Death Toll Rising: Overdose Deaths 2022 Released

The numbers from the last few years are not encouraging. It seems these days people are dropping left and right, and the main culprit is doctor prescribed medication. Recent data released by the US government shows an increase – though minor – in overdose deaths for 2022. Read on for more info.

Overdose deaths 2022

2022 is now the highest recorded year for overdose deaths in the US, taking the place of the preceding year. Provisional data released by the CDC on Wednesday, May 17th, put the number for 2022 overdose deaths at 109,680. These are not final numbers however. For example, 2021 provisional data put the number at 107,622 deaths. That number rose to 109,179 by the time final numbers came out. Final numbers for 2022 are likely to be a bit higher than what just came out. Either way, still an increase from the previous year.

The most troubling factor in this, is that over 2/3 of these deaths, are attributable to synthetic opioids. Opioids are based on compounds from the opium plant, but are not naturally occurring, and are instead made in a lab. Whereas synthetic versions of weaker opiates (compounds found in the plant) are also given as medication – like codeine; the bigger issue is with the stronger, synthetic offerings. This entire classing of drugs is lab-created, and this whole issue stems not from a black market growing, but from doctors prescribing these medications.

The drug with the biggest share of the death toll? Fentanyl. Its estimated that of 2022 numbers, more than 75,000 of the total 109,680 are attributable to synthetic opioids, with fentanyl leading the way. Fentanyl is strong in its own right, but is often mixed with other drugs, either purposefully, or accidentally; which leads to many deaths. Other drugs that played a big role in 2022 overdose death numbers, are psychostimulants, like meth and coke; which together made up over a quarter of the deaths.

Overdose deaths strong in 2022

The White House’s Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, had this to say in a statement about the current drug crisis and what the government is doing about it: “We’ve expanded treatment to millions of Americans, we’re improving access to Naloxone to reverse overdoses, and we’re attacking the illicit fentanyl supply chain at every choke point.”

Of course the bigger issue, which was 100% ignored in the White House statement, is that these are doctor prescribed medications. The whole reason this is an issue at all, is because doctors were acting as dealers…and still are. Whatever other actions might be taken, that point must be remembered. The opioid issue is massively different from other drug issues, in that these drugs are legally prescribed, and their legal prescription is not only what started this mess, but remains ongoing.

Previous years death overdose numbers

On the plus side (however much you can use that term), overdose deaths stayed relatively level from 2021-2022. 109,179 in 2021 is not terribly far from the overdose death number of 2022 – 109,680. Just a rise of a few hundred; although final numbers could put the 2022 number several thousand higher in the end. For now, the numbers indicate that things remained generally consistent, with only a minor increase; but considering an increase is still an increase – it also shows nothing was done to help the problem.

The final number for 2021 overdose deaths – 109,179, was 15%+ higher than 2020, which had approximately 93,000 overdose deaths. That number is a 30% increase from 2019 overdose death numbers, which totaled about ~70,630 deaths. This means just between the years 2019 and 2022, yearly overdose deaths increased by about 40,000 deaths. 2018 numbers weren’t much lower than 2019, with 67,367 overdose deaths that year.

In one of the only instances of a temporary change in trajectory, the 2018 numbers are a 4.1% decline from the previous year’s numbers. In 2017 there were 70,237 overdose deaths, which is almost on par with 2019; making 2018 numbers a temporary dip. Unfortunately, the trajectory did not change overall, and the numbers since increased. Weirdly enough, after that 2018 dip, numbers went up at a much faster rate than they did before. Kind of like the quiet before a storm.

The main issue with synthetic opioids started in the first decade of the century, although it didn’t pick up steam in a grand way until after 2010. Weaker opiate medications have been around for awhile, going back to the late 1800’s. It says a lot about these newer and stronger synthetics, that despite the fact we’ve had access to similar medications for over 100 years, it was only with their entrance that the overdose rate skyrocketed.

Synthetic opioids driving overdose deaths in 2022
Synthetic opioids driving overdose deaths in 2022

Even heroin has been around since the turn of last century, first as an actual medication. And whereas heroin used to represent the worst talking point for overdose deaths; related overdose numbers have stayed at relatively even levels in the last 20+ years. The main increase is in synthetic opioids only. You can see it all very clearly in graphs here.

Issues with White House statement

Obviously, upon information of this nature coming out, the White House must say something. The government has done nothing to stop the legal production of these drugs, which makes it a part of the problem automatically. The government made no bones about illegalizing Quaaludes back in the early 1980’s, despite also saying that they were highly addictive; so it stands to reason that caring about the addictive nature of opioids is not what keeps them legal. For the record, Quaaludes had a negligible death toll, especially compared to opioids.

Black markets exist for drugs that are both legal and not legal. For this particular issue, what set it off was the creation and sale of synthetic opioids. Meaning this is a pharmaceutical company and government-created issue. Given that, it stands out to me that the White House statement says this: “Most of these deaths were caused by illicit synthetic drugs like clandestinely manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine, often in combination with other drugs including cocaine, heroin, and xylazine.”

Maybe this is true. Maybe most of the deaths are from the black market now, but plenty are not. And it could be that the majority are not. These are doctor prescribed medications. Whatever illicit market there is, is only relevant because of the legal market. The drugs were created by the legal market, NOT the black market. It seems the White House wants readers to associate this entire issue with the black market, and not as a government-regulated problem.

Gupta goes on to say this: “The historic actions taken by the Biden-Harris Administration are saving lives. We’ve expanded treatment to millions of Americans, we’re improving access to Naloxone to reverse overdoses, and we’re attacking the illicit fentanyl supply chain at every choke point. As a result, around 19,000 people are still alive and can be there at the dinner table, at birthdays, and at life’s most important moments.”

Once again, the White House really wants you to focus on the illicit market, not the one it promotes legally. Attacking the illicit supply chain? Why not simply not allow doctors to prescribe the medications? Why not stop their legal production and sale? If you read this without knowing anything about the issue, you’d probably not guess these are legal medications.

Drug overdose deaths
Drug overdose deaths

Even funnier still, is that having done nothing to help the problem, the government then takes credit for saving 19,000 lives. I expect the point Gupta is trying to make, is that the use of Naloxone reversed that many overdoses; but it certainly doesn’t mean that that many people were saved. It means a particular overdose was treated for a person. Not only is the government taking credit, it’s calling this a ‘historic action.’

Gupta goes on, “President Biden has called on us to double down on our efforts to save even more lives so we can beat this crisis, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.” But what does that mean? Even more Naloxone? Is his argument that a drug put out to counteract overdoses, will stop an entire addiction crisis for drugs still wildly available, even legally? Does pumping an alcoholic’s stomach, make them not an alcoholic anymore? Its like, the government is offering nothing, yet trying to take credit for an only small rise in deaths. And ignoring that a rise automatically means nothing improved.

He goes on to talk about seizures of illegal product, seemingly to put attention on the illegal market again. Yet, in not one place does he talk of changing regulation to limit legal production or prescribing. According to the statement, government actions are solely for increasing Naloxone use, and seizures of illicit drugs.

And it continues to ignore the most useful possibility out there: swapping ketamine for opioids. This actual solution is never mentioned at all by any government; which is painfully weird if the idea is to help people. Not only does ketamine show as a more useful pain treatment, and one that can last months after application; but without the addictive properties of opioids. Of course, not mentioning it does go in line with helping pharma companies make money from opioid sales.


Does this leveling off mean that some action is working, and the problem will reverse? Likely, no. Because no suitable actions have been taken. Maybe the problem won’t get worse, and we’ve reached the standard leveling off point. Or maybe this is just a break in the overall trajectory, which will continue up next year. One thing for sure (or pretty sure) is that real change takes real action. Right now, the government isn’t even being honest about where the problem is coming from. So can we really expect it to do anything useful about it?

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THCA Loophole Is Making the Government Scramble

Loopholes are fun. They provide a way to get around a law, without really breaking it; by taking advantage of inconsistencies or gaps in specifics. Sometimes they really exist, and sometimes they’re ideas that are simply not worth fighting by regulators. The most recent loophole to rock the cannabis world, is surrounding the use of THC precursor, THCA. What’s this loophole all about? Read on for more info.

What is THCA?

We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the cannabis plant. At least enough to know that it goes by the names ‘marijuana’ and ‘hemp’ as well, and that there are some plants more geared toward THC, and some toward CBD. The former group is legally identified as ‘marijuana,’ while the 2018 Farm Bill specified the lower-THC grouping as ‘hemp.’ And this designations leads to the THCA loophole.

Have you tried the new THCA pre-rolls?

These terms are related to THC amount in the plants, with a .3% cutoff between the two categories. But this distinction undermines something important: that realistically, no growing cannabis plants have a lot of THC. They’re all low-THC, because THC barely exists in the growing plants. THC is a product of heating weed, which means if a cannabis plant is taken and used raw, there will always be negligible amounts of THC involved. It requires heat to turn the precursor acid – known as THCA – into the THC that makes us high.

THCA, aka tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is what really exists in high amounts in the cannabis plant. But the thing about THCA? It doesn’t get you high, and thus can be used from a raw plant, without psychoactive effects. By itself it has the chemical formula C22H30O4. When heated, it decarboxylates to C21H30O2, meaning it changes in the presence of heat. As you can tell by the formulas, they are closely related, but not the same thing. Decarboxylation is done through smoking, vaping, or leaching out active compounds using heat, like in cooking.

