Hempirical Discussions, Ep 2: Jacob Levine & the Cannabis Discourse

Every day there are hundreds of new articles and blog posts about cannabis. Some claim it is a medical panacea, others claim it is a dangerous scourge, and still others claim it might have elements of both. The history of sensationalist cannabis headlines runs deep, both in the United States and around the globe. In this context, within such a loud, heavily polarized discourse, how can we tell what information is reliable and what isn\’t? What is really going on behind the scenes of all this cannabis media?

These questions are the basis of Jacob Levine\’s new book, Cannabis Discourse: Facts & Opinions in Context (2018). After ghostwriting a host of articles and blogs for several European cannabis companies, Levine set out to understand the mechanics of the cannabis discourse and offer some much-needed perspective on how we all read, watch, and hear things about weed.

Some highlights from our conversation, after the jump:

NJ: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the cannabis world, and what about that experience led you to write the book?

JL: I started writing for several European cannabis companies that mostly sell seeds—they are seed banks. I mostly wrote blogs and articles as a ghostwriter about various topics such as how to roll joints, how to grow plants indoors and outdoors, the legal status of cannabis in Austria and Germany, in Spain, what are coffee shops all about, what are cannabis clubs all about. So I\’ve written more or less like 60 or 70 articles and plenty of strain descriptions.
During that time I wanted to really write something that expresses my point of view without being edited. … I wrote as a ghostwriter so all the content could be changed at any given point, and many times it was changed, and the message that I wanted to mediate was changed. … so I started writing the book. When I started writing the book about cannabis, I wasn’t sure how to approach. I wanted to tell the world that yes we need to legalize cannabis because it’s good for medicinal use, we need to legalize it because the criminalization of cannabis does more harm than good. I wanted to take the very pro cannabis approach, like the \”legalize it!\” rant book. So after I was writing for one or two months in this style, I was reading a lot of different blogs and articles that take a more opposite approach – they wanted to keep it prohibited, different worries about the legal cannabis industry – and I started to realize okay, I cannot speak about the things that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Like “cannabis is good for anxiety” – well I’m not a scientist, I cannot speak about the effects of cannabis. So I thought to myself, how should I approach this if I’m not an expert in any field really. I realized that what I am – not an expert but what I’m knowledgeable about – is what is going on in the media space surrounding cannabis.
NJ: Did you have any kind of standard approach to whatever it was you were reading or looking at? How did the book come together in that regard?
JL: I’ve just read and listened to everything, because I just wanted to know exactly what is going on. Then I started to see patterns, I see things that repeat themselves very often, so I just kept note of the things that are arepeating themselves. … Like the gateway drug theory, it more or less presents itself in every single argument for or against cannabis.
NJ: From your perspective, how does the terminology affect the discourse? How do the words we use about cannabis affect the way we think about it?
JL: [For example] We have this concept that we have “cannabis” and “marijuana.” There are 2 aspects why people don’t want to cal lit “marijuana.” One is the racist aspect – that the word marijuana was established in the 1910s and 1920s when the Mexicans came during the Mexican Revolution to the US. …
The second reason why people want to change the word is because they want to brand it as something new – it’s not this drug that you used to think about, it’s “cannabis.” To be honest, I think this is also neglecting the fact that there are so many people who went to prison, and there were so many people who were criminalized and stigmatized because of marijuana, and now we’re trying to shut out that history by branding it something new. It’s almost like we’re doing the same thing that [Harry] Anslinger did with calling cannabis “marijuana.” I don’t think we should be doing the same thing. I think we can call it marijuana.

NJ: Parts of your book read more like “how to read the news” in general more than how to read things specifically about cannabis. Was that intentional? 

JL: I don’t only want to mediate truths about cannabis, which I\’m very enthusiastic about, but it\’s also about where we are as a society, as people. I think we’re very polarized, and I just wanted to give an understanding that there are different ways of thinking about things. There isn’t just one mode of logic.

