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How Reddit’s r/trees Helped Scientists Make Marijuana Discoveries

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Reddit users subscribed to a popular marijuana forum are helping researchers identify trends and patterns in cannabis consumption.

A new peer-reviewed study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, analyzed more than two million posts found on the site’s largest marijuana-related subreddit from 2010 to 2016. The research team made a series of discoveries, including a few that might seem obvious to regular consumers (e.g. dabbing is gaining in popularity, but users still largely favor smoking cannabis flower).

Nonetheless, the study contributes unique insights to the growing body of international cannabis research. Among research team’s key takeaways was just how high the average “ent” gets on five different forms of cannabis.

(Although researchers didn’t specify which subreddit the study examined, their description in the paper leaves little room for doubt that it was r/trees, where enthusiasts refer to themselves as “ents,” an homage to the tree-resembling Lord of the Rings characters; trees is a common slang term for cannabis.)

How high do Reddit users get on average from smoking, vaping, dabbing, taking edibles or using butane hash oils (BHO) like shatter?

Researchers sought to answer that question by looking for keywords and tracking the subreddit’s 1-10 “user-reported subjective highness” rating system. Though it’s admittedly not scientific, a redditor reporting a [2] would generally be considered to have a light buzz, whereas a [10] signifies a very potent experience.

Here is the average r/trees high for five forms of cannabis, on a scale of 1-10:

  • Smoking: [6.8]
  • Vaping: [6.7]
  • Edibles: [7.2]
  • Dabbing: [7.8]
  • Butane hash oil: [7.2]

So in terms of intensity of a high, the crowdsourced data puts dabbing at the top—which isn’t especially surprising since dabbing typically involves heating up and inhaling concentrated, high-THC cannabis extracts. Vaping appears to produce the least intense high on average.

(For the record, the researchers distinguished between dabbing and BHO products, which are commonly used to dab, because of differences in terminology; one is a method, the other refers to products.)

Of course, more people are getting into dabbing as more states have legalized marijuana in some form, giving many users a greater product selection. Dabbing also may be increasingly attractive, the study authors wrote, because “it requires fewer ‘hits’ and produces stronger effects.”

The new study of Reddit posts also examined adverse effects of cannabis consumption, such as anxiety, coughing, nausea, vomiting and memory problems.

In general, the researchers found that “very few adverse effects were reported,” and the study showed that “there were no statistically significant differences in adverse effect term occurrence across products,” based on the subreddit post analysis.

But since r/trees is an online community that generally celebrates cannabis and promotes legalization of the plant, it’s not entirely surprising that there weren’t a large number of posts focusing on potential negative affects of marijuana.

Accordingly, researchers also examined other keywords frequently included in Reddit posts, and found evidence that first-time cannabis consumers seek out r/trees and its resident ents as a source of good information about how to have a fun and safe experience.

“The frequent occurrence of the word ‘first’ for vaping, dabbing, and edibles indicate that many posters are using or considering using for the first time,” they wrote. “With diverging medical and scientific opinions regarding the efficacy and safety of cannabis use, new and experienced cannabis users may be seeking out peer-generated information in online communities and social media about these newer forms of use.”

Why this study matters

“Analysis of social media data has been used to complement other epidemiologic methods as a strategy for understanding emerging trends in real time with limited social desirability or recall bias,” the study authors noted. “Despite the limited ability to determine the representativeness of creators of social media content and thus inform generalizability, social media data analysis can uncover behaviors not captured in traditional surveillance and inform terminology and emerging behaviors that larger scale health surveys may wish to incorporate.”

And that’s exactly what this study did—leverage data from a unique and popular social media site to paint a different kind of informative picture of the emerging marijuana landscape.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Culture

Seth Rogen’s Marijuana Biz Expands To U.S. While Jay-Z Gets Political With Cannabis Ad Campaign

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Monday was a big day in the celebrity marijuana space, with actor Seth Rogen announcing the U.S. launch of his cannabis brand and rapper Jay-Z revealing an ad campaign for his company that’s meant to highlight the absurdity of the war on drugs by pointing out that some states are more lax on cousin marriage, cannibalism or sex with farm animals than they are on weed.

