The Green Rush Is Real… Forbes Predicts Marijuana Industry To Be One Of The Nation’s Largest

A new report from Marijuana Business Daily estimates that the total demand for marijuana in the cannabis industry is worth around $45-$50 billion in the US.

For context, they put these numbers alongside a few other classic American staples:

  • Ice cream sales are around $5.1 billion
  • Movie tickets come in at $11.1 billion
  • Girl Scout Cookies rake in $776 million
  • Paid streaming music is a $2.5 billion industry

Surprised? There’s more. As Forbes notes:

The report points out that these employees spend their earnings on housing, food, travel and entertainment, which helps other local businesses. The launch of all these cannabis businesses has sparked a real estate boom in spaces that were for the most part previously vacant. Tourism is bringing new travel dollars into these states as well.

The report estimates that for every $1 consumers spend at dispensaries, another $3 in economic benefits are created in cities, states and nationwide. State and local municipalities are plugging holes in their budgets with the marijuana tax receipts and making infrastructure repairs and boosting schools.

“On the recreational side of the business, the originally legalized states are still posting massive growth,” Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, which published the report, said according to Forbes. “The demand for marijuana is so enormous in this country.”

Research Shows Cannabis Restores Memory and Could Reverse The Aging Process

One of aging’s most obvious signs is a decrease in cognitive function and learning ability. Usually, these issues express themselves in the form of memory deficiency. While this decrease in memory retention and recall is considered normal, it is often associated with more serious disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Bonn and their colleagues from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a potential treatment to reverse aging in the brain.

In their research, which was published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team showed how that a cannabis-based treatment successfully reversed the biological state of the brains of mice 12 months and 18 months old. This is notable, as mice age remarkably fast and serve as a viable animal model when research potential treatments in humans.

The team used two-month-old mice as a control group. The older mice were given an active ingredient in hemp called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for a period of four weeks in non-intoxicating doses. Their tests revealed that mice who received THC displayed cognitive abilities as good as the control group mice.

Meanwhile, those older mice who received a placebo displayed the usual learning capacity and memory performance appropriate to older mice. The findings that stem from this are simply remarkable. “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals,” said researcher Andreas Zimmer, from the University of Bonn’s Institute of Molecular Psychiatry [emphasis added].

Resetting the Clock

This age-reversing effects of cannabis occur as THC imitates the effect of naturally produced cannabinoids in the body, which are crucial for some of the brain’s important functions. “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces,” Zimmer explained. “When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain.”

Furthermore, the researchers realized that cannabis reverses aging by making the brain cells in the mice younger. To this end, they saw that links between nerve cells increased and their molecular signature resembled those of young animals. “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” Zimmer added.

The treatment, once tested and proven to be effective in humans, could help improve the conditions of people suffering from dementia. This disease, which affects more than 47 million people worldwide, often leads to cognitive disabilities — memory loss and behavioral disorders — that hinder a patient from performing day-to-day tasks.

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Svenja Schulze, science minister of North Rhine-Westphalia,outlines exactly how helpful this study could be for future treatment in the elderly. “The promotion of knowledge-led research is indispensable, as it is the breeding ground for all matters relating to application,” he stated in the press release. “Although there is a long path from mice to humans, I feel extremely positive about the prospect that THC could be used to treat dementia, for instance.” To that end, Zimmer and his team are now preparing for human clinical trials.

The study adds to the number of potential benefits cannabis seems to have, particularly in treating neurological disorders. That said, as has been previously noted, much of this is still early work, and more peer review research is needed on the medical effects and uses of cannabis-based treatments before they can be deployed. Moreover, these studies use carefully controlled conditions, and as a result, similar benefits are not seen in individuals who use the drug recreationally.

Florida’s Medical Marijuana Program Is A Disaster

Remember when 72 percent of Floridians voted to usher in a new era of open access to medical marijuana? That triumphant moment for medical weed was just in November, but for Florida patients this morning, it feels like a lifetime ago.

Late this past Friday, a bill to regulate the new weed industry imploded in Tallahassee. Then medical marijuana’s two biggest champions — über-lawyer John Morgan and United for Care campaign consultant Ben Pollara — viciously turned on each other in a spicy Twitter beef.