THCA is the precursor to THC

In a raw cannabis plant, decarboxylation does take place, but at slow rates and in low amounts. If you find some really old, dried-out weed, it’s likely to have decarboxylated a little. But if you see a nice fresh plant, still in the ground or just recently harvested, it’s likely to have almost no THC. In either case, the amounts are small enough to not cause any effects.

Is THCA legal?

Depends where it’s from. Marijuana is defined like this: “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” According to this definition, a precursor acid is still technically a part of the plant, and therefore illegal.

But that only refers to high-THC marijuana. The last US Farm Bill made a legal distinction for hemp plants, giving them this definition: “…the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

So now we have the situation wherein identical compounds are legal when taken from one place, and illegal when taken from another. This resembles another loophole related to delta-8 THC, which operates similarly. The main difference is that the production of delta-8 requires synthetic processes, which takes it out of the definition of hemp; since the definition never allowed for synthetics. In the case of THCA, it doesn’t require synthetic processing, making it difficult to use the same argument if its place of origin, is within legal limits.

This is the THCA loophole. Whereas delta-8 cannot be extracted in high-enough amounts from either hemp or marijuana for direct product manufacturing (it occurs in amounts far too small), there is a huge amount of THCA in marijuana plants, and at least some in hemp plants. Way more than delta-8 anyway, and enough for extraction.

Since the legal application is based on the decarboxylated compound, and not the one found in the plant, selling hemp flowers as THCA flowers, isn’t technically incorrect. The THCA loophole exists by defining the plants by their THC amount, rather than their THCA amount. While its really a case of semantics, ‘THCA’ flower is any cannabis plant with below .3% THC, with no stipulation for THCA quantity.

THCA exists in marijuana and hemp, creating a legal loophole for use
THCA exists in marijuana and hemp, creating a legal loophole for use

How the THCA loophole causes problems for the government

The government likes to apply hefty taxes on any cannabis product, and its not into products sold which aren’t regulated, and therefore not able to carry this tax. Sin taxes put on cannabis products by every state, are the primary source of revenue for regulating bodies. Sin taxes are excise taxes that span a large range, some as low as 10%, and some well over 30%. Though they’re supposed to be put on dangerous products that pose personal or societal harm, the application on cannabis products means applying this tax in places where cannabis is a sanctioned medication. Massive contradiction.

The government has already had a bad time with the cannabinoids market, since it can’t get a handle on it, and that means lost tax revenue. In an effort to turn people’s opinions against the compounds, and the black market operators who sell them, the DEA and FDA have made different statements and warnings; though they’re not really backed by a death toll. I always find that part funny considering that the same governments (state and federal) support opioids through regulation; which killed close to 100,000 people in the US alone in both 2021, and 2022.

The only real ability the federal government has, is to backhandedly go after these companies by trying to ruin business. When Shopify dropped all cannabinoid sellers last year, it wasn’t stated that the move was from government pressure, but its also unlikely Shopify would reduce its own income with a ban it didn’t need to do. What the US government can do is go after internet platforms that sell the products, or mess with banking, or credit unions of those who work with sellers.

This won’t get the products out of corner shops, or even stop the internet sales; but it can cause a bit of a kink for companies, and keep them on the move to find different sales venues. Realistically, the industry exists in large numbers both on and off-line, and if it were that easy to stamp out, it would’ve been done already.

Where the federal government runs into an extra issue with THCA, is that it can’t ban it. If it put a federal ban on it, this would undermine its own definition of ‘hemp.’ If THCA is illegal, then so is all cannabis. And it wouldn’t matter at that point if it was from hemp or marijuana. Unlike delta-8 THC which comes with the issue of the need for synthetic processes, THCA extraction, does not.

How does the government deal with THCA loophole?

Governments don’t like to bring things up if it makes them look bad, or backs them into a corner. For all the strife in the cannabis industry now, you’d think the governments in question would do whatever they had to. Just to preserve a consistent tax revenue line, even if just in small amounts like standard income tax. Instead, they ignore the issue of sin taxes, as if the subject isn’t pertinent. As if the taxes must exist to facilitate the industry. In fact, when California finally updated cannabis tax laws last year, it did nothing to do away with these high taxes, which increase prices. And it didn’t improve its market issues either.

Black market cannabis products don't have cannabis taxes applied
Black market cannabis products don’t have cannabis taxes applied

Likewise, the government doesn’t want to mention THCA because it doesn’t have an argument against it. Instead, it focuses on what it does have an argument against – delta-8 THC, and other synthetically-made cannabinoids. And it works to lump THCA into that category, so it doesn’t have to answer for the difference. New possible plan? A delta-8 ban, and lowering the THC limit for hemp to attempt to exclude cannabinoids like THCA. Realistically, neither is a probable answer to get rid of lower-priced black market products. We know this from the existence of black markets in general.

The big looming question now? How do governments so completely not learn? US governments (state and federal) have been fighting these black market sellers for several years, and with no real progress. Cannabis legalizations in general are an attempt to divert from already existent black markets, which have been around as long as prohibition. And no government actions have worked, except creating the legal industries, which diverted a certain amount. This most recent THCA loophole is just a showing that the black market will always prevail in the face of bad regulatory moves.

Everyone is talking about the new THCA flower


What will the federal government do about all this? Probably nothing. Maybe it’ll update definitions in the next Farm Bill. Maybe it’ll try to go after illegal sellers online. So far, history indicates that it has very little power to do much at this point, which means the sale of THCA flowers through the loophole, is likely to continue. And this offers yet another avenue for the black market to dominate the legal one; simply because of poor and ongoing judgement in regulation.

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Have you tried the never-ending 5g disposables?

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The Taxman Cometh: Canada Now Going After Unpaid Cannabis Taxes

Every other weed headline is about Canada’s failing market; whether it targets the companies closing down, the dismissal of employees, or reporting major losses and restructuring plans. Now, in a move that shows the strains within, Canada is sending out the taxman to collect unpaid cannabis excise taxes from legal producers in the country.

Most recent news of Canada and cannabis tax collection

A lot can be written on Canada and cannabis, and all the problems therein. Today we’ll start with a little on one of the more recent events. The taxman! On May 18th, MJBizDaily reported that Canada’s governmental revenue service, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), is now going after producers who failed to pay their cannabis excise taxes. This is interesting timing given how many companies are posting bad sales news, and downsizing operations. Like Canada is trying to collect what is can before an even bigger fall.

The agency is not only going after the actual money, but threatening garnishment (the government legally withholding money to pay off debts), plant property and equipment liens (the government taking property and equipment until debts are paid), and further legal action for those who do not pay up. This according to an email from Dan Sutton, the CEO of Tantalus Labs (a cannabis producer out of British-Columbia), to MJBizDaily.

The CRA put out warnings like this to businesses: “If you do not pay the full amount or respond to this letter within 14 days, we may enforce Cannabis Duty provisions of the Excise Act, 2001 without further notice.” The business which received this one requested anonymity, as it does want to work out its tax issues and continue operating; and is afraid that posting the letter publicly might hurt its chances.

Many companies in Canada have not paid excise taxes

All of this is based on Canada’s cannabis excise tax laws, which state: “If a corporation fails to pay any duty or interest as and when required under this Act, the directors of the corporation at the time it was required to pay the duty or interest are jointly and severally or solidarily liable, together with the corporation, to pay the duty or interest and any interest that is payable on the duty or interest under this Act.”

What’s an excise tax?

This entire topic is about excise taxes. So before getting back to the story on Canada, let’s talk a little about what excise taxes are. These taxes are taxes levied on a product, but not at the point of sale. Which means they factor into the total price of an item, but with no distinction to the consumer between tax amount, and other product production costs. They’re collected at some point within the process, whether from cultivators to manufacturers, or manufacturers to retailers, etc.

As consumers, we technically pay a lot of taxes, but we don’t often know how much of a total cost, is actually attributable to taxes. We can see the tag for sales tax in the US, but that’s only what gets collected at the register. Excise taxes are paid by businesses, but their cost does factor into the overall price, as the business who pays them, will raise their own costs to make up for them. So in the case of business not paying these taxes, it does mean collecting the money for them through sales, but not giving the amount to the regulating body.

Excise taxes don’t have to be extreme, and usually make sense in their placement. However, some excise taxes are different, like sin taxes. Sin taxes are taxes instituted the same way as a regular excise tax, but which are way, way higher, and based solely on the idea that a regulating body decided something is bad for a person or society. These taxes are levied most on products like cigarettes, alcohol, and now cannabis. This is contradictory, of course, as the first two show detriment to health with no benefit; whereas cannabis is a recognized medical product in the country.

According to a Forbes article, cannabis sin excise taxes in Canada are paid by the producer in the amount of $1 CAD per gram, or 10% of sale price for dry flowers. It goes by whichever is higher to ensure more tax revenue. The article points to professionals in the field explaining how due to different factors, these taxes can account for 20-35% for operations, making it difficult to survive, especially for small operators. And it helps explain why there are so many unpaid taxes, as these tax amounts are a huge burden for all affected, and not reflective of actual income ability.

