How MDMA Got Sassafras Banned

You might be familiar with the sassafras plant. You’re also probably familiar with the drug MDMA, even if you only know it by name and not experience. What you probably don’t know, is that MDMA is the likely reason that the otherwise innocent sassafras plant, was banned in the US and beyond.

A little on sassafras

The first thing to know about sassafras is that its not a psychoactive plant. It doesn’t make a person high or euphoric, it doesn’t bring on hallucinations, and it was never used in either of these capacities. However, it has a powerful ability as a medicinal plant, and its history is mainly as this.

Sassafras originated in Cherokee territory, and entered European culture by way of European settlers. Beyond North America, there are two species of the plant that originate in East Asia. The North American version is classified as Sassafras albidum. The whole plant is an aromatic plant, and the roots, in particular, are used to make oil. Sassafras oil contains at least 80% safrole, which is the compound most associated with its medical benefits.

Cherokee traditions use the oil for a number of issues, including venereal diseases, skin ailments, rheumatism, diarrhea, appetite suppression, colds, as a vulnerary wash, for blood purification, and enhancing other herbal concoctions. It’s used as an abortifacient, perfume, natural insect repellent, as a natural pain reliever, to treat lice, and to soothe insect bites, as well.

The Cherokee harvest only young plants with red stems. According to local traditions, the red-stemmed plants are considered medicine; while the alternate white-stemmed plants, are considered poison. This idea may or may not be related to how the plant is viewed today. And it might shine a light on the idea that knowing how to prepare something, is the difference between safe and dangerous.

Sassafras plant

Sassafras also used to be an ingredient in root beer. In fact, sassafras was responsible for much of the taste. However, because of its current illegal standing, other artificial ingredients now replace sassafras, changing the taste of the soda. Some say, for the worse. If you crush or tear a sassafras leaf, you’ll get that great root beer smell.

A bit on MDMA

You might have forgotten while reading through about sassafras, that this is actually an MDMA-related article. MDMA is a psychostimulant, which acts similarly to classical psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT), in that it acts as an agonist at 5-HT serotonin receptors, forcing the brain to release more serotonin, and blocking re-absorption to force more into the brain.

MDMA, or 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine is often referred to as ecstasy, although this term sometimes simply denotes an impure product. It also goes by the name Molly, which is short for ‘molecular.’

It was created in 1912 by Merck Pharmaceutical. It wasn’t used or understood much at this time; and essentially sat on a back shelf until the 1970’s, when Alexander Shulgin found a new way to synthesize the drug. He subsequently tested it out with his therapist friends; who began using it in their practices along with assisted therapy. It was found that MDMA reduced fear and anxiety in at least some people, while also increasing feelings of empathy and overall connection between people.

Though it seemed to work well in psychiatric practice, the drug was nonetheless made illegal by the US federal government in 1985, by way of the previously installed Comprehensive Crime Control Act from the year before. This law allows the government to immediately ban a substance it deems dangerous; and was used at its onset to make LSD and magic mushrooms illegal.

Much like its psychedelic cousins, and other hallucinogens like ketamine; MDMA came back into prominence in the last few years. Cannabis legalization has softened the public’s feelings toward some drugs, and compounds like MDMA have been able to gain more traction than they were in decades prior. In the case of MDMA, particularly for its ability to help with PTSD reactions; something that can be seen in EEG and fMRI research.

Colorado was the first state to legalize medical MDMA, contingent on a US approval. Australia was the first country to pass a medical legalization. Currently, the company MAPS has an MDMA drug for PTSD which received ‘breakthrough therapy’ status from the FDA; indicating a desire to get this product to market quickly.

How MDMA got sassafras banned

We’re now talking about a psychostimulant compound that acts like a classic psychedelic in many ways, including producing hallucination experiences; and a plant with a long history as a medicine for many ailments, but no psychoactive response. What is the connection between the two; and how did MDMA cause sassafras to get banned?

Chemical formula for MDMA
Chemical formula for MDMA

MDMA is a purely synthetic drug, which might make you wonder why sassafras is involved at all. Now consider that LSD, also a completely synthetic drug, is synthesized using the ergot fungus which grows on tainted rye plants. When getting into pharmaceuticals, you’ll find that a large proportion of pharmaceutical drugs are synthesized using plant material.

Despite the fact sassafras was used for tons of purposes by different Native American tribes over hundreds of years, the FDA decided that safrole is carcinogenic, and banned the oil’s use in food products. In fact, a Science Direct article actually makes the statement: “Because of toxicity, carcinogenicity, and lack of therapeutic benefit, the use of this plant cannot be recommended under any circumstance.”

And yet it had been used medically for hundreds of years, making this a strange statement. After all, its not uncommon for a plant oil to be dangerous in high amounts. Think of mint, or cinnamon, or oregano oil. Yet they weren’t banned. So perhaps this banning has more to do with the fact that safrole is a building block for creating MDMA.

Basically, sassafras oil is used to make illicit MDMA. According to a DEA notice meant to inform the public, “individuals and businesses handling safrole and essential oils rich in safrole, such as sassafras oil, “brown” camphor oil 1.070, also referred to as Chinese sassafras oil, that they are sometimes used in the manufacture of MDMA. MDMA is also known as ecstasy, and is often spelled XTC. MDMA is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.”

It goes on to try to illicit a little fear, warning “Criminals are always searching for sources of safrole and essential oils rich in safrole,” and that “handlers of safrole need to know their customers so as not to become an unwitting supplier to a clandestine MDMA laboratory.” As per this idea, the DEA then requires that any provider who uses sassafras compounds to report to the DEA information related to moving large quantities, unusual payments, or anything that the provider might think is suspect.

It’s also required to report if working with anyone known to the DEA, or if the plant material inexplicably gets lost, especially when in high amounts. The DEA then goes on to confirm “It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess or distribute safrole, knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, the safrole will be used to manufacture MDMA.”

The inconsistent story of how and why this happened

The new way to synthesize MDMA started in the 1970’s with Alexander Shulgin. Prior to this time, there is not much written about issues with sassafras, though MDMA wasn’t used or known about. It had been found decades earlier, but wasn’t a part of the medical or psychiatric world. So, no MDMA yet, and no complaint or issue with sassafras. Or last least, no confirmable issues. There are stories about studies from the 50’s, but I can’t find any. I did see one reference from 1950, in this article; but nothing else.

In the 1970’s, MDMA started appearing more, and this brought it to the attention of US authorities. In 1979 (according to some sources), the FDA subsequently banned sassafras because of a study with rats that used insanely large doses to draw the conclusion that sassafras causes cancer in rats; and therefore might in humans. To be clear, this problem didn’t actually come up in humans, and all talk of cancer and poisonings don’t match general history. Its good to remember, sassafras oil and tea were widely used. Yet somehow, the plant was banned on the premise of a danger that was never seen.

Recreational ecstasy use

As tends to be the case in fear-mongering articles meant to make the public think a particular way; sassafras has not subsequently shown any similar danger to humans, as it did to rats. Though the plant is banned, the danger has not been backed up. In fact, it’s rather difficult to follow the research/policy chain, as the story changes according to different sourcing, and is wildly inconsistent.

For example, in some publications, like here from McGill University, it speaks of the FDA banning sassafras due to research showing carcinogenic effects and oxidative damage in mice. But the study it links to, is from 1999, and doesn’t mention the FDA or a ban. However, in this article, it mentions the FDA ban following research in 1979. It does not link to any article or research paper. Go to Wikipedia, and it says that the FDA banned sassafras oil in 1960 – which would then be well before MDMA, and give credence to a lack of connection between the two. It goes on to say the tea was banned in 1977, but that that ban was lifted in 1994.

Wikipedia links to an NIH article entitled Botanical Dietary Supplements Gone Bad from 2007, which mentions the date 1960. However, the articles it links to in support, are from 1983 and after. And its statement about banning by the FDA is attached to a 1994 study. Perhaps this was a re-banning. The article makes this troubling statement: “These experiments confirm the genotoxic effects of safrole and thus justify the restrictions made by the FDA and other health authorities.”