Now the fate of medical marijuana access lies in the hands of Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Health, which has already signaled it will enact even more restrictive rules. The whole situation is likely to end up in court, meaning hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be wasted — and patients, in the meantime, still won’t have the easy access to marijuana that voters overwhelmingly backed in November.

It’s a mess, and it rests squarely in the laps of state legislators who couldn’t even agree on a highly flawed bill to do what voters asked them to do. Late Friday, Senate and House leaders threw in the towel on medical pot regulations.

The biggest hangup was on whether the rules should set a limit on how many storefront dispensaries each company with a medical pot license could open. The House and Senate also fought over whether to tax those dispensaries.

Although the two bodies will return today to try to hash out a final budget bill (which could still be vetoed by Scott), they’ve officially given up on setting rules for medical marijuana.

This past Saturday, Morgan, the wealthy attorney who bankrolled the pot amendment, laid the blame squarely on Pollara, his former right-hand man in leading the fight for medical weed. Morgan compared Pollara to Fredo from the Godfather movies and accused his former deputy of “selling out” by backing dispensary limits.

Pollara hit back that he was only ever paid by the same groups that pushed for the medical marijuana amendment in the first place. “I have been compensated over the last four and a half years for my work as campaign manager for United for Care and executive director of Florida for Care,” Pollara said. “I have always viewed any financial stake in the marijuana industry as a clear conduct with my roles as an advocate and leader of these two organizations.”

As the beef escalated on Twitter — with Morgan, a likely candidate for governor, calling Pollara “bought and paid for” and saying the failed bill was “all on him” — medical marijuana backers were left stunned and wondering what comes next.

The short answer: nothing good. Without a bill from Tallahassee in place, Florida’s DOH will be required to set up its own rules for the medical pot industry by July.

The DOH already set up a draft version of its own rules in January, and they were slammed by pro-pot advocates as overly restrictive. The DOH’s rules would barely expand access already available in Florida by allowing patients with a few more debilitating conditions such as AIDS and cancer to obtain the medicine; it would prevent doctors from making their own diagnoses about other conditions that need marijuana and would ban smoking the drug.

Morgan has already promised to sue the state over the rules. But that legal fight won’t end quickly, and patients who need the drugs will be left waiting even longer.

“The Florida legislature chose political gamesmanship over the will of 71 percent of voters,” Pollara told Politico this weekend. “The real losers are sick and suffering Floridians.”

Florida House Passes Medical Marijuana Implementing Bill

A bill to implement Florida’s medical marijuana amendment passed the House of Representatives and is heading to the Senate.

HB 1397 — approved in a 105-9 vote Tuesday — allows patients who suffer chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions to receive medical marijuana. It also allows patients to visit a doctor once every seven months to receive a prescription of three 70-day supplies. The previous limit was 90 days total.

The bill, which allows for 17 medical marijuana treatment centers by July 1, 2018, removes the ban on low-THC use in public, and allows for the selling of edibles and vaping products while reducing training requirements and costs for doctors and caregivers.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues says this is 95 percent in line with the Senate’s proposed legislation.

What Is Spice and Why Do People Call It the Zombie Drug?

A new drug has taken hold on streets across Europe and North America. Tribes of strangers are staggering around, looking lost and mumbling to passersby before passing out whenever their legs and minds can take no more. The drug is most widely known as “spice,” and newspapers — particularly right-wing tabloid newspapers — are having a field day.

“Zombie spice users are pushing Britain’s emergency services to the brink,” warns The Sun. A “spice nightmare” is turning city centers into “real-life horror movies,” says The Mirror. Spice “turns users into the ‘living dead’ in minutes and is ruining lives across Britain,” says The Daily Mail.

But what’s the real story? The gutter press has and still does demonize relatively harmless drugs like weed and ecstasy — is spice really as dangerous as they say it is? And what the hell is it, anyway?

Is Spice Fake Weed?

The truth is, it’s complicated. Spice (AKA K2) is not just a single drug, but a wide range of laboratory-made chemicals designed to mimic the effects of the well-known psychoactive compound in weed called THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. The keyword here, though, is mimic. 

THC in weed works by latching onto cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The chemicals in spice do the same thing, but can be over 100 times more potent and produce wildly different effects compared to actual weed. The only real similarities between spice and weed is the way it works and the fact that you smoke it.