Canada’s tax situation

So Canada institutes cannabis excise taxes, with large sin taxes included, despite cannabis not causing the negative effects to health or society that the other products receiving sin taxes do. And rather than getting rid of them in a climate with tons of businesses dying out, the government is upping the ante and going after the money; essentially from companies that are barely making it to begin with, some teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Canada collects money indirectly on cannabis through excise taxes
Canada collects money indirectly on cannabis through excise taxes

MJBizDaily reports that around 2/3 of cannabis businesses in Canada are in debt due to unpaid cannabis excise taxes, as of September 2022. At the time of that reporting, it was halfway through Canada’s fiscal year. This totals almost $100 million CAD from a total of 172 licensed producers. That’s a lot of unpaid taxes.

Reports from the previous year (2021-2022), indicate Canada collected $1.5 billion CAD in taxes, from the total $4 billion spent on cannabis products. If you do the math, that means over 1/3 of the money collected on cannabis products for that year, went to the government in taxes and other revenue. And this up against the reality that there’s a functional black market which doesn’t have to pay those taxes, and will always be able to undercut the legal market.

The question for many in the industry, is how aggressive Canada will be in tax collection. Maybe the story is more to induce fear with no real action coming; and maybe Canada is looking to take every cent it can now. Said George Smitherman, the CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, “I think it’s an offshoot of the issues management problem that the Trudeau government faces with an excise tax that’s ill conceived.”

He continued, “In a certain sense, at all levels in Ottawa, they recognize the dilemma they have, which is that a very large proportion of (cannabis) CRA license holders can’t keep up with their bills.” He explained, “While we hope that recognition (of the excise debt problem) is going to lead to real action to fix the excise, rather than just the words we’ve heard so far, in the meantime we are faced with the gnarly face of collections.”

But wait, isn’t Canada trying to save the market?

We know that sin taxes don’t really need to be included. They’re not fundamental, nor necessary for what they’re supposed to do. Yet, the conversation is so rarely about them. You’d think Canada (and every US state having the same issue) was entirely backed against a wall, but they’re not. The best answer for all companies, is to eliminate this unnecessary tax. That would fix the problem, right? Yet, the greed of governments becomes obvious when broaching these topics, as they will often go quite a distance, to avoid changing this. They don’t even want you talking about it. They sidestep or avoid the issue.

Think of California finally making amendments to its cannabis tax laws in 2022. What did it do? It did get rid of a cultivation tax, which was good; but did nothing to get rid of the excise tax (15%), which includes the sin tax. And while the industry walks around with its hands up seemingly confused on the matter, the answer is obvious to the point that its getting frustrating and maddening. Sin taxes on weed must be eliminated, or its unlikely these markets can work out long term.

Sin taxes are meant for damaging products
Sin taxes are meant for damaging products

Canada’s market has taken such a distinct downturn, that on March 25th of this year, the Canadian government put up a notice of intent to start consultations to make changes in the industry. Considering every province except for one has seen sales declines, this move is an indication of Canada knowing there’s a big problem. For the country, between December 2022, and January 2022, for example, sales slipped from CA$425 million to CA$395 million.

The notice speaks of finding ways to update regulation concerning licensing, security, production, and packaging, in order to help out the ailing industry. Lowering licensing expenses is surely useful; but if you’ll notice, the country doesn’t say anything about attacking current tax structures. Its left out as if it’s not something that can be modified. As if that tax must be there or the industry can’t survive. But that’s not true. Sin taxes are extra taxes, added onto regular tax structures. You can see in the notice, that Canada doesn’t mention taxes at all:

“Health Canada recognizes there may be regulatory measures that could be made more efficient and streamlined without compromising the public health and public safety objectives in the (Cannabis) Act,” it continues that this includes “(reducing) administrative and regulatory burdens where possible.”

Canada was also supposed to start a ‘strategy table’, a forum for those in the industry, and those regulating it, to come together and talk about issues and how to resolve them. Though this was proposed in April 2022, reports from earlier this month show it never got off the ground. This seems at least partially due to a lack of communication between the industry and regulators. But then, if the only real answer is ‘lower taxes,’ perhaps regulators were never interested in the conversation at all.


There’s a lot to say about the situation; but it really comes down to one thing, and one thing only. If the US and Canada want to keep cannabis from becoming a 100% black market industry; they must forfeit the extra tax revenue they collect unnecessarily through sin taxes (among other unnecessary costs). If they don’t, there’s unlikely to be an industry to collect taxes from soon. And getting nothing is way less than they’d get from an operational tax structure. End of story.

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Finland Initiative for Recreational Cannabis To Go Before Parliament

Germany is plugging away at establishing its watered down version of a cannabis legalization, which is a let down from its original plan for a full-fledged market. Now, Finland is trying its luck at getting some kind of recreational cannabis legalization, which is quite a turn around for the ice-cold EU country.

Finland and cannabis

Finland is a Northern European country that sits as a sort of border between Eastern and Western Europe. It borders Russia to the East, Sweden to the west, and Norway to the north. Nearly 2/3 of the country is covered by dense forests, making it the country with the most dense forests in Europe. It has a small population of 5.6 million; and is a part of the EU, Eurozone, and NATO. It’s a country that ranks high in terms of the following: educational systems, economics, civil liberties, human development, and overall quality of life.

Cannabis is illegal for recreational use currently in Finland. Prohibition in the country started in 1966, with personal use made illegal in 1972. In 2001, the procedure for dealing with personal use cases was updated; a change meant to unburden the courts from all the personal use cases coming through. This doesn’t mean it started letting people go for these crimes though, it means it streamlined its process to make it smoother, more expedited, and geared toward money-collection over jail time.

In fact, the country was unhappy with a number of personal use cases not getting prosecuted, and made the reforms to ensure that all arrests get some sort of attention, without requiring the courts. So though cannabis reforms were made, not in the usual way we mean when we say ‘reforms’. They were instituted to create a a more consistent and workable system of punishment, even for small-scale use.

A new initiative in Finland for recreational cannabis

The new procedure, which stands today, is that the police give summary fines when a person is caught with personal use amounts, but the case doesn’t go to court unless the defendant pushes to do so. This is not the case for aggravated offenses, or bigger crimes like selling, which are always heard in court. The penalties for these latter crimes are much harsher. Under current practice, a person with no more than 15 grams of dry flower, or 10 grams of hash, is considered a personal user. This is met with a punishment of 10-20 day fines, which are fines based on daily personal income.

In terms of medical cannabis, Finland doesn’t have a wide-reaching program. It allows for cannabis use in the most extreme medical cases, amounting to 223 legally permitted users in 2014, as an example. As there is no industry in the country, those that do use it, use imported pharma products only like Sativex or Bedrocan. There are a limited number of apothecaries that sell cannabis medicines.

In 2019, a push began for real marijuana reform in the country, with the introduction of a citizens’ initiative to decriminalize personal use. The initiative collected the necessary 50,000 signatures to be heard by parliament, plus almost 10,000 extra. This created a requirement for parliament to consider the topic between 2019-2023, though nothing ever came of it. The current story is not about this initiative, but a more recent one which also collected the necessary 50,000 signatures. This time for full legalization.

Will recreational cannabis become legal in Finland?

The current initiative started last October, with the goal of a recreational legalization in Finland, complete with an adult-use market. This initiative also needed to gain 50,000 signatures, which it did at the end of April, requiring parliament to consider the case. The current initiative, should it make it through parliament, would legalize the use, possession, manufacture, and sale of cannabis in the country, as well as allow for personal cultivation.

According to the wording of the initiative, these are some of the key points:

  • The aforementioned legalization for use, possession, subsistence farming, manufacture, and sale of cannabis, with age restrictions attached.
  • The need for a regulatory system for the commercial cannabis market; with a goal of reducing harm to both individuals and society.
  • The inclusion of a cannabis tax to compensate for societal harms.
  • The need for a clearer distinction between low-THC cannabis and high-THC cannabis, so there is no confusion for farmers.
  • The expungement of criminal records for minor sale and cultivation crimes.

The initiative makes this statement: “This initiative provides a comprehensive justification for why Finland, too, should replace the Cannabis Prohibition Act with regulation. The regulation of intoxicants must be based on researched information. The Prohibition Act did not bring us a cannabis-free world. Regulation does not bring us a harm-free world of cannabis either, but it can minimize the harm and compensate for the costs.”

Could Finland pass cannabis legalization?
Could Finland pass cannabis legalization?

This initiative was helped in part by Green Party member Coel Thomas. Currently, the Green Party is the only political party in Finland to openly support cannabis reform. Thomas helped write the initiative; though his own thoughts are that it likely won’t get adopted now; and works more to continue building the case for legalization. Said Thomas of the initiative to Cannabis Health News:

“It seems likely that we will have a right-wing conservative government coming in, but even under a center-right or center-left government, it’s not likely that we could advance legalization. I don’t see how it could get a majority of votes. However, we are starting a conversation in Finland right now, that in my opinion, will most likely lead to the legalization and regulation of cannabis this decade.”

In terms of where the people in the country stand on the topic, a recent survey from the Institute for Health and Welfare, which yle reported on last month, showed a change in attitude toward cannabis for the Finnish people. According to the survey, 57% saw binge drinking as more dangerous than cannabis use, while 53% said personal use shouldn’t be considered a crime.

Can Finland pass a recreational measure like this?