Whether the date is 1960 (a couple sources give the date, but with no confirming evidence), or 1977-1979 (much more likely); the implication is that this was done without any corroborating evidence. To the point that the NIH article makes it sound like subsequent research backed up a ban that was put in place before research was available. Of course, as its not backed up in life; it appears the research was done as a substantiating measure for something put in place for other reasons.

Moving on, this Science Direct article, which mentions that the FDA prohibits sassafras in food products, attaches to nothing explaining why, or the date the ban happened. And Medicine Net? It specifically says the FDA banned sassafras tea in 1976, though that might only account for tea. There is no attached information. gives the date of 1976 for the FDA ban as well.

According to EatThePlanet, a ban was put in place in 1960 due to research from the 1950s indicating safrole can cause cancer in rats. Once again, nothing is attached to back this up. Between all sourcing taking place after 1960, and given its clear affiliation with MDMA; this date is questionable, though I cannot rule it out. As I cannot find hard backing for the other dates given either, its impossible for me to say when this actually happened, or why. And this in and of itself, is a very strange thing.


The result of this investigation is that I cannot find one source that gives a definitive date for the sassafras ban, a law or piece of regulation attached to it, or any information on study results prior to the 1980s. We’re not talking about 500 years ago, either, we’re talking about the last few decades; which makes these discrepancies very unusual. This is compounded by the differing information from nearly every different publication, and that sassafras is used to create an illicit drug. It seems the line that sassafras is carcinogenic, is likely just a guise to try to stop illicit MDMA production.

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California Trying to Root Out Illegal Vape Providers

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

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

California vs nine vape companies

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

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

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

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

What’s really going on here?

California filed suit against nine vape companies

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

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

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

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

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

Cigarette taxes

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

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

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

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

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

Size of illicit vape market

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

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

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

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

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

US illicit vape market

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Is Canada Building An Illicit Alcohol Sales Market?

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

New op-ed says Canada alcohol sales down

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

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

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

Alcohol sales

Are alcohol sales actually down in Canada?

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

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

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

But wait, are people drinking less??

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

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

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

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

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

Is this related to cannabis market?

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

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

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

Is there an illicit alcohol market?

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

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

Bootleg alcohol
Bootleg alcohol

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

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

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


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

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Delete It! The Growing Problem of Research Retractions

Research results are often the cornerstone of state and federal policy. Beyond that, they often inform our decisions personally when it comes to many different aspects of life. So its more than a little concerning that there’s an increasing problem with the growing number of research retractions.

What’s a research retraction?

Research is published all the time, and on practically any topic imaginable. In this publication, we focus on research pertaining to drugs; like how they work, how people feel about them, the laws around them, or their danger level. This can include topics like clinical trials for a new drug, cohort studies to examine behaviors over time, and assessments of multiple studies within a topic to see consistencies and deviations.

When a research study is completed, the authors generally want attention and recognition. They want their findings known, and their reputations heightened. Similarly, publications also want positive exposure by having cutting-edge stories. So researchers hand off their final product to some publication in their field, and these publications offer exposure. This gets writers like me to cover the research with a great headline; which theoretically, helps both the writer and the publication.

However, sometimes after publication, the results are questioned. This happens because of honest and unintentional mistakes; as well as cutting corners, and outright result flubbing. This puts both researcher and publication in an uncomfortable position. If there is enough debate, the reaction is negative enough, or a court order forces it; a piece of research is retracted. The publication takes it down, the findings are considered null and void, and the retraction becomes part of the author’s (and publication’s) history.

There were nearly 5,500 research retractions last year

A retraction means there was a fatal flaw in research. Something that indicates the results are incorrect, or could be. It means whatever information the study provided, is not only questionable, but deemed unworthy for human consumption. Studies often reference each other, and when one is retracted, it affects the papers that reference it. This can undermine the work of good researchers, especially in situations of retractions due to bad behavior. It’s no wonder that retractions act as a sort of stigma. Fellow researchers might be less likely to reference your findings if you have a history of retractions.

Retractions are made all the time outside of the research world as well. News publications often must make them when they flub a story, pharmaceutical companies often recall medications, and statements made by public figures are sometimes retracted; though this obviously doesn’t mean that we ever un-hear or un-know things.

Writing on bad research stories

As a writer who constantly evaluates research, I am sometimes amazed, and often dismayed, at the amount of awful research out there. This creates a situation in which its wildly difficult to understand what is actually going on. Journalists can be just as bad as the research they cover; and at times nearly every relevant publication in a field, is passing on the same bad study results. And none of them question anything.

News and opinions are different things. Some argue that an opinion should never be in a news story at all. I tend to think this is only partly true. I believe writers should have a level of understanding that allows them to point out information that does not make sense. This means not passing things on without an explanation if there are inconsistencies or problems, but it also doesn’t mean the writer should push their own opinion on anyone. A writer can pose a question to their audience, or bring up an issue.

Something like: ‘in my opinion as a drugs writer, I’m uncertain this study makes sense because of…” This introduces a problem, whether an opinion is stated or not. Isn’t this what we should do? Isn’t it odd to think someone covering a story, passes on words without thinking about them? Isn’t that just as bad as the scientific publications and corner-cutting researchers? I’m not saying any writer should pass on their opinion as anything more than that, or even give one if there is no reason. But to bypass inconsistencies? That’s not news reporting at all.

An example of a study that I believe needs retraction, is this one that attempted to make the case that cannabis increases risk of heart attacks. Why? It 100% did not control for the act of smoking. All participants smoked the cannabis; as investigators only looked at medical files of those who did. Yet they never brought up that smoking raises the risk of heart attacks. It’s incomprehensible to me that the study was published, or that so many writers blindly covered it. It’s a lower-than entry level mistake/super wily move. And it exemplifies that not everything that needs a retraction, gets one.

Cannabis study tried to tie the drug to heart attacks, while ignoring smoking
Cannabis study tried to tie the drug to heart attacks, while ignoring smoking

The growing problem of research retractions

A recently published article by the Guardian takes on this topic of research retractions. According to the article, in 2022 alone, there were almost 5,500 research retractions. The article points out that this is a drop in the bucket, accounting for only 1 in 1,000 research papers. Even so, as a comparison, there were only 40 retractions in 2000. That’s a pretty big difference.

Does every bad article get retracted? Unfortunately not. Not only do publications back up their published research in order to maintain their own reputations, but they’ll often wage court battles on detractors. They infrequently win (its hard to prove slander when you can’t back up your own point), but the monetary cost of such a suit to the challenger, often isn’t worth it. In that way, some publications function like big pharma, essentially silencing those who question the machine.

Is the near 5,500 retractions adequate? Some estimate that closer to 100,000 pieces of research should be retracted yearly, while others put the number even higher. The Guardian has been tracking these retractions since 2010, via its watchdog site, and also believes (according to the article) that retraction numbers are lower than they should be. According to the publication, the flawed research that spawns many of these retractions, is found via:

“sleuthing, largely by volunteers who comb academic literature for anomalies, and, second, major publishers’ (belated) recognition that their business models have made them susceptible to paper mills – scientific chop shops that sell everything from authorships to entire manuscripts to researchers who need to publish lest they perish.”

The author explains further, “These researchers are required – sometimes in stark terms – to publish papers in order to earn and keep jobs or to be promoted. The governments of some countries have even offered cash bonuses for publishing in certain journals. Any surprise, then, that some scientists cheat?”

Bad research hurts people

Research often informs policy, it leads to treatment options, and it helps people make personal decisions. So bad research can impact these things negatively. Do you want the treatment option of someone who put out faulty research? The Guardian article mentioned one of the most ridiculous examples of this, and it’s a good one to share further because it so greatly exemplifies why this is a problem.

Bad research led to damage from a blood alternative
Bad research led to damage from a blood alternative

The case has to do with German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt. Boldt created a blood substitute that was used all over Europe, due to his many, many research studies that showed it helped keep blood pressure consistent, while oxygenating cells. Between 1990-2009, Boldt published 186 papers that subsequently had to be retracted. He purposefully flubbed his results. In fact, it was found that his product was significantly related to acute kidney problems and increased risk of death. Quite the opposite of life-saving. Some of his papers weren’t retracted until a decade after his fraud came to light.

