Schizophrenia is a difficult illness to live with, and even more difficult due to the limited range of medical solutions out there – and their even more difficult side effects. Studies show that schizophrenia can be exacerbated by THC, but CBD may be a better option for those suffering from this illness. People with schizophrenia often consume cannabis to calm anxiety caused by the symptoms of the disease, and a new study shows that while psychosis and high THC cannabis consumption may not mix, there is still hope for psychosis disorders and CBD oil. Unfortunately, fear and false representation of schizophrenia in horror films meant to frighten people is the major media image of the disease today; many people don’t understand the true face of schizophrenia or how it can impact a person’s life and the life of the people who love that person. So before we discuss cannabis therapy and the disease, let’s a take a look at what it actually is, what causes it, and other types of therapy that may help patients.
What is Schizophrenia?
The National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. defines schizophrenia as a chronic, severe, mental disorder affecting a person’s thinking, emotions, and behavior – many patients seem to have “lost touch with reality.” Schizophrenia is a rare mental disorder with severe symptoms, and usually begins sometime between age 16 and age 30. Symptoms are categorized as positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders (paranoia, derailment), and movement disorders (rocking, pacing, posturing, strange mannerisms). Negative symptoms are disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors, and include “flat effect” (reduce expression of emotion in voice tone or facial expression), reduced pleasure taking in everyday life, difficulty beginning or sustaining activities, and reduced communication with others. Cognitive schizophrenia symptoms include poor executive functioning (ability to understand information and make decisions based on it), trouble focusing or paying attention, and problems with working memory (using learned information immediately). Risk factors for developing schizophrenia include heredity and environmental factors such as virus exposure, prenatal malnutrition, birth problems, and psychosocial factors. We don’t really know what causes schizophrenia, but scientists believe it is due to a brain chemical imbalance involving the dopamine and glutamate in neurotransmitters – faulty connections, in other words. Treatments which focus on eliminating or reducing schizophrenic symptoms include antipsychotics, psychosocial treatments, Coordinated Specialty Care (a combo of antipsychotics, psychosocial treatments, family involvement, and supported education and employment services for a higher quality of life), and now, cannabis therapy.
Why Do Schizophrenics Self-Medicate?
In a study conducted in 2003, researchers asked why schizophrenics self-medicate. People without schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders self-medicate with cannabis for pleasure, anxiety relief, or pain relief in most cases; people with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia self-medicate with cannabis to reduce their symptoms. This study found that schizophrenics may not be trying to reduce the difficult symptoms listed above with cannabis consumption, but rather the other symptoms that accompany a schizophrenic lifestyle or diagnosis: depression and anxiety. Although many past studies are based on the theory that cannabis increases psychotic symptoms in patients, organizations like the Schizophrenia Society of Canada believe that it’s actually the other way around: psychotic patients seek out cannabis for its calming and uplifting properties; they experience psychotic symptoms whether they are consuming cannabis or not. Higher pleasure rates for people with psychotic issues may also be a factor.
What are the Risks and Benefits for Schizophrenics Consuming Cannabis?
Basically, schizophrenics and other people with psychotic disorders should be very cautious about THC-containing cannabis use. It may help some people, and it may harm others. Everyone’s reaction to cannabis is different, and the interaction of cannabis with pharmaceuticals prescribed for psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia may be brutal. That said, CBD oil does not contain much THC, and could be a safer alternative for schizophrenic or psychotic disorder sufferers. More powerful strains of cannabis may put people who already suffer from psychotic disorders at higher risk of showing symptoms or having psychotic episodes; while cannabis alone does not cause psychosis, use of high-potency THC-laden strains may increase psychotic symptoms in current patients. Findings of a Bristol University Study in the U.K. found that those at risk for schizophrenia are more likely to consume cannabis. So, while cannabis consumption can help some schizophrenic or psychotic symptoms, cannabis may be consumed more often by these patients because they enjoy it more than other people. THC is associated with transient (passing) psychotic experiences, while CBD is not. In general, if you have a psychotic illness or it runs in your family, you should be cautious with or refrain from cannabis THC consumption – you could stick with CBD for treatment of anxiety or depression, for example. If you self-medicate for a psychotic illness, please consider therapy and other medications to help control your symptoms, or self-medicate with caution.
