As a beacon of hope for patients in Georgia, an executive director has finally been appointed by the Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee the next stages of development for the state’s medical marijuana program.
Andrew Turnage, who has experience as executive director for both the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers and the Georgia Board of Nursing, was selected over four other applicants.
“We have one goal, and that’s to get oil for families in need,” Turnage said to Valdosta Today. “Think about families that have struggled to have their basic needs met during this pandemic. We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it.”
Turnage came highly recommended for the position by The Goodwin Group, an executive recruiting firm that reportedly consulted with cannabis industry experts before making the recommendation.
“Mr. Turnage not only has the experience The Goodwin Group recommended, but specifically in the area of state licensing, which is essential to getting us up and running and producing low-THC oil,” said the commission’s chairman and principal surgeon at the Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute, Dr. Christopher Edwards.
Turnage will be responsible for establishing the selection process for licensing cultivation and distribution businesses as well as lab-testing and system regulations. At least six cultivation licenses are expected to be awarded, but the timeline for when the legal distribution system is expected to be in place has not been released.
According to the program’s website, conditions that qualify a person to be able to apply for the Georgia Medical Marijuana Program include:
- Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage
- Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries
- Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage
- Crohn’s disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage
- Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage
- Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe
- Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism
- Epidermolysis bullosa
- Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage
- AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage
- Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage
- Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient
- Intractable pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age
A Brief History
It all began in 2015 when Georgia lawmakers approved legislation to allow registered medical marijuana patients in the state to possess and use up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC cannabis oil. In order to qualify as “low-THC” the oil must contain no more than 5 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Last year, the state appointed members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and an executive director was just elected by that board in May of 2020.
In five years of program development, patients still have no way to legally purchase the oil within state lines. Registered patients and caregivers are forced to obtain the medicine on the black market, where it is neither regulated nor lab-tested, or buy it in another state, breaking federal laws to drive it across state lines.
Georgia legislators have been aware all along that a system for distribution needed to be established. In 2017, a top Georgia lawmaker even made headlines when he admitted to smuggling medical marijuana into the state for patients who were suffering.
The chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that translate into the effects felt, and deliver medicinal value to the consumer, are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), work synergistically in a process known as the entourage effect. Simply put, this means that these cannabinoids are more effective when they are able to work as a team than when they are used separately. This is why many proponents insist that whole plant medicine or full spectrum cannabis oils are more effective treatment options than CBD oil that contains 5 percent or less THC. For many patients, low-THC oil and CBD isolates simply are not enough to treat debilitating symptoms.
Now that Georgia is one step closer to providing patients with safe, reliable access to medical cannabis oil, many hope the next step will be expanding the law to include different forms, more methods of delivery, and higher potency options.
Studies show that men who consume marijuana are more likely to produce semen with a lower concentration of sperm, known as low sperm count, than those who abstain. According to new research from Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina, smoking cannabis may have an even bigger impact on sperm than previously thought.
The study aimed to learn more about the reproductive effects of a father’s exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, and subsequently how it affects embryo development and the lifetime health of the offspring. Samples from both lab rats and humans were used and compared in the research, and the results from both were similar. The sperm from subjects with higher levels of THC in their urine had more pronounced genetic changes.
Following the study, Duke Health announced that “exposure to cannabis alters the genetic profile of sperm,” but “whether genetic changes can be reversed or are passed on to children is still unknown.” The research paper, “Cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm,” was published in the journal Epigenetics on December 19, 2018.
Epigenetics explores the biological mechanisms in DNA that turn genes on and off. THC doesn’t mutate the sperm itself, but it may change the way the genes that are passed on to children are regulated and expressed. Researchers believe this information is significant for men of childbearing age because if a child is conceived from a sperm that was altered by exposure to THC, it may impact the development of the child. It is not yet known whether a THC-altered sperm is even capable of fertilizing an egg.
The research team at Duke Health plans to increase the sample size for future studies to learn more about how THC changes the genetic profile of sperm. “In the absence of a larger, definitive study, the best advice would be to assume these changes are going to be there,” said lead author Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D. “We don’t know whether they are going to be permanent. I would say, as a precaution, stop using cannabis for at least six months before trying to conceive.”
Anyone who has been smoking cannabis for long enough knows that before shatter, wax, and other modern concentrates took over the scene, it was hash that commanded a preeminent status. By sprinkling a little hash on your bowl, you could dramatically elevate potency and enjoy incredibly rich cannabis flavors.
