Tag Archives: pot

Marijuana farm in Colorado. Credit: Pixabay.

Marijuana Scientists Are Getting High Wages

Marijuana farm in Colorado. Credit: Pixabay.

Marijuana farm in Colorado. Credit: Pixabay.

Marijuana has almost always been a controversial topic in public and in the scientific community as well. It makes headlines, and is, of course, the craving of many addicts. Many renowned authors have sampled the cannabis drug in the hopes of improving or embellishing their creative writings. Such writers include Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Jack Kerouac, Carolyn Cassady, and William S. Burroughs.

The recreational use of the drug also assisted in feeding the Hippie Movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s. It has been the subject of much discussion, resulting in several publications dedicated solely to this purpose such as The High Times and Dope Magazine. However, marijuana does seem to have some healthful pros going for it when applied properly in certain circumstances. Among a number of benefits, it has been known to protect the brain following a stroke, to control some kinds of muscle attacks, and even to reduce the spread of cancerous cells.

The historical record places the date of one of the earliest medicinal uses of cannabis in the 2700’s BC in China. Emperor Shen Nung who reigned during that time wrote that it was employed to help with ailments such as rheumatism and malaria. In the 16th century AD, it was introduced in the Americas. Since then, practically anything having to do with weed makes headlines. In particular, current information relating to the legalities of the drug makes for hot news.

California, the Golden State, is the eighth state to make the recreational use of marijuana legal as of January 1, 2018. Now Hollywood stars (and all the others who want to) are free to openly smoke weed whenever they please. But medical marijuana is a different animal in the legal game because, as it has already been stated, it can improve or safeguard human health in some cases. Medical marijuana is currently legal to use in 29 of the 50 states.

A lot of “dough” can be made off of dope. Those in the business of growing and providing pot can definitely make a decent income from it. But many of the people doing this have found their banks will not allow their cannabis cash to be deposited. This is because marijuana is illegal under federal law. (The banks are operated by the federal government.) So I would not advise anyone to go down that type of career path. If pot fascinates you, there are other job opportunities which are growing more popular as they are in demand.

One such open career choice is for cannabis researchers, sometimes referred to as “weed scientists.” By the year 2020, it is predicted the marijuana science industry will be employing about 300,000 individuals. Simple tasks such as bud trimming can pay anywhere from $8 to $12 per hour. More experienced positions for marijuana scientists are comprised of tasks like teaching, conducting research, and even formulating regiments for biological control agents. In order to go into this profession, one has to have a valid interest in topics like weed science (duh), soil science, and agriculture. An aspiring weed scientist will require a BS degree in an area such as agronomy, horticulture, or soil science. The specific type of education required will depend on the kind of work one wants to go into.

Ancient potters carefully recorded the planet’s magnetic field — without even knowing it

Three millennia ago, a potter working near Jerusalem made a big jar. It was likely meant to hold olive oil or some pretty valuable liquid. The potter stamped the jar with the royal seal and sent it as tax payment for his work. This was common practice and was maintained for centuries despite ongoing wars and numerous kings exchanging the reigns — potters paid their taxes in pottery. But without knowing it, these artisans didn’t only perpetuate an old system or taxpaying, they also monitored the Earth’s magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field changes all the time — geologically

Ancient jar handles like this one, stamped with a royal seal, provide a detailed timeline of the Earth’s magnetic field thousands of years ago.
Image courtesy of Oded Lipschits

You might have heard the Doomsday theories that the magnetic poles will reverse and that will kill us all. That’s simply crap. Earth’s magnetic poles have switched numerous times in its history, and are in state of constant movement. We just don’t see that because it takes a lot of time for them to move around. If you were alive 800,000 years ago and you’d look at your compass, you’d be shocked. North points where South is, because back then, the poles were reversed. For the past 20 million years, Earth has settled into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal.

We know this does happen, but we’re still not exactly sure why this happens

“Albert Einstein defined this problem as one of the five most enigmatic issues in modern physics, and it still is, because the mechanism that creates the magnetic field is not well understood,” says Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel and an author of the paper.

