While speaking at charity event in New Zealand, business mogul Richard Branson suggested that farmers in New Zealand should stop raising cows and starting growing cannabis instead. He suggests that switching from cows to cannabis would be more economically lucrative and environmentally advantageous for the small island nation – especially for this country that, in 2015 alone, devoted almost 7,000 square miles to raising cattle.
Regardless of the fact that in New Zealand cannabis is still illegal, his suggestion is actually not quite as far-fetched as it might sound. Branson predicted that in ten years cannabis in New Zealand will be as normal as drinking wine. In fact, the Federated Farmers of New Zealand seem to be quite pragmatic and open to the idea as well. When the Federated Farmers president, William Rolleston, was asked to comment on Branson’s suggestion, he said,
“Farmers welcome any opportunity to add another string to their bow, and would look at that option only if it was legal and profitable to do so.”
An open mind and eye to the future indeed. But what about the true facts behind Branson’s claim that growing cannabis would be better for both the environment and farmers’ pockets? Would it really be a better alternative to raising cows?
Let’s start with cows and how they affect the environment. Cow manure poses a significant risk to local waterways, as the runoff from manure adds huge amounts of nitrogen to the ecosystem. Why is this bad? Well, too much nitrogen stimulates large algae growths, which decrease the amount of oxygen in water, killing off fish and other water dwellers. This is not only bad for the local ecosystem, but for outdoorsmen and anglers hoping to enjoy their own sports of choice. Dairy farming is widely recognized as one of the causes for New Zealand’s water pollution, so the environmental claim Branson makes concerning cow farms is not to be discredited.
Now, what about the economics of it all? New Zealand in 2015 had 1.8 million hectares devoted to dairy farming alone, a huge cow-centered industry. The average profit per hectare is about $1,500 according to a recent economic survey (or about $607 per acre), so how does that compare to a cannabis operation? Well, the Agricultural Marketing Research Center reports that the value per acre of industrial hemp is $21,000 from seeds alone, and $12,500 from the stalks. Let’s just take a very low estimate of $12,500 per acre – that would still have cannabis creating over $11,000 more profit per acre than a dairy farm.
Of course, there are many other factors that come into play before this transition could become a reality. New Zealand would have to develop its own cannabis market, with its own unique supplies and demands, so the profit margins could vary compared to other countries with currently active cannabis economies. However, it is easily shown with these statistics above that replacing cows with cannabis is indeed a viable and realistic suggestion. The decreased environmental impact with the reduction of cattle farms polluting waterways, combined with the increased profits from growing cannabis on that land instead, make it a quite attractive option indeed.
So it seems that Sir Richard Branson struck gold with not only his own business ventures, but with his casual (but highly applicable) remarks. While there are undoubtedly many hurdles to jump, legislation to be passed, and other obstacles to overcome before New Zealand legalizes cannabis, it isn’t unlikely that Branson’s suggestion might one day come to fruition. With the economic boost of growing cannabis and the environmental benefits of eliminating waste-producing cows, the farmers of New Zealand might have a brighter (and greener) future ahead.
Cannabis and music is a powerful, transcending combination that can breathe life to one’s mind and body after a long day. Try cueing your favorite song that you’ve heard thousands of times while under the influence and it’s like you’re hearing the track again for the first time. Beats sound heavier, high frequencies whisper smoothly into your ear and vocals seem like they’re speaking directly to your curious soul.
“We don’t usually think of feeling music, we think of hearing it. But when people speak about listening to music while using cannabis, they describe it as richer, more textured; it has more depth,” said Joe Dolce, author of Brave New Weed.
This surreal experience makes cannabis one of the most unique plants on the planet. Read on to learn about how cannabis affects the way you listen to music and hear the world around you.
Enhancing Auditory Perception
The synergistic relationship between cannabis and music can be traced to the herb’s cerebral effects. During consumption, cannabis targets one’s brain receptors, resulting in heightened sensitivity and awareness. When it comes to specific sound-waves, scientists from a 1974 study observed individuals displaying signs of sensitivity to high frequencies above 6,000 Hz. High frequency ranges are known for providing information about the location of the sound source. Interestingly, this phenomenon also supports the beneficial aspects of cannabis for people suffering from high frequency hearing loss, which is one of the early symptoms of age-related presbycusis.
