4(experts) 20(questions) on weed

The biggest weed myths according to a Cannabis scientist, the most annoying weed smokers according to a dealer...

The Stoner


1. When did you smoke your first spliff? I was 19, at uni and my boyfriend at the time gave it to me. It’s quite late to start but I grew up in a real­ly rur­al area and no one smoked it. 

2. How was the first time? Like all of my drug expe­ri­ences, I got a bit car­ried away. I smoked two spliffs back to back, ate a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and then threw it all up on my front doorstep. Not sure why I didn’t just go to the bath­room. My friend also whiteyed hard; she was pan­ick­ing, ask­ing for an ambu­lance, but she’s prone to dra­mat­ics so I took it with a pinch of salt.

3. How often do you smoke? From then on I’ve smoked every day. I’ve tak­en two or three week breaks from weed, but it nev­er stuck. 

4. Could you stop if you want­ed to? Prob­a­bly. Although, in the peri­ods that I have stopped, I got some of the typ­i­cal with­draw­al symp­toms – I found it hard to fall asleep, then would get crazy vivid dreams. I also got weird­ly sweaty when I was asleep, and then was just moody and pissed off a lot of the time. 

5. Has how much you smoke changed over time? At uni it was a lot more. Me and my group of friends became lit­tle her­mit crabs, we’d stay inside all day, smok­ing and watch­ing back-to-back series of West Wing and South Park or play­ing the Tiger Woods PGA Tour game on Playsta­tion. I am a pro at that game. If you play a back-to-back, 18-hole game, you’re look­ing at six hours. And we’d do that most days. Can you imag­ine if I’d put that time into an actu­al hobby?

6. What about now? I smoke less. Maybe three spliffs a night, but I’ll get through about eight on a lazy Sunday. 

7. Has it affect­ed your job? Not that I can tell. 

8. What about any­thing else? My short term mem­o­ry isn’t as good as it was. I used to be good at remem­ber­ing num­bers and the details of plans. Now I need to write shit down in my diary or I won’t remem­ber. I don’t dwell on it too much, to be honest. 

9. Do you have any rules about your joints? Yeah, I don’t let any­one else roll for me – there’s noth­ing worse than a poor­ly rolled joint. Like when the bac­cy gets into the roach and you get a real­ly unpleas­ant burn­ing taste. It’s like, What the fuck hap­pened there?” Good, even dis­tri­b­u­tion, not huge amounts of weed; I just like to be light­ly baked. 

10. Do you ever teach peo­ple how to roll for you? I tried to teach my boyfriend but his spliffs aren’t as good as mine. They’re ugly. I’d rather just do it myself.

11. What does it feel like when you’re high? Every­thing seems eas­i­er. I’m not nat­u­ral­ly prone to anx­i­ety, or wor­ry­ing, I’ve always been pret­ty hap­py-go-lucky. Add a spliff to the mix and everything’s pret­ty sweet. I actu­al­ly love the phys­i­cal feel­ing — it’s like a rushy feel­ing, like your brain’s get­ting a massage.

12. What’s been your best stoned expe­ri­ence? The best expe­ri­ences are like a com­bo of the peo­ple and all that, so it’s hard to say. I did once take pills with my mate at Thor­pe Park. We thought it would be a great idea, but it turns out it wasn’t — my mate com­plete­ly lost it. He was like jab­ber­ing away to him­self. We got sun­stroke and were the last peo­ple to leave the Park because I had to take him to the med­ical cen­tre. He was sit­ting there play­ing with ted­dies for a while, both off our faces on ecsta­sy. Any­way, when it came to nav­i­gat­ing home, I skinned up so that he’d stay calm. And it real­ly worked: he start­ed feel­ing bet­ter and we man­aged to have a very love­ly jour­ney home. Weed to the rescue.

13. …so it helped? Weed helps every­thing. That’s my opin­ion, and I’m enti­tled to it.