This book is about cannabis, but the lessons about mediating, especially in that chapter, “How to Read Between the Lines,” I’m trying to mediate just an idea that we need to understand different points of view, and you can spin everything. You can spin scientific data, you can take quotes from Harvard-educated professors and you can just spin it in your own way, and these things can be used for good or for evil.

It’s also about how we read things. It’s not just what we read and consume, it’s how we read it. What are the lessons learned from this article? We might understand the same article in different ways.

NJ: What did writing this book teach you about cannabis that you didn\’t know before?
JL: I think that what it taught me is just that there are different ways that we perceive cannabis, and I didn\’t understand the way people really think about cannabis before I wrote this book.

Hempirical Discussions, Ep 1: Adam Vine, Cage-Free Cannabis

You\’ve heard of cage-free eggs, but what about cage-free cannabis?

Welcome to Hempirical Discussions! In this brand new podcast segment of the blog, I\’ll share my conversations with important and influential people in the cannabis world. My guests and I will talk about all things cannabis, including history, prohibition and social justice, the environment, legal and political debates, weed culture, science, medicine, and more!

My first guest is Adam Vine, the 39-year-old co-founder of Cage-Free Cannabis, a group that works with legal cannabis businesses to repair some of the damage done to minority communities during the War on Drugs. Based in Los Angeles, Cage-Free Cannabis has partnered with two Seattle-based pot businesses – Fine Detail Greenway and Lux Pot Shop – to produce a special marijuana strain named after Seattle-based band Flavr Blue

Profits from all sales of the Flavr Blue strain will go toward Cage-Free Cannabis\’s social justice initiatives, which include the creation of a council to help Seattle\’s cannabis industry foster opportunities for those communities hardest hit by the drug war. 

Here\’s some highlights from our conversation:

NJ: How did Cage-Free Cannabis come about?

AV: [I] was working with a group of community-based organizations around Los Angeles County … and while I was working with them and documenting their efforts, I was also working on advocacy in favor of cannabis legalization. Pretty quickly it became clear to me that the benefits of the emerging, above- ground cannabis industry were not flowing back to the communities of color that have been devastated by the war on drugs for decades. … We needed to construct mechanisms that profits from the industry were going back to those communities and those communities would have a place in ownership in the emerging industry.

NJ: Can you briefly explain what \”reparative justice\” is and why it\’s so important?

AV: In this context what we mean is that our sense of justice is informed by history, and by the things that have been done in the name of the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition. And what that has done is devastated and broken communities. People have lost housing, people have lost jobs, people have lost access to education, and they’ve lost their lives and their liberty to this war on drugs. So moving forward, as recreational cannabis begins to spread both throughout the US and around the globe, our sense of justice is grounded in this idea of repair—in that we cannot move forward with this industry without repairing the harms of the past.

Concretely, what that means is beginning with those things that were broken, with the housing, with the employment, with education, with people’s lives and liberties and with the well-being of communities as a whole. . . . And for us, for the cannabis brands that we\’ve consulted with, it takes a variety of different forms, because while so many of these problems are global, their repair and this idea of social responsibility is often very local.

NJ: What would a socially responsible cannabis business look like?

AV: Typically, cannabis brands have engaged in philanthropy or social responsibilty that looks like beach cleanups or feeding homeless people, which is okay, those things are necessary, but they don’t really get at the core of the problems we’re talking about. So that is our job, to bring brands into that longer term, deeply rooted sense of responsibility. . . . But true social responsibility goes beyond giving back. Ideally it should be incorporated into the very bones of the brand itself. That speaks to hiring, it speaks to how workers are treated, it speaks to what the ownership and management team looks like, so that brands should begin to not only diversify – if they\’re not diverse already – but really put an emphasis on hiring and empowering people who have been harmed by the war on drugs.

NJ: Your group also states that it supports an environmentally sustainable cannabis industry. Why did you decide to add environmental sustainability in addition to social justice? How do you think the two concepts are related?

