The love drug: can marijuana improve our sex lives?
By Alex Halperin | July 9, 2018
In India, practitioners of tantric sex incorporated cannabis into their acrobatics as early as 700AD. In the 1930s, Fusion found, young Russian brides used a mixture of cannabis and lamb fat to reduce the discomfort of losing their virginity.
Today the cannabis industry is willing to attribute almost any positive attribute to the plant. But when it comes to sex, insiders speak with conviction.
A galaxy of strains and edibles purport to enhance sex. The sleek vaporizer brand Dosist offers formulations called Arouse and Passion. The cannabis tea company Kikoko sells Sensuali-Tea.
The most common sex products to emerge with legalization are cannabis-infused personal lubricants, typically made from cannabis-infused coconut oil. They claim to enhance sensation and arousal, when spritzed on to female genitals, and to make women’s orgasms both stronger and more likely.
Quim Rock, a brand available in California dispensaries, adds tea tree oil, which it says is good for vaginal health. Rachel Washtien, one of the brand’s two female founders, wrote in an email that part of the company’s mission was to “break the taboos associated with sex, cannabis and vaginal health”. Their company name attempts to reclaim a derogatory Old English word for the female anatomy. The company logo, a lizard sunning itself on a rock, is supposed to embody the spirit of self-care.
Up in smoke: new California law could send $350m worth of cannabis to incinerator
By Alex Halperin | June 29, 2018
About $350m worth of cannabis products could be destroyed as new regulations take effect on Sunday in California.
New rules stipulate that all cannabis products must be sold in child-resistant packaging, and must be lab-tested for potency and a variety of contaminants. Additionally, edibles will be limited to 100mg of THC per package, divided into 10mg servings.
The long-anticipated switch has prompted California dispensaries to sell non-compliant products at steep discounts. Amid the buyers’ market, dispensaries that overstocked the items are feeling the brunt of the rule change.
The United Cannabis Business Alliance estimates the damage from products that have to be destroyed could exceed $350m.
“We’re sort of at the point where the rubber meets the road,” the Los Angeles marijuana business attorney Ariel Clark said. “It’s a rough transition for a lot of people across the state.”
The switch highlights the difficulties California faces in bringing its vast, multibillion-dollar market for the federally illegal drug out of the shadows.
With so much product heading for the incinerator, there has been speculation about product shortages following the changeover.
Which high to buy? How to decode labels when shopping for weed
By Alex Halperin | June 25, 2018
Depending on the user, the product and the circumstances, marijuana can induce introversion or vivacity, wit or paranoia, comfort or unease. The problem is there’s no real way to know what sensation a given product will induce.
Many US companies label their products with terms like “buzz” and “chill”, but none I’m aware of has produced data showing these products work as promised. The abundance of brands, however, encourages users to think of different marijuana products as appropriate for different moods, times of day or desired medical benefits.
Flower comes in three main categories. Indica, sativa and hybrid. According to stoner tradition, indicas induce a nighttime sedentary effect, while sativas offer a peppier daytime buzz.
There is no credible science to back any of this up. It is a pseudoscience like astrology, valuable to those who choose to place stock in it.
While virtually everything available in dispensaries today is a hybrid of some kind, indica became associated with certain observable characteristics like broader leaves, and most importantly, its earthy smell. Sativas, meanwhile, are generally associated with bright smells like citrus and pine.
The hemp revival: why marijuana's cousin could soon be big business
By Alex Halperin | June 11, 2018
Long associated with the hoariest hippie stereotypes, hemp is now chic.
The crop – which is a cannabis plant very similar to marijuana, but lacking its best-known property: getting you high – is a versatile raw material, and like its more notorious relative, it could once again become very lucrative.
The spread of marijuana legalization has sparked renewed interest not because of hemp wallet fanatics – but due largely to demand for CBD, a chemical both it and marijuana produce in which some see potential as a pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement.
For decades US anti-marijuana laws have made it very difficult to experiment on and develop new uses for hemp, though, according to the US government, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, the plant’s primary psychoactive ingredient.
The perception of its widespread medical benefits have made the chemical a rallying cry for legalization advocates.
The first thing to know about CBD is that it is not psychoactive; it doesn’t get people high. The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But THC is only one of the scores of chemicals – known as cannabinoids – produced by the cannabis plant.
So far, CBD is the most promising compound from both a marketing and a medical perspective. Many users believe it helps them relax, despite it not being psychoactive, and some believe regular doses help stave off Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Should I grow my own weed at home? Here's what you need to know
By Alex Halperin | May 14 2018
The Canadian government, which is likely to legalize cannabisnationwide this summer, said it planned to allow home grows of up to four marijuana plants, which might yield 5lb in a year to an experienced grower, and is certainly consumable by an experienced smoker.