If you’re observant, you may look around you while in a dispensary and notice that the majority of the people behind the counter are white. You may also notice that the majority of the people in articles about the cannabis industry, as well as owners of cannabis businesses, are white — even in a state like Colorado where 21% of residents identify as Latino. On U.S. census and other government forms, Latinos or Mexican-Americans have the option of identifying as white, too, so this number may actually be low. The complications, misrepresentations, and difficulties of defining a people whose ancestry began in the Americas and who were subsequently pushed off their land; forced to abandon their traditions, languages, and beliefs; and rolled into one vast category are limitless. The cannabis industry is already moving toward governance by the white majority, whether it’s through Microsoft partnerships, pharmaceutical company acquisitions, or the leadership and monopolizing politics of the affluent white male population. In Part I of this series on diversity in the cannabis industry, we discussed African-Americans – today the focus is on Latinos in the cannabis industry: where are the beautiful brown faces in this sea of green and white?
A Brief History of Marihuana
According to NPR, “marijuana has been intertwined with race and ethnicity in the Americas since well before the world ‘marihuana’ was coined”; we now know that cannabis was demonized by companies who wanted to suppress the production of hemp for business purposes in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Fear of the influx of Mexican and indigenous people into Texas and Louisiana helped spark this demonization and turn it into the beast of prohibition it’s been for decades. While the U.S. was cracking down on cannabis consumption, so was Mexico, which outlawed cannabis is 1920 – 17 years before the U.S did. As Eric Schlosser noted in a 1994 article, “marijuana is and has long been the most widely used illegal drug in the United States…used here more frequently than all other illegal drugs combined.” Marihuana was the word that Mexican immigrants used to refer to the cannabis plant, while “cannabis” was familiar to white U.S citizens because it was used in many medicines at the time. It seems that the very term “marihuana” was meant to alienate Mexican customs and medicinal practices by making them less familiar to whites. When the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was proposed, it prevailed based on unfounded fears about Mexican immigrants and their desire to solicit sex from white women – the ultimate fear of white men of that period. The act banned the use and sale of marijuana/cannabis in the United States, and was eventually replaced in the seventies with the Controlled Substances Act which currently classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug that is highly addictive and dangerous (and inaccurate). As marijuana moves toward widespread legalization and decriminalization in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Latin America, the inclusiveness of the industry and the representation of people of color should be a priority to counteract racial profiling and past grievances. That said, here are some people in the cannabis community who are making inroads.
Miguel Trinidad is a celebrated Dominican chef who creates masterpieces from Filipino cuisine. Trinidad has found a way to celebrate cannabis and serve his fantastic cuisine through The 99th Floor, a private, roving, invite-only edible experience for members. Unlike his previous culinary triumphs Maharlika and Jeepney, The 99th Floor serves up “private multi-course dining events designed for gastronomers with experienced palates.” Trinidad wants to make the cannabis cuisine experience accessible to everyone, a pleasant social event, and an educational experience on ingesting edibles. As Jenison of Prohbtd noted, “It should be like drinking a glass of wine where you’re not chugging the whole bottle at once. You’re sipping and enjoying the euphoria that comes with it.” Dinner contents vary, but are geared toward providing even the most inexperienced diner with a pleasant and not overwhelming experience.
MassRoots spoke with Trinidad about his experience as a person of color in the cannabis industry. Trinidad noted that the lack of Latinos and Hispanics in the cannabis industry is a direct result of the negative stigma attached to cannabis, and believes its healing properties have been overwhelmed by a negative community outlook. Trinidad noted that education on medical benefits and proper dosing could increase the positive view of cannabis within Latino and Mexican-American communities in the future; a background in law is helpful for minorities or people of color who want to work the cannabis industry. He recommends that Latinos examine the industry for “possibilities in this market that have not been explored. I am positive that we will see other homeopathic applications within this industry that have roots in Latino culture.” Trinidad sees the future of the cannabis industry in artisanal products and small businesses; he recommends that small business owners band together to avoid being pushed out by larger corporations. Trinidad offers the following advice to Latino cannabis entrepreneurs: “If they tell you you can’t do it, do it twice and prove them wrong.”
