Reefer Madness – Tackling Misinformation

Nicholas touches on the recent article published by the Irish Times where the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland warn of the effects cannabis have on young Irish people in the wake of the covid pandemic.

While propaganda has always been a means to constrain the truth and limit people’s perception of certain issues and hardships, it has always been a tool of oppressive beliefs that serve to control people by telling them what’s best for them.  There has been no better example of propaganda serving to perpetuate a stigma on the issue of cannabis legislation than “Reefer Madness”.   The infamous film where the term comes from, released in 1936 contains recklessly over the top representations of cannabis users in the form of delinquents who engage in manslaughter, rape, conspiracy to murder, and fall into a descent of hallucinations and lunacy.  While the film served to instil fear into middle America at the time of its release, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the film saw an emergence of interest in the form of unintentional satire among supporters of cannabis policy reform. It has quickly taken the reigns as one of the worst films ever made, as asserted by many film critics.  What was originally an attempt to create a narcotics scare has evolved into the proverbial soapbox detractors of cannabis use to tackle information that supports the belief of drug reform.

In April 2021, an article published by the Irish Times sent ripples throughout the cannabis community in Ireland.  Unlike many takes on the subject of cannabis reform, the piece titled “Cannabis ‘gravest threat’ to mental health of young people” was more than your usual fundamentalist fodder but instead a casual throwback to the era of Reefer Madness.  In these disconcerting times of homelessness, lack of mental health services, covid-19, alcoholism, cyber-bullying, and a resurrected recession, it makes perfect sense that the Irish College of Psychiatrists put the onus of these issues squarely on the shoulders of cannabis use.  Any opportunity to throw shade on cannabis usage is seen as a good one especially when the problems we currently face aren’t going away anytime soon due to the sheer ineptitude displayed by the Irish government.  No different than Reefer Madness, the message is to distract the public from the real issues young Irish people will suffer the burden of. 

While I’m sure the article intended to further the narrative of cannabis criminalisation, the reaction proved to be more detrimental to their cause than if they said nothing at all.  The response from advocates of cannabis use in Ireland has been overwhelming with more attention brought to the counter-arguments than the original article.  The main case for cannabis prohibition is that it is harmful to developing minds and should remain illegal to keep it out of the hands of teenagers.  It is getting harder to believe that people are unaware that the crux of their argument is what contributes to the issue.  The lack of regulation is what contributes to cannabis finding its way into the hands of Ireland’s youth.  It’ll be a long time coming before you’ll come across a drug dealer that asks for I.D for a transaction can occur.  The black market is the wild west where even synthetic cannabis will be sold, among an array of class-A drugs on offer to anyone willing to pay. 

The effects the covid pandemic have had on the health and wellbeing of young people have taken their toll as seen with the increased consumption of various drugs to escape from the stress and anxiety of the lockdown.[1]  But to put the fault solely on cannabis shows the lack of awareness and ineptitude leaders have in this country to tackle the issue of mental health. Cannabis seizures in the last year have increased significantly.  Those with unnecessary convictions to their name from previous arrests involving cannabis have to face a life with fewer employment opportunities which harms mental health more than it serves as a detriment to seeking out cannabis.  The stress that comes from purchasing cannabis for this fact alone doesn’t aid the welfare of anyone.  The lockdown in 2020 saw a massive increase in raids due to restrictions on travel and imports into the country.  Of the arrests, some were for possession of plants with no intent to distribute.[2]  An act that doesn’t provide the black market with any monetary gain will somehow receive a harsher sentence than possession of multiple grams. 

The black market and its uncontrolled system producing untaxed unregulated drugs is the true enemy of young people who regardless of the law, will seek out substances to experiment.  The current state of Irish drug law is akin to a dog chasing its tail.  We’re in a constant limbo of procrastination and misinformation spurred by leaders with a fear of the unknown that follows change.  Change that will benefit people more than it will allegedly harm.  In a roundabout way, the Irish College of Psychiatrists have facilitated in putting the spotlight on the ongoing movement for cannabis legalisation as discussion on this topic can only go one way with the amount of evidence proving the advantages of a regulated cannabis industry. 




Cannabis – For Your Health

Nicholas looks into the various health benefits of cannabis as people begin to be more health conscious in the wake of COVID-19.

In a world that is getting more health-conscious and wary of challenges that can incur stress-related illnesses, more and more people are looking to reduce the possibility of missing out on work or life events due to unforeseen sickness brought about by a multitude of factors. One of which, of course being the effects covid-19 has on the public.  Not just in terms of what the disease can do to you physically but also the mental repercussions brought on by the resulting lockdown.  This change in behaviour coincides with the wealth of knowledge brought about from studies on cannabis in light of the surge in cannabis reform around the world.  As a result, here are some benefits cannabis has for your health.   

Pain Relief

Cannabis is home to hundreds of chemical compounds called cannabinoids which are associated with providing chronic pain relief.  Cannabinoids have been the main driving force in the medical community studying the plant for the healthcare industry.

Regulate and Prevent Diabetes

As cannabis is linked to aiding the regulation of insulin in the body, it only makes sense that cannabis can help regulate and prevent diabetes.  THCV and CBD have been proven to improve metabolism and blood glucose for those with disabilities.  The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has conducted a study showing that cannabis is linked to lowering blood pressure which can reduce the risk of heart disease, stabilised blood sugars, and improved blood circulation by keeping blood vessels open.  Cannabis compounds have also been linked to reducing intraocular pressure (fluid pressure in the eye) for people with glaucoma.[1]

Fight cancer

One of the most commonly known benefits of medicinal cannabis is its link to fighting cancer. With every year comes new research demonstrating how cannabinoids help combat cancer or at the very least, certain forms of it.

Treating Depression

As seen with the covid lockdown, depression has become fairly widespread with many not even realising that they are depressed.  The compound endocannabinoid can help stabilise a person’s moods which in part, can alleviate depression.  Endocannabinoids are naturally produced chemical compounds in the brain that affect motor control, cognition, emotions, and behaviour.

