Hello, humans. Did you pick up or download The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herer and begin reading it yet? Are you befuddled by this question? It’s a homework assignment from the #1 ThCB. Feel free to backtrack if you’d like.
Or read on. Whatever works.
So. You’ve come a long way in your perception of cannabis. We like that about you! And you’re not alone. For most of the U.S., (and the world, as it’s turning out), cannabis is no longer about rebellious kids doing bong rips to get eff’d up, watch B Comedies, giggle themselves silly, and eat all snack foods in sight. Even if it ever was/still is for some people, so what? The fact of the matter is that humans have always wanted to explore alternate ways of experiencing the world and they always will. Maybe you’ve shamed stoners for their shenanigans at some point, harshing their mellow(s) — if only in your judgey mind. But consider the modern day alternative, fallout from a country in the grips of Big Pharma…
Only very recently was I introduced to the phenomenon known as a “Skittles party.” One might hear the term Skittles party and picture, as I did, some fun-loving kids playing board games, making themselves sick on candy and soda. Seems innocuous enough, doesn’t it? (I mean, if candies and soda made from High Fructose Corn Syrup, one of the deadliest food chemicals on the planet — and recently re-named ‘fructose’ or ‘corn sugar’ to make it so that the purveyors might reclaim some marketshare lost as America discovers how toxic it is — could be called innocuous…but that’s a post for another time.)
I was shocked to find out that a Skittles party or “pharma party” involves a new kind of rebellious kid who — armed with prescription drugs they’ve swiped, been prescribed/gifted, or bought on the street — shows up at a party where other kids have done the same. They all throw the brightly-colored pills in a big bowl and then fish them out and take them just for funsies! W. T. F.?!
Take a quick spin through the Emerging Trends page of the website for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National warnings issued by the DEA over the last three years number more than a dozen, calling attention to seized illicit opioid substances for sale on the street — like the infamous U-47700, also known as U4, a research chemical seven times more potent than morphine, and easily obtainable on the internet until the DEA gave it an emergency Schedule I status in November, 2016. Or the delightfully named “Grey Death,” a potentially fatal mix of U4, Heroin and Fentanyl. As an auntie to numerous nieces and nephews, I feel for parents who come to the realization that there are a lot of ways a kid these days could end up on the wrong side of a pretty little pill.
Some street drugs come right from the makers. Pharmaceutical companies, required to report any suspicious purchases activity, suffer no real consequences for failing to do so. According to an L.A. Times investigative report published in July 2016, pharmaceutical manufacturer Purdue had knowledge of suspicious wholesale orders of their opioid OxyContin over a span of a decade, but failed to report them to the DEA or cut the supply to the traffickers. Their lack of action resulted in an estimated one million OxyContins for sale in the black market. WELCOME TO OUR HEALTH CRISIS.
Legislation to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their practices contributing to the opioid epidemic has failed across the board. As a result, dozens of states, cities and counties have filed lawsuits to try and force the makers of opioids to pay and offset the burden the crisis is putting on taxpayers. Purdue is named in a lawsuit by South Carolina accusing them of not doing enough to stem the flow of opioids to the black market. Wholesale pharmaceutical distributors Amerisource Bergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health have a suit pending against them filed by the City of Cincinnati, charging them with knowingly scheming to drive profits without regard for the effects this would have on the city and its citizens.
In August, 2017, Insys Therapeutics, makers of the deadly opioid Fentanyl — R.I.P. Prince — agreed to pay a ‘charge’ to resolve a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Attorney General’s office alleging they marketed the Fentanyl-based opioid cancer pain drug Subsys to doctors “prescribing high volumes of opioid drugs instead of oncologists treating cancer patients.” By settling, the Arizona-based Insys stopped just short of admitting to any wrongdoing, a smart move on their part, as the flood of patients lawsuits would have ruined them.
Remarkably, (or perhaps not so), just four days prior to agreeing to the $4.5 million payout, Insys had launched its synthetic THC drug, which surprisingly, (or perhaps not so) received a DEA Schedule II status. THC from the original source — the cannabis plant itself — remains at the most-dangerous Schedule I status. It’s important to also note that just months before debuting the synthetic THC drug, Arizona-based Insys also gave $500,000 to defeat AZ’s 2016 medical cannabis initiative (Prop 205), citing concerns “for kids.”
WELL, IF THAT AIN’T THE KETTLE CALLING THE POT BLACK.
A Vice documentary highlighting the opioid crisis in Canada follows kids in their early 20s with crippling Fentanyl addictions, including 22-year old Ryan. According to him, Fentanyl addicts as young as fourteen are already living on the street. Soooo, Insys. No one — that includes kids — has ever died from a cannabis overdose. Can YOU say the same about Fentanyl?
Ironically, the same month as Insys’ payout and introduction of their new drug, research published by the University of Mississippi showed that CBD blocks opioid reward centers in the brains of mice, thus helping with the severe withdrawals associated with opioid detox. Though the story of opioid addicts is everywhere, this bright light shining on the path to this national recovery received very little attention from the press. Google it.
According to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence last March, hospitalization numbers due to opioid dependence, abuse or overdose in states with medical cannabis as much as 23% lower than in states without medical cannabis. As we celebrate approaching legalization in California, there are still many states that have been hit hard by this opioid crisis where patients don’t have access to cannabis. Why?! The way out of the opioid crisis is a plant we’ve demonized for decades.
And what about you, newbie? Are you considering cannabis for your pain yet? As any compassionate budtender can tell you, there are myriad ways patients successfully treat chronic pain with cannabis, and not just by smoking it — topicals, sublinguals, transdermals and edibles all play their part in combating pain. You, the patient, are in charge. Start wherever you’re comfortable. Keep notes and go at your own pace. Learn to listen to your body. Afraid of feeling high? Try microdosing THC! A couple of milligrams to start or the acid or raw versions — THCa, CBDa. My bet is you’ll come around to THC for pain at some point. In some form. It’s effective, plain and simple. Why else would Big Pharma be trying to make a knockoff in a laboratory?!