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Beto O’Rourke says Texas can learn from Oklahoma by expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana

The Sooner State also partners with Native American tribes on casino gambling, which attracts hoards of Texans.

At a packed 903 Brewers in Sherman, Beto O’Rourke was asked how close are Texans to being able to legally gamble.

“I think we’re like 35 miles from that, right?” O’Rourke said as the Sherman brewery crowd broke into laughter on April 21. “It is legal in Oklahoma, so I think it makes a lot of sense for us to think about the fact that we have an extraordinary opportunity to deliver a service or a form of entertainment that many Texans already enjoy in other states.” 

Not more than a horseshoe toss from Oklahoma, Grayson County residents are aware their neighbors to the north have legal casinos through agreements with the state and Native American tribes. They are popular with Texas voters, but mostly illegal in the Lone Star State.

And it’s not just gambling that has some Texans near the border looking to Sooner country with envy.

Though Republican red like Texas, Oklahoma has expanded Medicaid to provide more affordable health insurance for its residents. And this year there’s a referendum before Oklahomans that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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Amid federal delays, can marijuana companies break their slump?

Is pot in a ‘regulatory recession’?

More U.S. states are headed toward allowing the sale of recreational cannabis, including New Jersey this month, giving some analysts hope that the swoon hitting publicly traded pot companies may come to an end. 

It’s been quite a rut. The shares of Curaleaf Holdings, Green Thumb Industries and Trulieve Cannabis have plummeted more than 30% this year — much worse than the declines posted by benchmark indexes such as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. Much of cannabis companies’ slide is due to the failure of reforms that investors had hoped for to materialize so far under U.S. President Joe Biden.

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A large percentage of Americans think cannabis is safer than alcohol

Millennials, Gen Z, Gen X and Boomers all noted they think cannabis is less risky than alcohol.

A new poll shows just how much Americans have stopped fearing weed. The majority of those surveyed reported they consider alcohol to be more harmful than cannabis, indicating just how much perceptions around the plant have evolved. The poll, conducted by market research company SSRS, showed that more than half of respondents (58 per cent) of respondents believe cannabis is safer than alcohol. Millennials, Gen Z, Gen X and Boomers, in that order, all noted they think cannabis is less risky than alcohol.

A deeper look into the results shows these are in line with what previous cannabis polls have demonstrated: the vast majority of Americans believe in legal medical marijuana (92 per cent), a smaller yet still large percentage believe in recreational marijuana (69 per cent) and Democrats (78 per cent) and Independents (74 per cent) are more likely to support legal marijuana than Republicans (54 per cent).

While national policies remain slow to embrace change, with every passing year people in the U.S. continue to warm to cannabis.

Comment on the poll’s results, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws noted in a statement that :voters support legalizing marijuana regardless of political party affiliation.”

Armentano went on to say:

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Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate candidates want to legalize pot, but appetite not as strong in Washington

 

It’s a game of num­bers for Dem­o­crats in Wash­ing­ton who want bold re­form on a num­ber of key boil­er­plate is­sues.

But even if they add one more to their ranks in the 50-50 Senate by way of Penn­syl­va­nia, it still may be un­likely that le­gal­ized mar­i­juana be­comes a re­al­ity on the fed­eral level.

All three of the top Demo­cratic con­tend­ers here — John Fetter­man, Conor Lamb and Mal­colm Ken­yatta — fa­vor some de­gree of mar­i­juana re­form, but if they pull off a win in what’s one of the coun­try’s most im­por­tant races, they’ll face an up­hill climb in the Senate.

HuffPost, check­ing in with nu­mer­ous U.S. sen­a­tors last week, re­ported that it’s not just Re­pub­li­cans who could stall move­ment on le­gal weed in the cham­ber. A num­ber of Dem­o­crats are hes­i­tant, too, ei­ther be­cause they say there are too many un­an­swered ques­tions on the con­se­quences or be­cause they say there are big­ger is­sues on their minds.

None of the three Penn­syl­va­nia Dem­o­crats would in­sist mar­i­juana is the only is­sue on their ra­dar, but it’s one that pro­po­nents say could raise bil­lions in tax rev­e­nue, re­move the re­li­ance on an of­ten-dan­ger­ous black mar­ket and re­lieve ra­cial dis­par­i­ties in en­force­ment — all while align­ing with pub­lic poll­ing.

This so hap­pens to be a race, too, in which the fron­trun­ner, Mr. Fetter­man, has made le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana a sta­ple of his po­lit­i­cal rise.

