Tag: Cannabis 101

List of Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis and Their Effects

Cannabis produces a variety compounds known as cannabinoids, many of which have not been detected in any other plant. How many, exactly? It’s hard to say. You’ll often see people report that there are dozens, or even 100+ plant cannabinoids produced by cannabis. But it’s difficult to know the precise number. Most of them are present at very low levels, especially in commercial cannabis products, making it difficult for scientists to accurately detect many of them. The important point is that there are many. Let’s take a closer look at many of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis.

8 Major Cannabinoid Acids Produced by Cannabis

Cannabis doesn’t directly make the most famous cannabinoids associated with the plant, THC and CBD. Instead, it synthesizes several cannabinoid acids (Figure 1). These cannabinoid acids must be “activated” (decarboxylated), usually by heat, to yield the compounds that most consumers are after (THC or CBD). But in addition to THCA and CBDA, there are number of related cannabinoid acids that can be produced by cannabis. These are:

  • CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
  • THCA9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
  • CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
  • CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
  • CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
  • THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
  • CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
  • CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)

The biosynthetic pathway linking cannabinoid acidsFigure 1: The biosynthetic pathway linking cannabinoid acids (Amy Phung/Leafly)

THCA and CBDA are usually the most abundant cannabinoids in strains. The others shown in Figure 1 are normally present at much lower levels. The major cannabinoid acids include CBGA, THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. CBGA is the starting compound that enzymes in the plant use to make the other three. In addition to these, there are an equal number of corresponding “V” compounds with slightly shorter chemical structures: CBGVA, THCVA, CBDVA, and CBCVA.

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What is THCA and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoid acids are not known to produce psychoactive effects like THC. But they do have a variety of interesting properties. For example, many cannabinoid acids have antibiotic or insecticidal properties. This is likely related to the reason cannabis produces these compounds in the first place: to defend itself.

Plant Cannabinoids Are Made From Cannabinoid Acids

When cannabinoid acids are exposed to heat energy, they lose the “A” part and turn into neutral, rather than acidic, plant cannabinoids (Figure 2).

Decarboxylation examples with THCA to THCFigure 2: Decarboxylation examples, with THCA being converted to THC (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Following decarboxylation, each of the cannabinoids yields a corresponding cannabinoid compound:

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Most Cannabinoids Will Not Get You High

THC is the only plant cannabinoid that you know for sure has clear psychoactive effects on its own. There is some evidence to suggest that THCV may also have psychoactive effects, although whether it does may depend on dose. However, like most other plant cannabinoids, THCV is usually not present in significant quantities in commercial strains and cannabis products.

While most plant cannabinoids are not psychoactive themselves, their presence can influence how THC affects you. The best example of this comes from CBD. Even though it wouldn’t get you high by itself, it influences the way that THC interacts with the CB1 receptors in your endocannabinoid system, and can therefore influence exactly how a cannabis product will affect you.

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THCV may also influence THC’s effects. At relatively low doses, THCV appears to diminish THC’s ability to activate CB1 receptors, like CBD. However, at relatively high doses, THCV may start to activate CB1 receptors, like THC. The exact dose that you consume can greatly influence how a compound affects you. But because THCV and the other, lesser-known cannabinoids are generally less abundant in cannabis, they have also been studied much less. There’s a lot more for us to learn about their effects in humans.

THC Can Turn Into CBN

Another plant cannabinoid you may have heard about is cannabinol (CBN). This is another example of a plant cannabinoid that is not directly synthesized by cannabis. Instead, CBN is a breakdown product of THC. This is why flower products will tend to have more CBN, especially when not properly stored. With time and exposure to the elements, THC gradually breaks down into CBN.

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What is CBN and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?

CBN has been observed to result in greater sedation when combined with THC, and may also have anticonvulsant (anti-seizure), anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. However, this is another example of understudied plant cannabinoid, and more work needs to be done before we can be confident in its exact effects.

References:
Izzo AA, Borrelli F, Capasso R, Di marzo V, Mechoulam R. Non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids: new therapeutic opportunities from an ancient herb. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009;30(10):515-27. PDF
Mechoulam R. Plant cannabinoids: a neglected pharmacological treasure trove. Br J Pharmacol. 2005;146(7):913-5. PDF
Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-64. PDF

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Is THCV Psychoactive?

It’s “the sports car of cannabinoids,” according to one California cannabis testing lab. That’s certainly a sexier way of referring to the THCV molecule than by its full name, tetrahydrocannabivarin. But the zippy tagline might be misleading. While some claim the little-known cannabinoid packs a punch—“a powerful high without the munchies,” one website promises—the science tells a different, much more complicated story.

THC is, of course, famous for its psychoactive properties. CBD, by contrast, is known for having next to none. As science dives deeper into the physiological effects of lesser-known compounds in cannabis, there’s always that voice calling from the sideline: “Yeah, but does it get you high?”

When it comes to THCV, the answer is… probably. We’re not 100% sure yet.

This is science, after all. It’s complicated.

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What is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)?

Researchers haven’t been talking about THCV for long. In the 1960s, scientists were isolating and identifying all sorts of new cannabinoids: CBD, CBG, CBC, CBDV, and—in a seminal 1970 paper—THCV. The vast majority of study, understandably, focused on that intriguingly psychoactive molecule, THC.

