Lab-Shopping & Inflated THC: Is Your Product What You Think?

Cannabis testing facilities have proposed many issues since industries started; and its questionable how useful they are. A current and growing issue to plague the industry is that producers are lab-shopping between these facilities, to find the ones that give the results they want. What does this mean for you as the buyer?

Third party testing facilities

When it comes to weed markets, there are two circumstances when testing facilities are used, and the rules for the two are different; in fact, one doesn’t have rules at all. This is because the difference is in whether the products come from a legal market or black market. For example, when dealing with a delta-8 product, lab results come from a different testing facility then a weed product from a regulated company.

That’s because delta-8 products aren’t generally regulated by state, although there are some exceptions. If a state regulates them, then this no longer applies. For the majority that do not, or which outwardly illegalized cannabinoid products; then any testing done, isn’t mandated. If a company isn’t mandated to do testing, it means its doing it for your benefit; or rather, your perceived benefit. And it’s not going to use a regulated lab, because its not a regulated company. This often results in the use of bogus third-party testing facilities.

However, that’s the unregulated market. The regulated market has specifications on these matters; laws that companies must follow in order to remain compliant. These companies aren’t telling you they tested the products to make you happy, they’re doing it because they can’t legally sell their products, if they do not. As such, testing facilities in the legal market are also regulated.

Specifics of product labeling

If you’re thinking that only unregulated markets have issues with third-party testing though, you’re very much mistaken. Not only are plenty of labs happy to flub results for the benefit of a company; but companies are now shopping around for labs, in order to find ones that are willing to give inflated THC results to make the products seem stronger, and therefore, better. Higher THC does not relate to quality, of course; but for many people it’s the thing they’re looking at when buying a product, and these companies know that.

Recent warning for companies

The level of THC in a product has nothing to do with the quality of the product. It doesn’t mean there won’t be heavy metals or pesticides, or that it’s a desired strain, or that the other components like terpenes and flavonoids, will be at the right levels. All it means is that the product has a high level of THC; and for many people, this is the main issue when shopping for weed products.

In a recent MJBizDaily article, this issue was expanded on. In fact, in California, its such a problem that regulators already sent out warnings to labs licensed in the state, to report only accurate results; or face some kind of repercussions, like license retraction. MJBizdaily apparently was able to get a copy of the letter sent to labs on September 14th, by the state’s Department of Cannabis Control’s Lab Division. The letter stipulates that new random onsite testing will soon occur, for products already tested; as a means to ensure the correct results were reported.

As per the letter, “Inaccurately reporting results and falsification of data will result in action against your license, up to and including revocation.” It continued that “It may also lead to recall and/or embargo of the cannabis or cannabis products.” It stipulated that if Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) results don’t match standard lab results, that this could result in a need to relabel products. This possibility could be costly for companies; but at least doesn’t mean license revocation.

According to DCC Director Nicole Elliott in an email to MJBizdaily, “Randomly testing off-the-shelf products will continue to provide consumers with the confidence that the cannabis products they purchase have been tested and those test results are accurate.”

What does lab-shopping mean?

The cannabis world is a highly competitive place, and this means that companies are constantly fighting to be at the top of it. Since its known that many buyers are mainly looking for high THC levels, companies work to accommodate that desire, by offering high-THC products. Even when this means saying the products are higher in THC than they actually are.

Lab shopping implies finding a lab to give desired results
Lab shopping implies finding a lab to give desired results

Companies have been reported to go ‘lab-shopping’ in order to find labs willing to bend rules, and say that the tested material is higher in THC than it actually is. Often a company will send its product to multiple labs, and take the results of the company that offers the highest THC, or most favorable results; whatever that means to them. Companies often then end up partnering with the labs that give the results they like the best.

The idea that this exists at all, is indicative of an industry in which regulators really aren’t able to regulate. Especially as reports go back to 2019, when Leafly covered the story in the first place. At that time, it was reported that an audit in Oregon found 43% of companies were using at least three labs; an indication in and of itself, of lab-shopping.

In an MJBizDaily article from last year, industry officials said that growers and manufacturers are likely to keep up this behavior of shopping around for labs to give inflated THC amounts, in the absence of state-run labs to oversee private operations. As of right now, its not standard for states to operate labs for verification. California’s attempt to fight this is evidenced by the DCC letters, and the plan to retest material onsite to see if results match. However the question looms of how far-reaching this can go. In reality, the DCC is still limited in that it can’t test everything that comes through.

The MJBizDaily article quoted Jill Ellsworth, the CEO of Willow Industries out of Denver, Colorado on the topic. She stated, “On the lab side, inflated potency results that are not accurate are happening everywhere.” She continued that it would be a great idea if states actually audited third-party, private labs; which is what California is essentially attempting to do now. Except California is doing onsite testing, its not setting up its own state-run lab.

Ellsworth thinks consumer safety should outweigh the desire for companies to provide high-THC products; especially in light of the issues related to the introduction of high THC products, and the resulting issues of THC overdoses. In this sense, the issue of higher-THC products in general, is – at least partly – the fault of legal producers; who are all competing to sell the highest THC products.

What doesn’t come up in the articles I’ve read on this topic, is the idea of why the labs do this. Sure, it could be a measure of their own competition between each other, just to get regular business. But often when an illegal deed like this is done, it’s done for payment. The logic answer here is that not only are companies lab-shopping to find a lab that will accommodate their desires for reporting inflated THC levels, but they’re likely paying in some way to get the job done.

Lab results indicate the percentage of THC in a product
Lab results indicate the percentage of THC in a product

Is there a way to end lab-shopping?

We’re now left with a legal industry, which is just as confounding in terms of the illicit industry, about what exactly is in a product. And this despite the fact we’re supposed to have product transparency in the legal market. For as ‘clean’ as it’s advertised to be, in comparison to the super ‘dirty’ black market; the amount of issues coming out indicates this is not true at all. In fact, not only are there issues with things like heavy metals, and pesticides; but the reality is, we can’t trust any lab results we do get.

There are a couple hard realities concerning improvement with lab-shopping. The first is that the general public doesn’t know. No matter how many educational programs, or signs, or warnings are out there; its unlikely that the population at large will truly understand the issue. Which means they’re not going to put effort into picking through products to find the one with more honest lab results.

Secondly, it was the desires of the population at large that drove these actions in the first place. Maybe its not all about THC, but lets be honest, weed has gotten more intense; and a lot of people like that. As long as there is a desire for the products (and there is, or this wouldn’t happen); companies will do what they have to, to provide what people want to buy.

Beyond all this, the ability to police it all, isn’t possible. The legal industry can only attempt to regulate the legal industry; and a huge percentage operates as a black market, which cannot be tamed by regulatory laws. Considering no legal market has gotten this under control yet; its unlikely there’s a real workable answer. Plus, watching all governments’ complete inability to control the cannabinoid and vape markets; indicates its rather powerless at controlling this industry in general.


Lab-shopping is certainly not ideal, but it seems to be prevalent throughout the weed industry. Perhaps the only way it will stop, is when people decide they don’t want those products anymore.

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High Times, Sold!

One of the most well-known brands of the cannabis news and reporting world, is the publication High Times. High Times has remained one of the most recognizable names in the world of weed, including continually hosting its own cannabis competition. Recent reports now indicate that the company was sold – sort of.

When High Times started

These days there are plenty of weed publications around (*wink wink). In America, there is no longer a specific fear related to publishing basic content on drugs like cannabis and hallucinogens. This doesn’t mean such drugs can be universally pushed, but it does mean that the press has leeway to cover stories without an issue. It wasn’t always like that.

High Times came out for the first time in 1974, when cannabis was a 100% banned substance in America; subsequent to its illegalization via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The whole process to illegalize it started in 1937, just after prohibition ended. It was, in fact, spearheaded by one of the same characters that brought us the horribly inept policies of prohibition, Henry J. Anslinger.

By 1974, when the publication came into being, there was fundamentally no conversation on the topic. There was no medical market anywhere, no recreational market, and no research market. Weed was essentially dead, and cops were more than happy to make arrests for almost anything related to it. It wasn’t exactly a good time for cannabis press agents. Nonetheless, in 1974, Tom Forçade, after several failed projects geared at reaching a broader counterculture movement, started the magazine as a joke on Playboy. He used weed to replace sex for the joke.