14. What’s your worst stoned expe­ri­ence? Again it was in com­bo with some­thing else. I went to Ibiza last year and lost my mind. I think it was pills, lack of sleep and 48 hours of car­nage. My friends and I had gone to a club and then smoked weed real­ly heav­i­ly when we got home. And there was just a point where I was like, Oh christ, I’m done, I’m going to bed.” I couldn’t put my thoughts togeth­er, I couldn’t get a sen­tence out. I was lying there think­ing, If this doesn’t clear up in half an hour, I’m prob­a­bly going to have to go to hos­pi­tal and be declared insane.”

15. …wow, that sounds awful. What thoughts were actu­al­ly run­ning through your mind? It was just chaos. I couldn’t form sen­tences, I couldn’t remem­ber what I was try­ing to focus on. Ran­dom images were com­ing into my brain. It was just a jumble.

16. Were you scared? Yeah, real­ly scared. I wouldn’t want to repeat that.

17. How long did it go on for? It felt like hours and hours but prob­a­bly it was only an hour. 

18. Did that change your mind about weed in any way? No not real­ly, because it was a com­bo thing. I haven’t had a bad expe­ri­ence just from the weed itself. But mixed with every­thing else, it’s just not good.

19. How do you feel about being called a ston­er”? Tech­ni­cal­ly I am a mas­sive ston­er. But peo­ple think of ston­ers as guys who live in their pyja­mas and eat piz­za all day. That’s real­ly not me. I’m suc­cess­ful, I’m a woman, I go to the gym and hold down a stress­ful job. I plan hen dos. I’ve got loads of shit going on. You could choose to sit on the sofa all day, or you could choose to get the fuck up and go out. I do the latter.

20 What does weed give you, that makes you keep smok­ing? I feel like I’m bet­ter at com­mu­ni­cat­ing when I’m stoned — I can talk more hon­est­ly, with­out being self-con­scious, so that’s good.

The Dealer

1. How much do you sell? Not enough man, nev­er enough…

2. What are your cus­tomers like? They don’t gen­er­al­ly ask so many ques­tions, truth be told. 

3. But do you like them? No.

4. That’s not very neigh­bourly… Are you going to buy anything?

5. Aren’t you wor­ried that if cannabis is legalised you’ll lose busi­ness? Espe­cial­ly if your cus­tomer ser­vice doesn’t improve? Lis­ten, I’m not wor­ried. What­ev­er hap­pens won’t hap­pen for a long time, in my esti­ma­tion. I’ll be out of this game by then.

6. What’re your cus­tomers like? A mix. Main­ly young guys and girls in their 20s and 30s. Pro­fes­sion­als liv­ing in nice places, I’d say. But I have a few old­er ones…

7. How do the old­er ones find you? Through their kids I think. Some are open with their kids about it. I don’t know about that myself — I wouldn’t want my chil­dren to do drugs.

8. Who are the most annoy­ing cus­tomers? Just impa­tient peo­ple. Traf­fic can be bad and they’re call­ing and call­ing. I don’t need that stress. Some want to chat too much. I just want to get in and get out.

9. Is this is a stress­ful job? Not real­ly. The hours aren’t nice, though. And when you have a nor­mal day job it can get stress­ful as you’re work­ing, work­ing work­ing. Oth­er­wise it’s fine.

10. How did you get into this? I don’t know… peo­ple around me were doing it. I need­ed the mon­ey. It’s just a sideline.

11. Are you wor­ried about being arrest­ed? Yeah man, you’d be stu­pid not to worry. 

12. Do you ever wor­ry about your clients, if they’re smok­ing too much? I’ve stopped sell­ing to a few. I don’t need the mon­ey that much man, I just say no and block.

13. What made you stop sell­ing to them? They were smok­ing a lot, spend­ing sil­ly mon­ey and then they were get­ting real para­noid, say­ing weird stuff to me. Like one guy was say­ing I’m the only per­son he trusts and that he don’t trust any­one any­more. I’m not there to be anyone’s mum, but I’m a per­son and I don’t need that hang­ing over me. 