Figure 1: (Amy Phung/Leafly)Figure 1: Enzymes in the cannabis plant convert cannabinoid precursors CBGA and CBGVA into a variety of cannabinoids. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Like you might guess from those letters, THCV is a not-too-distant cousin of THC. A side-by-side diagram makes clear THCV is basically the THC molecule with the end snipped off, just a few carbon atoms shy of what emerged as the family favorite. Science calls this an analogue—it’s similar, but different in an important way.

THCV-vs-THC 3Figure 2: Molecularly speaking, the THC and THCV differ only by a few carbon atoms. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

THC is what’s called a CB1 receptor agonist—it activates CB1 receptors in the brain, and that activation is what allows for psychoactive effects.

Early studies suggested THCV was about a quarter as potent as THC in this regard—meaning it did seem to exhibit psychoactive effects. But later research suggested something interesting: The behavior of the molecule seems to change depending on the dose.

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At lower doses, THCV acted as a CB1 antagonist—in very, very simple terms: does not get you high. At higher doses, however, it can switch, behaving as a CB1 agonist, much like THC. In other words, take a lot of THCV, and zoom—it’ll tickle that CB1 receptor and produce a psychoactive buzz.

(For a quick catch-up on how these receptors work, see Bruce Barcott’s explanation of why THC is psychoactive and CBD isn’t.)

The buzz associated with THCV, from what little science has studied it, appears to be clear-headed and stimulating. It’s said to intensify the euphoria of THC—although it doesn’t last as long. A THCV-induced high seems to set in quickly yet fade faster, demonstrating about half the duration of THC.

THCV seems to act a bit like CBD in that it modulates and dampens some traditional effects of THC.

There are good reasons beyond the buzz to study THCV. If you’ve read about the cannabinoid before, for example, you’ve probably read of lab tests that show the cannabinoid can suppress food consumption and even encourage weight loss. (Queue a parade of articles on “skinny pot.”)

Keep in mind, first, that THCV is a minor cannabinoid, found at trace levels in most strains. It’s found at slightly higher concentrations in certain strains of African descent, and in some cases plants “highly predominant in this agent have been produced,” leading cannabinoid researcher Dr. Ethan Russo wrote in 2011.

Most consumers will probably (for now) only encounter THCV in small amounts, for example in African landrace strains like Durban Poison. Even if you’re able to track down a higher-THCV strain, such as Doug’s Varin or Pineapple Purps, you’ll be consuming THCV alongside other cannabinoids—most notably THC.

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THCV seems to act a bit like CBD in that it modulates and dampens some traditional effects of THC, which normally bind easily to CB1 receptors in the brain. Take THCV’s effect’s on the munchies: In mice, the ingestion of THCV has led to decreases in both food consumption and body weight. (Decreased food consumption is a general effect of compounds that block CB1 receptors.)

The effect doesn’t seem to turn off hunger completely. Mice deprived of food—the ones that were truly hungry, in the nutritional sense of the word—ate roughly the same amount whether they’d received THCV or not. Nor did it decrease food intake or body weight of obese mice, though THCV did seem to improve insulin resistance in those animals. That’s likely one reason scientists have begun looking into the possible effects of THCV on diabetes.

Dosing may also play a role here. If THCV is blocking CB1 receptors at lower doses and reducing food intake, we might expect higher doses to activate those receptors and instead increase food intake. But that’s just speculation—such an experiment hasn’t been tried yet.

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There are also indications THCV could reduce anxiety attacks in PTSD patients, improve tremors and motor control problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and stimulate the growth of bone cells. Research suggests it may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

For now, we still don’t know a ton about THCV. In cosmic terms, it’s a tiny satellite in a system that science has only recently pulled into view. We’ve long been dazzled by the sparkle of THC. We’re starting to understand the sway of CBD. But as we pull them into focus, THCV and other less obvious cannabinoids are proving to be captivating worlds of their own. What a universe a single plant can unlock.

References:
Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-64. PDF
Mcpartland JM, Duncan M, Di marzo V, Pertwee RG. Are cannabidiol and Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabivarin negative modulators of the endocannabinoid system? A systematic review. Br J Pharmacol. 2015;172(3):737-53. PDF
Gill EW, Paton WD, Pertwee RG. Preliminary experiments on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis. Nature. 1970;228:134–136. PDF

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

What is CBG and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?

By now, most people familiar with cannabis have heard of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) and their effects, but did you know there are many similar compounds in cannabis? A lesser-known cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG), while not present in large quantities in most strains, is nonetheless worth learning about for a number of reasons.

How Is CBG Made?

CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t produce the “highs” that are synonymous with THC. Because it is present in low levels (usually less than 1%) in most cannabis strains, CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid. Amazingly, however, THC and CBD start out as CBG—it’s the chemical parent of THC and CBD (Figure 1). Cannabis plants produce cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the precursor to the three main cannabinoid lines: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).

CBG-A is the chemical precursor of THCA, CBDA, and CBCA (not shown). Enzymes within cannabis turn CBGA into either THCA or CBDA, which can be subsequently decarboxylated ("activated") by light or heat energy to create THC or CBD.Figure 1: CBG-A is the chemical precursor of THCA, CBDA, and CBCA (not shown). Enzymes within cannabis turn CBGA into either THCA or CBDA, which can be subsequently decarboxylated (“activated”) by light or heat energy to create THC or CBD. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Specific enzymes in the plant break CBGA down and “direct” it toward one of the three lines. The acids are exposed to ultraviolet light or heat, and voila, they become the cannabinoids we know: THC and CBD. In most strains, CBGA is immediately converted to either THCA or CBDA. Thus, more THC means less CBG and CBD (and vice versa) by nature of how these compounds are synthesized.