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US-Russian prisoner swap begs question for Biden: What about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan?

 

Biden administration officials said they’re “very aware that there are other Americans held in Russia,” and added that Whelan and Griner are “very much in our minds.”

The Biden administration participated in a prisoner swap with Russia last week involving the exchange of a convicted Russian drug smuggler jailed in Connecticut for Trevor Reed a Marine veteran imprisoned in Russia since 2019. Meanwhile, the fate of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan remains unclear. (Benzinga)

What is clear is that leaders in Washington and Moscow are still speaking to each other, regardless of the daily sputtering and saber-rattling following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Brittney Griner

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at the airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 for allegedly possessing cannabis oil in her baggage. 

Like other female athletes who play abroad during the off-season for extra income, Griner had been playing on a Russian team for the past seven years. The huge gender pay gap in professional sports places women at additional risk.

Paul Whelan

Whelan, a former marine arrested in Moscow in 2018, was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years of hard labor and is still being held in Russia.

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Europe’s first seed bank with registration to open in Copenhagen

Finding high-quality cannabis seeds in Europe is about to get easier. Franchise Global Health announced that its Danish subsidiary, Rangers Pharmaceutical, will be Europe’s “first legal and registered” seed bank in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to an April 28 press release.

The seed bank is home to one of the largest collections of its kind with 286 strains, including several world-class genetics and winners of 19 High Times Cannabis Cups. The company has a footprint all over the globe, including Germany, Canada, Colombia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Portugal, and Denmark.

While seed banks can be found in places such as the Netherlands and the U.K., this seed bank is licensed to store, sell, and export cannabis seeds globally under legal international trade frameworks, with permits to import and export. Rigorous adherence to good manufacturing practices (GMP) is part of the equation.

“In Europe, we abide by EU-GMP standards, which requires a rigorous approach to production of all medicines,” Franchise Global Health Executive Chairman and CEO Clifford Starke told High Times via email. “Medical cannabis is by definition a medicine and we are committed to adhering to these requirements so that patients can have the confidence that they are ingesting consistently high-quality product.”

New Frontier Data special contributor Oliver Bennett explained in an article why EU-GMP certification is critical in Europe—especially in the world of medical cannabis, in which quality control is of the utmost importance. Adhering to those good manufacturing practices is key to surviving in the regulated market.

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Nepal seeks to end marijuana ban after half a century

Washington's global war on drugs, and its accompanying pressure on foreign governments, had prompted the closure of Kathmandu's marijuana dispensaries in 1973.

Nepal's marijuana ban could soon be up in smoke, as lawmakers mull a return to the liberal drug policies that once made the Himalayan republic a popular pit stop on the overland "hippie trail".

Half a century ago, thousands of fun-seeking backpackers from around the world made their way to Kathmandu to buy potent hash strains from government-licensed stores on "Freak Street" -- a lane named for long-haired and unkempt foreign visitors.

Washington's global war on drugs, and its accompanying pressure on foreign governments, prompted the closure of the capital's dispensaries in 1973, along with a cultivation ban that forced farmers to rip up their cannabis plants.

Now, with Western countries easing their own prohibitions on marijuana, the government and legal reform campaigners say it is time to stop criminalising a potent cash crop with centuries-old ties to the country's culture and religious practices.

Corruption and smuggling

"It is not justifiable that a poor country like ours has to treat cannabis as a drug," Nepal's Health Minister Birodh Khatiwada told AFP.

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States that legalized marijuana now researching mental health risks of high-potency cannabis

Products like wax and shatter can have THC levels up to 90 percent, and states like Washington and Colorado are looking at potency caps and product warnings.

With national cannabis legalization poised to be introduced in the Senate, states that legalized recreational marijuana 10 years ago are now studying the public health implications of a variety of new high-potency products amid questions about a possible link to psychosis.

The newer products are called marijuana concentrates and are commonly known as wax and shatter. They can have levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, as high as 85 percent to 90 percent. By comparison, researchers say, the marijuana level in a typical joint 20 years ago was closer to 5 percent. States like Washington and Colorado are now considering product warnings or potency caps to limit access.

At a January forum, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, raised concerns that teens are increasingly vaping high-potency cannabis.

Volkow said she worries that “huge concentrations” of THC could have serious consequences.

“We are seeing a very significant rise in psychosis associated with the consumption of marijuana,” she said.

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How much did New Jerseyans spend on first day of cannabis sales? Yes, there was enough weed for everyone

Last week New Jersey kicked off long-awaited recreational cannabis sales.