14. Do you smoke your­self? No. I used to but now no. 

15. What made you stop? I dri­ve around a lot and need to stay sharp.

16. What do most peo­ple buy? Depends what kind of expe­ri­ence they want to have. I don’t sell any­thing super-strength because it’s more has­sle than it’s worth.

17. What do you mean? Just inex­pe­ri­enced ones whitey­ing and complaining.

18. What do you do when peo­ple com­plain? Block them.

19. Where are you going next? I’m not answer­ing any more questions.

20. Come on now… A reg­u­lar; and I’m late.

The Rave Organiser

Michelle Lhooq is the founder of Weed Rave.

1. How did you come up with the idea of a weed rave? I moved to Cal­i­for­nia two years ago and start­ed going to a lot of weed events. I didn’t realise it was this huge world that already exist­ed. I found that a lot of these par­ties were over­ly [weed] indus­try focused. Com­ing from a music back­ground — I’ve been writ­ing about nightlife for a decade — I was like, Peo­ple already smoke weed at raves, why not bring the two sub­cul­tures togeth­er and cre­ate a par­ty that’s ori­ent­ed around both weed and music?”

2. What are you weed raves like? They’re like mini-fes­ti­vals. It was impor­tant for me to bring in an edu­ca­tion and well­ness com­po­nent dur­ing the day. So we have a cook­ing class, yoga and a few oth­er things which I hope shows that there’s more to weed than just get­ting stoned and lying around on your couch. 

3. Do you think weed has had a bad press? Def­i­nite­ly. Smok­ing can also be a real­ly cere­bral expe­ri­ence. And real­ly good for exer­cis­ing and mov­ing your body. Or that there’s a culi­nary and gas­tro­nom­ic ele­ment to it. The new world of weed is incor­po­rat­ing these lifestyle ele­ments and I real­ly want­ed to show peo­ple, like, this is what’s hap­pen­ing in weed right now.

4. What’s the most pop­u­lar activ­i­ty? The yoga usu­al­ly pops of in a way that I’m a lit­tle sur­prised by. I love yoga but I don’t expect peo­ple to do yoga at a rave. But the last time we did it, we did it on the roof and there was a full moon eclipse, so every­one was out look­ing at the moon and you’re doing yoga while peo­ple are howl­ing at the sky and there’s tech­no play­ing below you. It’s the weird­est vibe but I think peo­ple real­ly appre­ci­ate bring­ing that ele­ment into rave culture.

5. Why do you think that is? There’s a whole side of rave cul­ture that can be about sobri­ety and tak­ing care of your body. There’s a healthy side to it, that’s about cre­at­ing an atmos­phere of togetherness. 

6. What’s your ulti­mate ambi­tion for the raves? I just want to push the whole of rave cul­ture into a more sus­tain­able, tak­ing-care-of-your-body angle. You know, you can’t do cocaine every weekend. 

7. What kind of music do you play at the raves? I’ve been play­ing with the idea of what weed music actu­al­ly is. Some peo­ple like to pigeon­hole, but I think any kind of music can be weed music. Like, you don’t think of alco­hol as hav­ing a cer­tain sound. For the first par­ty, I asked DJs to play more jun­gle music because I feel like there’s a his­to­ry there. That’s what you smell in the air when you go to a jun­gle par­ty. This com­ing par­ty, we’re actu­al­ly focus­ing on tech­no and ball­room – they’re both real­ly strong in New York and I want­ed to fuse them togeth­er in an inter­est­ing way. 

8. Why do you think weed is good with music? I think it enhances your sens­es and makes you notice lit­tle details in the music. It’s like a light psy­che­del­ic that makes you lean into the music and the envi­ron­ment. Alco­hol kind of takes you out of the expe­ri­ence, it numbs your senses.

9. What’s the dif­fer­ence between a nor­mal dance floor and a weed dance floor? You know I was talk­ing to the DJ Rus­sell E.L. But­ler and they said that stoned dancers have a dance that’s more inti­mate and per­son­al. It’s real­ly vibey, and heavy and they’re ful­ly there with you. 

