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Cannabis Education

Dr. Thomas Macsay: The Intersection of Naturopathy and CBD

We recently connected with Dr. Macsay for this written interview covering the intersection of CBD and other naturopathic medicines, Neurogan‘s specific approach to the CBD industry, the need for more cannabinoid education among consumers, and more!


Ganjapreneur: What is your personal relationship with CBD & cannabis?

Dr. Thomas Macsay: I have been using Cannabis intermittently since I was 15 years old, but I was always intrigued by it and its relationship to countercultures from a young age, so I have quite a long relationship with it. It was definitely the first plant, as it is for many, that really grabbed my curiosity due to its powerful neurological effects. My initial experiences with cannabis opened up my mind to a whole new world of plant possibilities and powers that I was previously aware of but never really had the visceral knowledge of what that meant.

My intermittent relationship has been quite interesting. When I was younger I only smoked with friends during school breaks and holidays, but as I started making my way through college it became a tool that helped me deal with boredom and stress related to school. During the end of my second year of college, I was living in my family’s house with a group of friends who would regularly have many other friends over to smoke cannabis. To make a long story short, I ended up getting arrested after the cops were called one night as I chose to take the blame for all the cannabis and paraphernalia in the house.

I sadly hadn’t even been smoking that night as I was studying for an exam the next day and was waiting to get dinner with my girlfriend at the time. As I sat in the cell I regretted taking the blame as I truly believed I had surely ruined my chances of becoming a doctor or being able to have a successful career that would allow me to live a life of comfort and contentment. Furthermore the fact that I was not a citizen of the country also led to a 7-year immigration case that prevented me from traveling to my home country to see any of my extended family.

For most of those 7 years, I had very little desire to smoke cannabis at all as it would trigger feelings and sensations of panic, paranoia, stress…. all the typical side effects of cannabis consumption. It wasn’t until I was back in medical school and feeling the stress and pressure of pursuing 2 doctorates while working with multiple non-profits and medical associations that I decided to start using cannabis again as a stress reliever. I will proudly say that cannabis helped me immensely when studying daunting and boring subjects, dealing with overwhelming stress while giving me the ability to let go of the thoughts constantly running through my mind.

We live in a hustle and bustle world that is hard not to get caught up in, I believe cannabis can alter the lens we view it through to help relieve some of the burden of the experience that many adults and young adults feel on a day to day basis. After years of consuming cannabis again, I have become more deeply interested in cannabis and its effects in combination with other plant medicines. It has truly been a joy to share and learn more about this powerful plant over this time span.

I can’t say that I have always enjoyed cannabis, but I have always, always deeply respected it as a powerful medicine and healing tool, something that anyone should be able to consume and use if they so choose.

How did you originally get involved in the CBD industry?

I got my start in the CBD industry a few years ago after a lifelong interest in herbal medicine and cannabis. I was approached with opportunities that would allow me to marry a formal medical education with various backgrounds in herbalism and natural therapies. I began work on formulating products for two companies concurrently with one being a cutting edge supplement brand while the other was a traditional herbalism based CBD brand. The former products were developed with the help of a team of pharmacists and doctors working together to produce one of a kind nanotech herbal extract capsules paired with CBD. The latter being a company that I co-founded and managed development, branding, marketing, production, logistics, and sales.

I was extremely motivated to jump into these opportunities headfirst when they were presented to me. Here was a true, so-called door or gateway, through CBD into people’s minds that had previously been closed off to plant-based medicine and alternative therapies. If masses of people were recognizing the powerful effects of a plant-based extract then surely they would understand that plants as a whole offer a plethora of healing qualities and medicinal constituents. This would be an even more likely possibility if CBD and hemp extracts were directly combined with other medicinal plants (we now see tons of companies with combination products)

The companies I worked with made it their mission and vision to offer educational platforms that not only provided safe and efficacious products but also medically relevant educational information about alternative therapies and plant-based medicine directly from a team of doctors passionate about cannabis and holistic medicine. Furthermore, we focused our abilities to provide clinical-grade products made to the highest standards so they could be used as tools by healthcare practitioners.

Throughout the process of helping build and launch these companies, I was able to spend time working and living on hemp farms, in hemp drying facilities, and extraction facilities as well. With a broad overview of the hemp industry, I have begun consulting with a few select companies who align with my mission as a cannabis professional and have also begun working with international clients to provide clinical training and oversight regarding CBD for physicians who are otherwise inexperienced or uneducated on its use as a powerful tool in clinical practice.

How is Neurogan’s product development process influenced by your extensive wellness background?

I have worked with Neurogan to make sure that the information that we put forward regarding our products and their articles/press is medically relevant and accurate. We have worked together to provide simple, yet powerful tools that customers and patients can use to find a safe and effective product while taking the right dose of that product. Together we hope to continue providing information, as well as honest, and transparent articles regarding CBD and other botanical-based medicine. Lastly, we will be working on products that combine herbal medicine and hemp together in unique yet powerful ways that provide an extremely enjoyable end-user experience.

Why does Neurogan choose to use Danish hemp in the production process? Does the team work with local farmers or have a farm in Denmark?

Being a Danish citizen myself, I know firsthand how fertile and lush nature is throughout Denmark. Pristine small family farms dot the countryside connecting small townships throughout much of the country outside of the city centers. Many families have direct ties to the land, and these farms provide much of the food that people in the country eat which keeps things local and fresh. Along with this comes closer ties to the earth and its bounty which means that many people still rely on old folk remedies or medicinal plants that grow in the wild.

The Vikings also have a long history of using hemp for creating rope, clothes, and more which Neurogan decided to continue by tapping into close family ties at these farms in the countryside. Today Neurogan grows the bulk of its hemp on their family farm in Denmark, with every aspect owned and operated by the owners of Neurogan, so that the standards of cultivation can remain high and in line with the quality Neurogan loves to deliver.