Larisa Bolivar is a cannabis business executive and a recognized subject matter expert on marijuana policy reform. Bolivar is the founder of Bolivar Consulting Group, and executive director of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, a consumer advocacy organization focused on consumer education, public safety, quality control, and ethical business practices in the cannabis industry.
Bolivar noted that “Hispanics are culturally conservative” and there is a fear of racial persecution and ostracism. Bolivar mentioned lack of business capital, generational wealth, creditworthiness, as well as prohibition based on past criminal records as barriers to Latino participation in cannabis. Bolivar suggests reparations for communities of color and Latinos looking to start businesses in the form of small business loans and record-sealing for non-violent criminal drug charges, as well as Latino participation in policy-making organizations and industry trade groups. Bolivar believes that bilingual cannabis businesses and educational organizations within the Latino community can help reduce fear and stigma while bolstering community goals.
Mark Slaugh is a first-generation Brazilian-American, executive director for the Cannabis Business Alliance, membership director for the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, and a member of the Minority Business Council for the National Cannabis Industry Association. Slaugh has helped define Colorado’s medical cannabis laws through edible safety, accurate record-keeping, and responsible vendor training. Slaugh owns iComply, a company that reduces risk, cost, and complexity in cannabis commerce through compliance, training, inspection, assessment, and standard operating procedure development solutions. The goal of iComply is to help cannabis businesses (medical, retail, clubs, and industrial hemp) to train employees successfully and learn to lobby for their and their patients’ rights. The company is focused on policy monitoring, political reform, and social justice – part of which is centered on the “social transformation [of cannabis] from illicit ‘vice’ to legal substance under licensing and regulation.”
Slaugh spoke with me concerning the underrepresentation of Latinos and Hispanics in the cannabis industry. Slaugh believes that the primary reasons for few Latino canna-businesspeople are “barriers of cost, eligibility, and knowledge it takes to thrive in the marijuana business space.” Access to “large, private funding sources,” citizenship or criminal history barriers, language barriers, and racial profiling can prevent people of color from becoming cannabis entrepreneurs. Slaugh is a champion of changing and lobbying for positive cannabis industry policy changes, and believes that communities of color impacted most by the drug war must be helped to appreciate, value, and equalize the industry. The method he recommends is a merit-based point system for cannabis business owners and neighborhoods of color during the application process; low-level crimes and marijuana crime exemptions for communities of color; and state mandated and funded job training to “ensure workers have the support they need to bridge the knowledge gap preventing them from equal hiring in the industry.” Changing negative beliefs in communities of color can only be accomplished through education, and states have a responsibility to educate their publics concerning responsible consumption and regulation of cannabis in many different languages.
Slaugh noted that Latinos and Hispanics are generally 30% of the population in many states, but representation is diluted by poverty and racial profiling. Poverty also impacts health in any community, and in the case of cannabis, the plant has long been a traditional and cultural resource for health and medicinal practices in Latino communities. Slaugh believes that “Latinos have a role to play as healers and medicine men/women who can use marijuana where traditional western medicine fails,” and as “ambassadors to our home countries south of the U.S.” Slaugh also spoke to the failed war on drugs, stating that “As each country reforms these failed policies, we take on our global responsibility across two continents to create a more workable model for the world.” Slaugh believes that communities of color and white communities both have a serious responsibility to ensure Latino representation through fair policies that root out and prevent the future suffering of communities of color damaged severely by the racist drug war.
Rico Garcia is a cannabis activist and entrepreneur who owns BotaniLabs, a professional consulting service for the hemp industry. Garcia is also president of the Cannabis Alliance for Regulation and Education (CARE), which advocates for patient rights and responsible cannabis regulations. Garcia was a member of the 2011 MED advisory subpanels and 2013’s Shadow Task Force made up of Latino and African-American civil rights representatives marijuana expertise. Garcia objects to unfair regulatory laws that allow white-collar criminals to participate in the cannabis industry, but few Latino minor offenders. Garcia believes that drug war policies are still evident in today’s cannabis industry laws, and must be remedied for people of color to fully participate. Garcia suggests a statute pardoning state offenders for nonviolent F4 marijuana offenses older than ten years, and has worked in conjunction with Shawn Coleman of 36 Solutions to create it.