10. Are there any par­tic­u­lar strains of weed that go well with music? For the weed rave we have a sati­va room and an indi­ca room. The sati­va room is more intense and the indi­ca room is more chill ambi­ent stuff. I think the best pos­si­ble out­come is a hybrid strain because then you get both the phys­i­cal vibei­ness and also the cere­bral abil­i­ty to analyse the music.

11. How many peo­ple come to the rave? For the first one we have about 400 peo­ple, but it’s a 12-hour par­ty so peo­ple come and go. For the next one, I want­ed to make it a lit­tle small­er because you know, in New York it’s not entire­ly legal, so I don’t want to have this huge rag­ing par­ty. I also want­ed it to be more inti­mate than a club, with 500 strangers. More like a house par­ty, but the cra­zi­est house par­ty you’ve ever been to.

12. So how does it work, if it’s not ful­ly legal? Well, what I didn’t realise before I start­ed ven­tur­ing into this world was that New York already has a thriv­ing sub­cul­ture of weed par­ties. They run the gamut from speakeasies where you’re sit­ting around in a rent­ed room, on couch­es and it’s more like a lounge and there are infused din­ner par­ties. And there are well­ness focused events. To my knowl­edge there aren’t oth­er weed raves, but we fit into this micro­cosm of events that are oper­at­ing already…

13. But are you wor­ried that police will try and break it up? Yeah, that’s like, my biggest fear. From my con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple in the indus­try, I think it’ll prob­a­bly be ok…our pro­gram­ming is so much about des­tig­ma­ti­sa­tion of weed, we have dis­cus­sion pan­els and peo­ple from drug harm-reduc­tion non-prof­its. We have peo­ple from the LGBTQ+ weed scene talk­ing to. We’re like a social con­scious par­ty — we’re not just try­ing to get peo­ple super stoned. Although that’s part of it too!

14. When did you start smok­ing? Around 10 years ago. 

15. How do you think the weed scene has changed in that decade? Oh my god. It’s a total­ly dif­fer­ent world. When I first start­ed smok­ing weed, I was a fresh­man smok­ing it in my col­lege dorm — it was super secre­tive and taboo. There was this stig­ma like, if you were smok­ing weed you were lazy. There was no con­ver­sa­tion about using weed to enhance your productivity.

16. It’s so fun­ny to me because weed makes me real­ly anx­ious, so it wouldn’t enhance my pro­duc­tiv­i­ty at all… Oh no! Well, weed is so dif­fer­ent depend­ing on the strain. And I feel like all of the shit­ty weed I’ve smoked has made me more anx­ious. Have you tried a real­ly expen­sive strain from a real­ly nice Cali dis­pen­sary? I think when you have to buy it from a shady deal­er and you don’t know what you’re get­ting, it’s risky. 

17. What are the most excit­ing devel­op­ments with­in weed cul­ture at the moment? The strength of women help­ing each oth­er. There are so many real­ly inspir­ing fem­i­nist crews out there. Like there’s a zine called Dope Girls that I love. Broc­coli mag­a­zine is real­ly cool. One of my spon­sors at the rave is called Rose­buds and they’re an LGBT deliv­ery service. 

18. Why do you think it’s so inclu­sive? I just feel like right now there’s a lot of coali­tion build­ing and sol­i­dar­i­ty among under-rep­re­sent­ed peo­ple with­in the cannabis indus­try because there are so many white cor­po­rate inter­ests com­ing in. If we don’t build coali­tions now it’ll be too late.

19. Where do you think has most excit­ing weed cul­ture? Def­i­nite­ly LA. It’s tak­en over Ams­ter­dam because they’ve real­ly embraced weed tourism. There are all these cannabis hotels and retreats out in Joshua Tree. It’s a whole lifestyle there. 

20. Where do you see the future of the indus­try going? I’m real­ly excit­ed for the future of peo­ple social­is­ing around weed instead of alco­hol. We’re going to see a whole new form of social spaces come up. Like, I’m hop­ing to take my weed rave a legal cannabis lounge, because they’re going to start pop­ping up in Cal­i­for­nia soon. I think we’re going to see weed fes­ti­vals and weed museums…just a cel­e­bra­tion of the culture.

