Is Cannabis Use Disorder Really a Thing?

We used to just call people stoners, that was enough. But the medical world always likes things to be more specific, and so now we have the term ‘cannabis use disorder’. But is this really a thing? Or a combination of fear-mongering, and over-enthusiasm to make everything into a problem? Read on and form your own opinion.

How is cannabis use disorder defined?

Though cannabis use goes back for thousands of years without a use issue stated, somehow, when legalizations started happening in the US, it popped up as a disorder. It’s currently listed in the DSM V, which came out in 2013. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) states the qualifications for psychiatric diagnoses. Since there aren’t medical diagnoses for these issues, this guide is meant to tell doctors how to diagnose psychiatric problems. In the previous edition which was used between 2000-2013 (the DSM IV), cannabis was associated with ‘dependence’ and ‘abuse.’

According to VeryWellMind, cannabis use disorder denotes “problematic marijuana use.” The site then goes on to list the symptoms related to this problematic use. These symptoms include:

“Continuing to use cannabis despite physical or psychological problems; continuing to use cannabis despite social or relationship problems; craving cannabis; difficulty controlling or cutting down cannabis use; giving up or reducing other activities in favor of cannabis use; problems at work, school, and home as a result of cannabis use; spending a lot of time on cannabis use; taking cannabis in high-risk situations; taking more cannabis than was intended; tolerance to cannabis; withdrawal when discontinuing cannabis.”


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However, given all this, it then goes on to stipulate: “Just because the name has changed and the term “cannabis use” has replaced “cannabis abuse” or “cannabis dependence” doesn’t mean that cannabis is not addictive. In fact, research shows conclusively that cannabis is addictive.” However, contrary to this article, research, in fact, does not show any ability for a physical addiction to cannabis, as well as no death toll; and the fact it was downgraded in this way, really says a lot about how innocuous it is.

Have I ever seen a real example of cannabis use disorder in life?

No, not really. And that means something. I can’t speak for every person reading this, but I can speak for my own experience. I’ve been smoking weed for well over 20 years. I admit I never got into it in high school, but when college came around I finally understood what all the hype was about. In reality, I had tried it in high school a couple times with some (now I realize) low-grade herb stolen out of the top drawer of my stepfather’s dresser. He had back issues and had likely procured the green for his pain.

I was one of those people who simply couldn’t get the inhale right. The non-cigarette smokers among us sometimes have problems with this in the beginning. But in the throes of university, I figured it out, and by the end of my junior year, I was a full on stoner. In fact, I went from 0 to 100 in no time at all.

I’ve had times in my life when I wouldn’t go places without a joint rolled or a one-hitter in my pocket. I used to be the one stinking up greyhound buses with my bag of weed stuffed in my backpack, and the scent emanating out. It used to be customary for me to sneak a smoke break in my car at lunch, or to go for a walk and toke up, pretty much whenever possible. My habit might have been irritating to those who didn’t understand my desire to constantly be high.

But the truth is, I never had to do it. If a situation arose whereby I couldn’t have weed, I might have complained, but it was more of a superficial thing. My body wasn’t upset by not getting it. I didn’t go into DTs, or get incredibly sick. I wasn’t irritable and in a generally bad mood; and if I was, it was related to me, not the weed. Because I was never addicted to it.

It also never messed anything up for me. I never prostituted myself to get it, robbed anyone or anything for the money, or missed out on something because of it. It didn’t cause me to fail out of school, lose friends, or become a social outcast. The most is did was make me lazy, and hurt my lungs (the latter of which was rectified by vaping over smoking).

Is cannabis use a sign of our own personal issues?

Want the real reality check? Most of the time I’ve used like that, I’m unhappy in general, or stressed out in life, with no other way to deal with it. You know that whole idea of self-medicating? It isn’t that a person wants to be blown out of their mind, its that they’re trying to fix a problem, whether consciously or subconsciously. What my weed use indicates to me, is a discomfort in life and in myself, and that has nothing to do with a use disorder, but rather, a reason for use. As in, something not right = more weed use, feeling okay = less. I expect this is true for nearly every person who uses a substance regularly.

Most users I know go through different periods in life with their consumption. And many people seem to cut down on their own when the time is appropriate, or if they feel they’re going overboard. A real drug use disorder involves a lack of control to the point of a problem, but that indicates it needs to cause a real problem. I have yet to see even one person directly ruin their life because of weed. Which, in my opinion, makes for no actual use disorder attached.

Have YOU ever seen a real example of cannabis use disorder in life?

Are you a weed consumer? And if so, how would you characterize your own use? Do you feel compelled at any point to use it? Do you feel like your life is lacking something because of it? Do you feel out-of-control in your ability to use or not use it? Now think of the people around you. Do they seem out-of-control on weed? Like, unable to make decent decisions? Unable to stop from doing more? Unable to stop themselves from tanking out their lives? And all due only to weed?

And have you seen it fundamentally mess up another person’s life? Job lost, partner left, family leaves them behind? Have you seen anyone destitute on the side of the road because they just couldn’t stop smoking weed? Have you heard of a store being burglarized because of it, or a person performing sexual acts to get it? Maybe you have, I can’t say, but I’d certainly bet not. If you had seen it, I probably would have too.

Now, last, have you watched person after person, unable to stop using weed? Trying to quit repeatedly, and unable to consume less, or stop at all? Have you ever heard anyone talk about needing an AA style meeting, or a counselor to get them through the hard part? Has anyone ever disclosed to you their painful experience of trying to leave weed behind? Again, if you say ‘yes’, I won’t argue, but I expect if this were a thing to see, I’d have seen it in my over 20 years of being in the weed scene.

So is there really a cannabis use disorder?

In order for the medical community to prescribe you a medication for anything, they legally need a reason to do it. That reason comes as a diagnosis that creates a need for a treatment, which is then prescribed as a medication. The diagnosis acts as a justification to allow the patient to have a specific medication. A doctor can’t prescribe a medication that requires a prescription, without that justification.

A medical diagnosis is based on objective information, not subjectivity
A medical diagnosis is based on objective information, not subjectivity

If you go to a doctor with a urinary tract infection, that infection is tested for, and the diagnosis made based on the results of the tests. As in, it’s a verifiable problem, for which a medication exists to treat it. There’s 100% no subjectivity there. These are objective tests. This is the same for any medical issue, with a medical definition. Cancer is definable, the flu is definable, a broken bone is definable, a genetic mutation is definable.

Then we get to psychiatric disorders, and the process is the same, but with one not-so-minor stipulation which gets constantly steamrolled over. Psychiatric conditions have no medical diagnosis. There’s nothing to verify they exist, and no way to test for them, or differentiate them. Now, if you’re thinking ‘I’m sure that doctors can test and diagnose issues like schizophrenia’, the sad truth is they uniformly cannot, as there is no true verification method. All diagnoses therefore come from the opinion of each specific doctor. They are only subjective, with absolutely no objectivity involved.

Ever heard of two doctors having two different opinions? Happens all the time! And that can mean two wildly different diagnoses depending on the specific beliefs of the individual doctors. And two wildly different medications prescribed, that can have wildly different effects. Breast cancer is breast cancer no matter which doctor you go to. But depression might be depression to one, bi-polar to another, and a personality disorder to a third. All the doctors will pick up on what they see, which is usually centered on their ideas and beliefs. Now think of how opinionated most doctors are.

So does cannabis use disorder actually exist? Or is the medical community trying to make an unnecessary label so it can prescribe you more meds? It’s not my place to say for sure, but I can give my opinion. Remember that part where I’ve been both a weed user and in the weed community for over half my life? If I can go this long without seeing something that mirrors the conditions of this disorder, than far as I can tell, it’s pretty much the last thing you’ve got to worry about.

Conclusion

Want to worry in life? Worry about getting addicted to opioids, or benzodiazepines, or meth. Worry about your alcohol intake and how you’ll get home without driving drunk. Worry about the boxes of cigarettes you go through and how they affect your health and the health of those around you. And worry about why your governing bodies are consistently pushing you to use unhealthy options over healthier ones.

Worry about the pollution in the air and water, the chemicals in your food, and the long hours you’re made to work that take you away from your family for most of your waking hours. Worry about the stress that gets piled on you, and the terms used to describe the ways you deal with it. But if you like to de-stress yourself with weed, maybe don’t worry so much that you have a so-called disorder, since it doesn’t look to actually cause problems.

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Mass Layoffs Continue in Cannabis Industry – Globally

What’s one great way to tell if an industry is doing well? More jobs open up, and salaries improve. What’s a great way to know there are problems? When more and more jobs get cut. That’s where we are today, as mass layoffs continue in the cannabis industry, signaling a host of problems, with no solution in sight.

Industry issues

When the industry first started it was a true free-for-all. The predictions for market growth were off-the-charts, and it seemed like every big international company wanted to swoop into newly legalized locations to take advantage of this new reported cash cow of an industry. Everyone wanted in. Lots of people made investments. We all waited with baited breath to see who among us would become the new weed industry millionaires.

Now, we’re a few years in, and the landscape has changed, along with expectations. CBD has faded out into almost nothing, medical markets are getting eclipsed by recreational markets, which themselves are still often eclipsed by black markets. Prices remain high in many places due to insane taxing, and governments have been slow to pick up on this as an issue. Overproduction has (let’s be honest, predictably) come into play, causing prices to plummet in every venue. And the once thriving industry, is now showing its cracks, with sales plummeting in many places.

Last year the reports started really rolling in about industry closures and layoffs. Smaller names were already having a hard time making it in due to expensive regulation, extreme competition, and extra costs like slotting fees at dispensaries; making it seem like a game for the big dogs only. But even they’re having issues. And now as 2023 gets underway, the mass layoffs continue, both in the US, and around the world.