This is rarely a clean back-and-forth process, as magnetic fields morph and push and pull at one another, with multiple poles emerging at odd latitudes throughout the process. We know this thanks to cores taken from deep ocean floors. The magnetic field determines the polarization of lava as it is laid down on the ocean floor on either side of the Mid-Atlantic Rift where the North American and European continental plates are spreading apart. Like a compass, the lava records the position of the poles when it cools down. Date the lava, and you know where the poles were at that time. Date many pieces of lava, and you’ll have a good picture of how the poles evolved. Something similar happened to the pots.

Pots, pans, and magnetometers

As the potters would work the clay, the molten iron that was rotating deep below them tugged at tiny bits of magnetic minerals embedded in the potters’ clay. The jars were heated in the kiln and then cooled down, just like the lavas did, and magnetic minerals in the clay aligned themselves. The only problem then is how you date the pots. This is where it gets even cooler: remember when we said potters used to stamp the king’s seal onto their work? That’s how you date them.

“Instability — or even better, wars and destruction — are the best for us,” says Ben-Yosef. (Peaceful transitions are nearly impossible to spot in sedimentary layers, but something like a burned city makes a clearly visible dark line. And the Assyrians had a knack for destroying cities.)

Schematic illustration of Earth’s magnetic field.
Credits: Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh

Ben-Yosef and his colleagues studied 67 jar handles spanning from the late 8th century B.C. to the late 2nd century B.C., finding that the movement of the poles was much messier than most people believed. For instance, during the 8th century BC, things got a little wild and the intensity of the magnetic field was double to what it is today.

“It was the strongest it’s been, at least in the last 100,000 years, but maybe ever. We call this phenomenon the Iron Age spike,” Ben-Yosef says.

After that, it started dropping fast, losing 30% of its intensity in just 30 years. This is particularly interesting as scientists have already indicated that the Earth’s magnetic field intensity is dropping, something which is yet unexplained. We’ve started learning this after geophysicists started using magnetic field measurement instruments called magnetometers.

“We are losing the magnetic field,” Ben-Yosef says. “We already lost more than 10 percent of its strength, so people are concerned that we might lose the magnetic field entirely.”

Geology and archaeology

Tiny minerals in the clay of this jar hold information about the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field at the time the jar was fired, thousands of years ago.
Image courtesy of Oded Lipschits

So while we had a pretty good idea of how the magnetic field evolved in geologic time, now we also get a better picture of what happened in recent times. Geologist Steven Forman of Baylor University was thrilled to read this study. He also found evidence of a magnetic spike about 3,000 years ago, based on a different study of Hall’s Cave in Texas.

“But we didn’t have the type of time resolution that the study in PNAS has,” he says, because it’s a lot harder to pinpoint rocks on a timeline than it is to pinpoint man-made objects. “That’s what so cool about what they did. They pulled this out of heated ceramics.”

It’s absolutely delightful to see how to different branches of science can meet up at a middle point and complement each other so. Geologists, archaeologists, physicists, and ancient potters – working together to solve one of the Earth’s greatest mysteries. Who would have thought?

Self-treating depression and anxiety with pot might work for a while, but it’s probably bad in the long-term

Self-medicating for depression or anxiety with cannabis might not be a good idea in the long-term, new research at Colorado State University has found.

Image credits Erika Wittlieb / Pixabay.

The conclusion comes from a study seeking to clarify how cannabis, particularly chronic, heavy use, affects neurological activity such as the processing of emotion. The study was performed using an in-depth, questionnaire-based analysis of 178 college-aged legal cannabis users in Colorado, where recreational use became legal in 2014. Several other states have since followed suit, and many others allow medical use.

“One thing we wanted to focus on was the significance of Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, and its own unique population and use that occurs here,” said lead researcher Lucy Troup, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at CSU.

The study was based solely on self-reported cannabis use, and aimed to draw correlations between depressive or anxious symptoms and consumption of the drug. Co-author Jeremy Andrzejewski led the development of a questionnaire called R-CUE (Recreational Cannabis Use Evaluation) which assessed users’ habits. This includes questions about whether users smoked the drug or used other stronger products like hash oil or edibles. Part of the researchers’ goal is to study biochemical and neurological reactions from higher-tetrahydracannabinol (THC) products available in the legal market, which can be up to 80-90 percent THC.

The team found that respondents with subclinical depression — who reported to use cannabis to self-treat their depressive symptoms — actually scored lower on anxiety symptoms than on depressive ones. In other words, they were more depressed than anxious. Self-reported anxiety sufferers were also found to be more anxious than depressed.

