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People smoked pot to get high 2,500 years ago, study says

One of the tombs that archaeologists excavated on the Pamir Plateau. (Xinhua Wu)

Getting high on marijuana may not be a modern pastime, as archaeologists have found the earliest clear evidence to date that people were smoking cannabis for its psychoactive properties some 2,500 years ago.

They found evidence of burned cannabis with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (the cannabis ingredient responsible for the high) on 10 wooden incense burners, known as braziers; the burners were found alongside eight human burials at an ancient site known as Jirzankal Cemetery (also called Quman Cemetery) on the Pamir Plateau of western China.

The burners all carried a mystery residue, which a chemical test soon revealed to be cannabis. “To our excitement, we identified the biomarkers of [cannabis],” study co-researcher Yimin Yang, a professor in the department of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, told reporters at a news conference. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

Researchers have known for decades that ancient people in eastern China cultivated cannabis as long ago as 3500 B.C. But this cannabis was grown as an oil-seed and fiber crop, and so it had low psychoactive properties. In other words, the ancient people harvesting cannabis for these purposes probably weren’t smoking or ingesting it for its high.

The cannabis residues found in the braziers, however, tell another story. It’s likely that ancient people purposefully selected cannabis plants with high THC levels and then smoked them as part of a ritual or religious activity associated with these burials, “perhaps, for example, aimed at communicating with the divine or the deceased,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Ancient cemetery

Archaeologists began excavating Jirzankal Cemetery in 2013, and were intrigued to find the braziers, which held heating stones. To determine what these ancient people had burned, the archaeologists partnered with Yang’s team, which used a technique known as gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to analyze the chemical residues on the braziers.

In the first test, the researchers found biomarkers of cannabis on the internal charred wood of a brazier. Then, they analyzed an ancient sample of cannabis from the 2,500-year-old Jiayi Cemetery in Turpan, China, where the plant was found laid across a man’s chest as a burial shroud. This test showed preserved components of cannabis, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabicyclol (CBL).

While THC does not preserve well, CBN is a good indicator that it’s present. Intriguingly, the researchers found ample CBN on the wooden braziers and on two of the stones, indicating that its THC levels were higher than those typically found in wild plants. As a control, they tested samples from the outside of the braziers, but didn’t find any cannabinoids.

Of note, the burials are more in line with the ancient mortuary practices from ancient Central Asia, including the modern-day countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, than they are from China, the researchers said.

Where did the psychoactive pot come from?

Most wild cannabis, as well as early cultivated varieties of the plant, contain low levels of psychoactive compounds. So where did this high-THC variety come from?

The researchers have two main ideas. Perhaps a wild variety of pot with high psychoactive levels arose naturally, and then humans found and cultivated it. “I agree that humans are always going to be looking for wild plants that can have effects on the human body, especially psychoactive effects,” study co-researcher Robert Spengler, the laboratory director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, told reporters. [7 Ways Marijuana May Affect the Brain]

How did cannabis with high THC levels come about? Given that Jirzankal Cemetery is high up in the mountains — more than 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level — perhaps the plants encountered stressors there that led them to create more psychoactive properties, the researchers said.

In this line of thinking, the extreme mountain environment — such as low temperatures, low nutrient availability, high exposure to ultraviolet rays and strong light intensity — may have caused the plants to change how they produced or metabolized certain compounds, which could lead to the creation of greater amounts of psychoactive compounds, the researchers said.

“This is potentially linking these plants — the plants with higher THC production — to higher elevation,” Spengler said. “But that’s all fairly theoretical, so we really cannot pinpoint exactly what the mechanisms for the higher THC level are.”

Another idea is that humans — either intentionally or inadvertently — played a role in increasing the plant’s psychoactive properties. Perhaps people bred different marijuana plants that led to varieties with higher THC levels.

“Some of them may have been rapidly domesticated by humans simply moving them or transporting them [along trade routes such as the silk road] … from the Caucasus all the way to East Asia,” Spengler said. “So, it’s possible that humans were still inflicting evolutionary changes on these plants without actually intensively cultivating them.”

