U.S. Youth Ditch Alcohol for Cannabis in Record Numbers, Study Says

American youth are smoking pot more than ever before, but according to the same data, they are dropping booze habits at the same time—begging the question if society is better off as a whole.

The findings were published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology, pinpointing precisely 338,727 instances of intentional abuse or misuse amongst American children aged 6-18. Americans did a fairly good job of keeping drugs away from young children, however, as most of the cases involving smaller children 6-12 were accidental and usually involving over-the-counter items such as vitamins and hormones.

Among American youth, cannabis use rose 245% since 2000 in the U.S., while alcohol abuse has steadily declined over the same period. “Young people are ditching alcohol for marijuana,” Neuroscience News reports.

“Ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 until 2013,” stated Dr Adrienne Hughes, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, one of the authors of the study. “Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior.” 

“These edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they are considered more discrete and convenient,” says Hughes.

Researchers pointed out what most of us already know: that problems associated with cannabis usually involve edibles that take hours to creep up.

“Compared to smoking cannabis, which typically results in an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana usually takes several hours, which may lead some individuals to consume greater amounts and experience unexpected and unpredictable highs,” says Hughes.

Researchers noted 57,488 incidents involving children aged just 6 to twelve, but they were cases involving vitamins, plants, melatonin, hand sanitizers, and other typical household objects.

A slight majority of cannabis ingestions were noted in males versus females at 58.3%, and more than 80% of all reported cannabis exposure cases occurred in teens aged 13 to 18.

The report illustrates how drugs fall into and out of favor over time. Dextromethorphan—the most reported substance over the study period—peaked in 2006, but has fallen out of favor among American youth.

Youth alcohol abuse peaked over 20 years ago back in 2000, when the largest number of abuse cases involved exposure to ethanol. Since then, child alcohol abuse has steadily declined over the years.

Cannabis cases, on the other hand, remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2009, with a rise in cases beginning in 2011, and a more acute rise in cases from 2017 to 2020.

The same pattern can be seen as fewer American youth are drinking alcohol. Changes in the types of cannabis products that are being consumed is also apparent. But the rise in unpleasant edible experiences is a concern for the team of researchers.

“Our study describes an upward trend in marijuana abuse exposures among youth, especially those involving edible products,” says Hughes.

“These findings highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”

The findings are not exactly conclusive: Previous, federally funded data dismisses the theory that legalization measures have a correlation with increased teen use of cannabis.

A study published in November in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that cannabis legalization “was not significantly related” to “the probability or frequency of self-reported past-year cannabis use” by teens. It also found that “youth who spent more of their adolescence under legalization were no more or less likely to have used cannabis at age 15 years than adolescents who spent little or no time under legalization.”

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Study Finds Weed Cases Are Clogging Pennsylvania Courts

Marijuana-related criminal cases are clogging local courts in Pennsylvania and putting an unnecessary burden on scarce law enforcement resources, according to a new study from a justice reform advocacy organization.

The Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, reviewed 27,826 criminal cases of all kinds prosecuted in Lehigh County and Northampton County between January 2018 and March 2021. The group’s analysis found that “marijuana criminalization slows our criminal justice system” and puts a strain on “understaffed public defenders” in the two jurisdictions.

According to the report, a total of 4,559 (about one in six) of the cases included a marijuana charge. Among those cases, 96% also involved an additional nonviolent offense, or co-charge. The analysis also found that marijuana-related court cases took an average of nearly five months (162 days) to reach a conclusion. The report noted that the longest-lasting marijuana-related case took 1,129 days, or more than three years, to be resolved in the courts. The case also included one additional charge of disorderly conduct that was eventually withdrawn by the district attorney’s office.

A Waste Of Public Resources 

Joe Welsh, the executive director at the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, said the report illustrates how prosecuting marijuana cases is expanding scarce public resources that could instead fund efforts to address “real crime.” Welsh also noted that nearby states including neighboring New Jersey have legalized adult-use cannabis, further illustrating the futility of continued prohibition. Regulated sales of adult-use cannabis began in New Jersey in April after Governor Phil Murphy signed recreational marijuana legislation into law in February 2021.