High grade cannabis flower

The history of High Times

The publication was originally funded with illegal money from cannabis sales; but it quickly gained recognition, grew its audience, and added staff to about 40 members. Unfortunately, Forçade saw little of what would become of his empire, committing suicide in 1978. Regardless, his baby soldiered on. In fact, despite the anti-cannabis climate, the magazine never failed to put out an issue in more than 40 years.

For many years, High Times struggled as a small publication in a war zone; published by Trans High Corporation (THC – get it?). THC was the parent company from the inception until 2016. Much of its ability to prevail is credited to lawyer Michael John Kennedy, who served as general council for the publication until he died in 2016. It seems his death was the catalyst for much change in the company.

By 1987, the magazine had a circulation of 500,000 copies per issue, which put it in competition with bigger publications like Rolling Stone. In 1988, under new editorial leadership, High Times dropped pushing harder drugs (something it did before), and began to focus solely on cannabis. That year, the publication also created the Cannabis Cup, a competition to judge and place different cannabis flowers. Though it started in Amsterdam, the competition became popular in the US as well. High Times likewise got involved on the activist end, and created its own High Times Freedom Fighters.

In 2018 High Times was acquired for $42 million by a group of investors led by Oreva Capital Corp, whose CEO is also Hightimes Holding current CEO, Adam Levin. Hightimes Holding took over from Trans High Corporation in 2016. The company was always privately owned; but soon after this it held a round of funding and announced a desire to go public. More on that in a minute.

Starting in 2020, the company took another leap, and began obtaining its own cannabis retail locations. It owns several different cannabis brands, along with running at least eight dispensary locations. Also that year, the company did suspend the publication briefly because of the coronavirus.

Sold once again

High Times already changed its leadership and ownership in past years. So, technically, it hasn’t been the High Times of the 80’s or 90’s, for awhile. In a new move, a recent report states that the intellectual property of the company, has once again changed hands in a new deal. And this time, the company is using the deal to go public.

Cannabis competition
Cannabis competition

On September 7th, 2023, Forbes Magazine reported that Lucy Scientific Discovery Inc., is set to take over the intellectual property rights of the company. Lucy is a psychotropics company, based out of Canada, which trades under LSDI on Nasdaq. The deal includes not just the already existent licensing agreements for the publication brand, but also for the Cannabis Cup. Lucy will not, however, take over production, sale, or retail services; which remain as they were. The deal is meant as a way to get around restrictions for plant-touching businesses on Nasdaq.

In terms of what this means, ‘intellectual property’ refers to “intangible assets owned and legally protected by a company or individual from outside use or implementation without consent. An intangible asset is a non-physical asset that a company or person owns,” according to Investopedia. Intellectual property therefore refers not to anything physical, but to ideas.

While Lucy will own the intellectual property, it reportedly will license back to High Times, its ability to manufacture THC products and run retail operations. The fee for this, is $1 million yearly. Should the federal government legalize cannabis, this amount is increased to $2 million yearly. As a part of the deal, Lucy will provide 19.9% of shares back to High Times, and pay High Times semi-annually for the next five years.

Levin pointed out via the Forbes article that “As plant touching can’t list on a U.S. Exchange today, this was the only viable solution to provide a true liquidity option to High Times shareholders. Being compliant in a still prohibitive environment is a moving target, but it’s something we take seriously.”

He continued, “Legislation today requires segmentation even interstate, let alone internationally, so this took more work than it would have if we sold tomatoes, for example. That said, we believe based on the way we’ve structured this agreement that we will maximize value for both organizations shareholders.”

Levin also made the point that High Times does remain High Times; even if the brand as a whole, has new ownership. As far as the public goes, its not meant to change anything. The deal has not officially gone through as of yet; but is expected to soon. We’ll have to wait and see if anything does actually change.

High Times intellectual property acquired
High Times intellectual property acquired

Is the publication still relevant?

I grew up with this magazine as the backdrop to the weed world in the 90’s. Everyone knew what it was, and there was only one of it. I remember reading the magazine’s description of different cannabis flowers, and not totally understanding it at the time. That was long before I became a hardcore fan. I don’t remember any similar publications from that time.

These days, there are tons of weed publications. High Times is the most deeply rooted in longstanding weed culture, but it has a lot of competition. As legalization efforts increase, so do publication numbers; though many show up, just to fade out quickly. The majority simply push along headlines, and don’t involve deep research; which is different from the more intense reporting that High Times used to be associated with.

High Times has changed hands, and isn’t quite what it used to be; but it still offers some of the more in-depth coverage in the weed world. Whereas it once ruled fully, its now a part of a bigger publication market, for which it has name value, but is otherwise one of many. Some say that quality has already been compromised, since the publication was bought out before.


High Times is one of the most recognized names in weed reporting. It’s hard to say what – if anything – will change now that intellectual property is owned by a new company. In a competitive world, things tend to change quickly, and High Times is doing what it feels it needs to, to keep ahead in the game.

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Which US Cities Have the Most Cannabis Dispensaries? 

Weed stores are pretty much a normal thing in most of the United States at this point. With more than 75 percent of the country having legalized cannabis to some extent, it’s only natural that we’re beginning to see dispensaries popping up seemingly everywhere. As a matter of fact, a popular headline circulating a few years ago described how Colorado had more pot shops than Starbucks and McDonald’s stores: 491, 392, and 208, respectively.

It’s fun to think about, and it got me wondering what states and cities in the US have the most cannabis dispensaries overall. Let’s take a closer look at the stats.

Cannabis legalization in the states

Although the use and possession of cannabis is still federally prohibited, and cannabis remains a schedule 1 narcotic on the DEA’s list of controlled substances, legal weed at the state level has been around for almost three decades now. As of September 2023, thirty-eight states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical cannabis, while 23 states, including D.C., have legalized recreational use.  

California broke barriers becoming the first state to legalize medical cannabis back in 1996. Lesser known, is that Arizona also passed a medical cannabis ballot measure that same year, but it was rendered ineffective on a technicality that wasn’t fixed until 2010. By the year 2000, seven more states passed medical cannabis measures: Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Maine, and Hawaii. From then on, it spread like wildfire and now, 76% of the US offers medical cannabis to their residents.  

In 2012, Oregon and Colorado legalized recreational cannabis for adults over the age of 21, another first for the United States. They are now the first states to make major strides in psychedelic drug reform as well. Again, numerous states began to follow suit with weed legalization. Minnesota is the most recent state to go green, with a bill signed into law on May 30 of this year, going into effect on August 1st.  

Most dispensaries per capita  

So, since most of the US is “legal”, what are the nation’s most saturated markets? It’s hard to say, as different sources provide slightly different figures on where to find the most dispensaries. But it seems the few states that consistently come up in the top five are Oregon, Oklahoma, Colorado, Montana, and Alaska. A report published in 2020 claims that Oregon has about 16.5 dispensaries per 100,000 residents, followed by Oklahoma at 15.6, and Montana at 15.1.  

Oregon has always been weed-friendly

Per the report, Colorado (14.1), Alaska (12.7), Washington (6.2), New Mexico (5.2), Nevada (2.4), Michigan (1.7) and California (1.6) round out the top 10. When it comes to cities with the most dispensaries, we have Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the top spot with 48.7 dispensaries per 100,000 residents. Then Missoula, Montana (36.2), Medford, Oregon (34), Pueblo, Colorado (33.2), Eugene, Oregon (32.2) and Denver, Colorado (29.8). 

A recent article I found says that Oklahoma has moved to the top spot, surpassing Oregon, but I couldn’t find any numbers or data to support this claim. Another article I read says that “Among states with legalized medical cannabis, Oklahoma had the largest number of dispensary licenses as of summer of 2021,” which makes more sense when comparing it only to states with medical, as opposed to lumping it in with adult-use states.  

