Woody Harrelson applies for Hawaii marijuana dispensary

This Nov. 5, 2015 photo shows Woody Harrelson at premiere of the The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 film in London. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Actor and marijuana advocate Woody Harrelson was one of nearly 60 applicants to apply to open one of Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

Harrelson, 54, applied for a license in Honolulu County under his company, Simple Organic Living.

The Hawaii Department of Health posted the list of 66 applications on its website Friday. The state is now reviewing applications for dispensary permits, which they will award in April.

Video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers also applied for a license under his company, Blue Planet Foundation, which advocates for energy independence across the state. Rogers, 61, is famous for discovering the video game “Tetris” more than 20 years ago, and lives in Hawaii in an entirely solar-powered home.

Among other applicants include Dirk Fukushima, producer of the local television show, “Hawaii Stars,” and former University of Hawaii Regent Charles Kawakami.

If selected, dispensary applicants must have $1 million cash before applying for a licenses, plus $100,000 for each dispensary location. All applicants must have been Hawaii residents for more than five years.

Under a law passed in 2015, the state will grant eight licenses for marijuana business owners across the islands. The law allows medical marijuana businesses to have two production centers and two retail dispensaries, for a total of 16 dispensaries statewide. Six are allowed on Oahu, four on Hawaii Island, four on Maui and two on Kauai.

Dispensaries are set to open in July.

Hawaii became the first to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process 16 years ago. Lawmakers have introduced laws to legalize recreational marijuana; however they don’t think they’re likely to pass this year.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/02/06/woody-harrelson-applies-for-hawaii-marijuana-dispensary/

Woody Harrelson Applies To Open A Marijuana Dispensary

Woody Harrelson is high on Hawaii.

The actor and marijuana advocate was one of almost 60 applicants vying to open up one of Honolulu County’s first medical dispensaries. He’d open under his company name, Simple Organic Living, according to a state Department of Health statement.

The state will review applications and award them to eight applicants in April, about a year after the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill allowing dispensaries to open. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state for more than 15 years, but there had never been a way for patients to obtain it legally.

If selected, the “Cheers” and “Hunger Games” star will be able to open two production centers and two dispensaries, according to The Associated Press. Harrelson could also be up for some significant tax breaks using a loophole. He could set up in an “enterprise zone,” which is used to reward employers who set up in economically depressed areas.

But for now, Harrelson appears to be in it for the weed rights. He’s an outspoken advocate of marijuana and hemp. He even narrated a documentary called “Grass.”

The AP reports:

Dispensaries are set to open in July. Six are allowed on Oahu, four on Hawaii Island, four on Maui and two on Kauai.

Hawaii became the first to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process 16 years ago. Lawmakers have introduced laws to legalize recreational marijuana; however they don’t think they’re likely to pass this year.

The applicants included Henk Rogers, the developer of the video game “Tetris,” and “Hawaii Stars” producer Dirk Fukushima.

Also on HuffPost:

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/02/06/woody-harrelson-wants-to-open-a-weed-dispensary-in-hawaii_n_9177518.html

Marijuana purchases skyrocketed during Super Bowl weekend

Super Bowl 50 failed to draw the event’s largest TV viewing audience, but it did set a different kind of record: it was the highest Super Bowl ever.

According to medical marijuana delivery company GreenRush, football’s biggest event brought a significant uptick in weed sales. The weekend of the game saw purchases spike by 310 percent over standard weekends and marked the biggest weekend in the company’s history, outpacing every holiday that came before itincluding 4/20.

GreenRush operates similar to an Uber but for medical marijuana dispensaries, facilitating the connection between patient and seller and skipping a percent off the top of each transaction. The company has over 200 active dispensaries throughout California.

75 percent of its Super Bowl spike came from Northern California, including cities like Sacramento, Fresno, and Bay Area cities like San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Super Bowl host city Santa Clara also fell under this umbrella.

Paul Warshaw, GreenRush CEO, told the Daily Dot that part of the jump had to do with the event taking place in the Bay Area, which led to a coalescence of marijuana users in the surrounding neighborhoods. They partook in the service, perhaps at the recommendation of others in the area who have used it or to have their fix brought to them while they were away from home.

While growth of GreenRush’s business has been consistent without events like the Super Bowl, Warshaw said “people seem to be stocking up around the holiday time.” Prior to the Super Bowl, GreenRush saw record days on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

The growth in green around the holidays is at least in part because the company runs promotions around major events. In partnership with dispensaries, GreenRush ran 25 separate offers over Super Bowl weekend.