“Police are spending time charging people with marijuana offenses. That’s time taken away from serious crimes like rapes, murders and assaults,” Welsh said. “Particularly, considering that you can walk across the Northampton Street Bridge between Easton and Phillipsburg and purchase marijuana.”

Under Pennsylvania state law, marijuana possession is classified as a misdemeanor offense carrying penalties of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days. However, local laws passed in Allentown and Bethlehem in 2018 reduced such charges to summary offenses, which do not require a suspect to be arrested. Instead, those convicted of a summary offense can avoid jail time and pay a fine as low as $25 for a first offense.

The local reforms were designed to give law enforcement officers more discretion when enforcing marijuana prohibition laws. But Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has circumvented the local reforms by requiring police officers in the county to file state charges for marijuana offenses.

“Local city councils do not have the power or authority to deviate from state law,” Martin told lehighvalleylive.com in an email. “The state law preempts the field. I took an oath to uphold the U.S. and Commonwealth constitutions; therefore, I don’t decide to enforce only the laws I choose to enforce. I enforce the law as written.”

Pennsylvania Governor To Pardon Marijuana Convictions

The report from Lehigh Valley Justice Institute comes at a time of increased focus on the impact of marijuana-related convictions in the Keystone State. In September, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that he would pardon convictions for eligible marijuana offenses, including some cases that include a nonviolent co-charge. 

“Pennsylvanians convicted of simple marijuana charges are automatically disqualified for so many life opportunities: jobs, education, housing, special moments with family. This is wrong,” Wolf said in a statement from the governor’s office. “In Pennsylvania, we believe in second chances – I’m urging those eligible to apply now, don’t miss your chance to forge a new path.”

At a recent appearance in Monroe County, Wolf reiterated his support for legalizing marijuana despite a lack of attention on the matter from lawmakers, noting the good that comprehensive cannabis policy reform can foster in the state of Pennsylvania.

“To date, there has been no movement to advance legislation,” Wolf said last month. “So, I’m here today to ask again, and to focus on two particular benefits of legalization – potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice.”

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Study: Cannabis Has ‘Uniquely Beneficial Effects’ on People With Bipolar Disorder

Although psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medications are typically recommended for treating specific disorders, like bipolar, a new study has found that cannabis could have “uniquely beneficial effects” for those affected.

Around 46 million people around the world have symptoms of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is generally characterized by atypical shifts in mood, energy, activity, concentration and ability to move through day-to-day tasks. It’s known for causing ranging, sometimes erratically shifting, moods ranging from a manic, energized “high” or “up,” to more depressive periods, leaving people feeling “low” or “down,” often sad, indifferent, or demotivated. 

There are three types of bipolar disorder. Each involves similar changes, though bipolar I disorder is characterized by high and low periods lasting at least seven days, sometimes lasting weeks at a time. Bipolar II is characterized by less severe episodes, and cyclothymic disorder references recurring hypomanic and depressive symptoms not intense enough to qualify as bipolar I or II episodes.

Researchers referenced in the study, presented at the Neuroscience 2022 conference, that cannabis use is already highly prevalent among people with bipolar disorder. The question was, exactly how helpful is cannabis in alleviating the symptoms? 

To pin down the effects of cannabis on those with bipolar, researchers recruited people with and without the disorder, along with cannabis users and non-users in each group, analyzing each combination. Participants were tested on cognitive battery measuring risky decision-making, reward-learning, and sustained attention. 

Ultimately, researchers confirmed that cannabis indeed could hold some special benefits for those with bipolar, specifically in helping to reduce risky decision-making. Researchers also suggested that cannabis reduces the dopaminergic activity in the brain, which helps suppress symptoms, and found that cannabis had moderate effects on punishment sensitivity and sustained attention.

“Chronic cannabis use was associated with a modest improvement in some cognitive functions,” authors noted. “Cannabis use was also associated with a normalization of risky decision making and effortful motivation in people with [bipolar disorder], but not healthy participants. Thus, chronic cannabis use may have uniquely beneficial effects in people with [bipolar disorder].”