Rogen’s elation in bringing his business, Houseplant, to the U.S. market was evident in a one-minute video he shared on social media.

After showcasing the tins his line of sativa and indica strains come in—as well a “table lighter” that’s part of the Houseplant collection—the actor of Pineapple Express and Superbad fame said that this is “honestly my life’s work and I’ve never been more excited about anything.”

The company also produced vinyl records with playlists that are meant to complement the effects of the various marijuana varieties like Pancake Ice.

Rogen has also leveraged his marijuana stardom for philanthropic purposes, putting on an adult carnival last year where the plant was featured to raise money for research into Alzheimer’s disease.

He appeared at a congressional hearing in 2014 and joked that while people might expect him to advocate for marijuana reform before the Senate committee, he was actually there to promote research into the disease, which his mother-in-law suffers from.

The actor also appeared in a PSA for National Expungement Week, an effort to help people free themselves from the burdens of prior marijuana convictions.

Meanwhile, JAY-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has his cannabis business, MONOGRAM. And on Monday, the company started a “national awareness campaign that draws attention to the hypocrisy of current regulations governing cannabis” in the U.S., a press release states.

Via Monogram.

Billboards and murals featuring text that compare laws prohibiting marijuana and other state and federal statutes have been posted in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Here are a few examples of the campaign messages: 

“Weed is a federal crime. Even in the states where sex with farm animals isn’t.”

“You can marry your first cousin in more states than you can buy recreational weed.”

“The war on drugs worked. If systemic racism was the goal.”

Via Monogram.

“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” Carter said. “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”

 

Earlier this year, the artist announced that he was putting $10 million toward a fund to promote participation in state-legal marijuana markets by communities most impacted by prohibition—an action that earned the praise of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“I led the effort to decriminalize & legalize cannabis because the war on drugs has been an abject failure—with disproportionate & devastating impacts on communities of color,” the governor said. “These are the types of entrepreneurial opportunities we dreamed of—thanks Jay-Z!”

Top Washington, D.C. Lawmaker Files Competing Legal Marijuana Bill Days After Mayor Unveils Her Plan

Photo courtesy of Monogram.

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NFL Explores How Marijuana And CBD Can Be Used As Opioid Alternatives For Players

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The National Football League and NFL Players Association are launching an effort to learn about the potential of marijuana and its components like CBD as alternative treatment options for pain.

They’re also more generally interested in discovering how cannabis use affects athletic performance.

A request for information that was published on Tuesday states that the league’s goal is “to identify investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s (‘PMC’) knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

The notice lists three areas of interest:

1. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered to be alternatives to opioids in routine pain management of NFL players. Medications may include, but are not limited to, cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (“CBD”).

2. The impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in NFL players.

3. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered adjunctive to routine post-surgical orthopedic pain management in NFL football players.

The joint NFL-NFLPA committee also noted that, in 2020, it held two informational forums on CBD “to learn about the current state of CBD science and manufacturing in North America.”

The findings of those forums weren’t definitive, as PMC found that while the non-intoxicating cannabis compound shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”

“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee wrote in a white paper for players. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”

This new request for information stresses that NFL is not committing to funding any particular studies but is more generally meant to help the league find qualified scientists if it does move forward with research projects on these issues. Interested parties have until March 31 to submit relevant information.

Meanwhile, the league’s drug testing policy changed demonstrably last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Under the new policy, NFL players will not face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana.

The decision reflects a significant shift in the league’s approach to drug use by players, with the agreement emphasizing the need to focus on “ensuring evaluation and treatment” rather than punishment. Now those who test positive for drugs, exhibit behaviors that indicate drug misuse or self-refer themselves will be required to enter an “intervention program” where they would receive an evaluation and treatment plan.

Testing positive for prohibited substances after that point would result in a half-week salary loss for first violations, a one-week salary loss for second violations, a two-week salary loss for third violations and a three-week salary loss for fourth and subsequent violations. The threat of suspensions would be removed.