In response, the Canadian Real Estate Association hit the panic button and called for a nationwide moratorium on home growing until it can be better studied. The group says home grows could deplete property values, and also raise rents, especially for low-income tenants. Supporters of the law say four plant grows pose minimal risk.
As legalization spreads, more cannabis enthusiasts are naturally going to want to try cultivation for themselves. The 2018 National Gardening Survey found 15% of US households would grow marijuana at home if it was legal. But, along with edibles, home growing is generally among the most contentious topics within the legalization debate.
Allowing it, police say, enables criminals to hide in plain sight. For law-abiding growers it could invite burglaries, since their stash is worth $1,000 a pound and easy to resell. Firefighters worry about the blazing hot lightbulbs growers use and their elaborate electrical set-ups.
Art you can smoke: the strange and exquisite bongs worth $50,000
By Alex Halperin | May 1, 2018
Below Kyle Tracey’s flatscreen TV there’s a velociraptor skeleton, perhaps 3ft long, in a hunting crouch. The mouthpiece is beneath a removable section of the tail. Tracey estimates the elaborate bong would sell for $20,000 to $30,000.
Hanging on a nearby wall is a roughly full-sized glass lion skull encircled by a spiky mane – a tribute to Cecil, the slaughtered lion. The pipe, made by the same high-end bongmaker as the dinosaur, doubles as a lamp; the skull detaches for smoking. Its estimated value is $50,000.
Tracey, a marijuana entrepreneur, has collected glass pipes since he was a teenager. But calling his most cherished and valuable pieces “pipes” is a bit like calling Fabergé Eggs “paperweights”.
Exquisite and expensive glass pieces like these make up only a tiny fraction of a multibillion-dollar industry for marijuana accessories, but the market is bound to grow as consumers grow less shy about keeping attractive pipes on display.
Like many aspects of cannabis culture, glassmaking for many years belonged to young men who weren’t inclined to talk about it. Many faced legal risks. Drug paraphernalia laws remain on the books in many states and federally, though they now tend to be less strictly enforced. Within the crucible of an illegal market, glassmakers forged a new American folk art, a kind of sculptural jazz.
'Cannabis strengthened our bond': can pot make you a better parent?
By Alex Halperin | April 16th, 2018
In Oregon mother posted a photo last year of herself breastfeeding her baby while she took a bong hit. Naturally, the image went viral.
Amid the expected backlash, some much milder criticism came from Jenn Lauder, an Oregon cannabis activist who co-founded Splimm, a newsletter on pot and parenting, with her husband. Lauder chided the breastfeeder for exposing the baby to smoke and for the “optics” of the image.
“That mom could have made better choices,” Lauder told me recently. The former teacher has said that while she did not use cannabis when pregnant with her daughter, she resumed shortly after giving birth, and while breastfeeding, to mitigate postpartum depression.
Lauder added: “I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that a lactating mother’s cannabis consumption produces any negative effects for a nursing child.”
Doctors would not agree. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is transmitted in breastmilk, according to a recent study. And while the effect on newborns hasn’t been intensely studied, the chemical is widely believed to impair brain development.
Yes, it’s jarring to see a woman in a quintessential act of motherhood, with her face in a bong. But the reality is some parents believe cannabis improves their child rearing. That number is bound to increase as cannabis use becomes more acceptable with legalization. And vape pens and edibles make it easy to do discreetly.
Weedmaps: why 'Yelp for pot' is under fire for its Silicon Valley attitude
By Alex Halperin | April 3, 2018
Sometimes called Yelp for pot, the smartphone app Weedmaps enables users to locate dispensaries and delivery services selling the green stuff. The company has been among the breakout success stories of legalization thus far.
While federal illegality in the US makes it very difficult for a company to sell cannabis in more than one state, Weedmaps faces no such constraints. As it is a technology company, content posted on its site by users isn’t regulated – even if that content relates to illegal practices.
With customers on both US coasts, Canada and Spain, it’s one of very few international marijuana brands. When a visitor lands in Portland, Denver or San Francisco, they might not know the local dispensary or product names, but they know to check Weedmaps to find out.
Hollyweed: fledgling cannabis industry struggles to woo the stars
By Alex Halperin | March 12, 2018
In the lead-up to the Academy Awards, stars were invited to stop by a string of rooms at the Beverly Hilton to sip champagne, get a spa treatment and inspect the brands eager to find a place in celebrities’ lives and on their Instagram feeds. This year there was something new on offer – marijuana.
It felt like a swanky, hectic flea market, with celebrities heavily outnumbered by their attendants. An actor tried on pieces from a streetwear line, surrounded by a circle of enablers. A well-known character actor sampled cosmetics.