Something to remember is that this initiative was started before Germany was made to downgrade its plans by the EU. Even if Finland were to pass a recreational cannabis measure, could it look anything like what was proposed? After all, Finland is also a part of the EU, and subject to EU restrictions. Unless a country is willing to go up against the EU, it should not expect to accomplish more than Germany did; at least not without a change to EU cannabis politics. This doesn’t negate the ability for a legalization, but it does for a regulated market.

Just last month, Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, had to renege on Germany’s original plans for a full-scale adult-use market in the country. In light of not getting EU approval, the country reorganized to present a plan with two parts: one a legalization that allows social clubs for growing and dissemination, and one a pilot program wherein sales can take place on a very small scale, in specified individual locations only. Finland shouldn’t realistically expect to do more.

That this just transpired with Germany, is a direct indication that Finland will not be able to pass this initiative for recreational cannabis; as the initiative in current form calls for things which were just ruled out for Germany. If this topic wasn’t worth Germany having major issues with the EU, its unlikely to provoke a country like Finland to do so.

Cannabis and the EU
Cannabis and the EU

At the time the initiative was written, these issues had not fully come to pass. They should have been foreseen (and were by some), but the result had not occurred; making it a reasonable goal. I expect part of Coel Thomas’s attitude about it now, is an understanding that regardless of how much Finland could be brought on-board with the idea, that this particular attempt is not feasible. What he says makes sense though. In most places where cannabis reform changes occurred, there were failed attempts that precipitated the changes.

This current attempt, (like the previous one), stands as a building block for an overall update, which is likely to come soon enough. In fact, it’s good to see countries like Finland, which previously quiet on the topic of reform; break out of that mindset, and enter the one where a real push for change exists.


Whether the initiative was simply ill-timed – (collecting signatures for a measure that Germany’s experience just invalidated), or an example of the need for more support on the topic; it does now enter Finland into the conversation of cannabis reform. Giving us yet another country to keep an eye on.

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fMRI Study Shows MDMA Might Lessen PTSD Reaction

MDMA is one of two hallucinogenic compounds that is likely to get an approval soon in the US. Mainly because of its benefits for PTSD patients. How does it do what it does? A recent study using brain imaging helps explain how MDMA might help lessen the fear response in people with PTSD. Read on for details.

Recent trial into MDMA for PTSD

In the introduction to their study, Altered brain activity and functional connectivity after MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers point out that “MDMA is hypothesized to facilitate the therapeutic process, in part, by decreasing fear response during fear memory processing while increasing extinction learning.” PTSD patients are known for dealing with excessive fear responses.

The purpose of the current study was to analyze the brain’s activity and connectivity using fMRI technology, before and after MDMA treatment. Scans were done during rest (neutral) and during an autobiographical memory response (trauma) before the administration of MDMA, and two months after. Nine veterans and first-responders were used for the study; all with chronic PTSD for at least six months.

The fMRI component allows investigators to see “changes in regional blood oxygenation over time and is thus used as a proxy for fluctuating neuronal activity.” The researchers also explain how the fMRI data can allow functional connectivity to “be assessed to infer interaction between two or more brain regions’ activity over time.” fMRI scans show metabolic activity, whereas a standard MRI creates a picture of internal structures. They are performed the same way.

fMRI image

They go on to say that “PTSD patients have shown altered functioning of the precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insula, prefrontal and frontoparietal regions, as well as the hippocampus and amygdala.” These locations relate to “augmented recruitment of brain regions involved in self-referential processing, salient autobiographical memory, and fear and emotion.”

The study is a sub-study of a larger clinical trial; meaning the participants were already involved in a study, from which this study takes data. All participants agreed to be a part of this study as well. The larger study is a “Phase 2 randomized, double-blind, dose-response trial of MDMA-AT in veterans and first responders with severe and chronic PTSD.” Those that signed off on the sub-study, agreed to have the fMRI scans done as well.

Those that participated in the fMRI study, worked with investigators to create an auditory script about their traumatic event, as well one about an ordinary experience (typical morning routine). Each recording was six minutes, and made by the participant reading their own script. This scripts were to assess symptom provocation. All participants had an image done at baseline before the MDMA treatment, and then two-months after the final session.

Study results

Though researchers had thought MDMA-AT would increase functional connectivity in the amygdala-hippocampus during the resting state, they only found this to be the case on the left side of each. They also found lessened activation contrast in the cuneus, after treatment with MDMA.

They detail how the amount a person recovered after the MDMA treatment, was correlated to change in four different ways during autobiographical memory recall. These relate to the functional connectivity in four different areas.

They state that “Amygdala—insular functional connectivity is reliably implicated in PTSD and anxiety, and both regions are impacted by MDMA administration.” And that “These findings compliment previous research indicating that amygdala, hippocampus, and insula functional connectivity is a potential target of MDMA-AT, and highlights other regions of interest related to memory processes.”

MDMA is currently researched for PTSD
MDMA is currently researched for PTSD

The investigators measured and compared the whole brain’s activation by the scripts, both at the baseline, and two months after MDMA treatment. They found that before the MDMA, there were larger levels of activation for the traumatic script than the neutral one, in four separate areas of the brain. Post-MDMA treatments, the magnitude of difference between the activation levels, was much smaller.

Researchers also looked at functional connectivity between 18 different brain regions of interest during the fMRI, comparing the traumatic and neutral experiences. According to their research, none showed significant change after corrections for multiple comparisons. However, before the corrections, there was significant modification in the right amygdala to left caudal ACC.

When researchers correlated individual changes from before and after MDMA treatment of these functional connections, with individual reductions in CAPS-IV scores (evaluation test for PTSD symptoms), “Most correlations were positive, meaning that larger reductions in connectivity from pre- to post-therapy corresponded to larger improvements in PTSD symptoms.”

They found the four most significant changes following comparison corrections, were: left amygdala and left PCC, left amygdala and right PCC, left amygdala and left insula, and left isthmus cingulate and left hippocampal tail.

Researchers conclude, “We also provide preliminary evidence that MDMA-AT alters brain response during symptom provocation in regions associated with fear response, anxiety, self-referential processing, and salient autobiographical memory, and are commonly found to be hyperactive in PTSD patients.”

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder, which is diagnosed subjectively, but based on criteria in the DSM-V. All psychiatric disorders are diagnosed in this way, as there is no specific test to define these issues. A medical diagnosis is a diagnosis based on information verified through some kind of test or investigation. Unfortunately, psychiatric disorders don’t have this, and therefore are made at the discretion of the individual doctor.

MDMA study into PTSD
MDMA study into PTSD

I like to mention this, because it does play into the idea that doctors often disagree, or have their own opinions that they go by. Because of this, any patient can receive multiple different diagnoses for the same set of symptoms. Which also means, when looking at psychiatric disorders, since no testing is available, they are based 100% on symptoms and observable behavior.

In the case of PTSD, this relates to symptoms and behaviors experienced after a traumatic event, whether it was experienced directly or indirectly (witnessed, heard about…) Though there are countless scenarios that can bring on PTSD symptoms, some of the more common ones include: physical attacks, being the target of bullying or psychological abuse, being a part of or witnessing the atrocities of war, and natural disasters. PTSD can be quite debilitating in some sufferers, making it difficult to perform regular life functions.

In WWI this was called ‘shell shock.’ In WWII it was known as ‘battle fatigue.’ It is associated with the idea of re-experiencing an intense trauma, after the incident occurred. This can happen at different frequencies for different sufferers, and is often set off by a trigger; something that works to remind the person of this past trauma. Sufferers might experience nightmares or flashbacks, and feelings of sadness, fear, anger, detachment, and estrangement. says that about 3.5% of American adults have PTSD, and that 1/11 will experience it at some point during life. Women outnumber men with this condition at a rate of 2:1. In America, the largest groups to suffer from PTSD are Latinos, Native American, and African Americans. This is likely from the extreme violence, intolerance, and general negative treatment suffered by these populations throughout American history.

Not only is MDMA undergoing testing now for PTSD, it was a point of research in the past, following Alexander Shulgin’s new way to formulate it in the 1970s. Beyond PTSD, its also under investigation for some sexual disorders; particularly related to sex drive. The company MAPS was given a Breakthrough Therapy designation for its MDMA drug currently in trials for PTSD. And the state of Colorado already legalized the drug pre-emptively, which goes into effect upon a federal legalization. All this is to say that MDMA is definitely getting a lot of attention these days; for PTSD and beyond.


Most studies thus far with hallucinogens (and other drugs) involve self-report of symptoms on different measures, or observation of behaviors; as the main ways to assess therapeutic change. The interesting thing about this study is that it uses actual brain imaging to understand how the brain changes and reacts differently, after use of MDMA. Perhaps we will see more intensive investigations like this in the future. For now, we have a little more to go on regarding the use of MDMA to treat PTSD symptoms.

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After Tax Restructuring, California Weed Market Still Going Down

It was a big story last year when the state of California finally changed it cannabis tax structure so as to help its ailing weed market. But was enough done? Or even the right things? Now, many months after this tax restructuring, the California cannabis market looks like it might well tank out.

How did California restructure its weed market

California has been weed legal since 2016, and with a regulated market since 2018. Since that time, dispensaries and other cannabis services have sprouted up all over the state. Some legal, and some a part of the black market. While the regular market grew, the black market – which existed before anything was legalized – grew along with it.