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Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – global

Clever Leaves Holdings is a Colombian cannabis company with operations in Portugal. On January 23rd of this year, the company announced restructuring plans that include cutting nearly ¼ of its staff. Clever Leaves is in the medical space, creating pharmaceutical-grade products. This restructuring means winding down all operations in the Portugal location. In fact, the company wants to move everything back home to cut costs, saying:

“By exclusively cultivating and producing our cannabinoid products in Colombia, we aim to leverage our existing cost efficiencies in the country as we ramp our dry flower offering,” said Andres Fajardo, CEO of Clever Leaves. “We believe this transition will allow us to optimize our production infrastructure and drive increased cost savings, positioning us to compete more effectively in the global medicinal cannabis market.”

As of the end of September, the company had $12.1 million in assets in Portugal. The facility included cultivation, post-harvesting, and manufacturing activities; though it sounds like all of this will eventually end. It’s also not the only company operating out of Portugal that wants to cut back. On January 17th, cannabis giant Tilray Brands announced it too was looking to cut about a quarter of its staff. The facility in Cantanhede is also a medical cannabis products facility. Said a Tilray spokesperson to MJBizDaily:

“A total of 49 jobs will be affected in the production, manufacturing, quality, quality control (laboratory), cultivation, supply chain, facilities, warehousing, logistics, procurement, and IT. These changes, which are in line with Tilray’s rightsizing to meet the needs of the current economy and the state of legalization across medical and adult-use cannabis, will take place over the next three months.”

To give an idea why this is happening, consider that in the quarter ending November 30th, 2022, the company posted a $61.6 million net loss. Tilray is a public company and can be found on the NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchange under TLRY. Clever Leaves also had huge losses of $37.3 million, in the first three quarters of last year. It only earned $13.2 million in the same time frame. Clever Leaves is publicly traded under CLVR on NASDAQ.

In Canada, Delta 9 announced that it would temporarily lay off 40 people. This is interesting wording as it implies the company does believe it will be able to reverse these layoffs. Realistically, maybe it will, but a stronger reality might be that none of these jobs are coming back for any of these companies. This cut in the company’s Winnipeg facilities accounts for 40% of its staff.

Fellow Canadian company The Flowr Corporation (OTC:FLWPF) a cultivation services enterprise with locations in several countries, made some big changes last year to keep from bankruptcy. It cut employees to the tune of $4 million in savings, accounting for 40% of its workforce. Along with this, it made a deal to sell off its subsidiary Flowr Forests, a 16 acre property for cultivation. This is considered a non-core asset, and makes the company $3.4 million in revenue.

Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – US

The US might not have federally legal weed, but it is home to the biggest cannabis industries. However, things aren’t doing better within the borders of the US, than they’re doing outside them. One of the big ones to announce major cuts of late? Columbia Care, Inc., which operates in several states, and owns Green Leaf Medical LLC, which is about to make a bunch of people jobless. How many? 73. As of February 28th.

According to the company: “In order to meet the appropriate supply and demand levels of the market, it was necessary for us to reduce the workforce at our cultivation and production facility.” It continued, “We are hopeful that with adult use on the horizon, this facility will be back up to full capacity in the future.” It’s pretty clear this cut is indeed due to a lack of business.

Leaflink, a wholesale tech platform out of New York, is also cutting jobs. Late last year it was reported that 80 employees were sent looking for new work. Much like the other companies to make cuts, the company explained: “Unfortunately, as the cannabis industry continues to face headwinds and the current macroeconomic environment, we needed to take the next step in our evolution to continue supporting the industry.”

Truelieve, a company offering medical cannabis products and services out of Tallahassee Florida, and which operates in many states, also made a similar announcement at the end of last year. Workers were cut from its McKeesport Pennsylvania cultivation facility, numbering approximately 36. This is technically small potatoes considering the company employs in the neighborhood of 8,000, but its also not the first cut. The company laid off workers in three Florida locations: Midway, Monticello, and Quincy, as well.

While the cut was blamed on “Trulieve’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Arizona-based multistate operator Harvest Health & Recreation in 2021,” it also came on the heels of the company posting a quarterly loss of $115 million.

Yet another Florida company, Springbig, a technology company for weed-specific marketing software, cut 23% of its workforce (37 employees) late last year. The company is trying hard to turn a profit amid an industry that seems harder and harder to turn a profit in. These cuts were meant to save $200,000 in the short term, and 21% in the first three quarters of 2023.

Springbig had just merged with Tuatara Capital Acquisition, in order to get on NASDAQ; trading under SBIG. The company’s shares have plummeted from $4.50 last June, to 82 cents at the end of 2022. Prior to the drop it had reported $24 million in yearly revenue, with a $275 million valuation, as per Green Market Report.

If you’re a big reader of cannabis news, then the publication Leafly is likely familiar to you. Well, even Leafly Holdings is having problems. In October of last year, it was reported that the cannabis resource and marketplace, would cut 56 jobs, or 21% of its staff. Leafly, traded under LFLY on NASDAQ, is looking to save approximately $16 million a year, saying, “These reductions will help preserve our ability to respond to opportunities as this industry continues to mature and expand, and allow us to more effectively manage our capital.”

Previously mentioned layoffs in the cannabis industry

This is unfortunately not the first time I’ve reported on cannabis industry layoffs. Last year made one thing very clear: the market is not as sound as many wanted to believe; and the overall market predictions in place, are falling short of reality.

Some of the big layoffs already reported on, include Weedmaps, which cut about 25% of its staff; Curaleaf Holdings, which just got rid of 220 employees; Akerna, which released 1/3 of its staff, or 59 workers; Dutchie, which removed 8% of its workforce, amounting to 67 jobs lost; Canopy Growth which sold all its retail locations, and cut 245 jobs last year; and Aurora Cannabis which cut 12% of its workforce as a part of corporate restructuring to save money.

With the biggest names in cannabis faltering, it brings up the question of who can survive. More companies to let employees go recently, include California’s Eaze, which laid off around 25 employees last year; Lume, a cannabis company out of Michigan closed four out of 30 of its stores; and Nature AZ Medicine, an Arizona medical cannabis company, cut up to 100 employees as a result of medical sales falling.

There’s nothing saying that 2023 won’t turn into a banner year for cannabis sales, and there’s nothing saying that all of these companies won’t recoup their losses, or hire back the numbers they lost. But right now, things aren’t looking fantastic for cannabis industry growth, and these layoffs are a good indication that more bad news might be coming.

Conclusion

Will the cannabis industry rebound? Or are these mass layoffs an indication that the weed industry has hit a wall? And maybe most important to ask, if it can be saved, what kind of changes are necessary in order to facilitate this?

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What Happened in the World of Psychedelics Funding Last Year?

The new year is always a time to look back and assess what went on last year. One of the big building news stories, is the growth and acceptance of psychedelic drugs, and the accompanying legislation for their decriminalization and legalization. One of the interesting ways to see this growth, is in terms of the money raised in psychedelics funding by different companies. Read on to find out how much money poured into the psychedelics industry last year.

What does it mean when a company raises funds?

The first and most obvious answer is that it means doing something to get more money. This need for more money comes from starting up or some sort of expansion plan by the company, which the company can’t itself afford, requiring it to go to investors to raise the money it needs to complete its plans. Investors then get a piece of the profits if the company makes any, with an understanding that should the company fail, that the investment is gone with no repayment.

Companies have a few main ways of raising money when needed, and taking from investors is just one. The company can also reinvest its own profits, take out loans from banks or other lending institutions or people, or sell parts of itself as shares to the public. In the case of the latter, it means individuals who buy shares taking ownership of a small piece of the company, and getting a profit if there is any, thereafter.

When it comes to taking money from investors, it starts with ‘seed’ funding. This refers to the first level of funding, and is often the first money raised by a company. The name comes from the idea that this funding acts like a seed from which the rest of the company will grow. If a company needs initial money for things like market research, this is the funding that applies to get it started. If a company takes money even before this period – when it truly is just organizing and planning, then it’s considered pre-seed funding.


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Sometimes seed funding comes from angel investors. While most investing is done by venture capital firms that have investment funds to invest through, angel investors are usually wealthy individuals who invest their own money.

After the initial stage for funding, you might notice that companies are said to be in different rounds of funding: series A, series B, and series C. Series A follows seed funding, and there are more expectations attached to it. By this point, the company should have a better plan developed, and strategy for earning profits long term. It’s great to have a business idea, but many fail, and this round is when a business must really show that it can make its idea happen.

Series B funding is next, but by this point, a business shouldn’t be in the development stage anymore, and should be functioning as a regular company. This level of funding is meant for the company to further expand to meet the goals it previously developed. By now a company is established, and has a decent valuation. It has already proven itself to a degree.

Series C funding applies to companies that are doing well, and have proven themselves already, but want to go even further, and need some extra funds to do so. Maybe the company wants to develop a new product line, or open an office in another country, or buy out another company. This round of funding indicates a company is on an upward trajectory, and looking to do even more. It would be nearly impossible to bring in money at this level (or any other) if a company has not proven itself on previous levels.

What’s the deal with a new psychedelics industry?

That a company raises money, doesn’t mean it will succeed, and that there’s interest in a company, doesn’t mean an industry will ultimately prevail. Or that it will prevail in the estimated way. Think of the weed industry, and the massive layoffs going on across the board. Everyone still smokes weed, but this hasn’t done much to benefit small operators, and even the bigger ones are having issues. The industry prevails, but not in the way that investors had hoped for.

In reality, we don’t know where the money is with psychedelics and hallucinogens. There’s a growing push for medical markets, and increasing decriminalization, and non-medical legalizations. But, like the weed industry, this industry is led by a group of fungi which anyone can grow, making it unclear who will ultimately benefit from it, and how. Perhaps those selling grow kits will win out over those investing in recreational products. Or maybe a medical market will be strong enough to propel medical sales farthest. The cannibalization of the weed medical market by the recreational one, makes this questionable though.