To make things more complicated, the combinations of chemicals in spice are changing all the time, leading to slightly different effects and levels of potency between each separate batch. There are potentially hundreds or even thousands of variations being pushed out of dodgy labs in Russia and China.

No matter what the combination is, though, the powdery substance formed is carted off to Europe and North America and sprayed onto plant matter like sage, damiana or even tea leaves. After that, the “spice” is placed into eye-catching packaging and sold by small-time dealers and certain “herbal” shops. Spice has been illegal in the U.S. since 2013, and in the U.K. since May, 2016.

What Kind of Chemicals Are Being Used and Where Did This All Start?

Perhaps surprisingly, it all started with the cheerful geezer you see above. In the mid-’90s, an American chemist named John Huffman and his colleagues at Clemson University were studying the impact of cannabis on the human brain. The work involved creating synthetic compounds that acted in a similar way, which led to the synthesis of a compound called JWH-018 (JHW being John’s initials).

While most of the product that reaches the streets today doesn’t include JWH-018 — rather, it contains developments of it, which are often untested and unreliable — that compound was to be the match that lit the fuse on the synthetic weed nightmare we’re faced with today.

Huffman, now 84, recalled to the Washington Post the first time he heard about the drug. A German blogger had sent him a news article describing a new drug one man had smoked: it was called spice. “I thought it was sort of hilarious at the time,” he said. “Then I started hearing about some of the bad results, and I thought, ‘Hmm, I guess someone opened Pandora’s box.’”

“I was experimenting for good,” he told the Sunday Times, in a separate interview. “Could I have known? No. Marijuana has been around for hundreds of years, its effects are well known and you cannot kill yourself with it, [but] you can kill yourself with the synthetics.”

So, What Does It Do to You?

“It’s like a scene out of a zombie movie, a horrible scene,” said Brian Arthur, 38, who began live-streaming on his way to work in Brooklyn, New York after seeing three people collapse. “This drug truly paralyzes people.”

Wherever you find spice, you’ll find witnesses saying the same thing. Users appear to be on another planet, and that’s pretty much how they themselves describe it, too. Matthew Nuttall, an ex-spice addict from Manchester, told Britain’s Metro newspaper: “You just feel braindead half the time. They say people look like zombies, and that’s how it feels.

“The first time, I can’t even explain what it was like. It just blew my head off. I thought ‘never again.’ It’s just such a heavy high. It’s so intense,” he continued. “’The first high lasted about one hour, but it really felt a lot longer. It’s like you’re there but you can’t communicate. You’re alive in there, but you can’t see it on the outside. You just feel braindead.”

Precisely how you feel after smoking spice will likely depend on the specific combination of chemicals used and, more worryingly perhaps, the concentration of the substance on the herbs. Unlike natural cannabis, the stuff that gets you high is sprayed onto the plant matter, which leaves the possibility that negligent producers can unwittingly create highly concentrated “hotspots” within a single bag.

These two factors make it difficult for scientists – and even users themselves – to give an accurate description (or profile, if you will) of the effects and risks of the drug. Low to moderate usage appears to produce feelings of warmth, happiness and relaxation, as well as occasional confusion, paranoia and anxiety. So far, so bud.

However, the effects are said to be much stronger than herbal cannabis and pose much greater risks. While many of us will have had that slightly disturbing increased heart rate after smoking a joint a bit too fast, there are signs that it could be even more extreme when using synthetic cannabis. There are numerous reports of people having heart attacks and strokes – and even dying – after taking the drug. Cases have also been reported of kidney and liver damage and severe psychosis.

The New York Times has also reported a sharp rise in visits to emergency rooms and calls to poison control centers across America, resulting in several deaths; largely down to spice.

Well, Why Are People Smoking It Then?

The main reasons people smoke spice are that it’s both strong and cheap. Naturally, that makes it appealing to vulnerable sections of society, like the homeless. In a Guardian article looking at the spice epidemic ravaging Manchester’s inner city center, two rough sleepers — John and Steve, 52 and 35 — explain that spice has replaced heroin, crack and even alcohol as the drug of choice.

“You can go get a fiver, buy half a gram and it’ll knock you out for a few hours,” says John. “It’s better than buying a bottle of White Ace [cider].”

“I have tried heroin and it’s worse than that,” says Steve, who tells the Guardian he’s had friends die from smoking spice, and woke up in a hospital bed the last time he smoked it.“I don’t touch the stuff any more, it doesn’t agree with me.”