AV: To us you can\’t separate them. And I say that for a few reasons. One I believe that the way we treat the planet and the way we treat people are deeply connected, just on a core human level. Also if you look at the costs of our environmental devastation, those costs also tend to be borne by communities of color, disproportionately so. . . . As this specific industry develops, you can see some real concerning environmental costs starting to add up, whether you’re looking at packaging or water usage, in particular. At the same time you can also see the erasure of people of color from this industry. It only made sense to us to treat the environmental justice and the economic and reparative justice ideas as being completely equal.

NJ: Your recent initiative will create a special strain of marijuana that will be sold to benefit your work. Can you explain a little bit more about this strain, and what specifically you\’ll be working on?

AV: This is a collaboration between a cultivator called Fine Detail Greenway, they’re based in Bellingham, Washington, a dispensary called Lux Pot Shop that has two locations in Seattle, and a band called flavr blue – a seattle band – and us. So the cultivator of this new strain named it after the band, they call it Flavr Blue, it will be sold at Lux Pot Shop, and all the net proceeds from this strain will come to Cage-Free Cannabis and in turn we will then reinvest them in a reparative justice project in Seattle. . . . The first funds will be dedicated to creating a reparative justice council composed exclusively of people who have been directly harmed by the war on drugs. And then that council will be empowered to determine how future funding will be allocated, with a mandate to foster equity, justice, and repair.

Landscape in Transition: Jackson County, Post-Legalization

Oregon\’s legal marijuana market is bringing change to Southern Oregon\’s picturesque Applegate Valley, a longstanding epicenter of cannabis cultivation in the US.

When I visited southwest Oregon in August 2015, the region’s rolling hills and lush valleys were home to dozens of illegal marijuana grows. Back then, medical marijuana was legal and a recreational marijuana measure had just taken effect, but the state’s regulatory apparatus had not yet kicked in. So although cannabis was a boon for the local economy, cultivation was not regulated, and residents had to deal with an array of side-effects, including mysterious and threatening strangers, obnoxious lights and fans, and menacing guard dogs.

Three years later, Oregon officials are still wrangling the state’s fledgling legal market in cannabis, one that has proven to come with just as many social, environmental, and economic consequences as the black market it attempts to replace.
Chelsea Rose has lived amongst these growers for more than a decade. An archaeologist at Southern Oregon University in Medford, Rose is witnessing firsthand what many other communities are experiencing across the country: she’s watching her backyard transition from a smattering of hidden, ramshackle gardens into the polished, professional landscape of legal weed.
As detailed in the final chapter of my book, Grass Roots, Rose took me on a fascinating tour of southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley—one of the nation’s cannabis-farming hotspots—in 2015. I recently caught up with her on the phone to see how things have changed in the valley.
Small, secretive grow ops like this one are disappearing around the 
Applegate Valley, largely due to competition from bigger legal grows.

Several years ago, many of the valley’s growers were not farmers by profession; rather, they were opportunists trying to make a lot of money on a short-term investment in black-market cannabis. Caught between their own inexperience and the clandestine nature of their activity, many of these growers clear-cut properties, leveled hillsides, diverted water from streams and wells, and improperly used and disposed of dangerous substances like pesticides and diesel fuel.

“Every time a neighbor moved or sold you dreaded who would come in,” Rose said. “Everyone was looking toward short-term goals, to make as much money as possible.”