Garcia believes that regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow greater access for people from disadvantaged communities, and noted that the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) would then be unnecessary as all enforcement could be folded into the current liquor enforcement division (this would lower licensing costs). With the Social Cannabis law passed in Colorado, the hope was that this would come to pass, but now the law is being reevaluated behind closed doors.
Garcia’s goal with his medical cannabis dispensary was to be more Latino-oriented, focusing on growing Landrace cannabis strains from Spain and Latin America. Garcia worked to change the language of Colorado’s original Amendment 64 draft language to address previous offenders with past drug convictions. Garcia encourages Latino cannabis entrepreneurs to grow cannabis without pesticides and defy stoner stereotypes, but most importantly to work on changing current policy by starting their own lobbying firm or industry group that caters to them specifically.
Overall, the Latino community has recognized the opportunities and barriers present in the current cannabis industry, and is working toward change, even as they have been working toward full equality. It is important to be aware of cannabis policy language in each state and in the federal government should it reschedule cannabis in August; laws in many states need to be amended in order to stop the lack of inclusion of Latino, Mexican-American, and African-American cannabis business owners and entrepreneurs. Organizations like Women Grow and the Minority Cannabis Business Association are excellent places to start, and fantastic resources for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Above all, educating communities of color on the opportunities and issues within the cannabis industry, as well as their legal rights and methods to change the regulations and policies that are already in place have to be considered. Non-Latino cannabis industry leaders must work with communities of color and Latino-, Mexican-American-, and African-American-owned and -led organizations in an effort to ensure that equality is a part of the cannabis industry going into the future.
Okay, this is a question I’ve wanted answered for a long time – well, ever since I wrote about how Washington was selling more marijuana products than alcohol. Is this a trend all over the United States? Exactly how many people are bucking decades of alcohol abuse (or not drinking at all) in favor of marijuana? Why have people changed, and what does this say about the future of the marijuana industry and the future of the alcohol industry? I’m going to delve into this topic deeply and share with you what I found today – let’s see if the alcohol industry’s fears are about to be realized.
How Many Americans Drink?
Americans like to drink. But we also like to smoke pot, vape, and even eat some marijuana edibles on occasion – and there are many, many more places that we’ll be able to in the next two years, like California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, for instance. In the United States, about 87.6% of people over the age of 18 said they drank alcohol at some point during their lives – that could mean they drank in college, or quit drinking when they reached a certain age. 71% drank in the past year, and 56.9% drank in the past month (this is the number I’m sticking with, as I consider once a month or so responsible drinking). That’s over half of all American adults.
How Does Heavy Drinking Affect American Adults?
On the alcoholic tip, about 24.7% admitted to monthly binge drinking, and 6.7% admitted to heavy drinking over the month prior, but that’s a minority of Americans, so I’m not going by those numbers. If you are a heavy drinker or know one, you should know that Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) affected 16.3 million U.S. adults in 2014. About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related deaths annually, including 9,967 as a result of drunken driving. It’s heartbreaking really, because these deaths can be prevented. Alcohol issues cost the U.S. $249 billion annually, and over 10% of U.S. kids live with a parent with alcohol problems. Well, that was depressing. There are people that can drink alcohol responsibly, but the side effects of alcohol can certainly impact others’ lives and situations more than marijuana side effects seem to – but that’s just my opinion. I prefer drowsiness, laughter, and late-night runs for salty and sweet snacks to drunk people behind the wheel, flying into unprovoked rages, and becoming physically violent. Okay – those were the alcohol stats, now how about the marijuana stats?
How Many Americans Consume Marijuana?