One thing that none of these stats takes into account are illegal states that sell “alternative” cannabinoid flowers. While these products are marketed as hemp, and the stores are presented as smoke shops, head shops, and apothecaries, we know that it is often just regular pot being sold in what feels like a dispensary, thanks to the THCA loophole. It’s impossible to say how many of these stores exist.

“Dispensary deserts” 

At glance, it seems like there are a decent number of dispensaries in the US… and there are. Once more, I found it difficult to find specifics, but the most recent data from 2020 states that there are 7,490 dispensaries total, and it’s safe to estimate that number is substantially higher now that quite a few more states have legalized.  

So, we have a decent number of pot shops and delivery services, but the problem is that most of them are concentrated in just a few select areas. This can be due to several different factors including local zoning regulations, city or county tax rates, conservative pushback in some areas, and the list goes on.

For example, you would think a state like California is just littered with dispensaries, but that’s not really the case. The golden state only has about 1,400 dispensaries for their almost 40 million residents. That only works out to 36.7 dispensaries per million people. And they’re not as accessible as one would think. When I lived in the high desert, there was not a single dispensary out there. I had to drive at least 1 hour away to the Coachella Valley, a region that has a pretty high density of pot shops for how small it is – a total of 76 dispensaries for their total population of about 370,000, in an area that spans only 45 miles.

Coachella Valley, California

It’s comparable to food deserts in a sense, which are defined as “areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food,” – be that grocery stores, farmers markets, and so on. Although food is arguably more important than pot, some people do need cannabis to maintain a reasonable and functional quality of life, and having no options to buy it legally does nothing but bolster illicit markets.

Final thoughts

It’s wonderful that we live in a time when we can walk into a store and buy some pot, or have it delivered straight to our homes. Although numbers are all over the place, it does give us a better idea for what cities and states are the most weed-friendly. Regardless, one key takeaway here is that despite how many dispensaries we do have, there are quite a few steps to take in order to make cannabis more accessible for everyone who needs it.

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California Trying to Root Out Illegal Vape Providers

The vape industry is only getting bigger, yet most of the products within it, are illegal. In a new move, California just filed suit against nine vape companies; seemingly in an effort to root out illegal providers. Will this work?

This article is the express opinion of the writer in relation to California’s new lawsuit.

California vs nine vape companies

On Friday, September 8th, California, via Attorney General Rob Bonta, filed a suit against nine different companies that Bonta says sell illegal vape products. All the products are inhalable, come from online sales platforms, and are unregulated. California does allow recreational cannabis, as per ballot measure Proposition 64 in 2016; and the state has a medical legalization since Proposition 215, in 1996.

Bonta said the nine companies targeted by the lawsuit, also violate Proposition 65; because of failure to include certain warnings on the products. This relates to delta-9, and a terpene called beta-Myrcene; both natural compounds of the cannabis plant; neither of which was ever definitively tied to reproductive harm, or developmental delays, the topics of the warnings. The suit also alleges that the companies are involved in unfair business practices.

Then Bonta went on to make a statement, that perhaps explains this California vape situation better; so long as you can read between the lines. He said, “I want to be clear: The sales of industrial hemp products that do not comply with California law, and the illegal sale of inhalable hemp in California will not be tolerated.

The dangers of these products must be communicated for sale to the public, and the sale of all industrial hemp inhalable products must cease altogether. The California Department of Justice will continue to protect the legitimate businesses who are operating responsibly in this space. There is no room for illegal inhalable hemp products in our state.” 

What’s really going on here?

California filed suit against nine vape companies

So, California will continue to protect its legitimate businesses, and try to root out as many illegal vape providers as possible. This suit isn’t about finding a few companies that are deviating a bit; its about trying to get rid of black market retailers. The real issue Bonta has is not fear for your health; regardless of all those warnings he wants to make sure you see. It’s fear for tax revenue, and control of the market. Black market = no government revenue.

One mistake in this, is using the concept of ‘inhalable.’ Isn’t all flower inhalable? Obviously he doesn’t mean to get rid of the flower market, right? The guy is totally cool if you want to light hemp on fire and breathe it in, which is inhalation as well. No, he’s not trying to get rid of that. He’s only talking about vaporizers, and only ones sold outside of regulation. It’s an attack on the vape market, which is known to be a hugely illicit market. So big, that the government has tried to stop it in several ways, already.

A couple years ago the federal government tried to institute a vape mail ban; which was so unpopular it fizzled out. It also greatly targeted the company Juul, even though there isn’t a death or injury suit related. How? With the line that Juul created a vape epidemic by marketing to children; a nonsensical argument on many levels. Like, 1) The idea that vapes are what introduce knowledge of tobacco to kids, is insanely short-sighted; I mean, consider Hollywood. 2) No one is solely targeting the group least likely to have their own money for products. And 3) Who cares if it keeps kids from SMOKING??

The company, and similar campaigns, are used to induce fear of kids vaping. Its not a relief that those who choose a tobacco product, are more likely to inhale vapor than smoke. Rather, a fear that this method of inhalation will somehow cause the undoing of society, despite it being an alternative to the actually death-casing smoking. It’s so beyond logic, that its scary. Nicotine gummies almost made it out last year, but the FDA squashed it; in fear your child might want one. Nevermind that they 100% eliminate the issue of inhalation.

Logic time? Last I checked, pretty much every beer can looks like a soda can. And those pink and blue opioid pills sure look like little candies. Do you think someone actively ODing will make sure the safety lock is utilized correctly? Every US government allows the sale of opioids, while concurrently collecting money from opioid settlements on behalf of their people. This is already a massive contradiction when it comes to our health and well being. But heaven forbid you switch to vaping from smoking, or swallow an edible without having read a warning about issues that were never confirmed as related.

Cigarette taxes

The UK instituted a program to get smokers to switch to vaping; starting with the likes of pregnant women. It’s still talking about all kinds of risks, but it has conceded enough to allow this to happen. What’s the stipulation? The vape has to come from the government, whether directly, or through an approved source. As in, its cool to vape, but only if its for sure a legal sale. This might look like the government being wary of its residents’ health; but if you read between the lines… its really about reining in a wildly big illicit vape industry.

Because of the fallout with big tobacco, nearly every country allows the sale of cigarettes, but puts exponentially high taxes on them. These are the same sin taxes applied to cannabis products. These taxes are high enough to often make government entities, the biggest benefactors of the cigarette industry.

Some examples? Mexico has a 70% tax rate as of 2020, per its government; in 2021 the tax rate averaged 80.4% across Europe per TaxFoundation; and the UK has had as high as 82.16% on cigarette products in 2015 according to WHO data. The US, for its part, brought in $12.9 billion in cigarette tax money in just 2019, according to

California suit is likely related to inability of government to collect taxes on vape products
California suit is likely related to inability of government to collect taxes on vape products

Governments seem happy for people to continue smoking, as long as they pay the high cost. On the other hand, vaping created another tobacco option to standard cigarettes; and one not regulated, and therefore outside of government tax reach. Governments seem generally unhappy for their populations to take this option. Even though vaping has overall shown to be way healthier than smoking, (except in a few freak cases that deal with certain additives); we’re continually fed fear on vaping, even as it gives an alternative to smoking.

Size of illicit vape market

It’s one thing to talk about something, and another thing to measure it. So lets try to attach some numbers to all this. Remember, illicit markets don’t report to governments, so we have no official data on them, or what they bring in. Everything we have, is estimates from different governments or research organizations. And sometimes its just pieces put together, and they don’t always match. It often feels like we’re very specifically not told anything. Think of what California just did with the vape lawsuit; yet it didn’t mention this as a legal market vs illegal market issue.

According to Grand View Research, the global market for e-cigarettes and vapes in 2022, was valued at $22.45 billion; although what this includes exactly is hard to say. We do know it separates vape sales from cigarette sales. Whatever it exactly refers to, this market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30% from 2023-2030. According to that company, it was worth about $6 billion in 2020, so its already grown greatly in the last few years.

In terms of the UK, a recent Convenience Store article, reports on a UK study. The study was run by Japanese Tobacco International (a tobacco product manufacturer, not a research agency). The group tested purchasing in the UK, and found that more than half of the 186 tested locations, sold illegal cigarette and vape products. Said Ian Howel, the company’s fiscal and regulatory affairs manager, “Unfortunately, the illegal sale of tobacco and now vapes seems to be everywhere and it’s very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.”