The Scientist

Amir Englund, Cannabis sci­en­tist at the Insti­tute of Psy­chi­a­try, King’s Col­lege Lon­don

1. How would you describe cannabis? Cannabis is a plant, which con­tains a wide vari­ety of chem­i­cal com­pounds. Some are spe­cif­ic to the plant, and we call these cannabinoids.

2. How many com­pounds are there? At least 144. We don’t know how impor­tant most of them are, but we know most of them are in very small concentrations.

3. What are the most inter­est­ing com­pounds in cannabis? The most impor­tant one, and the cause of cannabis’ intox­i­ca­tion, is delta-9-tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC) – that’s what gets peo­ple high. The sec­ond most com­mon cannabi­noid is cannabid­i­ol (CBD). Both have been found to have med­i­c­i­nal ben­e­fits, THC can ease pain and nau­sea while CBD has anti-epilep­tic and anti-psy­chot­ic effects. Struc­tural­ly, the mol­e­cule looks very sim­i­lar to THC, but CBD has a dif­fer­ent mech­a­nism of action, and it doesn’t cause intox­i­ca­tion in most nor­mal dos­es (around 1500 – 4500mg in a sin­gle dose, but very mild effect).

4. What does cannabis do to the brain? We all have recep­tors that pro­duce inhi­bi­tion and exci­ta­tion. Dif­fer­ent sys­tems pro­duce accel­er­a­tion for the brain, but also the break­ing mech­a­nism. Cannabi­noids help bal­ance both of these sys­tems by mak­ing sure there’s not too much activ­i­ty or inhi­bi­tion going on. For exam­ple, when we become anx­ious or stressed, spe­cif­ic com­pounds in the brain known as endo­cannabi­noids – which help reg­u­late sig­nalling – get engaged and try and neu­tralise that. Usu­al­ly the cannabi­noids are pro­duced in tiny amounts but when some­one takes cannabis, the THC mim­ics and acts on the cannabi­noid recep­tors, and the amount of THC com­pared to nat­u­ral­ly engaged endo­cannabi­noids is far greater. This caus­es dis­rup­tions to the brain’s nor­mal sig­nalling, which in turn caus­es the intox­i­ca­tion and oth­er effects relat­ed to cannabis.

5. And what are those effects depen­dent on? The dose that some­one is exposed to, as well as the way it’s tak­en. Cannabis can be smoked, inhaled through a vapor­is­er and it can be con­sumed oral­ly as a cap­sule or baked into food (among oth­er ways).

6. How long until the high kicks in? If it’s inhaled, the effects start with­in five to 10 min­utes and last two to four hours, if it’s con­sumed oral­ly, depend­ing on how much you’ve recent­ly eat­en, the effects start to show between one and two hours, and can last up to eight hours. Because the edi­ble con­sump­tion effects are slow­er to come on, peo­ple some­times take more and end up ingest­ing more than they intended.

7. Are reg­u­lar users less affect­ed than less expe­ri­enced users? Reg­u­lar use can cause a per­son to become more tol­er­ant of the drug. It will require them to have a greater amount to reach the same lev­el of intox­i­ca­tion as achieved previously.

8. So, you can get addict­ed to cannabis? Yes. Rough­ly about 9% of peo­ple who try cannabis become addict­ed. The risk is greater for those who start ear­ly: it almost dou­bles for those who start in their teens.

9. How do you know if you’re addict­ed? Cannabis addic­tion main­ly relates to psy­cho­log­i­cal and social symp­toms. These include using more cannabis than you intend­ed to, not being able to con­trol your use, try­ing to quit — but fail­ing — and using cannabis in sit­u­a­tions where it’s risky to your per­son­al health (like dri­ving) as well as using it while know­ing it has a neg­a­tive effect on per­son­al rela­tion­ships, work life or stud­ies. A cou­ple of phys­i­cal symp­toms include tol­er­ance and expe­ri­enc­ing with­draw­al symp­toms when you stop, such as irri­tabil­i­ty, dif­fi­cul­ty sleep­ing, fevers, headaches, stom­ach cramps and vivid, unpleas­ant dreams.