It wasn’t just more orders for medical marijuana, either; the average amount of the purchase jumped as well. During the uptick in weed buying, the average transaction rose from $72 to over $81, about a 13 percent increase.

Peak time for orders came between 4pm and 10pm, and the vast majorityabout 80 percentwere placed on smartphones. Apple users led the way in weed needs, placing 61 percent of mobile orders.

“People were festive and celebrating,” Warshaw said. He said he believed some people were placing orders for gatherings and get togethers around the event. But he backtracked to make it clear that the service is meant for medicinal use only. “These are all patients, you cannot purchase marijuana unless you’re a patient,” he explained.

Chris Francy, the Chief Operating Officer of CalCann Holdings, told the Daily Dot the dispensaries his company owns in Santa Ana, Ca. experienced a similar spike in purchases.

“The Friday and Saturday before the Super Bowl were our busiest Friday and Saturday to date,” he told the Daily Dot. Francy noted that the company has been growing consistently anyway, and major events regularly cause an upswing in purchases.

The record figures for weed sales shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as marijuana gains acceptance across the country and transactions for the product are made legal, sales figures are only likely to grow as the industry comes out from the shadows. Still, the massive spike during the Super Bowl made for an outlier from the standard growth patterns of these companies.

And given the new high in people getting high, it’s likely no coincidence that Pizza Hut set record numbers for digital sales during Super Bowl Sunday, topping $12 million in online and mobile orders.

The Super Bowl may have been a low-scoring affair that left some fans disappointed, but from the data it seems like Californians probably didn’t mindor notice at all.

Illustration via Max Fleishman

Read more: http://www.dailydot.com/technology/california-weed-deliveries-spike-super-bowl-greenrush/

Elizabeth Warren asks CDC to consider legal marijuana as alternative painkiller

The Massachusetts senator called for more research to be done on medical marijuana and prescription opioid addiction amid abuse and overdose epidemic

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to consider the role legal marijuana could play in the prescription opioid epidemic.

Warren asked for more research into medical marijuana and painkiller addiction in a letter to the CDC director, Thomas Friedan.

Opioid abuse is a national concern and warrants swift and immediate action, Warren wrote.

Her request comes as politicians, including the presidential nominees, search for the best response to the opioid epidemic.

The use of prescription opioids doubled between 2000 and 2014, according to the CDC. And Massachusetts experienced its highest number of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in 2014, with nearly 1,100 people succumbing to overdose deaths.

Warren applauded the CDCs actions so far to curb the epidemic but called on the agency to look at whether medical marijuana could be an alternative painkiller.

She also urged the agency to quickly finalize its guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain and called for increased collaboration between the CDC and other federal health agencies to determine the long-term effects of opioid use in children and the increased use of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Nestled in with these recommendations is a call to consider the role of marijuana legalization in the crisis.

Specifically, Warren requested the agency to provide more information on the use, uptake and effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal.

She also asked them to look into the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.

Medical marijuana is illegal under federal law, which is a significant hurdle for any federal agency hoping to study its effects, and makes it impossible to prescribe through a pharmacist.

But using the plant for some medical purposes is legal in 23 states, including Massachusetts, plus Washington DC. Marijuana is also legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska.

Medical cannabis laws were tied with lower state-level opioid overdose death rates, according to a study published in the December 2014 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association. And hundreds of people in Massachusetts who are addicted to opioids are being treated with medical marijuana.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/12/elizabeth-warren-medical-marijuana-painkiller-opioid-abuse

Cash-only marijuana dispensaries flood California tax office with paper

The businesses are legally unable to write checks or make credit card transactions, raising questions of safety as people carry huge sums

The Sacramento branch of the California tax collection agency reeks of marijuana.

Thats because its cash day at the collection center when marijuana dispensary owners are allowed to bring in paper money to pay their quarterly sales tax bill and the smell of their inventory clings to everything.

California, like all states with any form of legalized marijuana, faces a growing problem over the federal governments position that cannabis remains a Schedule 1 illegal drug, classified the same way as meth or cocaine, with no legal uses and therefore no legal access to traditional banks.

That means medical marijuana dispensaries, along with growers, distributors and other marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under state laws, have no choice but to be cash-only businesses. They cant write checks, deposit money in financial institutions or make credit card transactions.