Researchers also cited previous studies, which suggest that some people with bipolar disorder have increased dopaminergic activity because of reduced dopamine transporter expression. Because chronic cannabis use is shown to reduce dopamine release, chronic cannabis use could result in a “return to dopamine homeostasis,” which in turn could help normalize their deficits in goal-directed behaviors. They concluded they are “engaged” in additional studies in order to explore this potential.

As many folks with bipolar already treat their symptoms with cannabis, and many regions with legal medicinal cannabis consider it a qualifying condition, this is far from the first study looking at cannabis and bipolar disorder. Historically, other researchers have also found positive correlations between cannabis and bipolar symptom management.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, and Tufts University found a link between cannabis and improved symptoms in bipolar disorder in 2018 clinical trial data, also confirming cannabis does not negatively impact cognitive performance. They also found that cannabis use resulted in reduced scores for depression, anger, and tension.

More generally, a 2020 review conducted by University of New Mexico researchers found cannabis effectively treated symptoms of depression. A 2020 BMC Psychiatry report also found that whole plant cannabis and plant-based cannabinoids effectively improve moods and sleep, reduce anxiety, and promote anti-psychotic action.

Of course, we’ve got a ways to go and much more to explore before plant medicine becomes the go-to for mental health conditions like bipolar, but studies like these affirm we’ve got the right idea.

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Study Finds Benefits Outweigh Risks of Ayahuasca Use

Given the recent Western uptick in ayahuasca use, a new study from the University of Melbourne took a closer look with data from an online Global Ayahuasca Survey, carried out between 2017 and 2019, of 10,836 people over the age of 18 who used ayahuasca at least once.

Ayahuasca is a concentrated liquid made from prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant to create a tea containing DMT, the psychedelic active element of the brew. 

The drink has been used for spiritual and religious purposes in the past and is still utilized for similar purposes. Often a shaman or curandero, an experienced healer and spiritual leader, prepares the brew and leads the ceremony, which are often held at night. The experience typically lasts between two and six hours and may usher in a number of effects, both positive and negative. 

Similar to other therapeutic psychedelic experiences, participants often seek out ayahuasca ceremonies to gain a new perspective, to confront trauma and seek long-term, life-altering changes, among myriad other reasons. Because it typically contains DMT, a Schedule I substance, ayahuasca is illegal under U.S. federal law.

Ultimately, the study found that the benefits and positive experiences from ayahuasca use outweighed any adverse effects. Researchers found that acute physical adverse effects, primarily vomiting, were reported by 69.9% of respondents, and 55.9% reported adverse mental health effects in the weeks or months following consumption. Though the majority, around 88% of people surveyed, considered these effects as part of the process of growth or integration after the ceremony, and those who experienced these side effects said they were expected.

Researchers noted that physical effects were related to older age at the time of initial ayahuasca use, having a physical health condition, higher lifetime and last-year ayahuasca use, having a previous substance use disorder diagnosis, and taking ayahuasca in a non-supervised context. 

Dr. Daniel Perkins, one of the study’s authors and a University of Melbourne research fellow, nodded to the increase in ayahuasca’s popularity when speaking with Healthline

“Recently we’ve seen a booming underground retreat culture in the Western hemisphere in which people pay hundreds of dollars to go to these retreats,” Perkins said. “It is a spiritual experience, but it is not something you get up and dance to. There is no real recreational use other than for alternative healing. Overall, it is not widely consumed.”

The study ultimately confirmed that ayahuasca use results in a high rate of adverse physical effects and challenging psychological effects, though they are generally not severe. Not only that, but many participants continue to attend ceremonies; authors suggest this means participants generally perceive the benefits as overshadowing any adverse effects.

Moving forward, researchers suggest further examination of variables that might predict eventual adverse effects to better screen or provide additional support for vulnerable subjects. They add that improved understanding of the risk.benefit balance users associate with ayahuasca could assist policy makers in decisions around potential regulation and public health responses.

“Many are turning to ayahuasca due to disenchantment with conventional Western mental health treatments,” the authors write in a media release, “however the disruptive power of this traditional medicine should not be underestimated, commonly resulting in mental health or emotional challenges during assimilation. 