10. If some­one hasn’t tak­en it before, what are they most like­ly to feel? Cannabis has a huge amount of inter-indi­vid­ual vari­abil­i­ty, and we don’t know why that is. Some peo­ple will have more pos­i­tive reac­tions than oth­ers: feel­ings of intox­i­ca­tion, relax­ation, eupho­ria, greater amuse­ment by things and an enhanced per­cep­tu­al aware­ness. Equal­ly, oth­ers can expe­ri­ence more neg­a­tive feel­ings. The most com­mons ones are increased heart rate, anx­i­ety, para­noia and a drop of blood pres­sure – known as a whitey” – where they might go pale, feel light­head­ed, nau­seous and throw up. In gen­er­al, we can’t pre­dict who will have a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive reaction.

11. What are the major health risks? The most stud­ied risk is to men­tal health. Sev­er­al stud­ies have found a link between ear­ly use of cannabis, and a lat­er devel­op­ment of psy­chot­ic ill­ness­es. So for some­one who’s vul­ner­a­ble, it could trig­ger the start of a psy­chot­ic ill­ness. But it’s not seen as an inde­pen­dent risk fac­tor, so if cannabis use is your only risk fac­tor, it’s unlike­ly that you will end up devel­op­ing a psy­chot­ic ill­ness. But it’s dif­fi­cult to know one’s own risk for psy­chosis, and there­fore dif­fi­cult to know how risky cannabis is for any individual.

12. Does it impact cog­ni­tive per­for­mance? Gen­er­al­ly, cannabis use is relat­ed to poor­er cog­ni­tive per­for­mance; some­one who uses cannabis is more like­ly to do worse on cog­ni­tive tests com­pared to those who don’t. Although research also shows that if you stop using it for four weeks, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty tends to nor­malise again.

13. What are the most dan­ger­ous strains? There are hun­dred, if not thou­sands, of cannabis strains and they’ve not real­ly been mapped suc­cess­ful­ly in terms of strength of THC and CBD. There’s gen­er­al knowl­edge about the dif­fer­ent strains, but with­in the same plant, the strength of cannabis bud on top of the plant will be dif­fer­ent to the one at the bot­tom. Most of the UK’s cannabis is what we call high-poten­cy cannabis – where it has high lev­els of THC and almost absent lev­els of CBD. In Lon­don, about 96% of the cannabis that’s avail­able on the black mar­ket is the THC-only vari­ety. White Wid­ow is one of the high­est-poten­cy strains. Skunk is a term often used by the media as a way of dis­tin­guish­ing stronger types of cannabis that have low or no amounts of CBD, but cannabis users don’t like or use that term often. What­ev­er they’re called, it’s the high-poten­cy vari­ety that’s con­sid­ered the most harmful.

14. What about syn­thet­ic cannabi­noids? They are man-made chem­i­cals designed to act like the main psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal in cannabis but do not come from the cannabis plant. They tar­get the same recep­tor in the brain as THC – but hit it far hard­er. We call THC in cannabis a par­tial ago­nist, which means it acti­vates the recep­tor par­tial­ly but many of these syn­thet­ics acti­vate the recep­tor ful­ly – and with dif­fer­ent strengths. Some syn­thet­ic vari­eties are con­sid­ered to be a cou­ple of hun­dred times as strong as THC.

15. …which is even more dan­ger­ous? Yes, you’re far more like­ly to seek help after using syn­thet­ic cannabis than with nat­u­ral­ly grown cannabis. There have also been a few deaths relat­ed to the use of syn­thet­ic cannabis, although we can’t explain why because they’re not con­sis­tent in what they contain.

16. Can you die from tak­ing nat­u­ral­ly grown cannabis? In terms of caus­ing an over­dose like hero­in and alco­hol can, where­by you can stop breath­ing from it, cannabis can­not do that because it doesn’t affect enough cannabi­noids recep­tors that con­trol those func­tions. How­ev­er, if you have a very vul­ner­a­ble heart con­di­tion, cannabis has been found to influ­ence heart rate – so cannabis can be a risk for those who have sen­si­tive hearts.

