough to take the edge off the monotony of existence. 

What it’s best for: work, errands, motivation.

Available: California


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Smoking weed when you have Tourette Syndrome

In July 2019, Pennsylvania added Tourette syndrome to the list of conditions that qualify for medicinal cannabis use. Contributor Lorena Cupcake explains what Tourette syndrome is and looks at the place of cannabis when it comes to Tourette syndrome, using their own experiences as a medical cannabis patient.

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month is recognized from May 15th to June 15th each year, inspiring some of the estimated 100,000 people living with Tourette Syndrome nationwide to share their stories with the hashtag #TouretteAwarenessMonth. As a medical cannabis patient — qualified due to my diagnosis — I’m sharing my experiences managing my condition with cannabis to help fill in the gaps in a field with little published research.

The research of neurology is hindered by the limitations of non-invasive techniques; my brain may only reveal some secrets after I’m dead. I’m telling my story while I’m still here so the conversation on the future role of cannabis in treating Tourette Syndrome can grow and gain momentum, leading to more high-quality studies, a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes biological functions, and increased access to decriminalized cannabis. Currently, only seven states including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have specifically approved Tourette Syndrome as a condition for medicinal cannabis use.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Tourette syndrome (often shortened to TS, or Tourette) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations known as “tics.” Every human experiences involuntary actions; we cringe when embarrassed, yelp when startled, and reflexively snatch our hands away from hot surfaces. These types of unconscious reactions are governed by the nervous system, which is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). 

To understand why people with TS have tics, and how cannabis may help with both tics and related medical conditions, it’s important to know the difference between the two divisions and the role in their body.

Fight, flight, or freeze

The SNS is most famously associated with “fight, flight, or freeze,” three evolutionary responses to danger tracing back to the caveman days. While this system can keep us out of danger, it’s overactive in people with TS, causing uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, skin tingling, and chest tightness. The pressure builds unbearably until it’s released with an involuntary movement. Suddenly, there’s a wave of relief … until the pressure returns. 

It’s a cycle familiar to anyone with neurobiologically similar conditions like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (where the relief comes from giving in to a compulsion) or body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (which include conditions like Trichotillomania, a condition also called “hair-pulling disorder” by the Mayo Clinic). It’s important to realize that people with these medical issues aren’t simply lacking willpower; the basal ganglia, which would normally send inhibitory signals to suppress unwanted behaviors, isn’t functioning as effectively as it would in a neurotypical brain.

Pharmacological treatments for TS usually focus on suppressing dopamine, a messenger molecule your neurons use to initiate movements, both voluntary and not. I’ve personally had better results from cannabis, which has helped me learn to control and, more importantly, comfortably cope with tics through activation of the PNS.

Rest and digest

The parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, increases saliva production, and stimulates the digestive tract, is nicknamed the “rest and digest” response. Many techniques exist to help activate this system, including mindfulness, meditation, and stimulation of the vagus nerve. 

This 2017 Iranian journal details how the endocannabinoid system modulates the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter with receptors found throughout the parasympathetic nervous system with the ability to decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, and stimulate appetite. Rather than directly blocking tics, the right type of cannabis-based product puts me in a relaxed state where tics are less likely to occur, easier to control, and less uncomfortable to endure.

Recognizing the importance of accessibility to this treatment, numerous states have approved medical marijuana as a treatment for TS. The key to gaining acceptance nationwide may lie in raising awareness of the many biological similarities between a relatively-rare syndrome and more well-known disorders that are widely recognized to be effectively regulated with cannabis.

Cannabis and movement

Movement disorders are neurological conditions that affect the ability to control movement. There’s evidence that cannabinoids produced naturally by the body assist in motor control, and that dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system plays a role in the pathophysiology of movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

An anonymous survey conducted by the Prague Movement Disorder Centre found that one-quarter of the respondents had tried cannabis, with 45.9% of them going on to describe some sort of benefit. “Once I started taking CBD oil, I never had a sleepless night because I couldn’t relax my muscle groups,” septuagenarian Garry Griffin told CBD Denver following his participation in a University of Colorado study on the use of cannabidiol oil in patients with Parkinson’s Disease. “I’m not a stoner, but I am a proponent.”

The basal ganglia, mentioned earlier for its role in regulating unwanted movement, contains many endocannabinoid receptors. When cannabinoids bind with these receptors, they can help alleviate involuntary movements by assisting in the regulation of neurochemicals linked to signaling and movement.

Tics respond well to cannabis, with 82% of participants in a 1998 German study reporting improvement and one patient remaining symptom-free for an entire year. What’s missing is research that clearly explains the full role of cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in TS pathology and treatment, along with education, therapies, and medications that utilize those findings.