To obtain higher yields of CBG, breeders are experimenting with genetic manipulation and cross-breeding of plants. For example, Subcool Seeds is crossing strains to produce higher CBG contents. Scientists can also extract higher levels of CBG from budding plants by pinpointing the optimum extraction time, about six weeks into an eight week flowering cycle. A medicinal strain called Bediol is produced in this fashion by the Dutch company Bedrocan BV Medicinal Cannabis.

CBG’s Potential Medical Benefits

It's been a long day...

The human body’s built-in endocannabinoid system (eCS) works to keep the body in its balanced state of homeostasis. While there are specific details about how cannabinoids work, in general the endocannabinoid system performs different functions specific to each area of the body. For example, at an injury site, the eCS can help regulate immune cells to limit inflammation.

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CBG has been found to act on very specific physiological systems and problems, and results for medicinal use are promising:

  • Endocannabinoid receptors are prevalent in eye structures, and interestingly, CBG is thought to be particularly effective in treating glaucoma because it reduces intraocular pressure. It is a powerful vasodilator and has neuroprotective effects to boot.
  • In animal experiments involving mice, CBG was found to be effective in decreasing the inflammation characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • In a recent 2015 study, CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease, which is characterized by nerve cell degeneration in the brain.
  • CBG is showing great promise as a cancer fighter. Specifically, CBG was shown to block receptors that cause cancer cell growth. In one such study, it was shown to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells in mice, thereby slowing colon cancer growth. CBG inhibited tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis, therefore demonstrating a very exciting possibility for a cure for colorectal cancer.
  • European research shows evidence that CBG is an effective antibacterial agent, particularly against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) microbial strains resistant to several classes of drugs. Since the 1950s, topical formulations of cannabis have been effective in skin infections, but researchers at the time were unaware of the plant’s chemical composition.
  • In a very recent 2017 study, researchers showed that a form of CBG purified to remove delta-9 THC was a very effective appetite stimulant in rats. This may lead to a novel non-psychotropic therapeutic option for cachexia, the muscle wasting and severe weight loss seen in late stage cancer and other diseases.
  • In a study that looked at the effects of five different cannabinoids on bladder contractions, CBG tested best at inhibiting muscle contractions, so it may be a future tool in preventing bladder dysfunction disorders.

Scientists are excited about these initial CBG results and are promoting future research with CBG alone or CBG in combination with other cannabinoids and therapies for the treatment of multiple maladies. Because it is non-psychotropic, CBG has a promising wide range of potential applications not only for the problems mentioned above, but also as an analgesic, therapy for psoriasis, and as an antidepressant.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

How to Prevent Mold on Cannabis While Curing

This article is sponsored by Integra by Desiccare. Integra™ by Desiccare manufactures a complete line of humidity control products for the cannabis industry.  Whether you’re drying, curing, storing, or preserving edibles, they have the solution to keep the freshness, potency, taste, and overall quality of your product. 


Harvesting healthy, strong-smelling cannabis is a wondrous experience. As every branch is taken off the plant, you notice the subtleties between colas. Density, structure, and color amongst other traits stand out as your relationship with the plants deepens in this final stretch. All that’s left to do is to trim, dry, and cure the buds – but there’s a lot that can go wrong in these last steps if you aren’t prepared.

Farmers dry and then cure the plant slowly to bring out the best qualities of their buds. Unfortunately, this means the fresh plant will spend a lengthy amount of time in a climate where mold can quickly take over and ruin your harvest. Let’s take a closer look at the types of mold that can affect your plants during this time.

What Is Bud Rot?

How to Prevent Mold on Marijuana Plants While Curing

The common name for the mold that will develop in humid climates is known as “bud rot” or Botrytis cinerea. This mold can develop while the plant is living, drying, or curing. Because it develops at the stem and spreads outward, it can be difficult to detect without closely inspecting your buds.

When first developing, the mold will appear wispy and grayish-white in color. Removing infected areas early on can potentially save the rest of the cola, however, by the time the mold reaches the surface the entire cola might be ruined.

The infection on the surface compared to the inside of the bud can be compared to an iceberg above and below the surface. Once the mold reaches the surface, the damage inside the bud is exponentially worse. A bud infected with bud rot will become gooey and lose its structure; the firm qualities of a dense flower will be replaced by malleable plant matter that feels wet and slimy. Once the mold begins to grow, it can also release additional spores and infect other buds that are drying.

Preventing Mold While Drying and Curing Cannabis

How to Prevent Mold on Marijuana Plants While Curing

It is impossible to prevent mold spores from traveling into your curing space. Mold spores have been found everywhere, from the desert to Antarctica to the International Space Station. But just because the spores are everywhere doesn’t mean that specific types of mold will actually grow everywhere. Like other living things, molds have requirements that dictate where they will grow. This is where we as growers can protect our cannabis while curing.

The cannabis should be fully trimmed before it enters the curing phase. Buds should appear how you want them to appear when they will be consumed, which includes clipping them down to their desired size and removing excess stems. The cannabis should not crumble when squeezed nor feel moist to the touch, and the stems should snap when bent.