“In the animal models we studied, we saw that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior,” – Senior Research Scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD. Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.[2]

Regulate Seizures

The limited studies carried out on CBD in recent years has proven that it can help control seizures.  In the wake of such studies, more research is needed to determine the effect cannabis has on those suffering from epilepsy.  Evidence produced from anecdotal reports and laboratory studies indicates that cannabidiol (CBD) could help regulate seizures. However, due to federal regulations and limited access to cannabidiol, research on CBD has been hard to undertake.  In recent years, several studies have shown the benefit of specific plant-based CBD products in treating specific groups of people with epilepsy who have not responded to traditional therapies.[3]

Healing Bones

Studies have shown cannabidiol serves as a great treatment linked to mending broken bones, quicker than other remedies.  According to a study published by the Bone Research Laboratory in Tel Aviv, cannabidiol also helps strengthen the bone while healing, preventing a similar break from occurring in the future. Yankel Gabet of Tel Aviv’s Bone Research Laboratory, who led the study, said it “makes bones stronger during healing”, which could prevent future fractures. This process occurs as cannabidiol, or CBD, enhances the maturation of collagen, the protein in connective tissue that “holds the body together.”[4]

Helps with ADHD

Since the lockdown, people have had trouble focusing on any particular task while working remotely from home or studying through online classes.  This was nothing new to individuals with ADHD, as they tend to have challenges with cognitive performance and concentration.  Cannabis has been revealed to help promote focus and assist individuals with ADHD.  Compared to Adderall and Ritalin, cannabis is considered a safer alternative by many professionals.

“Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine…. This then has the same effect but is a different mechanism of action than stimulants like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine amphetamine, which act by binding to the dopamine and interfering with the metabolic breakdown of dopamine.” – Dr David Bearman [5]

Helps with Alcoholism

More and more studies show that cannabis is the lesser of two evils when compared to alcohol consumption.  As seen with the many benefits of cannabis, there is little argument to be made that cannabis is far safer than alcohol. While still a drug itself that isn’t entirely risk-free, a smarter way to curtail alcoholism or limit alcohol intake is by substituting it with cannabis. This was proven in a published account of cannabis substitution in a case study of a 49-year-old female alcoholic who by smoking cannabis, was successful in quitting drinking.  Within 5 months of the trial, the woman’s physical and mental health improved remarkably and within 2 years, her liver and general health returned to normal.  Her physician, Dr Tod H. Mikuriya, noted that although alcohol and cannabis differ greatly, they can both instill euphoria and detachment. But while alcohol seriously affected his patient physically and emotionally, cannabis did not produce the same negative consequences.[6]

While this isn’t an all-inclusive list, it is more of a brief assessment of the types of ailments cannabis has been proven to combat, or at the very least provide relief from.  We can only hope that these aspects of the drug are acknowledged in the coming years as we step towards a more fruitful discussion about legalising the plant. 








Lockdown – The Changing Attitudes Towards Cannabis & Alcohol

Nicholas looks into the emerging drug use trends since the pandemic began. As cannabis becomes more readily available, alcohol consumption is looking to take a hit as more and more people put down the bottle in favour of the plant.

When it comes to the discussion of drugs, addiction, risk of overdose or death, impaired driving, violence, and obesity, research indicates that cannabis may be less of a health risk than alcohol.

The pandemic has had a considerable effect on the habitual nature of people.  Many were thrown out of their routines due to new remote working schedules while others now struggled with the realisation they could no longer go to their favourite retreatants or simply blow off steam on a night out.  Many habits were disrupted which had a knock-on effect on the mindset of the individual.  Some changed for the better, introducing 30 minutes of working out a day to keep the covid weight gain at bay while others have taken up new hobbies to fill the time usually spent outdoors socialising. 

What the coronavirus has affected the most were the vices people use to reduce stress.  In a survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Curaleaf, a leading U.S provider of consumer cannabis products found that 42% of adults aged over 21 who have either never or rarely used cannabis have started or increased their consumption since the beginning of the lockdown.[1]  Conducted online in October of last year, with close to 2,000 respondents asked, the survey found the main factors people have chosen to start or increase their consumption since the pandemic began include:

  • to reduce stress and anxiety (54%; women (64%) and men (47%))
  • to relax (50%; women (50%) and men (49%))
  • to help them sleep (48%; women (52%) and men (45%))[2]

The rise in consumption is not limited to single people but rather parents of children under 18 as well.  More than 52% of parents who have never consumed cannabis stated they have started or increased their cannabis consumption compared to 33% of those who are not parents of children under 18.  The study found the parents of children were more likely to consume cannabis medicinally (58% vs 44%). 

Another interesting finding was that parents of children have begun to reduce or flat out replace their alcohol intake with cannabis.  Overall, adult cannabis consumers say they have reduced or replaced their alcohol consumption with cannabis while 33% of those who consume cannabis for adult use say they prefer cannabis to alcohol.[3]

This survey comes at a time when the cannabis industry continues to grow while the stigmatisation weakens leading to a more accepted aspect of society.  In another recent study commissioned by the Glass House Group, a California-based cannabis and hemp company, found that close to two-thirds of respondents planned to replace alcohol with cannabis over the holiday season, with 67% said this replacement would increase over the year compared to 2019.[4]

This change in attitudes towards cannabis use demonstrates that its usage is not a fad or cultural trend but that it is becoming a mainstream choice for people of all ages and backgrounds.  This can be considered a positive as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2014, close to 90,000 alcohol-induced and drinking-related deaths occurred in the United States.[5]  A stark contrast to marijuana zero deaths according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.[6]  Additionally, the American Journal of Public Health published a study that found healthy cannabis users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not consume cannabis.[7]

For critics of the plant, findings were not welcomed as more studies are conducted on the drug due to the rise of cannabis legalisation.  These studies explore the drug’s potential harms and benefits, and in 2017, the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado in Boulder published their findings on a study of the effects both alcohol and cannabis have on the brain.  The study proved cannabis use had no impact on the structure of grey or white matter in the brain of 853 adult and 439 teenage respondents. However, researchers found that alcohol use was associated with a reduction in gray matter as well as a reduction in the integrity of white matter.  [8]

“While marijuana may also have some negative consequences, it definitely is nowhere near the negative consequences of alcohol,” study co-author Kent Hutchison.