“If they were using cannabis for self-medication, it wasn’t doing what they thought it was doing,” explained co-author Jacob Braunwalder, a recently graduated student researcher in Troup’s lab.

The researchers point out that their findings don’t say that cannabis causes depression or anxiety, neither that it cures it. Andrzejewski says that it’s widely believed cannabis can help relieve feelings of anxiety, yet there is no research that supports this claim fully. Grad student and paper co-author Robert Torrence points to previous research that shows chronic use reduces the levels of natural endocannabinoids in the brain, known to play a role in mood and memory regulation.

But largely due to federal regulation, under which cannabis is considered a schedule I drug, the public’s perception of cannabis action on the brain is usually based on “mythos“, Braunwalder said.

“We want to add more information to the entire body of research,” he added.

The team believes their findings illustrate the need for further study on how cannabis influences the brain, especially in light of legalization and the more widespread use it could see in the future.

“There is research to suggest that cannabis can help with anxiety and depression in the beginning, but it has the reverse effect later on,” said Torrence, a U.S. Army veteran who is interested in studying cannabis’ effectiveness in treating PTSD.

The study relied on self-reporting as there are no CSU research labs with licensing and security measures in place to allow for administration of the drug for research. In the future, the researchers want to refine their results and concentrate on respondents’ level and length of exposure to legally available high-THC products like concentrates and hash oils, around which there has been little scientific inquiry.

“It is important not to demonize cannabis, but also not to glorify it,” Troup said.

“What we want to do is study it, and understand what it does. That’s what drives us.”

The full paper “The relationship between cannabis use and measures of anxiety and depression in a sample of college campus cannabis users and non-users post state legalization in Colorado” has been published in the journal PeerJ.

weed in united states

One in Eight Americans say they regularly smoke pot — almost double since 2013

weed in united states

Credit: Pixabay

According to a recent Gallup poll, the percentage of American adults who confess regularly smoking marijuana has nearly doubled since 2013. The poll reveals 13 percent of Americans say they smoke regularly, while 43 percent say they’ve tried the drug at least once in their lifetimes, up from 38 percent in 2013.

gallup poll

Cannabis is illegal in most of the United States, but twenty-three states have laws permitting medical marijuana. Then there’s AlaskaColoradoOregonWashington and the District of Columbia where recreational use of marijuana is fully legal.

“It costs a huge amount of money to states,” Obama said in an interview in March 2015, speaking to Vice’s Shane Smith. “What I’m encouraged by is you’re started to see not just liberal democrats but also some very conservative Republicans recognize that this doesn’t make sense, including the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. They see the money and how costly it is to incarcerate.

“At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

In the last five years, marijuana laws have been considerably relaxed which has helped make pot more easily available. Most importantly, it has relaxed consumers in the face of the law as well, making them more confident and open to answer polls like this honestly. All in all, marijuana has been greatly destigmatized in recent years.

Very briefly, the other main take aways the Gallup poll found after it interviewed 1,000 American adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

  • Age and religiousness were important factors in predicting whether or not a person had ever tried marijuana.
  • Almost 1 in 5 U.S. adults under 30 said they’ve tried pot, but not more than 1 in 10 in other older age groups.
  • Interestingly, more adults ages 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 said they had tried marijuana than adults ages 18 to 29. They had time to catch up.
  • Americans who go to church every Sunday were far less likely to smoke than those who rarely or never attended.
  • Only 2 percent of weekly church goers said they regularly smoke compared to 14 percent of those who said they don’t go to church.
  • Geography also played a part. Western U.S. citizens were the most likely to currrently use marijuana. Compared to the rest of the country, the highest use seems to be recorded in places like San Francisco and Denver.

Is secondhand marijuana smoke as damaging as tobacco smoke?

With the increased acceptance and legalization of marijuana in many parts of the world, studies are now trying to determine its effects on health. Although many think of marijuana smoke as less harmful than tobacco smoke, a new study suggests that secondhand smoke poses dangers to our cardiovascular system whether it stems from marijuana or tobacco.

Image credit Pixabay

Image credit Pixabay

The study found that in laboratory rats exposed to secondhand smoke from a marijuana cigarette, blood vessels had difficulty widening, much like the vessels in rats who were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

“While the effect is temporary for both cigarette and marijuana smoke, these temporary problems can turn into long-term problems if exposures occur often enough and may increase the chances of developing hardened and clogged arteries,” said Matthew Springer, professor of medicine at the University of California and senior author of the study.

