Cannabis Could Improve Your Night Vision

Getting tadpoles stoned helps them see in the dark, according to a study that appeared recently in the journal eLife. And while scientists dont yet have any evidence that smoking weed can improve the night vision of humans, the results of this research suggest that this could well be the case.

Marijuana contains compounds like THC that bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain in order to produce a range of effects. Among these is a receptor known as CB1, which controls several of the sensations typically associated with being stoned. Interestingly, the human retina contains a high concentration of CB1 receptors, suggesting that cannabis probably has an effect on our vision.

To investigate, the study authors applied synthetic cannabinoids to the eye tissue of tadpoles of the African clawed toad, and used tiny electrodes to measure how this influenced the activity of their retinal neurons known as retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Readings indicated a spike in RGC activity in the presence of cannabinoids, suggesting that activating CB1 receptors increases the sensitivity of these light-detecting cells.

To confirm this, the team then placed the tadpoles in a petri dish along with some black dots that were designed to look like predators, so that the tadpoles would consciously avoid them. In low light conditions, tadpoles that had received cannabinoids were much better at dodging these dots than those that hadnt been treated with the drug, indicating that their RGCs had become more sensitive to light, allowing them to see better in the dark.

In their write-up, the researchers explain that the binding of these cannabinoids to the CB1 receptors in the tadpoles retinas resulted in the inhibition of a protein called NKCC1, which transports chloride, potassium and sodium ions across neuronal membranes.

Blocking the activity of this transporter leads to a decrease in the number of negatively charged chloride ions inside neurons, which causes membranes to become hyperpolarized, resulting in an increase in electrical activity.

Though more research is required in order to confirm if cannabis produces the same effect in humans, the findings of this study certainly provide some interesting food for thought as the scientific community continues to probe the drugs medicinal properties.


The DEA just wrote a letter to Congress about marijuana. It’s a big deal.

The way state governments treat marijuana has changed a lot over the past decade.

In fact, states with more relaxed marijuana laws now outnumber states with stricter policies. In many states, governments have decriminalized marijuana, legalized the use of the compounds in marijuana for medical purposes, and even legalized weed altogether.

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Altered State: tracing marijuana’s long, strange trip through California

With the Golden State on the cusp of legalizing recreational pot, a new exhibition aims to spark conversation about the drugs past, present and future

Nancy Reagan looks you straight in the eye, disapproving, and reminds you to Just say no! An awkward Richard M Nixon promises via historic video that he will continue to oppose efforts to legalize marijuana. Bill Clinton flashes on the gallery wall, insisting: I didnt inhale.

By the time Barack Obama shrugs When I was a kid, I inhaled it frequently its obvious youre in an altered state. Not the chemical kind, but rather the Oakland Museum of Californias new exhibit exploring marijuanas long, strange, trip through California.

Billed as the first full-blown museum exhibit in the US featuring what some decry as devil weed and others applaud as a miracle drug, Altered State: Marijuana in California could not be more timely. In February, Governor Jerry Brown named the states first medical marijuana czar, just four months after signing a package of laws regulating medicinal pot.

More than 20 measures to legalize recreational marijuana have been jostling to get onto the November ballot in the Golden State, including the frontrunner bankrolled by Napster co-founder Sean Parker and endorsed by lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom.

Pick your pot: varieties of weed on display at Altered State. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

The exhibit opens Saturday and runs until 25 September, about six weeks before a roster of states is expected to vote on ballot measures legalizing recreational pot not just California, but Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and Ohio, among others.

We wanted to become a forum for conversation before the election, said curator Sarah Seiter, and also do stuff thats relevant to contemporary issues … In the Politically Loaded section we talk about different models for legalization and how we can choose to be like Seattle, or Washington DC, or like Uruguay, which is a state-run model. Well, we probably couldnt do that here.

There are actually many politically loaded sections, in particular the section called Criminal Dope, which explores how different law enforcement jurisdictions deal with marijuana a schedule one drug that is illegal on the federal level but legal for recreational use in Washington state, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia.

Although Oakland voters passed Measure Z in 2004, requiring the city to make cannabis the lowest priority for police, there are still tickets issued. One exhibit shows how three California cities mete out justice differently. In Oakland, most people ticketed for marijuana possession are black. In Los Angeles and Fresno, they are Latino.

Museum goers are asked to fill out their own police reports detailing whether they have ever been ticketed for pot or have interacted with police in other ways.

Much of the exhibit is interactive. At one station, people can smell the product, comparing the scents of various varieties. They can shove their hands into protective gloves and feel fresh pot leaves in a clear, secured box. The can buy snacks from a vending machine marked Munchies.