As cannabis remains illegal in most of the world, long-term studies on all of the plant’s health effects have been inadequate.  More research will be needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of cannabis but as it stands, the contrast of health effects between alcohol and cannabis is night and day, and this will influence how people approach each drug in the future.










Cannabis & COVID-19

Nicholas looks into the effects COVID-19 restrictions has had on cannabis use and how the plant could possibly be used to combat the virus itself.

March 2020 saw the world change for the worse with the introduction of lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid 19. As a result, more people have isolated themselves from others than ever before. The effects isolation has had on people started to appear with certain behaviours such as overeating, insomnia, getting distracted easily when working from home etc. One effect the lockdown has had on cannabis users is the amount they smoke. Studies show that there has been a significant increase in self-reported isolation and loneliness in large portions of the population.

This is concerning given that isolation and loneliness usually treated by increased cannabis use.[i] In light of “stay-at-home” measures and requirements for social and physical distancing and quarantines for those travelling, it is not surprising that many are turning to cannabis to cope with the stress that comes from isolation. This is not exclusive to cannabis though, the increase in alcohol consumption has gotten considerably higher to cope with the negative effects of social distancing and lack of socialising.

With the recent level 5 lockdown restrictions, more research should be conducted into understanding the impact of self-isolation and the coping motives behind related drug use. This is critical for planning necessary public health supports. While the public health measures are aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19, it has had unintended negative consequences. In an effort to avert the spread of the virus, it has inadvertently created additional problems in the form of this increased substance use. Cannabis users engaging with the rules and limiting contact with people were 20% more likely to increase their consumption of cannabis.

The increase in alcohol sales has demonstrated the reliance on substances to cope during times of stress, depression, or psychological distress due to limited access to typical sources of reinforcement. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) reported that approximately 1 in 5 individuals who consumed alcohol reported increases in alcohol consumption relative to the period before the pandemic. A survey conducted in the Netherlands showed that during the lockdown, habitual users increased their cannabis consumption in both frequency and quantity.

Of the respondents, 41.3% reported that they had increased their consumption, while 49.4% used it as often as before and only 2.8% stopped temporarily.[ii] The psychological effects of coronavirus have taken hold and the public health service needs to look more into the prevention of substance abuse during times of anxiety. Despite the negative effects that occur when abusing cannabis, research has been carried out into how cannabis could even treat Covid-19. Cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) have a history of safe use and contain numerous properties which can be beneficial in treating certain medical symptoms.

CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that serve to reduce pain and anxiety. In tandem with other cannabinoids and clinical intervention, CBD has a lot of potential to treat the symptoms of viruses such as Covid-19. As of 2021, verifiable research linking cannabinoids with the successful prevention of COVID-19 is limited, though analyses of the virus have spread light on the phenomenon of cytokine storm syndrome. Cytokines are a broad and loose category of small proteins important in cell-to-cell communication. Cytokine storm syndrome is where too many cytokine proteins are released into the body to which they attack the lungs and overwhelm the immune system with hyperinflammation. Early evidence has shown CBD and THC may very well be helpful in the treatment of patients whose bodies’ inflammatory response has become pathogenic.[iii]

The research to date has focused on the ability of cannabinoids to lower the immune system’s response without repressing it. A cannabis research and development firm based in Israel, CannaSoul Analytics, indicates that the combination of terpenes and cannabinoids used is up to two times more effective than other remedies, though their study has yet to be peer-reviewed. Another approach being investigated is the development of potential cell therapy treatment which uses CBD-loaded exosomes to treat COVID-19 patients. This treatment aims to target both central nervous system indications and the coronavirus. CBD-loaded exosomes hold the potential to provide a highly synergistic effect of anti-inflammatory properties by targeting specific damaged organs such as infected lung cells.

The complexity of application processes and the difficulty of sourcing cannabis curbs research into the medicinal potential of cannabis. In Australia, using CBD only in research activities requires an academic institution to apply for a special licence to allow it to obtain and store the cannabinoid, despite it having no psychoactive properties. The pandemic will continue until the end of the year if we are to be optimistic and this will certainly not be the last novel coronavirus we experience in our lifetime. Therefore, it is imperative that governments allow the studying of potential alternative medicine such as cannabis within research institutions and private laboratories.





Are We There Yet? – Stereotypes of Cannabis

Nicholas looks into the stereotypes cannabis users face and how these perpetrate stigmas for consuming cannabis. The ramifications of misinformation continues to benefit critics of cannabis but we are starting to see these untruths fall to the way side.

Cannabis users face a multitude of stigmas stemming from the stereotypes society has cultivated through propaganda.  The belief that cannabis makes you lazy, lethargic and more likely to consume illicit drugs, has been the main talking points for critics of cannabis, heavily suggesting its legalisation will incur severe consequences for a productive society.  These beliefs appear to have been on the decline, as extensive studies reveal how successful cannabis is in treating a variety of medical conditions. There has also been a steadily documented change in public perceptions. 

The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs carried out a study where over 1,000 participants who take legal marijuana were evaluated.  65% of the respondents said they took cannabis for pain treatment and 80% found cannabis to be helpful with other ailments.  Of the 1,000 subjects, 82% reduced or removed consumption of over-the-counter medication and 88% stated they were able to eliminate taking opioid painkillers entirely.  Cannabis was found to help 74% of respondents with their sleep issues, further demonstrating that insomnia and chronic pain are two of the most prevalent medical conditions that adults suffer from and medicinal cannabis has proven to be of major benefit in treating these afflictions without unnecessary side effects.[1]   The therapeutic qualities of cannabis have harnessed progressive communication as the health of each country’s citizens is imperative to each respective government, laying waste to stereotypes of the drug that kept open discussion from forming for so long.