Why did the company decide to launch a high-potency CBD line? Can you describe the research and development process that goes into creating new Neurogan products?

Having a high potency line is essential for any company that wants to align with the medicinal and healing qualities of CBD and hemp as a whole, as opposed to companies who are making various products such as energy drinks, candy, and other enticing edibles that do not provide much of a dose or any dose at all for that reason.

Yes, CBD can have great benefits for the casual user, but the people who really need it are those with advanced and complex diseases that may not have any other safe or effective alternative therapies left. For individuals with diseases that require a higher dose of CBD, it is important that they have access to high-potency products at a fair price. Furthermore, many clinicians will require higher doses of CBD or cannabinoids in general as a part of a treatment plan giving Neurogan a place on every doctor’s shelf.

With so many products making false claims, how can a CBD consumer be more knowledgeable and make an educated decision when shopping?

It’s tough being a CBD consumer in today’s market. This is especially true when the highest quality and most renowned products are typically more expensive which will lead some to search for cheaper options.

First and foremost, companies that make explicit claims or offer their products as a potential treatment option for any medical condition shouldn’t be trusted as they are operating outside of their legal scope. Flashy claims are always made to entice the consumer to buy a product that may or may not work for them. These types of products are likely of lower quality and cost less than premium brands in the marketplace.

Education is absolutely essential for individuals who are shopping for CBD products. There are countless online resources that focus only on cannabis and hemp-related education. If the website does not sell any products and provides well-sourced articles, it’s likely a good source of information that is unbiased and free of marketing tactics. Most premium brands will also provide great educational material and transparency when it comes to their operations, processes, and products.

Real CBD companies are legally required to provide testing results on their products. This allows customers to see for themselves if the product they’re getting contains the stated CBD values and is free of impurities. Companies who refuse to share their testing results or do not provide them with a product purchase may have something to hide and should be considered carefully.

Finally, anyone considering CBD or cannabis-based products to treat health problems should consult a primary care physician and/or a cannabis health professional. Health professionals, especially those with a strong understanding of cannabis-based medicine, will be able to direct you towards a reputable product with a dose and form that is appropriate for your needs.

The company recently held a test of 12 CBD products, finding no CBD in any of them. Why did Neurogan use their resources to conduct this research, and what does it say about the ever-expanding CBD market?

Neurogan was hoping to shed light on the fact that there are still many shady and fraudulent companies/individuals who are trying to take advantage of the uninformed customer who is looking to find an affordable product or is maybe buying a hemp/cannabis-based product for the first time and is hoping to find something cheaper. This, unfortunately, is not something new, and there are many shady underground sources of “CBD” or “hemp oil” products on the market that may or may not have any cannabinoids in them. Even worse, these products will have other narcotics or agents added to them to increase the effects experienced by the consumer.

Individuals need to be educated on these facts as they can be harmed by fake products or they may just be throwing their money away. In either case, Neurogan wants to help protect consumers from these types of companies/individuals who sell fake products while also providing information on how to find a proper product and how one can read a chemical analysis to tell if the product actually contains the number of cannabinoids as stated on the label.

Unfortunately, this trend of fake products will likely continue into the future as laws are set in stone and proper oversight from the FDA and DEA shapes up. Until then information is the most powerful weapon that we can provide to individuals in order to prevent them from wasting their money or risking consumption of harmful agents.

How does Neurogan maintain transparency in their product line from seed to sale?

Neurogan seeks to maintain complete transparency through every step of the cultivation process, which is easy for us, because we have a hand in each step.

All of the crops are grown at founder Dan Hamp’s family farm in his home country of Denmark. We love growing outdoor hemp in Denmark because the country’s conditions are perfect from April to October to slow-grow full-spectrum, high-quality CBD in soil free of heavy-metals and harmful pesticides. Once the crops are in full bloom, they are picked and dried over a two-month period before the whole hemp plant is granulated into pellets and sent to the United States.

The team receives the hemp on-site in San Diego, CA and the hemp is incorporated into custom, handmade recipes in our GMP certified facility. All finished products are sent to a third party laboratory and tested for quality before being sold to customers.

As you can see, each step is integral to providing transparency and quality that customers can trust.

Neurogan products have higher doses and are broad-spectrum; how does this benefit the consumer compared to lower dose products? What is the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum?

Full-spectrum products include the full range of cannabinoids; THC, CBD, and over 100 other cannabinoids. Studies have shown that plant extracts that are considered full-spectrum typically have increased benefits and lower dosage with decreased side effects. This happens as a result of the components in the extract interacting with each other and the body’s receptors.

Broad-spectrum extracts are almost identical to full-spectrum extracts except for the fact that they do not contain any THC. This means that a Neurogan’s broad spectrum product still provides much of the synergistic qualities seen with a full-spectrum extract but is just right for those who prefer to avoid THC ingestion at all costs.

By providing a wide and higher range of dosages, Neurogan offers products that will be effective at helping many customers alleviate complaints with targeted dosages at a fair price point. Lower dosed products can still be very expensive and may not have enough CBD to even help customers deal with some of their complaints. These products are typically also isolated or are made with lower quality extracts that can be unsafe or completely ineffective for the consumer.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to educating consumers about the benefits of CBD?

The biggest obstacle to educating the consumer is probably the consumer. People always want a quick fix and they want it cheap, or they want it to be enjoyable to consume. Most of all people want to notice something right away.

Unfortunately, every single individual will react differently to the same dose of CBD consumed at the exact same time in the same setting. This is due to a myriad of reasons including genetics, diet, toxin load, medication use, mood, and so on. This means that some people will feel nothing when they take a high-quality hemp product, while some others may feel extremely “high” at the same dose.