“While these are usually transitory and seen as part of a beneficial growth process, risks are greater for vulnerable individuals or when used in unsupportive contexts.”

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The Nose Knows! Study Shows Aroma Drives Cannabis Consumer Appeal

While it’s not uncommon for consumers to immediately go for the strain with the highest THC test results, a new study finds that aroma is the driving force behind the cannabis consumer experience.

The study, “The Nose Knows: Aroma, but Not THC Mediates the Subjective Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis Flower,” published November 8 in the journal Psychoactives, is the result of years of work led by the research team, including breeder and cultivator Jeremy Plumb and neurologist and medical researcher Ethan Russo, M.D.

The study’s purpose is “to objectively identify features of cannabis that contribute to its appealing subjective effects,” applying scientific methods to understand what the consumer actually enjoys about the cannabis they purchase.

Researchers gathered consumer response data from 276 “judges” given eight to 10 samples from a selection of 278 Oregon-grown, organic craft cultivars. The study confirmed that the “strongest contribution to subjective appeal… was pleasant subjective aroma.” THC potency was not identified by the study as an indicator of enjoyment. In fact, the study concluded that “impairment and enjoyment are unrelated phenomena.”

The paper describes a challenge to the sustainable growth of the cannabis industry and consumer health: the “potency effect of prohibition.” This phenomenon essentially means that more intense law enforcement increases the potency of prohibited substances. Following decades of criminalization, this means the market value of cannabis is largely determined by THC potency.

“In many ways consumers and patients have been effectively blinded from discovering their own relationship with the particular cannabis character they prefer at any given time,” Plumb said.

While there are surely consumers that simply want the strains with the highest THC possible, there is much more beneath the surface. In the same way most would agree Everclear isn’t the best alcohol just because it has the highest ABV, cannabis consumers are moving away from the idea that high THC denotes quality flower, or a quality experience.

It’s worth taking a look at the entire picture: ALL of the cannabinoids (not just THC), the growers and cultivation methods, the specific strain/crosses and terpenes, of course. Terpenes are the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants, like cannabis, responsible for the aromas, flavors, and colors.

Specific terpenes not only influence the aroma and taste of the flower, but they also have specific effects. And the phrase “the nose knows” is nothing new: If you like the smell of the bud, odds are, you’ll probably enjoy the way it makes you feel.

In the study discussion, researchers address other recent findings, showing that the frequent use of potent THC products can enhance risks for negative outcomes, alongside the wholesale buying “floor,” where retailers refuse to stock shelves with products with low-THC products; the result, they say, narrows consumer purchase choices to the most potent products.

The researchers say that perceived consumer demand for high-THC products underlies this trend, making the study’s contrary findings all the more critical.

“We find ourselves in a young market that still defines wholesale value primarily by THC potency, or hyped brand names, or a variety of other less relevant non-qualitative considerations,” Plumb said, pointing to producers who “shop” labs for high potency and the incentives for labs to inflate results. Whether or not consumers actually enjoy higher-THC products, Plumb said this focus leads them to believe high THC automatically indicates quality.  

“Cultivators, patients and consumers all miss out on capturing some of the most aromatic and enjoyable cannabis as a result. Instead, we are left selecting for the least enjoyable features as an industry on the whole,” Plumb said.

Researchers also observed a negative correlation between the amount of cannabis consumed and subjective appeal, meaning that folks who consumed more cannabis overall didn’t enjoy the experience as much. Similarly, they observed a negative relationship between subjective appeal and use frequency; essentially, people who used cannabis less often enjoyed it more. 

Plumb said that the study’s findings should “signal to the world” that cannabis aroma is the most important element for folks looking to increase their cannabis experience, and that sensory science is the “most meaningful” evaluator of cannabis character.

In the study conclusion, authors say the results support the notion that aroma is the primary criterion consumers use to assess a product’s quality. They add that it points to the need for regulations allowing consumers to smell flower before buying, the need to de-emphasize the market value of high-THC products and to diversify the regulated retail marketplace to include more flower options with 0.3-19% THC. 

