Higher education: cannabis as a college course

For years, college students have unofficially majored in weed. Now universities are beginning to offer cannabis studies programs because, y'know, marijuana is where the money is these days. From the Associated Press:

"We're providing a fast track to get into the industry," said Brandon Canfield, a chemistry professor at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Two years ago, he proposed a new major in medicinal plant chemistry after attending a conference where cannabis industry representatives spoke of an urgent need for analytical chemists for product quality assessment and assurance.

The four-year degree, which is the closest thing to a marijuana major at an accredited U.S. university, has drawn nearly 300 students from 48 states, Canfield said. Students won't be growing marijuana, which was recently legalized by Michigan voters for recreational use. But Canfield said students will learn to measure and extract medicinal compounds from plants such as St. John's Wort and ginseng and transfer that knowledge to marijuana.

Agricultural schools are also getting in on the action. A similar program is being launched at Minot State University in North Dakota this spring. The college said students will learn lab skills applicable to medical marijuana, hops, botanical supplements and food science industries.

"All of our graduates are going to be qualified to be analysts in a lab setting," Canfield said, noting that experience could lead to a position paying $70,000 right out of school. Those wishing to start their own businesses can choose an entrepreneurial track that adds courses in accounting, legal issues and marketing...

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Brewers yeast genetically modified to produce THC and CBD

Science will open the floodgates on cheap, reliable high-volume production of THC and CBD. Yeast's rapid growth and ease of culturing will likely enable new stronger-better-faster variants of both.

UC Berkeley College of Chemistry:

UC Berkeley synthetic biologists have engineered brewer’s yeast to produce marijuana’s main ingredients—mind-altering THC and non-psychoactive CBD—as well as novel cannabinoids not found in the plant itself.

Feeding only on sugar, the yeast are an easy and cheap way to produce pure cannabinoids that today are costly to extract from the buds of the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa.

“For the consumer, the benefits are high-quality, low-cost CBD and THC: you get exactly what you want from yeast,” said Jay Keasling, a UC Berkeley professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of bioengineering and a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “It is a safer, more environmentally friendly way to produce cannabinoids.”

Read the rest “Brewers yeast genetically modified to produce THC and CBD”

Watch Spike Jonze's short film about cannabis

Trailblazing filmmaker Spike Jonze made this short film, titled "The New Normal," about how America's relationship to cannabis has changed from the days when George Washington grew hemp. Co-written and starring Jesse Williams, it's a commercial for MedMen Cannabis Dispensaries. From AdWeek:

"We had a desire to create a commercial with a profound message,” said (MedMen CMO David) Dancer. “Our core value is around ensuring that people can lead safe, happy, healthy lives with cannabis being a part of it. … Here we wanted to not only destigmatize and normalize but really, as you’ll see in the spot, highlight what has been unjust about the treatment of cannabis whether it is stop-and-frisk and unjust criminalization, whether it is this propaganda in Referer Madness, quite frankly leading to the Schedule One classification of cannabis as a federally illegal substance sitting next to heroin."

Dancer said (the film has) been in the works for roughly four months, adding that the company worked to make sure everyone involved with the spot had a tie to cannabis.

"The highly selective criminalization of one plant, with flagrantly harsher punishments for one community, must be acknowledged and left behind for something more reasonable, realistic and fair,” said Williams in a statement. “It’s pretty clear that Americans are ready to exist beyond a few inherited hypocrisies. We deserve the opportunity to make this right. We can do, and feel, better."

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San Francisco marijuana crimes to be expunged by the thousands, with Code For America's help

A project to expunge marijuana-related convictions in San Francisco that took an entire year to pull together is nearly complete, San Francisco prosecutors said today, as they announced that 9,300 pot crimes will soon be removed from people’s criminal records.

That's a big deal. As the SF DA said at today's press conference, a felony conviction for cannabis could mean “barriers to education, housing, employment and even being barred from a child’s school field trip because of a conviction.”

San Francisco is able to do this in part because of the efforts of people at Code For America. Read the rest “San Francisco marijuana crimes to be expunged by the thousands, with Code For America's help”

Trailer for "Beach Bum," Harmony Korine's new weirdo stoner comedy

Writer/director Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo, Spring Breakers) is back at the shore for Beach Bum, a stoner burnout comedy starring Matthew McConaughey with Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Jimmy Buffett, Martin Lawrence and Jonah Hill. The trailer reminds me a bit of Pee-wee's Big Adventure if the weirdo protagonist was on Sour Diesel instead of Purple Microdot.

Beach Bum will premiere at SXSW and hit theaters March 22.

