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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

California Lawmakers Use Cryptocurrency To Buy Marijuana From Dispensary

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Two city councilmembers in California became the first elected officials to use cryptocurrency to purchase marijuana from a dispensary—at least publicly—on Tuesday.

Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett and Emeryville City Councilmember Dianne Martinez visited the Ohana Cannabis shop in Emeryville to demonstrate how the technology can reduce transaction fees and improve financial transparency.

The technology they used, called stablecoin, is a form of digital currency that has “price stable characteristics” linked to the U.S. dollar, meaning the sale and tax proceeds were settled in a way that’s consistent with cash.

Blockchain Advocacy Coalition, which is backing the technology, is advocating for legislation that would enable local jurisdictions in California to “determine and implement a method by which a licensee under [the state’s legal cannabis program] may remit any city or county cannabis license tax amounts due by payment using stablecoins.”

“By providing a cash-free method of cannabis tax collections, AB 953 can reduce costs and safety risks for cities and businesses,” Bartlett said in a press release. He added that the marijuana industry is “a 21st-century industry” that “deserves 21st-century legislation.”

“Tax collections leveraging stablecoin technology will help bring this new industry into the light.”

In a photo taken at the dispensary, Bartlett is holding up a pamphlet for VetCBD, a low-THC, high-CBD tincture that’s used to treat conditions such as anxiety and pain in pets. It’s not clear what Martinez purchased from the shop.

The bill to provide for alternative payment options at marijuana businesses is timely given that federal prohibition has made banks skittish of servicing such companies and results in many firms operating on a largely cash-only basis—an issue that has captured the attention of federal regulators and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

In California, legislation that would allow credit unions to accept cannabis business clients was pulled by its sponsor on Tuesday. Sen. Bob Herzberg (D) said he plans to reintroduce the bill next year.

“We are thrilled to build technology that solves real problems for customers, merchants, and politicians which will help usher in the next 100 million users of crypto,” said Dan Schatt, co-founder of Cred and the Universal Protocol Alliance, which developed the stablecoin technology, said.

“Not only does crypto result in significant cost reduction for consumers and merchants, but it also enables highly productive tax collection, transparency, and predictability for city and state governments,” he said.

Marijuana Industry Groups Urge Congressional Action Amid Vaping-Related Injuries

Photo courtesy of Twitter/Rigel Robinson.

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Seth Rogen Hosting Marijuana-Fueled Charity Carnival For Alzheimer’s Research

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Actor Seth Rogen will be the ringmaster at an adults-only charity carnival next month featuring comedians running game booths and marijuana aplenty.

Proceeds from the Hilarity for Charity County Fair will go toward research into combating Alzheimer’s disease, an issue close to Rogen.

“We here at Hilarity for Charity love to fight Alzheimer’s disease, but we also love rides, alcohol and weed!” Rogen, who launched his own cannabis company in March, said in a promotional video for the Los Angeles event. “We also love trying to be good people so that in the event there is an afterlife, we don’t go to hell.”

Comedians Adam Devine, Andrew Rannells, Ben Feldman, Casey Wilson, Ilana Glazer, Ike Barinholtz, Jeff Ross, Josh Gad, Kate Micucci, Nick Kroll, Regina Hall and Riki Lindhome are participating in the event. Skateboarder Tony Hawk is set to do a halfpipe performance. And rapper Anderson Paak will also put on a show.

Details of where cannabis fits into the program aren’t available on the event site. But Gad, one of the comedians participating, noted in a tweet that this is “the only fair I will attend this year other than my children’s book fair which has a lot less readily available weed.”

Rogen’s passion for fighting Alzheimer’s isn’t new. He’s become an outspoken activist for research into the disease after he witnessed his mother-in-law develop early onset Alzheimer’s.

In 2014, the actor opened his testimony before a Senate committee hearing on Alzheimer’s research by joking that he wasn’t there to discuss the topic some might expect: marijuana.

“First I should answer the question I assume many of you are asking, yes I’m aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana,” he said. “In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important.”

Though he didn’t bring it up at the hearing, research has demonstrated that cannabis can help eliminate a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Last year, the federal government asked the public to submit additional scientific research into the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the treatment of the condition.

Disneyland Busted Robert Downey Jr. For Smoking Marijuana, He Reveals While Accepting Disney Award

Photo courtesy of Twitter/Seth Rogen.

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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Disneyland Busted Robert Downey Jr. For Smoking Marijuana, He Reveals While Accepting Disney Award

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Robert Downey Jr. said he was once detained at Disneyland after getting caught smoking marijuana on a gondola ride.

The Iron Man and Avengers actor shared the anecdote while being honored at the Disney Legends award show on Friday, describing his first trip to the California park.

“Here’s a bit of trivia for you. The very first time I went to Disneyland, I was transported to another place—within moments of being arrested,” Downey said, drawing laughs. “I was brought to a surprisingly friendly processing center, given a stern warning, and returned to, if memory serves, one very disappointed group chaperone.”

“I’ve been sitting on that shame for a while and I‘m just going to release it here tonight,” he said. “I would like to make amends to whomever had to detain me for smoking pot in a gondola without a license.”

“And I don’t wanna further confuse the issue by insinuating that pot smoking licenses for the gondola are in any way obtainable or for any of the other park attractions,” Downey added.

“Maybe for the Imagineers, but that’s their own business,” he joked, referencing Disney’s research and development team.

It’s not clear when Downey was detained in the so-called “Happiest Place On Earth,” but he’s previously talked about starting to use cannabis at an early age.

The actor isn’t the only high profile figure to get booted from Disneyland over smoking on the gondola ride.

Former President Barack Obama said last year that the same thing happened to him and some friends during college. He said during a speech at a political rally that they were smoking cigarettes on the gondolas, but also seemed to wink, raising questions about exactly what sort of plant material he and his friends were inhaling at the time.

In any case, Downey is right that there are no gondola marijuana smoking licenses available, even in California where cannabis is legal. In fact, Disney specifies on its park rules site that “[s]moking marijuana or any other illegal substances is not permitted at any time.”

There are designated cigarette smoking areas, however, which the former president presumably could have taken advantage of, if he really was simply imbibing tobacco.

Dave Chappelle Ate Magic Mushrooms Gifted By A Stranger, Joe Rogan Says

Photo courtesy of YouTube/Spokesmayne.

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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