That said, it’s still an “open debate” whether the psychoactive pot occurred naturally, or whether humans played a role, he said.

The study is the latest to look at cannabis’s origins and historic uses. In May, another group of researchers posited that the cannabis plant likely originated high on the Tibetan Plateau, according to an analysis of fossil pollen. The new finding “provides yet another piece in the biomolecular archaeological puzzle of the ‘abiding mystery of Central Asia’ and its impact on human cultural and biological development through the millennia,” Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science. “Much more remains to be learned.”

The study was published online today (June 12) in the journal Science Advances.

Originally published on Live Science.

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This longtime cannabis investor has funded Pax and Juul, among others; heres her approach

If you’re a cannabis investor or a founder working on a cannabis-related startup, you’ve probably heard of Poseidon Asset Management.

The San Francisco-based investment firm is one of very few that is focused narrowly on the industry, which remains fairly insular for now. Poseidon has also been at it longer than most outfits, having begun making bets on cannabis-related companies six years ago. More, Poseidon has managed to stuff checks into some of the fastest growing companies in the sector, including the cannabis vaporizer company Pax Labs and the e-cigarette company Juul, whose founders created the Pax vaporizer before peeling off to win over smokers. Indeed, because Poseidon has largely invested the money of high-net worth individuals and family offices, it hasn’t been constrained by the same vice clauses — or restrictions by backers like pension funds and other institutions —  that can often hamper where venture capitalists invest.

Poseidon is notable for yet another reason, too. It was founded by siblings Emily and Morgan Paxhia, whose parents both died of different cancers at the ages of 46 and 52, respectively. In fact, despite — or because of — being a young teenager at the time, Emily Paxhia says she can still very much remember the hospice nurse who recommended to her father that he smoke pot to ease his pain. Little did Paxhia know then that the cannabis — then a surprising and exotic concept — would later inform the career she now enjoys.

We talked about it earlier this week, as well as how Paxhia and her brother decided back in 2013 that cannabis was going to be the next big thing. If you’re curious about their path, and where they’re shopping now, read on.

TC: You grew up in Buffalo and you say your parents were entrepreneurial.

EP: Our dad restored homes in an economically depressed part of Buffalo, and our mom worked for a real estate agency. When began running his books, voila, we had a family business.

TC: Then he became sick when you and your siblings were young. How did that impact you?

EP: He was a dyed-in-the-wool hippy. We had Woodstock tickets in our home. He never really accepted the status quo, which I think informs the way we view the world. But yes, he became aggressively sick with cancer in 1994 and passed away in 1996, and it was this non-virtuous cycle, where they would put him on this or that medication and each had its own terrible side effects. Finally, a hospice nurse who came to our home said, ‘John, maybe you some smoke some pot.’ She told us it would help with his appetite and reduce his anxiety and help him sleep. It was this palliative care thing that had been stigmatized but she believed was useful. I don’t know if he tried it or not, but then he passed away, and five years later, our mother, who was very healthy and ran and took care of herself, also died of cancer.

I’ve often looked back and thought that if my parents had [used cannabis at the end of their lives], they would not have suffered so greatly.

TC: How did you get from Buffalo to starting a fund in San Francisco, seemingly out of the blue?

EP: After college, I was spending time in New York and in San Francisco, working in market research, including on behalf of Amex and Viacom and Comedy Central — all companies competing in markets that were very saturated. It was hard to find white space. When I moved to California [full time], I started to see people lining up outside the doors of dispensaries and I thought, ‘Here are people who ordinarily wouldn’t break a law, but they’re doing something that’s federally illegal because they want cannabis. Brick-and-mortar is dying elsewhere and it’s thriving here. This is what product-market fit looks like.’

TC: At what point did you decide to partner with your brother and why?