In this setting, a vaping or smoking lounge would have been immensely complicated and probably illegal – though recreational marijuana is now legal in California. Instead, the room was devoted to four CBD (cannabidiol) companies. CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, is commonly associated with the drug’s medicinal properties and less specific “wellness” benefits, like any number of compounds infused into nutritional supplements and personal care products.
Dream catchers, succulents and joints: a visit to an LA cannabis shop
By Alex Halperin // February 12, 2018
On one wall of 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu, mosses and succulents are nestled in a frame of locally procured driftwood. Native American dream catchers dripping with feathers and sea shells hang from the pot dispensary’s ceilings. Vases of white lilies perfume the air. In a side room, visitors can lie on a heated crystal blanket and receive reiki, sound treatments and other ministrations.
It’s a world apart from the pot shops Green encountered years ago when she was shopping for medical marijuana with her mother, who had received a breast cancer diagnosis. At the time, dispensaries were cramped, dingy spaces, with bars over the windows. “You felt you were doing something wrong, like a criminal,” Green said. “There were no rules that said you had to do it in this hideous manner.”
Upscale dispensaries tend to aim for Apple Store minimalism rather than High Tide’s new age baroque. Either way, the idea is to nudge affluent customers, especially women, to think of weed as part of a healthy, active life, rather than an impediment to one.
For many years, cannabis users have largely had to settle for whatever they could find. The products available at High Tide show how companies operating in a legal market have taken a raw material – cannabis – and with design and marketing savvy created products targeting a far broader range of consumers than an illegal product ever could.
Marijuana: is it time to stop using a word with racist roots?
By Alex Halperin // January 29, 2018
It’s been known as dope, grass, herb, gage, tea, reefer, chronic. But the most familiar name for the dried buds of the cannabis plant, and one of the few older terms still in use today, is “marijuana”.
For the prohibitionists of nearly a century ago, the exotic-sounding word emphasized the drug’s foreignness to white Americans and appealed to the xenophobia of the time. As with other racist memes, a common refrain was that marijuana would lead to miscegenation.
Harry Anslinger, the bureaucrat who led the prohibition effort, is credited as saying back then: “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Today “cannabis” and “marijuana” are terms used more or less interchangeably in the industry, but a vocal contingent prefers the less historically fraught “cannabis”. At a time of intense interest in past injustices, some say “marijuana” is a racist word that should fall out of use.
Harborside, which is among the oldest and largest dispensaries in California, says on its website: “‘Marijuana’ has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine ... This stigma has played a big part in stymying cannabis legalization efforts throughout the US.”
Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don't know
By Alex Halperin // January 15, 2018
The movement to legalize medical marijuana has its roots in the 1980s and early 1990s, the worst days of the US Aids epidemic. The disease was a death sentence, and stricken young men sought out marijuana for relief and solace. In San Francisco’s Castro District, a gay Vietnam veteran named Dennis Peron ran an illegal dispensary to supply them. Peron went on to co-write Proposition 215, which California passed in 1996, becoming the first state to allow medical marijuana – med for short.
Among all the things med is touted as doing, relief from wasting illnesses like Aids and cancer (especially during chemotherapy) is among the respectable. A reader in the UK writes that when his wife was dying of breast cancer, “I purchased a vaporiser for her, it quickly became invaluable for both pain relief and as a mood enhancer”. Though research is limited, a recent study found a quarter of cancer patients in Seattle use marijuana.
The concept of med is easy to mock, since so many users don’t have an urgent medical need. But while very sick people taking it to improve their quality of life isn’t medicine in the conventional sense, it doesn’t seem silly either. Thirty US states and a numerous countries have legalized med on the basis of anecdotal evidence that it can help.
High time: introducing the Guardian's new cannabis column for grownups
By Alex Halperin // January 1, 2018
Today, California becomes the world’s largest legal marijuana market. It’s not the first American state to go fully legal, but with its outsized cultural influence and economy larger than France, it’s about to do for cannabis what Hollywood did for celluloid and Silicon Valley did for the semi-conductor.
Already, 30 US states have legalized medical marijuana (Med). Next year, Canada is likely to become the first large industrialized nation to legalize recreational (Rec), with support from the prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Germany, Israel and Australia have the beginnings of Med industries. Legal marijuana is coming to your neighborhood, maybe a lot sooner than you think.
For decades the plant has been stigmatized, at best, as a time waster for malodorous and unproductive men, with the disapproval factor steepening after age 30. But here in Los Angeles, the world’s most important cannabis market, a rebranding is under way. Marketers are positioning marijuana as a mainstream “wellness” product, a calorie-free alternative to an after-work cocktail. In short, it’s on the brink of global conquest.