Weve been a cash industry for ever and it has been quite a problem, said Kimberly, the director of a non-profit dispensary in Sacramento who asked that her last name not be used for safety reasons. We dont want to drive around town paying our bills in cash. We want to be able to just go to the bank.

Kimberly was at the tax office making a payment of more than $30,000, but officials with the agency, the board of equalization, say that is a relatively small amount. Recently at the San Francisco office, a $400,000 payment came in, carried in a big bag, said George Runner, a BOE board member. The day before in Sacramento, $150,000 came in as a single payment.

That kind of cash being brought to a non-secure facility raises safety issues, as well as practical ones issues that the BOE and other agencies are scrambling to address as new medical marijuana laws in the state increase the amount of taxes being paid.

The BOE estimates that last year, it took in about $200m in cash payments from marijuana businesses, though its hard to tell what the actual amount is, since, Runner said, we dont always know who is a cannabis-related business.

He does know it is leading to some strange problems. The teller windows in the office, for example, do not have slots big enough for the cash-stuffed envelopes to slide through. They will have to be retrofitted to be bigger.

In the meantime, the office staff is forced to come out of their safe rooms to receive payments.

Inside the cash room at the Sacramento office, money is stored in a shiny black safe that looks straight out of the old west, with a large silver spin dial on the front and a gold Betty Boop statue on top. Though about 4ft tall, the safe still sometimes gets stuffed to capacity.

BOE staff said that sometimes the cash drawers at the windows get so full and the office so busy that money ends up being stacked on desks, out in the open.

And sometimes, instead of the aroma of cannabis, the room smells strongly of fabric softener because some depositors wash the money in a dryer before coming in.

Its been interesting, Runner said.

Legalizing recreational marijuana is on Californias ballot this year. If it passes, the state expects up to an additional $1bn in annual tax payments from retail sales all in cash. California already brings in the most marijuana revenue of any state through medical cannabis alone, with an estimated $2.7bn in sales last year.

Runner and his BOE colleagues say that because it is unlikely federal regulations will change anytime soon, they have been working on their own long-term solutions to deal with an increase.

Some ideas tossed around have included self-service teller kiosks placed around town like tax ATMs, and contracting with banks to allow the BOE to use a secure back room to receive payments. They have even looked into Bitcoin, Runner said but I dont think anyone really understands Bitcoin.

So far, no solutions have turned out to be viable.

For taxpayers, cash can be dangerous. Kimberly said she was constantly afraid of being robbed, and tried to avoid walking around with more than $20,000, the amount she feels her non-profit could lose without going out of business. She also said that shes had someone attempt to blackmail her, thinking she had ready access to cash.

One of the three men who escaped from a California jail last month had been charged with kidnapping a marijuana dispensary owner that they suspected had hidden large amounts of cash in the desert. The man and his accomplices are accused of driving the dispensary owner out to the desert, torturing him and cutting off his penis.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/16/medical-marijuana-dispensaries-california-tax-cash-only

Meet The Retired Police Detective Fighting For Legalized Marijuana

Howard “Cowboy” Wooldridge is hard to miss. In the middle ofaNew Hampshire snowstorm the day before the state’s primary vote, Wooldridge could be found at various presidential candidates’ events wearing a big belt buckle and a cowboy hat.

But possibly the most interesting part of his getup washis shirt.

The belt buckle, he explained, was from when he rode a horse by himself across the United States. And the cowboy hat? Aside from proclaiming his Texas roots, he said it helpshim stand out among the thousands of lobbyists in Washington, DC.

Wooldridge is the co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law enforcement officials arguing marijuana should be legalized.

Wooldridge, who goes byCannabis Copon Twitter, is a retired police detective from Fort Worth, Texas. At a Ted Cruz event in Manchester, New Hampshire last week, I followed the directions on his shirt and asked why he supports legalized weed. He said,

We can do a better job of arresting pedophiles, drunk drivers, terrorists, you name it — public safety threats — if we dont spend millions of hours chasing a green plant.

Secondly, I want to eliminate the job option every teenager has of selling marijuana because every week in this country somewhere, teens are shot and killed selling marijuana. Theyre involved in the drug trade, and thats shameful; its immoral and preventable.

He went on to explain his brother sold him beer when he “made a bad choice at 16 to get drunk in Panama City, Florida.”He thought this was a positive thing, explaining,

No teenager should have a job that can get him killed. When my brother sold me the beer, he had no chance of getting hurt or killed because there is no beer trade in America.