Visitors to the exhibition can touch a fresh marijuana plant though protective gloves. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

And they can go into a confession booth, draw the blue velvet drapes closed behind them and write about their own experiences with marijuana, things they might never tell anyone they know. The anonymous missives are then posted on the museum walls.

Some are already there, filled out by museum visitors over the summer as staff tested exhibit prototypes.

Sometimes I get mad @ weed b/c I think it was partly responsible for ruining one of my relationships. Everything in moderation, right?

I wish my 7 year old son with severe Autism could try this for anxiety and migraines so he could leave the house.

I am a little high right now

Broaching the topic of marijuana made museum staff think long and hard about what it means to be an institution today a time when politics are increasingly rancorous and the curious can find out anything they want using a smartphone and a good search engine.

Kelly McKinley, director of the Oakland Museums curatorial lab. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

If we want to wade into this, what do we hope to achieve, asked Kelly McKinley, who is the director of the museums curatorial lab. What can we contribute? We need to think about our role in a different way.

By presenting this topic, were taking a stand on the fact that its an important thing to talk about, she continued, as drills whirred, vacuum cleaners roared and staff members put finishing touches on the 3,500 sq ft gallery. Were not taking a stand on one perspective or another, but we feel that were uniquely equipped to be a place to make sense of the many, many different and often polarizing perspectives.

Those perspectives play out on the deep green walls that greet museum-goers at the entrance to Altered States. An image of Allen Ginsberg at a pro-pot demonstration is juxtaposed against the stern visage of William Bennett. The poets views on marijuana bump up against the former US drug czars, who served under Ronald Reagan.

Ginsberg: Pot is fun.

Bennett: Why in Gods name foster the use of a drug that makes you stupid?

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Pennsylvania takes states allowing medical marijuana to new high

Keystone state is 24th to legalise cannabis use for health reasons, prompting state Republican senator to say: What were doing today is the healer

Pennsylvania on Sunday became the 24th US state to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

The Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, signed the bill into law in the afternoon, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of supporters at the Capitol building in Harrisburg.

Marijuana is medicine and its coming to Pennsylvania, said Democratic state senator Daylin Leach, the bills cosponsor.

The bills drafters say it could take two years to write regulations and get retailers opened, but a provision allows parents to legally administer medical marijuana to their children before the bill takes effect in a month.

The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients can take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor, ointment or liquid form, but will not be able to legally obtain marijuana to smoke or grow.

Senator Mike Vereb, a Republican, called on lawmakers to take on what he called the No 1 killer in Pennsylvania opioid abuse.

Tom Wolf speaks at a ceremony where he signed the medical marijuana bill. Photograph: Daniel Zampogna/AP

Opioid abuse has no party, has no color, has no religion, Vereb said. Lets face it, thats the killer. What were doing today is the healer.

Among those celebrating the victory was Dana Ulrich, who has fought for legal access to the drug in the belief that it would help her eight-year-old daughter Lorelei, who has numerous seizures every day.

I never doubted for one second that this day would come, she told the crowd, thanking patient advocates and caregivers as well as lawmakers and the governor.

When you get a group of truly dedicated people together that have the same goal and the same mind and the same hearts, you can achieve anything.

Wolf called it a great, great day for Pennsylvania, but more important, a great day for Pennsylvanians. He said he and lawmakers were responding not to a special interest group or to campaign contributors, but to a real human need.

When you have people who represent a cause as eloquently and in as heartfelt a way as the advocates for this have done, it shows that we can actually get something done that means something, Wolf said.

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Colorado marijuana law: uptick in adults lighting up, but not minors

Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 students before and after legalization showed no significant change in usage by children under 18

Colorado children are not smoking more pot since the drug became legal but their older siblings and parents certainly are, according to a long-awaited report giving the most comprehensive data yet on the effects of the states 2012 recreational marijuana law.

The state released a report on Monday detailing changes in everything from pot arrests to tax collections to calls to Poison Control. Surveys given to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers indicate that youth marijuana use did not rise significantly in the years after the 2012 vote.

Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 Colorado students before and after legalization showed no significant change in marijuana use by children under 18 in the preceding 30 days.

Among high school students, use went from about 23% in 2005 to about 20% in 2014. Similarly, there was no significant change in use by children younger than 13 in recent years.

But Colorado youth were much more likely, both before and after legalization, to use marijuana than children in other states, according to a national survey.

About 13% of Colorado minors aged 12-17 in 2014 had used marijuana in the last 30 days, the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health said. That compared with about 7% of minors the same ages nationwide.