Other times, fake research used to sway opinions and inform policy is also damaging in another way. Think of sick people that need medicine, like kids. Think of sick kids. And then remember that if the government outlaws something like weed, because it says that medical research shows it to be dangerous; those kids don’t get the medicine. Even now, with the massive amount of positive research out there, sick kids are constantly still denied cannabis medicines, all over the world.

Plus, it can lead to bad personal choices. Think of the US government’s take on nutritional information. The food pyramid is still one of the biggest jokes out there; yet it was taught in classes around the country. I was taught about it in my high school health class. The new version isn’t much better, and still doesn’t resonate with the world of actual nutrition. It’s constantly spoken of as being the result of lobbying by industries, with little-to-no concern for consumer health at all.

Neither the old, nor the revised version, will likely help people truly trying to establish healthy eating patterns; and nor will the countless awful chemicals that the US allows in food. Think of that contradiction for a second. A government that talks like it cares, while undermining the health of its residents with chemicals so bad they’re not allowed in food products in other countries. It’s hard to trust the nutritional information that comes from the same country that sees fit to allow such poisons in food, or the research which supposedly supports it.


I talk all the time about bad research, smear campaigns, and the lack of integrity in both the research world and the reporting world. The Guardian article quite unfortunately backs up that this is a major issue, and it isn’t getting any better. At this rate, in a few years from now, we’ll have headlines telling us that the latest research backs up that walking into traffic is a good way to spend the afternoon.

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Astronomy: Stories in the Stars 

Since the dawn of time, humans have been drawn to the beauty and mystery of outer-space. This inexplicable fascination is deeply engrained in cultures across the globe. Various paintings, poems, photographs, and other works of art emphasize the heavens at night. And not only that, but the night sky has been a boundless source of information to help humans better understand both, outer space, and the inner workings of the world around us, here on planet Earth.

The study of celestial objects is known as astronomy, and it’s one of the oldest natural sciences that still exists to this day. I’ve always been mesmerized by the stars, and it always amazed me how ancient astronomers where able to connect what’s going on outside of our atmosphere, to so many important things on earth such as agriculture, time and dating, navigation, architecture, and the list goes on.

Let’s take a universal deep dive as we learn more about the galaxies and some of the most prominent and recognizable constellations in the night sky.

What is astronomy? 

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. Generally speaking, astronomy uses physics, chemistry, and mathematics to explore everything that originates beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The research centered around celestial objects such as planets, stars, moons, nebulae, galaxies, meteoroids, asteroids, and comets; as well relevant phenomena including supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. 

Great Orion Nebula M42

Astronomy is one of the first natural sciences, with some of the earliest civilizations in the world looking for solutions and answers in the night sky. Ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Mayans, and many indigenous people in the Americas all develop methods to study the stars – and they harnessed their research to in the making of calendars, for navigation, agriculture, to tell time, and storytelling. Astronomy played a major role in the creation of many ancient civilizations.  

Modern, professional astronomy is split into two categories: observational and theoretical. The former focuses on acquiring and analyzing data made by observing celestial objects, and the latter is geared toward the development of analytical models to describe existing and potential phenomena using data and computers.  

The galaxies  

A galaxy is a system of stars, stellar remnants, dust, interstellar gas, and dark matter, all held together by gravity. The word “galaxy” is derived the Greek term galaxias (γαλαξίας), literally ‘milky’, which is an obvious reference to what we know as the Milky Way galaxy. In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei studied the Milky Way and found that it contains a huge number of faint stars, as well as our entire solar system. 

Modern astronomers estimate that there could be as many as two trillion galaxies in the universe, although only around 34,000 are currently catalogued, and even less have names, such as the Andromeda Galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and the Sombrero Galaxy. Each galaxy averages around 100 million stars that range in size from dwarfs to supergiants, and each galaxy has its own center of mass around which everything orbits.  

You can see a few different galaxies from earth without using a telescope, if it’s dark enough, with just the naked eye. In the Southern hemisphere, both the large and small Magellanic Clouds are visible without a telescope. And in the Northern Hemisphere, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, graces the winter night sky.  

Because it’s so far (2.537 million light years away), Andromeda only appears in a small light smudge in the sky near the milky way. It can only be seen in areas where the sky is a level 1 or 2 on the bortle scale, which is used to rate the level of light pollution in an area.  

The constellations 

When people think of astronomy, they often think of constellations first. Stars are bright, beautiful, astronomical puzzles that bring life to an otherwise bleak night sky. A constellation is a group of visible stars that form a perceived pattern or formation. For thousands of years, people have found constellations in the sky and used them to tell stories of their creation, future, and beliefs.  

Some constellations are internationally recognized, but different cultures and countries may have their own variations – for example, in some countries, Scorpius is viewed as a swan or leaning coconut tree. Some constellations were once popular but eventually faded into obscurity, although even those that have stood the test of time and distance have changed over the years, mostly in shape and size.  

Constellations also bring to mind astrology and the zodiac. Whereas astronomy is a recognized natural science, astrology is a type of psuedoscience that encompasses a range of divinatory practices. It uses the shape of celestial objects to determine personality traits and other information about the human psyche. Twelve (or thirteen as of recently) ancient constellations comprise the modern-day/Western zodiac, although again, different cultures may follow different zodiacs.  


Orion is one of the most prominent and recognizable constellations that can be seen from anywhere in world, and it’s bright enough to be viewed without any visual aids and in fairly light-polluted skies. The constellation, made up of bright blue giant and supergiant stars and includes the three larger stars in the constellation: Alnilam, Mintaka, and Alnitak. Betelgeuse, the second-brightest star in Orion, marks the right shoulder of the hunter, and Bellatrix serves as his left shoulder. 

Orion is named after Orion the hunter, son of Poseidon, in Greek mythology. As one of the legends goes, Orion was a supernaturally gifted hunter who claimed to be the greatest in the world. This enraged Zeus’ wife Hera, who was a lover of wildlife (she was known as the “Mistress of Animals” and had many species she protected).  

Hera sent a giant scorpion to kill him, who was raised to the heavens (placed in the sky) to honor its victory. Out of pity, Zeus put Orion in the sky as well, but he is never visible at the same time as the scorpion. In another myth, the god Apollo, Artemis’s twin brother, grew angry and sent a scorpion to attack Orion because he claimed to be a better hunter than Artemis. 

In the night sky, Orion is positioned in a fight against Taurus the bull. In the Northern Hemisphere, Orion is a signal of oncoming winter and is seen in the southwestern sky from November to March. In the Southern Hemisphere, Orion makes its appearance in the northwestern sky during the summer months.  


Another easily identifiable constellation is Scorpius. Made up of brilliant, bright stars, one can easily make out the shape of a scorpion with little imagination. It looks like the curved body of a scorpion, with two very closely positioned stars at the end making up the stinger. At the scorpion’s heart you’ll see Antares, which is a “supergiant” star, about 680 times larger than the sun.  

Again, in Greek mythology the Scorpion is very closely tied to Orion, and even though there are a few different renderings of the myth, the killing of Orion is why the Scorpius was placed in the sky. And if you go out about 1.5 hours before the sun comes up in early spring, you’ll catch Orion going down over the horizon right before Scorpius and the Milky Way rise, which is interesting as the scorpion kills Orion in all versions of the story. 

However, “Scorpius” is not such everywhere in the world. The Javanese people of Indonesia call this constellation Banyakangrem, which means “the brooded swan”. In Chinese mythology, the constellation was part of the Azure Dragon. In Polynesia, it’s said to be the demigod Maui’s magical fishhook. Ancient legends state that Maui, one of the many demigods of Hawaii, once threw a fishhook into the Pacific Ocean to pull out the other islands of Hawaii. He then pulled the hook from the islands and threw it up into the sky where it remained.  

In the Northern Hemisphere, Scorpius, along with the milky way, are summer constellations. You can view it from late march to early September in the southern sky. For the best late evening/early night views, July and August are prime months. It stays relatively low to the ground, and the tail of Scorpius intersects with the milky way core.  

Ursa Major (The Big Dipper) 

The brilliant Big Dipper is a large asterism made up of seven bright stars of the Ursa Major constellation. In Latin, its name means “greater bear” or “she bear”, and in Greek mythology it’s also known as a bear, and is also interconnected with Hera, who sent the scorpion after Orion.  