At this point, the cannabis can be put into jars or airtight totes to begin the curing phase. Once inside these containers, moisture from the stems and buds will seep into the air and the rest of the buds. This moisture being released removes impurities from the buds, but also it is what puts buds at risk for mold during curing. From here there are a number of ways to protect your product from molding as the curing process begins.

Products and Methods to Prevent Cannabis Mold

How to Prevent Mold on Marijuana Plants While Curing

The first method involves using two-way humidity regulator packets. Integra Boost packets are a commonly used brand in the industry, and will maintain either 62% relative humidity (RH) or 55% RH, depending on the type you order. These packets can be found online or in local grow shops and will cover most the groundwork required for curing cannabis.

Using the 62% RH packet will keep cannabis from either drying out or molding as it slowly cures. Then, as the curing process moves forward, you can move to the 55% RH packets to further dry your product if desired. The Integra packets come with replacement indicators which will show you when you need to replace them, as opposed to using a hygrometer to measure the RH. The packets can be used for weeks or months depending on the climate and the moisture of the buds placed in the curing containers.

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The other method involves opening the curing containers and letting humid air out. This is known as “burping.” It typically is done two to four times per day as the cannabis cures initially and is necessary less frequently as the RH percent drops. This method requires daily attention to detail and opens up a large amount of room for error, since it’s done by hand. Also, if you live somewhere with high humidity levels, burping the containers might actually be letting in air that has too high of a RH, which can cause your buds to remoisten.

Curing the cannabis you’ve grown is the last step before you get to enjoy your hard work. However pretty, smelly, and sticky your buds look when they are finished in the drying room, putting them through a quality curing process will always improve the product. One of the best things about growing your own cannabis is controlling this curing process; many large companies, by comparison, are hard-pressed on deadlines and do not have time to let their cannabis cure to its fullest potential. So take the time, invest in products that will ensure the best possible end product, and enjoy!


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

What Does the Future Hold for Cannabis Coffeeshops?

Are Dutch Coffeeshops in Danger of Going Extinct?

The Grasshopper coffee shop in Amsterdam

Coffeeshops are as quintessentially Dutch as wooden shoes, bicycles, and splitting the bill, so thankfully there is resistance to increasing restrictions. In 2012, Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, fought the proposed weed pass system as he believed it would have negative effects both on tourism and crime:

“They will swarm all over the city looking for drugs … This would lead to more robberies, quarrels about fake drugs and no control of the quality of drugs on the market. Everything we have worked toward would be lost to misery.”

Nevertheless, the developed system can benefit coffeeshop owners to an extent. The guidelines do provide them with some security, and jurisprudence has been growing. Some coffeeshop owners whose businesses were closed down have successfully appealed. With each lawsuit, it’s becoming clearer what is allowed or prohibited and what the penalties are.

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For the most part, authorities do not concern themselves much with the sale or use of cannabis, instead focusing on crime. Unfortunately, the current situation simultaneously creates conditions for a best case scenario of a poor quality product and, at worst, cannabis adulterated with dangerous substances. The Netherland’s policy fails to prevent illicit activity, drug tourism, and, ultimately, to make anyone safer.

The US is legalizing cannabis with initiatives to legislate for the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and consumption of cannabis products. Making sure the best product possible gets into the hands of the right people is the key to a successful policy. It’s one Dutch activists are now working to implement in their own country before things turn too far in the other direction.

What Lessons Can the United States Learn From the Dutch Coffeehouse System?

joint

Whether the Dutch continue with this model in the future is uncertain, but their experience is certainly informative for the United States. Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than some of their neighbors, and they don’t seem particularly likely to escalate their use relative to their counterparts in Europe and the US. There are indications that, rather than increasing “the gateway” to hard drug use, separating the soft and drug markets possibly reduced the gateway. Coffeeshops and tolerance of cannabis played an important role in pacifying the heroin epidemic, especially in keeping young people away from that sub-culture.

For cannabis advocates in the US, perhaps the most important lesson be learned from this experience is that progress is not linear.

However, the Dutch experience also raises some cautionary notes. There are several lines of circumstantial evidence that the Dutch system increased consumption, especially in its early years when coffeeshops were spreading. Many people look to the Netherlands as a model for what might happen if cannabis were legalized in the US, but what the Dutch have done is far more nuanced than what is proposed in any of the ballot initiatives in the United States.

For cannabis advocates in the US, perhaps the most important lesson be learned from this experience is that progress is not linear; very often it ebbs and flows and does not necessarily move in a straight line. The importance of the ballot initiatives this coming November in the US can’t be stressed enough.

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Will Dutch-Style Coffeeshops Come to the United States?

Amsterdam Stereotypes

As Washington, Colorado, and Oregon permit both the growing and distribution of marijuana, they are actually more liberal than the Netherlands. However, by banning public use, states may be missing an opportunity to promote responsible behavior while hindering cannabis-related tourism. There’s every reason to feel that cannabis lounges could have positive consequences. All three states ban on-site consumption at licensed pot stores, which are barred from selling anything other than marijuana products.