Wooldridge acknowledged there are “another 10good reasons” marijuana should be legalized, including the racism in policies and enforcement but, along with his experience as a cop, the reasons above are what motivate him to do his work. He continued,

Ive arrested pedophiles. Ive arrested drunk drivers before and after theyve killed somebody. With marijuana, people always like to make jokes about it and giggle and brownies, you know, youve heard this before. But as policy, its not a joke. As policy, its deadly, deadly serious.

Marijuana use is prohibited under federal law, which is one of the reasons Wooldridge is so passionate about the 10thAmendment, which preserves states’ power. Based on that, Wooldridge said Cruz is the strongest candidate on the Republican side.He said,

He would, as president — Ive talked to him before, several times actually — he would sign a bill to repeal the 1937 law that made marijuana a federal prohibition. Thats all Im asking for from our federal [government].

Wooldridge isn’t the only one consideringpot legalization in his decision of whom to vote for. At a polling place on the day of the New Hampshire primary, one young man told me he voted becausehe wants marijuana legalized to help create jobs.

Read more: http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/legalization-retired-police-detective/1386523/

Facebook cracks down on marijuana firms with dozens of accounts shut down

Social networking site points to violations of community standards as companies take a hit in an industry where social media is essential

Facebook has recently launched an aggressive campaign to rid its sites of some cannabis-related material, deleting or suspending dozens of accounts operated by marijuana businesses, most of which had operated for years without so much as a warning about offensive material.

We tried to log into Instagram, and a message said we violated their policy, but they wont say what that violation is, said Rick Scarpello, CEO of Incredibles, a Denver-based edible company. Ive written them every day, saying Im not doing anything illegal and please reinstate my account.

Over the last five years, social media has become essential in the movement to legalize marijuana and as an advertising tool for the industry. Large groups of pot-loving activists on the sites can be mobilized during an election or marketed to by a galaxy of startup companies.

So shutting down accounts can be a significant setback for the companies not just dispensaries, but also ancillary businesses.

Despite the fact that it doesnt sell marijuana, Center Mass Media, a cannabis marketing company, said it has had multiple Instagram accounts deleted.

John Ramsay, Center Masss CEO, said there was a direct correlation between profits and the number of followers his company has, and starting over on social media has caused a significant dip. Deleting such accounts has a monumental impact on businesses, after you spent so much time building up a network of followers.

Additionally, social media has become the primary resource for marijuana consumers looking for information on changes in laws, product recalls, forthcoming elections and new medical studies. The type of posts with the highest engagement on Facebook for us has been news and information, says Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer of Dixie Brands. Its not the products or partying its the news that does the best for us.

Olivia Mannix, cofounder of the Cannabrand marketing agency, said that two years ago she found a way to run banner ads for marijuana businesses on Facebook by avoiding words like weed and pot along with any pictures of the product, before Facebook cut off her ability to run any ads. Now, she said, in addition to shutting down cannabis related pages, theyve begun deleting the profiles of the people running the pages. She added that one client received a note from Facebook suggesting that person see a drug counselor.

A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the record about any of these cases or the specifics of their policies toward legal marijuana businesses, only offering: These pages have been removed for violating our community standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook.

The only mention of marijuana on Facebooks community standards page comes under the Regulated Goods section, which states: We prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms.

The owners of accounts that were deleted say they never engaged in selling marijuana online, and while marijuana remains federally illegal, their companies physically exist within states that have legalized marijuana in some form.

Its also unclear why ancillary companies have lost their accounts. Stash Tagz, an apparel company that sells cannabis-themed t-shirts, said its Instagram account was deleted after it posted a meme featuring a Rastafarian Santa Claus, which did not contain any marijuana use or products.

Instagrams guidelines are somewhat more direct than Facebooks: Offering sexual services, buying or selling illegal or prescription drugs (even if its legal in your region), as well as promoting recreational drug use is also not allowed. Instagram did not respond to requests for comment.

Considering that both sites are loaded with marijuana posts, the sites clearly cant remove all of them or delete all the accounts associated with pot. A search for the hashtag #weed on Instagram returns a large number of pictures featuring cannabis products, plants, and smoldering joints, though the bottom of the page reads: Recent posts from #weed are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagrams community guidelines.