The ancient Greeks believed that Zeus fell in love with a young nymph name Callisto, while still married to his wife Hera. Hera became jealous and transformed Callisto into a bear. One day while out in the woods, Callisto ran into her son Arcas. But since she was a bear, Arcas did not recognize her and he tried to shoot her.  

Zeus came to Callisto’s aid and turned Arcas into a bear, then placed them both into the night sky – mother being Ursa Major and son as Ursa Minor. The seven brightest stars of Ursa Major form the back and tail end of the bear, while the smaller stars can be traced to form the rest of its body. Ursa Major is viewable most of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s highest in the sky during spring. It’s barely visible in the Southern Hemisphere, only for those living very close to the equator.  


Taurus is not only one of the largest (covering over 797 square degrees) and most distinguishable constellations, t’s also one of the oldest. Dating back to the early Bronze Age, it was used to mark the location of the sun during the spring equinox. As a guide to know when spring was coming, the constellation had great in importance in agricultural calendars and was depicted as a bull in mythologies from Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The most famous story from ancient Greek mythology is that Zeus transformed himself into a bull in order to carry the woman he loved at the time, a Phoenician Princess named Europa, back to Crete on his back. 

It is most famous for its giant red star called Aldebaran, that forms the bulls right eye. It’s the brightest star in the constellation and the 14th brightest star known to man. Also of interest to astronomers are the open star clusters that Taurus is host to – Pleiades and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye. 

Pleiades, often called the seven sisters, were believed to be the daughters of Titan Atlas. For taking part in a war against Zeus, he was forced to hold up the sky for eternity and was unable to be with his daughters to protect them. To prevent them from being raped by the Orion the hunter, Zeus made them into stars.  

The Tauras constellation is easy to find due to the brightness of Pleiades and Aldebaran, and its noticeable V-shape making up the bull’s head and horns. It can be found during winter and spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and throughout summer in the Southern Hemisphere. In the states, it’s most visible in January.  

Final thoughts 

Going out to the middle of nowhere on a clear dark night and looking at the stars really has a way of making you feel small. And when you think about the fact that our galaxy is one in trillions, it’s like we’re bacteria in a petri dish. Besides being used to illustrate stories of the Gods and mythology, astronomy has been utilized in some of our most groundbreaking endeavors. If our ancestors didn’t have the help of the stars to build civilizations, where would be today?

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Why Decriminalizing Opioids Is a Disastrous Idea

There are two things going on right now. A large and growing opioid crisis; and a tendency toward lessening restrictions on some drugs. They both happen in different places throughout the world, though the opioid crisis is mainly a US issue. While some think decriminalizing opioids will solve the problem of the opioid crisis, perhaps that thinking is exactly why we’re in this mess.

This article is the express opinion of the writer, in regards to a recent article in favor of decriminalizing opioids.

Portugal’s drug decriminalization in 2001

In 2001, Portugal did the unthinkable (at the time) and decriminalized all drugs. It wasn’t that the country wanted everyone to do drugs more freely; it was to combat a growing heroin issue, which had led to a growing issue with needle sharing and HIV. This was really an AIDS problem, and at the time of the decriminalization, it was estimated that half of all new HIV cases every year, were a result of sharing needles.

Portugal did not legalize these drugs, or their possession or use. What it did, was institute a change in policy that brought the possession of these drugs down to an administrative offense, instead of a criminal charge. This no longer applies once the offender has more than a 10-day supply of their drug, in their possession. The idea is to get people help, and not worry about criminalizing drug use behavior.

In terms of how effective this change has been, its estimated that between 2001-2015, there was a 50% decrease in drug convictions. Portugal also currently has a drug death rate below the average in the EU. The country first saw a reduction in deaths in the first few years of the policy’s existence. They oscillated a bit over time, but never went up to where they were before.

Should we consider decriminalizing opioids?

What we also know after all these years, is that drug use didn’t spiral out of control in Portugal after the decriminalization. Whatever debate there may be about the exact positive outcomes; there certainly weren’t any detrimental ones. With over 20 years in existence, if this policy was harmful, we’d know it.

The reason I bring up Portugal, and this decriminalization; is because it seems that many locations in the world want to adopt a similar policy today; in order to deal with today’s growing opioid issue. Right now, Portugal is the best example in recent history, of this change from hard drugs being criminalized, to being decriminalized.

Today’s opioid crisis

The current opioid issue is predominantly a US issue, but as the drugs are provided by pharmaceutical companies; this issue is becoming more and more widespread. The crisis focuses not on all opioids, but on synthetic opioids made through pharmaceutical production. Though heroin certainly causes some damage, its not the focus of this current problem. Heroin overdoses have remained relatively consistent through its history.

Things spiraled out of control when the Sackler family-run Purdue Pharma company put out the medication OxyContin in 1996. Prior to this, while opiate medications were available in the form of weaker drugs like codeine (which is a naturally occurring compound of the poppy plant), there wasn’t a market for fully synthetic opioids. OxyContin came with the promise of pain relief for 12 hours, without needing to take more. For pain patients, this sounded like a miracle.

It wasn’t true through, and the company has repeatedly copped to bad behavior, like lying to the public. The company is privately owned by the Sackler family, who not only evaded criminal charges, but nearly got away with a bankruptcy deal for Purdue, which would have kept members from individually facing civil charges in the future. For now, the US Supreme Court blocked it. It’s looking into whether its cool for family members to gain a benefit from their company’s bankruptcy, when no individual is filing for bankruptcy. Especially in light of the already-existent criminal aspect of the case.

Anyway, anyone who’s dealt with a pain issue, knows it’s not fun or easy. And for many trying to deal with extensive or long-running issues, OxyContin meant falling into an opioid addiction. For the first several years, it likely crept up on many addicts; who became that way through the medication. This started 100% as a medication issue, not as an illicit drug issue. Not only did it start this way, it continues this way.

The opioid epidemic started because of pain issues
The opioid epidemic started because of pain issues

Preliminary 2022 overdose death numbers are 109,680. The increase from 2021-2022 was smaller than other years, but still an increase. 2021 had 109,179 deaths, originally estimated as 107,622. That last part is important because it indicates the current number could also rise. 2020 had ~93,000. The president tried to make this look like a victory, since the increase was smaller. Of course, he left out anything that indicates this is an ongoing prescription medication issue, or that deaths are still going up. If you listen to that guy, you’d think its only about drugs trafficked from Mexico, and that we’ve solved the problem.

When it comes to opioids, if you want a last detail for laughs (or groans); even the heroin industry was started medically. Heroin was an approved drug which enjoyed legal sales as a Bayer product, starting in 1898. In fact, pretty much all drugs to cause problems, including meth, were at one point approved and regulated by some government.

Why decriminalizing opioids won’t work

If there is confusion over Portugal’s situation in 2001, and today’s situation with opioids, let me clear it up. Portugal’s issue was all illicit. Heroin wasn’t prescribed to anyone. Nor had it been. The only way it was used, was illicitly. Every single purchase was a black market purchase, and 0% of patients received a prescription for a heroin medication. There was absolutely no legal industry attached.

Conversely, all US governments allow synthetic opioids through regulation. And concurrently pretty much all have settled lawsuits with pharmaceutical producers, and suppliers. This creates a huge contradiction; because it immediately says that politicians don’t actually want synthetic opioids gone, yet they all speak like they do. If they wanted them gone, they’d make them gone. The US banned Quaaludes in the early 80’s with a stated fear of mass addiction. Yet, even with the current actually existent mass addiction to opioids, they are still prescribed widely.

The issue with synthetic opioids is not just a problem of illicit drugs; but of legal, doctor-prescribed medications. If it was all illicit, the government would likely do the same as with Quaaludes, since it wouldn’t bring in tax revenue. The issue persists because of the legal production, legal prescriptions, and government regulation. Many prescriptions are written by primary care physicians who shouldn’t write them at all. Of 2017’s 191 million opioid prescriptions, 45% were written by such doctors.

Yet, politicians only talk about an illicit market. They don’t talk about ending prescription of the medications, or replacing them with safer and comparable options like ketamine; even though ketamine can treat pain, without killing anyone. And now, the conversation has moved to decriminalizing opioids, rather than rational solutions. Like Canada’s British Columbia, which passed a measure in 2022 for decriminalizing opioids and other hard drugs; as a means of dealing with its own opioid issue. It did not stop prescription of the medications. It did not mention switching patients to ketamine.