Youth marijuana arrests in Colorado rose 5% between 2012 and 2014, from 3,235 to 3,400. Worse, the report cited a huge uptick in pot arrests in schools, which rose by 34% between 2012 and 2014.

While use of the drug did not increase significantly among children, it did jump among adults.

Relying on data from the national drug use survey, Colorado reported that nearly a third of Coloradans aged 18-25 in 2014 had used pot in the last 30 days, a rise of about 5% from the year before recreational pot was legalized.

The survey showed a similar spike in adults over 26. Past 30-day marijuana use went from 7.6% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2014.

The report comes three years after lawmakers ordered the state department of public safety to start tracking law enforcement activity related to pot. A major argument of pro-legalization activists was that legal pot would result in fewer arrests, allowing police to focus on what some consider more serious crimes.

The numbers showed a marked drop in arrests, but that legalization has not solved the racial disparities in enforcement that drug-policy reformers had hoped to end. Colorado police departments have struggled to standardize their marijuana data-collection systems, making more granular conclusions problematic.

Other highlights from the report:

  • There was no discernible trend in illegal pot cultivation on public land, which includes most of Colorados ski resorts.
  • More Coloradans are calling Poison Control reporting marijuana-related exposure. Pot calls went from 44 in 2006 to 227 in 2015.
  • Traffic safety data related to legalization was limited, mostly because Colorado didnt collect data on marijuana-impaired driving before 2012. The number of Colorado state patrol summons issued for driving under the influence of marijuana dropped slightly from 674 in 2014 to 655 in 2015. Traffic fatalities in which a driver tested positive for marijuanas psychoactive chemical, THC, increased 44% in the first two years of legalization.

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As Marijuana Boom Threatens Redwoods, Growers Look For Sustainable Solutions

Environmentalists in Humboldt County, California, waged a long battle in the 1990s to save the largest ancient redwood forest left in private ownership from a timber company owned by a corporate raider. Now a “green rush” threatens Humboldt County’s redwood ecosystem as outsiders move in and start industrial-scale marijuana farms that are fragmenting forests, polluting creeks, diverting water, and poisoning endangered wildlife.

As law enforcement tries to reign in renegade growers, environmentalist have joined organic marijuana farmers to push for government regulations to limit water and pesticide use and create a sustainable industry that will preserve both redwood forests and the county’s biggest business. 

FULL COVERAGE:  Fight for the Forests 

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Here’s How Many People Have Fatally Overdosed On Marijuana

Marijuana is now legal in some form throughout 24 states, and despite the growing use and knowledge of weed, the number of Americans who have fatally overdosed on the drug may still surprise you.

In 2015, the rate of absolutely zero deaths from a marijuana overdose remained steady from the year before, according to figures released in December by the Centers for Disease Control. But while Americans aren’t dying as a result of marijuana overdoses, the same can’t be said for a range of other substances, both legal and illicit.


A total of 17,465 people died from overdosing on illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine in 2014, while 25,760 people died from overdosing on prescription drugs, including painkillers and tranquilizers like Valium, according to CDC figures. 

Opioid overdose levels rose so sharply in 2014 — spiking 14 percent from the previous year — the CDC described the levels as “epidemic.”

“More persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record,” the CDC reported earlier this month.


Alcohol, an even more accessible substance, is killing Americans at a rate not seen in roughly 35 years, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data. The more than 30,700 Americans who died from alcohol-induced causes last year doesn’t include alcohol-related deaths like drunk driving or accidents; if it did, the death toll would be more than two and a half times higher.

According to a widely cited 2006 report in American Scientist, “alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances.” The report further puts the lethality of various substances in perspective:  

Drinking a mere 10 times the normal amount of alcohol within 5 or 10 minutes can prove fatal, whereas smoking or eating marijuana might require something like 1,000 times the usual dose to cause death. 

Though marijuana has yet to lead to a fatal overdose in the U.S., it does have the potential to be abused and lead to dangerous behaviors like drugged driving — but taking too much will likely lead to, if anything, a really bad trip. 

Despite the changing tide in American attitudes toward marijuana for both therapeutic and recreational uses, legalization is still vigorously opposed by groups like the pharmaceutical lobby (who stand to lose big if patients turn to medical marijuana for treatment) and police unions (who stand to lose federal funding for the war on drugs). 

Among the remaining 2016 presidential contenders, Democratic hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only candidate from either party to support outright legalization of marijuana by removing it from the federal list of Schedule 1 drugs, which includes substances like heroin and LSD. 

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Marijuana Advocates Get A Meeting With The White House

WASHINGTON —  A member of the Obama administration will meet with representatives of the marijuana advocacy community on Monday in what is being billed as a groundbreaking gathering.  