As research on the plant continues to develop a general collective understanding, stereotypes cultivated through misinformation and propaganda are now being debunked.  The classic depiction of the lazy, unemployed stoner who engages in criminal activity is fuelled by the heavily politicised nature of marijuana reform.  Though studies show that even in the wake of legalisation, these stereotypes are still rampant within conservative news outlets. 

In a report published by consumer insights firm Green Horizons, cannabis consumption is primarily done alone, despite perceptions of it being a party drug. The report outlined that 6 in 10 users consume cannabis unaccompanied, with 87% smoking occasionally by themselves.  The report also found that cannabis users were more likely to be more health-conscious than their counterparts.  While this may be common within the cannabis community, it remains unknown to the public who deem drug users as irresponsible with their wellbeing.  Medicinal cannabis users are said to be “morelikely than recreational users to say that seeking/using natural or holistic remedies and staying informed about topics related to health and wellness play a big role in their life.”  The report notes, “This is consistent with findings from another study, conducted at the University of Colorado – Boulder, which found that cannabis users were exceeding the recommended amount of physical activity in comparison to non-users.”[2]

The reliance on stereotypes to dismiss cannabis benefits has always been an ethical issue.  The most harmful instances of stereotyping originate from racial profiling, where minorities are depicted as the forefront of cannabis culture and therefore, are involved in criminal activity.  The images used by news organisations often negatively depict usage, with more conservative outlets less likely to depict recreational cannabis as normal.  ‘Stock Images’ often showing a delinquent smoking a joint are one of many examples of the media using adverse imagery to reinforce the current representation of cannabis users, despite the prevailing shift in cannabis culture.  The middle classes are engaging in cannabis use more than ever compared to 20 years ago, when it was predominantly consumed by the working class.  This is a change mainstream media outlets are inclined to ignore, as it moves away from the narrative of cannabis usage only occurring within unemployed individuals residing in high crime, low-income environments. 

The most commonly known stereotype is that all cannabis users are unmotivated and lazy. The stoner mentality portrayed in film and television has laid way for the slow thinking, slow responding comedic relief character, often associated with cannabis usage.  In reality, these characteristics do not hold weight. More and more people demonstrate that they can consume cannabis regularly and be successful and motivated.  In some cases, cannabis is shown to help professional athletes in medicinal form.   A study published in 2019 by Colorado University Boulder shed light on cannabis usage and exercise.  Their findings were that 80% of users combine weed with their workout regimen.  8 out of every 10 people in states where cannabis is legal stated they used cannabis shortly before or after exercising with the majority citing cannabis as a motivator in working out or during the workout. [3]

Another common misconception is that cannabis users are uneducated and unsuccessful.  More students are using cannabis to help them with their studies than ever before, from enhancing creativity to reducing anxiety and stress caused by exams and projects in the new remote learning atmosphere.  Cannabis is universally seen as a safer option compared to pharmaceutical drugs commonly used during exam times and periods of study related stress.

As the world moves towards marijuana legalisation, it is up to the media to reinforce or debunk cannabis myths through careful consideration of how to appropriately illustrate the issue.  Media representation influences how audiences draw conclusions about the drug, allowing those who judge the character of the user to continue the stigmatisation of cannabis. 




Educated Stoner – Cannabis & Cancer: Take Five Leaves and Pray

A continuation of the Educated Stoner series by freelance journalist, producer and cannabis advocate, Sharon Letts. We encourage our readers to check out more from as she documents her experience with cannabis from beating cancer to remedy recipes, essays and books to video and podcast interviews, and much more. Twitter: @SharonLetts

The summer of 2012 a mammogram found a spider-web-like mass in my right breast. Research showed it to be “Lobular Carcinoma,” a mass, not a tumor. In the weeks leading up to the first mammogram and subsequent ultra-sound, I began ingesting raw leaves. By the time the first biopsy was done the spider web was gone with just a “target point” remaining. After bartering with my oncologist for another month, he agreed to let me continue my treatment. The strong oil used to treat cancer and other serious ailments was re-invented by Canadian Rick Simpson more than ten years ago. The recipe is specific, using bud, stem and leaf for whole plant theory and the most medicine. A medicine maker who made several batches for her husband’s prostate cancer said she first used just bud and the batch tested high in THC. Simpson encourages upwards of 95 percent THC in the mix; the second batch leaf was added and the test showed CBD; the third batch she added stems and found CBN was added – proving whole plant theory gets you the most medicine.

60 Grams in 90 Days

The treatment for RSO [Rick Simpson Oil] is to ingest 60 grams in 90 days. Suppositories are said to be best, as it gets the medicine right to the blood stream and organs for healing, not digestive processing. At 95% THC, dosing is critical with the patient starting small, initially taking a piece of oil the size of a half grain of rice. After some time a full grain of rice is taken, working up to one full gram a day until the full 60 gram treatment is gone. The most invasive cancers have been found to be gone in less than 90 days if the oil is strong enough. Other oils have come on the market as medicine makers step up. But the rule of thumb is to make sure it’s tested, as the numbers need to test high on THC and the base is made with solvent and it must be cooked down. A common mistake is to soak the plant material for days rather than a quick wash (three minutes, tops), as the medicine is in the fragile terpenes of the plant and soaking only draws in more chlorophyll to the mix and actually retains solvent, while lowering the percentage for medicinal compounds.

I can’t emphasize how strong the oil is, but the THC is necessary. The first tests on destroying tumors came from Israel in 1974, and the THC component of the plant was isolated for this reason. It will knock you down, but that’s a good thing, as the body needs rest to heal. The modern day “take a pill” and continue life as usual just doesn’t work for this treatment – but it is a life saver.