Medical psychedelics industry

Looking at the present situation, and aside from paraphernalia like growing kits and equipment, the ketamine industry (whether gray market or government-approved) is the only place where money is currently made on a hallucinogen. This is aside from DXM (dextromethorphan) which has for years been a staple in cold medicines.

Industries in the legalized states of Oregon and Colorado haven’t started, so how well pricing and sales turn out, is still unknown. We know Colorado went a step further, pre-emptively legalizing MDMA, which goes into effect upon a government approval; and which shows an expectation that an industry will exist here. But we don’t know how it will turnout.

What we do know is that there’s interest, and this interest has resulted in the growth of psychedelics companies. One of the best ways we can analyze this growth, is by how quickly companies are expanding, and who is investing to help them expand. In 2022 the numbers weren’t small, showing an increasing interest in getting in on this new industry, regardless of where it ends up going.

Psychedelics funding in 2022

In 2022, the following eight companies brought in a total of $257.5 million in funding: Lusaris Therapeutics, Osmind, Delix Therapeutics, Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals, Sensorium Therapeutics, Empyrean Neuroscience, Apollo Neuroscience, and Mindstate Design Labs. These do not make up all psychedelics companies that sought funding in 2022, but give an idea of the kind of money flowing in. We don’t have funding totals yet for 2022, and we don’t know if the totals will beat 2021. All in the above list were new entrants in the 2022 development world for psychedelic drugs.

One of the bigger new funding winners is Lusaris Therapeutics, which brought in $60 million, in series A funding; which was announced in the fourth quarter of 2022. Lusaris is working on several products, including LSR-1019, “a sublingual formulation of 5-MeO-DMT for treatment-resistant depression.” The lead funder is RA Capital, which also acted as an incubator for the company, meaning it was substantially helpful monetarily in getting Lusaris going.

Two of the companies from that list are already at series B funding, indicating they’re doing well, and looking to more efficiently reach their goals.  Osmind, a technology platform for mental health and research, took in $40 million, making for a total funding amount of $57.2 million, from 20 different investors. Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals also did series B funding, taking in $39 million, for a total of $68.6 million from 18 investors. Gilgamesh creates psychedelic medications for a range of mental health disorders.

Company fundraising
Company fundraising

Did psychedelics funding increase in 2022?

It doesn’t seem like it. The numbers for 2022 aren’t firm, but they do seem to decrease a bit from the previous year. According to Crunchbase, 2021 saw the highest funding for psychedelics, with more than $368 million coming in, mostly to startups in the biotech industry. This whole trend of investing in psychedelics is relatively new, and only started in greater numbers a couple years ago. The first breakthrough was Compass Pathways, which raised $146 million in September of 2020 for its IPO. It raised another $144 million less than a year later.

Since that time, the money has been pouring in, though a decrease from 2021 to 2022 could indicate a certain amount of apprehension on the part of investors. This was the same situation with the cannabis industry, first with CBD, and then with the plant in general. And much like with weed, the path to getting rich isn’t necessarily clear cut.

However, to give an idea just how much this is expanding out, the US’s own National Institute of Health started funding psychedelics research after decades of ignoring it. This is also true in universities, which are often the site of clinical trials, and which all seem to be trying to put together research centers now. Pharmaceutical companies are getting in on it too. Many have already partnered with universities to get in on the game; making people like me a bit unsettled, as such a relationship can greatly call into question trial results.

Market research firm InsightAce Analytic, valuated the psychedelics market at $3.6 billion in 2021, and made the prediction of a market worth $8.3 billion by 2028. How realistic is this? We really don’t know. Much like cannabis, there are curveball aspects, like home growing and black markets, that can greatly change the landscape. Anyone trying to predict cannabis revenue now, as compared to a few years ago, is going to have a much more conservative estimate. And all those estimates about where the CBD industry would be by now? No one talks about it anymore.

Conclusion

If an official industry is really to make money, those running it have to think about the barriers, and figure out a way through. Maybe it will be in growing equipment and other paraphernalia. Maybe it’ll be a high powered medical industry. And maybe in another couple years, the black market will have beaten it down, and we won’t be talking about a psychedelic industry at all. As of right now, a lot of companies have raised a lot of money in psychedelics funding, and we know that their one main mission, is to see a return.

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The Lowdown On Syria As The New Captagon Narco State

The Mid-East countries might be outwardly against drugs, but that doesn’t mean their people aren’t using, or involved in the trade. From published research showing the growing trend of hash among youth in Saudi Arabia, to Syria and its new position as a Captagon narco state, it kind of seems like the Mid-East, is right in the middle of it all.

What’s a ‘narco state’?

We hear the term ‘narco state’ a lot, particularly when talking about the international drug trade. For those who don’t follow the news, the word ‘narco’ is still pretty out there, what with the array of television shows portraying the lives of famous illicit drug entrepreneurs. But what exactly does it mean? According to collinsdictionary, it’s pretty simply:

“A country in which the illegal trade in narcotic drugs forms a substantial part of the economy.” That certainly paints a picture, but more in depth definitions explain the concept even better. Oxford reference explains it further, saying,

“A nation state whose government, judiciary, and military have been effectively infiltrated by drug cartels, or where the illegal drug trade is covertly run by elements of the government. It can also refer to a region under the control of organized crime for the purposes of producing or trafficking drugs where legitimate political authority is absent.”


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It then goes on to explain that the term “‘Narco state’ is more a journalistic phrase than an entity under international law. It has been used to describe Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Suriname, and Mexico at various times….”

Basically, a narco state refers to a situation whereby those who control the drug trade, also hold a substantial power in governance. This generally undermines the political parties and/or laws of a country, often making such entities look rather powerless in comparison (though they’re often involved). Take Mexico, for example. It’s one of the most well-known examples of a country which is essentially run by its criminal organizations, and where very few people expect the government to do much about it.

A country dubbed a ‘narco state’ can go from being a narco state to a non-narco state if the structure that allows the criminal organizations their power, is fundamentally changed. Likewise, a country not known by this term, can easily become associated with it, if for some reason its drug trade is suddenly elevated. Such is the current case with Syria, as the drug Captagon propels it to narco state status.

What’s Captagon?

A country can become a narco state based on the trade of different drugs. Some of the drugs most responsible for incurring large drug trades, include heroine (opium), cocaine (coca), and cannabis. But there are plenty more drugs that rise and fall in popularity, and right now, the Mid-East is home to one of the burgeoning drugs to create a narco state – Captagon.

Captagon – or fenethylline – is a codrug and prodrug of amphetamine, meaning it works well with amphetamine, and breaks down into it within the body. It also goes by the spellings phenethylline and fenetylline, and by the names: amphetamin​oethyl​theophylline and amfetyline. Its been marketed under the names Captagon, Biocapton, and Fitton, as a psychostimulant. And as of now, it comes with no identifiable death toll. At all.

Psychostimulant is a nonspecific word that goes hand in hand with the word ‘uppers’. It applies to drugs that increase activity in the central nervous system, and bring on positive feelings like euphoria. The category includes everything from cocaine, to methamphetamine, to caffeine, to Captagon.

Captagon was first synthesized in 1961 by German chemicals company Degussa AG. For many years it was used as an alternative to amphetamine as it provides a milder response. One of its benefits over amphetamine, is not causing quite as extreme an increase in cardiovascular function. Even as it proved safer than amphetamine, and enjoyed use as a medication for narcolepsy, ADHD, and depression; the US illegalized it, putting in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances list in 1981.

This was followed up in 1986 by the World Health Organization adding it to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, essentially leading to its illegalization in much of the world. And this while amphetamine remained legal, with Schedule II designation in the US. Though the drug certainly exists in many places, it’s found most in the countries of the Middle East. Like most any illicit drug industry, this also means the trafficking and sale of counterfeit Captagon.

As is stands now, Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest Captagon consumers, and the majority of the drug gets trafficked in through Syria. The industry has grown so exponentially in the country, that Syria has become a Captagon narco state.

Saudi Arabia biggest Captagon importers

Syria and Captagon

Syria – the Syrian Arab Republic – sits in Western Asia. To its west are the Mediterranean, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel; to its south is Jordon; to its south and east is Iraq; and to its north is also Turkey. Arabs are the largest ethic group in the country, but are joined by Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Albanians, and Greeks. The most common religion is Muslim, but there are also plenty of Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Yazidis.

Since March of 2011, there’s been civil war in Syria, mostly because of the leadership of Bashar al-Assad, who took over in 2000, upon the death of his father Hafez al-Assad. The current leadership has been roundly associated with human rights abuses like executions of political prisoners, and wide-ranging censorship. Assad’s rule is challenged by political groups like Syrian Interim Government, Syrian Salvation Government, and Rojava. This civil war has claimed the lives of over a half million people, and led to a refugee crisis involving upwards of seven million displaced residents, and around five million refugees.

All of this is important because it shows the instability of the leadership of the country. Captagon at one point was associated with Islamic State fighters (part of the a militant Islamist group that promotes the Salafi jihadist branch of Sunni Islam), which makes it less surprising that its manufacture and use has spread so far. In fact, this illegal $10 billion/year industry is directly tied to al-Assad…as well as his enemies. According to international French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), Captagon exports dwarf all legal exports out of the country.

Now, to be clear, there are no hard numbers for an illegal drug industry, or at least none that get reported. The size of an illegal industry is approximated through drug busts and seizures. Which realistically means that a country that puts more effort into rooting out drugs and making seizures, could look to have a bigger industry than a country with more drugs, but less push to catch them. It’s said that Syria is the biggest producer and Saudi Arabia the biggest importer, but these assumptions are only based on who has been caught.

In the case of Captagon, its approximated that pills average at about $5. A real Captagon pill costs approximately $25 on the high end, while a knockoff can be as low as $1. In 2021, 460 million pills were taken in seizures, which leads to the total estimate of 2.3 billion pills produced, if 80-90% of trades go through. And this accounts for about $10+ billion in revenue. It’s expected that for every shipment which gets intercepted, that nine others likely make it alright. In reality, the $10 billion estimated from 2021, is probably a low number.