People from both sides of the spectrum may give up on the product right away or may change their dose drastically where it either becomes ineffective or begins causing uncomfortable side effects. This is one of the reasons it is always stressed that individuals should consult their health care professional when beginning any supplements or alternative based treatment therapies.

At the end of the day, education, especially a drastic perspective shift from a typical western medicine mindset to one that takes the perspective of plant-based alternative therapies takes time. People aren’t always patient enough to take the time to educate themselves on a topic that is in itself a vast and still developing topic. This is especially true if said individual did not have a pleasant or noticeable experience their first time around with plant-based medicine.

On top of this, the western medicine mindset continues to push plants out of the picture even though many of the most common drugs are derived from plant constituents, and that the word drug itself was originally used to describe a medicinal plant. There are now thousands upon thousands of articles that prove herbal medicine can be an equal therapeutic agent, and sometimes more effective, compared to many common medications used in clinical practice today.

Without proper acknowledgment of human tendencies and biases, it makes it hard for people to look past these facts and truly begin tapping into plants as medicinal agents. Fortunately, many people do become intrigued by the beneficial effects experienced when taking a CBD product which tends to lead them down a path of education and insight into cannabis as a whole.

Does Neurogan get involved in the local community and economy? How does the company support other entrepreneurs in the space?

As a small family-owned company, Neurogan loves to support other underdogs, and we mean that in a very real sense. Nearly two years ago, we began showing our support for San Diego-based non-profit, The Animal Pad (TAP), who rescues dogs from the streets of San Diego and Mexico. We’ve provided donations, campaigns, and initiatives in support of TAP, alongside featuring their pups on the front of our Neurogan CBD pet treat bags and having nearly 5 employees from our office adopt TAP pooches to date. We’re thrilled by the thought that our premium pet CBD has the potential to help rescue pets feel more at home.

Additionally, with San Diego being such a health and wellness conscious community, we’ve been proud to provide donations and give support to local wellness practitioners and entrepreneurs; from nutritionists, to yoga teachers, to reiki masters, and more. As a brand, we’re focused on providing people with products that can bring them the gift of wellness and in partnering with individuals who are determined to do the same through their services, we know we’re in good company.

As a business, we offer private label products to those looking to start their own CBD businesses and have really enjoyed the business consultancy role this has placed us in, as CBD is a difficult space to get started in. When it comes to our direct customers, we put a lot of our efforts towards educating our community not only when it comes to CBD, but when it comes to the importance of supporting local. We model this by doing the same ourselves and fighting to prompt a shift in thought when it comes to thoughtful consumption on every level.


Thank you, Dr. Macsay, for answering our questions about Neurogan and the state of the CBD marketplace. Visit Neurogan.com to learn more about our guest.

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Cannabis Education

Survey: 70% of Cannabis Consumers Haven’t Heard of Terpenes

A survey examining the profile of the “modern cannabis consumer” by Oasis Intelligence found that 70 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the terms “terpenes” and “entourage effect” despite a recent industry push to market the terms as points of differentiation.

Oasis Intelligence co-founder Laura Albers told The Fresh Toast that people in the industry “have a real advantage when it comes to understanding the plant from a scientific, regulation and usage perspective that is generally a requirement for those in the space.”

“However, when it comes to the average consumer, we see the needs for education are not about more advanced topics that the industry may prioritize—think terpenes, minor cannabinoids gaining popularity or even the endocannabinoid system.” – Albers to the Fresh Toast

Additionally, the cannabis consumer insight firm found half of consumers use cannabis for medical and wellness reasons, while one in five made no distinction between using cannabis for health and wellness and recreationally.

Nearly half of consumers – 48 percent – last used cannabis with someone else, a partner or a friend, and those bonds seem to drive how consumers get their information as 43 percent of respondents said friends were their “number one” source for getting cannabis information. Moreover, one in four surveyed said their last cannabis purchase was through a family member – which was more than those who purchased via a delivery service; another 22 percent said the recommendation of friends is their “primary driver” to trying a new product.

The company notes that brands and companies “can’t overlook the power of this network effect” and suggested that referral program “could have a significant impact” on harnessing the trust people have in close friends and family. Oasis notes that the study took place during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and at that time friends and family “were a more likely source for purchasing cannabis than delivery services.”

Slightly more than half of the respondents (51 percent) said they looked to cannabis to treat anxiety, while 44 percent use it to help with depression and another 31 percent for insomnia. Oasis notes that making health or wellness claims about cannabis products runs afoul of federal laws “but the reward will be high” for companies who can both operate within the parameters of Food and Drug Administration guidance, specifically on CBD, “while conveying that they can be trusted for wellness benefits.”

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Smoking Weed When You Have Tourette Syndrome

In July 2019, Pennsylvania added Tourette syndrome to the list of conditions that qualify for medicinal cannabis use. Contributor Lorena Cupcake explains what Tourette syndrome is and looks at the place of cannabis when it comes to Tourette syndrome, using their own experiences as a medical cannabis patient.

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month is recognized from May 15th to June 15th each year, inspiring some of the estimated 100,000 people living with Tourette Syndrome nationwide to share their stories with the hashtag #TouretteAwarenessMonth. As a medical cannabis patient — qualified due to my diagnosis — I’m sharing my experiences managing my condition with cannabis to help fill in the gaps in a field with little published research.

The research of neurology is hindered by the limitations of non-invasive techniques; my brain may only reveal some secrets after I’m dead. I’m telling my story while I’m still here so the conversation on the future role of cannabis in treating Tourette Syndrome can grow and gain momentum, leading to more high-quality studies, a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes biological functions, and increased access to decriminalized cannabis. Currently, only seven states including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have specifically approved Tourette Syndrome as a condition for medicinal cannabis use.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Tourette syndrome (often shortened to TS, or Tourette) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations known as “tics.” Every human experiences involuntary actions; we cringe when embarrassed, yelp when startled, and reflexively snatch our hands away from hot surfaces. These types of unconscious reactions are governed by the nervous system, which is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). 