Look at me, I’m Cancer Free!

Happily the second scheduled biopsy found nothing, with the mass completely gone from both the mammogram and ultra-sound. The attending technician called it a “technical error,” stating the initial technician probably got it wrong. But I was there looking over her shoulder and saw the same distinct spider-web mass in both the mammogram and ultra-sound. An oncologist assistant was called in for lack of an attending oncologist to have a chat with me, stating sometimes there is “dense tissue” that can be confused with cancers. But his lecture on the subject was long, convoluted, and did not make sense to me at all. I was polite and reiterated that I treated myself by ingesting Cannabis oil, but he didn’t know anything about the treatment, of course, and refused to engage in a conversation.

The follow-up letter received from the lab stated they felt the “dense tissue” remaining in my breast was “probably left over from a prior surgery.” This gave me a huge laugh, as, of course, I have never had surgery in that breast or the other one, for that matter. I also felt this was an insult to my intelligence and the treatment used, but until the masses are educated on this plant we can’t expect this process to be easy. At the very least everyone involved heard my words. My cancer experience happened in 2012 and to this day I ingest with various deliveries I make myself, as follows:

• Blending raw leaf daily for digestive issues, prevention of illness, and overall well-being

(no psychoactive effects).

• Maintenance dose of RSO at night for sleep and prevention of illness and cancers.

• Cooking meals using infused oils, butter, honey, etc.

• Cocktails with infused alcohol, such as gin or rum – quelling inflammation leading to headaches and

hangovers, prevention of illness.

• Cold and flu prevention: If I feel a cold or flu coming on I up my ingesting and the infection lasts just

a couple of days.

• Use of infused topical salves, lotions, deodorant: Daily skin regiment for cancers, rashes, bug bites,

burns, acne, and numerous disorders of the skin.

• Smoking as needed for depression associated with hormonal disorders (Thyroid Disease, Menopause)

To date, the stigma is still greater than the remedy, but the times they are a-changing. With each new story of healing shared, people learn the truth. And you can’t stop the truth from spreading – thankfully, it’s a cancer in itself.

Are We There Yet? – Ireland’s Adult Cautioning Scheme

Nicholas investigates the newly amended laws regarding the possession of small amounts of cannabis.  Individuals caught with cannabis for personal use are now processed through the adult caution system where they will be referred to healthcare services, avoiding prosecution and a criminal record.

The common perception of cannabis consumption is that it is nothing short of criminal behaviour and those who partake are simply engaging in a life of crime.  This has facilitated the belief that those who consume cannabis, only do so because they are criminals.  The illegality of cannabis has cultivated the stigma that those who are arrested for possession are no different than violent thieves and should incur the full wrath of the justice system.  This belief is easy to maintain as those arrested are nameless faces to the public eye, left for the mind to profile as villainousness thugs, hellbent on enabling others to participate in what the uninformed consider to be not only an addictive substance but also a drug that prompts its users to engage in violent activity. 

This stigma is nothing new nor exclusive to Ireland.  The history of controlling cannabis narratives has dated centuries, as a means of controlling the population and to keep order intact.  However, in recent times, many are waking up to the realisation that cannabis consumption is becoming more and more common among different backgrounds and age groups.  Whatever fear cannabis may have had attributed to it has fallen to the wayside as more and more people engage in recreational usage and experimentation.  Most people, at the very least, know of someone that has experimented with cannabis, the anonymous boogieman of weed culture has died along with the hivemind complex that ensured cannabis usage remained a criminal activity in the eyes of the public.  As these barriers fall with each year, public perception changed along with it.  And while we have a long road ahead of us in terms of cannabis reform, we can be pleased that certain aspects of the law are diminished to reflect what we now know of the drug. 

On the 2nd of August 2019, it was announced following the government’s new National Drugs Strategy, that first- and second-time drug offenders will avoid a criminal conviction for possession in a policy that looks to focus on the health of the individual rather than criminality of drug use.  The policy came into operation in 2020 after being announced by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, and the Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne.  This initiative now allows those caught with possession to be referred to the HSE for a health screening for their first offence.  Upon a second offence, the Gardai will have the discretion to give an adult caution.  Upon a third offence, Gardai will treat it within the criminal justice system as it was, before the initiative.  This will dramatically cut down on the 12,000+ incidents of drug possession for personal use, as recorded in 2017. 

At the launch, Simon Harris stated: “This approach will not decriminalise drug use; it is a mechanism to defer people to health and social services for help and support. Ministers Flanagan, Byrne and I are very clear that there are no plans to legalise any type of drugs, including cannabis.”

Nevertheless, this is a step forward in the treatment of those who recreationally or medically use cannabis, as this new health-led approach to tackling illegal drug use will aid the user in getting treatment rather than slapping a drug conviction to their name, essentially destroying their opportunities later in life.  The new measures will incur €750,000 a year in staff costs to facilitate the 10,000 additional health screenings needed to implement the new measures.   In the end, people caught with cannabis will be connected to those in the health services as a means to support the individual in their road to recovery. 

While campaigners for cannabis reform sought to bring about the decriminalisation of smaller amounts of drugs, this was described as a “significant day” for Irish society by Harris.   Despite the lack of compassion Harris has demonstrated in the roll-out of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, this initiative at least recognises drug users as human beings instead of hardened criminals.

The process of being deferred to the HSE begins upon the Gardai finding that the individual is in possession of an illegal drug.  They will refer them to a screening service provided by the HSE where they will have an intervention with a Healthcare Worker.  Should the Healthcare Worker identify that the individual has a drug problem, they will be offered treatment.  Depending on the circumstances, the person may also be referred to social services or harm reduction to aid in their recovery.  Attendance of this process is then confirmed to the Gardai. 

This initiative came about after a public consultation into the matter.  From a questionnaire launched in 2016 [1], nearly 90% of the respondents supported the removal of criminal penalties for drug possession of small amounts.  From the data, the majority agreed the elimination of these penalties would encourage people to seek treatment for their drug use.  

