Olympic star Ross Rebagliati was 21 when he won an Olympic medal, just to get it taken away (and later given back again) for marijuana use. Rebagliati sat down with High Times Canadian correspondent and cultivation contributor Erik Biksa to discuss his experience, the current state of weed in professional athletics and what it means for athletes and the bodies that govern sport.
Rebagliati became a household name from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan when he won gold at the first-ever Olympic Men’s Snowboarding event. He is not only famous for the win but also for having it stripped away for testing positive for THC and then ultimately returned to him.
In some circles, it can be said that he won gold twice, as this is the one-and-only time in the history of the Olympics to date where a medal was returned to an athlete after being taken away. In fact, the gold medal was returned to him as he sat behind bars in Japan—only for having tested positive for a very small amount of THC in his body.
Back in 1998, when Rebagliati won Gold and then tested positive, THC was not on WADA’s (World Anti Doping Agency) or the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) list of banned substances—they quickly changed that following the incident. The negative impact of this decision still affects athletes all over the world to this day.
Given Sha’Carri Richardson’s recent spotlight in the media—not for her blazing track times, but because of her blazing for personal reasons, there has never been a more poignant time to discuss the ramifications and impact of casual toking for professional athletics, and Rebagliati does just that.
The consequences of cannabis use are serious and seemingly unjustified. The situation seems to be one of those instances where it takes a lifetime to build something and just a few seconds to have it all taken away. And what for? The vast majority of North Americans, or even citizens of the world at large, do not consider cannabis consumption a crime. Calling it a “performance enhancing drug” is flimsy, at best.
Rebagliati on Blazing and Going for Gold
Ross Rebagliati was kind enough to find time in his busy schedule between Ross-Gold, his cannabis-related company, and busy personal and family life to share some first-hand insights on cannabis in professional athletics from both the perspective of an Olympic Gold Medalist and a dedicated cannabis advocate.
For people who might not fully understand what a person puts into becoming a top-level athlete can you tell us a little bit about what’s involved?
RR: A huge amount of untold hours and sacrifice is just part of what goes into training and competing at top level. In my case, it began when I was 10 years old as a ski racer, before graduating to snowboarding.
There are 365 days in a year. I spent 200 days a year competing and training during the snow season and another 50 days on top of that training in the off season. Every waking moment of an athlete’s life goes into their sport.
As a teenager, I spent much time isolated, away from family and friends in other countries. When starting out, athletes don’t have sponsors—they have to find ways to make ends meet including paying for hotels, rentals, travel, etc. on top of a serious athletic regimen.
Then, once you rise through the ranks and gain some comfort via sponsors, you lose it all once achieving a place on the Olympic team. It’s a level of focus and sacrifice that a lot of people simply couldn’t understand—it takes digging deeper than you ever thought possible.
After all the sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears, tell us about some of the good tuff that comes along with making the Olympic podium.
It’s kind of like getting a university degree. The win gives you credentials, but it’s up to you as a person to make something of it. Because of the win and the circumstances surrounding it, I gained a lot of notoriety, virtually overnight. For example, I appeared with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, had Will Ferrell play me on SNL and had guest spots on the [Late Night with Conan O’Brien] a few times.
In my case, I got to meet a lot of famous people, at the height of prohibition, who were open with me about their cannabis use. You can say that I have burned more than one with some very famous people in my life as a result. In 2013, I started Ross-Gold, a cannabis related company. In fact, we started selling top shelf glassware at the time Tommy Chong was released from prison after taking the rap for bong sales in the USA.
While the majority of North Americans and even the world at large view cannabis as relatively safe or even beneficial, why do you suppose WADA and the IOC keep cannabis on their list of prohibited substances and have even stated that it “violates the spirit of sport”?
Because the United States maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug. The IOC is a collective agreement between 35 countries; a lot of these countries are very slow to change, partly out of tradition and in some instances, it’s about “face” or not wanting to reverse their official line on how “dangerous” of a “drug” they have made cannabis out to be over the last 60 or so years.
People have been locked up, had their children taken away, possessions auctioned—the prohibitionists are well-entrenched via corporate interests and still carry a pretty big stick. This is something they can’t spin around on overnight, even given the clear, scientific facts now becoming available to people that cannabis isn’t dangerous.
Rebagliati on the Future of Cannabis
Do you think that WADA, the IOC and big corporate sponsorship are likely to change their position anytime soon, given popular public opinion and facts with regards to cannabis and prohibition?