Three years later, Rose is noticing that the mysterious backwoods grower has given way to the licensed ganjapreneur—no less an opportunist, but on balance a more responsible one. Licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, legal cannabis cultivators are setting up shop all over the region. Nearly 300 producers are licensed in Jackson County alone, easily the largest number in the state.
“Now that there’s so much more competition and the price is dropping, this gets into regular farm stuff: you have to be able to grow more with less. You can’t add a lot of time and expense by farming on a sloped piece of land, for example,” Rose said.
Oregon’s state law requires cannabis producers to have water rights before it grants a license, discouraging the once-common practice of growers diverting water from streams and wells. Regulations also require all cannabis crops to be tested for banned pesticides, a list of which is maintained by the state Department of Agriculture.
With legal producers snapping up some of the best agricultural land along the Applegate River, Rose said that the obnoxious and sometimes menacing neighborhood growers have mostly gone away.
“There’s not as much impact to the neighborhoods,” she said. “There’s still a lot of dogs. But the lights and fans and fences are gone.”
Gone too are the crowds of bohemian trimmers who used to come in every summer, Rose said. Mechanical trimmers and the state’s million-pound marijuana glut have largely put them out of work.
The overproduction of marijuana has also presented a new challenge to southern Oregon’s army of cannabis producers: how to survive as prices crash through the floor?
Many growers are finding relief in hemp, the non-psychoactive version of cannabis. Unlike marijuana plants, which contain high amounts of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp plants contain high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound that is becoming a hugely popular therapeutic option all over the cannabis-friendly West.
Image result for cbd shops medford oregon
CBD products – derived from nonpsychoactive
cannabis plants – are becoming more popular
in the legal cannabis market.
“CBD is a growing market; you can do a lot of value-added products with that. It’s kind of cool to see all the different things people are coming up with, from soda to oil to cookies,” Rose said. “Also, the market is international. You don’t have to just keep it in the state. So if you get a hemp license, you can access the wide market.”
In response to the oversupply of marijuana, Oregon regulators stopped approving new production licenses in May 2018, but there are currently no plans to cap the total number of producer licenses.
The high demand for CBD products may present Oregon with the opportunity to cap marijuana-specific licenses and award more hemp licenses, but that would mean turning away the hundreds of businesses that have already applied for marijuana cultivation licenses.
While the state sorts out that sticky situation, Rose is optimistic that the Applegate Valley’s many agricultural industries can unify for the greater good of the region.
“Until some of the kinks get ironed out, there’s still a lot of confusion over what can happen,” Rose said. “Some of the farm associations have been trying to work with weed growers and create a dialogue between weed and wine farming—how can we make this work for everybody? How can we move forward in a way that’s sustainable? … I think everybody realizes that this is an economic opportunity for the region. How can we make it work so it can benefit the whole county?”

Marijuana and the Homeless: A Brief History

As many astute readers of this blog may know, weed makes people feel good.

Also, being homeless makes people feel pretty bad.

Thus it is no surprise that one of the main groups of marijuana users in the country are those who do not have a place to hang their hats. And yet, newspaper after newspaper prints stories about marijuana allegedly causing or increasing homelessness, as if it is something abnormal or of great concern.

Credit: Ian Sane, Flickr

Echoing the concerns of urban hand-wringers across the country, the police chief in Pueblo, Colorado, told his local newspaper the other day that transients “come to either extensively get jobs in the marijuana field or as it ends up, most of the time just to get marijuana.”

To the chief’s credit, he noted other factors drawing transient people to Pueblo, including the weather, perceived lower cost of living, and unfortunate life events. But he maintained that the marijuana-homeless connection should have been better recorded in a recent study of local marijuana legalization by Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research.

The researchers should not feel bad about overlooking the marijuana-homeless connection in Pueblo, because anyone familiar with the history of cannabis in the United States will say that there is nothing novel about homeless people smoking weed.

Historian Zachary Falck writes that in the 1930s, “urban Americans also perceived cannabis as dangerous because transient Americans used the plant.” Transient marijuana growers and smokers were found from New York to St. Louis, from Seattle to Memphis. They included jazz musicians, the mentally ill, and the out-of-work and others displaced by the Great Depression. Police pointed to the herb’s use among Mexicans, African Americans, and the homeless as a reason why the plant was dangerous, lumping cannabis and those who used it together in a criminal class. Falck argues that authorities portrayed cannabis “as a weed to cultivate fear and tighten social order” in the nation’s cities.