DCMJ, an organization created in 2013 that has advocated for the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia, says it was extended a tete-a-tete with a representative of the Obama administration after having been rebuffed two times prior. The meeting, according to Adam Eidinger, co-founder of the group, will be the first time that they have sat down with a political aide — he declined to name the aide because of the sensitivity of the meeting — and possibly the first time a national reform group has had such an audience. 

“DCMJ appreciates greatly the invitation by the Obama administration to begin an educated and passionate dialogue into the need to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule One drugs,” Eidinger said in a statement. “Thanks to Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, Americans, especially people of color, are needlessly incarcerated, and critical medical research into the healing properties of cannabis is placed on hold for no good reason.”

A White House official did not return a request for comment on the meeting. But should it take place as planned, it would signal a growing willingness on the part of the administration to revisit marijuana policy in the closing months of Obama’s time in office.  In October 2014, press secretary Josh Earnest explicitly stated that the president was not evolving on the issue.

“All I can say is that our policy, when it comes to marijuana, hasn’t changed, and I’m not aware of any policy process that’s underway to change it right now,” he said in November of 2015.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Eidinger said he had asked the White House to allow other reform groups to attend the discussion but the administration declined. Eidinger, who helped spearhead the marijuana legalization efforts in Washington, D.C., said he would use the Monday meeting to encourage the White House to host a summit on cannabis before the president leaves office.

“You don’t have to do anything; just absorb [the conversation],” Eidinger said in a phone interview. “They have incredible dialogues with the gay and lesbian community and the civil rights community. But they never actually sit down with the marijuana people.”

In addition to the push for a summit, Eidinger said he will encourage the White House to create a federal legal framework to bring cannabis under the interstate commerce clause, and encourage the legalization of personal cultivation.

Nikolas Schiller, a DCMJ co-founder who will be attending the meeting, said the group will also try to convey to the Obama administration why marijuana should be “descheduled” and no longer placed in the same category as deadly drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is currently considered a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government says it has “no currently accepted medical use.” The list includes drugs such as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently indicated that the agency would decide whether to reschedule marijuana by the middle of 2016. While rescheduling marijuana would not make the drug legal under federal law, it would make it easier to do research on potential benefits and would also reduce penalties for marijuana-related offenses.

The Obama administration has said it considers marijuana policy a states’ rights issue, and in 2013 allowed marijuana legalization to move forward in Washington and Colorado.

“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue,” Obama said of marijuana legalization last year. “My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

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Opinions On Marijuana Have Changed A Lot In 50 Years

Americans’ views on marijuana have shifted quite a bit since the term 4/20 was coined about four decades ago. In 1969, just 12 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legalized — by 2013, nearly 60 percent agreed. More than 40 percent of the public now tell Gallup they’ve tried marijuana, up from just 4 percent when pollsters first asked nearly five decades ago.   

Along the way, pollsters have thrown in more colorful questions on the subject, forcing call center employees to ring up Americans and ask them how easy it is to buy pot in their neighborhood or how often their friends get stoned. Here’s a sampling of some of the most interesting surveys, courtesy of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research:

  • 1969: Little Support For Legalizing Marijuana
    Roper Center

  • 1969: Americans Weigh In On The Effects Of Marijuana
    Roper Center

  • 1971: Half Of Parents Would Turn In Their Children
    Roper Center

  • 1971: Worse Than Middle-Aged Drunks
    Roper Center

  • 1974: 38% Think The Younger Generation Will ‘Grow Out Of’ Marijuana
    Roper Center

  • 1978: Narrow Majority Supports Firing Aides Who Smoke
    Roper Center

  • 1986: In Retrospect…
    Roper Center

  • 1986: Three-Quarters Of Americans Say It’d Be Easy To Buy Marijuana
    Roper Center

  • 1987: ‘Stoned’ or ‘High’
    Roper Center

  • 1987: Nearly One-Third Of Americans Are Kind Of A Buzzkill
    Roper Center

  • 1992: Voters Don’t Believe Clinton Didn’t Inhale
    Roper Center

  • 1999: Half Of Americans Think Smoking Warrants Impeachment
    Roper Center

  • 2013: ‘Weed’ And ‘Pot’ Beat ‘Ganja’ And ‘Reefer’
    Roper Center

  • 2013: A Majority Supports Legalization For The First Time
    Roper Center

  • 2015: Few Care About Candidates’ Marijuana Usage
    Roper Center

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Hemp cant get you high, but it can get high-tech

Marijuana is an ancient plant with borderline mystical properties just ask the 266 million people who smoke it every year. Hemp, the industrial strain of Cannabis sativa, has been used for many purposes food, fuel and textiles among them for tens of thousands of years. Unlike its sister strain, hemp cant get you high. But much like the drug, it has extraordinary qualities.