Unfortunately for athletes all over the world like Sha’Carri, things aren’t likely to change so long as the United States maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Changes made by the United Nations for scheduling cannabis are a step in the right direction—and look to Canada as an example of unceremoniously ending cannabis prohibition and taking a realistic approach to how we view and regulate cannabis consumption in a free society.
Bad rules are designed to be broken. A lot of the reason prohibition exists are based on racial discrimination and corporate intrests. It’s a well-documented history. However, there is much optimism for the long-term future and the positive steps towards lasting change that continue to grow.
Based on your own experiences with the cost that cannabis prohibition can have on an athletic career, any advice to other athletes out there like Sha’Carri who are feeling the sting?
It’s a tough spot to be in. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and mad. To have put so much into something and to have it taken away for what most people can see are purely political reasons backed by corporate interests is devastating. My best advice is to block the noise, and double down on your own character. As a human being, you intrinsically understand what’s “right” and “wrong.” There is nothing wrong with enjoying or benefiting from a plant—all that nonsense is manmade and false.
Ross, I can say with a high level of confidence as a Canadian that our nation was behind you 100 percent—back in 1998 and even to this day. North America, particularly Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumption per capita in the world.
We also enjoy one of the highest standards of living and are considered among the top safest places to live—cannabis is a part of many people’s lifestyles, whether athletes, teachers, doctors or students and will continue to be. Seems time for the bodies that govern sport to take a realistic approach as not to alienate the fan base that supports them, the athletes and their sport.
2022 Cannabis Ballot Measures: Up to Six States Voting for Recreational
They’re not there yet, and they might not get there, but this coming November, at least three states, (and possibly six), are putting it up to voters in yet more cannabis ballot measures for recreational legalizations. Will we get up to 25 legal states by the end of elections?
2022 elections are going to be exciting with up to six states voting on recreational cannabis ballot measures. This could mean that by the end of elections, half the states of the US will be legal! This independent news platform specializes in reporting on the cannabis and psychedelics industries of the US and beyond. Check out the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter for daily updates and access to tons of product promotions, from vapes and edibles to cannabinoid products including the highly popular Delta 8 & HHC. Check out our ‘best of’ lists for details, and only choose the products you’re most comfortable using.
Missouri and Amendment 3
On Tuesday August 9th, the state of Missouri announced that in November elections, it will hold a ballot measure so voters can decide if they want to legalize recreational cannabis. This ballot was not a for-sure thing in the beginning, with activists originally looking like they couldn’t get enough petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. By law, at least six out of eight congressional districts need to reach the signature minimum to make it on. As of Tuesday, the petition was certified by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
The activist group Legal Missouri 2022 was behind the initiative. Said campaign manager John Payne in a press release Tuesday, “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference.”
Should it go through, this Amendment 3 forces a change to the constitution of the state, amending its policy on marijuana so that residents 21 and above can purchase and use the drug. In fact, should it go through, it would go into effect as early as the end of this year. This is an incredibly fast implementation, because the amendment is already written, instead of a measure instructing the legislature to come up with laws.
The new amendment includes the following guidelines for the cannabis industry:
- Drop prohibition laws for purchase, possession, use, manufacture, sale, and transport of the drug for adults 21+
- Require a card for home-growing
- Allow those who are currently incarcerated for certain marijuana crimes, or who have incarceration histories, to petition for release/expungement
- Institute a lottery for licenses and certificates
- Ensure each congressional district gets an equal number of licenses
- Implement a 6% sales tax on cannabis products
The reason for this ballot measure is because Missouri’s republican-led congress has repeatedly killed previous marijuana reform bills. As ballot measures are kind of the new thing in weed legalization, advocates decided it was best to take it to the people. Like many other cannabis bills, this one comes with a provision to erase past cannabis convictions for non-violent marijuana crimes, and for those who didn’t sell to minors, or get arrested for marijuana-related driving infractions.
Explained Legal Missouri 2022’s Alan Zagier, “We’re talking about people who may still be on probation or parole or even had a conviction and did their time and paid their fine but yet it still comes up and is a hindrance in housing or employment.” He said the bill would “Provide a fresh start and wipe the slate clean for really tens of thousands of Missourians who each year find themselves arrested for low level drug offenses.”
South Dakota ballot measure
Missouri isn’t the only state letting the people decide the fate of recreational cannabis in November. Another state is South Dakota, and for this state, it means voting on such a measure for the second time. In the November 2020 elections, South Dakota voters passed two ballot measures to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis on the same day, via Measure 26 and Amendment A.