British Columbia has major issue with opioids
British Columbia has major issue with opioids

Should cannabis reform influence opioid reform?

Perhaps the problem for some, is that there’s confusion between drugs like cannabis, and drugs like opioids. Even on a pretty high level; which isn’t shocking considering our own high-level politicians cannot speak about them honestly. I recently read an article, in which the writer points to the legal weed industry as a reason that opioids should be decriminalized. While I respect the pedigree of the writer’s education, I find the argument, nonetheless flawed.

Cannabis and opioids are wildly different. Cannabis has literally no death toll, and is often used as a medicine, because tons of research and life experience teaches us that it can be good for us. Not just to treat a specific issue, but to maintain good health. Like a vitamin. That’s how healthful its shown to be. We can buy it as the actual plant, which doesn’t require tampering or processing. It can be grown completely organically.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical opioids are all synthetic medications made in a lab, cause many deaths, and have no positive effect on the body, only negative. Their main place as a medication is in pain control. Why a lessening of weed restrictions would relate at all to decriminalizing opioids, isn’t clear to me in the slightest. It’s even possibly dangerous, as such a measure would likely improve and increase access, the exact opposite of the stated goal.

It’s one thing to argue that illegalizing plants is a strange concept, maybe even tyrannical. But that’s not what’s going on here. The situation is that the government continually allows dangerous products under the guise of helping people; and allows us to get addicted to the point that we argue over whether restricting these dangerous substances is okay. As if we cannot live without them.


If the goal was really to do away with these drugs, they’d be gone. We know that from Quaaludes. Maybe the real question is, how are we still arguing about this at all? Perhaps it should be understood that decriminalizing opioids is the worst possible idea if the point is to get rid of them. Nor is that even remotely logical, when a drug is so widely prescribed.

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New Study Backs Up Cannabis Never Led to Psychosis

One of the going lines for those opposing cannabis, is that it increases incidences of psychosis, like schizophrenia. Now, a new study greatly contradicts this, to the point of saying nearly the opposite. Why do such contradictory results exist, and should we be worried that cannabis increases the risk of psychosis?

This article is the express opinion of the writer.

New study on cannabis and psychosis

Psychosis definition according to the National Institute of Mental Health: “Psychosis refers to a collection of symptoms that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. During an episode of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disrupted and they may have difficulty recognizing what is real and what is not.” It is not more specific than this.

The study is called Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP), and was conducted on multiple sites with clinical trials. Eleven different universities took part in it. The goal was originally to show that using cannabis is dangerous for people with a higher risk of psychosis.

For the study 210 ‘clinically high risk’ patients who smoke cannabis, were followed for two years. This was not an adults only study, and the average age of participants was 16 years old. 81% were enrolled in school when the study started. 61% of subjects were white, and 42% of the test population was female. Researchers tracked medication taking, brain function, and other observed behaviors to gather data. This was on on-site study.

New research suggests cannabis helps brain function

According to the study data, not only was cannabis not related to an increase in psychotic onset; but the data indicates it didn’t affect general brain function negatively, or produce clinical symptoms. Quite the opposite, actually. Those who used cannabis were found to have higher functioning brains, with a greater capacity through time, for sociability. According to the team, “CHR youth who continuously used cannabis had higher neurocognition and social functioning over time, and decreased medication usage, relative to non-users..”

This study goes in contrast to many others, like this one out of Denmark; which leaves us with the notion that from 1995-2010, problematic marijuana use with schizophrenia increased from 2% to 4%. This study only used medical files, however, and spoke to no participants. Much like many investigations of this nature, it means study investigators had 0% control over information collection, and all information was collected for other purposes.

The new study doesn’t simply assess previously collected information with a hope of drawing some connection to make headlines. It’s a developed study that used participants who signed releases to be in it. The Denmark study, in comparison, suffers from a lack of contact with participants, while also seeking to measure a specific condition, which isn’t technically measurable. Perhaps the Denmark study, and others of its kind, are some of the better examples of how research and headlines are used to sway our opinions, even when based on nothing.

Why this is silly

We don’t question whether alcohol causes health damage, or whether opioids do. We’re all pretty okay with the line that they do, because we see it in real life. Especially with alcohol, which much like cannabis, has been used throughout recorded history, in some capacity. We know it causes severe issues from all this time, yet this same information can’t be said distinctively for cannabis. It’s questioned, and argued over, yet after all these years, there’s no obvious answer. Or, at least, there’s no obvious answer that it causes damage.

Natural medicine traditions have reported on the properties of different plants for thousands of years. And to be clear, they often speak of cannabis having somewhat psychotic effects. But its never spoken about as a lasting condition; and we’re all aware that when on a drug, we are supposed to experience something. Yet, somehow, despite it being the most widely used drug outside of alcohol, and with thousands of years of accumulated experience showing no lasting damage…

Can you see where I’m going with this? We’ve had thousands of years with weed collectively, and somehow no one was categorically worried about lasting damage in other cultures. Yet today, all of a sudden, it causes psychosis? Forget that the government regulates synthetic opioids that take out close to 100,000 people yearly in the US alone. It’s obviously the psychosis of cannabis – which no one ever sees beyond someone currently high – as the thing to worry about.

Real drug damage is often very visible
Real drug damage is often very visible

If weed were really a problem in this way, it would be reflected in all those ancient texts as possibly causing some form of long-term craziness. It would be seen regularly in society, considering how prevalent weed use is. Now think to yourself if you know even one person who went crazy because of smoking weed.

Beyond these points of logic, there’s the idea that the research world is an incredibly competitive place, wherein some must continue to publish findings to keep their positions. That’s a lot of pressure. Maybe enough to encourage some to put out sub-par efforts just to keep up. To give an idea of just how silly the world of research is getting, check out this article recently published in the Guardian, which attacks the topic of research retractions.

In 2022, for example, a massive 5,500 retractions had to be made for published scientific research. There is so much research published yearly, that this accounted for only one in 1,000. However, back in the year 2000, there were only 40 retractions, for comparison. Its best to remember that these are the ones that got challenged in some way; plenty of research that desperately needs to get retracted, doesn’t get enough exposure or heat for that to happen. Meaning those results stand. Some estimate that at least 100,000 studies should get retracted yearly, or more.

The issue with measuring psychosis

Psychotic issues like schizophrenia, are psychotic issues because a doctor defines them that way. There is no medical definition for any of these conditions, regardless of how many the DSM talks about, or how much you don’t like that sentence. This is not opinion. Not a single one has a definable and testable ability, and this is understood in the medical world, even if its flubbed a bit for consumers. So if the right person says you have one of these disorders, then voila, you do. If they don’t, then its just your friends speculating you’re crazy, according to today’s psychiatric process.

We’ve all seen some crazy people in life. There are definitely people with a screw loose, for whatever reason its like that. Maybe they were born with issues, maybe they got hit in the head, or were highly abused, or exposed to chemicals. Regardless of why a person ends up as the ‘crazy person,’ we know there is some line somewhere, and that past a point, we can see it. It’s not about one specific behavior either, but often a pattern of behaviors, which is indeed what the therapists look for.

When it comes to diagnosis, different doctors often give different ones for the same person. It happens all the time; and the only thing the doctors have in common is some kind of degree. Now consider how often doctors disagree and argue over different topics. The whole reason we develop tests when possible, is to give a clarified answer; so the right treatment measure is taken, and opinion is taken out.

Psychosis cannot be defined by medical testing like blood work
Psychosis cannot be defined by medical testing like blood work

If you have a broken arm, it comes up in an X-ray. If you have diabetes, it shows in your insulin levels. If you have a tumor, that can be biopsied to understand the cancer better. A virus can be detected, as can bacterial and fungal infections, as well as a host of other medical issues. These are all done through medical diagnoses, which define something that can be measured. No psychiatric issue comes with this kind of test, which means 100% of diagnoses are personal opinion. This is not debatable. Those personal opinions might (or might not) be based in education, but they are still personal.