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Furthermore, Colorado’s Amendment 64 says “Nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly,” while Washington’s I-502 had banned consumption “in view of the general public.” Unfortunately, for Washingtonians who had been using private settings to circumvent regulations, a new law makes operating “a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise … where members or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises” a Class C felony. Similarly, for those in Oregon, new rules introduced by the Oregon Health Authority which took effect at the start of 2016 have nixed any potential for lounges in the state.

Still, there can be possible ways around these restrictions, as shown by the growing number of cannabis lounges in Colorado. One of the first cannabis clubs in the country was opened by Cheryl and David Fanelli in Nederland. The Fanellis took advantage of an exception in the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, the same exception that covers private, members-only spaces where smoking is allowed.

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Club Ned is open only to dues-paying members, who are required make appointments and must bring their own product. The club aims to create the sociable atmosphere of Dutch “coffeeshops.” That’s some mighty crafty maneuvering, but let’s not follow in the steps of the Netherlands, creating a labyrinthine set of regulations and clever short-cuts to arrive at a solution. Again, we have the opportunity to get our own system straight, all the way from the soil and hydroponics right up to the convivial coffeeshop.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

The Problems Plaguing Cannabis Coffeeshops

Dutch Coffeeshops and Their ‘Backdoor Problem’

Logo of the Bulldog coffee shop in Amsterdam

Without a doubt, the coffeeshop system has not been without its problems. There have been issues caused by large numbers of tourists traveling to coffeeshops, and many of the new restrictions were passed under pressure from neighboring countries. Cannabis tourism increased substantially in the border regions with Germany and Belgium, and so did the complaints about nuisance from local residents. Changes, such as the reduction in the maximum allowable amount for daily individual possession and purchase in coffeeshops, were in direct response to the increasing nuisance and aimed at discouraging cannabis tourists.

About a third of all visitors to Amsterdam visit a coffeeshop at some point.

Perhaps the most justifiable concern with the coffeeshop system is the backdoor problem. Significantly, the quirks of the system’s evolution have led to the paradox that while sales are de facto legalized, the coffeeshops are still supplied via an illegal production system. This has led to concerns about the links between coffeeshops and organized crime. In 2008, police sources were claiming that 80 percent of the marijuana cultivated in the Netherlands (“Nederwiet”) was grown for exportation. However, in 2012, investigative journalists got their hands on the KLPD report and demonstrated that the report in fact suggested there was very little proof in support of the previously cited numbers.

Not surprisingly, drug tourism represents a major element of the Dutch economy. Research in 2008 found that foreign visitors to the city of Maastricht’s coffeeshops spent money in other businesses there as well, roughly €140 million annually (or nearly $149 million USD). About a third of all visitors to Amsterdam visit a coffeeshop at some point; nationally, the number is one in five. Banning such visitors would hit tourism revenues hard.

Cities such as Maastricht, on the other hand, have banned foreigners from coffeeshops since 2005. The result has been a proliferation of street dealers. People still come from neighboring countries to buy marijuana, but now they purchase and head back home in a day instead of spending any time in local hotels and restaurants. It’s ironic, really, since the rate of marijuana use is almost twice as high in France as it is in the Netherlands, which has among the lowest number of drug-related deaths in Europe.

‘Towards a Safer Society’ or Too Tough a Crackdown?

police equipment on a dutch police car

Between 2002 and 2010, four cabinets created a particularly rough social-political debate around drugs, especially coffeeshops. The first Cabinet named its coalition agreement “Towards a Safer Society.” They expressed the intent to reduce the presence of coffeeshops in the vicinity of schools and border areas, as well as criminal involvement in the shops.

In 2004, the Ministries of Health, Justice, and Internal Affairs issued the “Cannabis Letter,” which re-emphasized the three pillars of Dutch drugs policy: the protection of health, combating nuisance, and fighting drug-related crime. It declared the intent to focus on reducing street trade, drug tourism, and professional cannabis cultivation.

The paper mentioned the possibility of “moving varieties with higher THC content onto List I of the Opium Act” if these were associated with increased health risks. Coffeeshop policy was further decentralized to the local authorities. The letter reiterated the desire to further reduce the already declining number of coffeeshops. Subsequently, the Promotion of Integrity Assessments by the Public Administration Act aimed to prevent coffeeshop permits going to owners with ties to criminal organizations.

In 2008, the Coordination Unit Assessment and Monitoring of New Drugs published an assessment of the risks associated with THC percentages in cannabis. The report concluded that combating organized crime and reducing cannabis-related nuisance were best achieved by regulating the supply side.

Local consumers refused to register for their passes at coffeeshops, fearing that their privacy would not be guaranteed.

The Van de Donk Committee, basing its conclusions on the Trimbos Institute report, concluded that the main aim of Dutch drug policy had been successful, as coffeeshops facilitated the separation of hard and soft drug markets. The committee expressed concern about the large, professionally organized coffeeshops and increased trafficking of drugs across the border. It believed it necessary that coffeeshops become small-scale establishments again, restricted to local residents and maintaining the separation of soft and hard drug markets.

In May 2012, the government introduced the weed pass (“wietpas”) on a pilot basis and two new criteria were added to AHOJ-G:

  • B – Coffee shops needed to be small and closed
  • I – Only local residents could visit

The results were not all positive. Nuisance related to illegal street sales increased. Local consumers refused to register for their passes at coffeeshops, fearing that their privacy would not be guaranteed. Opposition among local governments against the weed pass grew rapidly.