To understand why people with TS have tics, and how cannabis may help with both tics and related medical conditions, it’s important to know the difference between the two divisions and the role in their body.

Fight, flight, or freeze

The SNS is most famously associated with “fight, flight, or freeze,” three evolutionary responses to danger tracing back to the caveman days. While this system can keep us out of danger, it’s overactive in people with TS, causing uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, skin tingling, and chest tightness. The pressure builds unbearably until it’s released with an involuntary movement. Suddenly, there’s a wave of relief … until the pressure returns. 

It’s a cycle familiar to anyone with neurobiologically similar conditions like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (where the relief comes from giving in to a compulsion) or body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (which include conditions like Trichotillomania, a condition also called “hair-pulling disorder” by the Mayo Clinic). It’s important to realize that people with these medical issues aren’t simply lacking willpower; the basal ganglia, which would normally send inhibitory signals to suppress unwanted behaviors, isn’t functioning as effectively as it would in a neurotypical brain.

Pharmacological treatments for TS usually focus on suppressing dopamine, a messenger molecule your neurons use to initiate movements, both voluntary and not. I’ve personally had better results from cannabis, which has helped me learn to control and, more importantly, comfortably cope with tics through activation of the PNS.

Rest and digest

The parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, increases saliva production, and stimulates the digestive tract, is nicknamed the “rest and digest” response. Many techniques exist to help activate this system, including mindfulness, meditation, and stimulation of the vagus nerve. 

This 2017 Iranian journal details how the endocannabinoid system modulates the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter with receptors found throughout the parasympathetic nervous system with the ability to decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, and stimulate appetite. Rather than directly blocking tics, the right type of cannabis-based product puts me in a relaxed state where tics are less likely to occur, easier to control, and less uncomfortable to endure.

Recognizing the importance of accessibility to this treatment, numerous states have approved medical marijuana as a treatment for TS. The key to gaining acceptance nationwide may lie in raising awareness of the many biological similarities between a relatively-rare syndrome and more well-known disorders that are widely recognized to be effectively regulated with cannabis.

Cannabis and movement

Movement disorders are neurological conditions that affect the ability to control movement. There’s evidence that cannabinoids produced naturally by the body assist in motor control, and that dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system plays a role in the pathophysiology of movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

An anonymous survey conducted by the Prague Movement Disorder Centre found that one-quarter of the respondents had tried cannabis, with 45.9% of them going on to describe some sort of benefit. “Once I started taking CBD oil, I never had a sleepless night because I couldn’t relax my muscle groups,” septuagenarian Garry Griffin told CBD Denver following his participation in a University of Colorado study on the use of cannabidiol oil in patients with Parkinson’s Disease. “I’m not a stoner, but I am a proponent.”

The basal ganglia, mentioned earlier for its role in regulating unwanted movement, contains many endocannabinoid receptors. When cannabinoids bind with these receptors, they can help alleviate involuntary movements by assisting in the regulation of neurochemicals linked to signaling and movement.

Tics respond well to cannabis, with 82% of participants in a 1998 German study reporting improvement and one patient remaining symptom-free for an entire year. What’s missing is research that clearly explains the full role of cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in TS pathology and treatment, along with education, therapies, and medications that utilize those findings.

The potential of cannabis to calm spasticity, tremors, muscle tightness, muscle jerks, and pain associated with disorders like dystonia, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome is documented, allowing insight into the significant biological impact of marijuana on movement. Until larger and more through studies can take place, the positive experiences with cannabis reported by many people with Parkinson’s, TS, and other movement disorders suggests that we have more to learn about the role of the ECS in governing movement.

Life on the spectrum

Tourette Syndrome is a spectrum disorder or a collection of conditions that share traits and characteristics. There are only so many different regions of the brain; only a limited array of neurochemicals used by the nervous system. Brain abnormalities and neurotransmitter dysfunction will often express themselves in diverse ways, with symptoms that may be associated with a range of different conditions.

People on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum have much higher rates of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder than the general public. They’re also more likely to have anxiety, personality, and mood disorders. Even if someone doesn’t qualify for dual diagnosis, they may still experience some symptoms; the reverse can be true for those with a primary diagnosis other than TS. For example, up to 50% of children with OCD experience tics.

Although these conditions are often considered separate, they share underlying biological mechanisms that link them together, which explains why cannabis may be beneficial in regulating all of them.

Looking Forward

Over the past couple of decades I’ve been living with TS, I’ve used cannabis alongside cognitive-behavioral techniques to cope. Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT), a type of Habit-Reversal Training, teaches people with TS to identify the premonitory urges that come before a tic. They can then choose a low-impact and easy-to-disguise movement — like squeezing a fist— over tics that can be distressing, painful, or stigmatized.

Suppressing tics can be frustrating and physically uncomfortable, so I’m grateful to have a way to “get them out of my system” while minimizing unwanted attention and avoiding tics that might be dangerous or harmful. At the same time, daily cannabis use relaxes my body, reduces my anxiety, and balances my mood, making it easier to consciously activate my PNS and less stressful to manage my tics.

I’ve learned to accept that life on the Tourette Syndrome Spectrum means that every symptom is a puzzle piece that helps me figure out how and why my body works as it does. Cannabis doesn’t just improve my quality of life; it helps me gain insight into, and control over, the two divisions of my central nervous system. 

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps



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Excelsior College Offering Graduate Certificate in Cannabis Control

Excelsior College is launching a three-course, nine-credit graduate certificate in a cannabis control program. The course can be taken alone or applied toward the online college’s master’s degree programs.

Dr. James N. Baldwin, Excelsior president, said a variety of organizations in both public and private sectors “will require a deeper understanding of the emerging regulatory environment” as more states move toward broad legalization.