Since I live in Denver, I feel like just about everyone over the age of 21 consumes marijuana, but I know that’s not really true. I’d say among people under the age of 50 that I know, about half of them are regular or occasional consumers. Confirming my suspicions, Pew Research found that in 2012 almost half (49%) of U.S. residents surveyed by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said they had tried marijuana, but only 12% admitted to use in the past year. Somehow I think that those statistics skyrocketed between 2012 and the present, don’t you? Well, we would be right – according to Gallup poll results released in August, 2016, the number of U.S. adults currently smoking marijuana was 13% — that’s up nearly twice from 2013’s 7%. Interestingly, though, the number of U.S. adults who say they’ve tried marijuana was down since 2012 to 43% (that’s a 6% drop). I feel like someone should let Jeff Sessions know about that last bit. Of course, with marijuana still being illegal at the Federal level, we have no way of knowing how many people are fudging the truth a bit on national surveys, now do we? Until marijuana is legal at the Federal level, we may never know the complete truth. If you’re out there imbibing in either alcohol or marijuana this weekend, please remember not to drive and to make sure you have safe, reliable transportation home. (Regardless of which you choose, keeping yourself and other people safe should be concern #1.)
And the Winner is…
So – about 43.9% more people drink regularly than consume marijuana regularly, and twice as many people regularly indulge in their marijuana product of choice. Yep, the alcohol industry is still ruling the roost at this point. At least, those are the statistics people admit to. These results might change if more states legalized recreational marijuana, and everyone stateside felt safe revealing their regular medical or recreational marijuana use. Of course, the percentages of people who consume marijuana vary by state and region as well – check out this lovely pink map from The Washington Post. According to the WP (which had obviously hadn’t seen the Gallup poll), San Francisco’s marijuana consumers make up 15% of the population, and that’s the highest rate across the nation. If you live in a western or southern state, you have a higher chance of being a regular marijuana consumer. Just so you know, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) statistician noted that Colorado’s marijuana consumption was high before legalization, and legalization hasn’t really changed the numbers much. The Mile High City was well-named, then, and we will continue to enjoy our marijuana consumption into the future. No matter which you choose, it will be interesting to review the numbers of similar surveys as more and more states legalize recreational and medical cannabis in the coming years.
I’ll be the first person to say that marijuana laws in the United States and elsewhere can be confusing – most of that confusion is related to the rapidly changing laws that are in place (and some federal laws that are not there, yet). Marijuana laws somewhere in the U.S. (or in Canada or Mexico) change almost daily, and doing your research (or reading blogs like this one) is key to protecting yourself from arrest, fines, or just misinformation. This became extremely obvious to a 54-year-old Arizona man named Lon Victor Post in Golden Valley, Arizona, this week who was arrested for smoking marijuana in a car in his neighbor’s front yard (yeah, that isn’t a good idea in any state, Lon). Why didn’t Post think this may be a bad idea? Because he didn’t think cannabis was illegal in Arizona.
Given the opportunity to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana with Prop 205 in 2016, Arizona voted no by 51.32% and yes by 48.68%, which resulted in the voting down of the measure. Although the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative was defeated, the vote was close; expect to see more initiatives put forward in the coming years. Despite recreational marijuana remaining illegal in Arizona, medical marijuana was legalized back in 1996, and Proposition 203 was approved despite intense conflict within the state. The Marijuana Policy Project contributed the most ($1,148,998.50) to Arizona’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and Discount Tire ($1 million) and Insys Therapeutics ($500,000) contributed the most money against the campaign.
Why Doesn’t Insys Want Medical Marijuana Legalized in Arizona?
Insys is currently developing several marijuana-related products, including an oral solution to help with nausea and loss of appetite in cancer, anorexia, and AIDS patients and a cannabidiol-based medicine for severe childhood epilepsy. Several former Insys Therapeutics executives were recently arrested on charges that they unethically pushed doctors to prescribe Subsys, a fentanyl (read: highly addictive opioid) medication, to patients in exchange for kickbacks. Insys made $148.4 million from Subsys sales over six months in 2016. It’s clear that Insys doesn’t want the competition for patients and medical alternatives that legal recreational cannabis might bring to the Grand Canyon State. I guess it’s all about profits for them, which I don’t think is right in the field of medicine.
Why Did Lon Victor Post Get Arrested for Marijuana in Arizona?