Beyond what this means to shoving psych meds down people’s throats, it comes with another negative implication. If we can’t really measure these things in a definable way, how can any aggregated research mean anything? Since there is no definable test, and the doctor is such an important figure in each diagnosis; we’d have to know each doctor, to understand what they were responding to in each case. Any aggregated research is just a piling up of opinions, for which we have no idea what spawned them in the doctor’s mind.


While I hope this recent study works to get some reality back into a horribly demented research world; I have doubts. I expect as different forces fight to keep things illegal, we’ll hear much more in the future about this cannabis psychosis that no one actually sees.

Welcome everyone! Cool that you’re here! We appreciate you making your way to; where we report on the goings-on in the cannabis and psychedelics spaces. Come around regularly to get all the updates; and check out the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter. It’s got some great product promos, along with the news.

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The Wet Run: The History of Acting & Alcohol With Performance

Acting is a profession that many would love to do, but don’t fully acknowledge the stress-levels involved. Sadly, It’s not all Hollywood parties, nights out at the Soho Groucho club, and private jets to LA. Although, obviously for the top 1%, it might be. But we can’t all be Leonardo Di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence. For most people, acting is a daily grind, full of constant rejection and pretty demoralizing auditions. Oh, and in case it wasn’t obvious, I am one, so I know what I’m talking about.

Nonetheless, there are certain elements of acting that are constant and similar, whatever step on the ladder of success you’re standing on. Everyone has to learn lines, everyone has to perform in front of people (even if it’s just your mum on Christmas), and sometimes, everyone has a go at a wet run. But what is a wet run? The role of substances in the rehearsal process can be more helpful than you may have thought. 

The History of Acting

Acting is as old as democracy. In ancient Greece, in 700 BC, there were theatres or ‘seeing places’, which would perform Greek tragedies and comedies. Telling stories has always been a part of civilization, it’s our way of teaching others about morality and recounting important memories. In a sense, acting, performance and story-telling was one of the first pillars of society to exist. What would we be without our ability to communicate and tell each other our tales? Ultimately, it’s what has allowed humankind to do what we have done. And this method all began in ancient Greece. Just as the Greeks had come together and defined democracy and the judicial system, they also birthed theatre. Greek Boston writes:

“Most historians trace the formal development of theater to the city-state of Athens…It is largely thought that the Ancient Athenians had a flair for drama that extended into things like religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals… Over time, people began creating plays that were to be performed at theaters. They were written down so that the performance could be repeated over and over again.”

Over time, acting became a global phenomenon and certain areas developed it further. Of course, in the 1600s, William Shakespeare became one of the most important figures in performance history. He would write play after play after play – comedy or tragedy – and have them performed by a circle of men at the Globe theatre in London. Sadly, back then, men played the women parts as women didn’t get much of a look into the acting world. Fortunately, that changed.

Between 1590 and 1613, Shakespeare wrote around 37 plays and 154 sonnets. He didn’t know how to quit, did he? Sometimes the actors would only be given their lines back then, instead of the entire script. So it would be hard for them to know when they were supposed to speak. Nonetheless, Shakespeare wrote plays back then that are still considered to be masterpieces now. The likes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet – he realized that acting had a lot of similarities to life. 

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.”

  • As You Like It, William Shakespeare

After this, it was eventually the Russians turn to leave their mark on acting. In the 1800s, through the likes of Stanislavski and Chekhov, the craft of acting became far more defined. Subtext was invented – the idea that someone could say one thing and mean another. This didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s plays. Chekhov wrote some incredible plays, such as the Seagull and the Cherry Orchard, which had some incredibly deep and emotional characters in them. Stanislavski would direct these plays, as well as create his own idea of what an acting method should be. This method revolved around truth and bringing your own emotional experiences into the character. To this day, people still study these methods religiously.

Then, the Americans had their say. In the 1900s, the home of cinema was created in Hollywood and stardom really took off. Actors weren’t just weirdos doing plays anymore, they were attractive people on screen with paparazzi outside their homes. The likes of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and John Barrymore, were icons. There was also a new wave of method acting teaching – with Stella Adler, Uta Hagen and Meisner – trying to bring the Stanislavski style of truth to the modern world of cinema and theatre. Uta Hagen once said in her book Challenge for the Actor:

“The actor must know that since he, himself, is the instrument, he must play on it to serve the character with the same effortless dexterity with which the violinist makes music on his. Just because he doesn’t look like a violin is no reason to assume his techniques should be thought of as less difficult.”

The true actor was born. Actors were born to serve the piece and to do the best job they can at portraying the character. At some points, this meant completely ‘becoming’ the character. Performers that do this are known as method actors, and the likes of Daniel Day Lewis and Heath Ledger are some of the best ever. 


Real, true acting can happen anywhere. It can happen in some dingy pub theatre, it can happen in a huge auditorium, it can happen in Hollywood, and it can happen in your parent’s living room. As previously mentioned, for most actors, they may never get the opportunities that the top ones have. Stagemilk writes:

“If we had innumerable auditions we would be fine with rejection, knowing that in a few days time another chance would appear. But that isn’t the case. There are many fantastic actors just waiting for opportunities, and some never get the chance they deserve.”

However, if you look over the history of acting, it didn’t used to always be about the top 1%. There were always people who were simply interested in the craft itself and wanted to learn about it. The same way someone may learn to play piano brilliantly, but may never perform that talent in front of thousands of people. It’s an artform and it deserves respect. That’s why many actors will know about certain rehearsal methods that are used in order to try and improve the show they are in. Again, this could be any show, big or small. One special technique is known as the wet run. 

What is a Wet Run?

A wet run is a specific acting method that is used often during rehearsal periods before shooting a film or performing a show. The premise is simple: after doing the same scene again and again it can get monotonous, it can lose its zing. As an experiment, some directors may ask their actors to try the same scene, whilst intoxicated. The newly introduced alcohol can allow the actors to relax, try new things, find the fun in parts they hadn’t before or maybe even find more emotion in certain elements.

I remember doing a play at Drama School, and I was finding it very difficult to find the comedy in the scene. I’d found it the first time I’d read it, but after long evenings of rehearsal, doing the scene over and over, the comedy seemed to have been lost. However, myself and the other cast members decided to try it again – but drunk – and miraculously the fun and laughter came back. I can confirm it’s definitely a useful method. But you have to be careful. The Austin Chronicles writes:

“I’ve always found drunk rehearsals to be very effective, as an actor and a director,” says David Jones. “During rehearsals for Long Day’s Journey, the cast was having trouble plumbing the depths of the show. One night, a huge bottle of Bushmills appeared on the rehearsal set. By the end of the evening, the bottle was empty, and we had definitely plumbed the depths. But it’s a tool that should be used judiciously – only after the actors know their lines and only once per show.”

As David Jones highlights, this method should only be used when the scene is learnt completely and everyone is completely comfortable with it. In a sense, it should be utilized when people feel too comfortable, and the spark seems to be lost. It’s an odd technique, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works. 


Acting and performance has quite a lustrous history. Story-telling is and always will be crucial to the way our society functions, and therefore, theatre and film will be too. As acting has evolved over the years, new techniques and new focuses have come about. Nonetheless, a wet run has always had its place. I bet even the Greeks were doing it back in the day. It might sound odd, but it can truly bring the passion and comedy back into a performance.

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

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Don’t Look in the Mirror – the Truth about Psychedelics and Reflections  

Have you guys ever seen the film Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics on Netflix? Although it came out in 2020, it somehow managed to slip under my radar. It’s a somewhat dramatized documentary with a handful of celebrities describing their experiences with psychedelics using story-telling, reenacting, and animations to bring life to their accounts. While I enjoyed the light-hearted nature of the movie, overall, the celebrities’ stories were shallow and cliched, reading like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson Novel.

One thing all the celebrities emphasized, was “don’t look in the mirror”, while on psychedelics. I’ve been told this before when I was in my teens and first started experimenting with hallucinogens, but never really gave it too much thought. The idea is that your face will morph and distort into something that could be possibly terrifying, sending you into a traumatic bad trip. But how much truth is there to this warning, or is it just an urban legend?

Tripping on psychedelics 

A psychedelic experience is a temporary altered state of consciousness induced by the consumption of a psychedelic substance. For example, an acid trip is a psychedelic experience brought on by the use of LSD, while a mushroom trip is a psychedelic experience brought on by the use of psilocybin.  