Spice can make hours seem like minutes, days seem like hours, and months seem like days. When you combine that with feelings of happiness and complete mental blackouts for hours on end, you can totally understand why somebody in tough circumstances may see appeal in such a drug. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the dehumanizing “zombie” accusations you’ll see in the press and try to understand people’s motivations for using spice.

How Do I Tell the Difference Between Weed and Spice?

If you’ve had even the smallest amount of experience with weed, you’ll know when you’ve copped some fake goods. Firstly, spice will never be sold in buds because, as mentioned above, it’s a mixture of dried household herbs and plant matter sprayed with chemicals.

You should always be wary with any crumbly weed sold loose rather than in nice tender buds, but especially if there are lots of variances in color and texture. Spice also has a chemical smell to it, which will interact with whatever shitty herbs it’s been sprayed on.

To point out the obvious, if it doesn’t look like weed, smell like weed, or taste like weed — it isn’t weed.

How You Can Help Make Marijuana Legal Nationwide

American drug policies have a problem – they’ve been driven by fear rather than facts for over a century. Although there had been notable gains over the past eight years towards more evidence-based drug policy, many worry that we may be heading in the wrong direction under the Trump administration. That’s why on April 22nd, drug policy researchers and advocates are taking to the streets of D.C. for the national March for Science, wielding facts and compassion in the face of ignorance and hatred.

From the first opium laws in the 1800s targeting Chinese immigrants to the crack laws of the 1980’s which disproportionately criminalized and incarcerated black men, the history of drug policy in the US illustrates how racism, xenophobia, and stigma can be weaponized in the name of “public health” and “safety.”

Paradoxically, the evidence suggests that drug prohibition has actually contributed to poorer health outcomes and higher mortality rates among drug users, while also facilitating the growth of an illicit drug market which threatens the safety and well-being of people around the globe. In addition, targeting racial and ethnic minority groups for harsher penalties has had a ripple effect on individual users and their communities by depriving them of social and familial supports as well as economic opportunity.

There are some serious barriers to expanding our research-base in regards to drugs and drug policies; largely due to limited funding for research with scheduled substances and little incentive to challenge the status quo. Drug scare tactics work- they befuddle, confuse, and terrify the public and policymakers alike while justifying an even harsher crackdown on users. Images of face-eating zombies to crack babies are more mobilizing than the reality that the vast majority of people who use drugs never get addicted or the therapeutic benefits of some substances, such as marijuana, are worth exploring.

Many American policymakers continue to think they can arrest their way out of our drug problems even though evidence shows that a “tough on drugs” approach is more harmful (and costly) than helpful. A look abroad shows us that nations which have decriminalized drugs, embraced harm reduction, and expanded treatment access have demonstrated positive outcomes for the health of drug users and their communities-at-large. At the same time there is a growing number of American lawmakers who have been forced to face the limitations of prohibition at home, realizing that evidence-based strategies offer a promising alternative to an overreliance on the criminal justice system as a solution to the public health problem of substance use.

But the good news is that there is a lot of solid research about drugs and drug policy, including high quality, accurate information about a range of substances, and what to do about them. Drug and drug policy research is a rich, interdisciplinary field that can help us sort the fact from the fiction and, more importantly, help us make smart policy choices that will improve the health and safety of individuals, families, and communities.

Take the current opioid crisis as just one example. A large body of research from Canada and Europe has shown that drug consumption rooms (safe and hygienic places where people can use drugs) can reduce overdose deaths and the transmission of blood-borne diseases, while linking people to treatment, medical care, and services. Once viewed as too controversial to be implemented in the U.S., several jurisdictions are now seriously considering them. Research has also given us life-saving naloxone – a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and has been responsible for saving thousands of lives. And thanks to science, more and more people are finding help through medication-assisted treatments, such as methadone and buprenorphine, for opioid use disorders.

While these signs of progress are encouraging and desperately needed, the Trump Administration’s disdain for science and approach to drug policy are worrisome. Trump not only eschews science, he is actively undermining it. For example, under Trump’s budget proposal, the National Institutes for Health would take a $1.2 billion cut focused primarily on research grants. NIH is responsible for the vast majority of drug research in the country. His desire to gut the Affordable Care Act and move to Medicaid block grants will make access to substance use treatment all the more difficult, especially if it is no longer considered essential health coverage. And his racially coded “law and order” rhetoric, along with the appointment of old school drug warriors, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, marks a return to a punitive drug war strategy of the past that a significant body of scholarship has deemed an abject failure.