“Excelsior College’s graduate certificate will provide strong credentials and knowledge to enhance the skillset of those working or intending to work in this industry. Our interdisciplinary approach with a focus on regulations and compliance makes our program unique. We will bring together professionals from various aspects of the industry to discuss the impact of cannabis legalization on our communities, states, and nation to provide students with subject matter expertise so they can keep pace in the fast-changing industry.” — Baldwin, in a statement to Ganjapreneur

The three courses include: Risk Assessment in Cannabis Control; Interstate/International Commerce: Policy and Regulatory Environment; and Implications of Legalization of Cannabis: Policy and Compliance.

Scott Dolan, dean of graduate studies at Excelsior College, told Bezinga that the program “naturally aligned” with the college’s “disciplinary expertise in business, public health, criminal justice, and public administration,” noting that other regionally-accredited universities and colleges “have been relatively slow to respond with educational offerings” to meet the cannabis industry’s growing demand.

Excelsior College is based in New York, where medical cannabis is legal, but lawmakers have been unable to reach broad legalization agreements over the last two years. The state’s University of Buffalo School of Law earlier this year offered “The Green Rush” – a course aimed at compliance and other legal issues in the cannabis space.

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Can Cannabis and DNA Help Curb the Obesity Epidemic?

Research suggests that over half of the United States will be obese within ten years. Worse still, one in four Americans will be “severely obese” within that time frame. 

Obesity is primarily caused by environmental factors, but it’s highly dependent on lifestyle influences as well. Ease of access to high fat and sugar diets has, without a doubt, contributed to the global rise in obesity. Consumers’ toxic overconsumption of sugars and complex carbohydrates, for example, can actually rewire the brain’s reward system. These altered neuro-signaling pathways can make individuals seek out and ingest more sugar, creating a pattern of behavior that easily leads to obesity.

Once developed, obesity can cause several secondary ailments, including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease, and some cancers. Moreover, the flawed reward system can also explain the high rates of diabetes worldwide. According to the Diabetes Federation, more than 460 million people now have diabetes, and that number will rise to 700 million by 2045. 

Type II diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90% of all cases. The condition, like obesity, is largely lifestyle driven as it’s usually caused by the consumption of high levels of sugar over a long period of time, while type I diabetes is mostly influenced by genetics. This information, however, doesn’t mean that type I isn’t the only condition that has a genetic component. 

While playing a smaller role, genetics variants can determine if someone has a predisposition to becoming obese or developing type II diabetes, and this insight could lead to a treatment that slows down the obesity epidemic. 

The clues in our DNA

While obesity and type II diabetes have a significant environmental component, DNA can also contribute to a predisposition to both disorders. Obesity and type II diabetes are complex conditions, meaning they are determined by the effects of multiple genes as well as the environment. 

Numerous studies have searched for and identified genetic variants that are associated with an increased risk of obesity or type II diabetes. One of the genes most strongly linked with obesity is the FTO gene. Variation in the FTO gene is correlated with a higher body mass index (BMI) as well as differences in the neural processing of images of food, which can influence impulse control. Researchers have also found that FTO is a regulator of gene expression in specific brain tissues linked to behavioral decisions.

However, FTO is not the only gene in which variation is associated with obesity. Other examples include LEP, which produces leptin, a hormone that regulates body weight and contributes to the feeling of “fullness,” and MC4R, which creates a protein involved in appetite suppression.

There are also many genes associated with type II diabetes. Some genes of note include KCNJ11, which encodes a potassium channel that’s important in insulin secretion, and TCF7L2, which controls the expression of many genes in metabolic tissues. Interestingly, there is an overlap between gene variants associated with obesity and type II diabetes (including M4CR), suggesting they share common features.

Can cannabis mitigate the obesity epidemic 

While rarely discussed or well-known, genetic insight points to a unique treatment for the obesity epidemic: cannabis. With attitudes shifting and natural goods growing in popularity, there is an increased demand for herbal remedies to improve health and wellbeing, and cannabis is one of the most popular natural sources for medicinal purposes.

The plant has been used throughout history for both recreation and therapeutic treatments. And as policies continue to change, people are discovering the potential effects that cannabis has on various conditions, including obesity and diabetes.  

For those with a genetic predisposition to these conditions, the medical advice should always be to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. However, cannabis does contain a range of compounds with diverse properties that influence human health, and the potential benefits of these compounds could improve people’s overall wellbeing. 

The potential health benefits of cannabis

Cannabis exerts its effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a collection of proteins and receptors that are naturally present in the body. The endocannabinoid system regulates a range of physiological processes, including central nervous system function, digestion, appetite, energy balance, and metabolism. So, what are the potential cannabis-derived compounds that could specifically combat obesity?

1. THCv

Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) is a homolog of THC with very different effects. It is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that interacts with the CB receptors of the endocannabinoid system. 

The compound is involved in lipid and glucose metabolism and has been reported to influence glycemic control in clinical studies on type II diabetes. THCv has also been shown to increase energy expenditure and reduce glucose tolerance in obese mice. As a result, researchers suggest that THCv could represent a novel potential therapy targeting obesity-associated glucose intolerance.  

2. CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. The compound has been demonstrated to lower the occurrence of diabetes and delay the onset of the condition in mice. Moreover, researchers also propose CBD as a potential treatment for obesity because of its impact on the fat cells that make up adipose tissue.

3. Terpenes

There are a range of terpenes, like beta-carboline, terpinolene, alpha-pinene, and myrcene that can target obesity. Many of the terpenes found in cannabis have antioxidants properties that can promote lipid and glucose metabolism and tackle chronic inflammation. However, researchers have specifically found that ocimene and alpha-bisabolol have potent antioxidant effects, which can help mitigate the symptoms of diabetes.

