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Science"Weed Scientist" is back after 4 years to talk about recent advancements, changing laws (incl. Nov 8), and possible futures for cannabis. AMA!

Nov 7th 2016 by hoovervillain • 17 Questions • 129 Points

It's been over 4 years since my first (and only) AMA garnered a lot of attention and some really good questions:

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/zh2wq/iama_chemist_at_a_cannabis_analysis_laboratory_in/

Now that some of the state programs voted-upon in 2012 have been implemented and new ballot measures are emerging for 2016, I thought it appropriate to do another AMA for anybody that would like to get up to speed on the current state of the US cannabis industry. During the last 4 years I've built a consulting firm Digamma Consulting, developed a swath of new analytical methods, and advised representatives from several US states on drafting and implementing laws regarding cannabis quality control.

So go ahead; AMA!

Q:

Looking to invest in a business or start my own. Have any resources, communities, or news streams I can research to get started?

A:

Most of the resources I have seen are not very useful. I've seen MANY people enter this industry money-first, eager to get in on the rising tide and assuming it will work like the average small business, and then fail to thrive. The truth is you have to know what you are doing inside-and-out, from the local, state, and federal laws that apply to your location, to the chemistry involved in your product/process, to the fluctuating demand for products in your market. The need for good information to avoid losing money is why I started consulting in the first place. You would do good to do some serious background research on your state and local laws and whether you will be eligible for a business permit (they are very difficult and expensive to obtain) or to become an investor/owner in another licenced business. Most all cannabis business are not publicly traded, and the few that are have performed very poorly.


Q:

Yes , GWP has performed very poorly , /s.

A:

That isn't a US company, and their scope is very limited. But yes, as one of the only pharmaceutical companies in the world permitted to produce a cannabis-related product they have cornered the market right now. But they will not follow any industry booms having to do with state programs.


Q:

Yes , GWP has performed very poorly , /s.

A:

Lung Cancer / Development http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1104848 http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201212-127FR?journalCode=annalsats&


Q:

There's still dry counties here that don't allow alcohol and prohibition ended forever ago. It's not looking great honestly. I'm thinking at least 10-15 years and that's with other states legalizing left and right.

A:

Absolutely.

Check out Thomas G et al, 2014 "Adverse cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular effects of marijuana inhalation: what cardiologists need to know." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24176069


Q:

How do you think the eventual legalization of marijuana will change the way we think about drugs?

A:

I'd like to think that the US and by extension most of the world will treat drug use as more of a health issue than a law-and-order issue. I think it will open medical science to study the clinical benefits of cannabinoids as well as other Schedule I substances, including tryptamines and phenethylamines. Sovereignty over one's personal use of drugs and by extension their conscious state, however, will probably be a long long way down the road.


Q:

Do you acknowledge that there are any adverse effects from ganja consumption?

A:

As with anything, there are adverse effects from overconsumption. With cannabis, none of those effects seems to be permanent.


Q:

None? Really? Not even damage to the lungs after smoking?

A:

Those are effects from smoke, specifically, and not from cannabis. They are completely dependent on combustion happening (unlike vaporization). That being said, the change in lung function from cannabis smoking is a great deal less than that of tobacco smoking, most likely due to the bronchiodilation effects of the cannabinoids and terpenes.


Q:

I have personally experienced cannabis users stating their mind is blanker, they are more forgetful, more easily agitated after using the drug for a prolonged period of time. They have also stated to me that it does not seem to alleviate. Also I have been told by users they find it harder to learn new things. My grandparents also come from the Caribbean and have too many stories of ones who have as they say have "lost their minds" because of marijuana. They absolutely refuse to touch the plant because of their experiences. Placebo? Or permanent affect of too many doobies?

A:

I think what everybody is describing are the effects that come from growing older. Chances are they started smoking young and after stopping realized that they weren't going to get their original, pre-cannabis brain back. Measurable motor and cognitive function are usually fully restored in a manner of months.

As for your grandparents' stories, there is some truth to that. High levels of THC have been shown to induce a schizophrenic state in adolescents and young adults already pre-disposed to schizophrenia, but even these effects were shown to be alleviated after administration of high doses of cannabidiol (CBD).

see:

Zuardi 2006 Long 2005 Leweke 2012

Arsenault 2004 Large 2011 Caspi 2005 Henquet 2005 Moore 2007


Q:

What do you believe is the next big step in Cannabis research?