In September 2012, a new coalition abolished the weed pass but insisted on restricting access to foreigners. The implementation of the residence criteria would be done in consultation with the municipalities concerned. Just four years later, most cities have abandoned the system, with only the city of Maastricht and a handful of smaller towns in the country’s southern region still enforcing the measure.

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In Part 4 of our series exploring the rise of Dutch cannabis coffeeshops, we look to the future of the coffeshop, whether they can thrive in the United States, and the lessons we can learn from the Dutch coffeeshop system.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

How Are ‘Coffeeshops’ Different From ‘Coffee Shops’?

What’s the Difference Between a ‘Coffee Shop,’ ‘Coffee House,’ and ‘Coffeeshop’?

Showcase of cannabis shop, Amsterdam

Friends have dubiously recounted stories of how they “totally by accident” have found themselves in a coffeeshop while visiting Amsterdam. To be fair, many first-time visitors to the Netherlands may be genuinely confused by the terms used for different establishments. An establishment license to sell cannabis is always referred to as a koffieshop (coffeeshop). A koffie huis (coffee house) sells coffee and light meals.

To be clear:

  • Coffeeshop (koffieshop): an establishment where you can legally buy cannabis products. All coffeeshops display a green and white sign at the entrance, usually along with their license, plus notices declaring that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter.
  • Coffee House (koffie huis, koffiebar, or koffiesalon): anything with the word “koffie” or “coffee” or “espresso”
  • Koffietent, koffie spot, koffie hotspot, etc.: terms that coffee establishments generally don’t use to refer to themselves but which are often used by reviewers to avoid confusion with coffeeshops
  • Café: a casual restaurant or bar

Now that we know the difference between coffeeshops and coffee houses, how would the government properly regulate these cannabis-friendly establishments?

How ‘Continuity and Change’ Led to Tightened Regulation

Long exposure - Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Netherlands

That sounds like an oxymoron, right? How can something be both continuous while changing? Drug policy in the 1970s and 1980s had primarily been concerned with public health issues, such as heroin addiction and HIV. As these problems became more manageable, issues such as crime gained political attention.

In 1995, the Purple Government published an official policy document called “Dutch Drug Policy: Continuity and Change.” To an extent, this policy paper represented continuity in that it recognized that the separation of soft and hard drugs had been successful and that coffeeshops had played an instrumental role. The low number of young people addicted to hard drugs in the Netherlands compared very favorably to the rest of Europe.

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On the other hand, the policy document highlighted the issue of nuisance associated with coffeeshops and brought to attention the influence of criminal organizations. The government expressed concern about its international reputation and worried that it could become an “export nation of cannabis.”

Continuity and Change ushered in a tightening of regulations for coffeeshops, including:

  • A minimum admission age of 18 years nationally
  • The maximum transaction amount was decreased from 30 to 5 grams per person per day
  • Limits on the trading stock kept in the shop; a stock of 500 grams or less would not trigger enforcement by national authorities, while the upper limit was left to the local authorities
  • Municipalities obtained the power to add further local directives

The document sought to reduce the influence of organized crime in the supply of the coffeeshops as much as possible, by giving small-scale cultivation low enforcement priority. While it moved towards somewhat stricter policies on recreational cannabis use after 1995, the Netherlands did become the first country to legalize cannabis use for medicinal purposes in 2000. Since 2003, medicinal cannabis has been available in pharmacies for a number of medical conditions as prescribed by a physician.

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In Part 3 of our series exploring the rise of Dutch cannabis coffeeshops, we take a closer look at some of the problems plaguing the coffeeshop system and whether or not coffeeshops pose a danger to society, as a few cabinets alleged.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

The History of Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshops

Seattle has long been synonymous with coffee, and nowadays the city with a distinctive coffee culture is crafting a burgeoning reputation for cannabis culture. What might happen when you combine the two, coffeeshop and cannabis? Sounds like a great idea, right? Like it was meant to be?

In assessing the true potential of this endeavor, where else could we begin than with the elder statesman of not only the cannabis coffeeshop industry, but also cannabis legalization: the Netherlands. We’ll take a look at the context in which cannabis coffeeshops emerged and the changes they have undergone over time. What valuable lessons can be learned from the Dutch cannabis experience, and how might they apply in the context of the United States?

How Are Cannabis Coffeeshops Legal in the Netherlands?

Typical dutch houses in the Center of Amsterdam

Those famous Amsterdam coffeeshops haven’t always been around; like most forms of progress, it took some social evolution (and updated cannabis laws) to lead to today’s current cannabis landscape. The current Dutch policy could be summed up in one word: pragmatism. Reacting to the increase of psychoactive substances in the 1960s, Dutch authorities had initially responded repressively. However, in 1969, the Public Prosecutor’s office published an enforcement guideline, shifting the focus of policing away from cannabis use to hard drugs such as heroin.

The Dutch have a history of taking practical approaches to controversial subjects; their drug policy comprises of tolerance and the use of the expediency principle. The term Gedogen is at the heart of Dutch policy regarding cannabis and is associated with the Polder Model. In a political context, “Gedogen” means to tolerate or even permit an activity or behavior that is officially illegal. Enforcement of the law is considered to be a means to an end, not an end in itself, where rules are only enforced if the overall effects of doing so are considered to be positive.