Ocimene, for example, has the power to suppress the production of several different inflammatory substances admitted by the immune system, and it’s those inflammatory substances that can lead to type 2 diabetes and hypertension. In a study on GC-MS analysis of essential oils of black pepper seeds, researchers found that ocimene was an essential anti-oxidative property that inhibited “key enzymes connected to type 2 diabetes and hypertension.” 

But alpha-bisabolol is just as powerful. Knowing that antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables make people 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, it should come as no surprise that alpha-bisabolol can help fight the condition, owing to the terpene’s potent antioxidant effects. Researchers have discovered that alpha-bisabolol improves the antioxidant network by antagonizing oxidative stress, making the terpene a vital nutrient that can combat type 2 diabetes.  

The power of insights and cannabis

Without a doubt, diet and lifestyle are the strongest determinants of whether or not someone develops obesity. But understanding genetic predispositions can also provide much-needed insight to people who want to ensure they don’t become obese. With knowledge and the therapeutic potential that cannabis offers, slowing down the obesity epidemic is not only possible but a realistic goal that consumers can achieve.

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Netflix Documentary Features Celebrities on Psychedelic Medicine

The most recognized phase in the psychedelic revolution began in the United States during the hippie era of the ’60s in hubs like San Francisco and the Village in New York City. After a lull and a lot of sharp edges in the 80s, the 90s grunge scene brought another surge of bohemian vibes into pop culture, darker than the hippies of yore but still with a focus on mind expansion.

However, excepting some choice pieces of culture, the U.S. mainstream only recently started coming around to psychedelics. The cities of Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California, for example, have decriminalized the possession of psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, and this was just the first wave of psychedelics reform. Today, campaigns pushing psychedelic therapies are collecting signatures across the country for the 2020 election and beyond.

Now, the status quo is finally looking at the root of this culture and many Americans find themselves more curious about psychedelic experiences than ever — luckily, the recent Netflix documentary Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics is an educational and fun-filled answer.

Have a Good Trip is a social & cultural documentary featuring some of America’s most endearing celebrities including Carrie Fisher, Sting, Deepak Chopra, Anthony Bourdain, and many more. Cycle through first-hand accounts of their experiences taking LSD, psilocybin, peyote, DMT, and more, threaded together with silly interludes from Nick Offerman as a scientist and Adam Scott as an 80s-style after school special host. Each celeb story is accompanied by a cartoon depiction of the event or a reenactment starring beloved comedians. The new documentary from the streaming channel is a first-hand adventure through the various tropes and realities that commonly appear while tripping.

From Sting’s adventure delivering a breech calf on his English farm while tripping on Peyote to Carrie Fisher’s delightful accounts of living a life dedicated to acid, the stories shared are profound, silly, fun, and captivating. Hear actor and comedian Rob Cordry, a self-professed psychonaut, explain how he became one with the universe as he watched himself in the mirror and Louis Black describe the rollercoaster that was forgetting and then ultimately finding your own name. These losses of self and ego are a molecular take on the common tabloid magazine maneuver that, “the stars are just like us!” The documentary shows us that if a person eats LSD, it will seemingly work to destroy their ego whether they’re Princess Leia or a young budtender in San Francisco.

While silly stories like Nick Kroll becoming one with some 40 pounds of seaweed bring levity to the documentary, it is stories like that of Kathleen Hanna from iconic punk bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre that really show the simple lessons we can extract from psychotropic experiences. As she stood at a stoplight waiting for the walk signal, Hanna realized that if no one was coming, if nobody could see, she didn’t really need to wait for two lights to reach the diagonal sidewalk. In fact, she could just skip that second step and walk directly across the intersection to her destination. This small trip within that adventure with acid showed her a new way to live her life, and this is the ethereally educating part of LSD that gets lost among stories of visual hallucinations. Within each fun and exciting trip is a cascade of lessons if you take the time, once you sober up, to stop and look at them.

Have a Good Trip seems to work to educate a future generation as they delve into psychedelic experiences while also showing staunch opponents of these studies the possible benefits of loosening the prohibition on these chemicals. In one key interview, Dr. Charles Grob, professor of Psychiatry & Behavior Sciences and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor–UCLA Medical Center, explains what is happening in the brain when we experience ego-loss and the inevitable ‘bad trip;’ he pleas for further research into PTSD, anxiety, depression, and end of life therapy using psychotropic treatments.

This documentary is worth watching whether you’re a regular psychonaut or just opening up to the idea that psychotropic medicine has value. The star-studded interviews are entertaining and the real take on phenomenal experiences is a well-constructed look directly into the possibilities of psychedelics. And, for those who are nostalgic, there is a wonderful final visit with Carrie Fisher in her self-proclaimed ‘acid house.’

Have a Good Trip is a delightful romp, especially for this semi-retired Golden Gate park day tripper.

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Scientists Create New Method to Store Marijuana Pollen on a Long-Term Basis

Researchers have developed a way to determine the viability of pollen germination in marijuana plants, as well as a simple method of storing cannabis pollen for long periods of time, according to a new study.

For marijuana cultivators, the results could prove useful, helping them avoid potentially costly mistakes in the process and ensuring consistency and quality in their crops across growing cycles.

Ensuring long-term storage of pollen is important for cultivators because of the central role it plays in generating seeds. Taking pollen from a male plant and rubbing it on the hairs of a female plant—typically about halfway through the flowering cycle—will enable the female plant to produce buds that contains seeds, which along with cloning is one way to propagate and maintain strains.

The study, which was partly funded by the Canadian government, has “several implications,” co-author Igor Kovalchuk told Marijuana Moment.

First, the team created an “assay to test viability of such pollen before the use for pollination.”

They accomplished that by modifying an existing method of assessing germination viability, using a liquid media instead of a solid medium, which “resulted in better image acquisition and quantification of germination,” according to the study.

Perhaps even more consequential for growers, however, is the development of a long-term storage system for cannabis pollen.