That’s a very basic definition of it, but what actually happens when you’re tripping? From a scientific standpoint, our brains react in a similar way when we trip, regardless of what the substance in question is. Typically, neuroscientists and other experts in the field use the term to describe substances that bind to the serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor; although there are a few other mechanisms through which these drugs can work. The other ways that psychedelic drugs can make us hallucinate is by activation of dopamine D2 receptors (usually happens when using psychostimulants like ecstasy) or by blocking glutamate NDMA receptors (like with dissociative anesthetics). 

Once the psychedelics reach the brain, we typically see an increased activation of delta and gamma waves and the suppression of alpha and beta waves. When we are awake and alert, the brain is dominated by alpha, beta, and gamma waves. When we sleep, delta and theta waves take over. The pairing of “alert” gamma waves and “sleeping” delta waves, could explain why psychedelics trips are akin to dream-like states that we experience while still awake. 

This is also why psychedelic trips are so sentient and thought provoking in nature. Trips often vary in intensity, but they can affect all the senses and can change a person’s thought process, and their sense of time, space and reality. They are known to produce auditory, visual, and sensory hallucinations, however, some users experience no hallucinations at all.  

Rather, they may invoke feelings of general well-being, spirituality, euphoria, connectedness, introspection, and overall well-being, and experiencing of mystical and otherworldly encounters. Numerous factors make tripping a very subjective experience such as dosing, set and setting, tolerance, among other elements.  

On the flip side, some people experience bad trips, which means they had some type of negative side effects or maybe even scary hallucinations. Physical symptoms of a bad trip can include but are not limited to: irregular heartbeat, nausea, chills, sweating, and anxiety. Dosing and setting, among other factors, can significantly impact a psychedelic trip, so you want to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to ensure an uplifting and beneficial high. 

Don’t look in the mirror 

Many people have been told at least once by their more experienced friends that they should avoid looking in the mirror while using psychedelics. And while that typically applies to LSD, higher doses of mushrooms and other hallucinogens can have similar effects. So, is there any truth to this warning, or is it just an urban legend?  

While I’ve personally looked in the mirror many times on mushrooms and not had any life-shattering experiences, I can understand where the saying comes from based on how I personally see faces when I’m tripping. For example, the last time I tripped with my best friend, there were a few times that I’d look at her face and it would start morphing into something else, like an old witch or some type of mystical elf. It still looked like her, just kind of not. And mind you, this has been my best friend for the last 20 years, so she’s definitely someone I feel comfortable taking mushrooms around.  

Granted, we were wandering around the middle of the desert at night so we were in pitch-black darkness, and even when you’re not on drugs that can make you start imagining things. And it didn’t send me into a bad trip or anything, all I had to do was look away for a quick second, remind myself I’m high, and everything was cool and happy still. But nonetheless, it’s trippy and weird. And that’s a common occurrence for me, pretty much every time I take hallucinogens, faces contort.  

Now when it comes to my own reflection, I experience the same thing. Some slight morphing and distortions, but overall, nothing too crazy and I can look away and regroup with ease. One of the main problems that people have when looking in the mirror is that it can trigger some unpleasant self-reflection, like having bad thoughts about yourself, feeling older, ugly, hyper-fixating on certain aspects you don’t like about yourself, thinking about stuff you’ve done in the past, and so on.  

Seeing your own face doing crazy things and really examining yourself on psychedelics can be eye-opening, but also quite scary if you have self-esteem issues or any deep-rooted pain or trauma you’re dealing with.  

Do look in the mirror? 

Again, I disregarded this advice because I know that I usually maintain pretty good control and situational awareness while on shrooms. But a lot of people view the whole “don’t look in the mirror” warning as a sign of the person saying it may be lacking experience or self-knowledge. A person who is in touch with themselves spiritually will not avoid looking in the mirror – either literally or figuratively.  

And if you’re taking hallucinogens to gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you, learning how to deal with various unpleasant aspects is a really important aspect of your psychedelic journey. Although unpleasant, people often learn a lot more from bad trips than good ones.  

If you approach every psychedelic journey with honesty and humility, and with the sincere willpower to learn from the experience regardless of what happens, then you’re already halfway there. With this mindset, looking in the mirror on psychedelics can be viewed as an opportunity for self-discovery and growth, rather than something scary that should be avoided.  

Final thoughts  

To look in the mirror, or not… that is the question. The answer? It really depends. Is there a reason to look in the mirror? If not, then there really is no point. But if you happen to catch a glimpse of yourself, just know that it might not be as horrifying as everyone says it will be. If you’re not suffering from crippling self-esteem issues, looking in the mirror on psychedelics should be ok.

Do you have any experience with this? Have you been lost in the mirror while tripping on drugs? Let us know in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you!

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

The post Don’t Look in the Mirror – the Truth about Psychedelics and Reflections   appeared first on Cannadelics.

Getting Arrested with Cannabis in Kansas: A Personal Story 

For most people in the US, getting in trouble for cannabis feels like a distant memory, almost nostalgic in a way. When I moved to Indiana from California, it almost felt like I was back in high school – picking up weed from a dealer rather than a dispensary, feeling paranoid the whole way home for fear of getting pulled over, and making sure my house never smelled like weed when people stopped by. It was a weird change of pace, but eventually, it became the norm.  

Unfortunately, Indiana isn’t the only state that’s so restrictive, and if you wind up traveling through one of the dozen states that still holds on to those draconian views on cannabis use, you may find yourself detained on the side of the freeway in an unfamiliar area and facing criminal drug charges, like I am now as a result of my recent drive through Kansas.  

My story  

I was heading back home to Indiana from California after a two-week trip of work conferences and visiting with family and friends. It was around midnight, my youngest son was asleep and my oldest was finally starting to settle down as well. I had some chill music playing and was just vibing while trying to get through that monotonous, 2100-mile drive. The next thing you know, I’m on the side of interstate 70 with my kids and dog while a deputy from a county sheriff’s department is searching my car.  

How I got to that point, is really just a series of unlucky events for me (lucky for the officers involved). Let me start by mentioning that everything I had was still in its original packaging, altogether in one bag, and stored in the trunk. But knowing that I was traveling with questionable items, I made sure to follow every traffic law. I had the car in cruise control set at a couple miles under the posted speed limit, signaled all my lane changes, stayed right except to pass, the whole shebang. I was a model driver.  

I only had a little over 100 miles left before crossing over into safer Missouri, so I had made it roughly 300 miles through Kansas before my bad luck began. As I’m driving on I-70 through Geary county, I pass a police officer who just finished pulling someone over and was working on getting back onto the freeway. As I pass him, he enters the roadway, and then we drive into a construction zone which has the freeway down to one lane.  

So we’re on a one lane road, he’s behind me, and about a quarter mile ahead there is another vehicle. The speed limit has now dropped to 60 mph, so I set my cruise control to 58 and I’m making sure to stay square in the middle of my lane. A few minutes later, I catch up to the car in front of me who is going about 20 miles under the speed limit, and then out of nowhere, I see the cherries and berries light up in my mirrors. 

For a quick minute there, I honestly thought he was going to pull over the ridiculously slow driver in front of me. I was right by an exit so I pulled off to the side to let him pass and, to my disappointment, he pulled up right behind me. I quickly sprayed my car with the deodorizing spray that I always use when I get pulled over (this wasn’t my first rodeo), and started getting my documents in order.  

When he got to the car and asked if I knew why he pulled me over, I seriously did not have a clue. I actually did, it’s because I have California plates and that always makes LEOs in other states a bit suspicious. But driving wise, I wasn’t sure what I had done wrong. He claimed that I was stopped for following too closely, or tailgating, because I was “traveling with a 1 second distance from the car in front of me, but it should be 2 seconds”. This was despite the fact that I had just caught up to the other driver, and they were traveling well below the speed limit.  

He told me that I wasn’t going to get a citation for this, just a warning, but I would need to sit in the car with him and answer some questions while he wrote it up. I had been told by another officer some years ago that the “sit in my car” situation is a tactic used to smell the driver, to see if they can detect odors of alcohol, marijuana, or any other smelly illicit substance. At this point, things were obviously taking a turn for the worst. While I’m in the police car, he starts mentioning the fragrance in my car and how it made him suspicious that I might be hiding something, so he called for a K9 unit who arrived just a few minutes later.  