A:

In the short-term, a big step would be for laboratories across the country to share their data and create a larger body of cannabis knowledge as observed through analytical testing for medical/recreational markets. Next would be for federal restrictions on research to be lifted, after which specific biochemical mechanisms involved in cannabis pharmacodynamics/pharmacokinetics can be studied on a large scale. Understanding the relationship between physiological effect, chemical constituents, and patient-specific biochemistry will lead to the development of personalized treatments for each patient, and aid in extending that principal to other areas of medicine.


Q:

Many seeds companies & analyses used by major retailers list some strains as having THC over 20%. Scott Blakey however says that pot doesn't have THC over 20% & that some people are doing questionable lab procedures to come to such figures. What do you think of that?

A:

Having personally analyzed over 10,000 strains by multiple chromatography methods, I can safely say that buds will sometimes exceed 20% THCA by weight. This was once rare, but is becoming more and more common as genetics which produce high THC are selectively bred. The upper limit right now seems to be at about 30% (high 20's, realistically, with the best genetics and even better growers). Scott is right in that many labs are performing questionable procedures/reporting to boost numbers to please clients; I spoke at the American Chemical Society meeting in August about this exact topic.

As for genetics, the only guarantee that 2 things will produce similar results would be if one were a clone of the other. Seeds, even if feminized, are still subject to the rules of genetic mixing and by no means identical to each other or the parent plant. Even with exact genetics, the outcome will still be determined by the skill of the cultivator.


Q:

Thoughts on prop 64 in cali?

A:

It's certainly not ideal. The good: elimination of arrests for small amounts of cannabis and distribution, and resentencing of individuals currently in prison. Regulation of quality control.

The bad: taxes for medical patients, possible elimination of outdoor growing. large financial roadblocks for small business to participate


Q:

I remember you

My question is, if Question 1 passes in Maine, when will the police stop ticketing/arresting people for marijuana? Is it Nov. 9th since they assume the law will be on the books, or do we wait until it's actually written into law?

A:

Hey there! Props on the good memory.

The ballot in Maine only allows for nonpublic use of cannabis (private residence and licenced social clubs only). For transport and possession you would be allowed up to 2.5oz flower, up to 6 flowering plants and 12 total plants in a residence.

It isn't immediately clear from the text of the bill exactly WHEN it will take effect if it passes. I would clarify that before any serious celebration; law enforcement will try to get all the ticket money out of you that they possibly can before this is enacted (Mass. is seeing that already)


Q:

How do you see the CBD and Hemp industry changing after tomorrow?

A:

The recreational ballot measures being considered tomorrow (California, Arizona, Mass., Nevada, Maine) will open up CBD and hemp to industrial growth by allowing hemp and cannabis cultivation; none of the medical ballot measures are CBD-specific. One thing to note is that the UK just declared CBD a medicine; should the FDA follow suit, it will mean that CBD would no longer be sold online and shipped across the US (legally, anyway).


Q:

Have you heard anything about the FDA following suit?

A:

I haven't heard anything about that, HOWEVER the FDA was ordered to put together a report recently with their reasoning for keeping cannabis illegal and, among other things, it did recommend possibly moving non-psychoactive cannabinoids into a separate category. No moves have been made between the FDA and DEA to actually do so.


Q:

Would you say weed is on its way to be legalized in every state? And if so how close, would you say, is New Jersey being to fully legalizing weed? Cuz it'd be nice for that to happen. In my opinion.

A:

Don't hold your breath for NY, NJ and pretty much anywhere between the two coasts to make that happen any time soon


Q:

Is the majority of cannabis research performed in academia or industry? I'm a graduate fellow (in virology) and after graduation I'm interested in entering this field, but avoid academia.

A:

Right now, a majority of research is in industry, as academic institutions do not want to risk future federal grants by allowing cannabis research to happen against the wishes of the FDA/DEA/NIDA. Industry has its own drawbacks compared with academia, not the least of which is lack of scientific integrity (although my friends in academia often complain of the same thing, there is no real check for that in industry)


Q:

what do you think the timeline is for an ent in massachusetts to be able to roll a legal joint if question 4 passes?

A:

The law will take effect 12/15/16