EP: He worked for UBS during the downturn [of 2008] and then he landed in Rhode Island, working for a private registered investment advisor. And I called him, and I said, “Dude. I think the ‘thing’ of our generation is cannabis.” I actually remember where I was standing in San Francisco. We’d always though we’d be in business together, and he took me 100 percent seriously, and then we couldn’t turn it off. From that point on, we were figuring out how do we participate in this.

It was Morgan who identified that a fund made the most sense, that the industry was happening and it was very underserved from a tech and investor perspective. He knew the industry was going to need funding and that investors would need an actively managed strategy.

TC: How did you get started?

EP: It was hard. It was very hard to find attorneys to work with us, but we did. The same was true of auditors and back office administration. Everything that’s normally a check-the-box type of process was hard.

TC: What about investors? How did you begin lining these up with out a track record?

EP:  I had that qualitative consulting experience, working with brands and helping them scale; Morgan had traditional investment experience. But there were no data sets at the time. All we could do was be ‘in market’ all the time. We traveled to be with companies. We traveled to different geographies because each has such complicated regulatory nuances to it.

Raising money was really difficult. We got laughed at quite a bit. It’s funny, many of our earliest investors were lawyers because I think they understood the real, versus the perceived, risk involved in what we were doing.

TC: Eventually, you began to assemble this evergreen-type fund and you began investing while fundraising. Where you shopping at at the outset?

EP: We focused initially on the tech aspect of the industry. To us, that was where we saw the biggest gap and the biggest opportunity to potentially scale quickly. Also, those companies tended to be started by tech founders who were [secondarily] interested in cannabis.

TC: How were you drumming up deal flow?

EP:  It was going into stores, seeing what they were using in terms of tech, talking with retail associates about what people were buying, going to industry events and to cannabis job fairs to see was hiring, then starting to build relationships with those companies. We knew as entrepreneurs ourselves that being as founder friendly as possible would be the key to our deal flow. And we start having founders bringing us other founders. We’ve now led 20 rounds at this point, and our best deal flow has come from the founders themselves.

But it’s also been a matter of getting out there and walking up to people and saying, “Have you thought about raising capital? If so, let’s keep talking.”

TC: Do you feel like you now recognize founders who you shouldn’t back?

EP: What 100 percent does not work in this industry is hubris. In other areas of business, a certain level of confidence bodes well for founders. But this is not a move-fast-and-break-things industry. There are so many regulatory challenges that you really need to know the lay of the land. I’ve seen people come in and bounce right out again because of their attitude.

Founders also need to understand the extra costs in time and money that come with running these business and to model accordingly; otherwise, projections are off and valuations are off and you’re facing a potentially down round later in time.

TC: You were able to return money to investors in January, after Juul distributed a special dividend. Is that your biggest exit to date?

EP: That was a big one, but we’ve had other big exits out of [an earlier] pair of funds through [several investments in Canadian companies], including [medical marijuana company] Aphria [which went public last October] and Canopy Growth [which went public in 2014, is Canada’s second-largest grower, and is currently valued at roughly $15 billion]. Canada is a very different market. You can order cannabis from the government and it will arrive in the postal mail. It’s very top-down unlike in the U.S., where the market is very bottom-up and state by state.

There’s a lot of investment going on [across U.S. and Canada]. It’s very permeable at this point. I was in Toronto last week, and licensed producers there want to invest more in California. We’re meanwhile looking at Latin America and Europe–

TC: That’s interesting. Where in Latin America and why?

EP: The cost to produce cannabis in Colombia is extremely low. Cannabis grows on a 12-hour cycle very well and the equator runs through the country’s southern sector [making its warm climate conducive to the plant’s growth]. Local companies can export the products at a lower cost than in Canada and Europe. [Operators there] also have distribution relationships with European markets [that are buying medical marijuana].

Mexico is also expected to roll out its medical program in the fourth quarter of this year, which is exciting.

TC: Obviously these places have been home to drug cartels for years. Do you worry that these same organizations will take an interest in what’s being built legally in their backyards?