Whether Syria really is the biggest narco state, is arguable at best. Though it makes for killer headlines, its hard to imagine Syria outdoing a country like Mexico. Even so, the real meat of the story, is simply that the growing popularity of Captagon, has led Syria to join the list of countries considered narco states.

Further details of Syria and its relationship with Captagon

Captagon has its place in Syria as a party drug, but its cheapness, and ability for discretion make it a popular choice over the more socially unacceptable alcohol. As the kind of stimulant associated with pulling an all-nighter in school, and for helping soldiers fight longer, its not shocking its used by workers who want to get more work done. There are even stories of bosses spiking their worker’s drinks with the pills, in order to get more work out of them.

France24 spoke with several illegal operators out of Syria, and though most required anonymity, they were able to shed some light on the situation. Said one fixer and trafficker, a big shipment is usually organized by five or six different entities in order to cover the cost of the raw materials, transporting, and necessary bribes; all of which can total around $10 million.

Captagon
Captagon

He explained, “The cost is low and the profits high,” and that getting intercepted sometimes isn’t the worst thing because even just one shipment out of ten making it, means enough profit for all involved. In terms of who these people are, he explained “There’s a group of more than 50 barons… They are one big web, Syrians, Lebanese and Saudis.”

Though the Syrian government plays some role (or at least takes money from it), much of the trade happens through Bedouin confederation Bani Khaled, which can often support the entire process of production in Syria, through delivery in a country like Saudi Arabia. This means less hand offs between different organizations, and an easier ability to maintain control. As the network reaches to Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, from Syria and Lebanon, this gives a large area to work within with one entity overseeing it.

Syria is currently the biggest producer of Captagon, manufacturing approximately 80% of the circulating Captagon globally. This is according to security services, that go on to say that the Captagon trade is worth three times the entire Syrian national budget. Assad-controlled areas are some of the biggest hotspots for this trade, though Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad plays a role as well, and is said to be one of the biggest winners in the Captagon game. It’s reported that many labs get “the raw material directly from the 4th Division, sometimes in military bags,” of which Maher is the de facto head.

The trade has done well to build up groups like Hezbollah, which is said to play a part in patrolling the Lebanese border to ensure safe trafficking. Said an ex-Syrian government adviser who remains anonymous, “Syria is in dire need of foreign currency, and this industry is capable of filling the treasury through a shadow economy from importing raw materials to manufacturing and finally exporting.”

The trade is big enough that many other organizations, including rebel groups, are in on it, particularly in the south of Syria. Sweida and Daraa, two provinces along the border with Jordan, have smuggling routes to Saudi Arabia. Abu Timur, a spokesman for the armed group Al-Karama, explained,

“The smuggling is organized by the tribes who live in the desert in coordination with over 100 small armed gangs,” and that “Captagon brought together all the warring parties of the conflict… The government, the opposition, the Kurds and ISIS.”

Syria might be the new Captagon narco state, but the drug isn’t killing anyone. If you look up ‘Captagon deaths,’ nothing comes up; which greatly begs the question why this matters. Why would anyone go this far to care about something not causing a problem? The only real assumption, is money. The situation has now gone so far, that this no death-toll drug, is reason for a shoot-to-kill policy in Jordan, concerning traffickers of Captagon out of Syria. Meaning a drug that doesn’t kill anyone (much like cannabis), is now the reason for many deaths.

Conclusion

While its always nice to see different sides come together, perhaps the pursuance of a drug trade isn’t the best reason. However, low-grade knock-offs aside, Captagon isn’t the most intense drug, and far better than other options like opioids, which cause many deaths.

If you had the choice, you’d probably prefer your kid took a couple Captagon pills, over ever popping a fentanyl; but today’s reality is that you can get shot and killed over a drug, that doesn’t actually kill anyone.

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Salvia: Tricks of Use for the Best Experience

Drugs are fun, sure, but sometimes you have to know how to do things right in order to get the best response. For example, if you eat regular cannabis in fresh form, you won’t get high. Just like if you smoke a magic mushroom, you also won’t get high. Knowing how to use something is just as important as having access to it. And so, here are a list of salvia tips and tricks, to ensure users get it right, and get the most out of it.

What is salvia?

What we call salvia, is actually a broad family of plants which includes well known kitchen ingredients like Salvia rosmarinus, aka rosemary, and Salvia officinalis, aka sage. However, the salvia that we’re talking about is Salvia divinorum, which comes with the particular designation of causing psychoactive effects.

It’s said that Salvia divinorum originated in the cloud forests of the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Mexico; but it’s also quite possible that it came from somewhere else and was brought to this location by other native tribes. Either way, the  plant flourishes in the moist and shady conditions of that particular climate; though these days its much more ubiquitous and can be found in many different parts of the world, including the US.

Salvia and its cousins like rosemary and sage, all reside in the Lamiaceae mint family. Salvia divinorum can be separated to ‘divinorum’ which comes from the word ‘divination’, and ‘salvia’ or sage. It translates to “diviner’s sage” or “seer’s sage.” Mazatec shamans used it for hundreds of years in spiritual, healing, and divination ceremonies. One use was to induce hallucinations and different states of consciousness. Some native cultures still use it in this way today.  


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It is customary for shamans to use fresh leaves to represent the Virgin Mary. Rituals often start with an invocation to her or other saints; which is done quietly, as its said Mary speaks with a quiet voice. Beyond spiritual use, Salvia has medical benefits, and is known to treat diarrhea, anemia, headaches, rheumatism, ‘swollen belly’, and as a diuretic.

Unlike other plants, like psilocybin mushrooms, opium, or DMT-containing plants, salvia is legal. It was never scheduled federally in the DEA’s Controlled Substances list. This oversight is likely because salvia was simply not known to the US at the time the government went through its flurry of illegalization measures in the latter half of the 1900s. Much like amanita mushrooms, not being in view, meant getting out of illegalization. There are, however, 13 states that did make policies against the plant in some form or another.

Internationally it varies greatly. Some countries like Estonia, Finland, Iceland, and Norway hold it as a medication requiring a prescription.  It’s illegal in a lot of Europe, but not all. In France and Spain, for example, its legal to possess it and grow it, but not sell it. This is true of Chile as well. In Russia, you can have it, but you can’t grow or sell it.

What does it do?

How exactly salvia works is not entirely known. It is known that one of the main active compounds is salvinorin A, which is classified as a diterpenoid. While it causes intense hallucinations, it acts differently than other hallucinogens. This may be in part because of a lack of nitrogen atoms, which separates it from other hallucinogens like psychedelics.

Salvinorin A makes for short trips of approximately 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. It causes the following: sedation (its an oneirogen drug); spatial disorientation; lowering of motor control; analgesia; amnesia; delusions; depersonalization; music appreciation; analysis, language, and memory suppression; uncontrollable laughter; time distortion; slower thinking; hallucinations (auditory and visual); spiritual feelings; feelings of near-death; and connection.

It goes further than this though, also changing how gravity feels, something called ‘salvia gravity;’ by making the user feel like they’ve morphed into something else, or are being stretched in some way; and spontaneous bodily feelings, like pins and needles. Salvia is known for creating very intense experiences.

Hallucination

Salvia tips and tricks for best use

This part is important, because not every entheogenic plant can simply be swallowed down to get the best effects. As stated earlier, swallowing down cannabis will get you a whole lot of nothing in terms of a high, just like lighting up a psilocybin mushroom, or eating an amanita mushroom raw, can cause problems. Likewise, if you eat a DMT plant without the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, you shouldn’t expect an ayahuasca trip, and if you take a bite out of the side of a San Pedro cactus, you’ll not get a mescaline effect. There are ways to do things, and ways not to.

Salvia is no different, and in order to get the best effects, it must be consumed properly. A lot of people will brush salvia off as a nothing drug. I certainly did when I first smoked it, but that’s because it was a long time ago, and I didn’t know what I was doing. In order to help others have a better experience than I did, I’ve put together these salvia tips and tricks, to ensure the best time possible.

Salvia tips and tricks – the smoking method. You can smoke salvia, though this isn’t a preferred method of intake. When smoking, the user is using dried leaves. Something about salvinorin A is that it only gets released with very high temperatures; meaning its better to use a torch lighter which burns hotter. Inhales should be done quickly, with little-to-no time in between. You should hold the lighter above the plant material and bring it down into the material while inhaling.

This is the fastest way to feel effects, which should start within a minute when smoking. Intense effects die down within five minutes with this method, and the entire trip is usually over in a half hour. The smoke should be held in the lungs for a full 20-30 seconds to allow uptake. Exhaling too quickly means absorbing way less salvinorin A. This is where a lot of people go wrong. If you don’t heat it with a high enough temperature, or you don’t hold it in long enough, you might not feel anything at all.

Salvia tips and tricks – the tincture method. The tincture method is one of the more intense ways to use the drug, but as with any tincture making, strength varies depending on preparation. A salvia tincture involves soaking the fresh leaves in a high proof ethyl alcohol, for at least two weeks. How long its left helps determine how strong the end product is.

After soaking the desired amount of time, the plant material is strained out, and the resulting tincture can be administered by the drop. It’s best to start with just one drop in the beginning to test strength, and increase accordingly. Drops should be held under the tongue, as they will not provide effects if immediately swallowed down.

Salvia tea tips
Salvia tea tips

Salvia tips and tricks – the tea method. This is one of the standard and traditional methods for consumption. It requires about 20-80 leaves to make a good tea, which is equal to about 50–200 grams (2–7 oz). The tea can be made in two ways. Either by juicing the leaves and mixing the extract with water. Or to infuse the leaves directly in hot water. Either dried or fresh leaves are usable for tea. Using dry leaves requires approximately 3-4 grams. For an infused tea, the leaves need to be boiled for five minutes, and then the tea cooled for 15.