This doesn’t estimate the size of the total illegal tobacco market or vape market in the country; but it indicates they’re huge. A March 2023 article from the Daily Mail, which quotes a Trading Standard (government agency) report, claims that up to 1/3 of vapes sold in the UK could be illicit.

This is in part due to calling anything that does not 100% meet regulation, as illicit. Even if its that something lacks a warning; or is slightly bigger than the regulated size; or was made legally, but sold illegally. According to Better Retailing, about 138 million disposable vapes are sold every year in the UK. If Trading Standard’s numbers are correct, it means up to 45 million are illegal products. And that could be a low estimate if over half of retailers are willing to sell illegal products.

US illicit vape market

In terms of the US, there are a million fear tactic articles about illicit vapes, but very little information released. I have two theories on this. 1) The government doesn’t actually want you to know how little control it has. If it confirms the black market is bigger than regulated markets; its saying it can’t control it. 2) The other aspect of hiding this information, is that if use numbers are very high; it means there are very few actual incidences of danger involved. By never giving numbers; this allows entities to drive fear by talking about possible danger, while never answering for the frequency/infrequency of this danger.

A June article in NBC sheds more light on the situation. According to the article, there are over 9,000 electronic nicotine devices sold in the US, which is triple what it was in 2020. Most are thought to be disposable vapes, originating from China. NBC claims these numbers come from The Associated Press. The article goes on to explain that regulators refuse as many as 99% of product applications for e-cigarette products; which means only a few of the over 9,000, are approved and regulated.

UK has large illicit tobacco market
UK has large illicit tobacco market

It could be a nearly 100% illegal market, as anything not approved by the FDA is illegal. As per the article, 40% of the e-cig market in 2022, was disposables. Disposables are all illegal, so at least 40% of the market is automatically illegal. Considering the lack of approvals, its still a majority black market, even outside of disposables. NBC then quotes analytical company IRI, which says the total retail value of the vape industry was $7 billion in 2022. IRI claims over 5,800 different vape products are sold, a 1500% increase from 2020. Sources are not entirely consistent; highlighting the lack of info on this topic.

However, all sources indicate a massive market, which is nearly all illicit. In fact, the US is so far behind, and so antiquated in its techniques, that it spent months of time demonizing the companies Elf Bar, Esco Bar and Breeze; even blocking their imports. Just like it did with Juul before. What did it find? Those companies only accounted for 14% of the disposables market, last year. As starting a brand is as easy as sending your information to a manufacturer, new companies can pop up overnight. Which makes US attacks like that, nearly useless.

While it obviously grapples with a problem that leaves it embarrassingly left out, the FDA makes it sound like its all going according to plan. Tobacco Director Brian King stated, “I don’t think there’s any panacea here. We follow a comprehensive approach and that involves addressing all entities across the supply chain, from manufacturers to importers to distributors to retailers.”


Weird, I guess its not a panacea to have a 40%+ (let’s be honest, probably over 75%) illicit vape market operating in the country. Of course, this whole thing centers around an epidemic with no real death toll, for which no one wants to give any hard numbers. If it really is everywhere, then its also proven safe enough (at least in the short term), just by the mass existence connected to so few problems. If its not everywhere, and the situation is controlled; why the argument? Either way, the California lawsuit will likely do nothing to change the illicit vape landscape; either in the state, or beyond.

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California is Giving Amsterdam Vibes with Pending Legalization of Cannabis Cafes 

Although the golden state does have legal “smoke lounges”, where shoppers can buy their weed for on-site consumption, they are few and far between. And for the most part, they more resemble a break area at a retail store rather than a relaxing place to hang out and get stoned. But Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes that serve coffee, snacks, and offer live music and other entertainment while patrons get high, may be the next big thing in the works for California.  

What’s the news? 

A bill to legalize cannabis cafes in California is headed to the governor’s desk. Last week, the Senate passed a slightly amended version of the legislation with a 48-7 vote, and now it’s off to Governor Gavin Newsom (D) for a final signature. Newsom has not yet commented publicly on his plans with the legislation, but as a longtime supporter of cannabis reform, it’s very likely that he will pass it.  

AB 347 would allow local dispensaries that also have authorization to operate on-site consumption lounges, will now have the option to prepare and sell their own, non-cannabis infused food and beverages at their place of establishment. While the bill would allow both retailers and microbusinesses to sell freshly prepared food and drinks, only retailers will be allowed to sell prepackaged products.  

The revision mentioned above emphasizes that hemp-based foods are considered cannabis-infused, and thus, would not be allowed to be served at the cannabis cafes, which is in line with some recent updates to general cannabis regulations in California anyway. AB 347 also authorizes live music and other types of performances, plus the sale of tickets to these events. The sale/consumption of alcohol and tobacco will continue to be prohibited. It also states that non-cannabis items “shall be stored and displayed separately and distinctly from all cannabis and cannabis products present on the premises.”  

Some dispensaries have already found creative workarounds to allow on-site consumption while serving food, but usually it’s for some type of event like a 420 party where they would promote products, offer something simple like tacos to eat, and have an area where people can smoke, play games, participate in raffles, and so on. But these are occasional and, as far as I’ve noticed, the few consumption lounges I’ve been to don’t offer food on a regular basis.  

Some background on cannabis in California 

As one the nation’s most liberal strongholds, it’s no surprise that California is has always been at the forefront of cannabis trends. In 1996, the state became the first to legalize medical marijuana under Prop 215. Less than two years later, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada passed their own medical cannabis initiatives.  

Then in 2016, a voter-led initiative (Prop 64) to legalize recreational cannabis for anyone over the age of 21 passed with 57% of the vote. The full name of the bill is the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. While the bill seemed popular among voters, a lot of legacy operators in the industry were against full legalization because they knew that high fees and taxes, coupled with endless hoops to jump through, would kill a good portion of the industry. 

Unfortunately, they were right as California has had a difficult go of it in the legal cannabis realm. Starting with statewide pot shortages in the beginning, to a $100 million bailout a couple years ago, ridiculously high taxes and operating costs, insane levels of overproduction during the last couple years that are driving market prices into the dirt, stiff competition from the illicit market, and now, a viroid that’s destroying crops at an alarming rate – it seems like the ‘Golden State’ just can’t seem to get it right. 

One thing they do seem to be on track with is attempting to lower taxes, which, keeping in line with California standards, are among the highest in the nation. And this isn’t just a proposal, but an approved legal change implemented at the end of June, 2022, as part of a statewide budget agreement (AB 195). The bill will create a credit tax system, expand labor rights among industry operators, change who collects excise tax, eliminate cultivation tax, and increase enforcement measures against unlicensed operators. 

Regardless of all their struggles, California is still, by far, the largest cannabis market in the world. They’re expected to rake in around $5.9 billion in legal recreational and medical sales by the end of 2023, and that doesn’t account for possible billions more in black market sales. It’s one of California’s leading agricultural products, following behind only dairy products and grapes.  

Are Amsterdam coffee shops still a thing? 

As an older millennial stoner born in 1990, no state had yet legalized weed for recreational use, not even California. So I grew up hearing tales of a magical land far away where drugs where legal and you could stroll into a coffee shop on any day of the week to buy some snacks and high-quality weed. This fairy tale-like place was Amsterdam, and me and all my friends daydreamed about visiting one day.  

Naturally, this bill had me thinking about what’s been going on in Amsterdam lately. Do the coffee shops still exist? If so, are they still as popular as they once were? Amsterdam has 160 coffeeshops, where tourists and locals can purchase a wide range of cannabis products, as well as a bunch of smart shops which sell psychedelic products, mainly magic truffles. The Netherlands rakes in around 400 million euros annual from their coffee shop tax, so needless to say, drug tourism provides a huge boost to the local economy.  

But at what cost? In recent years, government officials say that the negatives so far outweigh the positives, that drug tourism may have to end altogether. Although that really just seems like blowing smoke, since it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stop it entirely, we can expect to see some changes to how their entire system operates in the near future. The Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, has decided that she will make it her goal to change the way the city works. She fears that many locals have moved out of the center due to the disruptive nature of the tourism industry.  