In a similar vein, the MLB decided in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Baseball players can consume marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they can’t work while under the influence and can’t enter into sponsorship contracts with cannabis businesses, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, a temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana amid the coronavirus pandemic may soon become permanent, the league’s top official said in December. Rather than mandate blanket tests, Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

37 Members Of Congress Ask Biden To Issue Mass Marijuana Pardons Ahead Of Legalization

Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.

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Elon Musk Thinks CBD Is ‘Fake,’ But Joe Rogan Teaches Him A Lesson

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Elon Musk might know a thing or two about rockets and electronic vehicles, but during an interview with podcaster Joe Rogan this week, he revealed something of a blind spot when it comes to cannabis, saying he thinks CBD is “fake.”

That’s not to say he believes the non-intoxicating cannabinoid doesn’t actually exist. Rather, the tech entrepreneur indicated he feels it’s overhyped and “doesn’t do anything.” Rogan, for his part, had a lot to say about cannabidiol’s benefits in response.

The exchange started with Musk and Rogan reflecting on an earlier podcast show in 2018, where the SpaceX and Tesla CEO puffed on a marijuana blunt (which he later claimed he never actually inhaled), prompting an investigation by NASA over his aerospace company’s “workplace safety” and “adherence to a drug-free environment.”

Rogan, who relocated his podcast headquarters from California to Texas last year, noted that his new home state has not yet legalized marijuana, but “CBD is legal here.”

“CBD doesn’t do anything. Does it?” Musk said. “I think that’s fake.”

Listen to Musk and Rogan discuss CBD below, starting around 50:00:

Rogan promptly gave Musk a crash course in the numerous therapeutic benefits of CBD that have been identified in an ever-growing body of scientific literature.

Read the rest of the exchange below:

JR: Well, no—no, it definitely does something for inflammation.

EM: It does?

JR: Yeah, for sure.

EM: Well, how much CBD do you have to have before you notice it?

JR: Physically?

EM: Yeah.

JR: Yeah, physically, you don’t have to have a lot. Physically, CBD works great for people with arthritis and people with sore muscles and things like that. Yeah, no, CBD definitely works for that, but as far as like psychoactive effects, not much. It relieves anxiety for people.

EM: Okay.

JR: It helps people sleep, especially when it’s combined with things like melatonin, you know, things along those lines. But it doesn’t get you high. People do mix CBD with THC for muscle creams though, and that doesn’t get you high either, but it increases the effectiveness.

EM: Okay.

JR: Yeah, there’s some creams that are really good that people like that have THC and CBD in it.

EM: Alright, so you have like sunscreen or something and then, I mean why not just throw it in there?

JR: Why not? Well, it’s great for soreness.

EM: You smell like weed all day.

JR: It doesn’t smell like weed, though.

EM: It doesn’t?

JR: No, no—some of it does, though. That’s the thing about anything that’s unregulated, right? Like hippies making it, that’s always the problem.

EM: Quality control.

JR: Yeah, no quality control. That’s the problem with edibles. They’re made by a bunch of crazy people, cooking them up and some, you know, Chula Vista apartments, you really don’t know what’s in there.

Musk might not be quite up-to-speed on CBD, but he does enjoy playing into marijuana culture from time to time.

When shares of Telsa hit $420, for example, he responded on Twitter with crying laughing emojis and said “Whoa … the stock is so high lol.”

Of course, 420 is well known among cannabis enthusiasts, as it represents the unofficial cannabis holiday, 4/20. And that wasn’t the first time that Musk has played into it, either.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur landed in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 after he said he was considering taking Tesla private at a share price of $420—an announcement that SEC described as “false and misleading” and that was made without required notification to regulators.

Rogan, for his part, is a proud cannabis and psychedelics enthusiast, and once, for example, shared a story about how he hung out with Dave Chappelle while the comedian ate psilocybin mushrooms that were gifted by a stranger.

Texas Would Study Psilocybin And MDMA To Treat PTSD And Depression Under New Bill

Photo courtesy of Joe Rogan Experience/Spotify.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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