Several theories about why accounts are being shut down are being discussed in the industry. Some say Facebook is afraid of racketeering charges from the federal government (the same reason most banks wont touch pot money), while others believe it is people within the industry flagging their competitions posts and getting them shut down.

The crackdown on marijuana businesses on Facebook and Instagram could benefit marijuana-centric social media sites like Social High or MassRoots, where naysayers arent likely to complain about cannabis content.

I had been advocating [for marijuana legalization] on Facebook, and noticed that friends werent interacting with me on the topic, said Scott Bettano, CEO of Social High, which launched last year. They were afraid of co-workers and family seeing them talking about it on Facebook. And thats when I said the cannabis community needs their own social media platform where they can talk about it openly.

Though these companies dont exist in a social media vacuum. MassRoots, which launched in 2013 and has amassed over 775,000 users, uses Facebook and Instagram to promote its sites content. After it collected more than 390,000 followers on Instagram within two years, Instagram pulled the MassRoots account three weeks ago. (This reporter wrote a news article for the MassRoots blog in January.)

There is concern that an industry-wide exodus from Facebook to sites like MassRoots and Social High would be crippling not just to the economics of legal weed, but also the culture.

Social media provides the opportunity for a dialogue about cannabis, showing people that its normal. A lot of people still arent comfortable walking into a dispensary, but with social media you can create an image of a company that people can relate to and feel comfortable with their product, said Lauren Gibbs, president of Rise Above Social Strategies, which helps marijuana companies cultivate an online presence.

Isaac Dietrich of MassRoots believes that there are policies that mainstream social media sites could implement to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to legalized marijuana.

Alcohol companies have Instagram accounts that Instagram restricts to users that are 21 and older, and we would be more than open to those types of controls. But they dont give us those options. He added that MassRoots is currently only available in states that have legalized marijuana, a policy he says Instagram could implement overnight.

Its possible that the wave of deleted accounts derived from a policy change regarding the companies, as many of them occurred within a matter of weeks of each other. Denver Relief Dispensary says its Facebook account was deleted two weeks ago after seven years of no incidents; the deletion was followed by the removal of its Instagram account days later.

And three weeks ago, three separate dispensaries in New Jersey lost their Facebook accounts on the same day. We tried to take down anything we thought they objected to, like pictures or prices [of products], but we didnt get reinstated, said Andrew Zaleski of Breakwater Treatment and Wellness in New Jersey.

These small businesses invest tens of thousands of dollars in building an organic following, Dietrich said, and that in turn drives a significant amount of business to these dispensaries. And then, all of the sudden, all of that money and time flies right out the window. Its killing jobs and the growth of the industry, and it may well be holding back the progression of cannabis legalization in the United States. All were asking for is clear guidelines.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/facebook-marijuana-cannabis-businesses-crackdown

Rolling Papers review marijuana documentary delivers moderate buzz

Following Denver Post pot editor Ricardo Baca through Colorado, with a detour to Uruguay, this movie is as slight and diverting as a one-skin joint

In Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah, people suffering from seizures, glaucoma or cancer can receive a jail sentence if caught with marijuana, despite its numerous noted medical attributes. In Colorado, which shares a border with each of these states, you can be healthy as a horse and stroll into any number of cannabis shops to sniff and sample various THC-laced wares as though it were Twinings Tea Shop on the Strand. As with any major new change, the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado, which began on 1 January 2014, has had unexpected ripple effects. Trying to make sense of it all is the Denver Posts splashy new hire, Ricardo Baca, Americas first pot editor, the central figure in this interesting albeit slight film.

When its working best, Mitch Dickmans documentary is a look at the hustle and professionalism of journalists, reminiscent of the recent (and far superior) Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. Even though most of their work ends up on an affiliated blog, the Cannabist, Baca and his crew have ink in their veins, as the saying goes. The team ranges from straight reporters covering regulatory policy to botany experts to capillary-engorged critics comparing various floral strains, and all take their work very seriously. On a very real level, this is just another beat at a Pulitzer-winning paper. (Oh, Rolling Papers. Heh. I get it now.)

On the other hand, this is weed, which means Dickman cuts the film to rap and reggae cues, and there are more than a few gags involving the chatty experts who are visibly blitzed out of their skulls. The most interesting side character is Brittany Driver, a young mother whose niche ends up being the intersection of pot enthusiasm and parenting. Some would say shes just a terrific mom whose hobby involves getting high once her baby is put to sleep, others would say shes a danger to her childs welfare. (Anti-marijuana advocates may point to her increasing panic over protective services whisking her son away as evidence that she should maybe ease up on the pipe a bit.)