She says: “People come to Amsterdam because of the tolerance but show behavior we cannot tolerate, behavior we should call immoral, that they wouldn’t show at home… They come to Amsterdam, they drink too much, they get stoned, do not reserve a hotel but stay out all night, they humiliate the sex workers, and they make a lot of noise… So for the people living in the inner city, it’s not livable anymore.” 

Although the government has tried before to get a handle on drug tourism in the area, nothing has stuck yet. So now, officials are proposing a new round of ideas that they think might improve the situation. For example: limiting who can enter coffee shops to residents of the Netherlands, as well as reducing the number of coffeeshops from 166 to 73 by the year 2025.  

Final thoughts

How long will it take before we can actually see this plan for cannabis cafes come to fruition? It’s hard to say, but honestly, it probably won’t take very long after the bill is signed for at least a few to pop up in some of the state’s larger cities. All I know is, I’ll be checking one out and reporting back to our readers as soon as they open their doors!

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The Illicit Alcohol Market Is Way Bigger Than You Think

Illicit drugs are all the rage in news reporting; but often, one of the biggest illicit markets is practically ignored. Sure, we hear about weed busts around the world, and methamphetamine busts, and opioid busts. But what about the most popular drug? Alcohol is the most consumed drug in the world, and the illicit alcohol market is way bigger than you think.

Alcohol prohibition

Alcohol is pretty free-flowing in most parts of the world, and has been throughout our recorded history. However, for a brief period in the early 1900’s, it was criminalized on nearly a global level. This period, called ‘prohibition’ lasted between 1920-1933 in America; during which time, the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages, was a criminal activity. This legal change was brought on by the temperance movement, a group which pushed abstinence, or extreme regulation of certain behaviors.

The movement started in the late 1800’s, as many small groups around the country. According to Britannica, by 1833, there were 6,000 of them across the different states. These organizations were highly associated with women’s movements, and some specifically state it in the name; like the famous Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which became an international movement.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the temperance movement, was in banning alcohol. In December 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment (aka Volstead Act) passed both sides of congress. It was ratified by ¾ of states in 2019, and had plenty of support in order to do both of these things. The National Prohibition Act was later passed as a means of regulating this new decision.

Prohibition led to illicit alcohol market

But history shows that the movement either wasn’t as far reaching as expected, or not 100% supported, among supporters. Plenty wanted to drink illegally, which created an entire bootlegging industry of illicit alcohol. Alcohol was often brewed up in bathtubs, and sold in speakeasies; with organized criminal groups backing the whole thing. In fact, it was bootlegging that built up some of the bigger crime families of the 1900’s.

By the 1928 presidential elections, it was a big topic. Herbert Hoover won, and prohibition remained, despite the obvious and growing cracks in the exterior. Not only was it not being adhered to, to the point of a growing illicit market, but it was a practically unenforceable rule. Franklin Roosevelt entered office in 1933, and quickly changed things around. He did this by way of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which modified the existing Eighteenth Amendment. This modification allowed the production and sale of beer and wine with up to 3.2% alcohol.

Nine months later, even that was updated; and prohibition was quickly a thing of the past. As the Eighteenth amendment was an actual amendment to the constitution, it was gotten rid of, by way of yet another amendment; number 21. This repealed the Volstead Act federally, and gave states the right to make their own local laws. Until this and the Cullen-Harrison Act, the entirety of the alcohol market was illicit. This is similar to the cannabis industry today, which seeks to divert from what was a 100% illegal industry. In both cases, the drug was legal prior to prohibitive measures.

How big is illicit alcohol world of today?

It’s hard to know how much of the market prior to prohibition, was illicit. There were different laws that governed drinking at the time, and it was a long time ago. Sure, we have records, but not everything was recorded, or is easy to find in research today. Logically there was some amount of illicit trade, but this would have increased hugely during prohibition. Now is a totally different time period; nearly a hundred years after prohibition ended, and over a hundred since it started. Chances are, a lot of the illicit alcohol market of today, started back in prohibition times.

A 2022 report published by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), presented some startling information about the nature of today’s illicit alcohol market. And its one of the biggest illicit markets out there. The report cites WHO 2018 data for the year 2016, that puts the size at that time as 25% of all alcohol sales worldwide. Not only that, the WHO estimated that by 2025, this would increase to 27.7%.

In terms of where this is seen most, it varies greatly between countries; although, how exact WHO information is for an illicit market, is always questionable, as most data comes from seizures and arrests only. Even so, that the organization estimates it so highly, certainly says a lot. According to the WHO, the Mediterranean region has a very high illicit alcohol trade, as much as 67%. Whereas it says the Americas are only about 14%.

US has illicit alcohol market
US has illicit alcohol market

The writers also draw a distinction between richer and poorer countries. Poorer countries consumed way more illegally bought alcohol; lower-middle income countries about 37%, and low income countries about 44%. Africa as a whole, the Mediterranean region (where alcohol is illegal in many places), and Southeast Asia had the largest illicit markets. Higher income countries had numbers closer to 11%; the US had a rate of 14%.

So a lot of alcohol gets sold illegally. How much does this bring in, in terms of revenue? The report suggests that approximately 42.3 million hectolitres of alcohol get consumed yearly and globally, and that 25.8% is illicit. This 25.8% is worth approximately $19.4 billion in revenue for black market operations. As a comparison, the entire legal cannabis industry in the US was estimated to have brought in about $24-$30 billion in 2022, according to MJBizDaily. Global illicit alcohol sales are equivalent to at the very least, 2/3-4/5, of this number.

What illegal alcohol is sold most?

We generally break alcoholic beverages into three main groups: beer, wine, and spirits. These different types of alcoholic drinks, are relevant to their own illicit markets. And it doesn’t match up in terms of what is drank the most in general, and what shows up most on the illicit market.

Beer is the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage worldwide according to the report. Globally it accounts for 52.9% of the legal market. However, it only supports about 10% of the illegal market. On the other hand, an estimated 81% of the illicit trade, is related to distilled spirits of a higher value. Wine and other alcoholic beverages like cider, comprise about 9% of the illegal market. This means they collectively take up about as much as beer in terms of illegal sales.

The thing is, technically, not all the alcohol reported in the report as illicit, is entirely illicit. Or, at least, its not all necessarily illegally produced. The report lists the definition for illicit alcohol to include the following: anything contraband or smuggled (this could include legally sold products), counterfeit alcohol, products that don’t meet regulation, products with misleading packaging or false statements, alcohol made by legal companies but done secretly, and not-for-drinking alcohol like mouthwash or antifreeze.

Some of these aren’t regular alcohol at all. Some could have ‘fallen off the truck,’ and some could be the product of companies that lose their licensing, but otherwise produce the same product. This is not a measure of the alcohol made illegally, it’s a measure of the alcohol sold illegally. The report indicates that the idea of illicit can include products of companies that failed to pay taxes; which is a different world from smuggling, or counterfeiting, or brewing it up in your bathtub.

Legal vs illicit alcohol sales
Legal vs illicit alcohol sales

Why don’t we see a bunch of headlines about illicit alcohol?

25% is a full quarter of the market. If we just look at the US, that’s at least 14% of its market. It’s certainly not nothing, especially as its forecast to increase. So, why don’t we hear about it? We hear all the time about how vape products hurt children (never mind that they don’t, and that vapes save people from smoking damage). We hear all the time about illegal fentanyl (never mind the legal market). But alcohol? Where are the stories blaring about fake alcohol dangers? I mean, alcohol kills people all the time; in fact, its the biggest killer of all drugs (as smoking is a method of consumption, NOT an actual drug.)

My guess is because prohibition already happened. Alcohol represents an industry that cannot be rooted out easily, because of the basic production ability. It already proved itself that way to an enormous and uncompromising degree. There is zero policy push to get rid of it now. Likely no politician is going to get behind a new prohibition measure for alcohol, because they’ll lose their seat. End of story. So its preferable not to mention the details since there’s no action pushed. What we hear about, are stories where there is some action being pushed.