The second officer walked the dog in circles around my car, and to my surprise the dog seemed relatively uninterested until he reached the back driver’s side seat where my puppy was sitting. Both dogs were barking at each other, but he still wasn’t pulling towards my trunk where all the products were. Either way, the first officer informed me that since the K9 barked, that gave him authorization to search my vehicle, and he asked if there was anything he should know about.  

I got my kids and puppy out of the car, took him to the trunk, and gave him my convention bag which had a total of 16 cannabinoid vapes, some dried amanita pantherina mushrooms, a muscimol disposable vape, and a few mushroom grow kits which included sterilized grain bags and spore syringes.  

This is when my traffic stop actually became kind of fun and entertaining. I had just introduced these officers to a whole new array of products they had never seen before. The first words upon opening the bag were “what is all this shit??” And I gladly began to clarify what everything was, and why it was all federally legal. I told them how only mushroom fruiting bodies that contain psilocybin or psilocin are illegal, but spores and everything else needed to grow them are permitted. When he picked up the pouch of amanitas and stated that “these are actual mushrooms so they must be illegal”, I corrected him and explained that those mushrooms contain muscimol, not psilocybin, and therefore are legal in every state except Louisiana.  

At this point, the second officer and his K9 had paused their search of my car to stand by and listen to my descriptions of all the goodies they found. Seeming slightly overwhelmed, the first officer said he will look into what I said and get back to me. After some research, he told me I was in fact, right about the mushroom products and he was going to let me keep all that stuff. It honestly felt pretty rewarding to utilize my knowledge of industry regulations in a real-world setting. 

Now like I said, this isn’t my first time getting pulled over; nor is it my first time having my vehicle searched, nor is it my first time facing a cannabis-related misdemeanor in a state that’s not my own. It is, however, this first time I’ve had a bag full of work-related items that most people believe are federally legal, taken from me. And while I do understand that alternative cannabinoids, synthetics, and THC-derivatives are all mostly illegal, the way they are sold online and at gas stations and smoke shops all over the country (including Kansas), it’s easy to assume that this is a law that’s being largely overlooked.  

Regardless, the law is the law and in Kansas, I was breaking it. And I will say that aside from pulling me over for a frivolous reason, the officers involved in my situation were technically within their scope with everything they did – albeit reaching a bit at times (smell of fragrance, not actual drugs as an excuse to call backup, and their K9 barking at my dog as a reason to search) but in the end, their instincts were correct and they were just doing their job. They bagged up the cannabis products told me that I could possibly get a Class A misdemeanor marijuana charge, although according to the first officer, it’s a “less than one percent chance that this case will be prosecuted”, and they sent me on my way.  

An overview of Kansas laws 

An easy way to remember what’s legal in Kansas, is to simply think of the word “no”. Is cannabis legal? No. What about medical? No. Any psychedelics legislation in the works? No. Can you have drug paraphernalia like pipes and vaporizers? Also, no.  

The possession of pretty much any safe drug (ie – cannabis or hallucinogens), as well as any product “intended or designed for use to consume or ingest illegal drugs” (paraphernalia) is a Class A misdemeanor in Kansas, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and no more than $2500 in fines. It’s one of only 12 states that still does not offer legal medicinal cannabis to its residents.  

Cannabis has been illegal in Kansas since the United States first banned the plant back in 1937. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to legalize it in some fashion, but all have failed. In 2015, the city of Wichita voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, but the ruling was challenged by the state’s then attorney general, Derek Schmidt. In 2017, the city managed to pass their decriminalization measure again.  

In 2019, the state passed a law which would allow people to claim medical use of CBD products as a defense in court, so long as the product in their possession contained less than 5% THC. As per SB28, if a person is arrested for possession of any such product, they could get out of the charges if they produce a letter from their primary care physician stating the cannabis oil is being used medicinally. And in 2021, a bill to legalize medical cannabis – SB158 – passed the Kansas House of Representatives but eventually died in the Senate.  

As far as hallucinogens go, they’re uniformly illegal in the sunflower state, and it doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon. Back in 2022, a controversial Kansas lawmaker, Rep. Aaron Coleman (D), filed a bill attempting to legalize up to 50 grams of psilocybin mushrooms. He introduced the bill in January 2022, and it died in committee a few short months later on May 23. The year prior, Rep. Coleman introduced a different bill to broadly decriminalize all drugs in the state, but as expected, it did not advance.  

As conservative as Kansas is, getting any type of progressive psychedelic reform in place would be difficult enough coming from a squeaky-clean representative, but with Coleman’s spotty history, it’s unlikely that any legislation introduced by him would ever gain approval. The 22-year-old lawmaker has previous arrests for suspicion of driving under the influence, domestic violence, and abuse/harassment.

Aside from that, no other psychedelics bills have been introduced, and there likely won’t be any in the very near future. One thing that you can do in Kansas is get ketamine treatments, although you need a prescription/physician recommendation, and clinics are quite limited – only two in the entire state.  

The complicated legal landscape of alternative cannabinoids 

Circling back to my Kansas experience, you may be wondering why it’s ok for police officers to take products that are federally legal. And this would be based on the assumption that because these products are sold at stores throughout the US and can be shipped across state lines, that they are in fact, federally legal. But oddly enough, that assumption is incorrect.  

It’s hard to find accurate information on this subject though. Even major media sources like CNN, USAtoday, Forbes, and MSNBC all claim that alternative cannabinoid products, like those containing Delta 8 THC, are legal, and that if said products are made using compounds sourced from hemp, not marijuana, they fall under a loophole in the 2018 farm bill.  

Delta-8 THC vs Delta-9 THC - Farm Bill

But it’s really not that simple, and you need a thorough understanding of how the production of these products works to know why most of these extracts are not legal. Alternative cannabinoids are only found in trace amounts in hemp, so it would take a ridiculous amount of plant matter to extract the compounds needed to make high potency THC products. It’s very impractical, so most companies convert CBD into delta 8 and other THCs. While this process gets you to the same compound, the final product is now a synthetic, making it federally illegal as per the DEA: 

“Arriving at delta-8-THC by a chemical reaction starting from CBD makes the delta-8-THC synthetic and therefore, not exempted by the [Agriculture Improvement Act]. Any quantity of delta-8-THC obtained by chemical means is a controlled substance.” 

Numerous states have even made the move to expressly ban delta 8 products, just in case federal laws aren’t enough (which clearly, they are not), and even more interestingly, many of these states do allow for adult-use cannabis. Delta 8 THC is banned in the following states: 

  • Alaska*  
  • Arizona*  
  • Arkansas  
  • Colorado*  
  • Delaware*  
  • Idaho  
  • Iowa  
  • Mississippi  
  • Montana*  
  • North Dakota  
  • Rhode Island*  
  • Washington*  
  • (Delta-8 is also banned in Hawaii, but by an administrative rule, not a law) 

*adult-use state 

There could be a few different reasons for the ban, but mainly it’s because the market is highly unregulated and poor product quality is often a topic of discussion, as well as to prevent competition to state-approved cannabis markets.  

“What I am paranoid about is legalizing and using legally stuff that we don’t know anything about. And we know very little about delta-8,” said Daniele Piomelli, the director of the Centfor the Study of Cannabis at the University of California Irvine. 

Final thoughts 

What happened to me in Kansas was unfortunate and inconvenient, but not surprising. The purpose of this article was not to shine a light on Geary County Sheriff’s Department, because again, they really were just doing their jobs. The point is to emphasize how important it is to know the law, because you can’t trust the companies selling these products or any mainstream media outlets to give it to you straight.

If you plan on traveling with alternative cannabinoid products knowing they are most likely illegal, then by all means, good luck to you. But don’t let yourself be caught off guard thinking you’re doing everything by the book when in reality, you’re not. And a word of advice, if you do get caught with stuff, be polite and work with the cops. It does no one any good to escalate a situation like that. The officers appreciated my cooperation, and I was thankful that they were willing to hear me out about the mushroom products. Know your laws, and be safe out there! 

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