One of Drivers stories dovetails with a wider feature the team puts together, looking at families moving to Colorado to take advantage of marijuana for medical purposes. The so-called green rush is investigated, from pot conventions to outdoor concerts to the wild west of the edibles market, whose THC-levels are much harder to quantify compared to a hand-rolled joint.

These topics juxtaposed with the daily grind of life in the journalism biz (wheres our next celebrity guest blog from Whoopi Goldberg?) is fun, but it soon becomes evident the film is merely pecking at an issue, doesnt have much of a central point and is going nowhere. To spice things up at the end, Baca heads down to Uruguay, the first country to legalise weed. Cultural comparisons arent a one-to-one; Colorados situation emerged more as a popular uprising, Uruguays a decree from the president. Not that the people seem to be too upset about ridding their bongs of the street-purchased Paraguayan piss, a stinky strain that Mile High connoisseur Baca finds repulsive.

Dont come to Rolling Papers looking for hard data. (There isnt much explanation given between Colorados and Washington states laws, other than Colorado has better PR.) But nuggets are budding all over the film. A grower pinches one of Bacas star critics, and even though the marketing manager wears a T-shirt and is unshaven, he still refers to his new star as a content specialist I can leverage. As cinema Dickman plays it pretty straight, save for a factory showroom-like title card each time a new marijuana strain is mentioned. Its amusing the first time but just gets sillier and funnier each time it is repeated. The movies overall effect is easy and laid-back, but it does tend to dissipate into a half-remembered haze in due course.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/feb/17/rolling-papers-documentary-marijuana-denver-post-colorado

This Gene May Predict How You React To Marijuana

We’ve long known that pot can affect different people in various ways — some smokers only experience a slight “buzz” while others can become paranoid or even hallucinate.

Now, a team of researchers in the U.K. has found a way to identify which cannabis users are more at risk of developing such strong reactions.

A variation of the gene called “AKT1” is linked to people being more susceptible to the mind-altering effects of cannabis than otherwise, according to a provocative new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry on Tuesday.

While some previous studies suggest only around 1-5 percent of cannabis users end up developing psychosis, it’s the AKT1 gene variant that may put those users more at risk, study lead author Dr. Celia Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at England’s University of Exeter, told The Huffington Post. 

“We know relatively little about what makes certain people vulnerable to developing psychosis from smoking cannabis but this research suggests one piece in the puzzle might be this genetic difference,” she said. “Cannabis and its extracts are being increasingly recognized for their medical uses so this is another reason why it is key to keep trying to find ways of predicting who will experience negative effects from its use.”

For the study, the researchers tested 442 marijuana users for psychotic-like symptoms while they were high and then again about a week later when they were sober. The researchers measured the extent of the symptoms and effects on memory loss and compared results.

They found that the study participants with a certain variant of the AKT1 gene had a much stronger reaction to cannabis — including symptoms like paranoia, magical thinking and visual distortions — than their counterparts.

We were surprised to find more memory impairment in women. Study lead author Dr. Celia Morgan

The researchers also noticed that women were more likely to have a short-term memory impairment from cannabis.

“We were surprised to find more memory impairment in women,” Morgan said. “The AKT1 finding was what one would predict from previous work that found that people who had psychosis from smoking cannabis were more likely to have this variant of the gene. So that was not so much of a surprise.”

The researchers concluded that genetics must play a key role in the unusual link between cannabis and psychosis.

“Our finding that psychotic-like symptoms when young people are ‘stoned’ are predicted by AKT1 variants is an exciting breakthrough as this acute reaction is thought to be a marker of a person’s risk of developing psychosis from smoking the drug,” said Dr. Valerie Curran, professor of psychopharmacology at University College London and a co-author of the study, in a statement.

The new study could be used to help develop a way to identify those at-risk cannabis-users, or possibly help in the development of drugs that might target the AKT1 gene variant, Morgan told HuffPost.

“There is definitely a link between smoking cannabis and psychosis although most people that smoke cannabis are very unlikely to develop psychosis,” she said. “Much more work is needed to be able to fully profile risk in people and this is likely to be a large number of genes.” 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/02/17/gene-react-marijuana_n_9262640.html