In addition to increased sensitivity to high sound frequencies, cannabis helps one become more personally receptive to the emotional and dream-like layers of music. According to neurobiologist, music producer and McGill professor Daniel Levitin, THC is capable of reducing stress and disrupting short-term memory. So instead of thinking about the next song in your playlist, you’re more likely to immerse yourself in every note or beat of the track.
“Subconsciously all of the usual processes of expectation formation are still occurring, but consciously, the music creates what many people describe as a time-standing-still phenomenon. They live for each note, completely in the moment,”
Maximizing Your Experience
There are several ways to maximize your musical experience while consuming cannabis. For an intimate, one-on-one listening session, the first step is to block out all other noises and distractions around you. The easiest and most direct way to accomplish this is by using headphones. Cannabis has a time-stretching effect when listening to music, making echo and reverb sound very appealing.
Due to one’s temporary ability to hear a wider range of frequencies, you should also ditch your low-quality, ripped mp3s (we all have them!) for high-quality copies. Disgustingly “pixelated” mp3s are missing a range of frequencies in order to suit smaller file sizes.
Lastly, to keep your experience fresh and memorable, try incorporating other activities that don’t involve listening, like exploring nature, cooking in the kitchen or painting. When adding a third activity into the mix, some people recommend letting your selected tunes unfold in the background by keeping volume levels moderate.
Is there something fishy about police drug busts of illegal, unregulated cannabis on the street? When reports of a bust makes it on the news, most people are deeply fixated on images of suspects typically in denial of the act and giant bags of seized cannabis on the table. But as Johnny Green from the Oregon Cannabis Connection points out, cops could be taking advantage of this diversion.
Green speculates that police could be inflating street value estimates of unregulated cannabis. To prove this, he ran the numbers of a recent bust in Monroe, Washington, and compared it with dispensary and non-dispensary prices in different locations across the US.
During the investigation, which took place at a Goodwill store, police confiscated 3.75 pounds of cannabis. Law enforcement officials, who may have been on a high (a natural one, like a runner’s high) from all the action, estimated the street value to be $24,000.
That comes out to $6,400 per pound.
Something doesn’t look right there – especially considering that the bust took place on the West Coast, a region known for excitingly low cannabis prices. An online, global price index of cannabis that tracks pricing across the US suggests that high quality cannabis in the state of Oregon costs $210 per ounce on averages. Other price points were offered for comparison: $100-$125 per ounce for non-dispensary sources and $180-$300 per ounce for Oregon-based dispensaries. In Colorado, an ounce will cost you around $192, according to Priceonomics.
“There’s three areas where we’re not going to compromise [on pot]: selling to kids, for one; big-profit growing, for two; and driving under the influence,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle Police Department’s spokesperson. “The one that we’re truly interested in is the large-scale illegal-grow operations.”
On the other side of the country, the same thing is happening. A bust in Joppa, Maryland, resulted in the seizure of 249 pounds of cannabis, valued at $1.1 million by local police. The estimation comes out to be $4,418 per pound. Law enforcement officials spearheading the investigation threw more logs in the fire by enumerating random items they seized, from a handbag to an off-road motorcycle.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why cops are jacking up street value estimates. Maybe law enforcement groups are innocently out of touch when it comes to black market prices. With unregulated cannabis activity at an all-time low, police could be taking every opportunity they get to make headlines.
Savings from buying cannabis on the street is probably what’s driving the black market on the West Coast. In California, one could save up to 27 percent by purchasing unregulated cannabis. In Michigan, that figure is significantly lower at nine percent; and in Colorado, you might as well be getting your goods from a retail shop, since you’re only saving a measly two percent (it’s safer too).