And though the story should have ended there, Governor Kristi Noem proceeded to conspire with law enforcement to bring a case against the win, in order to reverse it on the grounds that Amendment A broke the state’s law of only allowing single-measure ballots.
Noem’s participation was made clear when she made an executive order on February 8th, 2021. When this was appealed, it went to the Supreme Court. As the court is helmed by Noem appointee Christina Klinger, the ruling predictably upheld Noem’s order, ending the recreational legalization, and ostensibly taking away a voted-in win by her own constituents.
Now, the state has a new ballot measure ready to go this November, and considering the last one went through, there’s a pretty good chance this one will too. Initiated Measure 27 would legalize recreational use, as well as allowing the possession and distribution of up to one ounce. Individuals would be allowed to have three plants each, with a max of six plants per household. More than other states, this is an important ballot measure, because it works to offset a horrible injustice done to the people of the state, by their own governor.
The third state with a confirmed ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in the upcoming November elections, is Maryland. On November 8th, residents of Maryland can vote on the Maryland Marijuana Legalization Amendment, which would allow residents 21 and above to access recreational cannabis starting in July 2023. The measure orders the State’s legislature to come up with laws to govern this new cannabis industry.
Maryland already has a decriminalization policy in place from 2014, which allows the possession of up to 10 grams or less without criminal sanctions. The state also has a medical program, instituted back in 2013.
The current measure stated as House Bill (HB) 1, and was approved in the House by a vote of 96-34 in February of this year. Less than two months later, the Senate also passed the bill with a vote of 94-39, showing overall mass support in all of the State’s legislature. For whatever reason, instead of simply allowing the bill to pass into law, the legislature decided to pass the vote onto the people; similar to what happened in New Jersey, which subsequently voted in its own recreational bill in 2020. This means, should the measure get a positive vote, it was passed by both the state congress, as well as the people.
More cannabis ballot measures: Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma too?
On August 3rd it was reported that the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners rejected a measure to allow a recreational legalization measure from appearing on the 2022 ballot. The board approval was a second stipulation, as activists already turned in more than enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Then, in a turn of events, the State’s supreme court ordered the initiative to be allowed. The case was brought by the group Responsible Growth Arkansas in response to the Board of Election Commissioners refusal to certify the measure.
What’s the new stipulation? The case isn’t over. So though the measure now must be on the ballot, whether the votes get counted remains to be seen until the case is officially settled. The placement on the ballot is because the case was expedited to force the certification from the Board in time for elections, though the Board can still argue its case for merit of its denial. Should the board ultimately win, the vote will be null and void. Responsible Growth Arkansas turned in over 193,000 signatures which is over twice the number of necessary signatures for the ballot.
North Dakota already turned in more signatures than necessary for the North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21+. The state requires 15,582 signatures, and the group New Approach North Dakota collected 25,762. Currently the signatures are awaiting verification in order for the initiative to get certified. Unless a major issue comes up, it looks like North Dakota will let its people choose the fate of cannabis in the state come November. This is the second time such a vote was put to the people, as a 2018 measure for the same thing, did not pass.
Oklahoma is also trying to get an initiative on the ballot this November. The group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws collected more than 164,000 signatures, much more than the necessary 94,911. The state is awaiting the verification of these signatures. In the meantime, the attorney general’s office released a revised version of the ballot in order to make it comply with applicable laws. The signature verification was outsourced to third-party company Western Petition Systems, and it looks like, once again, unless something weird comes up, Oklahomans will decide themselves if cannabis should be legalized in November.
Recently, cannabis ballot measures to legalize recreational use have been mainly positive, indicating a strong likelihood that as many as six new states might join the recreational crew come fall elections. If that happens, the number of legalized states increases to 25, officially signaling that 50% of states are going against federal mandate. Though its not often reported this way, this will likely force the federal government to quickly legalize, so as not to look weak compared to its states. This should be a very interesting election when it comes to both state recreational cannabis legalizations, as well as federal government reaction.
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Another Study Says Legalizations Don’t Increase Cannabis Use
The line is old and never made sense in the first place, but politician after politician like to extol the fear that if they legalize cannabis, everyone will become a pothead. As it turns out, study after study say the opposite, that legalizations don’t increase cannabis use, particularly in younger populations. Take a look.