Journalist and cannabis historian Martin Lee also highlights marijuana’s prevalence in Depression-era camps where the “discards of capitalist America” gathered:

“It was not unusual, especially in the north, for poor whites to live side by side with negroes and Mexicans in these camps, where there were no Jim Crow color lines and marijuana was used by all ethnicities as a cheap intoxicant that didn’t ravage the mind and body like rotgut alcohol.”

Cannabis’s value among transients and other marginalized people is not unique to the United States. Geographer Chris Duvall, who studies the global history and distribution of cannabis, argues that marijuana “has a long history as a drug used primarily by lower social classes.” These include soldiers, prisoners, slaves, migrant workers, and yes, transients, from Africa to the Caribbean to Central and South America.

Contrary to what many newspaper reports imply, homeless people gathering in places where there is easy access to weed isn’t exactly a noteworthy phenomenon. Rather, it is a fundamental part of cannabis’s relationship with modern societies. Headlines such as “legal marijuana drawing homeless to Colorado” are pretty much saying the same thing as “homeless people drawn to local food bank.” It’s just…not news.

Yet the enduring stigma of marijuana use, combined with its long and well-documented history among the poor, ensures that such headlines will bring newspapers a ton of clicks and other attention, which they hope to convert to revenue. Far from helping readers understand the homeless, those clickbait headlines only promote a tired and unfair stereotype of homeless people as lazy drifters who pollute communities with drug use.

Responsible news outlets should continue to portray homelessness as a multi-faceted problem that has as much to do with draws like weather and legal weed as it does with affordable housing crises, access to mental health services, and home and job loss. The homeless themselves, meanwhile, should never be reduced in print to empty-headed drugseekers – after all, they are simply fellow humans, and all of us are one spell of bad luck away from joining them on the streets.

Oh, and the CSU-Pueblo researchers should feel free to ignore their police chief and go on with their studies, which so far have suggested that marijuana legalization is one of the most economically sound policies any municipality can enact.

Sources for this post: Zachary Falck, Weeds: An Environmental History of Metropolitan America (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), pp. 76-89; Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana–Medical, Recreational, Scientific (New York: Scribner, 2012), pp. 44-46.

Podcast Appearance and/or Shameless Plug: Edge Effects

A couple weeks ago I had a fun conversation with Humboldt State University ecologist Tim Bean for Edge Effects, an online magazine produced by grad students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The home of the Badgers is also the home of one of my favorite historians, Bill Cronon, so I jumped at the chance to be affiliated with anything in Madison. Tim\’s a great interviewer, and we touched on a variety of subjects, from cannabis\’s place in the \”vernacular landscape\” to the class-based nature of marijuana stigmas and the singularity of the cannabis plant.

Many thanks to Tim and the Edge Effects staff for inviting me on and putting this out. Listen to the full interview here. Below are some choice excerpts:

Edge Effects

TB: You discovered a striking spatial overlap between beet farming in the early 20th century and cannabis busts.

NJ: I stumbled upon that completely by accident. I just wanted to find out where people were growing cannabis. The more newspaper reports I found, the more a trend emerged: it was sugar beet workers in sugar beet fields. And then when I started plotting them on Google Maps, I pulled up the Census map of sugar beet farms and there ended up being this beautiful overlay.

TB: What does that tell us about who was growing and using cannabis at that time?

NJ: It’s another chapter in the global history of cannabis traveling the world by attaching itself to laboring underclasses, as Chris Duvall put it in his wonderful book Cannabis (Reaktion Books, 2014). Mexicans had fled the Mexican Revolution and the dictatorship that preceded it. At the same time, there was a massive expansion of irrigation infrastructure in the American West, so a huge agricultural industry was just getting going and needed a huge labor force. The Spanish-American War had cut off the supply of foreign sugar and American farmers started to figure out how to grow and process the sugar beet. It became the number-one cash crop in West. The Mexican-American population had experience with it, so they took over the stoop labor of farming beets.

