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  would generally be considered to have a light buzz, whereas a  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.
NFL Marijuana Penalties Will Be ‘Dramatically Reduced’ Under Deal Being Weighed By Players Union
The NFL Players Association could soon vote on an agreement with the league that includes sharply reduced penalties for marijuana use by football players and dramatically shortens the annual window during which they may be tested for cannabis and other drugs.
While the proposed changes haven’t been publicly released, the collective bargaining agreement that’s circulating among officials would reportedly make it so players would only be subject to a two-week testing period, instead of the current four-month window that now begins on the unofficial marijuana holiday April 20 (4/20) and ends in August.
Additionally, severe penalties for cannabis offenses would reportedly be lifted. The agreement “would include dramatically reduced penalties, with suspensions happening only in the event of extreme and repeated disregard of the policy or significant violations of applicable law regarding the possession and use of marijuana,” NBC Sports’s ProFootballTalk reported.
The players union has been holding conference calls in recent weeks as representatives decide whether to proceed with the agreement, but if they don’t act soon, it could mean another year of strict cannabis policies within the NFL. Two-thirds of the group must agree to the proposal prior to the start of the new league year on March 18 if they want the policies to take effect for the 2020-2021 season.
If the new collective bargaining agreement isn’t ratified by that time, players would undergo another season where testing positive for marijuana can result in fines, suspension and rehabilitation.
It’s not clear when the revised testing period would begin under the agreement, but it’d generally be more beneficial for players to schedule that window during the offseason.
While the NFL has been slow to back reform, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said in December that they see the writing on the wall and predicted that cannabis policy changes were imminent.
“I think you should expect and will expect an adjustment of the contemporary way or the present way that marijuana is being thought about,” Jones said.
Cannabis policy changes have already been integrated by the Major League Baseball, which announced in December that it was removing marijuana from its list of banned substances. That also followed negotiations between the MLB and its players union.
Meanwhile, a panel created by the NFL and the union said last month that players should be wary of CBD, with members arguing that more research is needed to determine whether the non-intoxicating marijuana compound is safe and effective.
Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.
Netflix Blocks Marijuana Shows And Films In Response To Government Demands
Film and television, for many of us, were the first places we saw cannabis users humanized.
In a society where we were raised to “Just Say No,” who can forget the positive impact when we saw the joyous, peaceful festivities depicted in Woodstock? Who didn’t laugh at rather than scorn classic pot-smoking teenage comedies like Dazed and Confused or Superbad? Who didn’t abandon their own ‘Reefer Madness’ stereotypes after getting schooled on medical cannabis by Sanjay Gupta’s Weed?
But across the Pacific, one country is working to make sure its citizens see no marijuana in moving pictures. According to a new report released by digital streaming giant Netflix, the company complied with several demands from Singapore’s government that they remove content from their service. That includes three pieces of cannabis-themed programming: Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and Disjointed.
The other two films were Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Brazilian comedy The Last Hangover, which also includes overt drug-use and partying themes. Overall, the company disclosed it has received nine take-down requests worldwide since 2015. As first reported on Friday by Axios, Netflix promised that it will continue making these requests public on an annual basis. The content removed only applies to the country that requested the ban, and it can still be accessed in other markets.
Singapore is notorious for having some of the harshest drug control laws in the world. Possession of small amounts of drugs is punished severely with up to ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both. Trafficking, which differs by quantity based on the substance, is punishable by execution. You can be put to death for having less than a pound of marijuana, for example.
Singapore’s government doesn’t seem to be interested in global trends towards decriminalization and legalization of cannabis or other drugs. “Examples of other countries have clearly shown that a permissive attitude towards the use of cannabis exacts a high cost on society,” says the national Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). “Therefore, we have strict laws against the trafficking, possession, consumption, and import or export of illicit drugs, including cannabis and cannabis products.”
Officials have argued that harsh policies coincide with reductions in rates of drug use and substance use disorder. By the CNB’s estimates, “the number of drug abusers arrested each year has declined by two-thirds, from over 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,000 last year .” But as to the agency’s claim that marijuana use causes damage to society, available research on the effect of medical cannabis legalization in the U.S. suggests that it does not lead to increased youth use and has a negligible if any effect on people engaging in more risky behaviors such as consuming alcohol or tobacco.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s northern neighbor Malaysia has considered decriminalizing small amounts of all drugs in an attempt to treat substance use disorder as a public health rather than criminal issue. Farther north, Thailand has made progress by legalizing medical marijuana last year.
Read Netflix’s full Environmental Social Governance report below:
Photo courtesy of freestocks.org.
NFL Says ‘Hype’ Over CBD Isn’t Backed By Science
An expert panel created by the National Football League (NFL) and its players union is downplaying the potential benefits of CBD for players, stating that while the cannabis compound shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”
Following a fact-finding forum on alternatives to opioid painkillers, which involved conversations with CBD manufacturers, the Pain Management Committee for the NFL and the NFL Payers Association (NFLPA) noted on Tuesday that there’s strong interest in CBD and medical marijuana more broadly. But the panel didn’t seem convinced that the non-intoxicating ingredient would benefit players.
“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.”
“Clinical trials in large numbers of people are usually needed before millions of Americans use a medication for serious medical problems,” the group said. “There are two small clinical studies that suggest that CBD may be effective for treating a kind of pain called neuropathic pain that involves a burning feeling usually in a person’s feet.”
The paper also said that because CBD products are largely unregulated, it’s hard to determine whether they are properly labeled, and there’s the potential for such products to contain THC, which could result in a positive drug test for players.
Additionally, “there may be drug-drug interactions caused by CBD or players may opt for CBD as a medical treatment in lieu of treatments with more scientific evidence supporting them,” the NFL and NFLPA committee said in another white paper intended for league medical staff.
The body also raised doubts about clinical studies into Food and Drug Administration-approved medications composed of synthetic cannabinoids that are used in the treatment of chronic and neuropathic pain, arguing that those investigations relied on small sample sizes and limited follow-ups that call into question their therapeutic value.
“Of course, cannabis remains a banned substance under the NFL Policy for Substances of Abuse,” the committee concluded. “In addition, the potential problems associated with cannabis, from acute impairment of driving, addiction, and exacerbation of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, make it a substance to approach with extreme caution.”
A fact-finding forum the panel held on Tuesday wasn’t aimed at amending league policy directly, but rather it was meant to be “an educational and scientific exercise” that “does not impact the jointly administered Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse,” the groups said in a joint statement to NFL.com.
That said, negotiations are ongoing between the league and players union, and there’s pressure on NFL to adopt a more permissive policy when it comes to marijuana, especially as more states opt to legalize it for medical or recreational purposes.
After the MLB announced last year that it is removing cannabis from its list of banned substances for baseball players, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and star quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots both said they were expecting the league to follow suit and change its marijuana policy.
Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.