Promoting these practices, authors say, would have important harm reduction and public health implications, working to minimize THC as the primary driver of market demand and reducing risks associated with THC overconsumption.

“It’s a sensuous relationship, really,” Plumb said. “It relies on the senses being engaged. If we have built an industry that isn’t designed to optimize presentation and preservation of aroma at every step in the chain, from drying, packing, shipping, wholesaling and retailing, to the point where instead, the consumer mostly gets something that smells like hay, alfalfa, anaerobic, or inert, we have failed the task. We built it wrong. Start over.”

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Study Finds Link Between Cannabis Use, Greater Physical Activity in HIV+ Patients

Marijuana use is associated with heightened physical activity among individuals who are HIV+ positive, according to a study published last month.

The findings, which come via a team of researchers from Brown University, Boston University and the University of Minnesota, showed that “those who reported consuming cannabis were significantly more likely to be physically active than those patients who did not,” according to NORML’s summary of the study, which was published in the journal AIDS Care.

“Chronic pain, depression, and substance use are common among people living with HIV (PLWH). Physical activity can improve pain and mental health. Some substances such as cannabis may alleviate pain, which may allow PLWH to participate in more physical activity,” the authors wrote in the abstract. “However, risks of substance use include poorer mental health and HIV clinical outcomes.”

They said that their “cross-sectional analysis examined the relationships of self-reported substance use (alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine use), gender, and age with self-reports of walking, moderate physical activity, and vigorous physical activity, converted to Metabolic Equivalent of Task Units (METs), among 187 adults living with HIV, chronic pain, and depressive symptoms in the United States.”

According to NORML, the authors reported that the “estimated mean rate of vigorous METs [Metabolic Equivalent of Task Units] was … 6.25 times higher for people who used cannabis than non-users.”

“Women reported less walking, vigorous activity, and total physical activity compared to men. Individuals who used cannabis reported more vigorous physical activity relative to those who did not use cannabis,” the researchers wrote. “These findings were partially accounted for by substance use*gender interactions: men using cannabis reported more vigorous activity than all other groups, and women with alcohol use reported less walking than men with and without alcohol use. Research is needed to increase physical activity among women who use substances and to evaluate reasons for the relationship between substance use and physical activity among men.”

The research echoes previous findings that also showed a link between cannabis use and greater physical activity. A study published last year in the journal Preventive Medicine found that “the commonly held perception that marijuana users are largely sedentary is not supported by these data on young and middle-aged adults.” 

That study, the authors said, “represents one of the first studies to rigorously analyze the relationships between marijuana use and exercise.”

“Results show that, particularly for fixed-effects models, marijuana use is not significantly related to exercise, counter to conventional wisdom that marijuana users are less likely to be active. Indeed, the only significant estimates suggest a positive relationship, even among heavier users during the past 30 days. These findings are at odds with much of the existing literature, which generally shows a negative relationship between marijuana use and exercise. As additional states legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, perhaps its impact on exercise, one of the leading social determinants of health, is not necessarily a primary concern,” the authors wrote in the abstract of that study, which was published in June 2021. 

Those authors also noted that “positive relationships between marijuana use and exercise have also been found” in other research, including one study that showed individuals “who reported using cannabis either shortly before or after exercise engaged in 43.4 more minutes of weekly aerobic exercise on average than individuals who did not use cannabis shortly before/after exercising.” 

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Study Examines If CBD Buffers THC’s Effects

A study published Wednesday in Neuropsychology attempted to determine if CBD reduces the adverse effects of THC, such as paranoia and memory loss, but found little evidence to support this theory. Study participants were observed and both pleasurable effects as well as adverse effects like paranoia and memory recall were recorded.

The study, called “Does cannabidiol make cannabis safer? A randomised, double-blind, cross-over trial of cannabis with four different CBD:THC ratios” aimed to determine if increasing the amount of CBD can reduce the “harmful effects” of cannabis—notably from THC.

Cannabis products are typically marketed with CBD:THC ratios, with CBD frequently being touted to augment THC’s effects, leading researchers to explore the relationship between the plant’s two most popular compounds. But they found that CBD doesn’t necessarily show evidence of reducing adverse side effects.