Cultivating sugar beets is very, very hard on the body. A small segment of these workers had knowledge of cannabis from their homeland as a remedial or recreational substance. So they just planted it and sold it to each other. Some of them used it to ease the pain from a day’s worth of labor. Some of them used it to take their minds off of the work. Others used it recreationally.
The money was a big part of it; selling to your fellow beet workers could supplement some of the meager wages you got out on the fields. Starting in the 1920s, selling it to the broader American pubic became a lucrative market. By the 1940s, some of these workers are raking in tens of thousands of dollars. It’s an opportunity they would not have had anywhere else in American society.

TB: You set out to write the history of cannabis as a crop. What makes cannabis similar to other crops in the West? What makes it different?

NJ: In terms of physical requirements, it’s very similar to corn. It’ll just take as much water and nutrients as you want to throw at it. But if we’re going to look at the water requirements of a pot plant—which is a hot topic now—we have to compare it to other crops. It ranks somewhere between lettuce and peaches. You have all of these articles saying oh my gosh, cannabis plants are using all of this water! Six gallons a day! Did anybody writing these stories think about how other crops are using water? I wanted to write this book to put cannabis back in this agricultural context, which should be the starting point for all regulations.

But it really is a singular crop. The versatility of the plant is what has ensured its millennia-old relationship with humans. It has the widest geographic range of any crop. It really has conquered the world, all owing to its versatility and its cryptic nature, which allows us to keep peeling back the layers to discover new uses for it over time. Cannabis fits the human niche.

Greener Mountain State: Vermont makes history as legal cannabis sweeps Northeast

Vermont lawmakers sent a marijuana legalization bill to their governor yesterday, making them the first state legislature to pass such a bill in the history of the United States. And unlike its New England neighbors New Hampshire and Maine, Vermont has a supportive governor who intends to sign the bill.

If you\’re keeping score at home, marijuana is now completely legal in 8 states, while a new governor in New Jersey has the Garden State ready to become no. 9. Vermont\’s new law underscores the futility of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions\’ recent removal of federal protections for states that legalize marijuana.

Vermont is the latest state to go dark green.

Dark Green = legal rec weed
Solid green = medical marijuana
Olive = limited medical cannabis
Gray = no legal cannabis
D = decriminalized

Vermont, which debuted a medical marijuana program in 2013, is the only state to legalize cannabis without a ballot measure. Yet its legalization-by-legislature differs from other states in another important way: it does not set up a retail industry for cannabis, but instead allows adults over the age of 21 to cultivate up to 2 flowering plants and possess up to 1 ounce. This watered-down version of legalization may seem like a good idea to state lawmakers who were hesitant to embrace a full-blown retail market, but it will eventually cause problems that will likely result in the law being amended or even replaced.

For instance, where will Vermonters get their cannabis? It\’s unrealistic to expect every consumer in the state to grow their own, especially when residents spent $125-$225 million on black-market weed in 2014. The black market will certainly continue to thrive under the incomplete law. This will no doubt draw the ire of state law enforcement and prohibitionists in neighboring states. If you want a look at what happens when you combine lenient pot policy with minimal regulations on supply, see California 1996-2016. Spoiler alert: it did not go well. The lesson should be clear: passing a legalization bill without putting much thought into the supply side is at best half-baked policy, and at worst a catastrophe for law enforcement and the environment.

Regional developments could also force a change in Vermont\’s law. Seems like the only thing stopping New Hampshire from legalizing is the executive branch, and should the state get a new governor in 2018, the new green revolution could roll through the Granite State. Vermont\’s medical outlets would then have to compete with a retail market just over the border. A similar situation is playing out in Rhode Island, where medical dispensaries are now considering delivery services to compete with widespread availability in newly legal Massachusetts. Last year, lawmakers in Providence formed a committee to study best practices of legalization in Colorado and other states. Meanwhile, Connecticut lawmakers introduced four bills to legalize cannabis in the last year, and have vowed to keep pushing despite the failure of all four.