“If you’re engaged in that activity, don’t think that just because the laws have changed that we’re going to prioritize those any less. We’re very motivated to ensure that those laws aren’t broken,” explained Whitcomb.
Taranto, a coastal city in Italy known for its bustling commercial ports and military activities, is at a crossroads. The third most polluted city in the world is a hub for oil refineries, chemical plants and food processing factories. These establishments also share the land with local farmers who raise sheep and sell cheese for a living.
In 2008, after contaminants from a large steel plant rendered the soil useless, yearly livestock and crop yields plummeted, hitting an all-time low.
That incident crippled the local farming industry; and now, farmers have stumbled upon a solution that could make polluted soil fit for agricultural operations. The process involves planting cannabis (specifically industrial hemp) around the affected area, which should help extract some of the toxic contaminants, such as heavy metals, from the ground.
This practice was also applied after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. During clean-up projects that followed the tragic event, scientists used hemp to reduce high levels of iodine, cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium in the soil.
Farmers based in Taranto are implementing phytoremediation to make land more conducive for plants and animals. Cannabis is suitable for this process because it is extremely resilient, allowing it to grow in rough environments, and its roots are sturdy enough to absorb toxic metals. After absorption, the plant can either store the contaminants or transform the pollutants into something usable and harmless. Hemp’s lifecycle doesn’t end after soil decontamination. The city could turn the green plant into biofuel to support its fleet of naval vessels and commercial shipping operations.
Vincenzo Fornaro, a Taranto farmer currently growing hemp to promote decontamination, believes that cannabis could make the future brighter for the struggling agricultural community.
“We must innovate,” said Fornaro during an interview with CBS News, “and develop in a way that’s ecologically sound.”
Italy’s Growing Interest in Cannabis
Italy has shown renewed interest in cannabis in the past few years. Recently, the country’s military grow site, located in Florence, was featured on various media outlets. The massive indoor facility is home to more than 100 plants, yielding roughly 18 pounds of top-shelf cannabis for medical research and regulated consumption. By the end 2017, the institution hopes to launch four new chambers, which could increase production to 220 pounds. This is great news for the country’s estimated 3,000 patients who rely on medicinal cannabis for natural treatments.
To help streamline allocation, Italy’s Health Ministry released a timely guide for physicians, pharmacists and other medical professionals with authorization to sell cannabis. The guide includes tips surrounding the plant’s side effects, dosing and administration. Italy’s medical-grade cannabis is rich in CBD and contains average to low amounts of THC.
“One thing it [cannabis] works well for is fibromyalgia, a condition for which there is no really effective medicine,” explained Pierluigi Davolio, a Florence pharmacist. “We had a patient here who had sold her car because she was in too much pain to be able to drive. As soon as she started (taking cannabis), she was back at the garage saying she needed it back.”
There’s no denying that a wide range of professionals, from artists and designers to engineers and CEOs, use cannabis to fuel their creative spirits. That tingly feeling you get after consuming the herb is significantly responsible for the birth of Apple’s iPod, Lady Gaga’s catchy tunes and Dave Chappelle’s comedy specials on Netflix.
The plant has a reputation for engaging the mind and offering new perceptions about everyday encounters. Read on to find out why cannabis magnifies creativity and how you can use it to your advantage to boost innovation and expression.
Stimulating the Mind
Cannabis is capable of stimulating certain parts of the brain that are closely related to creativity. According to Jasen Talise from UC Berkeley, the herb is capable of increasing blood flow to the frontal lobe – an area linked to “high creative performance” by researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente, Mexico and John Hopkins University.
Another way cannabis enhances creativity is by increasing dopamine activity in the brain. Boosting the firing of the hormone has been proven to encourage new behaviors and reduce latent inhibition. The latter factor basically makes you more aware of your environment and personal thoughts. Indirectly, consuming cannabis may also help decrease anxiety in people, allowing them to overcome internal hindrances that are associated with cynical, depressive mindsets.