There’s a trick with drinking the tea. Salvinorin A is destroyed in the gastrointestinal system when swallowed. Uptake must occur not through the digestive tract, but in the mouth. Therefore, keeping it in the mouth is important if a user wants to access all the effects. Each mouthful should be swished around for 15-20 seconds so the blood vessels in the mouth can absorb as much as possible. Drinking it straight down will minimize effects.  

Salvia tips and tricks – the chewing method. Just like tea, this method is not about consuming the leaves, but keeping them in the mouth for a while. Effects come on slower when chewing or making a tea, and can take 10-20 minutes. The Mazatecs actually did swallow down the leaves after chewing for several minutes, but since nothing comes from the swallowed part, this is unnecessary. This is the most time-consuming method, and the slowest one to make a person high, though ingestion this way lasts longer than smoking.

Essentially, the leaves are kept in the mouth as long as possible, and chewed to break down the plant material and release the salvinorin A. Should you quickly chew and swallow the leaves down, don’t expect anything to happen. These days most people spit out the leaves after chewing.

Salvia tips and tricks – the sublingual method – This method is similar to the tea and chewing methods in that it accesses blood vessels in the mouth for its main source of uptake. Like any sublingual administration, it means leaving something (fresh leaves) under the tongue for a couple minutes (or longer) to allow the many blood vessels to pick up the compounds. Technically, the difference between sublingual and both chewing and tea, is that sublingual relies on blood vessels under the tongue, and tea and chewing rely more on the mucous lining of the mouth.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. If you’ve been trying to use salvia and having issues, these tips and tricks should help out. As always, please use responsibly.

Salvia tips and tricks
Salvia tips and tricks

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Getting High in Your Dreams with Oneirogen Drugs

Dreams are automatically a little like a psychedelic trip that we experience every night. Not much makes sense, things happen randomly, and we are often left at the mercy of the half-awake part of us that puts together ideas to create this haphazard story line. Sometimes we wake up smiling, sometimes we wake up panicked. Sometimes we wake up and can’t get our dreams out of our heads. Now imagine if you could enhance your dreams, by getting high in your sleep. This is possible with oneirogen drugs.

What are oneirogen drugs?

Oneirogen drugs aren’t a specific classing of drugs in terms of taxonomy. Instead, the term applies to many different compound of different drug families. The term denotes compounds that enhance dreams, and refers to different plants and synthetic compounds from dissociatives, to deliriants, to poisonous mushrooms, and so on. Some of these drugs, in smaller doses, have little-to-no effect on waking life, and are more known for what happens after your head hits the pillow.

Such drugs have been used in spiritual traditions for thousands of years by different native cultures. The word oneiromancy is used to define the idea of interpreting dreams to tell the future. In practices of this nature, those taking the drugs are using them for psychic abilities and to receive prophecies.

Some of the more well-known oneirogens include: Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which is already tied to the witches of Harry Potter; African dream herb (Entada rheedii), a member of the Mimosa Family, which is used in traditional African medicine to induce vivid dreams; codeine, of the opium plant; melatonin, which is a hormone produced by our own bodies; and datura, which houses scopolamine, a potent deliriant hallucinogen.


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Then there’s African dream root (Silene undulata), known to the Xhosa people of South Africa as a sacred plant; diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, an over-the-counter allergy and sleep medication that functions as a deliriant hallucinogen in high enough doses; Salvia divinorum, which brings on some of the most potent and other-worldly hallucinations possible; Amanita muscaria mushrooms which work on the neurotransmitter GABA, among other functions; and DXM, a synthetic drug used for cough suppression, which gives users a trippy getaway from being sick. These are just a few examples.

Effects of oneirogen drugs

So what exactly do these dream-enhancing drugs actually do? In terms of the kinds of effects produced by oneirogens, a user can expect one or more of the following: microsleep, hypnagogia, fugue states, REM, hypnic jerks, lucid dreams, and out-of-body experiences. Though something like REM is a standard sleep phase, such drugs can increase the time spent in it.

The first, microsleep, refers to sleeping episodes of less than 30 seconds. Think of continually dozing off until your head hits your shoulder, and then waking up again. That’s a microsleep. In this stage, your brain can quickly go between wake states and sleep states. These sleep episodes are generally too short to be registered by the brain as sleep, as they’re less than the necessary minute or so, for that to happen. Outside of use of a drug to provide this effect, it generally comes from sleep deprivation.

Hypnagogia is another product of oneirogen drugs. This term refers to the state right between waking and sleeping, in which its common to experience hallucinations or sleep paralysis; the latter being what allows us to dream like we’re in motion, while remaining motionless. When in this state, we are generally not conscious.

The next thing these drugs can cause, is a fugue state. In psychology, a fugue state is classified as a conversion disorder (psychologically-driven issues that manifest as problems like numbness, paralysis, and blindness); a dissociative disorder, (disruptions in perception, awareness, memory, and identity), or a somatic disorder (mental disorder that manifests as physical sickness or injury). A fugue state is characterized by temporary and reversible amnesia. Oftentimes its accompanied by the person in question simply wandering away from where they’re supposed to be, with no knowledge of who they are.

Another possible effect of oneirogen drugs is what it does to REM sleep. REM – rapid eye movement – refers to the period of sleep in which the eyes flit around under the eyelids, and in which dreams generally happen. Though it might seem like we dream through the night, this stage accounts for only about 20% of total sleep time for adults. Unless you take a drug that can prolong this phase.

Sleep cycle

These drugs also lead to hypnic jerks. Have you ever experienced a tick in your body while falling asleep. Like an involuntary movement, a quick little muscle contraction? Well, that’s what it is. Often, a dream or hallucination accompanies the jerks, likely because its around the same time as hypnagogia. Common hallucinogenic experiences include feeling like falling, or flashing or bright lights.

Lucid dreams are also encouraged by oneirogens. Lucid dreaming is when a person is completely aware they are dreaming, while dreaming. Most people are never aware they’re dreaming when asleep, making lucid dreaming an interesting path for studying psychometrics. While some people will never have this experience on their own, others have it frequently, and can bring it on at will. Some even say that lucid dreaming allows the dreamer to control their actions in their dream, something the rest of us cannot do.

The last aspect of oneirogen drugs, is there ability to produce out-of-body experiences. These experiences produce a sensation that makes the person feel like they’re conscious mind, is outside of their physical body, much of the time looking down on it. As in, the physical body and the mind are separated. Some refer to these as dissociative experiences.

The importance of dreams in history

The idea of dreams providing insight and information, is seen all throughout religious history, and history in general. For example, in the bible, many people including Abraham and King Solomon, were all given instruction or useful information in their dreams.

This idea shows up in Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman texts. The Ancient Egyptians used many herbs to induce dreaming, as they believed that the most important prophetic information was handed down that way. The Ancient Greeks had a dream book called Oneirocritica, which was written by a guy named Artemidorus. As one of the oldest remaining recordings of dream analysis, it was even mentioned by Sigmund Freud in his own Interpretation of Dreams.

The Ancient Romans believed the god of sleep – Hypnos – along with his sons Morpheus, Icelus, and Phantaseus brought dreams to humans, with each son bringing a different kind of dream. Morpheus brought on dreams about other people, Icelus brought on dreams about animals, and Phantaseus brought on dreams about inanimate objects.

The Legend of Gilgamesh incorporates oneirogen drugs
The Legend of Gilgamesh incorporates oneirogen drugs

The importance of dreams goes back even further to Mesopotamia, from which we still have The Epic of Gilgamesh. This long-form poem is thought to be the oldest piece of notable writing still in existence, and the second oldest religious text in existence. There are several examples that involve oneiromancy in a prophetic way, with part of the poem itself inscribed on a Dream Tablet. Incidentally, this tablet found itself illegally imported to the US and owned by a number of different people, before being identified for what it was by the US government, and returned to Iraq from which it came.

Such drugs also make their way into the literature of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, often called “First Nation.” First Nation is comprised of many different separate cultures, with different religions and traditions. For example, in some, animals deliver the dreams of newborn children, while in others, symbols from dreams are used for divination; applied to activities like hunting or fishing.

Dreamcatchers originate from this area, and are a good testament to how much power native cultures attach to dreams. Dreamcatchers are originally from the Ojibwa culture, and consist of a shape made out of a willow hoop (generally round), with some kind of woven net or web, which can include different designs, feathers, beads, and other adornments.

The purpose of a dreamcatcher is to filter dreams so only the good ones get through, and are meant for the protection of children. The original tale involves a Woodland Chief’s child who fell ill, and couldn’t sleep because of bad dreams. A medicine woman constructed the first dreamcatcher to aid the child, who made a quick recovery upon its employment.

Conclusion

Dreams are weird and trippy, and all the science in the world can’t tell us exactly why we have them, or how. They remain a final frontier in the study of consciousness; with oneirogen drugs as a way to promote their vividness, and the possible messages they bring.

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Rising Hash Use in Saudi Arabia Counters Standard Optics

We talk all the time about the growing acceptance of drugs like cannabis and psychedelics in the world today. But we’re not talking about every country, and some countries move slower than others. For some, so little information is released, that all we know are government lines unless another piece of information is provided. A great example: hash in Saudi Arabia. Now, a 2021 study shows us the rising hash use among the younger generations. And it counters the standard image put out by the government.

Drug laws in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia – officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest country in West Asia, as well as the Middle East. It sits north of Yemen, north-east of Oman, east of United Arab Emirates, and south of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait. To the west side is the South Sea, separating it from Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea. It covers approximately 830,000 square miles (2,150,000 km2). As of about 10 years ago, the population was approximately 26.9 million people.