Yet another study now shows that legalizations don’t increase new cannabis use in kids, so why do we keep hearing that it will from politicians? Remember to subscribe to The Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter all the latest news and industry stories, as well as exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
The question of whether legalizations do or don’t increase use comes up a lot in debates over legalization measures. A study published a couple weeks ago called Estimating the effects of legalizing recreational cannabis on newly incident cannabis use, investigates the estimated occurrence of new cannabis users in the below 21 years-of-age grouping, versus those 21 and above. The study sought to find estimates representative of all US states, as well as Washington, DC, and used the data of 819,543 US residents (non-institutionalized) from the years 2008-2019.
Information was collected via audio computer-assisted self-interviews, as part of National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) surveys. These surveys were cross‐sectional, and conducted with “multistage area probability sampling to draw state-level representative samples and to over-sample 12-to-17‐year‐olds.”
It should be noted that this entire study draws from information taken from semi-unrelated research, and was not designed and carried out specifically for its purpose. As stated by the investigators in the write-up, “As this research used publicly available and anonymized data, the research was determined as not human subjects research by the Michigan State University Institutional Review Board on 8/26/2021.” This is not an uncommon practice, and though often used to create associations that really don’t exist, in many situations its a perfectly fine way to collect and asses data.
Investigators used DiD event study models (difference-in-difference) to make inferences on policy effects that were implemented in a staggered way over a period of time. These models are regularly used to show treatment effects from before and after treatment sessions, in medicine, and are used similarly here to see the difference in cannabis use, pre and post legalization.
The results of the study indicate “no policy-associated changes in the occurrence of newly incident cannabis onsets for underage persons, but an increased occurrence of newly onset cannabis use among older adults.” So, basically, its saying that legalizations didn’t lead to more underage people starting to smoke, but did lead to more people of legal age starting to smoke.
They go on to stipulate, “These results show consistent evidence of an increase in the occurrence of newly incident cannabis use for adults aged 21 years and older after the removal of prohibitions against cannabis retail sales. For those aged 12-20-years-old, the study estimates support the hypothesis that RCLs did not affect the occurrence of newly incident cannabis use for underage persons.”
And that “We offer a tentative conclusion of public health importance: Legalized cannabis retail sales might be followed by the increased occurrence of cannabis onsets for older adults, but not for underage persons who cannot buy cannabis products in a retail outlet.” As dispensaries are meant for adults to use at will, and are only barred to underagers, this hardly presents a problem, while backing up that legalizations really don’t increase cannabis use among younger residents.
Are new adult smokers a problem?
This study shows that legalizations don’t increase use in kids, and don’t result in every kid running out to start smoking weed. In fact, it maintains that this isn’t a reason for worry at all. What it does point to, is the possibility that more adults 21 and above might start to smoke after legalizations.
I expect this will be enough for some politicians to latch onto in their quest to link legalizations with a pothead culture. But the problem with this, is that a legalization, and legal dispensaries, are meant to allow this very behavior, indicating that its not a dangerous enough behavior to warrant concern. In fact, not only is it not dangerous, but the array of states with medical legalizations might argue that cannabis is beneficial, which makes it not only not a bad thing for more adults to use cannabis, but possibly an overall beneficial one.
Plus, having an issue with adults smoking, is silly at best when considering how many bars there are, and retail locations to buy alcohol, the drug with one of the highest death counts, and overall global rates for death and disability. And one of the only drugs (along with the idea of smoking in general) that regularly hurts those not partaking, in the form of drunk driving incidents. And though legislators like to point at cannabis for causing danger on roadways, this too has been evaluated in studies, which actually found lower incidence rates of driving accidents in states with medical legalizations.
Should we care that a legalization measure meant to make something completely available to adults…is being used by those adults? Even if in higher numbers than before? I mean, that is the purpose of the industry, right? And given how excited everyone is about the tax value of the cannabis market, it kind of seems like increasing adult smokers, was always the goal.
Uruguay study already showed similar results
Though investigators in the study mentioned above say “This cannabis policy evaluation project adds novel evidence on a neglected parameter”, referring to research on how prevalent new underage smokers are post legalization; this is not correct. Other investigations about whether legalizations do or don’t increase use are already published on this topic, including a recent one from Uruguay.
Uruguay was the first country in the world to go against global mandate and legalize the recreational use of cannabis back in 2013. So it easily has the longest running data stream for how a legalization effects smoking onset in different age groups. In May of this year, a study was published, which “measured whether Uruguay’s non-commercial model of recreational cannabis legalization was associated with changes in the prevalence of risky and frequent cannabis use among secondary school students.”