This is a far cry from Portugal’s model.  In 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalised illegal drug use, a move that led to a dramatic reduction in drug-related crimes.  Instead of being brought before the criminal courts, Portuguese users will be forced to appear in front of a special addiction panel.  While this results in additional costs for the healthcare sector, it greatly reduces the costs to the state to imprison the individual. 

Possession for personal use should never be indictable.  With a system that offers multiple adult cautions and diversions to treatment as alternatives, the individual can seek for resolve in their addiction or dependence.  This behaviour can stem from personal factors such as the environments we are raised in, to the hereditary nature of drug use.  We are making the necessary steps forward as a country in acknowledging that people caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis are not the criminals the public psyche may consider them to be.  We are a long way from decriminalisation, but the introduction of this scheme demonstrates we are breaking the shackles of ignorance and control, as we move towards open channels of communication on drug use and how the government appropriately manages the rise of recreational cannabis use in Ireland.


Drug Driving Testing – Will the Ends Justify the Means

Nicholas looks into the Drug Driving Testing protocol rolled out in 2017 by the Road Safety Authority and the powers given to An Garda Síochána to implement these procedures.  What are the repercussions for cannabis users in Ireland who know to drive responsibly but still have THC in their system?

Since 2017, An Garda Síochána have carried out Roadside Preliminary Drug Testing to combat the dangers of driving under the influence.  The initiative, set up by the Road Safety Authority, ensures the welfare of drivers in Ireland and seeks to identify and penalise those impaired.  On the 13th of April 2017, An Garda Síochána were given the power to test drivers orally for Cannabis, Opiates, Benzodiazepines and Cocaine either at the roadside or in a Garda station.  The process is facilitated by Dräger saliva drug testing kits which provide a quick and non-invasive diagnostic system that can be used for either mobile or stationary applications.  

While there is a law against driving under the influence of drugs wherein the driver’s ability is compromised to the extent where they do not have proper control of the vehicle, there is also a secondary law that prohibits driving under the influence of certain drugs even if they do not impair the driver.  These drugs are cannabis, heroin, and cocaine and if drivers are found with any of these substances in their system are above a specified limit, drivers can be prosecuted for drug driving despite having the wherewithal to manage the vehicle.  When rolling out the program, the RSA ran a thorough online media campaign in raising awareness of the new drug testing powers entrusted to the Gardaí.  The campaign featured short videos outlining how the tests were to be administered and the consequences should a test provide a positive result.

You will find very little pushback to the implementation of such a program as driving under the influence is a major problem in Ireland with 118 roadside deaths accounted for in 2020 alone.[1]  However, testing procedures and analysis for cannabis has created a few issues in the integrity of the drug-testing program.  Should an individual smoke cannabis on a Friday, despite being sober the following morning, a roadside test could incur a positive result as that individual still had cannabis residue in their saliva.  This results in a penalty for drug driving but not for driving under the influence.  While the driver was in full control of their vehicle and had the ability to make split decisions if need be, the driver is at fault for consuming an illegal substance rather than having said substance affect their ability to drive. 

This is quite disconcerting not just for recreational users but also those that briefly experiment with cannabis as resin can still be detected in the bloodstream up to 30 days after consumption or months depending on how frequent you smoke.[2]  Those in receipt of a medical exemption certificate and avail of medicinal marijuana must always carry it when driving.  Though as seen with the recent rollout of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, only a miniscule number of drivers will be able to avail of the medical exemption.

Over the counter, medicines are not detected by the test though products such as Neurofen and Solpadine contain opiates which can be detected in the driver’s oral fluid.  As long as the Gardaí conclude that the driver is not impaired, they can drive off. 

There is no argument that the work Gardaí carries out in drug testing at roadside is needed as drink driving is a serious issue with driving under the influence of drugs labelled an offence since 1961.  Since 1999, An Garda Síochána has had the assistance of The Medical Bureau of Road Safety in testing drivers.  The issue falls into the latest power given to the Gardaí in preliminary drug tests at the roadside or a station.  This new policy was underpinned in the Road Traffic Act 2016 and allows the Gardaí to carry out these tests.  Before, a garda needed to have a specific reason to stop a driver under suspicion of driving under the influence of an illicit drug before they could take any action.  The scheme is not exclusive to Ireland as the Drager Drug Test 5000 is used internationally to enforce road traffic laws in countries such as Germany, Spain, Australia, and Britain. 

The test itself takes 1 minute to collect the oral sample and 8 minutes to process.  It is conducted at roadside, where the driver’s oral fluid is taken and processed with the Drager testing kit.  Should the test result in a positive, it is up to the Gardaí to determine whether the driver is impaired enough to drive carefully.  If they are of the opinion that the driver is impaired, an arrest can be made, and a further urine or blood specimen will be requested which will be tested by The Medical Bureau of Road Safety at a later date. 

A spokesperson from An Garda Síochána said that “the oral fluid test is not used for evidential purposes but as an indicator of the presence of drugs. Prosecutions will be taken on the basis of the blood test conducted following arrest.”

The kit utilises a technique called lateral flow immunoassay to detect whether any drugs are in the driver’s system and refusal to take part is an offence which can lead to a €5,000 fine or imprisonment up to 6 months or possibly both.  The repercussions positive drivers face is no different from the penalties currently in place for drink driving.  There are thresholds put in place for cannabis and should the driver’s result go above the limit of 10ng/ml, it will be considered an offence and the Gardaí will not need to prove impairment for arrest.  A disqualification period as decided by a judge will result from a conviction of drug driving. 