Saudi Arabia is also one of those countries that is known for being particularly harsh with drugs, even if we don’t have precise information from the country itself. I can’t tell you much of anything about what the specific punishments are, or where the cutoff is between different punishments. But I can tell you that the system as it is, is based on an interpretation of Islamic law, which – in this interpretation – forbids the use of anything that hurts the body, or the general social welfare of the country.

According to a 2018 mini review in The Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, called Illegality of Hashish Usage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the two prior years, usage of hashish skyrocketed 300%. Hash is the most widely used drug in the country. The Saudi General Directorate of Narcotic Control estimated at that time, that about 70% of hash smokers were still in school.


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There’s an interesting statistic from the report. Apparently in 2006, (and as per the UN), the amount of narcotics (including hash) that was intercepted in that year by the Saudi government, was greater than what was intercepted from everywhere else in the world. While this sounds a bit off, it could simply relate to the idea that Saudi Arabia is extremely diligent with drug busts.

Though we don’t know specifics punishments, we do know that anyone related to illicit drugs will have some form of punishment handed down, that this varies depending on who the person is. A user and a trafficker incur two different punishments, but neither gets off the hook. Death is generally reserved for the most severe crime of smuggling. Drugs in general are regulated in the country via The Narcotic Control Law.

There is also variation in punishment depending on how many times a person is caught. Punishment for a first-time offense could be jail time, fines, lashings, or a combination. Second time offenses incur greater punishments, and it’s posited that even dealers can find themselves with death sentences if they’re caught enough times.

Users receive a judgement from the court, which usually involves a jail sentence of about two years. Saudi Arabia does follow UN guidelines when it comes to users, and does prefer to treat them as patients rather than criminals. Users can enter a treatment program to decrease punishment. Students also get lighter treatment, with discipline and monitoring over anything harsher.

What about the death sentences?

Being caught with any illicit drug will mean prison time, fines, lashings, or treatment; but it can go even farther than that with death sentences. And while I can’t stress enough that we have very little confirmable information out of this country, there are stories like this from 2014, about the beheading of four men, all caught smuggling cannabis into the country.

Part of the reason we don’t get a lot of great information, is because the government itself owns much of the media, and that which isn’t owned is highly subsidized and regulated by the government. As per reports on the beheadings, we’re only told the men smuggled in “a large quantity of hashish,” but that’s as specific as it gets. Which is a bit sparse considering the extremity of the punishment. For a year in jail, maybe those words would be enough. But cutting off heads? It’s also said that the confessions of all the men were illicited by extreme torture; meaning we can’t know if they were valid or not.

Saudi Arabia beheads for trafficking hash

In a 2017 report by Amnesty International, an international non-government agency which works for human rights issues globally, between 2016 and 2017, drug-related beheadings increased from 16% to 40% in the country. Saudi Arabia is even pointed to for executing people who confessed under extreme torture, like the story mentioned above. Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, put it this way:

“Despite strides towards abolishing this abhorrent punishment, there are still a few leaders who would resort to the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ rather than tackling problems at their roots with humane, effective and evidence-based policies. Strong leaders execute justice, not people.”

Students and hash in Saudi Arabia

As tends to be the case with a lot of illicit drug usage, the greatest percentage of users are young people. This is true in Saudi Arabia as well, despite the harsh consequences of involvement with drugs. In 2021, the journal Crime, Law and Social Change published this paper: Drugs behind the veil of Islam: a view of Saudi youth. “Drawing on the qualitative data, the study tries to shed light on the hidden dimensions of drug trafficking and abuse in the Kingdom through its diversity, complexity and richness.”

To investigate the issue, researchers used documentary methods, in-depth interviews, and literature reviews. They used a snowball method for interviewing students, meaning they used their interviewees to help find new interviewees. All came from Saudi University in Eastern Province. Researchers looked at the backgrounds and hometowns of interviewees to avoid bias since interviewees knew each other from school. A total of 18 students were used, all men. 10 had used drugs previously. Interviews lasted on average 1.5 hours.

Drug trafficking was found to be tied to situations of low economic standing, and it was also found that drug use tends to come from social change. Hash showed itself as the most popular drug in the country. According to one student dubbed Interviewee C, “College students like hashish most because it is not strong and relatively cheap. My friends say you won’t get addicted by smoking hashish.”

Hash use has increased so much in the younger generations, that another student, Interviewee M stated: “It is so popular among youngsters that you may be distanced if you don’t try it with peers. Gradually, you consider it acceptable.” Which means, despite harsh repercussions, there is now a social pressure attached to using it.

Hash is most popular in Saudi Arabia
Hash is most popular in Saudi Arabia

Another thing found is that there wasn’t much different between genders in terms of drug use. Said interviewee G, “girls smoke hashish too. I heard from my sister that her friends meet together and smoke hashish…..Arabs always smoke shisha mixed with hashish. You know, women smoke shisha too; it should be common that they smoke shisha with hashish. But it may not be as popular as it among boys.”

However, there was a bit of a difference between urbanites and those from rural areas. Explained interviewee L “I am from a village, and now study at the second largest city in the Kingdom. Look like drug-taking is more common in the city. But city residents and villagers take similar drugs.”

What else is big in Saudi Arabia?

Second to hash, the next most popular drug in Saudi Arabia is the amphetamine Captagon. In fact, Saudi Arabia is targeted by counterfeit manufacturers, even more so than the rest of the Middle East. This drug is mainly for the young. Interviewee M sheds some light saying, “I think age matters. Unlike old people, young people like to try and accept new things. That is why old Saudis like hashish but young Saudis like Captagon.”

Some even prefer Captagon to hash. Said interviewee O, “Captagon is small. My school mates and I like it more than hashish. Not like hashish, we can buy in tablet……Once we get 25 Riyals from parents, we can buy one tablet and enjoy it.”

It’s said that older people don’t like the drug as much as the young folks, partly for health and social reasons. “Old people have social status and families. They may lose all of them if take amphetamine. But young people have no such fear,” said interviewee H. This was added onto by interviewee D, who said, “drug dealers specialize one or two kinds of drug. Those above middle age stick to their old social circle and don’t have connections with amphetamine dealers.”

Conclusion

Several Middle Eastern countries are secretive about their drug statistics. In such cases, we only know what the governments say, or a little from other small pieces of information that get through. Right now, all available evidence points to a rise in overall drug usage, with hash leading the way in Saudi Arabia.

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The Rise of Entheogenic Plants: What They Are, And Changing Policies

The word ‘entheogenic’ might not have been very popular a few years ago, but it’s sure making headlines now. Why? Because more and more US locations are passing legalization and decriminalization measures for entheogenic plants. So what does this word mean? And which plants does it refer to? Read on.

Entheogenic plants – what are they?

The word ‘entheogen’ refers to any substance that can alter perception, mood, behavior, cognitive abilities, and/or consciousness. They are specifically psychoactive substances meant to help spiritual development, in some kind of religious or sacred way. Throughout history, such substances have been employed for religious, magical, shamanic, healing, or spiritual traditions, all over the globe.

Entheogens are used to drive forward different traditional practices meant to bring a person to a higher spiritual level. These include but are not limited to: meditation, yoga, healing, prayer, and divination. Psychedelics are one of the more popular forms of entheogens, but we’re not looking at all entheogens right now, and not all psychedelics qualify. What we’re specifically looking at is entheogenic plants, meaning this no longer includes synthetically made entheogens like LSD or MDMA.

The term ‘entheogen’ came about in 1979 by some ethnobotanists and mythology academics. It comes from the combination of two words from Ancient Greek: éntheos and genésthai. The former translates to “full of the god, inspired, possessed,” and is where we get the word ‘enthusiasm.’ While the latter translates to “to come into being.”


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Put together, and it translates to the idea of being inspired; whether for greater spiritual understanding, personal growth, or something else related. The word ‘entheogen’ is sometimes confused for the words ‘psychedelic’, and ‘hallucinogen’, but its not exactly either, though it can encompass drugs of those specifications.

The term ‘entheogen’ is not more specific than this, partly because its not an actual part of nomenclature. Rather, it’s a broad term that can be used in different ways. Since it implies any psychoactive substance used for spiritual purposes, or some kind of personal development; it refers to many different substances, and personal opinions on whats included, can vary.

Some publications list entheogenic plants as plants with psychedelic properties alone. Other publications look at in terms of drugs used specifically in rituals. Regardless of exactly how you want to break it down, an entheogen is a plant with psychoactive effects, that’s used in some kind of traditional practice of spirituality or healing.

The most common plants that find their way into this definition include DMT, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, amanita mushrooms, iboga, and Salvia divanorum. But it can also include plants like kava, datura, and plants like African Dream Herb which is in a class called oneirogens, which are characterized by a dreamy state of consciousness.

Entheogenic plants in recent legislation

As hallucinogenic substances (often lumped together under the heading ‘psychedelics’) gain popularity, we see this reflected in new legislative measures that have already passed in different locations; which have been proposed, but didn’t make their way through; or are currently in the system. Different locations define what they want to legalize or decriminalize differently, but more and more often, there’s a designation specifically for entheogenic plants.

Right now, Colorado stands as the best example for changing legislation regarding entheogenic plants. In the November 2022 elections, the people of Colorado voted on Proposition 122, which passed with 53.64% of the voting public saying yes, meaning 1,296,992votes. 46.36% of the voting public – 1,121,124 votes – didn’t want this change.

Entheogens (ayahuasca)

The bill is called the Decriminalization, Regulated Distribution, and Therapy Program for Certain Hallucinogenic Plants and Fungi Initiative. This new law defines certain plants containing psychoactive and entheogenic compounds, as natural medicines, including DMT, ibogaine, mescaline (excluding peyote), psilocybin, and psilocin. The measure does not mention the word entheogen, but that’s exactly what it’s talking about.

It decriminalizes the personal possession, use, transport, and cultivation of the plants with the compounds mentioned above, so long as the user is 21 or above. It also creates the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program which is to be an industry of regulated healing centers where these compounds will be administered as natural medicines.