On the first day of sales, April 21, over 12,000 customers spent nearly $2 million for cannabis, according to NJ's Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC). (Benzinga)

Some worried about the availability of cannabis for both the recreational and medical markets, but there was plenty to go around. The MMJ supply remained strong, with 64,000 ounces of products sold to patients and their caregivers over the past month.

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'Copycat' cannabis edibles draw ire of big food companies

Packaging that mirrors major brands called 'unscrupulous' and potentially dangerous for children. 

At first glance, there is little indication the snack-size bag of Trix is meant to get a user stoned. Every detail of the packaging has been copied from General Mills' cereal, and the company's logo even adorns the corner.

But the cannabis edible recently pulled from the market was a "copycat" product with a combined 1,000 milligrams of THC, the main intoxicating compound in marijuana. (A standard dose is 10 mg.)

The Consumer Brands Association and several major food companies, including Minnesota-based General Mills and Post Consumer Brands, are urging Congress to crack down on the practice.

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All eyes on New Jersey as it grapples with letting cops use cannabis

Growing chorus of officials want to ban officers from partaking in weed

During his decade in law enforcement, AJ Jacobs fell into a trap of cracking open a beer after a long, stressful shift in the suburbs of Phoenix.

Jacobs didn’t spend much time with his family — he had the “super cop” mentality to work all the time, he said.

But after 11 years on the force, he sustained a career-ending back injury, and turned to cannabis to alleviate the pain from five herniated discs in his back. He said marijuana also helped him work through PTSD, and he recommends it to police officers.

“I would rather them come home and smoke a joint to decompress and deal with their life and their emotions, as opposed to drinking that handle of Jack Daniels and then suppressing everything,” said Jacobs, now the secretary for Arizona NORML, a nationwide marijuana advocacy group. 

In Arizona, police aren’t allowed to consume marijuana, recreationally or medicinally, so some of Jacobs’ former colleagues can’t partake like he can. Jacobs thinks more states should follow New Jersey’s lead. Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin reminded law enforcement chiefs recently that the New Jersey law allowing for recreational marijuana permits cops to consume it off duty.

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Investments in hemp industry highlighted at summit

The 2022 Pennsylvania Hemp Summit ran Tuesday and Wednesday in Lancaster, featuring nearly 100 hemp growers and entrepreneurs.

Industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed. It is a different variety of the plant that produces marijuana and became regulated with marijuana in the 1950s and 1960s. Industrial hemp must maintain a concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol below the 0.3 percent legal threshold.

“Industrial hemp is an economic driver delivering innovative approaches to everyday challenges,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said, opening the trade show.

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Virginia senators kill governor's amendment to criminalize cannabis possession

The governor’s amendment would have made possession of over 2 ounces of cannabis punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

An amendment to Virginia’s Senate Bill 591, proposed by Gov. Glen Youngkin (R), would have made marijuana possession a more serious matter than it is today. However, Youngkin’s efforts fell flat because lawmakers refused to advance the bill altogether, advocacy group NORML reported. (Benzinga)

SB 591 was re-referred by legislators to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee, but, since the 2022 legislative session already ended, the legislation will not advance any further this year.

The governor’s amendment would have made possession of over 2 ounces of cannabis punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Possession of over 6 ounces of weed would have been punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

“The good news is, Governor Youngkin’s effort to recriminalize personal possession failed,” said JM Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML and NORML's development director.

“The bad news is lawmakers’ inaction today allows for products containing unregulated and potentially unsafe synthetically-derived THC products to continue to proliferate in Virginia,” Pedini added.

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Tips for seniors trying cannabis for the first time

 

No matter how old you are, cannabis is a fantastic aid that will help make the aging process much simpler for both men and women.

Seniors are part of the fastest growing demographic of cannabis consumers. The growing population of older cannabis users find great relief in the natural benefits offered by cannabis, whether they choose CBD products or those with THC. It makes sense, as cannabis is a wonderful natural solution for many ailments that afflict the elderly.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, seniors use marijuana mainly for treating medical conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, and pain. “Surprisingly, we found that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported using cannabis for the first time as older adults. These individuals were a unique group compared to those who used cannabis in the past,” explains the study’s co-author, Kevin Yang.

“New users were more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons than for recreation. The route of cannabis use also differed with new users more likely to use it topically as a lotion rather than by smoking or ingesting as edibles. Also, they were more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, which reflects that cannabis use is no longer as stigmatized as it was previously,” he adds.