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This TARDIS Grows Weed with Artificial Intelligence, PART 2

Editor's Note: Richard Metzger is a connoisseur of cannabis, and recently started growing his own. He's test-driving high-end rig good for small-scale grows from Cloudponics. This is not a sponsored post, Boing Boing is not getting anything from Cloudponics. Metzger's just really *that* enthusiastic about weed, and so far he likes the Cloudponics setup. Here's part two in Richard's ongoing series. — Xeni

In the first installment of This TARDIS Grows Weed with Artificial Intelligence, I explained how incredibly overwhelming it was for me to contemplate setting up a decent small grow situation as a rank novice. There were not only wildly varying philosophical approaches one might employ growing the dankest of nugs, but also a dizzying number of products, potions, pitfalls and problems. The proper cohort of gear needs to be amassed and assembled and it looked like there would inevitably be mistakes made along the way, some of them expensive, or at least time consuming. Growing pot seems easy if everything goes smoothly, but if one tiny thing goes wrong, then all can be lost. What are you going to do about spider mites? Mold? Nutrient burn? What is nutrient burn anyway? Read the rest “This TARDIS Grows Weed with Artificial Intelligence, PART 2”

This TARDIS Grows Weed With Artificial Intelligence

Editor's Note: Richard Metzger is a connoisseur of cannabis, and recently started growing his own. He's test-driving high-end rig good for small-scale grows from Cloudponics. This is not a sponsored post, Boing Boing is not getting anything from Cloudponics. Metzger's just really *that* enthusiastic about weed, and spoiler alert, so far he likes the Cloudponics setup. Here's an early photo from the grow, and the first installment of Richard's ongoing lab notes. — Xeni

I am a 53-year-old wake-n-bake stoner and I've been high since 1979.

Leaving much of that, er, loaded statement aside (and yes, as a definitive study of one, I do plan to leave my body to science) think of all the money I've spent staying massively stoned since I was fourteen. At approximately $20 a day over 365 days per annum ($7300) for 39 years that comes to $284,700 but do consider that I had to make nearly twice that and pay tax on that income before I could spend it on herb. Money doesn't grow on trees, of course, but there was a time not all that long ago when an ounce of pot and an ounce of gold were the exact same price, for a little perspective. Read the rest “This TARDIS Grows Weed With Artificial Intelligence”

Study: THC in cannabis linked to genetic mutations in sperm

Today I learned that using cannabis can lower a fella's sperm count: those looking to partake in parenthood should take note. But that's not the only thing that cannabis can do to your swimmers. According to scientists from Duke University, using marijuana can cause genetic changes to sperm cells--something that could have far-reaching consequences for any baby a dude might father.

From The Verge:

For a study published today in the journal Epigenetics, scientists at Duke University compared the sperm of two groups of rats: those who had been given tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and those who had not. Then they compared the sperm of 24 human men who smoked marijuana weekly versus a control group who used marijuana no more than 10 times in their life and not at all in the past half-year. In both cases — rats and humans — marijuana changed how genes work in sperm cells.

In both rats and humans, the cannabis affected many different genes involved in two different pathways. (Think of pathways as another set of instructions, this time for regulating various bodily functions.) One is important for organs to reach full size, and one plays a role in cancer and suppressing tumors.

Before anyone loses their shit, this doesn't mean that any kid you conceive while THC is coursing through your body will be more likely to get cancer. A lot more research needs to be conducted before any firm conclusions can be drawn. As The Verge points out, there were no laboratory controls on how much THC was consumed by the test subjects. Read the rest “Study: THC in cannabis linked to genetic mutations in sperm”

Stench from marijuana farms outrages some California residents

Some communities across California are suing to ban cannabis operations in their vicinity because they claim the smell from the crops is nauseating. I mean, they don't call it skunk for nothing. From the New York Times:

As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint...

“It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house,” said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. “It doesn’t dissipate,” Ms. Guthrie said. “It’s beyond anything you would imagine.”

When cannabis odors are at their peak, she and her husband, Robert, sometimes wear respirators, the kind one might put on to handle dangerous chemicals. During Labor Day weekend, relatives came to stay at the house, but cut short their visit because they couldn’t stand the smell...

“Just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you want to live next to a pig farm,” said Lynda Hopkins, a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, whose office has been inundated with complaints about the smell...

image: Wikipedia/Cannabis Training University Read the rest “Stench from marijuana farms outrages some California residents”

Massachusetts racks up $2.2 million in marijuana sales in 5 days

The first two recreational marijuana dispensaries opened in Massachusetts last week to blockbuster numbers. The two dispensaries, located in Leicester and Northampton sold over $2 million dollars of product in just five days. Black Friday was especially popular, with customers spending almost half a million dollars in one day. The state of Massachusetts gets $376,995 in tax revenue and the two dispensary locations will get $66,528 in local taxes from those five days. Not too shabby.