In addition, the data revealed that rats exposed to marijuana smoke for one minute took 90 minutes to recover fully, approximately three times as long as rats that were exposed to tobacco smoke. However, when the researchers removed tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the marijuana cigarettes, the blood vessel disruption was still observed, suggesting that it is the burning smoke rather than the active components of marijuana responsible for the narrowing of the rats’ blood vessels.

As of now, long-term studies on the effects of marijuana on cardiovascular function are limited, especially when it comes to secondhand smoke. There is even some evidence that although inhaling marijuana poses immediate and temporary cardiovascular risks, its modulation of the endocannabinoid system can actually slow down the development of atherosclerosis. Additional long-term research will need to be conducted to get a final answer on the exact negative effects of marijuana smoke.

“There is widespread belief that, unlike tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is benign,” Springer said. “We in public health have been telling the public to avoid secondhand tobacco smoke for years, but we don’t tell them to avoid secondhand marijuana smoke, because until now we haven’t had evidence that it can be harmful.”

“Increasing legalization of marijuana makes it more important than ever to understand the consequences of exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke,” the team concluded. “It is important that the public, medical personnel, and policymakers understand that exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke is not necessarily harmless.”

Journal Reference: One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantially Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function. 27 July 2016. 10.1161/JAHA.116.003858

Marijuana

Twitter is a marijuana friendly place

After analyzing almost every marijuana related tweet sent during a one-month period in early 2014, researchers have discovered there are 15 times as many pro-pot tweets sent as anti-pot tweets. This makes Twitter a highly pot-friendly social network. However, the findings raise some serious discussions regarding drug use and their widespread communication. Alcohol and cigarettes, two vicious drugs, are legal but banned from TV so that they might not influence consumers, especially adolescents and young adults who are most vulnerable. Social media channels, like facebook and twitter, might be just as influential.

Smoking on social networks

Marijuana

Image: Wiki

According to the researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis most of the users sending and receiving the tweets were under age 25, with many in their teens, a demographic group at increased risk for developing marijuana dependence and other drug-related problems.

“It’s a concern because frequent marijuana use can affect brain structures and interfere with cognitive function, emotional development and academic performance,” said first author Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and scholar in the Washington University Institute for Public Health. “The younger people are when they begin using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent. A lot of young people will phase out of marijuana use as they get older, but unfortunately, we’re not good at predicting who those individuals are.”

A computer program was developed that mined marijuana related tweets which contained keywords like “joint,” “blunt,” “weed,” “stoner” and “bong”. Some 7.6 million tweets related to pot were identified. To further refine the sample size, the team focused their analysis on Twitter accounts with more than 775 followers as well as accounts with Klout scores of 44 and above. A Klout score measures social media influence on a scale of 1-100.

A random sample of almost 7,000 tweets was selected and manually verified. It was found that 77 percent were pro marijuana, 5 percent were against pot, and 18 percent were neutral. People tweeting pro-marijuana messages had a total of more than 50 million Twitter followers, about 12 times more than those tweeting anti-marijuana messages.

Pro-pot tweets most commonly were aimed at encouraging the use of marijuana and its legalization and made claims about the drug’s health benefits. Not surprisingly considering how much people smoking pot like to talk about how they’re smoking pot or other times they were smoking pot, ten percent of the pro-marijuana tweets were sent by people who said they were currently using pot or high.

Anti-marijuana tweets often stated that the drug’s users were losers or unproductive or that marijuana use is unattractive. Those whose tweets were anti-pot also stressed that the drug was harmful or that the person tweeting was against legalization.

“Many people believe marijuana use is harmless, and social media conversations almost certainly drive some of those opinions, making the drug appear socially acceptable,” she said.

“Although we can’t yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use, we should be worried because many people are receiving these messages are at an age when they are most likely to experiment with drugs and develop problems with substance use,” Cavazos-Rehg said.

Scientific reference:
Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss M, Fisher SL, Salyer P, Grucza RA, Bierut LJ. Twitter chatter about marijuana. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online, Jan. 22, 2015; in print February, 2015. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants R01 DA032843, R01 DA039455, K02 DA021237 and R01 DA031288.