Transparency in vape technology repairs some of the damage done to the industry following the 2019 vape scare.
In September 2019, the nascent cannabis industry got clobbered by a sudden spike of lung injuries allegedly associated with vaping. By February 18, 2019, the CDC reported that a total of 2,807 e-cigarette smokers were hospitalized with a lung injury called e-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-associated Lung Injury (EVALI). Of those confirmed cases, Sixty-eight deaths had been reported in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
The CDC, FDA, along with a phalanx of state and local health agencies, immediately began compiling data on those who were being diagnosed with EVALI. It soon became apparent that the only commonality among the stricken EVALI patients was that they were all vape users. Legitimate e-cigarette retailers, manufacturers, and distributors were put under the microscope in an effort to identify the source of the tainted product. The cannabis industry immediately went into action, proactively seeking to identify the tainted products’ source and to assure that nothing had slipped into the highly regulated and approved inventory. After all, the industry had a lot at stake to make sure that all the mandates pertaining to their inventory were strictly enforced.
As it turned out, investigators found that the cannabis industry was not the source of the tainted vape product. The illicit goods were acquired from the black market by employing informal sources such as family/friends, dealers, online, or other sources. None of the illnesses were the result of products purchased from licensed and legitimate cannabis dealers. But, much of the damage had already been done and cannabis manufacturers, retailers, and distributors are still recovering from the negative publicity and false narrative emanating from the publicity.
However, the experience caused the industry to realize that, in order to prevent such future debacles from occurring, procedures must be put into place that would preclude the possibility of being tarnished by the same black market brush. In order to protect the vulnerable MJ market from future P.R. nightmares, the industry turned to IT to find ways to protect the nascent industry.
In order to regain consumer trust, the cannabis industry needed to give consumers and regulators the ability to check on any product quality at any time as it traveled throughout the supply chain. Tech companies went to work to create a completely transparent view of each product that’s instantly accessible to consumers at any point in the supply chain.
For example, Ispire, a leader in cannabis vape technology, spent years in research and development, and their vape technology follows the highest safety, quality standards, and industry compliance rules. Many other vape brands have followed suit, ensuring a safe experience for cannabis vape consumers.
Tech-based solutions were made available to cannabis companies that tracked data such as:
- The product’s Certificate of Analysis, including complete testing results, to help consumers monitor dosing, usage, etc.,
- Encrypting cartridges to combat counterfeit vape products, and exceeding state testing requirements to ensure product safety.
- Establishing resting procedures that exceed state requirements.
- Making the technology easily available on any android device. (Apple has excluded all cannabis-centric apps from its iPhones).
When it comes to restoring consumer confidence in the cannabis vape industry, transparency is the winning ingredient.
California Waiting on Governor to Sign Safe Drug Consumption Bill
The idea of a safe drug consumption site is horrible in the first place, there’s no getting around that. By the time we start talking about these things, it means there’s already a pretty big problem that has proliferated out to massive degrees. Right now, California is waiting for a safe drug consumption site bill to get signed by the governor, to combat the ongoing and growing opioid issue. But he’s been holding back… Will he do it?
California looks to be the second state to institute legislation for safe drug consumption sites, so long as the governor doesn’t veto the bill. Welcome to this wholly independent publication focusing on the cannabis and psychedelics spaces of today. We offer the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter so readers can keep updated on important events, as well as get themselves some great deals on tons of products from vapes and smoking equipment, to cannabinoid compounds like the super-popular Delta 8 & HHC. Find deals in our ‘best of’ lists, and please only buy products you’re totally comfortable using.
What’s a safe use site?
A safe use site – also called a ‘safe drug consumption’ site in California’s SB 57 bill, a ‘harm reduction site’, or a ‘safe injection site’ is a place where drug users can use drugs without threat of legal intervention. This isn’t meant to encourage the use of hard drugs, but instead to offer a safe place for those battling addiction, who are required to take their drug because of their addictions. These sites make it legal to use drugs that are either uniformly illegal, or not meant to support an addiction.