When asked whether it would be safe to drive after a single cannabis joint, Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau stated:

“This is the problem with cannabis. When you are drinking alcohol, the measures are regulated.  The trouble with cannabis is it is not regulated. And we know – compared to say 20 or 30 years ago – what is in joints now, what people put in, they do not know the concentration or the strength or effect.  That is the problem when you say, ‘am I safe with one joint?’ … I would have to go back and say it is the same as alcohol. Don’t drink and drive, don’t take drugs and drive.”[3]

It has been recommended by the Gardaí that if you are a recreational smoker, you should wait 24 hours before driving after consuming cannabis.  If you are certain you are no longer impaired and more than 6 hours have elapsed since last using it, it should not be possible for the test to discover 9 – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels higher than the detection limit. 

Due to the unregulated nature of marijuana consumption, how long THC stays in the driver’s system is not as straightforward as it seems.  A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said:

“The oral fluid test has a THC cut-off of 10ng/ml. Generally, THC levels in oral fluid are typically less than 10ng/ml 6 hours after last use, but this depends on many factors such as tolerance, dose, potency etc.”[4]

Nevertheless, a study in The Clinical Chemistry Journal in 2012 produced results that THC was still detectable in a person’s saliva for periods for 2 to 22 hours among a group of people who smoked one joint with a 6.8% concentration level.  Therefore, for chronic users of cannabis, THC elimination rates are slower, and THC remains detectable in the body for longer periods compared to users who consume cannabis infrequently.  It is still problematic to accurately identify how long the body dispels THC to not be detected after use. 

Many have lost loved ones to improper road safety, so it is imperative that road safety measures are put in place to tackle impaired driving but in doing so comes the infringement of certain liberties.  The regulation of cannabis would solve this issue as consumers would have access to a range of potencies and strains of cannabis, making it easier to understand whether you are over or under the limit, no different than alcohol.   The Road Safety Authority stated from April 2017 to July 2019, 68% of drivers with drugs in their system tested positive for cannabis.[5]  With 2 out of every 3 drug tested drivers resulting positive for cannabis, it demonstrates just how normalised cannabis consumption has become in Ireland.

It would be hard to convict anyone with cannabis in their system as it can stay in the bloodstream for up to 7 days and hair follicles for up to 3 months.  There are very little means to determine at what point did the driver ingest the drug.  As it is an oral test, THC can only be detected for up to 12 to 24 hours, however, if it is the metabolites of THC that are sought after then it can be detected up to several months depending on the usage.  The problem found here is the government does not have an answer as to what they are specifically looking for.  It looks like this law unfairly targets cannabis users as just trace amounts of THC can result in a fine even if the Gardaí cannot accurately prove if the driver has impaired or not. 

There are hundreds of thousands of cannabis users in Ireland and are otherwise law-abiding citizens who do not deserve to have their lives affected by such intrusive procedures.  It remains to be seen whether the Drager Drug Test can confidently convict drivers of cannabis use.






Educated Stoner – Evangelizing Cannabis: Praise the Lord & Pass the Pipe!

A continuation of the Educated Stoner series by freelance journalist, producer and cannabis advocate, Sharon Letts. We encourage our readers to check out more from as she documents her experience with cannabis from beating cancer to remedy recipes, essays and books to video and podcast interviews, and much more. Twitter: @SharonLetts

The past five years I’ve covered six states, three countries, and thousands of miles in a state of Divine Intervention, with people suffering from real illness put in front of me like little animals to St. Francis of Assisi. I often feel like Theresa Caputo, “The Long Island Medium” (less the hair and nails). Spirits come to her like patients are put in front of me, daily. Either I meet people with real illness, or they know someone suffering under traditional care – there are no coincidences – or, maybe everyone is just getting sicker? When I tell people Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO, put my breast cancer into remission, most don’t believe it. But, when sitting on this kind of knowledge it becomes a responsibility to share. It’s actually the only way to get the word out, for no Department of Health Services will be passing out pamphlets any time soon. Those who know must “be the pamphlet.”

Physician Heal Thyself

While travelling in Eastern Washington State my lower back went out, leaving me helpless with severe spasms in my sciatica. Anyone who has suffered from the pain of sciatic spasms knows what I’m talking about. The second the swollen muscle or tendon presses a nerve against a bone, the pain is excruciating and can level a grown man in a second. Out of real medicine, a visit to Urgent Care disappointed, as the Doctor was a cold fish about my Cannabis use for pain, only offering opioids or a steroid injection. Even then she could not promise the spasms would be gone. Cannabis makes them go away, I informed, but she wouldn’t engage. I finally asked if the clinic was federally funded.

To this she gave a knowing and firm, “Yes”. She couldn’t have talked about this good medicine if she wanted to. The nurse listened attentively, however, and confided in me when the doctor was out of ear shot that she was suffering from spasms in her legs, and how could she get some of this medicine? She shared this with me as she stood (all day) at a computer taking down patient information. My heart sank to hear her situation, and I shared what I could. She not only “liked” my fan page on Facebook, she read an essay I penned on pain management and sent me a note of thanks.

All Aboard the Wellness Train!

On a train recently, the conductor announced if anyone on board had nausea medicine. Now, the ramifications of me helping someone with Cannabis are great. Firstly, I’m not a doctor; I’m merely an enlightened Cannabis patient. Secondly – well, there are enough reasons why I shouldn’t help, but my mom is looking down on me from Heaven, this is God’s medicine, and she didn’t raise someone who sits on their hands. No matter the consequences, I adjusted my proverbial Florence Nightingale hat, put my faith on the rule of the rail’s “right of way,” and headed down to the car in question with my little bottle of Nternal Oil, a light oil made in the Bay Area of California, with very little psychoactive properties due to the low heat process used. There sat one very sickly passenger and all eyes were on me as I announced, “I have medicine that works great for nausea, but it’s made from Cannabis.”

To this, I get the usual blank stares, and I must use the dreaded word, “Are you familiar with Marijuana?” (You know, I really wanted to say “The Marijuana.”) To this, her eyes light up, knowingly, and I ask if she has a teaspoon. The looks on the faces surrounding this woman are priceless as she takes the dose. She thanks me and I wish her well, making my way back to my seat. Checking on her two hours later, she is found chatting it up with the woman next to her, a drink in one hand and food in the other. “How are you feeling?” I inquire, already knowing the answer.  To which she replies with eyebrows raised, “I’m feeling better,” as if surprised at the outcome.