“We have provided an easy protocol for cryopreservation using desiccation combined with baked wheat flour and subsequent long-term storage of cannabis pollen in liquid nitrogen.”

“This one is big,” Kovalchuk said. “Our protocol allows nearly indefinite storage,” which is “valuable for maintaining large collection of genetics.”

To preserve the pollen, the researchers removed any moisture, added the result to baked whole wheat flour and preserving agents and then froze it in liquid nitrogen. When they removed the mixture from the liquid nitrogen and applied it to flowering female plants, it resulted in successful seed formation in all of the subjects.

The team also discovered that pollen can be more or less viable at different stages of the flowering period. The optimal time to extract pollen seems to be during the mid-flowering stage. At that point, it retained “viability the longest with 22 percent of pollen grains successfully germinating after 21 days” of storage in a low-temperature environment.

“In conclusion, we have standardized a simple assay for quickly assessing pollen germination in Cannabis sativa,” the study states. “By using our [modified assay], we have demonstrated the loss of pollen viability over time when stored at 4 degrees Celsius, and suggested an optimal time during flower development for pollen collection to maximize longevity during storage.”

“Finally, we have provided an easy protocol for cryopreservation using desiccation combined with baked wheat flour and subsequent long-term storage of cannabis pollen in liquid nitrogen,” it concludes.

Featured image by Eric Limon/Shutterstock


This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content-sharing agreement. Read the original article here.



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Veriheal Offering $10,000 in College Scholarships

Denver, Colorado-based cannabis tech company Veriheal is offering $10,000 in scholarships to students interested in the cannabis industry. The scholarship, however, is not limited to any specific academic concentration. Winning applicants will be selected based on the best combination of “sustainability, community, awareness, and innovation for the future of cannabis not only as an industry but as a medical medium,” the company said.

In a press release, the company indicated that focuses such as pharmacology, botany, and business would be relevant for the scholarships. The scholarships will be awarded to 10 students at $1,000 each, according to the application website.

“Higher education is certainly an investment in the future. Veriheal is willing to take stock in motivated students who want to innovate and contribute extensively to the cannabis sector. In a budding industry that is constantly experiencing new developments, it’s crucial to have circulation of intrigue, and fresh minds that are devoted to strengthening progress. Veriheal recognizes this importance and is inspired to lend a helping hand wherever possible to promote worldwide accessibility to medical cannabis.” – Veriheal in a press release

Traditional colleges and universities throughout the U.S. have launched cannabis-centric degree and certificate programs in the wake of medical, recreational, and hemp legalization, along with several cannabis industry-specific colleges.

Veriheal’s scholarship is open to high school seniors who have signed college letters of intent and current college students. The deadline for applications is July 30.

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Setting the record straight about CBD and Coronavirus

A little more than a hundred years ago, the world faced a pandemic similar to the COVID-19  (coronavirus) that we confront today. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from 1918—1919, about 500 million people became infected with the H1N1 virus, which claimed the lives of 675,000 Americans and approximately 50 million worldwide. As of April 19, 2020, coronavirus has infected more than 2.4 million and killed 165,000 people.

Pandemics throughout history make people frantic for a cure, and snake oil salesmen have been hustling “cures” for millennia. During the 1918 pandemic, substances touted as such run the gamut: Vick’s VapoRub, Indian Herbs, and Miller’s Antiseptic Oil among them. 

Today is no different, and the proclivity to never let a good crisis go to waste thrives. Recently, a Southern California-based doctor was charged with fraud for selling COVID-19 “treatment packs” for a hefty price. Others looking to cash in on COVID fears are right-wing radio host Alex Jones, hawking COVID-curing gargle and toothpaste from his InfoWars.com website. 

An air purifier company has claimed that their filters can remove coronaviruses from the air, and even others posit exposing contaminated surfaces to ultraviolet light, gargling warm salt water and taking hefty doses of Vitamins C and D. And what about all the claims in cannabis?

The ameliorative effects of CBD came into focus after CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta featured a young Charlotte Figi in the 2013 documentary Weed. Figi, who had an intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, practically eliminated her seizures by using a high-CBD cannabis strain produced by Colorado Springs growers who eventually named the strain after her, Charlotte’s Web. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would approve Epilodilex, a CBD product aimed to reduce seizures from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in 2018.    

Snake oil and the cannabis industry

Even the cannabis industry has some COVID-cure bandwagon hoppers, including retired NFL player and CBD evangelist Kyle Turley. In late March, Turley’s CBD company NeuroXPF received an FDA letter of warning for posting misinformation on their website and social media messages such as, “CBD can help keep your immune system at the top of its game … We want everyone to take CBD and take advantage of its potential to help prepare your body to fight a coronavirus infection.” 

While Turley’s CBD company’s social’s claim does not explicitly say that CBD can cure coronavirus, the word choice strongly suggests that taking CBD can protect you from infection. To make matters worse, Turley explicitly said CBD could cure and prevent coronavirus on his personal Twitter account. But is that true? Could an immune system enhanced by CBD keep you from getting coronavirus?

Martin A. Lee is the co-founder and director of Project CBD, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote and publicize research covering the medicinal uses of CBD and other cannabis compounds. “Potential is the keyword here because the research in this area is pre-clinical,” Lee told Weedmaps. “[Covid-19] is a disease that can express itself in different ways, and most people are having relatively mild experiences. But when it does threaten mortality, it does seem likely that what they’re dying from is how their body is reacting to the virus. And they are reacting to the cytokine storm. The immune system goes totally haywire.”

Cytokine storm is a term growing in familiarity as Americans look up their Google searches on how COVID-19 works in the body. According to WebMD, Cytokines are proteins that respond to an infection by triggering inflammation. However, the immune system can overreact to infection and release too many cytokines — ergo the term “cytokine storm” — resulting in hyper-inflammation, which can be deadly. 