The first hash makers date back over 1,000 years with hash itself possessing a deep, global history. Although terminology has changed over time, the original name for hash comes from the Arabic word ( حشيش ), which means grass. Hashish making is an art form that has been passed from artisan to apprentice for centuries, originating from Asia and the Middle East.
Many smokers from the 60’s and 70’s will fondly remember authentic Turkish hash, Thai sticks, and all other manner of old school hash products that are either non existent or comprise only a tiny portion of the market today. With BHO dominating the cannabis market, the art of hash making had taken a backseat until recently. That is changing quickly however, thanks to two new major developments: rosin presses and freeze dryers.
Traditionally hash had been made either by hand with pressure and heat, or more recently, with the advent of specialized hash washing machines. It’s speculated that many ancient hash making techniques have been lost to the sands of time, however the vast majority of hash artisans today employ methods that are completely different than the ways of old.
Modern hash making machines closely resemble clothes washers, except they work by using a slurry of ice and water to separate the trichome heads from the cannabis flowers or trim, which are then filtered through various micron-width mesh bags. This type of hash is specifically known as bubble hash.
After the soaked trichomes are collected, they are graded, separated, and dried. An air drying process, similar to how cannabis itself is dried, has been the primary method used to remove moisture from hash. Properly drying bubble hash has typically been the most difficult and time consuming part of the process, requiring precise temperature and humidity control.
When the hash is finally dry, it ends up in a variety of different qualities based on the individual micron bag it was collected from. The most prized and sought after of these grades is known as “full melt” which means that those trichomes literally melt on a dab rig the exact same way shatter or wax would. Full melt is highly desirable because it is the original cannabis concentrate. When old school tokers wanted something special they reached for the hash. Pressing that hash into rosin is just the next step that people are now taking.
Two key advances in hash making have come to the fore recently and have breathed new life into the practice.
First, utilizing modern freeze dryers, the hash drying process is as simple as pressing a few buttons and waiting 24 to 36 hours, whereas with air drying it can take 5 to 7 days or longer in a highly controlled environment, requiring immense skill and care.
Secondly, with the invention of rosin presses, all of the non-full melt grades of hash can now be easily made into full melt extracts of a variety of textures (including shatter, budder, wax, and so on). Whereas commercial rosin presses are a recent development, freeze dryers have been around for much longer.
Historically freeze dryers have been a key piece of equipment in many pharmaceutical laboratories and also have been frequently used for dehydrating food items for longterm storage. With the ease of use a freeze dryer offers, the hardest part of making great, terpene-rich hash (drying it) is now considerably less labor intensive. A few clever hash makers figured out that they are the perfect machines to dry hash with, and now with the addition of both machines used in conjunction, a revolution is taking place.
While the demand for rosin has grown dramatically over the past year, hash rosin’s reputation in particular as the ultra premium concentrate is also making major headway among true connoisseurs.
Due its truly solvent-less profile, hash rosin is frequently regarded as the purest full melt concentrate right alongside full melt hash itself. With BHO and solvent-based extraction, you can blast low quality material into golden shatter, however with rosin, there’s no way to remove impurities — so what you see is what you get.
Terpene content is also consistently excellent with hash rosin, which many cannabis aficionados consider to be the cardinal quality concentrates. With proper equipment and techniques, the terpene content of hash rosin can naturally reach and exceed 10% weight by volume.
This is evidenced by modern testing results, such as a sample of some “Banana Split” hash rosin, made by Denver’s own The Proper Extracts. This banana split hash rosin won highest terpene content at Chalice’s 2017 competition and was dried using a scientific freeze dryer.
We got a chance to catch up with Manny, the owner of Fox Cannabis and The Proper Extracts, to get his opinions on how freeze drying makes a difference. He said,
“Freeze dryers are a game changer, you can decrease dry time and processing from days to hours, while preserving the peak trichome and terpene profile of the hash.”
It’s important to note that your standard food dehydrator won’t cut it for drying hash. Freeze dryers work by a process called “Lyophilization” which, through various cycles of extremely cold temperatures and subsequent warming in a vacuum environment, remove moisture from the hash, thus drying it to be ready for consumption.
More technically, this process is known as sublimation, where water in the form of ice goes directly to a gas, skipping the liquid stage. A variety of freeze dryers are available to the public that anyone can use, even at home. Most serious hash makers demand the elevated control that only a scientific-grade freeze dryer can offer through its customizable freezing and warming cycles.
