Legal Cannabis Spurs Increase in Cookie Sales, According to Study

Legal Cannabis Spurs Increase in Cookie Sales, According to Study

Furthering the mystery of the cannabis-induced munchies, adults with safe, reliable access to legal recreational-cannabis spend more money on cookies, ice cream, and chips than their counterparts, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University reviewed high-calorie-food sales-data from states that have legalized cannabis, and a correlation was observed.

The retail-data analysis covered more than 2,000 counties over a period of a decade, from 2006 to 2016. Only states that could provide at least 18 months of sales-data for the period after a legalization amendment was enacted were included in the data review. Purchase trends from grocery, convenience, drug, and mass distribution stores were included in the analysis.

Michele Baggio, assistant professor of economics at the University of Connecticut, partnered with Alberto Chong, a professor at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, to conduct the data review. Most of the data was contributed by the Nielsen Retail Scanner database.

The Data Review

Immediately following legalization, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington reported an increase in the purchase of junk foods, specifically those of cookies, ice cream, and chips, according to the study.

Chip purchases increased by 5.3 percent. Cookie sales grew by 4.1 percent, and a 3.1 percent increase was observed in the sale of ice cream. While cookie sales maintained steady growth, there was a slight dip in ice cream and chip sales for a short time after legalization. Ultimately, an increase was observed overall.

“The increase in sales starts at the time the legislation becomes effective,” according to the study published in the Social Science Research Network.

Legalization amendments were approved by voters in Colorado and Washington state in 2012. The legal retail market in Colorado was first to explode, while the Washington market took a little longer to kick off. In 2015, Oregon joined the ranks of Colorado and Washington in the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“These might seem like small numbers, but they’re statistically significant and economically significant as well,” said Baggio.

The brands which saw the most increase in product sales were not reported in the study.

Originally intending to study the effect of legal cannabis on obesity rates, Baggio and Chong focused only on sales trends this time instead. Baggio said he plans to continue searching for links between legalization and obesity as well as other trends correlating with cannabis policy reform.

“I’m just interested in whether there are unintended consequences to the policy,” he said.

Why does cannabis sometimes stimulate a hunger response?

While the source of cannabis-induced munchies remains mostly a mystery, a 2014 study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that it begins with an enhanced sense of smell.

According to the study, the sensitivity of receptors in the olfactory bulb of rats and humans increases with the administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. This increased sensitivity to certain smells may translate into an increased craving for certain foods.

While THC is known to stimulate a hunger response, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is known to illicit the opposite response. Cannabis strains high in THCV are advertised as the go-to phenotypes for those trying to lose weight or at least avoid the munchies.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Washington Still Doesn’t Know What Good Marijuana Is (Or How To Test For It)

Washington Still Doesn’t Know What Good Marijuana Is (Or How To Test For It)

Retail sales of legal marijuana have been underway in Washington state for more than four years—and state regulators in charge of quality control still aren’t sure what good cannabis is, or how to test for it.

All product sold in stores is supposed to be tested for mold, pesticides and other contaminants by labs evaluated and accredited by a private company under contract.

That will change sometime soon. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which regulates marijuana sales, has until January 15 to come up with recommendations for how the state should begin accrediting testing labs.

But in order to do that, regulators—or state lawmakers, or both—have to decide what, exactly, makes good weed. And nobody—not in Washington state, nor elsewhere in the U.S. where marijuana is legal—can seem to agree what that is, according to a draft government report posted online Thursday.

“Current quality standards… are insufficient to support a robust, science-based cannabis laboratory accreditation program,” the Washington Department of Ecology document says.

A “Cannabis Science Workgroup” comprised of experts in chemistry, biology, medicine and other fields to determine minimum standards for cannabis quality should be formed, wrote Sara Sekerak, a senior chemist and project manager at the department.

To reach this determination, researchers with the agency reviewed quality-control standards in four states. They found that “[w]idely accepted quality standards for testing cannabis and cannabis products do not yet exist.”

“Accreditation does not designate product standards or quality standards,” the report adds. “However, these are necessary to support meaningful accreditation.”

Eventually, testing labs in Washington will be accredited by a state agency. Until that happens, quality may remain erratic.

Because of weak or nonexistent state rules, labs “are allowed to design their own levels” of quality control and quality assurance. There are no readily available samples of agreed-upon “quality” cannabis to set a basic standard by, as there is for drinking water and other consumer goods.