We know better, and we must do better. Scholars who work in drug policy and all those who care about effective, evidence-base drug policy cannot stand by and watch all the progress we’ve made be undermined. Too much is at stake. That’s why it’s time for researchers to leave their labs and their classrooms and take to the streets. It’s time to turn from the misinformation, fear, and stigma that too often drive drug policy and insist on approaches that ground our policies in science and compassion.

On the Eve of 4/20, The Florida Department of Health Urges Caution to Avoid Medical Marijuana Scams

The Florida Department of Health is urging Florida residents to use caution to avoid medical marijuana scams. Last week, it came to the department’s attention that there are businesses advertising free or reduced-cost access to medical marijuana and in some cases are asserting that they are the “Office of Compassionate Use” when soliciting credit card information. The department reports all incidents of potential fraud and scams to law enforcement, but wants to ensure residents are aware of what to avoid.

Below are tips to help protect you from scams involving medical marijuana:

  • The department’s Office of Compassionate Use is the only entity issuing identification cards for medical marijuana in Florida. No third party is authorized to process applications. Do not provide credit card information to any third party entity advertising the ability to obtain medical      marijuana cards.
  • The department does not currently accept credit cards as a form of payment for an Office of Compassionate Use identification card. There is no need to ever provide your credit card information to the department’s Office of Compassionate Use.
  • There are seven dispensing organizations authorized to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana. These seven are the only businesses in Florida authorized to dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients and legal representatives.
  • The Office of Compassionate Use maintains a list of physicians who have completed the required 8 hour education course. To find a qualified ordering physician click here.

The department updates the Office of Compassionate Use webpage regularly with accurate information. Patients and legal representatives are encouraged to visit this webpage often.

To report scams to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352).

To report fraud to the Attorney General’s office call 1-866-966-7226.

How 4/20 Became National Weed Day

It is 4/20, the day tens of thousands of Americans gather around the country to celebrate a drug that remains illegal in most of the country: marijuana.

April 20 (or 4/20) is cherished by pot smokers around the world as a reason to toke up with friends and massive crowds each year and celebrate their favorite drug. Major rallies occur across the country, particularly in places like Colorado, Washington state, and Washington, DC, where marijuana possession is legal.

But as support for marijuana legalization grows — with several states considering it in 2016 — the festivities are becoming more mainstream. As a result, marijuana businesses are looking to leverage the holiday to find more ways to sell and market their products. This puts 4/20’s current iteration in sharp contrast with the holiday once embraced by a counterculture movement that was largely made up of hippies and others who decried greed, corporate influences, and all things mainstream.

Why is 4/20 National Weed Day? There are a few theories.

There are a few possible explanations for why marijuana enthusiasts’ day of celebration landed on April 20, but the real origin remains a bit of a mystery.

Steven Hager, a former editor of the marijuana-focused news outlet High Times, told the New York Times that the holiday came out of a ritual started by a group of high school students in the 1970s. As Hager explained, a group of Californian teenagers ritualistically smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 pm. The ritual spread, and soon 420 became code for smoking marijuana. Eventually 420 was converted into 4/20 for calendar purposes, and the day of celebration was born. (A group of Californians published documents giving this theory legitimacy, but it’s unclear if their claims are valid.)

One common belief is that 420 was the California police or penal code for marijuana, but there’s no evidence to support those claims.

Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana, hence an obvious connection between the drug and the number. But there are more than 500 active ingredients in marijuana, and only about 70 or so are cannabinoids unique to the plant, according to the Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and Its Constituents as Medicine.

A lesser-known possibility comes from the 1939 short story “In the Walls of Eryx” by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling. The story describes “curious mirage-plants” that seemed fairly similar to marijuana and appeared to get the narrator high at, according to his watch, around 4:20. Since the story is from 1939, it’s perhaps the earliest written link between marijuana and 420.

Whatever its origins, 4/20 has become a massive holiday for cannabis aficionados.