But the launch of legal weed hasn't been without problems. Neighbors of Cultivate, the Leicester dispensary held an emergency meeting Monday night to address the massive traffic jams created by weed seekers. Cultivate is averaging 1,000 customers a day and has pledged to add more parking spaces and additional employees.

Three new dispensaries are expected to open in Salem, Easthampton, and Wareham over the next couple of weeks. Salem's opening will be interesting to watch as it will be the closest dispensary to Boston. Some cities and towns in the state (including the city of Peabody, where I live) have banned recreational sales. But I have a feeling that sweet, sweet tax revenue will become impossible to resist.

Massachusetts’ Pot Industry Is off to a $2.2 Million Start (Spencer Buell/Boston Magazine)(Image: MarijuanaStox.com) Read the rest “Massachusetts racks up $2.2 million in marijuana sales in 5 days”

Study: first drug more likely to be cannabis than nicotine or alcohol

When I was 12 years old, a kid that I thought was my friend but turned out to only be into me for my Nintendo, tempted me to try a little something that he snuck out of his mother's liquor cabinet. We ingested it! We were so drunk! We were full of shit: we'd been eating powdered pina colada mix, trying to convince each other that we were, indeed, hammered. Anyway, booze isn't the problem for young folks that it once was. More times than not, of late, the first experience that young folks'll have with mind altering substances outside of spending too long inside drawing with a Sharpie will likely be with marijuana.

From The Verge:

This trend is not because teens are smoking cannabis more than ever. Rather, the change is because teens are smoking cigarettes and drinking less while the numbers for marijuana have held steady, according to Katherine M. Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and co-author of the new study, published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The authors found this by analyzing 40 years of surveys from American high school seniors. For example, in 1995, three-fourths of seniors who used both marijuana and cigarettes had tried cigarettes first. By 2016, only 40 percent had tried cigarettes first. Today, less than half of teens try alcohol and cigarettes before trying cannabis. (The researchers didn’t look specifically at whether alcohol or tobacco came next.) Other studies have found that, in general, teens are doing fewer drugs than ever, except for marijuana.

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Massachusetts mayor first in line to legally buy recreational weed

Today, Massachusetts' retail marijuana shops opened for business, and Northampton, Mass mayor David Narkewicz was first in line. Massachusetts is the first state east of the Mississippi to approve recreational marijuana. From CBS News:

When asked whether the purchase is simply ceremonial or it will be consumed, Narkewicz said, "I am actually going to probably preserve it and display it…because it is historically significant."

"There has been marijuana use going on in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a long, long time. What's changing is it's now being regulated. It's now being tested. It's now being strictly monitored. That's really the major change that's happening," Narkewizc said.

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Canadian government growers can't keep up with Alberta's demand for weed

While cannabis may now be legal to smoke, sell and possess across Canada, the demand for bammy is harshing the buzz of many an Albertan. According to the CBC, certified cannabis suppliers are having a hell of a time trying to keep up with demand. The problem is cropping up at a time when the provincial government continues to dole out licenses to operate dispensaries in the province, putting an even greater strain on the amount of marijuana available in big sky country.

From the CBC:

Not all retail stores are necessarily open this weekend — a shortage of stock on the AGLC's retailer website means some new stores aren't able to order any cannabis at all to stock their shelves, and those that have run out can't order enough to restock.

The AGLC is the province's official supplier of cannabis, offering products from 15 licensed producers.

In Edmonton, Numo Cannabis has closed its doors after running out of weed, according to a sign on its door. Another Edmonton store, Alternative Greens, was also closed Saturday after running out of cannabis.

It's not just retail locations that are coming up with bupkis to sell. the AGLC's online portal doesn't have a shred of cannabis to sell, either.

The shortage likely hasn't come as a surprise to anyone keeping tabs on the Canadian cannabis rollout: licensed resellers have been complaining about their inability to order product since September. Given that shops in Alberta are only able to order a weed resupply once a week, it could take some time before the province's dope supplier finds a way to keep up with demand. Read the rest “Canadian government growers can't keep up with Alberta's demand for weed”

The New York Times has the dope on cannabis use in Canada

I'm writing this on a flight to Chicago. By the time I return to Canada on Thursday, the sale and use of cannabis, in many circumstances, will be cool, from coast to coast to coast. This does not excite me: I'm not a cannabis enthusiast. Your mileage, however, may vary.

If you're a Canadian who enjoys the use of weed in its many forms or love the idea of visiting my often-frozen nation so that you can partake in a legal left-handed cigarette, you should know that the laws surrounding where and when you can use marijuana varies from province to province. The same goes for who can sell it. Fortunately, The New York Times has taken it upon itself to give its readers the scuttlebutt on all of these issues and more:

From The New York Times:

On legalization day, only fresh or dried flower, seeds, plants and oil will be available. Legal marijuana will have lower levels of THC, the chemical that brings on the buzz, than most products now on the black market.