Untrained workers collecting samples for testing may taint the samples. And current accreditation standards applied by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are not sufficient, the report found.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Washington Still Doesn’t Know What Good Marijuana Is (Or How To Test For It)

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

The movement to restore civil liberties and resolve systemic racial injustices in the criminal justice system scored a major victory on Thursday. And no, this time we’re not talking about ending the war on drugs. Or at least not yet.

Washington became the 20th state to abolish the death penalty, with the state Supreme Court ruling that capital punishment is unconstitutional because “it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”

If you’re already seeing parallels to arguments for ending drug prohibition, you’re not alone.

Many of the same points the court made in their ruling against the death penalty ring true for the war on drugs, too. For example, the court argued that death sentences have been disproportionately carried out against black defendants, at a rate more than four times higher than it is for white defendants.

There were three main factors the justices cited as justification for abolishing capital punishment.

  1. “There is significant county-by-county variation in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty, and a portion of that variation is a function of the size of the black population but does not stem from differences in population density, political orientation or fiscal capacity of the county.
  2. Case characteristics as documented in the trial reports explain a small portion of variance in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty.
  3. Black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.

“The most important consideration is whether the evidence shows that race has a meaningful impact on imposition of the death penalty,” the justices wrote in their opinion. “We make this determination by way of legal analysis, not pure science.”

“Given the evidence before this court and our judicial notice of implicit and overt racial bias against black defendants in this state, we are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance. We need not go on a fishing expedition to find evidence external to Beckett’s study as a means of validating the results. Our case law and history of racial discrimination provide ample support.”

Similarly, drug reform advocates have long maintained that prohibition is racially discriminatory given disproportionate rates of enforcement and arrests for drug-related offenses. Black Americans are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for a drug-related crime, compared to white Americans. That’s in spite of the fact that rates of consumption are roughly equal among both groups.

What’s more, a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that black men serve drug sentences that are about 13 percent longer than those applied to white men.

The Washington court said another factor that contributed to their decision concerned “contemporary standards and experience in other states.”

“We recognize local, national, and international trends that disfavor capital punishment more broadly. When the death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner, society’s standards of decency are even more offended.”

The parallel here couldn’t be more clear. If such trends demonstrate a need to review and reform an existing law, the same rationale could theoretically apply to drug prohibition. A majority of states have legalized cannabis for medical or adult-use, and national interest in changing federal marijuana laws has steadily grown in recent years. Beyond marijuana, a broader drug reform push has included calls to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

Of course, marijuana is already legal in Washington, and no other states have yet legalized drugs, so this part of the ruling’s applicability to a potential case seeking to strike down broad drug prohibition in the state might not be quite ripe yet.

While it’s unclear whether the constitutionality of prohibition could be reasonably challenged on similar legal grounds, the similarities are striking. The justification for capital punishment was another point of interest for the justices, who noted that the system failed to achieve its “penological goals” of “retribution and deterrence.”

For all intents and purposes, drug prohibition too has failed to achieve similar goals. Decades of drug war have not appreciably deterred consumption. From 2001 to 2013, the rate of marijuana use among American adults almost doubled, for instance.

The Cato Institute analyzed the impact of the drug war in a 2017 report. It concluded that prohibitionist policies “fail on practically every margin.”

“Economic thinking illustrates that these failures are not only understandable, but entirely predictable. As a result of prohibition and the changes it induces in the market for drugs, increased disease, death, violence, and cartels are all expectable outcomes. Moreover, economics can help us link together these policies with other issues, such as race relations and police militarization.”

A last note from the Washington Supreme Court justices:

“Under article I, section 14, we hold that Washington’s death penalty is unconstitutional, as administered, because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” the justices wrote. “Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals.”

Now swap “death penalty” with “drug prohibition” in that last quote… Fits like a glove.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

Federal Researchers Study Washington Cannabis Farm

Federal Researchers Study Washington Cannabis Farm

feds visit washington cannabis farm

In an unprecedented move, federal researchers visited a medical cannabis farm in Vancouver, Washington to gauge the health impacts of working in the industry and performing tasks such as cultivation and processing. Does the repetitive motion of trimming marijuana flowers promote carpal tunnel? Are those processing dozens of pounds of freshly harvested cannabis, over the long term, in danger of inhaling plant particles that may be harmful to their health?