Aside from that, cannabis use can also help you age gracefully. It can also be part of a holistic wellness regimen that will keep inflammation and disease at bay, or at least slow it down the way it works with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Whether you choose to get high or not, use it as medicine or for recreation, there are some things that seniors should keep in mind when using cannabis for the first time:

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Could CBD help people with diabetes?

 

From a strictly prohibited substance to a so-called ‘miracle drug’, clinical and cultural interest in CBD is on the rise.

As the data in favour of its healing power continues to trickle in, the list of the medical conditions in which CBD could offer therapeutic relief is only getting longer.

Some researchers even believe that CBD could help to manage one increasingly prevalent and potentially life-threatening condition: diabetes. The hard evidence is lacking, but the testimonials are there; could CBD really help people living with diabetes?

Diabetes: an overview

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects blood sugar levels. It occurs when the body doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that helps the body to break down sugar for energy. This results in the blood glucose levels being too high, which causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

Being really thirstyPeeing a lot, particularly at nightFeeling very tiredUnexplained weight loss 

Diabetes affects over 4.9 million people in the UK. There are two major types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, meaning the body is unable to produce insulin. Around 8% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 1.  

Type 2 diabetes is far more common; it accounts for over ​​90% of UK diabetes cases. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still releases insulin, but it either isn’t enough or doesn’t work properly. According to the NHS, you can manage type 2 diabetes with healthy eating, regular exercise and achieving a healthy body weight.

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Aeropay and Flowhub announce contactless payments integration

Cannabis retailers using Flowhub's point-of-sale platform can now offer compliant, cashless payments to customers

Aeropay, the cannabis industry's leading digital payments provider, and Flowhub, the leading national cannabis point-of-sale platform for dispensaries, have announced an integration partnership to enable ACH payments via Aeropay for over 1,000 dispensaries powered by Flowhub's software. Retailers using Flowhub can now offer cashless payments at checkout, which increases sales by more than 25% per transaction, based on data from Aeropay.

"Flowhub is a leading platform for cannabis retailers across the country, and this integration will allow thousands of businesses to offer a modern and efficient shopping experience," said Daniel Muller, CEO and founder of Aeropay. "This partnership is a consequential milestone in Aeropay's mission to help cannabis businesses efficiently scale by eliminating operational friction points. We look forward to extending compliant omnichannel payment solutions to even more dispensaries and brands as consumer demand for contactless alternatives to cash payments accelerates."

This integration makes checkout convenient and easy: By simply scanning a QR code, customers can complete their purchase without cash or cards. They simply link to their bank and pay.

Several of the cannabis industry's largest dispensaries and delivery companies utilize Aeropay's payment processing solutions to optimize their operations and retail experiences. Aeropay's payment method facilitates reliable and compliant payments for cannabis businesses across the United States.

"Flowhub is proud to work with Aeropay as our first ACH payments integration partner," said Kyle Sherman, founder and CEO of Flowhub. "Both teams are committed to helping make cannabis products more easily accessible to consumers and reduce reliance on cash. This integration is a stepping stone for innovative payment processing of legal cannabis sales."

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California bill proposes to prohibit employment discrimination against marijuana users

A bill recently introduced in the California Assembly proposes to prohibit discrimination against employees who use cannabis off the job.

The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2188, would amend California’s employment antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and make it an unlawful practice for an employer to discriminate against an adult applicant or employee based upon the “person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace.” AB 2188 would also prevent discrimination against an applicant or employee who fails a drug test detecting “nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their urine, blood, hair, or bodily fluids.”

The bill would not permit an employee “to be impaired by, or to use cannabis on the job” or affect “the rights or obligations of an employer to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace, as specified in Section 11362.45 of the Health and Safety Code.” 

AB 2188 includes carveouts for the building and construction trades, federal contractors, federal funding recipients, or federal licensees required to maintain drug-free workplaces. Its provisions also exclude occupations that are required by federal or state laws to be tested for controlled substances.

If enacted, AB 2188 would be the first California law providing workplace protection to users of cannabis.

California’s Proposition 215 legalized the medical use of marijuana in 1996. The law did not provide workplace protections for off-duty, off-premises medical marijuana use. In 2008, in Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc., the Supreme Court of California determined that a disabled individual who used medical marijuana was not protected under the FEHA.

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More Ohioans could become eligible for medical marijuana under Senate bill

 

 

A Republican lawmaker’s efforts to overhaul Ohio’s medical marijuana program and expand the number of Ohioans eligible for a cannabis prescription was put to the test Wednesday.