No Coincidences

Stories are all around me. Sitting in the waiting room at a local lab in Humboldt County, California where I live, a woman next to me explains how her 45 year old daughter is getting an MRI done for a brain tumor. The woman was confined to a wheel chair with multiple health issues, including chronic pain, depression, and PTSD for a past trauma. Her daily prescription cocktail consisted of more than 20 pharmaceuticals and for the most part she was bedridden on a daily basis. One thing led to another and I informed of my work and my own healing with the plant. Both the woman and her mother were Cannabis patients, only smoking to relieve symptoms and complications from numerous prescription meds, as is the norm, but bud is expensive and they couldn’t always medicate as needed.

To make a long story short, within weeks I was able to introduce them to a local dispensary for its “Compassionate Care Program,” and today (some months later) she is out of the wheelchair, had progressed to a walker, and is now walking of her own volition. She’s also done away with more than 10 prescription meds to date.

Can I get a witness?

The minute someone is educated on this plant, lives are changed. And I don’t say that lightly. While the psychoactive properties of the plant can be challenging, lower percentage strains are being hybridized and grown everyday now, with real medicine being made with lesser or non-psychoactive effects. Safe access is crucial in getting the medicine to the masses in legal and medicinally legal states, but even the best dispensaries need to know about ingesting and provide many options for many ailments. Once someone knows the benefits of this plant, they are compelled to share. All we have are our words.

These are mine: The Lord as my witness, I will Evangelize Cannabis until the last non-violent, failed Drug War patient is released. I will sing this truth to the heavens until God smiles down upon me with thanks for praising his good work. Though I may be called a conspiracy theorist, I will walk through the valley of Cannabis and know that it is good. Amen.

Educated Stoner – High Art: Cannabis & Muse

A continuation of the work of freelance journalist, producer and cannabis advocate, Sharon Letts.  We encourage our readers to check out more from as she documents her experience with cannabis from beating cancer to remedy recipes, essays and books to video and podcast interviews, and much more. Twitter: @SharonLetts

When I became pregnant with my daughter at 29, I sadly left the herb behind to be what I thought was a responsible and upstanding single mom. At 13, my daughter was diagnosis with Fibromyalgia, an auto-immune system malady causing chronic pain and other debilitating complications. By 16, she couldn’t attend school, couldn’t play softball or do any of the physical activities she loved. When she was 16, a friend acquired a small bag of weed off the black market for her to try, stating it would help ease the pain. I rolled a joint for the first time in years and we sat in the garden, puffing and passing. She didn’t like the euphoric feeling from the THC and that afternoon we spent a full three hours thrift shopping until the effects wore off. So, there I was with this little bag of green. What to do? I was sorry I couldn’t help my daughter, but after all those years of abstinence it made me feel just as good as it did years prior. I decided to forget about the stigma, created a workshop in the garage and let the muse in.

An earlier diagnosis of Thyroid Disease had me 50 pounds overweight, and smoking soon found me walking my neighborhood with a camera, bringing home broken bits of things, becoming an assemblage artists in the process. Cannabis speeds up metabolism and in a matter of weeks I was dropping pounds. You’d think I would have gained more weight by smoking, but contrary to popular marijuana myth, the plant actually got me up off the couch and out into the world again. I started smoking again in spring and by summertime I had stopped watching television, lost the 50 pounds, gained some muscle back, pitched a tent in the garden and slept out under the stars until the rains came in the fall. Yes, my muse was fully activated. I loved smoking again! What fun, what pleasure! I could check into my little workshop, take a few hits and create to my heart’s content. My day job of writing for television prospered, as well, as I excelled creatively and professionally. Yes, everything I’ve ever written has been done fully medicated – be it for television, dailies, weeklies, or magazines.

It’s how I connect with that place. I don’t know how it works and I don’t care, I’m just grateful. My newfound health had me yearning for a different life and soon my daughter and I made the move to Northern California and Humboldt County, where she enrolled in college and I began writing for newspapers. Humboldt County is synonymous with Cannabis and I slowly realized that most of my co-workers above and below the administrative line were involved somehow in the industry out of need, as Humboldt is a rural area and the hunting, fishing, and lumber industries were a shadow of what they once were. Minimum wage jobs beg subsidizing, and savvy residents grow, trim, and make product to get by. And though I’ve never grown, I’ve learned the ins and outs of this region and its estimated 14 billion dollar industry. As a features writer covering human interest stories in the county, when the daily newspaper I was writing for began to lay off staff, I was the first to be let go.

But the muse persisted, and soon I began writing a series for a local weekly titled, “Behind the Curtain”, with a play on words of the “Redwood Curtain”, the protective shroud that keeps Humboldt so very rural and cozily covert. Published prior to California’s failed attempt at legalization via Proposition 19, it put a human face on the Nor Cal grow scene, detailing the ins and outs of living and working in a grow house and all that implies, as the neighborhoods of the area are changed forever supporting an indoor scene. The series also began my newfound career in writing about Cannabis as medicine, and today I write internationally on the subject, penning many stories each month for magazines profiling everything to do with good medicine. Smoking made me feel better physically, but it also helped me find my artistic center once again – and that, in turn, made me emotionally happier.

At 50, I could not have found my medicine at a better time, for that’s when the body begins to change and weaken and Cannabis acts almost as a “Fountain of Youth,” if you will. It’s a rejuvenator of the body and rights the wrongs that cause us to have myriad modern day ailments that seem to lead everyone to pain, depression, and deathful disease. And for finding one’s muse, it’s a must, with the moral of this story being, if you have found your medicine smoke-up, eat your weed,  be happy and healthy and your weed will never let you down.