17. What hap­pens to the brain when you mix cannabis with alco­hol? Peo­ple end up with high­er lev­els of THC in their blood, and the neg­a­tive impact on cog­ni­tive per­for­mance increas­es. Research has found peo­ple who drink alco­hol and use cannabis togeth­er are far more like­ly to be involved in traf­fic accidents.

18. What are the biggest myths you’ve heard about cannabis? First­ly, that it’s a gate­way drug, mean­ing that using cannabis leads a per­son to try more harm­ful drugs, like hero­in and cocaine. Most pop­u­la­tion-based stud­ies have not found a causal link between cannabis and lat­er use of stronger drugs. They found oth­er psy­choso­cial fac­tors such as the age you start­ed using, whether or not you’re employed or eth­nic back­grounds and your social sta­tus can help pre­dict whether some­one is more like­ly to devel­op depen­dence on stronger drugs, but there’s very weak evi­dence for the gate­way the­o­ry of cannabis.

The oth­er big myth is that cannabis might cure can­cer. Although stud­ies in ani­mals have sug­gest­ed that THC and CBD have anti-tumour and anti-can­cer prop­er­ties, it’s still a very big leap to say that that cannabis can actu­al­ly lead to someone’s can­cer being cured. This is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous because it risks peo­ple who have can­cer say­ing no to nor­mal treat­ments because they might be wor­ried about the side effects and being in favour of cannabis. There might be encour­ag­ing results from ani­mal stud­ies, but it real­ly needs to be con­firmed in human stud­ies oth­er­wise peo­ple are at much greater risk of dying or hav­ing the worst pro­gres­sion of illness.

19. What do you think is the most inter­est­ing research around cannabis right now? There’s a grow­ing amount of evi­dence of that sug­gest that CBD could make cannabis less harm­ful, both in terms of reduc­ing the like­li­hood of para­noia and psy­chot­ic expe­ri­ences. It seems to pro­tect the brain from the mem­o­ry per­for­mance that THC impairs and reduced like­li­hood of devel­op­ing addic­tion. CBD has also been found in two stud­ies so far to have anti-psy­chot­ic prop­er­ties, so there’s a poten­tial for the use of CBD as a treat­ment for psy­chot­ic ill­ness­es like schiz­o­phre­nia. The impor­tant dis­tinc­tion is that cannabis is a com­plex plant, it’s not just one drug – cannabis can be THC but it can also be CBD, and every­thing in between.

20. What do you think about CBD prod­ucts that claim to have med­ical ben­e­fits? In terms of med­i­c­i­nal use, cannabis is now con­sid­ered sched­ule two, mean­ing that cer­tain doc­tors can pre­scribe it for patients who’ve tried oth­er med­ica­tions (for instance pain and epilep­sy con­di­tions), and those med­ica­tions haven’t helped. But there’s still some bar­ri­ers to that because doc­tors don’t have guide­lines of how to pre­scribe it and what prod­ucts are avail­able, or how they might expect those prod­ucts to work for the patient.

The main thing to be aware of if buy­ing CBD prod­ucts for, say, anx­i­ety, is there are lots of CBD prod­ucts avail­able on the com­mer­cial mar­ket but these are not reg­u­lat­ed, so we can’t be sure as to what they actu­al­ly con­tain. Some stud­ies have found they con­tain less CBD than they say they have, some don’t con­tain any CBD at all. Gen­er­al­ly, com­pared to the CBD that’s used in med­ical research, these prod­ucts on the com­mer­cial mar­ket con­tain tiny amounts com­pared to what we actu­al­ly think might help someone.

Anoth­er risk is that these CBD prod­ucts can still influ­ence the liv­er – stud­ies have found CBD can block cer­tain liv­er enzymes that help break down med­ica­tions. So if some­one is tak­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs, even low dose CBD prod­ucts can pre­vent those drugs from being bro­ken down properly.

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