When overproduction came into play in a major way in 2022, California ran into big problems. There was so much product floating around that producers had to lower their costs in order to get rid of their stuff, and this meant an inability to profit. However, lower prices by growers didn’t stop the high price of regulatory measures, or taxes; which have been a part of the industry since the beginning.

When California finally went to do something about it, it wasn’t a simple lowering of numbers. Or at least, not enough. Logically, lower taxes and regulatory costs is the answer, but it seems California didn’t want to let go of the majority of the taxes on its weed market, and made changes like these:

  • The creation of a tax credit system for certain enterprises
  • The expansion of labor rights for industry operators. This means lowering the worker requirement to 10 employees, in order to trigger mandatory labor agreements
  • The decision to ensure the excise tax doesn’t rise for three years (it was set to increase in 2024), and stays at the current level – 15%. It also changed who receives the excise tax, from distributors to retailers
  • The elimination of the cultivation tax
  • The increase of enforcement against unlicensed businesses
California weed market taxes

The only useful part of this, relates to taxes. Sure, its great to allow for unionization easier, but that’s not where the problem lies. And when it comes to the idea of cracking down on the black market, there’s a disconnect. The black market existed the whole time, as it was there before the legal market. The entire idea of the legal market from the beginning, was to divert from the black market. So making a proclamation now about trying harder sounds like someone didn’t get it from the beginning.

The part that helps is the abolishing of the cultivation tax. According to the previous law, cultivators in the state were paying a flat rate of $10.08 per ounce of dried weed. Now consider the issue of overproduction, and that tax amount becomes horribly absurd. Seemingly a showing of just how much the government is trying to milk this industry for every cent possible.

California AFTER tax-restructuring for weed industry

The biggest reality to California’s problem, is that it started many years ago. Even back six years ago there was talk that the state was growing over eight times the amount that residents use, and that was before the legal recreational market began. Which means this problem has been around for the entirety of the cannabis industry in California…and it took all the way until 2022 to account for it.

Though it was an issue from the beginning, it wasn’t until late 2021– early 2022 that the stories really started coming out about prices dropping extensively for growers. But just because the price for cultivators dropped, it didn’t change the price tag for consumers, or not substantially enough to compete with the black market. The ever-existent black market, which can drop its prices to match a situation much faster, was able to use this to pull back clientele from the legal market.

And so in June of 2022, the new laws were instituted for the weed market in California. No more cultivation tax, but the still present – and high – excise tax. These moves were expected to save the California cannabis industry. Now, nearly a year later, how is it all going?

According to information released by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, California brought in $5.3 billion in legal cannabis sales for 2022. In 2021 it was $5.77 billion. This marks the first time the industry has fallen, since its inception in 2018. 2022’s number is an 8.2% decrease from 2021. Which means even after the implementation of these new laws, the market’s trajectory didn’t change.

To give an idea of just how big California’s market is in general, consider that even with this decrease, the state represents about 20% of the overall industry, according to Forbes Magazine. But perhaps looking at it this way undermines the issues at hand. It’s well understood by those within the industry that high taxes, and extreme regulation, are bringing the market down. As per the same Forbes article, small-time operator Johnny Casali, of Huckleberry Hill Farms, said this:

“Most of us farmers have been trying to tell the state [regulators] that the marketplace is imploding. The drop in retail sales means the customer is tired of paying the exorbitant taxes and are now buying it from a friend of a friend or the guy on the corner.”

Black market deal
Black market deal

As an example, Huckleberry Hill Farms did sell all its product for 2022, but did so incurring a $50,000 loss for the year. And it’s not like Casali set up a business model wherein the company would sell everything to end up at a loss. The only real reason for this discrepancy is in the falling price of weed per pound. As of the writing of the Forbes article on February 28th, the price of an ounce slipped to $665, a 26% year-over-year decrease.

Said Casali of the upcoming season, “We are already getting orders for this season. But without federal legalization, I don’t know how we fix our supply-and-demand problem.” Perhaps this is in part because its not just about too much weed, but not enough legal dispensaries. Though California has upwards of 40 million residents, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 legal dispensaries. If you spend time in the state and think this doesn’t sound right, consider that many around are black market dispensaries.

One of the other issues right now is in reference to federal legalization, or rather, the current lack of it. A producer in one state cannot legally export cannabis to another state. It is, however, being done on the down-low by producers who just want to break even. For everyone playing by the rules, this inability has negative effects on business expansion.

California’s new answer?

California hasn’t been doing this well. It started out by setting impossibly high taxes and expensive regulatory measures, even as it was already seen that overproduction was a thing. Then when it became so much of a thing that legal businesses started tanking out, it introduced legislation that, more than anything, shows a desire to not really change at all. And now, as the problem continues out of hand, California’s next move is just as facepalm-worthy. It wants to focus on corruption.

Focusing on corruption is something that government’s like to do, but they like to do so without being clear about why its happening. Maybe a certain amount of corruption always exists, but when legal operators of any industry are having a hard time, you can expect shadier moves. In this case, it’s a non-working structure set up by the government, which leaves legal operators at a loss. So is it shocking that even those not in the black market, are employing black market tricks?

Things like buying a license under the table, or illegally paying regulators, or even threatening violence are all things that should be expected when legal means can’t prevail. But instead of loosening regulation in a more useful way, and getting rid of taxes in a more useful way, the government, instead, is attempting to focus on the issue of corruption, as if the issue isn’t related to its own ridiculous laws.

According to a March issue of the Los Angeles Times, “state officials are launching an audit aimed at curtailing bribery, conflicts of interest and other misdeeds.” Not instituting workable and realistic regulation, but instead looking to go after those who have stepped out of line due to the non-working regulation in place.

What will this entail? “State auditors plan to identify six jurisdictions with licensed cannabis businesses and review criteria used to approve the permits, reviewing local governments that have been rocked by corruption allegations and others that appear to have fewer such problems.”

Corruption in California's weed market
Corruption in California’s weed market

This includes looking for licensing rules that are more likely to incite fraud and abuse, and going over samples of permits to ensure that the authorities in question did everything by the book. This is all according to Grant Parks, the state auditor. As per Parks, this could be the basis for new laws and regulations. And while that sentiment is good in theory, it feels more like California has plenty of information telling it to update these things more realistically, already.

The article goes on to push this point, “The state’s dual state and local licensing system is widely blamed for creating a fertile ground for corruption. The Times investigation uncovered a possible six-figure bribe demand by a former councilman in Baldwin Park — later corroborated by a federal plea agreement — and other potential conflicts of interest around the state.”

But again, this focuses more on the fallout of impossible regulation, than simply creating effective regulation to begin with. And it blames the problem on those who bent the rules, rather than the creation of an impossible system. With this thinking…can we really expect anything better to come?


If you take a step back, it appears like California is purposefully tanking out its own weed market; though its certainly hard to see a logic there. In the end, its likely just heaps and heaps of greed we’re looking at. So much, so that even with the problems being screamed by all sides, no real change is happening; just baseless measures.

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Maryland About to Open Adult-Use Market

Maryland was one of two states that passed a cannabis legalization measure in last November’s elections; and its not wasting time getting things started. Whereas some states take years to get measures approved, this state is doing it in less than one. With legislation recently signed, Maryland is set to open its adult-use market July 1st.

The Maryland ballot measure

Out of five states with cannabis legalization ballot measures last fall, two managed to get their measures voted-in by the people. Maryland and Missouri were the winners; while Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota voters decided to remain weed-illegal. Originally six states were supposed to have ballot measures, but Oklahoma did not get its measure approved in time, due to technical system issues, and not because the work to get it on, wasn’t completed.

Maryland used Question 4 for its adult-use ballot measure: the Marijuana Legalization Amendment. According to the measure, if voted in, the adult-use market would open less than a year later, in the summer of 2023. The amendment directs the Maryland State Legislature to create and pass regulatory laws to govern things like possession and use, distribution, and taxes.

The vote was successful for Maryland. In fact, the margins were pretty wide. A final tally found 67.20% of the voting population voted yes to legal cannabis, accounting for 1,302,161 of the votes. Only 32.8% were not on-board with this, which accounted for 635,572 votes. To give an idea, the other state to pass its voter ballot, Missouri, had a much closer to 50/50 breakdown in votes.

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Before the vote took place, Maryland approved a medical program in 2013. A year later it instituted a decriminalization policy, which allows users to possess up to 10 grams for personal use; something that was a misdemeanor with a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail, previously attached. Back in 2010, Maryland wasn’t terribly weed-friendly at all, and had the 5th highest state arrest rate for cannabis possession. Whereas the national rate of cannabis arrests at that time was 256 per 100,000 people, in Maryland it was 409 per 100,000. The state has come a long way.

Maryland passed laws for adult-use market

In order to fulfill the ballot-measure’s promise of a summer start date, Maryland’s congress worked hard to get a bill passed. And it did. In fact, it passed two bills in April. In the end, the House and Senate worked out discrepancies with two bills, not one, and sent formal revised copies of both to the governor on April 7th.  

Part of the reason for the rush, is that the voter measure for legalization goes into effect July 1st, and the government wants laws in place when this happens. Considering that both sides of Congress have their own versions; it says a lot about simply wanting to get something done, that the situation didn’t lead to endless fighting and stalemating. Issues like taxation and regulation, where there were differences of opinion between the House and Senate, were pretty quickly worked out. The two bills that got sent to the governor’s desk, are SB 516 and HB 556.