Forty-six individuals, ages 21-50, who consume cannabis infrequently, were observed and given an initial baseline visit—followed by four visits for a dose, in which participants vaped cannabis containing 10 mg THC and either 0 mg (0:1 CBD:THC), 10 mg (1:1), 20 mg (2:1), or 30 mg (3:1) CBD, in a randomized, counterbalanced order. 

The participants vaped the cannabis using a Volcano® Medic Vaporiser manufactured by Germany-based Storz-Bickel GmbH. The study participants were asked to take smaller hits and try not to cough, in order not to waste the dose via coughing it out.

Participants completed numerous tasks including a 15 minute walk around the hospital—which was previously determined to increase paranoia—and other activities such as memory exercises and questions about psychotic effects.

The Results

The results found little evidence of a reduction in paranoia and other adverse effects. “At the doses typically present in recreational and medicinal cannabis, we found no evidence of CBD reducing the acute adverse effects of THC on cognition and mental health,” researchers wrote. “Similarly, there was no evidence that it altered the subjective or pleasurable effects of THC. These results suggest that the CBD content in cannabis may not be a critical consideration in decisions about its regulation or the definition of a standard THC unit.” 

They also suggested that people who report better effects from CBD:THC products say so because they consume less THC rather than any buffering effects from CBD.

“The data are also relevant to the safety of licensed medicines that contain THC and CBD, as they suggest that the presence of CBD may not reduce the risk of adverse effects from the THC they contain. Cannabis users may reduce harms when using a higher CBD:THC ratio, due to the reduced THC exposure rather than the presence of CBD. Further studies are needed to determine if cannabis with even higher ratios of CBD:THC may protect against its adverse effects.”

Does Nature Know Best?

There’s the ongoing argument that the entourage effect from cannabis and many other plants is better than consuming one compound alone. Consuming THC alone in a vape pen won’t provide nearly the same effects as smoking high quality flower, packed with terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. 

A similar argument, for example, is that coffee is better than caffeine alone in energy drinks, given the balance of bioactive compounds in coffee including antioxidants, diterpenes, chlorogenic acids, and trigonelline.

The data is likely inconclusive, given the array of other explorations into CBD. Other studies seem to suggest that CBD may reduce anxiety, and even boost cognitive performance in activities such as gaming.

In one review, it was determined that specific brain regions associated with anxiety behaviors were reduced when participants took CBD. More specifically, it was observed that CBD was able to reduce “amygdala activation and altered medial prefrontal amygdala connectivity.”

But simply adding one additional compound to the mix doesn’t necessarily make much of a difference, judging by these latest findings. CBD doesn’t necessarily reduce paranoia, memory loss, or the other side effects caused by cannabis.

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U.K. Researchers Launch Study Exploring Weed’s Effects on the Brain

Researchers in the United Kingdom are currently recruiting volunteers for a study designed to explore the effects of cannabis on the human brain. Subjects selected for the full study will be paid for their participation in the research, which is being undertaken as part of King’s College London’s Cannabis & Me project.

The researchers conducting the study have said that the research is “paramount” to understanding the science behind cannabis, which they say is used daily by approximately 200 million people worldwide and is subject to legalization efforts in countries around the globe. Dr. Marta Di Forti, a leading cannabis and psychosis researcher and the leader of the new study, noted that “Cannabis is consumed daily by many recreationally but also for medicinal reasons.” 

“But in the UK, the prescription of medicinal cannabis remains rare,” Di Forti added, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “Our study aims to provide data and tools that can make physicians in the UK and across the world more confident, where appropriate, in prescribing cannabis safely.”

To conduct the two-part study, researchers are recruiting 6,000 volunteers aged 18 to 45 who live in London. Participants selected for the study must either be regular cannabis users, have never tried the drug, or have used cannabis fewer than three times. 

The first part of the study involves a 40-minute online survey. Those who complete the initial survey will be entered into a drawing. Researchers will then select participants to complete a face-to-face assessment. Those who complete the in-person assessment will be paid £50 (nearly $60).