We hear about weed, and tobacco products, and opioids, because governments seem to want to decide how we feel about those things, and how we purchase them. It no longer tries to do that with alcohol. So while alcohol poses perhaps the biggest issue of all the drugs (way overshadowing opioids in its destructiveness), the public doesn’t hear much about it, because its not a fight for their opinions anymore.


The illicit alcohol market is rather big and only expected to grow. As countries like Canada report on their lowered sales volume, the question becomes; where are people buying their alcohol now, if not from legal providers? I think the OECD report explains it all. They’re likely buying it illegally. If prohibition didn’t stop drinking, why would raised prices? Perhaps there should be caution with raising prices, when its known this bolsters black market sales. And perhaps that should be generalized to the cannabis market. Otherwise, it greatly seems like governments really don’t learn from history, at all.

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Is Canada Building An Illicit Alcohol Sales Market?

A recent op-ed about the Canadian alcohol market, claims that the weedliest country, is not as drunk as it was before. Per the author, in Canada, weed sales are up, and alcohol sales are down. Does this make sense? And is it correct?

New op-ed says Canada alcohol sales down

Alcohol has been the leader in the drug world for pretty much ever. While cannabis is often spoken about as the most popular drug, that’s if alcohol is omitted. Perhaps this is because some don’t think of alcohol as a drug. But it is, and it’s one of the most accessible ones. This op-ed has seemingly gotten a lot of re-posting and attention, but I cannot find the report it takes from. Nor can I find it in a search. Which means all information I can give about it, comes via the op-ed from Retail-Insider, only.

According to the author, a retail sales update by the federal government, shows that sales for liquor and beer in Canada have gone down in the past year. It specifically cites the decrease from May-June 2023 as a .9% slip. Compared to where the market was last year, it’s a decrease of apparently 2.8%. The writer then goes on to point out something else.

First, he speaks of cannabis sales going up by 3.3% in Canada (I presume he means by this time last year, same as the 2.8% statistic). Then he says, “Other sources may point to different numbers, but it appears as though Canadians are generally buying less booze now.” This makes it sound like wherever, or however, he got to what he got to, that this is not a closed case.

Alcohol sales

Are alcohol sales actually down in Canada?

Seemingly not at all. Nothing points to a downturn in alcohol sales. And nowhere is it published, that Canada alcohol sales have gone down. At least not in one place that I’ve found. Looking into alcohol sales makes clear that the writer of the op-ed was unclear in his own writing. Or rather, not specific about what he was talking about. Something that might have been clearer, if he had attached his informational source.

According to Statista, retail beer, wine, and liquor sales were up to CAD 2.24 billion at the end of December of 2022. This was, in fact, an increase of about CAD 6 million as compared to the previous December. According to Statista, monthly alcohol sales have gone up steadily in the past five years, in Canada.

Want to see it for yourself? Statista has a nice little graph that shows the yearly sales for the last five years. As of right now, there aren’t numbers up for 2023, so a comparison cannot be made specifically between 2022 and 2023. However, as end of year 2022 numbers are given, and it was all increase until then, its hard to imagine that sales suddenly plummeted. Perhaps sales were down from May to June, and perhaps when looking at just last year’s June to this year’s. But to say there is actually a downward trajectory, is wildly misleading; and not backed by statistical sales information out of Canada.

But wait, are people drinking less??

One thing that is interesting, is that the general increase in sales, doesn’t mean that people are drinking more. This is what the op-ed writer was actually talking about, although he referred to this as ‘sales’ and not ‘volume’, or ‘volume of sales.’ The word ‘sales’ usually means a monetary amount brought in. Volume indicates the amount sold. Wildly different things, which are important to understand the difference between; as they are often not tied as closely as we think they should be. And this is why its important for writers to reference their work.

Last year, Statistics Canada did put out an article about increasing sales, and decreasing volumes. A result of higher prices. This means that less alcohol was sold, but not that the sales market brought in less money. To say retailers are seeing decreased sales, isn’t true; as the value of what’s sold, continues to increase. In last year’s article, Statistics Canada said that alcohol had a 2.8% inflation rate between March 2021-2022. A decline was seen when this happened, which was the first since looking at the years 2013-2014.

Regardless of volumes however, nothing was lost; which says a good bit about prices rising. Otherwise, a decrease in the volume sold, generally equals a decrease in sales revenue. Instead, the lesser volume sold, resulted in CAD $26.1 billion from March 31st 2021 – 2022. This amount is 2.4% higher than the previous year.

Volume of alcohol sold in Canada
Volume of alcohol sold in Canada

So, for example, the volume of wine sold in Canada dropped 4% between 2021-2022. However, within that same time frame, wine sales brought in $8.1 billion, a rise of 2.1%. In terms of beer, the volume went down 2.8% between 2021-2022. Beer sales did experience their own decrease in sales, but only .7%, much less than the volume decrease percentage. On the other hand, ciders and coolers went up in volume of sales; the volume increased by 13.5%. So in the case of those drinks, the market seems to be growing.

Is this related to cannabis market?

Whether the new cannabis market directly affects alcohol sales, is not explicitly known. It could be a factor in drinking habits, but we don’t have an arrow pointing from one thing to another. The two could be related, but they also might not be. If cannabis did affect alcohol, we’d be looking solely at volume of sales, not sales revenue; and whether an increase in volume on one end, leads to a decrease on the other.

There does seem to be a good argument that cannabis might reduce the desire to drink for some people. But this is certainly not a definite thing. It could also be less about a desire for one over the other technically, but a matter of money. Maybe people can only afford one or the other. Or more of one than the other. However, if rising prices really do dissuade people from drinking, then the country should be worried about pricing a legal weed market above a black market.

There is a comment on the op-ed by a local Canadian who says plainly that the younger generation has a hard time affording alcohol. Or at least, the higher quality ones much preferred are too expensive. If this is true, it actually speaks massively to Canadians being responsible enough people to know when to stop blowing money. In plenty of places, the desire for certain mind-altering substances can outweigh the desire to pay rent, or other necessary life costs. Either way, the commenter gives insight into possible Canadian decision making when it comes to buying alcohol.

Is there an illicit alcohol market?

However, there’s another big issue. It’s easy to forget that alcohol prohibition once swept over much of the world, including Canada. It’s not illegal now, simply because it couldn’t be stamped out. Which seems to be the same reason we have legal weed markets opening. In fact, prohibition spawned such an impressive illegal market; that it’s quite odd to think it ever went away. Even if legal sales are possible, and alcohol is everywhere.

We hear about black markets for other drugs way more than alcohol. In fact, I’ve never heard about an alcohol bust in the same way that I hear of cocaine, or methamphetamine, or cannabis busts. After all, it doesn’t have to be secretly brought over borders, or even made in clandestine ways. Not for many decades. But does that mean its not? Logically, we have to know the answer is no. Just like it seems like cigarettes are a regular above-board market, until you read about how big the black market is. This includes vapes, and the targeting of companies like Juul and Elf Bar.

Bootleg alcohol
Bootleg alcohol

There are, however, a few news stories out that indicate we might not always get the full story on alcohol. Like this 2022 story about a bust in Quebec, that had to do with the resale of alcohol products. This only accounted for 14 communities though, so we are talking small potatoes. Even so, the products, sold in Nunavik, were sometimes 8-12X the original cost. In this case, the alcohol was transported to communities that actually do not allow it.

To give an idea of how big the illicit alcohol market is, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) put out a report in 2022 called Illicit Trade in High-Risk Sectors: Implications of Illicit Alcohol for Public Health and Criminal Networks. In it, the OECD quotes WHO data that says 25.8% of worldwide alcohol sales in 2016, were illicit. The expectation by 2025, is for 27.7% of global alcohol sales to be illicit. Though this does vary greatly by country, it immediately says that illicit alcohol, is actually huge.

There was not specific information about Canada’s illicit market, but I bring it up, because it implies something beyond people buying less alcohol. What it implies, is that people might be buying a lower volume of legal alcohol. It seems very likely that raising prices in the alcohol market, might lead Canada to a much bigger illicit alcohol market. After all, let’s remember, prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking.