Freeze dryers, when combined with a high quality rosin press, can help a hash maker produce some of the best rosin available, especially given that hash rosin is derived without the use of any harsh solvents.
The best of the best rosin is known as “live rosin”, which means that fresh frozen plant material is first washed into hash and then pressed into rosin to produce a product on par with live resin, sans butane. It’s typically known as “full spectrum” because when hash is derived from freshly frozen cannabis it offers a full complement of cannabinoids and terpenes.
As a result, many solvent-based extractions can’t claim “full spectrum” because so many terpenes and cannabinoids can be lost in the process. Virtually anyone can now start washing hash, quickly dry it in a freeze dryer, and then profitably sell both the full melt grade while pressing the remaining grades into rosin. Top quality, fresh frozen rosin can retail as much as $100 per gram given its often unmatched terpene profile.
Given that making hash and hash rosin are both solvent-free, a number of business have started up due to the low startup costs of making hash and pressing rosin together. Without the burden of a tightly-controlled laboratory that BHO or other closed-loop solvent-based extraction systems demand, it’s now more straightforward than ever to make incredible solvent-less hash and hash rosin.
As with all things cannabis, it truly starts in the garden. A movement in the industry paralleling the farm-to-table food ethos has already begun; with each passing day demand is growing for boutique genetics and rare terpene profiles. More and more consumers are demanding not only potent cannabis products, but ultra high quality, contaminant free ones too, right alongside truly solvent-less concentrates.
This is where rosin fits in long term, and especially hash rosin for its unmatched quality. Against a flooded market of low quality BHO and questionable vape pens, rosin’s popularity is expected to increase sharply given its small batch, labor-of-love style of production. If you ask any true cannabis lover what they’re always on the lookout for, chances are they’ll rank hash rosin right next to or above live resin.
Despite consumption of hash having been in a mild decline for a number of years, these evolutions in consumer tastes are once again bringing hash making to the forefront of cannabis.
Famous hash makers such as Bubbleman, Nikka T, KennnWall, Matt Rize, among many others first staked their claim as celebrities in the cannabis world by producing incredible solvent-less hash, long before shatter was in everyone’s dab rig.
There are now even growers who consider themselves “resin farmers” — meaning that they aren’t just growing for the flowers themselves, but for the trichomes and resins, which are the true fruits of the cannabis plant. It’s always been a labor of love for these elite hash makers, making their products in small batches for true connoisseurs.
Now virtually all hash makers are also pressing rosin and many of the best commercial hash labs have learned that freeze dryers provide superior terpene preservation along with dramatically reduced drying times.
It’s now more straightforward than ever for individuals to get involved in the concentrate-production business by acquiring a rosin press, hash making equipment, and a freeze dryer, thereby skipping the $50,000+ closed-loop methods entirely.
Of course starting a business is certainly a tall task, so if your local dispensary isn’t stocking hash rosin or full melt hash, it’s high time you asked them to!
Despite the uphill battle it’s been for cannabis legalization in Michigan, good news looms on the not-so-distant horizon. Not only does it look promising that the petitions currently circulating will generate more than enough signatures for the proposal to make recreational cannabis legal, Michigan residents also might have the privilege to possess larger quantities of it than any other state.
What’s Normal in Other States?
In the United States, there are 8 states in which cannabis is legal for recreational use. The normal amount individuals are allowed to carry is 1 ounce. According to Mark Kleiman, a professor at NYU and expert on public policy in regards to cannabis, the cap of 1 ounce is sufficient. Michigan, however, would join the likes of Maine, where individuals are allowed to carry up to 2.5 ounces on their person.
The other way in which Michigan will stand out is that persons 21 and over will also be able to have up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home. While this is also true in Massachusetts, the limit for the amount of cannabis individuals can carry there is only 1 ounce.
Defending the seemingly large quantity of cannabis that Michigan residents would be allowed to carry, Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, stated there are legitimate reasons behind it. For example, a commonality many Michiganders have is travel within the state. For those who have cabins or other properties where they will spend lengths of time for hunting or recreation, it seems fair to Hovey that those individuals should be able to carry an amount of cannabis that will sustain them.
Still, there are other opponents. Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that advocates against cannabis, strongly opposes the amount that Michigan residents could carry. Executive VP and director of government relations for the group, Jeffrey Zinsmeister, contends that there’s no good reason anyone would need to carry 2.5 ounces of cannabis for personal use. The amount, he argues, is excessive.