The potential of cannabis to calm spasticity, tremors, muscle tightness, muscle jerks, and pain associated with disorders like dystonia, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome is documented, allowing insight into the significant biological impact of marijuana on movement. Until larger and more through studies can take place, the positive experiences with cannabis reported by many people with Parkinson’s, TS, and other movement disorders suggests that we have more to learn about the role of the ECS in governing movement.

Life on the spectrum

Tourette Syndrome is a spectrum disorder or a collection of conditions that share traits and characteristics. There are only so many different regions of the brain; only a limited array of neurochemicals used by the nervous system. Brain abnormalities and neurotransmitter dysfunction will often express themselves in diverse ways, with symptoms that may be associated with a range of different conditions.

People on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum have much higher rates of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder than the general public. They’re also more likely to have anxiety, personality, and mood disorders. Even if someone doesn’t qualify for dual diagnosis, they may still experience some symptoms; the reverse can be true for those with a primary diagnosis other than TS. For example, up to 50% of children with OCD experience tics.

Although these conditions are often considered separate, they share underlying biological mechanisms that link them together, which explains why cannabis may be beneficial in regulating all of them.

Looking Forward

Over the past couple of decades I’ve been living with TS, I’ve used cannabis alongside cognitive-behavioral techniques to cope. Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT), a type of Habit-Reversal Training, teaches people with TS to identify the premonitory urges that come before a tic. They can then choose a low-impact and easy-to-disguise movement — like squeezing a fist— over tics that can be distressing, painful, or stigmatized.

Suppressing tics can be frustrating and physically uncomfortable, so I’m grateful to have a way to “get them out of my system” while minimizing unwanted attention and avoiding tics that might be dangerous or harmful. At the same time, daily cannabis use relaxes my body, reduces my anxiety, and balances my mood, making it easier to consciously activate my PNS and less stressful to manage my tics.

I’ve learned to accept that life on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum means that every symptom is a puzzle piece that helps me figure out how and why my body works as it does. Cannabis doesn’t just improve my quality of life; it helps me gain insight into, and control over, the two divisions of my central nervous system. 

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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You can laugh, but CBD Pre-rolls are the future

The first time I encountered a CBD pre-roll, I was at work. As a writer for a cannabis lifestyle website, brands would send all kinds of products our way, the bulk of which contained high levels of THC. This was back in early 2017 when CBD had just begun taking off and the idea that you would smoke something with less than 20% THC—let alone none at all—sounded absurd. As we examined the cigarette-like filter and packaging, my coworker laughed. “The only thing that’s good for is wasting money,” he said. 

I was inclined to agree. What’s the point of smoking something that doesn’t get you high? Why not roll up some dried rose petals or oregano and call it a day? Still, I was curious. So, I took the pack home with me and lit one up on my back porch. I smoked the whole thing and waited. And waited. When I still couldn’t feel any noticeable difference in my body or mind twenty minutes later, I assumed my coworker was right. CBD pre-rolls had no place in a stoner’s life. 

It would be another two weeks before I tried again, this time in the anxiety-charged aftermath of a deeply upsetting phone call. As I puffed away, I could feel a wash of calm gaining momentum, slowing my torrent of dark thoughts down to a trickle by the time the ash reached the filter. I wasn’t a ray of sunshine by any means, but I was calm and clear-headed. I realized there might be something to these high-less joints after all. 

A word on myths and benefits

If you’ve tried a CBD product before and didn’t feel a damn thing, you’re not alone. With so much misinformation out there, it’s hard to know what dose you should be taking or if what you bought actually contains any CBD at all. It doesn’t help either that the conversation around CBD has vacillated between two extremes: either it’s god’s pain-relieving, anxiety-crushing, sleep-inducing gift to earth or snake oil designed to fool the unassuming masses. 

As with most things that cause such rancorous debate, the truth lies somewhere in the murky middle. In terms of hard scientific evidence, the FDA approved a CBD-rich, cannabis-derived drug after research proved it to be effective at treating severe forms of epilepsy. According to a comprehensive WHO report, CBD could help wean addicts off of opioids, cocaine, and tobacco (albeit much more research is needed). 

Very, very early research shows CBD may even assist antibiotics in killing off increasingly resilient bacteria. But before you go stocking up for the apocalypse, know that much more research needs to be conducted before we can understand what dose or frequency is required. 

That’s the clinical stuff. For our purposes, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest CBD can help alleviate stress and mild aches and pains. In my personal experience, CBD feels most akin to an over-the-counter pain reliever or supplement. When I feel perfectly fine, it does nothing for me, but if I’m in mild pain or discomfort, it can do wonders. 