4/20 is the biggest single-day celebration of marijuana

Today, 4/20 is partly about supporting people’s legal rights to use marijuana. But just like St. Patrick’s Day is known as a holiday for America’s booze lovers despite its religious origins, 4/20 is turning into a major holiday for the country’s pot enthusiasts.

What the holiday stands for varies from person to person. Some people just want to get high and have fun. Others see the day as a moment to push for legalization, or celebrate legalization now that more states are adopting it and it has popular opinion behind it.

Back in the 1970s, 4/20 was part of a smaller counterculture movement that embraced marijuana as a symbol to protest against broader systemic problems in the US, like overseas wars and the power of corporations in America. “Marijuana was the way you said you weren’t a suit,” Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, previously told me.

In recent years, marijuana legalization activists have tried to bring a more formal aspect to the celebration, framing it as a moment to push their political agenda. Organizers for the 2014 Denver rally — during the first year marijuana sales were legal in the state — put out a statement comparing the battle for legal marijuana to “the time when Jews fled from slavery in Egypt,” a moment commemorated in Passover celebrations. “This year’s rally represents the continuing fight for freedom from economic slavery for marginalized members of our community and a rebirth of creative genius that will get us there,” they wrote.

Businesses are also trying to take advantage of the holiday. Eddie Miller, CEO of Invest in Cannabis, which seeks to bring investment into the marijuana industry, previously told me that his company was trying to build and sponsor major 4/20 gatherings around the country — similar to what other companies, some of which Miller has been involved with, have done with holidays like St. Patrick’s Day.

“Our perspective is 4/20 is a real holiday — no smaller than St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween,” Miller said. “It’s just nobody knows about it yet. And our company is going to let everyone know about it.”

Legalization is turning 4/20 into a commercial holiday

Originally 4/20 was a counterculture holiday to protest, at least in part, the social and legal stigmas against marijuana. Marijuana legalization undercuts that purpose: As big businesses and corporations begin growing and selling pot, marijuana will slowly lose its status as a counterculture symbol — and that, Humphreys of Stanford University speculated, could bring the end of the traditional, countercultural 4/20.

“If a corporate marijuana industry adopts 4/20, it would still be a celebrated event, but not with the same countercultural meaning,” Humphreys said in an email. “People celebrated Christmas long before it became an occasion for an orgy of gift-buying and materialist consumption, but the meaning of the holiday for most people was different then than it is now.”

Companies such as Invest in Cannabis admit they’re already leveraging the holiday as another opportunity to promote the industry and its products — much like beer and other alcohol companies now do with St. Patrick’s Day.

“The media is covering 4/20 as a consumer interest story,” Miller of Invest in Cannabis said “But some portion of the media is covering 4/20 as a call to arms for the industry — so [in 2015] there are multiple competitive business conferences that are happening in Denver, the [San Francisco] Bay Area, and Las Vegas.”

The pot industry has also gotten directly involved in 4/20 events. The Cannabis Cup, for example, has become a major event at Denver’s 4/20 rallies, where hundreds of vendors show off their finest marijuana products to more than 40,000 attendees. The event has steadily grown over the years, featuring big concerts from notable musicians like Snoop Dogg, Soja, and 2 Chainz, as well as a wide collection of marijuana businesses as sponsors.

The Cannabis Cup is only one of many events, which also include comedy shows (like Cheech and Chong), marijuana-friendly speed dating, and trade shows for glass pipes and bongs, offering businesses and celebrities various opportunities to push their products and brands.

Still, some people don’t attend the public festivities at all, choosing instead to stay home and enjoy a joint (or more) with their friends. For these people, 4/20 likely remains a more casual affair void of big sponsorships and marketing.

But in public, 4/20 is increasingly becoming a commercial holiday.

4/20 started big in Western states, but it’s expanded

Since 4/20 supposedly originated in California, according to Hager at the High Times, it’s unsurprising that 4/20 is a big deal there. But the celebration has already spread — particularly to other Western states.

The most well-known 4/20 rally tends to be in Denver. Following Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana in 2012, Denver became the first big city to allow recreational marijuana shops. That made Denver the center of the legalization movement and, as a result, the capital of 4/20 celebrations in the US. (In particular, the 4:20 pm smoke-out — in which tens of thousands gather in front of the state capitol to smoke pot at 4:20 pm on 4/20 — is heralded as one of the largest pot rallies in the world.)