Coupled with Maine and Massachusetts\’ votes to legalize in the 2016 election, bills to legalize marijuana in Vermont,  Rhode Island and Connecticut reflect a shift of the marijuana policy frontier from the American West (1996-2014) to the Northeast (2016- ). Having conquered the West Coast and scored major victories in the Mountain West, marijuana activists are now setting their sites on the most densely populated region in the country: a cluster of Progressive northeast states, arranged as the next set of prohibitionist dominoes. The big prize is New York, which will be under heavy pressure should New Jersey legalize. We also can\’t forget efforts in the Rust Belt, where Chicago already has medical dispensaries and activists in Michigan are close to getting a legalization measure on the ballot this November.

All this movement on the marijuana front is an embarrassment for the White House and Attorney General Sessions, who continues to ignore the bipartisan nature of cannabis law reform. If you want to gauge how politically safe a policy is, cowardly lawmakers are good barometers. As a member of the Trump Administration, when renowned public-dodgers like Cory Gardner (R-CO) crawl out of their office fortresses and pound on a Senate podium in opposition to your policy, the political winds have changed. Locally-sanctioned cannabis is poised to continue its march through the United States, despite or in spite of the federal government\’s stance. 

BOOK REVIEW: Leonard Leinow & Juliana Birnbaum, "CBD: A Patient\'s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis" (2017)

Over the past five years, I\’ve spent a lot of time talking to people about pot. Seems that no matter where I go, who I\’m speaking to, or how the subject is brought up, the conversation inevitably turns to the healing power of the cannabis plant.

This past Saturday was no different. I was in Colorado Springs doing a book signing at The Bookman, a small used bookstore on the city\’s west side. Not many people came into the store while I was there, but of the eight or nine people I met that evening, about half of them saw my book and immediately opened up about their experiences with medical cannabis. One particularly moving story came from a middle-aged man with painfully gnarled hands that marked an extreme case of rheumatoid arthritis. Thanks to cannabis treatments, he was able to cut up a pineapple by himself last week – something he could not do for years, even though he\’d been taking prescription medication.
Impressed – though not surprised – by his story, I told the man about a book I was about to review for this site: Leonard Leinow and Juliana Birnbaum\’s CBD: A Patient\’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2017). Leinow is a globe-traveling cannabis guru who founded the medical cannabis company Synergy Wellness in 2008; Birnbaum is an anthropologist, writer, and trained midwife who started working for Leinow\’s dispensary in 2015. 
The book\’s title is the shortened name of cannabidiol (can-ah-bid-DIE-all), one of dozens of cannabinoids – compounds unique to cannabis plants. At Synergy, the authors \”get calls every day, from patients looking for instructions and advice on CBD to care for themselves, their children, or their pets\” (p. xxiv). With so many people curious about cannabis therapy, and with so little information available to doctors and other medical professionals, Leinow and Birnbaum decided to put many of the answers to these daily calls into a book.
Packed with up-to-date, scientifically verified information on the medical applications of cannabis, CBD: A Patient\’s Guide targets those who are considering cannabis treatment but aren\’t sure where to begin. It contains answers to a variety of FAQ\’s, such as \”What kind of treatments are available?\” \”Does one have to get high in order for cannabis to help?\” and \”How do different varieties of cannabis treat different afflictions?\”
The book is designed to be used in chunks, depending on what the reader wants to know. Those who want a brief overview on cannabis before delving into its various functions can turn to chapters on the plant\’s medical history and ethnobotany; those interested in the plant\’s chemistry can consult sections on specific cannabinoids and terpenes; those looking for advice on how to treat a specific condition can turn to the alphabetized list of health issues (there\’s even a section on cannabis medicines for your pet). In what will likely be one of the book\’s most popular sections, Leinow and Birnbaum include an alphabetized and annotated list of high-CBD cannabis varieties. This sectional structure makes the book easily accessible to readers with different needs, interests, and knowledge levels.
CBD: A Patient\’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis includes an annotated list of high-CBD strains.
Although it may seem to consist of standalone chapters, the book\’s structure actually mirrors its broader theme. \”Synergy\” refers to the different parts of a system interacting to produce something greater than the sum of the parts. The concept is central to the authors\’ philosophy on cannabis treatments. \”The focus of medical treatment,\” they argue, \”needs to be that of achieving the right dose of a balanced spectrum of cannabinoids tailored to the particular condition\” (p. 23).
This holistic approach is one of the most attractive arguments in the book, because it acknowledges and validates what the pharmaceutical industry can\’t seem to grasp: that the chemical diversity of medicinal plants – as opposed to a single compound – often holds the key to more effective medicine.  Pharmaceutical companies compete to patent the latest wonder drug, but you can\’t patent a plant (unless you invent it), which is part of the reason why Big Pharma has remained opposed to lifting restrictions on cannabis. It\’s also part of the reason why mainstream medicine has paid little attention to the medicinal value of the entire cannabis plant.
For its section on cannabis history, the CBD book leans heavily on Martin A. Lee\’s Smoke Signals (which I\’ve also reviewed on this blog), even including a lengthy passage from Lee\’s section on Harry Anslinger. While Lee\’s book isn\’t necessarily objective history, it\’s still mostly accurate, so readers won\’t be led astray in that section of CBD
Overall, Leinow and Birnbaum have produced a comprehensive, informative volume with very few shortcomings. The book is almost guaranteed to be a hit among the cannabis-consuming public, the alternative medicine community, and for journalists and other researchers who want the most up-to-date information on the plant\’s medical potential. CBD\’s reliability cannot be contested; it includes nearly 500 endnotes, most of which reference peer-reviewed articles, and the authors write that updates will be posted on the book\’s official website, cbd-book.com
Leonard Leinow, Juliana Birnbaum, and the dozens of medical professionals, researchers, and scientists who collaborated on CBD: A Patient\’s Guide have truly done society a favor: they\’ve given us an honest, accessible, and highly applicable reference work on one of the world\’s most complex and medically valuable plants.