It’s quite possible that Canada is pushing its legal alcohol market, into illicit territory by allowing inflation to raise prices so much. As of now, Canada does not have a decrease in alcohol sales revenue, but it does in the volume of legal alcohol sold. This indicates less people are buying legally with higher prices. And the rest? Well, either they stopped drinking, or we just don’t hear about the market they’re buying from.

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Bendable Therapy Provides Free Mushroom Treatments to Those in Need

Recently, the Oregon mushroom industry finally opened, after years of waiting and speculation. And now patrons can legally walk in for treatment. Even better, one site created a structure to give free mushroom treatments to those in need, but who lack funds. Learn more about how the facility is doing this, and how it benefits the community

Oregon mushroom industry finally open

We’ve been talking about this one for awhile now. In 2020, Oregon put Measure 109 before voters to legalize the limited recreational use of psilocybin mushrooms. It passed with 55.57% of the population giving it a yes vote. The legalization has many stipulations attached in terms of where its legal to use mushrooms, and how; and it only accounts for the Psilocybe cubensis species of mushroom, no others. But it’s the first system put forth in the US, and its now in use.

The legalization technically began on January 1st, but as it’s an industry that 100% relies on facilitators, and as none were approved at that time, the industry was dormant for many months. This holdup was in part because even though the state legalized use of the mushrooms, their production and sale required further legislation that wasn’t ironed out enough for the facilitators-in-training to actually have access to them.

This meant more of a role-playing scenario in training, which isn’t quite the same as dealing with a person actively on a psychedelic. All of the trainees, incidentally, paid about $10,000 for the training according to the New York Times. As of yet, it seems all aspects of this new industry are pricey, from the regulation for providers, to facilitator training, to the treatments themselves.

Magic mushrooms industry open in Oregon

In early May, things got going more when the state began giving out licenses to therapy centers. The first to get one was Eugene Psychedelic Integration Center (EPIC); which at the time released a dismaying pay structure that indicated users would have to pay out thousands to get treatment. Founder Cathy Rosewell Jonas explained that the high pricing was mostly due to very high regulatory fees, which are indeed much higher than other industries, whether they use medical facilities or not. How much must clients pay? At least $2,800 for a single session.

As of right now, there are a total of eight operational centers with licenses (according to Willamette Week), and the industry is up and running. As per Jonas, when her licensing came through, she already had a waitlist of 60 people looking for treatment, and an expectation to treat about 30 per month.

Bendable Therapy provides free mushroom treatments to those in need

The industry is new, and generally expensive. We knew that it would be for sure since Jonas got her license. However, there is one facility thus far, which already instituted a policy to help those in need, get free mushroom treatments; even if they can’t afford the high pricing. Perhaps this model will die out if abused, and perhaps it foreshadows the direction of the industry in general.

Bend, Oregon is home to the only licensed facility that gives mushroom treatments for free. Called Bendable Therapy, the clinic isn’t looking to give out product for nothing, but is understanding that many in need simply can’t pay the price. The nonprofit organization is specifically designed to get the needed therapy to those who require it most. Regardless of ability to pay.

They do this by asking for donations from those who cannot make full payments. The hoped-for amount is about equal to a single treatment session, at $2,300, but is understandably less for some. The facility gives out a donation form, with a sliding scale, and asks that people pay what they can realistically afford to pay.

Amanda Gow, the co-founder for Bendable Therapy, is hoping that good results propel users to donate more. She hopes their good experiences and outcomes, lead to more giving behavior. As she said, per Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), “We have a sliding scale donation form. And I say: ‘Here are our parameters. You tell me what you can afford to donate’. I think once people go through the program and they see, ‘Oh this is life-changing,’ that maybe they will become monthly donors.”

Some can access free mushroom treatments at Bendable Therapy
Some can access free mushroom treatments at Bendable Therapy

She explained previously via CentralOregonDaily, “We’re really focused on working with folks who have an existing mental health practice but are seeking psilocybin as a step on their mental wellness journey.” Gow continued that the pricing is indeed $2,300 a pop, but that for those in need, the price is dropped in place of a request for a donation. She explained, “We seek donations from community members, from participants, from corporations and large donors to help cover this cost, to defer this financial burden.”

I cover this story so people know it exists. So that those who need help, might be able to get it; whether they are in the area, or can manage to get there. For the majority who cannot, sometimes its simply nice to know there are good programs and organizations that truly want to help. Likewise, there are some pretty awesome people, with inventive ways of making it happen. Gow’s set-up is interesting because, as part of it, the idea is immediately not just to help oneself, but to pay it forward to others.

The same article details a specific case of an Arizona man who went to Oregon for free mushroom treatments at this facility; and who now donates monthly to the cause. This man says the treatment helped him greatly. He is one of the first people to go on record about his experience, as this is a very new market.

Black market and state funding for magic mushroom industry

At the same time that the legal market is growing, so is something else. It seems the understanding of high prices in legal markets, coupled with the new positive attention on the mushrooms and their therapeutic aspect; have combined to expand out the already existent black market, according to another Willamette Week article. This is perhaps, expected.

Mushroom use was always around, both in ceremonial and recreational capacities. They’ve been a popular drug in the US for recreational use, since the 60’s; before they were made illegal in 1970 via the Controlled Substances Act. However, whereas they were popular in a smaller segment before, they now have the attention of a wider population. Many people want the medical benefit they might provide, but not at the price point of legal providers. And so, the black market has new customers. Considering the slow pace of the legal market, probably a lot.

This is similar to the cannabis industry, which has consistently suffered from high taxes and regulatory costs, making it hard to compete with the lower-priced black market. The black market uses the products and technological advancements of the legal industry, to propel itself along; meaning the legal market has helped the black market grow.

Mushroom industry now with government funding
Mushroom industry now with government funding

Another current mushroom issue deals with funding for the program. Though the industry was supposed to be self-supported, according to Measure 9; it seems this was updated. The August 30th Willamette Week, reported that the Psilocybin Services Agency only earned $318,419 in fees thus far. This is likely due to slow processing, more than there not being an interest. But it still means the income is only trickling in. As the program was expected to cost $3.1 million yearly, the government has allocated that amount, for two years; which started in July. The program is now receiving government funds.

According to the Oregon Health Authority via spokesperson Afiq Hisham: “It takes time to build a new section in state government and to become 100% fee-based, specifically because ORS 475A is the nation’s first regulatory framework for psilocybin services and required an intensive two-year development period.”


So there you have it. The Oregon mushroom industry is up and running. If you’ve been waiting for this industry to finalize, and want to get started, contact one of the operational facilities. I’d link to a list, but unfortunately I can’t find one. I expect (and really hope) that Oregon’s Psilocybin Services will initiate something better than this in the future.

And, if you’re financially strapped but think mushroom treatments might change your life for the better; check out Bendable Therapy first to see if you qualify for free mushroom treatments. Just remember, when you’ve been helped, please pay it forward to others in need.

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Buying Weed Legally in Indiana (and the rest of the US)

Buying weed can be a very different experience depending on where you live. Some states are free game, you all you need is to be 21 years old with a valid ID. In other states, you may be required to have a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed doctor in your area. And in 12 states, where cannabis is still completely prohibited, you’re stuck buying from a dealer. But are you really? In my quest to learn more about weed culture in whatever state I’m in, I’ve stumbled on quite a few stores using a legal loophole to sell real weed to consumers.

Buying weed from a store in Indiana (or illegal state in the US) 

Although logically, it would make sense to associate dispensaries with legal or medical states, it’s actually surprisingly easy to find stores that sell weed in most states, even the remaining dozen that don’t have any kind of cannabis legislation in the works. While I will say that these stores are not exactly common, but if you know where to look, you can find dispensaries and apothecaries that sell real weed, out in the open. 

What should you keep an eye out for? CBD/alternative cannabinoid stores that sell “THCA flower”. Although that may sound like another way to market sprayed/infused buds with minor cannabinoids, it’s actually a really awesome loophole that allows stores to sell flower legally (sort of).  

It’s a great option if you don’t have connections in the area, and even if you do, the prices are similar to what I pay for weed on the streets (slightly more, but a negligible difference). It also gives you the option of sorting through different lab tested strains as well as a variety of other products that you would find in real dispensaries in legal states, such as vapes, concentrates, and edibles.  