Not that it’s all about feeling something. Noticeable psychoactive or physical effects are well and good — that’s what most of us have traditionally looked for in a THC experience. But there’s something to be said for subtle shifts and adjustments. For instance, I like to consume some CBD along with a second cup of coffee to feel a boost of focus and energy — minus the heart palpitations. 

When done right, I tend to notice less what CBD is adding to my experience and more what it’s taking away.

Why CBD pre-rolls?

For all the CBD-infused products I’ve tried and enjoyed, I love CBD pre-rolls the most because they’re highly shareable and you cannot mess it up. I can share them with my grandma and THC-fearing girlfriend without fear they’ll overdo it and have a bad experience. And unlike edibles, which involve a lot of guessing and waiting around, pre-rolls allow you to self-titrate in real-time. 

For more experienced smokers like myself, they can quickly balance out a high that’s taken a turn for the jittery. I’m not alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gleefully watched my stoner friends feel the subtle, calming shift and enjoy it despite themselves.

All of that said, you have to do your research to make sure what you’re buying is legitimate. Filling your Amazon cart with anything and everything labeled “CBD” is not going to cut it. The simplest way to find reputable products? Visit a licensed dispensary. While requirements do vary state to state, you’re far more likely to find lab-tested products in a dispensary than from a random online retailer. 

If you don’t live in a legal state, one hack is to look for brands that sell CBD pre-rolls in addition to ones with THC. Going through the arduous process of getting licensed to sell THC products is a good indication they’ve put in the effort to sell reputable CBD products as well. 

A few of our pre-roll recommendations 

No matter which route you go, hemp CBD and high-CBD pre-rolls offer a gentler, wider path for more people to enter the weed world and experience all the benefits the plant has to offer. Below, check out some of the CBD brands we’ve come to love. 

Alive & Kicking 

Alive and Kicking is one brand that sells low-THC, high-CBD pre-rolls in dispensaries in addition to hemp-derived CBD pre-rolls by mail. They come in $26 packs of 14, and the cigarette-like joints are so tiny you could easily smoke one to yourself. I find them adorable and very convenient for a quick smoke break, and even my girlfriend — who is the champion of weed lightweights — loves them. 

Price: $26

Available: Nationwide (pre-rolls with THC only sold in California)

Her Highness

I’m a fan of the single CBD pre-roll and lighter kit sold by Her Highness. (Full disclosure: I was recently hired to write their product descriptions and tried just about all of their products in the process.) For $15, you get one extra-long pre-roll and a reusable gold lighter. I would like to see a CBD pre-roll pack from them since I’m not about to buy a new lighter every time I want a pre-roll, but in terms of a gift for your lightweight friends, it’s pretty ideal. 

Price: $15

Available: Nationwide

East Fork and Friends 

Alternatively, if you want the most bang for your buck and don’t mind a little elbow grease, East Fork and Friends sells premium craft hemp online for $95 an ounce. That’ll leave you with 56 half-gram joints for about $1.60 apiece. Not bad. 

Price: $95

Available: Nationwide

Henry’s Original 

If you’re still skeptical about boarding the hemp CBD train, may I suggest trying high-CBD pre-rolls? For a balanced mind-body buzz, try Henry’s Original. It’s a reputable brand with a range of high-CBD pre-rolls that deliver a gentle yet still psychoactive experience. 

Price: Varies

Available: California

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How to find the Best Weed Gummies in a Sea of Sameness

If you’ve been to a dispensary lately or perused our edibles listings at all, then you know weed gummies are booming. All of the bright packages and kaleidoscope of flavors could lead you to believe that infused candy possibilities are endless. But as a gummy connoisseur, let me tell you: most weed gummies are virtually indistinguishable. Textures, shapes, and flavors aside, if they contain 10 milligrams of THC distillate per piece, they’re effectively the same.

Why? Distillate is cannabis oil that’s been stripped down to one specific cannabinoid — typically THC or CBD. You can dab it, vaporize it, mix it into topical oils and creams or add it to edibles like gummies. It’s the concentrate of choice for most weed gummy brands because it’s flavorless, potent, consistent, and relatively easy to obtain. 

Distillates in gummies and the one-note effect

With distillate, you can pack a lot of THC or CBD into a gummy without muddying the color or adding a trace of grassy flavor. You also don’t have to worry about the effects changing from batch to batch, even if you purchase your distillate from a variety of wholesalers. That’s because you’re only dealing with one cannabinoid as opposed to the source flower’s natural blend of terpenes and major and minor cannabinoids, all of which can vary widely from harvest to harvest. 

With distillate, you end up missing out on the entourage effect, or the unique high you experience when you consume the full spectrum of cannabis compounds. You’re probably familiar with classifying strains as sativa, indica, or hybrid, but it’s really these varying levels of cannabinoids and terpenes that determine whether a high is more energetic, sleepy, or buzzy and balanced. 