What do the research and data say?

A study led by researchers at Mississippi State found in an in vitro setting using human and mouse cells that CBD” induced suppression of cytokine production.” However, it’s important to note that no study directly addresses CBD, cytokines, and COVID-19. Lee acknowledges that the gap between anecdotes and informal research about CBD’s effectiveness — some use CBD to self-treat autoimmune inflammatory conditions like multiple sclerosis — is conflicting. 

Mary Biles wrote in Project CBD, “A new wave of research and mounting anecdotal evidence points toward cannabinoids having an adaptive, immunomodulating effect, rather than just suppressing immune activity.” In other words, it’s possible that cannabinoids like CBD may keep inflammation at bay when healthy, but increase inflammation when getting sick  

But Lee reiterates that there is simply not enough evidence about cannabis and COVID-19 to draw any conclusions. “I think there’s enough evidence, given what we know about CBD, cannabis, and THC to suggest medical scientists should explore this [CBD] as a treatment for cytokine storm. To the extent of knowing if that would work, it’s pure speculation,” he added. 

Like Kyle Turley, those who have experienced the ameliorative effects of CBD firsthand often evangelize about the compound. However, how CBD works in partnership with the immune system lacks substantive, clinical research, leading people to rely heavily on anecdotal evidence. Researchers know even less about COVID-19, but what they do know is that cytokine storms likely contribute to COVID’s lethality.

Claims like Turley’s — in addition to being dangerously misleading — reflect poorly on the CBD industry at large, especially for companies attempting to run legitimate businesses in a mostly unregulated market. 

How some companies are doing it right

Degelis “Dege” Tufts and Kymberly “KymB” Byrnes are the co-founders of Brooklyn, New York-based CBD and cannabis lifestyle company Tribe Tokes. Since COVID erupted, the ladies at Tribe say they have noticed an uptick in sales, but not because they’ve been peddling a cure. “In this era of legalization, we fought so hard to get legitimacy around [CBD] use, and so hard to fight stigma against the plant, making claims [about CBD] can unravel the legitimacy,” says Tufts. “We’re not here to make a profit off a somewhat vulnerable consumer right now.” 

The team at Tribe is keenly aware of what they can and cannot say about CBD on their labels, website, and social media. “There are pretty clear guidelines for CBD brands on what they can and can’t do,” Tufts explained. “We are not supposed to make claims about specific diseases. You can’t go near it, because the studies aren’t there. It’s really a red flag if brands are citing specific diseases, and coronavirus would fall under that umbrella.” 

Byrnes notes that there have been evangelists making healing claims about substances for eons, and CBD is no different. “But the most important thing for companies to do is have integrity. Our responsibility right now as a leader in CBD is to educate and elevate. We don’t have enough studies on corona and cannabis to understand how those two would have a relationship,” she added.

Many consumers have been rethinking their cannabis consumption during the pandemic, especially those who smoke or vape. Brynes and Tufts have noticed an increase in sales, especially from consumers looking to soothe feelings of anxiety during a time of increasing uncertainty, while Lee wonders if it’s safe to use CBD at all, even for consumers who have no symptoms and may be asymptomatic, given that we do not have a full understanding of how the compound may influence the immune system. “Would taking cannabis help [with Covid]? Would it be a good idea to consume CBD? Maybe not? We don’t have any data either way.” 

Featured illustration by autumn/Shutterstock



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Study Suggests Cannabis Consumer Product Knowledge Is ‘Very Poor’

A study by the University of Buffalo and University of Michigan shows that even enthusiastic cannabis consumers can have a low level of knowledge about THC, CBD, and effective dosing.

The researchers surveyed about 500 attendees of the Hash Bash in Michigan, asking them to fill out a 24-item questionnaire. Of the respondents, two-thirds said they consumed cannabis daily – with 85 percent claiming use for health or medical benefits – and 78 percent said their cannabis knowledge came from their own experiences. Another 18 percent said their knowledge of cannabis dosing was from their primary care provider, while 23 percent said they got their information from a medical cannabis caregiver or dispensary.

The survey asked participants what amounts they considered to be effective doses for CBD and THC and included a box for “I don’t know.” The majority (53 percent) ticked the “I don’t know” box for THC dosages and 68 percent for CBD dosages. Another question asked what the participant thought were the percentages for high and low THC and CBD strains. The majority of respondents (58 percent) believed that a low-THC cannabis strain was 20 percent THC or higher – which is considered a high-THC strain. Another 22 percent said a low-THC strain was 40 percent THC or higher – a level that exceeds anything available commercially.

Cannabis products in Michigan‘s legal market are required to list cannabinoid content on product packaging.

The vast majority – 86 percent – of respondents believed that a low-CBD strain was 10 percent or higher – which would actually be considered a high-CBD strain. About half believed that a low-CBD strain contained 30 percent CBD or higher, which exceeds the CBD level of any existing strain.

Other participants gave estimates of 91 milligrams as an effective dose for THC and 177 milligrams for CBD, while one participant said that 1 million milligrams (or 1 kilogram) of THC was an effective dose. Daniel Kruger, PhD, lead author of the study and research investigator with the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, noted that a kilogram of THC would “fill an entire football stadium full of people and get them all high.”

“Even the people who are most enthusiastic have very poor knowledge of cannabinoid content. They greatly overestimated how much THC and how much CBD was in various strains, and what the effective dosages were. … We really have to educate people. This has very real consequences, because these compounds have differential effects.” – Kruger in a statement

While the survey certainly demonstrates a need for increased education among some cannabis consumers, it has obvious limitations, primarily sample size — the survey only features attendees at a specific event in Michigan — and potentially presentation, as many consumers do not think about cannabis doses in milligrams.

The study, “Frequent cannabis users demonstrate low knowledge of cannabinoid content and dosages,” is published in the Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy journal.

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