“As an artist, there’s a sweet jump-starting quality to [cannabis] for me. I’ve often felt telepathic and receptive to inexplicable messages my whole life. I can stave those off when I’m not high. When I’m high – well, they come in and there’s less of a veil, so to speak,”
said Alanis Morissette, a Canadian singer-songwriter.
“So if ever I need some clarity… or a quantum leap in terms of writing something, it’s a quick way for me to get to it.”
Sticking to the Right Dose
In order to maximize creativity while consuming cannabis, one has to stick to the right dose. Taking this into consideration, the first thing you should be mindful of is your tolerance level. For daily or frequent consumers, one would need higher doses to spark creative thinking, compared to an individual who hardly touches the plant. But before you start rolling giant blunts, there’s something you have to know: small doses are more effective than large hits for promoting creativity, according to science.
A recent study from Netherlands-based Leiden University found that giving trial participants low doses of THC (5.5 mg of 19 percent THC) resulted in higher levels of “divergent thinking traits like fluency, flexibility, and originality.” Individuals given high doses – 22 mg THC – displayed slightly decreased levels of divergent thinking, specifically below the control group’s average score. These results make sense, since THC is widely used to combat insomnia and high levels of stress.
It is important to consider that the study focused solely on THC – a cannabinoid known for its couch-locking effects on consumers. Strains that offer energy-boosting benefits, with moderate to minimal levels of THC, are recommended for this type of cerebral stimulation for consistent results and creative activities that require technical focus, such as choreographed dancing, soldering or computing.
US Government Issues Low Quality, Moldy Cannabis to Scientists and Medical Researchers
The single source of cannabis for medical research in the US, which happens to be the federal government, may need to revisit their growing methods and possibly hire a mold specialist to oversee their Mississippi-based farm. This concern surfaced after scientists received staggeringly low quality batches of government-grown cannabis for clinical trials.
To make matters worse, a handful of researchers, including Dr. Sue Sisley, a doctor conducting a study on the effects of cannabis on veterans diagnosed with PTSD, received samples in a non-traditional, powder-like form with some batches containing traces of mold and high levels of total yeast.
“It didn’t resemble cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis,” said Sisley, who is also a lead researcher at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). “They weren’t able to produce what we were asking for.”
Based on pics of the batch received by MAPS, federal research-grade cannabis appears to be very leafy and dry, with minimal trichome formation. After a series of tests, scientists found the samples to contain roughly eight percent THC – significantly lower than the 13 percent THC potency standard promised by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). By comparison, commercial-grade cannabis from Colorado contains around 19-30 percent THC.
“A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab prepares to weigh a sample of marijuana received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. Photo courtesy of MAPS.“
So where did these schwag NIDA strains come from?
Under a NIDA contract, government-grade cannabis is grown on a secure 12-acre farm in Mississippi. In this facility, cannabis is grown, harvested, stored and shipped out in bulk to research institutions across the country. NIDA oversees operations on the plot of land, which is sadly the only federally-organized, legal cannabis farm in the US. According to the International Business Times, the NIDA farm has been operating since 1968.
A spike in demand for cannabis by researchers may have led to poor quality control, forcing federal growers to push out undesirable batches. In 2016, the agency completed 39 orders for government-grade cannabis from 10 different medical groups – a noticeable increase from 23 requests in the previous year.
As for the mold and yeast found on the samples, both sides raised interesting points surrounding the tainted batches. NIDA claims the shipments were mishandled by the scientists. Rebecca Matthews, a clinical researcher for MAPS, debunked such accusations, stating that the samples “never left the freezer before testing.”
The main issue with utilizing low quality cannabis for clinical research is discrepancy with what’s currently available in commercial markets. Federal-grade cannabis, which Dr. Sisley found to contain less chemical diversity, is not suitable for conducting real-world studies, simply because it’s not what patients are buying from medical dispensaries.
“In two decades of smoking weed, I’ve never seen anything that looks like that,” explained Jake Browne from the Denver Post. “People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on.”
On a positive note, this concern may pressure the DEA to move forward with their plan to expand the federal growing program. Last year, the organization announced it would allow other growers to provide cannabis to scientists and clinical researchers.