It’s no wonder then why pure THC distillate can end up feeling one-note. This downside also applies to new users who face a higher risk of paranoid meltdowns without other terpenes and cannabinoids to buffer the intoxicating effects of THC. 

What to look for in the perfect gummy

This isn’t to say all weed gummies are a lost cause. There are some THC-only gummies I’m quite fond of — namely Elefante‘s watermelon gummies and Flurish‘s sour apple variety. The problem is when you try pack after pack of chemically indistinguishable gummies expecting a different outcome. That, my friends, is the definition of gummy-induced insanity. To level up your gummy game, look for any one of these three things when scanning ingredient lists and packaging. 

A ratio of cannabinoids  

Remember what I said about THC-only gummies feeling one-note? Adding CBD or another cannabinoid to a THC gummy can fix this and make for a more interesting or targeted experience — even if both the THC and CBD extracts are stripped-down distillates. 

More and more edible brands are going this route to differentiate themselves while still reaping all of the aforementioned benefits of using distillate. For low-dose consumers like myself, the explosion of gummies featuring a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD has been a godsend. I’ve found these balanced highs to be infinitely more soothing than an edible with either THC or CBD alone. 

But it isn’t just about tempering the experience for low-dose users like myself. There is some evidence that low doses of CBD can actually enhance a THC high. If you’ve ever taken a 5 milligram CBD gummy after getting too stoned only to find yourself even more faded, then you know what I’m talking about. So mega-stoners take note: a little bit of CBD may actually give you more bang for your buck. 

Cannabinoid-rich recommendation: PLUS Gummies 

PLUS has been at the forefront of the weed gummy game for years, but they’ve really taken it to the next level with their effects-based formulations. Whether you’re looking for a gummy to help you relax or feel uplifted, they have a specific ratio for that. It also helps that the desired effect is printed right on the package. 

Available: California 

Find more PLUS products on Weedmaps

Added terpenes 

Similar to a ratio of cannabinoids, added terpenes can dictate whether your gummy high takes a turn for the energetic, buzzed, or sleepy. Terpenes are organic compounds that give cannabis and other plants their aroma and flavor, but they also interact with cannabinoids to influence your high. Linalool, for example, is also found in lavender and can send your high in a more relaxing direction, while limonene adds a citrusy aroma and a boost of energy. 

Bottom line: when gummy brands add terpenes to their confections, they’re selectively adding back compounds found in the plant naturally for a more tailored, unique experience. So even when THC is the sole cannabinoid present, the terpene blends make for a distinct, purposeful high.

Best terpene recommendation: Kiva’s Camino Gummies 

I’m obsessed with every flavor of Kiva’s Camino gummies, but the Sparkling Pear variety is my all-time favorite. With 2 milligrams THC and 6 milligrams CBD per piece and a custom blend of terpenes, it’s the weed equivalent of a glass of wine for me— minus the headache. You can eat one for a light, social high or double up for a full-body buzz. 

I also love that I can share them with my super-cautious friends without fear they’ll slip into a paranoid nosedive. For those with higher tolerances, Kiva has a range of 5 milligram THC gummies that are equally excellent with targeted effects. 

Available: California

Find more Kiva products on Weedmaps 

Full-spectrum cannabis oil 

While full-spectrum oils may result in an experience that’s hard to replicate precisely batch to batch, it does mean you can expect a far more nuanced high. That’s because full-spectrum oils are designed to retain as much of the original plant’s natural cannabinoids and terpenes as possible. 

You can count on these types of gummies having earthy undertones, but in my humble opinion, it only adds to the complexity of the flavor. If you’re looking to replicate the high you get from smoking flower, these are the kind of gummies you should look for. 

Full-spectrum recommendation: Rose Delights 

As previously mentioned, full-spectrum is the way to go if you don’t mind earthy flavors and somewhat inconsistent highs. Rose Delights fits squarely in this category while delivering on the complex, delightful experience front. To be clear, their confections are more Turkish delight than drugstore-variety gummy, which should only be a problem if you’re opposed to feeling fancy.

Each 5-milligram serving is small enough and tasty enough for high-dose users to take down a whole box. Meanwhile, low-dose users can play it safe and stick with one. 

As with all edibles, you can always eat more but you can’t eat less once you’ve started. Newbies, begin with 5 milligrams THC or less and gradually work your way up until you find your perfect dose. Remember, no one’s ever called the cops on themselves after taking too little. 

Available: California


Featured image by R+R Medicinals/Unsplash

The post How to find the Best Weed Gummies in a Sea of Sameness appeared first on Weedmaps News.