The study used collected cross-sectional surveys filled out by both Uruguayan and Chilean secondary school students (8th, 10th, 12th grades), from 2007-2018, with a total of 204,730 persons for which data was collected. They used a full range of kids in the 12-17 age range, as well as a specific group in that range that mentioned past-month or past-year use, as well as another group of 18-21 year olds.
They particularly looked at changes in frequent or risky cannabis behavior in past-month and past-year models, with special interest in changes just after the legalization kicked in, in 2014. Investigators used the Cannabis Abuse Screening Test for risky cannabis behaviors, and established frequent use as 10+ days in the last month.
Study results found that there was not an increase, but a decrease in both past-month and past-year use directly following the start of the industry, in the 12-17 range. Though there was a slight uptick in the 18-21 range right after the market opened, risky use quickly decreased soon after. In fact, risky use decreased in all the following samples: participants who used in the past-month, who used frequently in the past-year, and those that claimed frequent use from the entire sample.
Not only does this study indicate no issue with raised cannabis use in the underage community after legalization, but it shows a decrease in overall risky use for all groups. Plus, this is the second study of this nature out of Uruguay. In 2020, the study The impact of cannabis legalization in Uruguay on adolescent cannabis use was published, which came to its own conclusion that “We find no evidence of an impact on cannabis use or the perceived risk of use. We find an increase in student perception of cannabis availability (58% observed vs. 51% synthetic control) following legalization.”
This indicates that students are wholly aware of the increased availability of cannabis, yet aren’t running out to go get it. The study sought to “estimate the impact of legalization in Uruguay on adolescent past year and month cannabis use, perceived availability of cannabis and perceived risk of cannabis use.”
How long will we keep hearing the line that we’re all going to be pot junkies if a legalization occurs? And how many more studies must show that legalizations don’t increase cannabis use in younger communities, before the powers that be get the point? As the line sounds like an excuse to begin with, I’d say we’re not even close to that backwards sentiment being wiped off the boards, and it will take time for the logic to fully filter down. Luckily, the process is most definitely underway, thanks to recent research.
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THC Limit: The Point That You Don’t Get Higher
Our standard way of thinking about drugs is that the more drugs you take, the more intense an experience you’ll have. In this model, not only does more mean more intensity, but it also means the possibility of taking too much, and overdosing. Can this happen with cannabis? According to research, THC has a limit, and if you keep smoking past it, you don’t get higher. Take a look.
Do we have THC limits within us? Is there a point of smoking when we don’t get higher, no matter how much we smoke? According to research (and life), yes, there is! Our 100% independent news publication focuses on stories in the growing cannabis and psychedelics spaces. We provide the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter for readers to stay updated, and offer tons of deals for a range of products, from smoking devices to cannabinoid products like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC. You can find deals in our ‘best of’ lists, for which we ask you only buy products you are comfortable with using.
Before getting to the study, and the ‘official’ documentation, let’s first think about smoking behavior. Sure, not everyone is a giant pothead, but there are plenty of giant potheads out there, and even lower-level smokers might encounter a specific time period of mass smoking whereby they can assess the situation of what happens with increased amounts of THC.
If you keep taking opioids, you’ll get super high, and then eventually, you’ll take too much for your system to handle the depressive aspects of the drug, and your body will shut down. We call that an overdose. Many drugs lead to death when too much is taken, by essentially flooding the body with a compound it can’t remove fast enough, or balance the effects of, for regular function. Some drugs are more likely to kill than other drugs, but even a non-fatal reaction can result in a seizure, unconsciousness, or bodily injury of some kind.
However, this isn’t the case for all drugs. And technically, for pot, we know this doesn’t happen fatally because there are enough smokers out there, that this kind of information is understood. We know people don’t die from pot because no death statistics exist. And because no one has seen it happen before. But what does that mean for super heavy smokers? Are they simply never getting to the death limit, or is there no limit to get to? And if it won’t cause death, does that mean it stops working at some point?
Standard life tells us, yes. As a regular smoker myself (and a sometimes full-out pothead), I’m well aware that if I take toke after toke after toke, that eventually, I’m not going to feel any difference anymore. After a certain point, my brain will remain at the same level of mush, and I don’t get higher, despite possibly smoking way, way more. I might burn my throat if I’m smoking joints or pipes, or set my asthma off (both things that are avoided by vaping), but I’m not going to enter into some new high headspace with each new drag.