Described as “a pragmatic recognition of pluriformity” and “cooperation despite differences,” the Polder Model is consensus decision-making, meaning the practice of governance in which negotiations and compromises are seen as beneficial. In this context, rules and laws frequently serve as guidelines. For coffeeshops, this means that they are allowed to sell cannabis if they adhere to regulations, even though it is still technically an illegal drug.

Separation of Soft From Hard Drugs

Coffeeshop sign in Amsterdam

According to the committee, the negative effects of the criminal prosecution of cannabis users outweighed the possible benefits of punishment, and decriminalization of cannabis was proposed.

The idea that the separation of the two sub-cultures would be beneficial to wider society was central, early on, in forming Dutch policy on cannabis. In 1969, a study by Herman Cohen, cast doubts on the theory of cannabis as a gateway drug and argued that by separating the cannabis scene from that surrounding other drugs, cannabis users would be protected from exposure to harder drugs such as heroin.

A report released by the Hulsman Committee in 1969 proposed treating drug problems as a public health issue. It recommended that the intensity of law enforcement be determined by the danger a substance presented to the individual and society. Subsequently, the 1972 Baan Committee report, for the first time, made a distinction between substances with an “unacceptable risk” and “other substances.” According to the committee, the negative effects of the criminal prosecution of cannabis users outweighed the possible benefits of punishment, and decriminalization of cannabis was proposed.

The Holland Pop Festival in June 1970 in Rotterdam may be considered the first large scale implementation of the 1969 Public Prosecutor’s office enforcement guideline. Rather than arresting cannabis consumers, the authorities decided to observe the masses. Gradually, an informal policy of tolerance would emerge.

With the revision of the Opium Act in 1976, the Dutch government brought all substances classified in the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs under the new Opium Act and introduced two lists of substances: “substances with an unacceptable risk to the health of the user” and “cannabis products.” The new Opium Act formalized the policies in the 1969 enforcement guidelines. Drug policy would be coordinated by the Ministry of Health, and drug use would be treated using medical and social approaches rather than criminal ones.

The Emergence of Coffeeshops

People leaving Hash and Maihuana museum

By around 1970, soft drugs were being sold flagrantly in youth facilities such as music venues by “house dealers.” The government feared that closing these meeting places might lead to the spread of cannabis dealing to seedier areas and so risk exposing cannabis users to harder drugs. In this climate, the first commercial cannabis outlets began to emerge. A ‘tea house” in Amsterdam called Mellow Yellow chanced their arm in 1972. Instead of selling from behind a counter, the dealer posed as a customer at the bar.

In 1975, Rusland and The Bulldog opened what would be the first “coffeeshops.” These businesses soon established house rules such as the banning of hard drugs. As long as cannabis wasn’t traded in an overt manner or didn’t result in public nuisance, the authorities left well enough alone.

It was not until the early 1990s that the Dutch government responded with regulations for coffeeshops. Their policy of restraint had allowed for pragmatism in dealing with the emerging businesses. New guidelines for the Opium Act had been published in 1979. These guidelines created a special position for “house dealers” at youth centers. The tolerance criteria developed for “house dealers” would be applied to coffeeshops, but while they provided some legal wiggle room for establishments, the guidelines lacked specificity.

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Still, the conditions did not prevent the rise in the number of coffeeshops throughout the 1980s. Pioneered in Amsterdam, the AHOJ-G criteria were introduced nationally in 1991 but were only officially enacted in 1994. The initial criteria were formulated to leave room for interpretation by the municipalities:

  • A – No more than low profile signposting of the facility
  • H – No hard drugs to be sold or held on the premises
  • O – No nuisances such as loitering, littering, and noise
  • J – No sales to under-aged customers and no admittance of under-aged customers to coffeeshops
  • G – Transaction size would be limited to 30 grams per person per coffeeshop per day

In Part 2 of our series exploring the rise of Dutch cannabis coffeeshops, we’ll address the common head-scratcher that is the difference between “coffee shop,” “coffee house,” and “coffeeshop,” and what happened when the Dutch government issued an oxymoronic drug policy document centered on “continuity and change.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Ask A Budtender: How Do You Determine Cannabis Quality?

As a budtender, I am your in-store tour guide, here to help you choose the best product for your personal needs or desired mood. Consider me the cannabis industry’s version of a sommelier (but much more casually dressed), and imagine your shopping experience as something akin to a wine tasting as you look at as many products as you want in order to get a good assessment of which is right for you.

I try a lot of products each month in order to be as familiar as possible with all of my store’s brands and strains, but cannabis has to be pretty special these days in order for me to make a repeat purchase. I have honed in on a first impressions technique, my own cannabis-specific version of wine tasting, and these are some of the routines I follow as well as qualities I look for when trying new strains.

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1. Start Out Sober

This may seem obvious, but it bears pointing out that in order to get a true impression of what the effect is like on a particular strain, it is important to start fresh. I usually try a new product as my first smoke after getting home from work, or when I am waking up on a day off. Going into it with this clear-headedness allows for me to examine the properties of just the strain I am trying.

2. Use a Clean Pipe 

Taste can be just as important as effect (taste plays into effect as well, thanks to terpenes), so using a clean piece matters when finding out if you like a new product. I always like to make sure that at the very least, my bong or dab rig has fresh water in it before smoking something new. If something doesn’t taste good on that first hit, I know it is the product and not my pipe.