Safe use sites generally offer other services, as well. Like testing kits for fentanyl to ensure a person is using what they think they are; giving out clean needles, and a place to dispose of used ones; and resuscitative services in case of overdose. They are also sites where users can gain information for different programs related to drug addiction or other social services like housing. In general, the sites are meant to act as an oasis for those with drug problems, which allows them to go about their habit, while also possibly accessing help to stop it.
California isn’t the first state to entertain the idea of these programs. In July of 2021, Rhode Island became the first US state to approve a safe use site measure when Governor Dan McKee signed a bill instituting these sites as a measure against that state’s growing opioid issue. Prior to Rhode Island, Philadelphia also attempted to institute safe use sites, but so far has been barred from doing so.
Rhode Island was the first to pass official legislation, but not the first state to enact a program. That designation goes to New York City. The first safe use sites in New York opened in November of 2021, and are in East Harlem and Washington Heights. The sites are backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made the decision to open them, as no formal legislation currently exists. There is a bill circulating in New York’s legislature now, that would institute programs like this throughout New York if it passes.
These sites don’t explicitly come with the expectation of reducing drug use, but they do give a safe place to use the drugs – and possibly more importantly, to keep them away from other populations. The American Medical Association published a study recently about those first two sites in New York, which concluded that the sites have decreased overdose risks, kept use out of the public, and have been useful in providing complimentary services to users in need.
California’s safe drug consumption site legislation
At the end of July, the California Senate re-passed a bill to establish safe drug consumption sites in the state. The bill (SB 57) was amended by the General Assembly in June, requiring yet another Senate vote for passage after edits. This happened in a vote of 21-11, sending the piece of legislation to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
This initial pilot program is meant to go until January 1st, 2028, and only approves sites in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Los Angeles Country, and Oakland. According to Sen. Scott Wiener who introduced the legislation, “We’re seeing an escalation in overdose deaths. These sites are a proven strategy to save lives & get folks into treatment. It’s time.”
Wiener introduced the legislation originally in 2020, and it did pass the Senate in spring of 2021. Prior to that attempt, a similar bill did go through in 2018, which was vetoed by then-governor Jerry Brown. This time around, though Newsom is against the war on drugs, and a proponent of legal cannabis, there seems to be a hold up in getting the bill signed into law.
Newsom has not actually signed the bill. Though Newsom supports liberal measures, and is a beacon for liberal policy, as a main advocate in the fight for same-sex marriage and cannabis legalization, he still hasn’t signed the bill. If he doesn’t by August 22nd, it will automatically pass into law, though he has until then to sign it or veto it himself. What the holdup is, isn’t clear for sure, but some speculate it has to do with Newsom wanting to run for president in the upcoming 2024 election.
Where else do safe use sites exist and why?
California and other parts of the US might be starting to adopt safe drug consumption sites, but this isn’t new to other parts of the world. These sites already exist in Canada, Australia, and different parts of Europe, for which there are about 100 sites operating. The largest number in Europe is in the Netherlands, which has almost 40 sites. The country started operating these centers in 1996, and was able to subsequently lower the amount of overdose deaths in the country. Canada opened its first site as far back as 2003 in Vancouver.
In Canada, between the years 2017-2019, there were two million visits to these safe use sites. As of last year the country had 39 operational safe use sites, which accounted for an expected daily rate of 3,000 people across sites. The busier sites operating in Canada often have up to 500 visits a day, according to Health-Infobase.
These pilot programs were not put in place for drugs like cannabis, but rather to combat the increasing opioid epidemic which is claiming so many lives. However, it technically operates as a place where cannabis can be used freely as well. The real culprit is not illegal drugs like heroin (which started the whole safe-use thing in the first place), but prescription opioid medications like fentanyl, which are still being written in large quantities.
Just how many deaths are we talking about? In May of this year, the CDC released preliminary data, which put the overdose rate for 2021 at 107,622. That’s total overdose deaths, but seeing how 68,000 of 2020’s 93,000 overdose deaths were opioid-related, it gives a pretty good idea of just how impactful opioids were in the 2021 number.