Honestly, Post (pictured right) just didn’t know marijuana was still illegal in Arizona – at least that’s what the 54-year-old man told the Mohave Police Department. Although Prop 205 failed in 2016, that doesn’t mean Post won’t be able to consume recreational marijuana in the coming years – after all, the initiative was only voted down by 2.64%. That’s a pretty small margin, but the law is the law, and Post ran afoul of it. Someone (the neighbor whose yard he was parked in, maybe?) called the police on Post, who was sitting in his car at 1:36 a.m. playing loud music.
When police arrived, Post was sitting near his car and the scent of marijuana was wafting through the air. Post had a baggie of marijuana sticking out of his shirt pocket, and no medical marijuana license for the state of Arizona. Post protested his arrest, believing that marijuana was legal, and attempted to fight the police officers. Never a good idea, Post! Post was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest, possession of paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana, which are all felonies carrying at least 4 months to 2 years and $150,000 fines in the state of Arizona. We can only hope Arizona goes easy on Post – that’s a lot of time and money for both Arizona’s justice system and Post.
Although the idea for a “bud and breakfast” place started here in Colorado with Denver’s canna-tourism hotspot Bud + Breakfast, it was too fantastic of an idea to stay local. Now that California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada have legalized recreational marijuana, you can be sure that you will be able to visit a bud and breakfast or a marijuana-friendly hotel in any of these states over the next five years. There are many marijuana-friendly lodgings in Colorado, but your best bet used to be AirBnB or VRBO where you could talk to people and figure out what they were okay with. Recreational legalization has changed all that, though, and now celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen, and Miley Cyrus are rumored to be planning on opening marijuana-friendly lodgings in California.
Bud, Breakfast & Celebrities
While they certainly aren’t the first people to do it, Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen, and Miley Cyrus may be the most famous celebrities to start up a chain of marijuana-friendly mid-range hotels in California. Snoop has been busy, in case you didn’t know. It’s almost like he’s been waiting for this California recreational legalization moment his entire life – he represents the chronic in more ways than one, and also represents the California music and film business.
Snoop Dogg & Cannabis
In fact, these days, there aren’t many businesses that Snoop doesn’t have his joint in – from music to movies to marijuana delivery services like Eaze, Snoop’s investments are all over the map business-wise but becoming more concentrated on cannabis. Besides Eaze, Snoop launched his Leafs by Snoop cannabis product line in Denver not too long ago, and has just partnered with Canada’s Canopy Growth and subsidiary Tweed to sell his line there. Snoop’s venture firm is aptly called Casa Verde Capital, and its website says it’s interested in tech, media, communications, health and wellness, agtech and agriculture, consumer and retail, business and financial services, and r&d – also, Casa Verde is hiring. If you haven’t caught Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, you should check it out. It goes perfectly with an evening joint or a glass of wine, or both. Expect to see Snoop all over your cannabis-associated products and services in the future.
Charlie Sheen & Cannabis
Charlie Sheen cannabis is an indica-dominant hybrid created from Green Crack, Blue Dream, and OG Kush according to Leafly. Charlie Sheen himself is a much more difficult breed to pin down, but is a famous actor, television personality, and occasional crazy person who revealed that he was HIV-positive to the world in November of 2015. Since medical cannabis is highly recommended and legal in many states for HIV/AIDS, it’s only fitting that Sheen would throw his influence and cash into the marijuana lodging opportunity presenting itself.
Miley Cyrus & Cannabis
Speaking of outspoken celebrities, Miley Cyrus has also invested in Snoop’s cannabis-friendly lodging adventure. This is after she apparently stunned the world by smoking cannabis onstage at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards. I wasn’t shocked, were you? Since her marijuana heyday, IB Times has revealed that her fiancé Liam Hemsworth (think Hunger Games) has asked her to quit smoking cannabis. Cyrus said she hadn’t smoked for two months back in April of this year; she will be starring in Woody Allen’s new Amazon TV series, “Crisis in Six Scenes.” Sure, Miley, we’ll believe that one as much as we believed Snoop back when he “quit” cannabis, too.