For thousands of years, humans have lit up around the world, enjoying the high that comes from cannabis.
But the controversial politics surrounding the drug has made it difficult for scientists to figure out its genetic origins. Where did cannabis come from and how did it evolve into the potent green that brings us pleasure?
Scientists finally have an answer to that question — and the evolution of modern-day cannabis and how it diverged from its very close relative hemp is even wilder than you might think.
New research published Friday in the journal Science Advances used genetics to trace the ancient birthplace of Cannabis sativa, from which we harvest pot today.
The cultivation of marijuana has much longer roots than we previously understood, according to the study — including evidence that our cultivation of pot may have led to the extinction of pure, wild, ancient strains of cannabis.
Cannabis “is one of the first cultivated crop species,” Luca Fumagalli, a co-author on the study from the University of Lausanne’s Laboratory for Conservation Biology, tells Inverse.
Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. On August 23, 2021, it was granted full approval by the FDA.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine now becomes the fastest created, deployed and subsequently approved vaccination in history. Previously, the fastest vaccine to go from development to deployment was the mumps vaccine in the 1960s, which took about four years.
The swift approval of the vaccine illustrates just how fast the government can react if it wants to do so. On the contrary, however, there have been hundreds if not thousands of studies on the benefits of cannabis to safely treat multiple ailments and diseases, spanning the course of centuries, yet the FDA has failed to approve its use for anything.
To be clear, the FDA has approved patentable pharmaceutical synthetic compounds such as dronabinol. The pharmaceutical patented drugs Marinol and Syndros both use dronabinol which is nothing more than a chemical synthetic equivalent to delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — but the plant-based version you can grow in your own home remains off the list.
Driving while stoned is far safer than driving under the influence of prescription medications or other legal drugs, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
A team of Australian researchers set out to test the validity of zero tolerance THC driving laws by studying how often Australians involved in traffic accidents tested positive for cannabis, opioids, or other drugs. An analysis of accident data revealed that the risks of driving under the influence of cannabis are considerably lower than for many legal prescription drugs.
Study author Iain McGregor, professor at The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, told the Australian Associated Press that the risk of driving under the influence of cannabis is “considerably less than with many medications such as antidepressants, opioids and benzodiazepines.”
The first draft of a long-anticipated Senate bill to federally legalize marijuana has been released—and its sponsors are asking for public input to further improve the legislation before it is formally introduced.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are unveiling the draft at a press conference on Wednesday. It’s an extensive bill, titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, that weighs in at 163 pages.
The main features of the legislation largely align with what advocates and stakeholders expected. It would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions, allow people to petition for resentencing, maintain the authority of states to set their own marijuana policies and remove collateral consequences like immigration-related penalties for people who’ve been criminalized over the plant.
“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed war on drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” Wyden said. “It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition and restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for opportunity.”
Politicians defending the criminalization of recreational marijuana use have long riled up voters with dire warnings that the substance acts as a “gateway drug.” They insist that even if deaths directly caused by marijuana usage are virtually nonexistent, pot will eventually lead many users to more dangerous drugs.
President Biden himself has long made this claim, stating in 2010 that “I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug.” Only in 2019, while campaigning for president, did Biden begin to walk back this position. Yet he still does not fully support federal marijuana legalization. And the “gateway” position is still held by many other politicians clinging to their opposition to a widely popular legalization movement. For example, Republican Congressman Andy Harris recently referred to marijuana as “a known gateway drug to opioid addiction” while arguing against legalization.
However, a new study suggests that the notion that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is little more than political fiction.
Economists examined the impact that recreational marijuana laws passed in 18 states and the District of Columbia have had on metrics key to the “gateway” narrative. The analysis is the first to “comprehensively examine the broader impacts of state recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) on a wide set of outcomes related to hard drug use, including illicit nonmarijuana related consumption, drug-related arrests, arrests for property and violent offenses, mortality due to drug-related overdoses, suicides, and admissions for drug addiction-related treatment.”
Across four different nationwide databases, the researchers “find little consistent evidence” that recreational marijuana laws have gateway effects to hard drugs. The study finds “little compelling evidence to suggest” that marijuana legalization leads to more increases in drug use, arrests for hard drug offenses, drug overdoses, or admissions for drug addiction treatment.
They say there is even “suggestive evidence that legalizing recreational marijuana reduces heroin- and other opioid-related mortality.” Ultimately, the authors conclude that critics’ fear of marijuana’s supposed “gateway” effect appears “unfounded.”
Unfounded, indeed. But don’t expect critics to change their tune.
Republican lawmakers are asking President Joe Biden to keep his promise and reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
Yes, you read the lede right. Republicans are asking Biden, a Democrat, to reschedule weed once and for all.
Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. They recently sent a letter to Biden asking for rescheduling and claiming the issue is “a matter of public health.”
Despite all the work that has been happening at the state level to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, it is still classified federally as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., as most cannabis enthusiasts well know. This puts it in the same category with drugs like heroin that are known to be much more harmful. The classification means that cannabis has no medical value and a high potential for abuse in the country’s eyes.
“As a Schedule I substance, cannabis is not accepted for medical use on the federal level, which has caused significant research restrictions and continues to thwart the treatment of a wide range of patients, including those suffering from cancer as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and people living with Multiple Sclerosis and seizure disorders,” the letter explains regarding the status of cannabis.
On Wednesday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a discussion draft of legislation that proposes sweeping reform to marijuana policy in the US. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would decriminalize marijuana federally, expunge federal non-violent cannabis convictions (and encourage states to do the same), and create “new grant programs to fund nonprofits that provide services to those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.”
In the introduction to the 30-page draft legislation, the senators note that adult use of cannabis is already legal in 18 states, Washington D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Medicinal marijuana is even more widespread, legal in 37 states, Puerto Rico, D.C., Guam, and the US Virgin Islands.
“These changes represent a dynamic shift in public opinion and support across the political spectrum,” the statement notes. “State-compliant cannabis businesses will finally be treated like other businesses and allowed access to essential financial services, like bank accounts and loans. Medical research will no longer be stifled.”
Despite recent state actions, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and subject to prosecution by federal agencies even in states where cannabis use is permitted. In practice, those prosecutions have been limited, but the risk of federal action has meant that marijuana businesses have limited options when it came to banking and many non-recreational uses of the plant have been stifled.
Sha’Carri Richardson ran 100 meters faster than any other woman at the U.S. Olympic trials, but she won’t be able to compete in the event at the Olympic Games in Tokyo after testing positive for marijuana.
There are so, so many things wrong with this. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which officially announced Richardson’s month-long suspension on Friday, should be ashamed for how they’ve handled the situation. More importantly, they should change their policies to ensure more athletes aren’t subjected to an unnecessary punishment for using a substance that is obviously not going to provide a competitive edge.
And while the situation seems fairly absurd on its face, it actually gets worse the deeper you go.
Start with the fact that the USADA doesn’t actually classify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, as a performance-enhancing drug. But the USADA—whose sole purpose, ostensibly, is to ensure the integrity of athletic events—tests athletes for THC anyway because it regards marijuana as “a ‘Substance of Abuse’ because it is frequently used in society outside the context of sport.”
In the statement announcing Richardson’s suspension, the USADA acknowledged that “Richardson’s…use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance.”
In other words, Richardson’s positive test had no bearing on the fact that she out-raced every other American woman at the Olympic trials—which were held in Eugene, Oregon, where marijuana is legal. Richardson engaged in legal activity that did not bestow upon her an unfair competitive advantage…and yet she’s been suspended anyway.