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3. Pay Attention to Your Lungs

Cannabis makes people cough as a general rule, but if you are smoking something that is making you hack, that isn’t normal. Sure, some folks say that “you have to cough to get off,” but there’s coughing and there’s choking, and one does not equal the other. I look for strains that are fairly smooth on the exhale even after larger tokes or dabs, and that don’t leave me with a lingering cough.

4. Make It A One Hit Wonder 

Instead of smoking your whole bowl (or joint, or doing a few dabs back-to-back), try taking one hit and then taking a break for a bit to ride out the effect of just that toke. I like to do this to test how potent and long-lasting a strain’s high is; personally, if I feel the effect of one hit for longer than a half-hour, that’s a strain I want more of.

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5. With Flower, Ash Color Matters

Bud that has been properly flushed and cured has lost all of its chlorophyll and moisture content, which makes for a much cleaner smoke as well as a cleaner residual ash. Ash should be, well, ash-colored: white or grey, never black. I also suggest paying attention to whether or not your bowl cherries (stays smoking in between hits without having to be consistently torched with a lighter), as this is another good indicator of whether or not your cannabis has been appropriately dried and cured.

6. Go With Your Gut

This tip is probably the most important one I can leave you with. Each person’s relationship with cannabis is unique because each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique. When it comes to trying new products and strains, these tips are here to assist, but they are not by any means hard and fast rules for what is or isn’t a good choice. Follow your instincts; if you are in the store and torn between two products, pick the one you were drawn to first. I practice that method and it has yet to let me down.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

5 of the Hardest Cannabis Strains to Grow

As you develop your farming craft and become more comfortable in your cannabis garden, you might find yourself looking for a new challenge. One option is to explore strains that are regarded as difficult to grow. If growing for personal use, you may try to conquer strains that are not popular among commercial farms because of their long flowering periods, low yields, and specific feeding requirements. Large grow operations tend to avoid tackling difficult or risky strains because they’re often not worth the additional time, money, and labor.

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Generally, growers tackle these issues by crossbreeding plants for high yields, short flowering cycles, and low-maintenance feeding requirements. For this reason, many strains that are regarded as difficult to grow are landrace strains. “Landrace” refers to feral strains that have long grown in one geographic location without hybridization. These varieties often have varying and specific needs, making them some of the more complicated plants to grow. However, plenty of modern hybrids can prove to be challenging as well.

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Here are five examples of hard-to-grow strains that ambitious growers may consider if they’re looking for a challenge.

Colombian Gold

Colombian Gold is a landrace sativa hailing from the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia. Made famous over the century as a high-quality cannabis export to the United States, it made a comeback when its genetics were used in the creation of Skunk #1.

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What makes Colombian Gold a difficult strain to grow is its large stature and long flowering periods. To produce this strain indoors, you must be on top of your pruning game; its growth takes off and will quickly overrun your space. The lengthy flowering cycle also increases the chance of error, but if you can bridle this strain, you will be rewarded with a classic quality landrace strain with an exceptional high that electrifies the senses.

San Fernando Valley OG

A beautiful California native, the SFV OG hybrid can be a tricky strain to tame. It has specific feeding needs and a flowering period that extends longer than normal.

OG genetics often require heavy feeding – specifically, they’re known for consuming large amounts of calcium and magnesium (also known as “Cal Mag”). You need to be able to read the plant deficiencies to ensure you don’t over or underfeed this strain. Additionally, SFV OG is a dense plant that will benefit from pruning and topping at an early age. If successful, you will be rewarded with dense, beautiful colas that offer a pungent taste and powerful high.

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Dr. Grinspoon

This landrace sativa strain is named after longtime cannabis advocate and professor at Harvard, Dr. Grinspoon. The genetics are held by Barney’s Farm in Amsterdam and are well known amongst connoisseurs for its cerebral effects and quality of flavor. It is also known for its strange bud structure.

Dr. Grinspoon is difficult to grow because of this bud structure. It can take ages for it to flower and for the airy buds to develop any weight. “When mature, the colas resemble compact green and reddish brown beads,” Barney’s describes. “These loosely hang on thin stems.” The stems and buds are brittle, but the end product is something you will rarely ever see.

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Chocolate Thai

Thai landrace genetics are being kept alive by a breeder in California by the name of DarwoH, and Chocolate Thai is a nostalgic strain commonly associated with the famed Thai sticks of the 1970s and 80s. Cannabis from this region of the world has always been celebrated and cherished for its unique cerebral effects.

The difficulty of this strain can be attributed to its lengthy flowering cycle. Similar to all southeast Asian landrace strains, flowering may take up to 14 weeks. If you have the space, time, and skill to produce a decently yielding Chocolate Thai or any other southeast Asian landrace strain, you have something to be very proud of and will be sure to impress anyone who fondly remembers days spent with Thai sticks.

Headband

Headband has become a very popular strain in the past years. With its high-THC content, Headband provides relaxing effects while holding onto the flavors of its parents OG Kush and Sour Diesel.

What makes Headband difficult to produce is its bud structure. Where OG strains are commonly known for their dense, large colas, Headband produces smaller buds that blanket the plant. Because of this, getting a decent yield with consistent quality can be difficult. Being able to use the SCROG (screen of green) method can help overcome this obstacle.

Which cannabis strains have you had difficulty growing? Leave your stories and tips below so other growers can benefit!


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.