The preliminary questionnaire will ask participants about their experience with cannabis and why they take it, including use prompted by trauma, medical conditions, or social situations. The survey will also explore how mood and anxiety can change the way participants think and feel and influence their use of cannabis, particularly in social situations. 

Face-To-Face Assessments for Some Participants

From the survey participants, the researchers will select a subgroup of volunteers to complete a face-to-face assessment at the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. This portion of the study consists of three parts including a more detailed survey, a blood test and a virtual reality everyday scenario. The second questionnaire will delve into participants’ experiences with situations including trauma or adversity. Volunteers will also be asked if their consumption of cannabis has changed since they completed the original survey. 

The blood test will be used to determine levels of THC and CBD in the participants. The blood test will also be used to quantify similar compounds naturally produced by the body known as endocannabinoids to determine if the level of these substances varies among cannabis users and non-users. Additionally, the blood analysis will give the researchers data on gene structure and epigenetics, which are changes in how genes are expressed. Di Forti noted that other research suggests that tobacco smokers have epigenetic changes, but there is no research exploring if cannabis can cause similar changes.

The last part of the study will utilize virtual reality technology to put participants in a common, day-to-day scenario such as a visit to a supermarket. The study subjects will also answer questions before and after the virtual reality experience to determine how they respond to social interactions. 

A separate study will collect the same information from people undergoing treatment for psychosis believed to be caused by cannabis. Di Forti said that the goal of this portion of the research is to determine if there are biological factors that could make a person more susceptible to psychosis brought on by cannabis use, which has been observed in some patients. With the information, it is hoped that those who can use cannabis safely can be identified.

London residents interested in participating in the study can complete an initial screening survey online

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Majority of Nearly Every Subgroup in U.S. Favors Legal Pot, Gallup Poll Shows

Spanning across 35 subgroups divided by ideology, religiosity, and age, the majority of nearly every demographic supported legal cannabis in the U.S. with just two exceptions: Older conservatives ages 50+, and “people who attend church weekly.”

Gallup recently released a poll with the latest data conducted on Oct. 3 to 20. Study results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,009 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The list includes people from all walks of life, male and female, Democrat and Republican. Per usual, landline and cell phone telephone numbers were selected using random digit dial methods.

And using this and combined data gathered over the past five years—2018 through 2022—they released a stronger aggregated analysis of demographic differences in views about pot legalization, which they say is better than providing data from one poll alone.

Holding steady for the past two years, a record-high 68% of Americans across the board said they support legal pot. That number remained unchanged since the poll was conducted in 2020 and 2021.

Gallup Results Across Ideologies

People with no religious preference topped the list at 89%, liberals closed in second at 84%, Democrats at 81%, young adults close behind at 79%, and those who seldom or never attend religious services next at 78%.

The only subgroups that did not favor legal pot by majority are those who attend church weekly at 46% and conservatives at 49%—however younger conservatives ages 18 to 49 favored pot legalization slightly. Baby boomer conservatives, however, are a different story.

“Americans have grown much more supportive of legalizing marijuana over the past two decades, but support appears to be leveling off for now, not showing any change in the past three years,” wrote Jeffrey M. Jones in the poll report.

Protestants and Catholics showed equal support for legal pot at 60% each. It appears that college education changes attitudes to be more positive about cannabis: graduates supported legal pot more than non-graduates, with 69% and 66%, respectively. Stay in school, folks.

“While majorities of most major subgroups are in favor of legalizing marijuana, there are a few holdouts—-namely, political conservatives and regular churchgoers,” he continued. “Small segments of the population (in particular, older conservatives) are still disinclined to think marijuana use should be legal. However, younger conservatives and younger moderates are more inclined than their older counterparts to think cannabis should be legal. As such, in future decades support for legalizing marijuana can be expected to continue to grow as newer, likely more pro-marijuana, generations replace older generations in the U.S. population.”

Suburban residents supported legal pot the most at 72%, more than city residents (67%) and rural residents (60%). Men were also slightly more supportive of legal pot (70%) than women (65%).