Incidentally, as a showing of how much Colorado is in support of hallucinogens, it passed HB 1344, which was signed into law June 8th of 2022. This first-of-its-kind law pre-emptively legalized the medical use of MDMA, but is contingent on the federal government passing a legalization measure first, before it becomes valid. MDMA, however, as a synthetic drug, is not considered an entheogenic plant.

Did Oregon legalize entheogenic plants?

Oregon became the very first state to legalize a previously illegal entheogenic plant, when it put Measure 109 before its people, called the Psilocybin Mushroom Services Program Initiative. 55.75% of voters were all for this change, while 44.25% of voters were a bit more hesitant. This measure was not as well defined as Colorado’s upon the vote, and it wasn’t until 2022 that some things became clear. Although one point that was clear at voting time, was that this only applied to magic mushrooms.

When draft rules finally came out, they stipulated that not only is it only magic mushrooms allowed, but limited it to only one species: Psilocybe cubensis. Colorado, much like Oregon, is looking to set up treatment centers where the drugs can be given as natural medicine. Only, it seems Colorado is more geared to doing this medicinally, and Oregon doesn’t make that stipulation. How much Colorado allows ‘spiritual’ and ‘medical’ to overlap, is hard to say at the moment.

Colorado decriminalized the use of these plants as well for adults. Oregon did likewise through a different ballot measure called Measure 110, which decriminalized the personal possession of controlled substances, bringing them down to a class E violation which comes with no more than $100 in fines. Between Oregon’s two measures, and Colorado’s one, they do provide similar overage, with Colorado going just a bit farther for what it will offer in treatment centers. In neither state was a full recreational legalization made.

Entheogenic plants like peyote
Entheogenic plants like peyote

Where else is there legislation for entheogenic plants?

Different individual locations within the US have passed decriminalization measures for different hallucinogenic substances. These vary between locations in exactly what they permit. One of the more recent additions was San Francisco. In September 2022 its Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution which doesn’t make a legal change, but which does instruct law enforcement to put possession and use of the included plants as the lowest priority for arrest. And it does specifically define them as entheogenic.

The resolution, called Supporting Entheogenic Plant Practices (resolution 220896), decriminalizes the “full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being.” It even stipulates that this covers “planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with” these plants. This decriminalization does nothing to limit punishment for drugs like LSD and MDMA.

Seattle did something similar in October 2022, also not making it fully legal, but passing a resolution which states “that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among The City of Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priorities and stating the Council’s support for full decriminalization of these activities.”

Detroit also went the way of specifically decriminalizing entheogenic plants. Voter measure Proposal E, which was voted in on November 2nd, 2021, asked the question: “Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority?” The city responded yes with 61.08% of the voting population onboard with this.

On a state level, Michigan attempted to legalize some hallucinogens, but the bill was defeated last spring. California also attempted a psychedelics legalization, but the bill tanked out as well. It has, however, come back, introducing Senate Bill 58 in December which would “decriminalize the possession and personal use of certain psychedelic drugs.” These include “psilocybin, psilocyn, Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”), mescaline (excluding peyote), and ibogaine.”

Washington also had a failed bill to legalize psychedelics, and is also already back in the saddle with the “Psilocybin Services Wellness and Opportunity Act” which was introduced on January 11th, 2023. The bill aims to “facilitate the establishment of safe, legal, and affordable psilocybin service centers to provide citizens of Washington who are at least 21 years of age with opportunities for supported psilocybin experiences for wellness and personal growth.”

Salvia flowers
Salvia flowers

Conclusion

The term ‘entheogens’ includes many different substances. Many of these substances, particularly of the entheogenic plant variety, are now making their way to decriminalized or legal status; as hallucinogens in general rise in popularity.

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Can You Get High Off Terpenes? Maybe…

The more we learn about weed, the more we learn about the different compounds within, and how those compounds affect our health and how we feel. When we talk about feeling high, we’re generally talking about the THC aspect, or even the CBD. But what about terpenes? Is it possible to get high off terpenes, and if so, which ones are best for this purpose?

What does it mean to get high?

Kind of weird question, right? To a certain degree, we all understand what this means, but at the same time, there are sometimes misconceptions. Consider people who never do drugs. Their idea of what ‘high’ means could be very different from a person who regularly uses different substances. And getting high off of different drugs produces different subjective experiences. So how do we define this idea?

According to Wictionary, the term to ‘get high’ means “To intoxicate oneself with drugs or other substances.” Merriam-Webtser uses the word ‘stoned’, and defines it as 1) “Drunk sense,” or 2) “Being under the influence of a drug (such as marijuana) taken especially for pleasure : high.”

These definitions are interesting. Both say that it involves taking something, but the first definition also implies that it merely involves intoxication, which itself does not have to be a pleasurable experience. Intoxication is defined as 1) “The condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs,” 2) “A strong excitement or elation,” and 3) “An abnormal state that is essentially a poisoning,” meaning it doesn’t have to be associated with a good feeling.


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Under these definitions, any drug that effects personal control or creates an abnormal state, is considered intoxicating, and therefore a part of getting high. This, indeed involves CBD as well as THC when it comes to the cannabis plant. Though often touted as a non-psychoactive compound, CBD’s sheer ability to affect mood, proves this an untrue statement. And depending on personal reactions, it can certainly have an effect on physical control.

All this is simply to say that the idea of ‘getting high’ isn’t as explicit as some think, and can be applied to different feelings, not necessarily just feelings of euphoria. However, for our purposes, we’ll stick to looking at getting high, as taking some substance to make a person feel good, to whatever level this means.

What are terpenes?

Now that we’ve covered what it means to get high, let’s look at the compounds in question, terpenes. The word has certainly gained popularity of late, as the cannabis plant in general gains prominence for its many benefits. And while we usually spend more time looking at the cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBN, and CBC, among others, there are other entirely different compounds to consider; both in how they create a synergistic effect with cannabinoids, and for the effects they specifically give.

Terpenes are compounds produced almost solely by plants, and usually of the conifer grouping. They’re unsaturated hydrocarbons, meaning they’re made up of only hydrogen and carbon. There are also terpenoids, which differ in that they can have other elements like oxygen included. The number of carbon atoms is a differentiator for different kinds of terpenes. Monoterpenes have 10 carbon atoms, sesquiterpenes have 15, and diterpenes have 20.

Terpenes are a part of a plant’s defense system against herbivores and pathogens; while also being what attracts pollinators, mutualists (anything that forms a symbiotic relationship), and promotes possible communication between plants as well. They do this by way of strong smells and flavors, which is how we know them. These constituents are primary in essential oils, because of their very potent smells and tastes.

When it comes to cannabis, we know that terpenes play a role in creating a synergistic effect with other compounds like cannabinoids and flavonoids. A synergistic effect – often called the entourage effect when speaking of cannabis – simply means that the different components work together to create a combined effect that wouldn’t exist if one of the components was missing.

Cannabis compounds have synergistic effects

The cannabis plant is still very much under construction in terms of what we know about it. We know a lot, sure, but scientific research uncovers new things every day. So, when speaking about it, it’s always good to remember that we don’t know everything yet. What we do know, is that an average cannabis plant has approximately 400 different terpenes.

It’s said that over 30,000 exist across the plant kingdom. Of these, we really can only identify the effects of a few, though as research continues, this number should increase. Since we can’t say what they all do, we can’t rule in or out effects, but we can speak to the ones that have already been flushed out more.

In the cannabis plant, some of the main terpenes (or, at least, main ones that we talk about now), are pinene, myrcene, limonene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene. You know how some strains smell a little lemony? Well, that’s likely limonene. Or maybe it has a strong earthy pine scent? That’s the pinene. These compounds don’t just come with funky scents though, they also come with their own effects.

Can you get high off terpenes?

There isn’t a definite answer to this question. Some sources say they just contribute to a THC high, others claim psychotropic effects. And anecdotal evidence backs up both. If the claim of psychoactive effects is true though, then it certainly seems like if those psychotropic effects are positive, and make a person feel good, then they’re producing a high.

In today’s cannabis world, many products are based on the idea of extracting something that might only occur in small amounts, and making concentrated products. This is true of terpenes too. Though they exist in tiny amounts in the cannabis plant, some companies are already selling products such as terpene tonics, which are chock full of the compounds. And anecdotally, these concentrated terpene products are said to make people feel differently. In fact, terpenes are already associated with certain effects.

Like myrcene, which is associated with pain relief, and that intense couch locking feeling that weed can sometimes produce. Couch locking is when you essentially don’t feel like doing anything except lay on your couch. It’s a sort of mental and physical laziness. For me, it comes with a cloudy head, and a feeling of impairment…which classifies as intoxication as it affects my abilities.

Does terpene myrcene get you high?
Does terpene myrcene get you high?

Myrcene is thought to produce feelings of relaxation; it stimulates the release of endogenous opioids, which help with pain relief. Conversely, though this happens in higher levels, in lower levels, myrcene is associated with producing more of an energetic effect.

Linalool also has a reputation of producing relaxing effects. It’s used in sleep aid products, and has anti-convulsant abilities. By bringing on feelings of relaxation, it has a psychotropic effect. Likewise, the terpene limonene is associated with anxiolytic, anti-stress, and sedative effects due to upping serotonin and dopamine levels. Pinene on the other hand, is more associated with energizing effects.

Then there’s caryophyllene, which is said to have anti-depressant and anti-anxiolytic qualities; and terpineol, thought to be calming while boosting mood. All of these effects mentioned, change a mental state, and it could be considered that they make you high.

Whether these effects mean you get high off terpenes, is perhaps more subjective, and based on personal definitions, than anything else. A microdose of mushrooms is still considered getting high, even though the effects are minimalized. In that same sense, terpenes can be considered high-inducing, even if not the standard idea of high. And who knows, perhaps in the future scientists will identify a terpene that really does cause a strong euphoric effect. It could already be argued that they do now, so long as they’re in concentrated form.

