On a recent, oppressively hot Oklahoma summer day, workers drenched in sweat installed rope lines to keep the plants upright. Nearby, Baker and his team strategized about the best ways to keep irritating caterpillars off the marijuana leaves, discussing plans to expand even further on the seemingly endless property.
With typical roadblocks and red tape shoved to the side, the industry has exploded.
Cheaper land prices, building costs and license fees mean “it’s easily 10 times cheaper here than in Denver,” he said.
“This is probably the largest collection of Squirt in the world!” he boasted, pointing to an array of neatly plotted cannabis plants before him that will soon flower pounds of the popular strain.
That lack of regulation is also frustrating state and local law enforcement officials, who say the drug’s hasty legalization ushered in an alarming rise in illicit grows and other criminal activity.
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And even if marijuana itself won’t directly kill you, there have been deaths associated with cannabis products, Cao says. In a 2014 case, a 19-year-old Colorado man died after he ate a cannabis cookie, began behaving erratically, and jumped off a fourth-floor balcony. His autopsy reported marijuana intoxication as a chief contributing factor.
A prominent argument for the impossibility of death by weed is a statistical one: Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Half of U.S. adults have tried it in their lifetime and one in five young adults under age 25 report having used marijuana in the past month, according to 2017 NIDA statistics. In 2015, 36 million Americans over the age of 12 reported using marijuana in the past year—which, according to rudimentary statistics, would have resulted in dozens of fatalities if the odds of blazing yourself to death was even one-in-a-million.
“That was a big finding,” says Dazhe Cao, a co-author of the study and a medical toxicology doctor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. For those young children, cannabis exposure typically made them sleepy or uncoordinated, or affected their breathing (in two cases leading to intubation).
“You (can) think of taking a hit as a therapeutic dose, to get a feeling of euphoria, maybe the giggles,” he says. Or you can smoke so much that you feel like you need to go to the hospital. “I would call that an overdose. Will you die, if you’re a young, healthy person? Probably not.”
All of this is not to say people should be afraid of marijuana, Manini says, or that they should lump it in with other commonly-used substances that regularly kill people (on average, 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose and six people die daily from alcohol poisoning in the U.S.). Across the nation, most people over the age of 12 don’t see a great risk of harm from monthly marijuana use, according to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“That could [be a] potentially life-threatening situation for a child,” says Mount Sinai’s Manini. “Children are not little adults”—their bodies process all drugs differently than even a more petite adult would.
The main active ingredient in weed is the chemical Δ-9- tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC has psychoactive effects, meaning that it can alter mood, alertness, cognizance and cognitive functioning. Cannabidiol or CBD is also a large component of weed plants and has relaxation effects but does not have the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD is also thought to relieve pain.
Cannabis sativa originates from warmer climates, such as Mexico and South Africa, and tends to grow very tall with long, thin leaves. It will flower under certain light conditions, which requires darkness for more than 11 hours a day.
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Blue dream is another hybrid strain of weed that is slightly sativa -dominant. It gives an energetic cerebral high that can increase motivation and heighten focus. Some people describe it as having relaxing and pain-relieving effects.
Due to its mood lifting and energizing effects, sativa tends to be used by people who have depression or exhaustion. It has also been described to relieve some of the symptoms of ADHD and other mood disorders.
It is named for the gasoline-like chemical smell that its flowers make. The medium-sized buds have yellowish-green leaves. It tends to have a sour or skunky taste that some people find unpleasant.