In 1969, the first time Gallup conducted this poll, only 12% of Americans said cannabis should be legal. That number has gone up steadily, stalling briefly amid the “Just Say No” fever movement of the ‘80s, but climbing to 68% where it stands today. 

The polls show the normalization of cannabis use in America, which is light years away from prior generations.

Time is ticking for the generations that do not support legal pot, which shrinks consistently each year. Younger conservatives—who now support legal pot—are replacing their older counterparts and pretty soon, the ballot boxes.

Download the PDF of a complete list of Gallup’s poll responses here.

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Cows Given Hemp Feed To Produce Milk With THC

A new study from researchers in Germany has determined that dairy cows that were fed industrial hemp produced milk with detectable levels of delta-9 THC, the cannabis compound most closely associated with the high produced by marijuana. The cows also exhibited behavioral changes, indicating that the animals might have been feeling the effects of the cannabinoids contained in the hemp feed.

“This is important, as we had no data to know to what extent cannabinoids entered the milk of dairy cows,” Michael Kleinhenz, an assistant professor in beef production medicine at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine who was not involved in the research, told NewScientist.

To conduct the study, researchers at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment fed 10 lactating dairy cows differing amounts of hemp feed containing a range of cannabinoid concentrations. The cows were studied over a period of weeks, with researchers collecting data on the animals’ behavior and conducting lab analysis on blood, milk, and fecal samples.

The researchers determined that the type of hemp feed given to the dairy cows played a role in the effect the feed had on the animals. Cows that were fed fermented feed made from whole hemp plants showed few differences compared to dairy cows given a traditional diet of corn feed. 

However, the cows that were given feed made from cannabinoid-rich hemp leaves, flowers, and seeds exhibited noticeable behavioral changes. Additionally, the milk from the cows showed detectable levels of several cannabinoids including delta-9 THC. According to the researchers’ calculations, these cows consumed up to 86 times the amount of THC that is required to get humans high.

The effects observed by the researchers included slower heart rate and breathing, “pronounced tongue play, increased yawning, salivation, nasal secretion formation,” and reddening of a portion of the eyes, the report states. Some animals “displayed careful, occasionally unsteady gait, unusually long standing and abnormal posture.”

Robert Pieper, head of the department of food chain safety for the German institute and co-author of the new study, said that the cows that were given the hemp feed also ate less and produced less milk.

“That is a strong effect on animal health,” Pieper said, according to a report from The Washington Post. “Not a positive effect.” 

Kleinhenz has conducted research on steers that were fed hemp at Kansas State University and noted that the animals tended to become calmer.

“We don’t know if they have that buzz or whatnot,” Kleinhenz said. But he added that the cattle have lower levels of stress hormones. He believes that the cannabinoids in the feed reduce stress, but “we still have to figure out that mechanism in animals.”

Hemp was legalized in the United States with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. But so far, the Food and Drug Administration has failed to allow cannabinoids including CBD into the U.S. food supply. Similarly, federal regulators have not yet approved animal feed made from hemp.

More Research Needed

Jeffrey Steiner, director of Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, has experimented with hemp as a feed supplement for dairy cows, sheep, and poultry. But he noted that the research only began in 2019 and several more years of study are needed before hemp animal feeds are approved by regulators.

“You’re not going to see CBD-enhanced milk on the shelf for a long time,” said Steiner, who did not have a role in the German study.

Serkan Ates, an agronomist at Oregon State University, Corvallis, has studied hemp consumption in cows, lambs, and chickens. He says that because of the potential to pass on cannabinoids in milk, “it may not be possible to feed this to high-yielding dairy cows.”

“But there is plenty of low-hanging fruit to explore, like feeding hemp to non–food-producing animals like heifers or young lambs,” Ates said.

Erica Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, said that high-quality animal feed can be made from hemp if regulators eventually give the nod.

“It’s going to be such a really large market,” Stark said. “There’s actually animal feed shortages in this country right now, ramifications of what’s happening in Ukraine, droughts and other crop failures.”

The study, “Transfer of cannabinoids into the milk of dairy cows fed with industrial hemp could lead to Δ9-THC exposure that exceeds acute reference dose,” was published online on November 14 by the peer-reviewed journal Nature Food.

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