Terpene products

Terpene products exist in the market already. In California, interested buyers can enjoy Olala infused sodas which use both THC and terpenes. Sodas come in Blue Raspberry, Guava, Orange Cream, and Mango.

Then there are companies like the Terpene Store, which sell a range of materials for use by producers in their own products. The store functions online, and through retailers, and sells products which are FDA approved for food and flavor use. The company sources terpenes from many different plants, with just a selection coming from cannabis plants (specifically hemp). Its catalogue includes different formulations, including a line called ‘Vibe’ which breaks it down to physical/mental states: Awake, Focus, Passion, Relax, Relief, and Sleep, each with a multi-terpene profile meant to create this effect.

Does terpene limonene get you high?
Does terpene limonene get you high?

True Terpenes is yet another terpene vendor in this burgeoning market. It also sells high grade formulations to producers for product infusion. Much like the Terpene Store, it uses terpenes both from cannabis, and other botanical sources. It also offers a line of products based on physical/mental states. It’s offerings here are: Rest, Recovery, Creative, Energy, Focus, and Calm.

Since one of the benefits of terpenes is their powerful scents and flavors, many companies are now capitalizing on this through making terpene-infused rolling papers which smell great, while also giving a nice burst of terpenes. Like the well-known Zig-Zag, which puts out terpene-infused hemp cones in flavors like Limoncello, and Clementine.

Another well-known company, RAW, also gives some terpene-infused offerings. Like the terpene-infused Strawberry Tree Cones, as well as a limited offering Terpene candle, and a Terp spray that you can spray onto your regular paper or cone, to get the full terpene flavor and effect. Sprays come with different terpene variations, and include RAW Sour Apple Terp Spray, RAW Orange Soda Terp Spray, and RAW SFV OG Terp Spray. Interested buyers must find a local RAW retail location.

In fact, terpene-infused papers were one of the biggest trends at 2022’s Las Vegas based MJBizCon convention. With some products I had to question whether it was terpenes used at all, or some other chemical agent; as the flavor seemed unnatural and wouldn’t quickly wear off what the paper touched (like my hands, or bag). This could signal that new production methods have intensified them, or that some companies might be using non-terpene chemical agents, and masquerading them as terpenes.

Conclusion

Can you get high from terpenes? Well, maybe, depending on which terpenes, the concentration, and how you define being high. The reality is that terpenes might not cause a massive effect on their own in the amounts found in plants; but in today’s biotech world of chemical enhancement, its more than possible to make concentrated products that can do a lot more.

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10 Reasons to Legalize Drugs in 2023

Welcome to the new age. 2023 is upon us and flying cars, time travel and the new annoyingly addictive social media platform is surely imminently round the corner. However, 2023 may also be the year for something else. 2022 had many cases of drug legalizations around the world, and it’s likely that there will be more to come this year.

That’s why – in this article – we’re going to remember why drug legalization is important. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why removing a ban on substances can actually lead to a lot of positives. With the new year finally here, let’s remind ourselves. Why should we legalize drugs in 2023?

Legal Drugs 

We are entering 2023 with a world that has shifted its opinion on many previously illegal substances. Cannabis is now fully legal in 21 out of 50 US states and last year Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize it. Germany is also very close to being the biggest and most powerful nation in Europe to legalize weed, which would surely trigger a huge influence over the rest of Europe. In addition, drugs such as ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin are all being researched for their benefits treating anxiety and depression. Many nations are now allowing drug-assisted therapy.

Ultimately, 2022 was a good year for substance legalization but there’s still a long way to go. That is why it’s important to remind ourselves why drug legalization is important in the first place. When we go through these list of reasons, it’s important to note that it should all be acknowledged with a pinch of nuance. No one is suggesting that we wake up tomorrow and legalize every substance under the sun.

Instead, what is advised is a gradual move away from the failed ‘War on Drugs’ agenda that has successfully continued drug use, death, addiction, crime and incarceration without doing any of the good that it apparently set out to do. We need to educate and facilitate people in understanding what substances are and the benefits they can have, as well as the dangers of them. Project Syndicate writes:

“By fostering a more accurate, nuanced, and holistic understanding of drugs and drug use among the public – including, crucially, health-care professionals – education campaigns can go a long way toward advancing this goal. Such campaigns should acknowledge, for starters, the socio-cultural, historical, and even religious dimensions of drug use.” 

It is counterproductive to teach kids about the dangers of drugs, when they are fully aware that there are an increasing number of cases where substances are being used to help people. You are essentially lying to the youth of today if you do not also accept these facts. Drug acceptance could do a lot of good for the world. Here’s why. 

10 Reasons to Legalize Drugs 

1 – Increased safety

One of the main arguments in favour of legalizing drugs is that it can increase safety for both individuals and society as a whole. When drugs are illegal, they are often produced and sold by criminal organizations, which can lead to violence and corruption. By legalizing and regulating drugs, the production and distribution of these substances can be made safer, reducing the risks associated with their use. Look at Amsterdam or California for example, people can now walk into designated shops to purchase their cannabis, rather than having go down dark alleys to secretly meet an unlicensed stranger. It also means that those selling the substances are not in danger of being sentenced. This moves us on to our second point. 

2 – Decreased drug-related crime

Drug-related crime is a significant problem in many countries, and legalization could help to reduce it. When drugs are illegal, people who use them or sell them are, by default, criminals. In the US, there are around 1.5 million drug arrests every year. The majority of these are for minor offences. This is a waste of time for both the users and the authorities. In addition, those who consume illegal drugs can often turn to crime in order to pay for their habit. By making drugs legal and more affordable, the incentive to engage in criminal activity in order to obtain them would be reduced.


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3 – Increased tax revenue

Legalizing drugs would also generate significant tax revenue for governments. This revenue could be used to fund treatment programs, harm reduction initiatives, and other public health initiatives aimed at reducing the negative consequences of drug use. The Netherlands makes around 400 million euros a year from cannabis sales, and the US makes a whopping 11 million dollars per annum. All of this money would be going to illegal organisations if it wasn’t for cannabis being legal. This would be the same with other substances that are also used for medicinal purposes – including ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin. A country can make a lot of money from tax revenue if they decide to legalize these substances. 

4 – Improved access to treatment

Legalizing drugs could also improve access to treatment for those who are struggling with addiction. When drugs are illegal, people who are addicted may be reluctant to seek help for fear of legal consequences. By making drugs legal and more widely available, it may be easier for people to access treatment and support for their addiction. It’s hard for people to admit to their friends and families they have an issue, especially when that issue is technically illegal. But if a substance is legal, it might be perhaps easier for someone to admit and seek assistance. 

5 – Reduced stigma

This is similar to the previous reason, but it actually picks up on a larger issue. The stigma surrounding drug use can be a major barrier to seeking help for addiction. Legalizing drugs could help to reduce this stigma, as it would shift the focus from the criminalization of drug use to a more health-oriented approach. This could make it easier for people to seek help and support for their addiction without fear of judgement or discrimination. Many people still have a very old fashioned and traditional view on substance use, especially those who have never tried them before. Many world leaders claim to have never tried any recreational drug in their lives, and yet they are the ones deciding on integral drug laws which will affect millions of people. The stigma and fear around drugs needs to stop, and nuance needs to be injected into the conversation. 

6 – Improved public health

Legalizing drugs could also have positive public health implications. When drugs are illegal, they are often produced and sold on the black market, which means that their quality is often uncertain. By legalizing and regulating drugs, the quality and safety of these substances could be improved, reducing the risk of overdose and other negative health consequences. To cut the cost, many dealers mix substances with others in order to save money. This can sometimes cause undesired deaths. With a legal market, people would know exactly what their drugs contain and can stay safe. 

7 – Decreased burden on law enforcement

The war on drugs has placed a significant burden on law enforcement resources, with many police departments devoting a significant amount of time and resources to drug-related investigations and arrests. Many of these cases lead to a simple warning and not much else, which is essentially a waste of time for everyone involved. Legalizing drugs would allow law enforcement to focus on more pressing issues that actually require their attention. Carly Barton – a cannabis activist in the UK – created the cannabis card for this very reason. As weed is illegal recreationally but legal medically in the UK, she created a card which would prove to authorities that users had been prescribed cannabis for medicinal purposes. This stopped a great deal of time wasting. 

8 – Decreased incarceration rates

As previously mentioned, the War on Drugs has also contributed to high incarceration rates, particularly for non-violent drug offences. Legalizing drugs could help to reduce these rates, freeing up space in prisons and saving governments money on the cost of incarceration. The more illegal substances, the more prisons will be full of people who are using these substances. Drug users should be helped, not put in prison. Again, it’s a waste of time for everyone involved. 

9 – Increased personal freedom

It’s odd that a nation like America, that allows for each citizen to own a gun, does not also allow for the use of drugs. Some argue that the prohibition of drugs infringes on individuals’ personal freedom and autonomy. By making drugs legal, individuals would be able to make their own decisions about what substances they consume, as long as they do not harm others. Treating a population like children who are not allowed to eat sweets does not work. Millions of people still use drugs, regardless of if it’s accepted or not. Why not allow people to make up their own minds? 

10 – Improved relations with other countries

The War on Drugs has divided many nations around the world. Some see it as the ideal methodology, others are hugely critical of it. If the world had a consensus on drug law approach, perhaps it would cause some real change. Opposing views has had negative consequences in terms of international relations and caused tensions. The Netherlands, for instance, are tired of being used as a drug tourist destination due to the rest of Europe’s substance laws. Thousands travel to Amsterdam every year to smoke weed and eat magic truffles due to the conservative laws everywhere else on the continent. A common global approach would do good for international relations. 

Conclusion

There you have it. 10 reasons why legalizing drugs in 2023 is the right idea. Hopefully this year brings more substance acceptance, and we continue to move slowly towards a better world. 

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