Again, you have to do your research, because not all CBD stores carry flower products, but a growing number are starting to, as demand for high-quality buds consistently outpaces all other cannabis products (what can we say, most of us are old-school pot smokers). For the sake of not blowing up the spot, I won’t be naming any specific stores, but I will say that wherever you are in Indiana, you can probably find a spot that sells THCA flower within a 90-mile radius.  

What is THCA? 

When it comes to weed products, most people are familiar with the primary compounds, THC in marijuana and CBD in hemp. But many are unfamiliar with THC’s precursor compound, THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. THCA is only found in raw cannabis plants, but when heat is applied to the buds via smoking, vaping, or cooking, the THCA loses its carboxyl acid group (the A, at the end there), and becomes THC. This process is known as decarboxylation, or decarbing.  

This is why, if you’ve ever paid close attention to the labels on your cannabis flower purchased from a legal dispensary, you will notice they have THCA content, rather than THC. So, it will say something like “26.10% THCA, 0.05% CBD, 0.27% Delta-9 THC”. As you can see, D9 is basically listed as a minor compound here, because in raw plants, there are only trace amounts of Delta 9. It’s all THCA before decarbing.  

But the thing about THCA? On its own, it does not get you high, so if extracted from raw plant material, it can be used therapeutically and without any psychoactive effects. By itself, THCA has the chemical formula C22H30O4. After decarbing, it becomes loses that acid group, becomes delta-9 THC with the formula C21H30O2. As you can tell by the formulas, they are closely related, but still different. And in chemistry, minor differences can translate to major changes in effects.  

The THCA loophole  

Who doesn’t love a good loophole? They provide us a way to skirt the law without actually breaking it, by taking advantage of non-specific regulations or gaps and inconsistencies in how the law is written. Some loopholes are true loopholes that couldn’t be challenged in court, others are theories and ideas that make their way through industries, and because it’s not something that is truly harming people, will go unchecked by regulators. But which is it in the case of THCA? 

First, you’ll have to understand how cannabis is legally classified in the US. Cannabis is broken down into two categories: “marijuana” which is higher in THC, and “hemp” with has very little THC but is high in CBD and other minor cannabinoids. The cutoff between these two categories is 0.3% THC content on a dry weight basis, so any plants containing more than that are marijuana, and less that that would be classified as hemp.  

This designation opens the door for the THCA loophole, because since the testing typically comes back with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, stores are advertising these flower strains as “hemp flower”.  

 but it undermines something important: that realistically, no growing cannabis plants have a lot of THC. They’re all low-THC, because THC barely exists in the growing plants. THC is a product of heating weed, which means if a cannabis plant is taken and used raw, there will always be negligible amounts of THC involved. It requires heat to turn the precursor acid – known as THCA – into the THC that makes us high. THCA is what really exists in high amounts in the cannabis plant. 

Is it really a loophole, though? 

So, here’s the thing… the THCA loophole offers a workaround for the sale and purchase of cannabis flower, but does it provide protection to consumers from legal trouble? Probably not. Should you get pulled over with a jar of THCA flower, the only way you’ll get to keep it is if you happen to come across an extremely lenient police officer, which is highly unlikely.  

Take the disclaimer on the jar of flower I bought from a dispensary here in Indiana: “Buy and consume at your own risk. Although this is legal hemp, please act responsibly. We are not responsible for anyone confiscating this hemp, nor arresting or fining you for having this legal hemp product in your possession because of a misunderstanding of what it is.” 

It’s a little wordy, but definitely drives the point home that just because this is categorized as a hemp product, that doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble for having it. Not to mention, many states have total THC requirements on hemp products which, many legal experts agree, would categorically include THCA as well, making all products containing them still illegal.  

Additionally, regardless of what the law actually states, convincing law enforcement or a court that these products are legal when they are likely not too familiar with the nuances of federal hemp laws, is going to be an uphill battle. You would have to be able to convince them that your items are permissible because of a gap in testing and labeling requirements under the 2018 farm bill; and let me tell you, after my experience getting alternative cannabinoid products confiscated in Kansas, that’s not an easy sell. This is an issue that would likely need to be resolved in the appellate courts, which would be expensive, time consuming, and risky. 

What the DEA has to say about THCA 

Interestingly, the DEA hasn’t said very much about THCA, at least not in any official capacity. While they haven’t made any direct statements to address the legality of THCA, but they did post a short letter in response to a Reddit comment, claiming that delta-8 THC and THC-hexyl are considered tetrahydrocannabinols; and are illegal if not hemp-derived, over the THC limit, or made with synthetic processing.  

The comment was first reported by Marijuana Moment, but as of then, the FDA has not responded for additional comments. That being said, the letter was written by DEA Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section Chief, Terrence Boos. He clarified that when accounting for THC, they look at a “total THC” amount, which refers to the amount of any THC in a product after decarboxylation. So when it comes to THCA, because it turns into delta-9 THC after heat is applied, it still counts. Even if a plant has less than 0.3% delta 9 at harvest, it doesn’t matter if after heating, that amount rises to above the 0.3% cutoff.

There is a new mushroom in town…

Boos states: “Accordingly, cannabis-derived delta-9-THCA does not meet the definition of hemp under the CSA because upon conversion for identification purposes as required by Congress, it is equivalent to delta-9-THC.”  

Final thoughts  

So, if you’d like to buy some weed from a store like most of the nation is allowed to, my advice is to do a quick google search of what stores are selling THCA weed in your area. You might be surprised at what you find. That being said, just because you purchased it legally, does not mean that you won’t get hassled by police for having it, since they likely won’t see the THCA loophole as clearly as we do. 

Hello readers. We’re happy to have you with us at; a news source here to bring you the best in independent reporting for the growing cannabis and hallucinogen fields. Join us frequently to stay on top of everything, and subscribe to our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, for updates straight to your email. Check out some awesome promos for cannabis buds, smoking devices and equipment like vapes, edibles, cannabinoid compounds, amanita mushroom products, and a whole bunch more. Let’s all get stoned together!

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Mike Tyson Launches Weed Boxing Championship in Thailand 

When you think of Mike Tyson, two things probably come to mind: boxing and cannabis. After decades of being known for them separately, he’s finally combined these two seemingly unrelated spheres into what might be the coolest and most unique competition thus far… weed boxing! A first for the world of sports, where a win can be overturned if you test negative for cannabis use. What a concept. 

The event made its debut this past Sunday, on August 27th, in Koh Samui, Thailand, and included music, vendors, contests, food, and of course, the fight as the main event. WBC (not to be confused with World Boxing Coucil) had a handful of big-name sponsors and was held at the Samui International Muay Thai Stadium, a venue known for hosting some sizable fights. The whole thing is part of the Thailand’s larger effort to boost cannabis tourism, and what better way to do it than by pairing it with the country’s national sport? 

Muai Thai boxing has long been a draw for tourism to the country, and this event came just over a year after Thailand decriminalized cannabis, which lead to a fast onslaught of new dispensaries and cannabis-related events in the country. Bringing the two together makes this untapped market an obvious gold mine. This event not only marks a historical moment, but also paves the way for an exciting new niche.  

The fight included three rounds, each lasting three minutes, and the twist here was that each fighter was required to “smoke a bong or a joint” before getting in the ring. Unsurprisingly, the show featured many different products from Mike’s Tyson 2.0 line, and in a fun addition, spectators were allowed to share the same strains that the fighters were smoking.  

And to answer the question I’m sure everyone has, no, Tyson didn’t put the gloves on this time; but reflecting on his own career, he joked about how adding cannabis to the mix may have resulted in some less aggressive fighting. 

Hello readers. We’re happy to have you with us at; a news source here to bring you the best in independent reporting for the growing cannabis and hallucinogen fields. Join us frequently to stay on top of everything, and subscribe to our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, for updates straight to your email. Check out some awesome promos for cannabis buds, smoking devices and equipment like vapes, edibles, cannabinoid compounds, amanita mushroom products, and a whole bunch more. Let’s all get stoned together!

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