The law will not allow cannabis-infused edibles and concentrates until next year. So those craving pot-infused gummy bears, baked goods, barbecue sauce and drinks will have to wait to buy them legally.

It is unclear whether cannabis creams and cosmetics will ever be approved.

The Times goes on to talk about the fuzziness of what cannabis will cost from province to province, how much of it is legal to own, the limits placed upon growing your own, and the age required to make buying it OK. Read the rest “The New York Times has the dope on cannabis use in Canada”

WestJet Airlines says no to drugs as Canada prepares to decriminalize cannabis

Last month, the Canadian Armed Forces announced its strict but reasonable policy surrounding the use of cannabis by service personnel. With Canada's decriminalization of cannabis nearly upon us, a lot of companies and organizations that deal with dangerous tasks or complicated hardware are following suit. Earlier this week, one of Canada's most popular air carriers, WestJet released its policy for when their employees will be allowed to use cannabis.

The short version of the rules: If you're a WestJet employee doing anything other than riding a phone for the company's customer service line or working at an airport check-in counter, chances are that you won't be allowed near the stuff.

From the CBC:

Spokesperson Morgan Bell said employees were notified of the changes on Tuesday morning.

She said cannabis is being treated differently than alcohol, which is banned for certain staff members within 12 hours of coming on duty.

Bell said WestJet's list of affected positions would be similar to Air Canada's, which includes flight and cabin crew members, flight dispatchers, aircraft maintenance engineers and station attendants.

The new WestJet policy also includes a prohibition on possession or distribution of cannabis on company property while on duty or attending a company social function.

Air Canada, Canada's flag carrier, has pretty much the same policy on dope, which makes me happy. In almost all instances, 12 hours is long enough for the blood alcohol level of most drinkers to dip back down to safe levels. Despite all the criminal bullshit that we've laden cannabis down with over the years, we still know comparatively little about what it does to a user's reflexes or how long it may continue to have an effect on judgement. Read the rest “WestJet Airlines says no to drugs as Canada prepares to decriminalize cannabis”

Teen offers pot brownies for homecoming votes, does not win election

A High School student purportedly offered pot brownies to football players in trade for homecoming queen votes. The student both failed in her bid for office and faces criminal charges.

I'd have eaten the brownies and stayed home.

Via WaPo:

Police told TV station WWMT that the 17-year-old at Hartford High School wanted the crown so badly that she showed up to school with a clever, but illegal, bit of homemade homecoming swag: a dozen pot brownies.

In the weeks prior, the girl had been nominated as a finalist for homecoming queen. Police say she hoped the brownies would sway her classmates to cast the votes she would need to win the title.

The cheerleader gave goody bags to football players, a standard practice before games, according to Hartford police, but hers also allegedly came with the brownies and their dose of THC.

The ambitious teen’s maneuvering was uncovered around Sept. 26, when police say someone used an app to anonymously notify state authorities, who then relayed the tip to Hartford police.

School officials were able to retrieve two brownies in their entirety and the partial remains of a third brownie, Hartford Superintendent Andrew Hubbard told The Washington Post.

Hubbard said at least eight students face possible expulsion for their roles or reactions to the scheme.

“I’ve read about things across this country. It has not happened with anything that I know of in this area,” Hartford police officer Michael Prince told Fox 17. “I’ve been an officer a long time, and whenever you think you’ve heard it all, something just about daily comes up, like, ‘Wow,’ ” Prince said.

Read the rest “Teen offers pot brownies for homecoming votes, does not win election”

Mormon (LDS) church backs Utah medical marijuana legalization deal, even if November ballot initiative fails

The Mormon Church (AKA The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or LDS) is joining lawmakers and the governor of the state of Utah to support a deal to legalize medical marijuana, even if a legalization initiative that's on this November's ballot ends up failing.

This is the first time to my knowledge the Mormon Church has made a statement supporting medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy.

I'm a Utah resident and a cancer survivor, and I'm writing this from my home in Utah.

I found real medical benefit from cannabis during my treatment for breast cancer. The deal described in today's news (I haven't seen the text yet) is great progress for all Utahns, especially for those with cancer and other serious illnesses. The LDS previously shunned any and all cannabis use. This deal isn't enough, IMO, because marijuana smoking would still be illegal. Whole flower combustion has its benefits, and it is a valid method of ingesting cannabis for medical purposes. Read the rest “Mormon (LDS) church backs Utah medical marijuana legalization deal, even if November ballot initiative fails”

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