But celebrations are also taking place in Seattle, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC. And Miller of Invest in Cannabis expects the list of cities hosting major 4/20 celebrations to expand over the years, with some focusing less on tourism and more on local events.

“I believe Denver and Colorado in general will continue to grow with their cannabis tourism,” he said. “Separately, you can see that, for example, San Jose is not a primarily tourist destination — but the events happening in the Bay Area are primarily for the residents of the Bay Area.”

Americans support marijuana legalization, but they’re not okay with public smoking

Although surveys show 4/20 celebrators have the support of most Americans when it comes to legalization, many people would likely disapprove of the public smoke-outs that often take place in celebration of 4/20.

A 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of Americans support legalization, and 82 percent said it wouldn’t bother them if people used marijuana in their own homes — but 62 percent said it would bother them if someone used pot in public.

This puts 4/20 in a tricky place for legalization advocates: Americans by and large support the pro-legalization message of the holiday, but they’re probably not okay with someone ripping a bong in front of the state capitol.

So where can I sign up for 4/20?

It’s probably too late to plan a trip this year, unless you already live in Denver or another city holding a 4/20 rally. But if interest in the event continues climbing after legalization takes place in other states, it’s probably a good idea to be a bit forward-looking with your airplane and hotel bookings for next year’s rallies. And keep in mind that although many of the 4/20 events are open to the public, some do charge a fee for entry.

The Stress-Relieving Qualities of Weed Occur Naturally in Your Own Brain

From managing cancer pain to easing the symptoms of epilepsy, it can no longer be denied that cannabis has some serious medical benefits.

Now new studies are confirming what stoners everywhere already knew: weed helps you relax – but so do the brain’s own versions of the compounds found in marijuana.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center used mice to explore the body’s endocannabinoid system, a naturally-occurring collection of molecules connected with our appetite, mood, memory and pain sensation. They found that when 2-AG (an endocannabinoid) was increased, mice were more stress-resilient, while less 2-AG was linked to “anxiety-like behaviors.” Overall, the study indicates that increased levels of 2-AG lessen the adverse affects of acute traumatic stress and can actually make a subject more resilient to stress long-term.

While these mice weren’t actually smoking up, the study’s findings confirm that certain endocannabinoids can ease stress and anxiety. It had previously been found that THC, the main cannabinoids found in weed, also increases resilience to stress.

It seems that cannabinoids — whether they come from inside our bodies or from weed — could hold the key to successfully treating anxiety disorders, PTSD or even depression.

You can read the full study here.

Almost A Billion People Still Smoke Every Day

Cigarette smoking is on the decline, with the percentage of people worldwide who smoke daily dropping by roughly a third over the past 25 years. But because the global population keeps on increasing, there are still more smokers today than at any other time in history. The numbers are staggering, as a new study suggests nearly a billion people smoke at least once a day.

Smoking isn’t exactly an equal-opportunity offender. According to the paper published in The Lancet, male smokers still vastly outnumber their female counterparts. While only one out of every 20 women smokes daily, a quarter of all men on the planet do. What’s more, about half of all male smokers can be found in just three countries: China, India, and Indonesia.

The United States, for its part, has more female smokers than any other country, including the far more populous China and India. This fits with a more general trend the study found: Male smokers are most commonly found in middle-income countries, while women are more likely to be daily smokers if they live in the world’s wealthiest countries. Smoking is rarest in the lowest-income countries. But rapid population growth means these countries could also soon deal with a smoking epidemic, with as much as 80 percent of smoking deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries by 2030.

For now, the U.S. trails only China and India in the highest number of annual deaths from smoking, with just under half a million. The researchers estimate about 6.4 million deaths worldwide each year are the result of smoking, which is about a tenth of all global deaths.

Admittedly, it’s not surprising that countries with the highest populations dominate the lists of total deaths, Russia and Indonesia rounding out the top five. But it’s not quite as simple as saying the most populous countries have the highest rates — Brazil, home to 200 million people, is notable for implementing more aggressive anti-smoking policies and has seen the number of daily smokers more than cut in half between 1990 and 2015. It still has the eighth most deaths of any country, but that’s quite a bit below what one would expect just based on its population.

There’s some good news, though. The researchers found 13 countries, including the United States, saw significant annual declines across all 25 years from 1990 to 2015, while 18 countries from Nepal to Chile saw daily smoking drop significantly in the past decade.