Technically, every smoker knows this, even if they never thought about it logically. For one thing, if we did continue to get to higher points, it would be written about extensively, and its not. At all. And for another thing, that seeming inability to die from it indicates that at a certain point, there is no further bodily response. A couple years ago, a study came out that helped show this logic, and which backs up the idea that with THC, there is a limit. And after that limit, smokers don’t get higher.
The study in question, is called Association of Naturalistic Administration of Cannabis Flower and Concentrates With Intoxication and Impairment. The goal of the study was to assess if there is an “association of legal market cannabis flower and concentrates with cannabis intoxication and neurobehavioral impairment?”
In order to do this, study researchers designed a cohort study with 121 cannabis flower and concentrate users. The participants were in groups per their choice of general product (flower or concentrate), and then randomly split within user groups into two groups, a higher-THC product group, and a lower-THC product group. The study used legal market cannabis flowers for the flower group, with a range of 16-24% THC, and concentrates with 70-90% THC for the concentrates group. 55 of the participants used cannabis flower (41.4%), and 66 of the participants used concentrates (49.6%).
Investigators measured plasma cannabinoid levels, as well as subjective drug intoxication of the users, and performance results on a range of neurobehavioral tasks to test attention, memory, inhibitory control, and balance. Researchers found that it didn’t matter which product the participants used (flower vs concentrate), as users showed similar behavior on a neural level after acute use.
The concentrates caused uniformly higher THC blood plasma levels across the board (.32 vs .14 μg/mL). In nearly all metrics, though, neurobehavioral measures were not changed by short-term cannabis use. There was a delay in impairment of verbal memory and balance in general, but apart from these factors, there was no different outcome based on the type of product or potency level.
Researchers concluded that though cannabis concentrates provide higher THC exposure, that the difference in subjective and neurobehavioral impairments in the short term, is not specifically associated with the strength of the product used.
According to researchers, “In general, across most cognitive measures, acute performance changes following cannabis use were minimal. In 1 exception, delayed verbal recall performance was impaired after use, which is consistent with prior work demonstrating reliable cannabis-associated impairment in this memory domain.” And that “across forms of cannabis and potencies, users’ domains of verbal memory and proprioception-focused postural stability were primarily associated with THC administration.”
One limitation of the study, was that there was no control group used, so all participants received THC, with no group which did not. Investigators were also required to go by federal mandate, which restricted drug dosing, as well as control of other aspects of administration. A last restriction, they had to pre-assign the major groups of flower-users vs concentrate-users based on pre-existing user behavior, due to ethical limitations. Even with these limitations, the results still say a lot about how little the effect changes when a person has more THC.
What it means
The researchers weren’t testing to see at what level a person stopped breathing, or keeled over and died. However, the research pointed out why we don’t worry about these things with cannabis. If low and high THC users essentially show the same functional reactivity, it indicates that past a point, no further effect is felt by increasing THC.
Though this doesn’t provide a direct answer as to whether a person can die from too much THC, or too much cannabis in general, it does imply this is unlikely. Death results from the body being pushed past a limit, for which stronger and stronger doses of a compound will show a leveled increase in whatever is being measured. After the point the body can no longer handle this, it shuts down, or changes in some way.
This study implies that though THC plasma levels increase, and though some neurobehavioral change occurs (mainly in verbal memory and balance), that results are effectively the same regardless of THC amount. This means that even if the THC in the blood continues to increase, it shouldn’t show any further change with neurobehavioral activities. This study did not asses effects on heart rate, breathing rate, or blood pressure.
If one was to make the assumption that such changes in these other processes would be indicated by differing brain behavior, then it could be assumed (while still requiring official testing), that increased levels of THC intake, past a point, do not alter other body functions like respiration, heart rate, or blood pressure, either. Once again, this study did not attempt to answer these questions, but as cannabis isn’t associated with a death rate, the implication is that these factors don’t increase out-of-range either.
This study backs up why there’s no death count for marijuana. It might not explain why the body reacts the way it does, but it does show a certain ability to withstand increased amounts of THC. This leaves plenty more questions for the future, but does elucidate why when we get to the point of smoking joint after joint, or taking vape hit after vape hit, or bong rip after bong rip, that the end result, is about the same. And that somewhere along the way, we hit a THC limit, whereby we don’t get higher.
This is not to say that a user won’t experience bad effects from using cannabis, even if death isn’t one of them. However, having said that, there is also no indication that these negative responses accumulate with use, either, indicating that there is also a limit to the bad feelings that can come from smoking marijuana.
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