Why is this considered a pharmaceutical issue? Of the close to 71,000 overdose deaths of 2019, heroin overdoses accounted for under 15,000, while synthetic opioid overdoses (the big pharma drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone) accounted for 48,000. Of course, its actually been noted by the CDC that heroin overdose deaths decreased by 7% from 2019-2020, indicating that a raised overdose rate, is related to the pharma-produced synthetic opioids only.
Is this the best option?
This is so much of a pharmaceutically-made problem, that it makes recent moves, like President Biden sending out a memorandum on why Colombia should still be attacked for its illicit drug trade, seem rather odd. If Biden is saying Colombia is that dangerous, when its not where the drugs causing the deadly issue are coming from…then why act like that’s the big problem, while simultaneously allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue selling opioids, and for doctors to continue prescribing them?
If the drug problem is so bad and rising despite a failing war on drugs, then it seems the US should be blocking all pharmaceutical opioids in general, and leaving countries like Colombia out of it. Not only did Biden send that memorandum, but he did it the day new Colombian president Gustavo Petro started talking about ending the war on drugs, and finding better means that won’t result in a bunch of dead Colombians. Sounds like Biden would prefer dead Colombians to other, more useful, and more sense-making, options.
Like ketamine. How ketamine has been so completely left out of the conversation, while memorandums are given to the defense secretary to continue bombing Colombians suspected of having a part in the illicit drug industry, is insane. Yet research is out on ketamine’s ability to help with both acute and chronic pain, comparably to opioids, and that it does so without the same ability for addiction. In fact, it’s been shown to help with the obsessive thoughts that go with addiction, making it an even more useful tool for getting people off of these synthetic opioids. Add onto this that short term infusions have shown to net pain-relief results for up to several weeks at a time, and it makes the idea of safe use sites, or large-scale drug decriminalization measures of hard drugs, the worse options that will keep people hooked, rather then help them end their addictions.
Whether Newsom signs the California bill for safe drug consumption sites, vetoes it, or simply lets it pass into law, the problem doesn’t go away. If America really wants an answer to this growing catastrophe, it will have to think way more logically than making something unwanted, more socially acceptable; and get to the reasonable alternative measures that can actually end this.
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Can Cannabis Rebalance the Microbiome?
Digestive issues are amongst the most common disorders in the world, which is why researchers are always keen to discover new therapies to treat gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. The discovery of endocannabinoid system receptors in the GI tract has led researchers to examine links between cannabis and the gut, to ascertain if cannabinoid compounds can be used to rebalance an unhealthy microbiome.
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What is the Microbiome?
Trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses live along the GI tract and on the skin. In fact, there are more bacterial cells in the body than human cells, about 40 trillion bacteria to 30 trillion human cells, meaning the body is made up mostly of these microbial organisms, known collectively as the microbiome. When referring to the microbes in a specific area of the body, they’re known as microbiota.
The microbes in the GI tract are referred to as gut microbiome, and are mostly found in a pocket of the large intestines, known as the cecum. Though there are many types of microbes, bacteria are the most studied. There are more than 1,000 types of bacterial microbes in the gut microbiome, and each plays a vital role in maintaining overall health.
In the past, it was thought that the gut was only responsible for digesting food, but now it’s known the interaction between the gut microbiome and brain plays such an important role in overall wellbeing, the stomach has been dubbed, the “second brain.” As food is digested, enzymes are created, firing neurotransmitters that influence everything from weight, blood flow, bone growth and heart health to immunity, libido, sleep and mood.
Poor gut health can cause an array of problems, leading to obesity, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. In addition, the gut influences brain function through the Vagus Nerve, sending a constant stream of messages in the form of neurotransmitters, signaling the brain to release hormones that regulate body and mental health. Other outcomes of poor gut health include anxiety and depression.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered by the Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam in the early 1990s, as part of his research into cannabis compounds. In 1992, Mechoulam’s lab isolated the first endocannabinoid, a molecule now classified as a CB1 receptor partial agonist, and named anandamide. Soon after, another endocannabinoid was discovered, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG.