The House Government Oversight Committee held its fourth hearing on Senate Bill 261, introduced by Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), to streamline the process for businesses vying for a medical marijuana license and permit physicians to prescribe the drug where they “reasonably” believe it will help a patient.

“It makes it more patient-centered, and as a physician, I’ve always been for making it patient-centered, that they can get it for the right conditions and the right way for a good price,” Huffman said.

Under current law, Ohio’s medical marijuana program falls under the purview of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Huffman’s bill would transfer most of the authority to the Department of Commerce – a move he said will spur the provision of business licenses at a quicker pace to keep up with the market’s demand.

Huffman said businesses seeking a license are often bounced back and forth between the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce, so SB 261 would eliminate the bureaucratic red tape around the process.

“It all moves over to the commerce department to provide one uniform place for businesses to get their answers and develop their business,” he said.

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The African countries with cannabis-friendly legislation

If you look at the map showing the legality of cannabis by country, the African continent doesn’t stand out as particularly green. It doesn’t mean, however, that this crop is unknown here or not widely used.

In 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that in West Africa, at least one metric – the past-12-months use – was more than three times higher than in the global population.

Historically, Africa has been the major route for the spread of cannabis from China via India to South America and then to the United States. However, the US which was introduced to the medicinal and recreational use of the substance relatively late (but was among the first to enforce prohibition) now has one of the most liberal cannabis policies in the world – with 18 states allowing adult use of marijuana. Africa, on the other hand, keeps a much stricter stance.

The repeal of prohibition is touted by its advocates as a way to restore social justice and reduce harm but also offers significant economic incentives. A report by Prohibition Partners estimated that the total market for cannabis in Africa could be worth $7.1b by 2023 if only the substance were legalized in every country on the continent.

This largely remains a missed opportunity as most African nations continue with prohibition although many have a bustling black market. In 2018, UNODC identified Ghana as the main trafficking and origin point for cannabis along with a couple of neighboring countries. In other nations, the cultivation of cannabis is also widespread as farmers grow the crop from landrace genetics or imported autoflower seeds.

So far, only South Africa has decriminalized adult use of the substance. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to consume cannabis in the privacy of your own home. The sale and purchase remain illegal, but you can ask your physician to prescribe cannabis for any medical condition you might have. If your doctor believes that you can benefit from cannabis, she can write a prescription.

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Cannabis patients aren’t addicts: it’s time to let that fear go

If you cast your eyes back to articles published recently on the Volteface website, you’ll find one entitled ‘We need to talk about cannabis dependency’.

The author is completely right of course – we do need to talk about it. Cannabis dependency and the potential to abuse cannabis is a very real problem for some and, perhaps of equal importance, it’s a problem which stands firmly at the forefront of arguments against improving access to medical cannabis or indeed, changing cannabis legalisation and regulation as a whole.

If you wish to advocate for cannabis and those who choose to use cannabis, it’s vital that this concern is well understood and addressed – it helps no-one to act as though this issue doesn’t exist. However, a large part of the reason why most people who are unsure about the safety of cannabis or against the idea of making legal cannabis more accessible in the U.K feel this way not because of a balanced review of the facts or a worry that is backed up by science. It’s a direct result of media-fuelled moral panic and a century of anti-cannabis propaganda, much of which is hooked on the risk of addiction and potential damage to mental health.

Because of this, I feel it’s essential to delve into the nuance of this fear and understand how likely addiction to and abuse of cannabis really is, particularly for patients using the drug medicinally. 

When cannabis is prescribed by a clinician, addiction and abuse are extremely unlikely to arise. In this situation, you are using cannabis under guidance – following dosage instructions, using a CBD:THC oil blend formulated and titrated to suit your needs, or cannabis flower chosen carefully to treat particular symptoms or conditions. Most people using cannabis for a medicinal purpose don’t want to get high – they just want to feel well. It’s key to making cannabis widely available to those who need it that we all realise this. 

Incredibly, cannabis actually has the potential to be effective for treating a wide range of conditions in very small doses. One study, performed by Dr Mark Ware et al, demonstrated that a low dose of 25mg of herbal cannabis with 9.4% THC, taken spread out in single inhalations 3 times a day, resulted in significant improvements in pain, sleep, mood, appetite, stiffness and nausea, compared to placebo. However, in the trial, there were only 3 episodes of euphoria. None of the other participants described feeling ‘high’ as a side effect.

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