Modern Day Reefer Madness: On Halloween, Edibles are Coming for Your Children

Edibles sure put the \”trick\” in Trick-Or-Treat!
Seems like every October, we in the rational corner of society (an increasingly smaller and smaller space) have to endure the breathless warnings of police departments all over the country about malevolent stoners doling out marijuana edibles to innocent children on Halloween.
Local news stations are the primary mouthpieces for these hysterical warnings. This is not surprising, because local news is a shameless clickbait hole of shootings, stabbings, missing white children, and anything else that induces widespread paranoia. 
Real news outlets staffed by real journalists recognize that the idea of cannabis consumers giving away their stash for free to initiate a prank they will never see A) makes zero sense, and B) reflects an incredibly cynical and sinister stereotype of cannabis users.
America\’s police departments are apparently not beyond the nineteenth-century concept of the \”Dope Fiend\” lurking in the shadows, preying on schoolchildren, motivated by nothing except their inherent depravity.
The current state of American law enforcement – to say nothing of American journalism – is more frightening than most Halloween costumes. 
Have a Happy Halloween everyone! And remember, as always, that stoners are vicious people who want to hurt your children by giving them non-lethal treats!

Hempiricist Kicks Off Fall Book Talk Tour

Thanks to everyone who came out to my first book talk at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins! Tons of great questions and an enjoyable discussion. More Colorado talks to come:

Credit: Historiann

11/1 – Barnes & Noble, Boulder, 7 pm
11/11 – The Bookman,
Colorado Springs, 5:30 pm
11/12 – Tattered Cover, Denver, 2 pm
12/6 – Explore Booksellers, Aspen, 5:30 pm

Credit: Nancy Gonzalez