These are the questions that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are trying to answer by making observations and gathering data in a real world facility. They recently spent the majority of a week in carefully controlled observations on a working cannabis farm outside of Vancouver in an effort to gather metrics.

feds-pay-research-visit-to-washington-pot-farm-2

This is a highly ironic and even perplexing research study. Simply put: Because cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government officially regards it as completely lacking medical benefit and being a highly addictive and dangerous drug, as much so as heroin. Even all forms of cocaine and methamphetamines are less-restricted Schedule II drugs that can be prescribed by a doctor.

Ironic Study

This study is especially ironic given the refusal of government bodies, such as Congress, to allow even minimal research at the federal level. Last summer, Congress voted not to allow cannabis research, especially that focused on CBD efficacy for conditions like epilepsy and cancer, to be orchestrated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and conducted by the National Institutes of Health outside of D.C.

This scientific investigation involved a team of four researchers descending on a pot farm owned by Tom Lauerman, also known as Farmer Tom to locals and customers, that lies just east of Vancouver. Their overall goal is to develop federal best practices and standards for workers in the cannabis industry. Again, a highly ironic and even confusing move for any group that’s officially part of the federal government. Until this farm visit, the team had never set foot on an actual, working commercial cannabis cultivation facility. The infamous University of Mississippi pot farm was the closest any of the researchers had officially come to a real world cultivation and processing operation.

feds-pay-research-visit-to-washington-pot-farm-3

Lauerman told reporters how he never imagined that his farm might someday be occupied by friendly employees of the federal government. He told local media:

“I never thought in my life that, by the time I’m 55 in the year 2015, we would have federal agents welcome onto my farm — like asking to come onto my farm — and get to educate them about cannabis. It simply just blows my mind.”

Researchers, who were not permitted to be identified by the media, outfitted cultivation and harvest workers with special sensors designed to do things like analyze air quality inside grow facilities. They even leveraged a high-tech glove (photos below) right out of science fiction that featured sensors that measured the activity of trimmers manicuring freshly harvested cannabis flowers.

glove

glove2

Federal Conflict?

What about the conflicting messages being sent by the feds to those in the cannabis industry and consumers of their products across the country? NIOSH claims that its research effort in no way conflicts with federal law simply because the researchers are analyzing working conditions, not the substance or product being produced. Because the activities of the cannabis farm are in full compliance with Washington State law, NIOSH — and apparently other government watchdogs — find no problem with the study or the researcher’s presence on the cannabis farm.

There were limitations, however. NIOSH researchers, for example, were prohibited under federal laws from touching or handling cannabis or cannabis products in any way. Results of the study won’t be released for at least a year (probably government speak for two to three). The cannabis industry and legalization movement should eagerly await and support the results of such studies to properly regulate and manage a burgeoning industry that promises to produce tens of billions in economic growth for a nation that has suffered a jobless recovery, severe underemployment, and a withering middle class for nearly a decade.

The White Hat Feds

Unlike the DEA and many Justice Department officials when dealing with individuals or companies in legal states like Washington, the NIOSH researchers were welcomed with open arms and conducted themselves professionally and with the best interests of cannabis industry workers in mind.

feds-pay-research-visit-to-washington-pot-farm-1

It should also be pointed out that the government researchers didn’t simply demand access to Lauerman’s farm or otherwise bully their way onto his property; they were invited. And who invited then? Lauerman. He said he wanted to ensure the eventual adoption by the industry of workplace protections for cannabis workers. Said Lauerman:

“Nobody has any idea what makes a safe workplace, it’s a new industry. I’m honored to have [the NIOSH] here.”

Will the DEA Step In?

Will the DEA try to squelch future research efforts by other government organizations, regardless of the legality? Normalization and acceptance of the plant, for any reason, including hardcore medical applications, are seriously frowned upon by the DEA, an organization that is beginning to see its budget reduced while progressive members of Congress call for its continued defunding and even dismantlement.

Cannabis activists and advocates can only hope that further cooperation between any faction of the federal government and the cannabis industry will occur in an effort to research and regulate what is becoming a multi-billion industry touching tens of millions of consumers and tax payers. Huge markets are being created in single states. The green rush is partially based on what might be accomplished by a majority of states declaring full legalization—let alone the anticipated eventual federal legalization that will inevitably occur after Luddites of Congress have retired and been replaced by more progressive colleagues.

To learn the results of this study, curious cannabis consumers must remain patient. For those who have suffered under the legal paranoia of prohibition and the uncertainty and frustration of black markets — especially those who are sick — patience has always been the modus operandi anyway.

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