It’s not that the government had a die-hard desire to get this done quickly. But the legislation was considered ‘emergency,’ as the state wants something in place when the legalization begins. For such a situation, approval only requires 3/5 of congressmen to vote positively in both chambers. This is because regardless of what is or isn’t worked out by the government, as of July 1st, it becomes legal for adult residents to possess up to 1.5 ounces of weed. The ballot measure was carefully written to force this on the government, rather than letting the government have leeway to take its time.

Governor Wes Moore signed off on the bills on Wednesday, May 3rd. Said Moore of the laws upon signing, they will “ensure that the rollout of recreational cannabis in our state drives opportunity in an equitable way.” And that “The criminalization of marijuana harmed low income communities and communities of color in a profound way. We want to make sure that the legalization of marijuana lifts those communities now in a profound way.”

What will the Maryland adult-use market look like?

Between the two laws, here are the main bullet points for the upcoming Maryland adult-use market.


  • Medical sales are tax exempt, but recreational sales will be taxed at 9%.
  • 35% of tax revenue will go into a community reinvestment fund. 5% on top of this will go each to counties, a Cannabis Business Assistance Fund, and a Cannabis Public Health Fund.
  • Individual locations can’t institute any other taxes.
Cannabis taxes for adult-use market


  • The industry will be regulated via a newly instated Maryland Cannabis Administration.
  • Regulators must start to approve new cannabis business licenses by July 1, 2024.
  • There will be initial licensing available for 80 dispensaries and 10 micro-dispensaries (mainly for equity candidates). A second round will allow 120 dispensary licenses, and 190 dispensary micro-licenses (with micro-licensing geared toward equity candidates).
  • Initial licensing for growers and processors is 20 and 40 respectively for a regular dispensary, and 30 and 30 for a micro-license. In the second round this will be 25 and 25 for regular, and 70 and 70 for micro.
  • The sale of products like delta-8 THC will stop for the most part, as this would now require a license.
  • Regulators must formulate laws for cannabis sales on the internet by July 2025.
  • Medical patients can grow a max of four plants for personal use.
  • Individual locations can’t stop a medical dispensary from transforming into a dual dispensary.

Social equity

  • To apply for social equity: a business must be owned by at least 65% that either lived in communities disproportionately and negatively affected by the drug trade for a minimum of five of the last 10 years; have attended public school in an affected area for at least five years; or meet some other requirement of disparity.
  • A yearly $5 million will go to grants for medical dispensaries that create partnerships in some way with social equity applicants. This starts in 2025.
  • The creation of a Capital Access Program under the Department of Commerce will provide low interest loans and encourage more opportunities for social equity participants.


  • Dispensaries can’t be within 500 feet of any of the following: schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, recreational centers, libraries, or public parks.
  • Dispensaries cannot be closer than 1,000 feet apart.
  • Each business can have a max of four dispensaries.
  • Every dispensary must allow a minimum of 25% of its shelf space for products associated with social equity license holders.
  • Dispensaries can sell repackage goods.
  • Current medical dispensaries are to turn into dispensaries for both medical and recreational.
  • Licenses will become dual licenses for both upon the industry start of July 1st, so long as the requisite fee is paid (from 2022 revenue – 10% gross income from cultivators and manufacturers capped at $2 million, plus 8% gross revenue from dispensaries, same cap in place.)
  • Consumption lounges can be opened with a license, for social using.
  • Cannabis cannot be smoked inside a consumption facility, but can be smoked outside.

The evolution of cannabis laws

One of the things that the Maryland new adult-use policy (and the process to get laws approved) shows, is the progress of the cannabis industry. I write a lot about failings of the cannabis industry when it comes to taxes, regulation, the implementation of social equity programs, and the lack of one system learning from another. Maryland shows it doesn’t have to be this way.

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. But there are a few provisions that insinuate the state is trying to do better than other states; many of which are having huge issues with lowered sales right now, amid an industry rife with layoffs and closures. For one thing, if 9% is the full tax rate, that’s way lower than other states, some of which instituted policies with upwards of 30% in taxes, much from sin taxes. Is this low enough to compete with the black market? Maybe… California had to finally lower tax rates last year, but its still having problems.

Different states have different regulation for adult-use cannabis
Different states have different regulation for adult-use cannabis

The state also went further with social equity. Whereas it was stuck in like an afterthought for many states, with no answer as to how someone coming from low means would be able to realistically access such programs; Maryland does more (at least on paper) to ensure these populations actually have a shot at entering the market in some way. Again, how useful these measures really are, remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen if the regulatory structure and cost is permitting of smaller companies, or, if like in other states, it will be a big-company dominated market. Considering the goal of the government is to bring in taxes, and that it isn’t specifically about promoting small businesses, Maryland might be the next state to promulgate a corporate cannabis industry…and not much else. Of course, such measures also make it difficult to compete with the black market, so once again, it remains to be seen how this goes in the end.


The most impressive part of Maryland and its adult-use market (to me), is the intelligence behind the original ballot measure; which didn’t allow for government infighting to prevent the measure from taking place when it was supposed to. Perhaps even more than seeing states update policy techniques, its interesting to watch how the people introducing and promoting these measures, write them out to be more effective.

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LSD Will Turn That Frown Upside Down, According to New Research

Psychedelics and mental health are big news these days; and LSD is a part of it. Though much was established about the compound last century, new research into LSD today shows its ability to help with major depressive disorder, among other psychological issues. Read on for more information about the Phase II trials recently completed, and what we can expect from this compound in the future.

LSD new research

This new research into LSD comes out of Switzerland, where trials were conducted between University Hospital Basel and University Hospital of Psychiatry. The trials were run by the biopharmaceutical company MindMed. The study is a “Randomised, double-blind, active-placebo-controlled trial using either two moderate to high doses of LSD (100 µg and 100 µg or 100 µg and 200 µg) as intervention and two low doses of LSD (25 µg and 25 µg) as active-placebo control.”

The trials used 60 adults above the age of 25 years. All were diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) according to DSM-V standards. The main outcome, according to investigators, was “Change in depressive symptomatology (IDS, BDI), anxiety (STAI), and general psychopathology (SCL-90) compared with active-placebo-assisted psychotherapy.”

In order to find this, the study investigators used a few different measurement techniques. They used the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, both clinician-rated and self-rated. They also used the Beck Depression Inventory, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for looking at change in state and trait anxiety; the Symptom Check List to look at any change in general psychopathology; the Existential Concerns Questionnaire for measuring existential anxiety; the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire to assess changes in mindfulness; and a host of other tests.

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Some of the other things looked into by the other questionnaires included judging levels of humility, “absorption”, altered states of consciousness, mystical experiences, new physical conditions, perception of therapeutic alliance, mood, personality, religious beliefs, and ongoing effects of treatment.

Investigators also took note of physiological responses via different tests. These tests covered things like the changes in brain-derived neurotrophic factor, changes to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function, immunoregulation and Inflammation changes, brain activation related to fearful face processing and working memory processing, brain perfusion during treatment, and changes in sleep patterns.

Details of the trials

We know this is a study where participants were given LSD as a treatment. But what exactly does this mean? And what about all the terms mentioned above? As a ‘double blind’ study, neither participants nor investigators knew which group each participant was in, control or experimental. The experimental group was the group given the higher dose to assess effects, whereas the control group in this scenario, was simply given a lower dose of the same thing.

‘Randomized’ means that the participants were randomly assigned to their groups, with no reason for entrance into one over another. ‘Active-placebo-controlled’ means that a control group was used that got something similar to the experimental group, but not the same exact treatment amount. ‘Phase II’ means the trials were meant to further elucidate how effective the medicine is, and how safe; with initial trials already completed.

In terms of how it was done, the experimental group was given 100 μg of lysergide the first time around, and 200 μg the second. These two doses were given about four weeks apart. The control group participants received 25 μg the first treatment day, and the same on the second, spaced the same way as the experimental group.

Investigators wanted to know the outcome at week six; this means six weeks after the first dose, and two weeks after the second. The primary outcome measured was change in MDD, which was assessed via the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology. Investigators also looked at secondary outcomes, which were measured according to self-rated improvements on different scales like Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, Beck Depression Index, and State-trait anxiety inventory.

New medical research into LSD as medicine

After the first dose, patients were followed-up with for 16 weeks. This is important to understand. Trials end, which means the data collection for them ends as well, unless a later follow-up date is set to analyze results past that point. When results therefore say that effects lasted up to 16 weeks after administration, its not saying that the results faded at that time, so much as they weren’t accounted for past that time.

MindMed explanation of trials

On April 23rd, MindMed released topline data on this research, as per BusinessWire, which related that this data “demonstrated significant, rapid, durable and beneficial effects of lysergide and its potential to mitigate symptoms of MDD.” The write-up went on to explain that the high dose regimen led to statistically and clinically significant results on the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology at the six week mark as compared to the control group. This change was seen up to 16 weeks after the first dose was given, but was not checked after that point.

It should be noted that MindMed’s investigational drug was tolerated well. Not only do these trials aim to see if a medication is able to accomplish something, but whether it can do so while not causing a bunch of negative effects. Investigators did track “adverse events, changes in vital signs, and laboratory values” to make that assessment.