America is no stranger to hemp. In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with hemp and George Washington farmed it at Mt. Vernon. Unfortunately, its full potential was never realized; drug restrictions that banned marijuana suppressed hemp, too. This spurious conflation quashed the industry for about 60 years, until a 2014 farm bill defined it as an agricultural crop, leaving the door ajar to American farmers.

As marijuana laws continue to loosen across the country and the world it looks like hemp could be brought back in a big way. With China leading in worldwide hemp production and Canada having capitalized on it during Americas drug war, now is the time to get in the game. In todays fast-paced and tech-driven world, this means re-adopting the plant for todays innovation economy.

Hemp could make a huge difference in everyday products, certainly. But even more exciting are the groundbreaking research and high-tech products its already spearheading.

Amazing properties

Before we launch into some of hemps cooler applications, its important to understand just what makes hemp so unique.

First and foremost, hemp is incredibly environmentally friendly. Instead of depleting the lands nutrients, like cotton does, hemp actually puts nitrogen back into the soil. It takes less water, but produces more plants per acre (for reference, one acre of hemp produces four times the paper an acre of trees does.) Its low lignin content and natural brightness reduces the need for pulping and bleaching, meaning fewer chemicals are needed all around.

Hemp grows in a wide variety of soils and climates, so it can be harvested in all 50 states (though only about half legally). Its one of the strongest plant fibers and is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. It harvests quickly, growing 10 to 20 feet in just four months.

Then you have hemp seeds, an incredible source of protein. More than 25 percent of their calories come from high-quality protein, considerably more than similar foods like chia seeds and flax seeds. Various studies have linked them to a reduction in risk of heart disease and easing of PMS and digestion.

As a form of sustainable agriculture, hemp farming holds enormous potential.

Hemp is also ideal for the production of ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline. Combustion releases water vapor and CO2, which plants absorb.

Its no wonder hemp is called a smart plant, as it seems almost too good to be true, especially in a world rife with environmental and climate concerns. Considering farmers need the DEAs approval before sowing seeds, there is still a barrier to entry for now, anyway.

Future-forward applications

Restrictions aside, preliminary research has yielded results that only confirm hemps potential, and not just as an everyday alternative to cotton and wood, but for high-tech innovations.

Ever heard of graphene? Hemp fiber is also incredibly strong and light, and Dr. David Mitlin, a scientist from Clarkson University in New York, says his team has mimicked the nanomaterials amazing qualities using hemp waste. According to Dope Magazine:

Dr. Mitlin and his team were able to recycle leftover hemp-based fiber, cook it down and then dissolve it until carbon nanosheets that resembled the structure of graphene were left behind. They proceeded to build these nanosheets into powerful energy-storing supercapacitors with high energy density, thus creating a hemp based graphene.

The best part? This graphene-like hemp costs only a fraction of the price of traditional graphene: $500 a ton compared to $2,000 per gram. Dr. Mitlin also suspects the hemp-based product could outperform graphene.

Another amazing product is hempcrete, a concrete made with hemp and lime. For construction, hempcrete is essentially a super-concrete: Its negative CO2footprint alleviates the greenhouse effect and improves air quality. Its natural insulation keeps homes warm or cool, reducing need for energy. Its resistance to cracks under high pressure makes it well-suited for earthquake-prone areas. Its even mold, fire and termite proof.

Hemp also can be used to create bacteria-fighting fabrics. As early as the 1990s, scientists in China were developing blended hemp fabrics with superior resistance to staph in order to prevent sometimes fatal infections in hospitals. Considering at least two million Americans get staph infections when hospitalized, and 90,000 die, this could be a life-saving innovation here in the U.S.

Luckily, Colorado company EnviroTextilesis on it. The companys hemp-rayon fabric blend has shown in preliminary studies to be 98.5 percent staph resistant and 65.1 percent pneumonia-free. In addition, EnviroTextiles offers hemp fabric resistant to UV and infrared wavelengths, ideal for military purposes.

Whats next?

These are just a few of the many high-tech and future-forward applications hemp has. As a form of sustainable agriculture, hemp farming holds enormous potential for the planet, the economy, and even veterans seeking employment. Once the hemp is produced, it may not get you high, but figuratively, the skys the limit.

After all, how fitting is it for an ancient plant, used both 10,000 years ago and in early America, to continue its legacy in our modern world? Betsys hemp-based flag became a symbol for the country, which is now a leader in technological innovation. It would be foolish not to take the bull by the horns and ride it.

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