Standing Strong Against Opposition
Despite criticism, Hovey insists that all components of the law were heavily considered, taking into account the input from those who would be involved in Michigan’s cannabis industry. From stakeholders in the cannabis business, organizations involved in the movement, and Michigan voters, Hovey is confident that their input, combined with observing the best practices from other states with legal cannabis, has yielded an initiative that stands a strong chance of becoming law.
Backing up his confidence is the swift rate at which the petition to legalize cannabis in Michigan is acquiring signatures. Having nearly reached the halfway mark of the required amount of signatures needed to get on the 2018 ballot in just two months, the odds of legalization look promising. Registered voters still have almost 4 months left to sign the petition if they haven’t already. At this point, the momentum is still building so it will almost certainly be in the affirmative that voters will approve the legislation being presented.
In Washington, Sam Mendez, an attorney with C3 Law Group (specializing in cannabis law), supports the notion that legalization leads to fewer arrests, lifting a weight off law enforcement. He also points out that other substances that are more dangerous than cannabis, such as alcohol, have no limits regarding how much an individual can possess. Needless to say, his statements fall in line with supporting the limits established in the initiative that Hovey is certain will attain the approval of voters.
Even though on the federal level cannabis remains illegal and the DEA classifies it a schedule 1 drug, if Michigan votes to legalize cannabis, they will join the ranks of states taking a stand against prohibition, furthering the national legalization movement.
Looking to expand one of the strictest medical marijuana programs in the nation, Minnesota has now legalized treatment for PTSD as the state continues to look for new ways to apply the benefits of cannabis to the most in need. Even though medical cannabis is still in an early stage when it comes to treating PTSD, insiders are optimistic that the expansion will directly assist suffering Minnesotans who have struggled to find relief with more conventional forms of treatment. While cannabis treatment for PTSD remains complicated, particularly for military veterans due to stringent federal laws, Minnesota could also prove to be a valuable case study on how other states can expand coverage to attack a widespread problem throughout the country.
Although anti-cannabis advocates insist there is still a lack of evidence for successful PTSD treatment, Minnesota moved forward with the change to the medical cannabis program thanks to rigorous input from both field experts and the public. The move will also be able to directly test cannabis’ effectiveness with those who suffer from PTSD, potentially offering significant insight into a relatively dark area of marijuana research. In fact, it was only in April of 2016 that the DEA introduced its first controlled study of cannabis treatment for PTSD sufferers, pointing to the necessity of further study for vulnerable Americans. Despite effecting about eight million people in the U.S. each year, post traumatic stress disorder still doesn’t have a pharmaceutical treatment that is designed specifically to treat the often-debilitating symptoms.
Medical Cannabis for PTSD
Minnesota will now join more than 20 other states that have already legalized cannabis treatment for PTSD, further providing real-life case studies for an area that has often been driven by speculation. Just this year, a growing and diverse list of states have added PTSD to their medical marijuana programs, including states like Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, New Jersey, and more. In addition to directly addressing PTSD symptoms, medical experts are also enthused about the ability to use the benefits of medical marijuana to assist with negative symptoms from other medications typically used to treat PTSD.
It’s also worth noting that Minnesota is easily one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to usage of medical marijuana, as the program only started in 2014 and has expanded very deliberately since then. As of now, Minnesota only has two different licensed medical marijuana cultivators and has significant limitations on the forms that cannabis can be ingested, which is why the recent change could turn out to be such a crucial development for cannabis advocates. If very cautious states like Minnesota can have success with treating PTSD, other hesitant states will have an ideal blueprint of how to proceed into previously unchartered territory.
Following the successful push for PTSD treatments, advocates are also looking to expand treatments for other patients in need. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autism are some of the other diseases and disorders that are being pushed as areas where patients might benefit, opening up the door to further expansions both in Minnesota and abroad. As of now, there is a fairly limited number of patients registered to take advantage of the expansion in the state, although that could quickly shift as the program grows in the coming years.
But even though Minnesota’s medical cannabis expansion could prove to be a major step forward for patients with PTSD, it also highlights one of the major conflicts between state and federal law. As states continue to explore legalization for recreational use, those relying on marijuana for medical application could be left out in the cold due to overriding federal law – particularly for veterans who suffer from PTSD. Because of federal law, cannabis treatment for PTSD cannot be covered by the VA (Veterans Affairs), forcing patients to pay completely out-of-pocket or forgo treatment. However, as cannabis programs continue to expand to cover PTSD around the country, the pressure will likely build to overhaul federal marijuana laws that are now widely viewed as outdated and counterproductive.