Said Chief Executive Officer and Director of MindMed, Robert Barrow, “We continue to be encouraged by the positive results being generated on the clinical activity of lysergide by our collaborators at UHB. The statistically and clinically significant improvements observed in this study reinforce preliminary findings that have shown the clinical potential of lysergide in anxiety, depression and other brain health disorders.”

Study collaborator Prof. Matthias Liechti added this about how the study came about, “Historical studies of lysergide in MDD demonstrated rapid, robust and sustained improvement in depressive symptoms… We believed it was necessary to confirm the historical studies with ones using modern methods. Hence, we designed this randomized-controlled trial to assess the benefits of lysergide treatment in MDD.”

He continued, “Importantly, an active small dose of lysergide was used as the control. We are extremely encouraged by the results we presented today, which demonstrate the strong, rapid and enduring improvements of this compound in patients suffering from MDD. We look forward to publishing the completed results in a peer-reviewed journal along with additional analyses. Our lab will continue investigating the therapeutic potential of lysergide and other psychedelics.”

Magic mushrooms another part of psychedelic testing
Magic mushrooms another part of psychedelic testing

What else do we know about LSD?

Though today’s modern world of medicine might make you believe we simply didn’t know about the beneficial effects of LSD, this is not true at all. In recent years, studying it picked back up, but this really started back in the 1900’s. Originally the compound was synthesized by Albert Hoffman in Switzerland in 1938. It wasn’t until the 1950’s, however, that it became big in the world of US psychotherapy.

One of the best known treatment providers and researchers for LSD, was Dr. Humphry Osmond. He concentrated on using LSD for treating both alcoholism and mental disorders. The research on the former provides some of the best information out there on alcohol cessation, even if its not mentioned much today. Osmond, like many others, tested the drug out on himself before administering it to patients. He was the one that coined the term ‘psychedelic.’

His most important work was in conjunction with Abram Hoffer, and called the Saskatchewan trials. These took place at Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. In total, over 2,000 patients with alcoholism were treated by the end of the 1960’s; with an overall (and pretty amazing) statistic that approximately 40-45% did not drink again within a year of treatment.

Matthias Liechti made an interesting point when he brought up wanting to create new research into LSD to test the same things tested back-in-the-day. The real story is that while a lot of information exists, the medical world tends to erase or ignore it; and treats the topic like it didn’t become a thing until the past few years.


We see legalizations for mushrooms, and other entheogenic plants, happening in different places. We even see a preemptive legalization of MDMA. Owing to this new research into LSD, and its known-about uses for treating alcoholism and other mental disorders; its very likely that LSD medications will be the next big topic of mental-health conversations.

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Is Juul a Scapegoat? Company Set to Pay Millions in Settlement

E-cig maker Juul has really been a target in the last few years, with tons of lawsuits and government actions sent its way. In the newest story, Juul signed a settlement for a case that sees it paying out hundreds of millions to six different states (plus DC). How much sense does this make? Or is Juul just a scapegoat?

The Juul settlement

This most recent settlement Juul underwent, involves the states of New York, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Illinois and Colorado, plus Washington DC. Altogether, these locations will be paid $462 million. New York is set to receive $112.7 of this, but over an eight year period, and the money must be used for programs to keep kids from using e-cigs. California will get $175.8 million, specifically for e-cig research purposes, education, and legal enforcement.

The Massachusetts share is $41.7 million, and part of that goes to pay for vape addiction services. Colorado gets close to $32 million, New Mexico is to be paid out $17 million, and Washington D.C. receives approximately $15 million. While not stated in the reference article, its expected that Illinois would get the remaining $67.8 million.

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The announcement came on Wednesday April 12th by five different attorney generals for the states in question. While Juul has had to deal with many lawsuits, this case marks the largest multi-state settlement the company has thus far entered into. All told, Juul has settlements with 45 states, for a total of about $1 billion.

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Beyond payouts to the states (and DC) the lawsuit also works to put limits on how Juul can sell and market its products; part of which involves placing products behind store counters, and verifying the age of buyers. Said New York Attorney General Letitia James, “There is no doubt that Juul played a central role in the vaping epidemic today. Juul is paying for widespread harm caused and will undergo severe restrictions on its marketing and sales practices.” 

Juul’s response through a spokesperson was that the company is now closer to “total resolution of the company’s historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future.” And that “Now we are positioned to dedicate even greater focus on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation.”

According to its spokesperson, the company’s main priority is to obtain an authorization through the FDA to be able to legally market its products in the US. The authorization is through the Premarket Tobacco Product Applications, for which the FDA already turned the company down last June. A month later, that decision as put on hold, and subsequently dropped, making it potentially possible in the future.

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Did Juul products cause a lot of deaths and injury?

You’d think from this settlement that Juul must have really caused some damage. I mean, there’s got to be a body count, right? That’s the thing, there isn’t. In fact, there’s not one death attributable to the company, and far as I can find, not one direct story of injury either. Isn’t this reminiscent of harsh cannabis laws that paint the plant as the worst, most-dangerous thing ever…even without death and injury attached?

The suits aren’t actually over death and injury, because there isn’t one confirmed case of either. Not one. In fact, all cases are over marketing the cigarette alternatives to minors. Nicotine products are illegal to market to children, so this includes Juul’s non-cigarette vapes. Legally this makes sense, as Juul must follow the same laws as tobacco companies under current regulation. Maybe it doesn’t make rational sense in terms of the ability of death and injury between the two (cigarettes vs vapes), but its fair play to expect the company to follow the laws in place, right?

Well, here’s another thing, Juul has apparently not advertised to kids in any way since 2019. Plus, the company also related that since that time, (when it also discontinued some flavors), use of Juul products by underagers dropped by 95%.

Despite the fact there aren’t official injury reports for any minor or adult related to the products, and an effort by the company to be in line with regulation, James made the statement that Juul is: “Taking a page out of big tobacco’s playbook” and that “Juul misled consumers about the health risks of their products.” She points out that the settlement will require Juul not use anyone less than 35 years of age in advertising if the ad can be seen by underagers.

Let’s get realistic – why literally none of this makes sense

Thus far, Letitia James is doing great at exemplifying grave misunderstandings about this topic. Something made clear when she said that Juul misled people to believe that the e-cig products are safer than cigarettes; pointing out that some vape pods have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The problem with this statement? They are less dangerous. Like, by leaps and bounds.

Smoking damage

You see, 480,000 people in the US die a year from cigarette smoking, whereas Juul is not associated with a death count or injury count at all. Just the fact that vaping doesn’t involve lighting something on fire and breathing it in, means its automatically safer, so long as bad additives aren’t used. How many actual vape injury deaths? As of February 2020, from the inception of vaping until that point, not more than 68 deaths. Pretty much all related to added chemicals, which are not directly related to the act of vaping; and can be regulated out.

And that’s the whole argument against vaping that exists…that bad chemicals can be used. In fact, when the CDC talks about ‘vape injury’, that’s what its talking about, the injury that comes out of bad additives, like vitamin E acetate. Yet, these are almost always associated with black market products, and can be simply eliminated through regulation. They have 0% to do with vaping nicotine over smoking it, or vaping nicotine at all.

So, no actual safety issues are technically associated with the company. What is directly associated with the company, is helping people stop smoking. Smoking is the thing that can not only kill people, but which also takes out approximately 41,000 people a year through secondhand smoke. Funny, haven’t heard many complaints about secondhand vape damage…

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Let’s make it even more ridiculous. Juul can’t use anyone under 35 in advertising, nor market anything that might be seen by an underager. Does that apply to alcohol too? It must, right? I mean, alcohol is also illegal for underage kids, and is also attached to a massive death and injury toll. Just like smoking, it hurts those that don’t partake, through actions like drunk driving. Yet…there are commercials on TV for alcohol, and billboards everywhere, and pages in magazines full of ads. That’s because alcohol ads don’t have to be approved for either print or broadcast. What do the five attorney generals think of that?

And for that matter, what about the UK now promoting vaping over smoking? To the point of a plan to hand out vape materials to smokers in order to get them to stop. Is this because vaping is just as dangerous as smoking? What do the attorney generals say in regards to that policy?

Let’s let some logic in

#1, and I really can’t stress this enough; does it matter if kids are marketed to if the product in question (vapes) can keep them from using the actually deadly product (cigarettes)? Shouldn’t we desire this? It’s not like they’re not going to know what smoking is; its in every big TV show and movie. It’s in the houses they go home to, or the ones they visit. Its on every street corner. Is the government’s logic that kids should only know about smoking? Sounds like it.

#2, there are real problems to worry about, like opioids and alcohol, and actual smoking. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2017, in just the age range 12-17, 770,000 kids misused opioids that year. Those are the drugs that killed close to 100,000 people in 2021. Want to guess what that number would be today, six years later, as the problem has only grown?

And what about the National Institute of Health (NIH) report that states in 2019, in the same 12-17 age group, 414,000 kids were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. You know, the substance that kills 140,000 people a year? Including over 10,000 road deaths attributed to it in 2016 according to the CDC? And let’s not forget actual smoking. According to the CDC again, in 2019, about one quarter of middle school kids and a half of high school kids said they tried tobacco products; do we really prefer this entire number use cigarettes over vaping??