In fact, there are hundreds of endocannabinoids active throughout the body, but these two are the most studied. Endocannabinoids are types of molecule produced by the body that act on receptors to keep all systems working optimally.Endocannabinoids behave differently from other neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are stored in vesicles and released when activated by a presynaptic neuron, acting postsynaptically. By contrast, endocannabinoids are produced on demand, where and when needed. They are released by postsynaptic neuron and act presynaptically. They bind to receptors to activate signaling.
There are two main forms of receptors: CB1 receptors, found mostly in the central nervous system (CNS) and CB2 receptors, found in immune cells. CB1 is one of the most abundant G-protein-coupled receptors in the CNS. CB1 receptors are present in the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum and brainstem.
As well as immune cells, CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system, and are associated with inflammation, addiction and synaptic plasticity. Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effect depends on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid binds to it.
Links between ECS and the Microbiome
Much research needs to be done to understand the full scope of the ECS, but one of its functions appears to be a modulator between the digestive, nervous, and immune systems. In the same way that the gut microbiome works to maintain overall wellbeing, or homeostasis (a state of balance between the body’s organs), so too does the ECS.
Research links the ECS to the following functions: appetite, digestion, metabolism, inflammation, chronic pain, mood, learning, memory, motor control, sleep, heart health, liver function, stress and reproductive health. As the gut microbiota also plays a key role in these functions, it easy to see how an imbalance in one system can have knock-on effects to the other systems.
For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in the spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to CB2 receptors in immune cells to signal the body is experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders. CB1 receptors have a direct action on the gut, and have been shown to modulate intestinal motility.
More than that, a growing body of evidence now confirms the presence of a “gut-endocannabinoid axis,” which determines the integrity of the gut barrier by influencing both gut barrier function and intestinal permeability. Research has shown that increases or decreases in certain endocannabinoids affect the number of good probiotic bacteria in the gut. Because cannabis is a phytocannabinoid that acts on the ECS, it has the capacity to bridge the ECS and gut microbiota.
Can Cannabis Balance the Microbiome?
In vitro assays (cell research in glass) have shown that cannabis has antimicrobial properties. The human gut contains 4 main phyla: Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria, of which Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are linked to obesity and colorectal cancer.
A high Firmicutes: Bacteroidetes ratio is typical with obesity, and new research shows a balanced ratio can be restored in mice using the psychoactive cannabis compound, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.) In obese mice, the gut microbiota modifies endocannabinoid signaling, resulting in increased gut permeability, inflammation and fat storage.
THC has been shown to block this effect by increasing the presence of bacteria called Akkermansia mucinphila, which control fat storage and metabolism to facilitate weight loss. This bacterium can also strengthen signaling between the gut and the brain, and strengthen the gut barrier. It also linked to improved glucose tolerance and glucose metabolism.
Research on long-term users of cannabis has shown that users display Prevotella: Bacteroides ratio 13-fold lower than non-users. Though further research is required to assess the full implications of this finding, what is clear is that cannabis use leads to alterations in gut microbiome, which due to the interconnectivity of the ECS, affects other physiological systems, including brain function.
It’s also clear that there are links between the gut microbiome and both gastrointestinal and neurodegenerative disorders. The ability of THC to change the gut microbiome, by increasing the number of healthy bacteria that protect against obesity and associated conditions, suggest its restorative capacity to balance the microbiome.
Finally Thoughts on Cannabis and the Microbiome
A 2016 article that reviewed over 10 years of research suggests the theory that endocannabinoid deficiency could be the source of autoimmune disorders including fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as migraine. However, because the full scope of the ECS is not understood, medical applications are still evolving.
The drug rimonabant was developed to aid weight loss by blocking the CB1 receptor. The thinking was that if the ECS controls hunger, a drug that blocked signaling could cause weight loss. The drug worked in this regard but because the ECS is so connected to other functions, rimonabant also caused some nasty side effects on mood. People who took reported feeling suicidal. Rimonabant was removed from the market.
However, it’s easy to imagine that with better understanding of the ECS and the workings of endocannabinoids, it will be possible in the future to develop cannabis medications with more direct actions that provide relief by alleviating symptoms of digestive orders and/or rebalance the microbiome.
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