Public sign for alcohol
Public sign for alcohol

#3, and possibly most important for this specific story, there really aren’t death or injury statistics attached to Juul. That should matter. All this talk of vape injury isn’t related to the company specifically, so why should it constantly be associated? Literally, not one headline that directly implicates this specific company in any of the stories of vape injury. It’s literally not a part of it, but taking the fall entirely. Why?

That’s like if there’s a story of tainted milk by some small company, and then every milk producer is called out for having dirty products. Juul is gone at like it murdered children, but the reality is that not one thing has been pinned against it. Go ahead and check the internet. The most you’ll find in a search for ‘Juul deaths’ is vague talk of lung injury, with nothing directly associated to the company. It’s just similar products in that they’re vaped. Are all pills the same even if they look similar? Can a Tylenol pill and an Oxycontin get confused? Should we not take any pills because of this possibility?

#4, one last point. Like it or not, the FDA has continually stopped progress in getting people to stop smoking, while constantly promoting measures that will likely only promote cigarette use. For example, last year nicotine gummies were almost a thing, but then the government wiped it out before it could start.

Imagine that, a product that could get rid of the damage of smoking, yet the FDA decided it was roundly better to have people smoke. And on the other end? Biden introduced an idea to reduce nicotine in cigarettes, something that has shown people to smoke more, despite a handpicked study from 2015 that attempts to say otherwise.

And maybe that makes sense as cigarettes have become a government industry nearly everywhere. What do I mean? The government makes so much in tax money off the products, it eclipses the earnings of the manufacturers, making the government the main beneficiary of tobacco sales. Perhaps its simply not economically good for the US to do anything that will actually bring down smoking numbers.

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Is this latest Juul settlement just another indication the company is being used as a scapegoat by the US, while it continues to push cigarette sales, and bar anything that can get in the way? You be the judge. But you might want to start that judgement by doing the search on death and injury associated. And then maybe do the same for cigarettes.

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New Study On Payment Info Shows Weed Might Lower Opioid Use

It’s a horrible topic that we can’t stop talking about because it doesn’t stop being a horrible topic. One of the biggest issues in the world of health and drugs is the opioid epidemic, and the large and growing number of overdose deaths from these doctor-prescribed medications. Research on different fronts point to the use of weed as a way to lower opioid use, with a recent study related to payments once again backing up that idea.

The research

The opioid issue is huge, and the medical industry is constantly commenting on it, and how to deal with it. In a recent study, investigators showed a monetary connection which indicates that places with legalized weed, also have lower opioid prescription and use rates. However, the study comes with some concerning points.

The study, entitled Using Penalized Synthetic Controls on Truncated data: A Case Study on Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Direct Payments to Physicians by Opioid Manufacturers, was put out by researchers from the University of Florida, University of Southern California, and Purdue University.

In the study, investigators assess data from drug transactions of direct payments from opioid manufacturers, directly to physicians. In this case, specifically between 2014-2017. The purpose? To identify if these payments are affected by the inclusion of medical cannabis policies. In order to do this, the researchers used a “a novel penalized synthetic control (SC) method that accommodates the zero-payment related latent structures inherent in these payments.”

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The paper makes this statement, “Physicians are the primary gatekeepers for deciding medication for patients needing pain management.” This is important to remember as death numbers spiral out-of-control. As medical marijuana is employed in more places and for more things, more doctors might be driven to switch up how and what they write for pain.

Study findings

The study results indicate a “a significant decrease in direct payments from opioid manufacturers to pain medicine physicians as an effect of [medical marijuana law] passage.” It found that “physicians in states with an MML are prescribing fewer opioids.” The thought is that this is “due to the availability of medical marijuana as a substitute.”

To get more specific, this “substitution effect is comparatively higher for female physicians and in localities with higher white, less affluent, and more working-age populations.” This could indicate that female doctors might be friendlier in general to the idea of medical marijuana, or it could speak to females having less powerful relationships with opioid producers. It’s hard to say which.

The study found that in 2015, doctor’s prescribed 49% more opioid treatments than non-opioid treatments in terms of 30 day prescriptions, as well as prescribing 49% more days of prescribed medication for opioid vs non-opioid treatments. In states where no legalization measure was applied, the ratio remained about the same for opioid vs non-opioid prescription, at about 1.38:1.

For states that did apply a medical marijuana legalization within the years 2015-2017, the study found that the same ratio decreased from 1.57:1 to 1.52:1. The same decrease in ratio was likewise seen when looking at the number of days of medication prescription when comparing opioid to non-opioid medications, in states that passed a medical legalization.

These numbers imply something weird though, which the researchers don’t talk about. They imply that states without medical weed policies, automatically prescribe less opioids. After all, a 1.38:1 ratio is lower than either 1.57:1 or 1.52:1, indicating non-legal states prescribe less before and after a legalization. This, to me, seems suspect, or at the very least, very much in need of some sort of explanation. Nothing of the sort is given.

Opioid medications

Realistically, according to this data, researchers could say that states with medical weed policies, have uniformly higher opioid prescribing, and likely higher use. And that seems a big enough point that it deserves expansion, which it didn’t get. In fact, all the researchers say after presenting the information, is “We leave further analysis of the possible effect of MML passage on patient care for future research.” What this means, is impossible for me to say based on what is provided. But it’s an odd thing not to address.

Wait a second, how did they put this together?

The thing about a lot of research, is that its not exactly direct. Meaning its not about counting heads in a group. It can’t be when researchers want to study large populations. When trying to assess something on a country-wide level, it means making estimates about larger numbers, often using models to generalize information to a greater level. While this is necessary, it can create questions of effectiveness in specific situations.

In this case, the investigators created a “novel penalized synthetic control method.” They describe it as such: “This method estimates an average treatment effect from a longitudinal dataset on multiple treated and control individuals. We create a synthetic counterpart of each treated and control unit by closely matching on the target unit’s and their groups’ average pre-treatment outcome history using the pooled synthetic 27 control strategy. Further, we use a novel penalty so that the resulting estimators are adaptive to the latent groups in the data whose members have similar quarterly non-payment patterns.”

They go on to explain it further, but the point in me quoting it, is to show it’s a bit more complicated than counting up the prescriptions or payments by themselves. So can there be error in models? Of course. Am I saying there is one here? Not exactly. I’m just pointing out a strange piece of data, which was spoken about only partially, and which works to ask more questions than it answers.

Another reality to consider, is that researchers looked at payments from opioid manufacturers to physicians; something often looked at as a corrupt way to get more prescriptions written. The researchers in the study overlook this idea, and actually say “interactions between these manufacturers and physicians are critical to advance existing pain management protocols.” And that “Direct payments from opioid manufacturers to physicians are established conduits to facilitate such interactions.”

In fact, the researchers seem concerned about less money flowing from opioid producers to doctors. They say, “The finding that the opioid manufacturers in states that passed MML are stepping away from this particular form of interaction is concerning, for such activity can significantly affect the opioids ecosystem.”

Does medical weed affect opioid prescription and use?
Does medical weed affect opioid prescription and use?

Do we really want doctors taking payments from opioid manufacturers?!?

The researchers in the study sound concerned about a possible erosion of the opioid market. But…isn’t that we want? Something like weed to affect the current opioid eco-system and lower the amount of use? And don’t we want to see less of them prescribed, and doctors paying less attention to opioid manufacturers?

Perhaps the biggest issue with this study, beyond making an implication about legalized states uniformly prescribing more opioids vs non-opioids than non-legal states, is that it seems to be written by researchers who fully support payments made from opioid producers directly to the doctors who prescribe them. Which has already caused tons of controversy in that those who accept such payments, tend to write more prescriptions.

This can be seen in an investigation into pharmaceutical payments directly to doctors in the state of New York. In this 2018 report by New York Health Foundation, it found that among other things, “Physicians who received payments from opioid manufacturers prescribed more opioids to Medicare patients than physicians who did not receive any opioid-related payments.”

How much money are we talking about, and how frequently did it seem to have this effect? According to the report, “More than $3.5 million in opioid-related payments were made to physicians in New York State by pharmaceutical companies; about one in ten physicians who prescribed opioids to Medicare patients received a payment.”

It said that, “Moreover, a higher number of opioid prescriptions was associated with more opioid-related payments to physicians.” However, it also found that these payments were concentrated among a choice few doctors, “Opioid-related payments from industry were concentrated within a small proportion of physicians, who tended to prescribe a large quantity of opioids. The top 1% of physicians in New York, in terms of the amount received in opioid-related payments, received more than 80% of total payments.”

So perhaps the finding of the current report that less money is going to doctors from opioid producers, is actually an indication of a lessening of these seemingly corrupt payments, which have led to more prescribing. Which is technically what we want in this climate. And which therefore strongly calls into question the motives of the researchers and why this information makes them concerned.

Effects of legal weed on opioid payments to doctors
Effects of legal weed on opioid payments to doctors


I admit I’m slightly confused. The study talks about medical weed bringing down opioid use as seen through payments, which in the middle of a crisis like this, is optimal. Then it backhandedly turns this around and essentially questions if this is a good idea. Perhaps this study is an example of how research is often funded for a purpose, and not always with the best of intentions. I can’t say this for sure, as no funding information is given. Maybe a problem in and of itself.

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