EP: We’ve gotten comfortable with both places. I think the cartels have begun to pivot to other places, like meth. I also don’t think it’s worth it to the cartels to get involved with legal government channels. And the groups that we focus on are themselves focused on medical cannabis and distribution to other medical touch points globally [and not the same places into which cartels are trying to move goods].

TC: I’ve read that Poseidon is trying to raise a new, $75 fund. How far along are you?

EP: We have capital commitments for half the fund and hope to close it this summer. We want to be able to deploy [more capital] before legalization is [more widespread] and we have to compete with bigger funds.

TC: What is your pacing like? Relatedly, how fast do you have to move on this investments, or do you have all the time in the world right now?

EP: We expect to invest this new fund in 15 companies over two years. We’ve funded five startups with it since November, but we were in diligence on one of those for months. I’d say the average deal takes 60 to 90 days to pull together right now. We start our own diligence before the company is considering a Series A, which is where we invest. We want to help structure the round, to lead it, to have a board seat — to demonstrate our value add.

TC: Are you seeing many, or any, particularly frothy deals?

EP: Valuations are not going crazy but the more popular a deal gets, the harder it becomes, as with any investment. We’re wrestling over a term sheet right now, because other groups got a look at it and want us to lead it, but we’re also getting negotiated against a little bit.

TC: Any parting words for investors who want to jump into the industry? Any advice?

EP: I’d say to go to events and walk the floor to see who and what stands out.

I went to MJBizCon [the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo] that happens annually every winter. The first few years that we went, there were a few hundred schlubby guys walking the floor. The year before last, there were 3,000 people in attendance, looking a lot less schlubby. Last year, I think there were 27,000 people, which I took as an indicator that there’s some interest in this space. [Laughs.]

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A Wrigley chewing gum heir and a former Patrn CEO go all in on cannabis

San Francisco (CNN Business)William “Beau” Wrigley Jr. believes he can emulate the success of his family’s old chewing gum empire in the cannabis industry.

The company, an Atlanta-based developer and retailer of cannabis products, raised $100 million to help fuel its rapid US and international expansion in the emerging cannabis industry. Among the investors participating in the round was Edward Brown, the former CEO and president of Patrón Spirits Company, which makes Patrón tequila and was sold to spirits company Bacardi last year.
Brown, who retired from Patrón in December after 20 years, recently joined Surterra’s board as executive director.
    With the latest infusion, Surterra has raised a total of $350 million and continues to “curate” an executive team with deep experience in building and scaling companies, Wrigley said.
    “We understand how to execute,” Wrigley said in an interview with CNN Business.
    Surterra has a three-pronged strategy: Accumulating operations and licenses in existing cannabis markets; developing a “house of brands” that could sell globally; and advancing cannabis science and technology to disrupt not only sectors such as the beverages industry, but also the health care industry. That includes isolating various chemical compounds in the cannabis plant and targeting them for different health and wellness needs.
    “I truly believe, in many respects, that I’m building the next Wrigley Company,” he said.
    And he believes Surterra could be even bigger than the multibillion-dollar chewing gum and mint company, of which he served as president and CEO until 2006. Mars, the confectioner that makes M&Ms and Milky Way, bought the Wrigley Company for $23 billion in 2008.
    Surterra has been on an expansion bent since last fall when Wrigley invested $65 million in the firm and later took the helm as CEO. It has quickly grown from a holder of medical cannabis licenses in Florida and Texas to a multi-state operator, brand developer, and science and technology innovator.
    Surterra signed licensing deals with the company behind “The Endless Summer” surfing documentary and singer Jimmy Buffett to sell Endless Summer and Coral Reefer-branded cannabis, respectively. The company also acquired operations in Nevada and Massachusetts, and it entered into a $100 million agreement with biotech firm Intrexon (XON) on a fermentation-based cannabis cultivation technology.
      Earlier this week, Surterra bought Boston-based Molecular Infusions (Mi), a developer of cannabis therapeutic-focused products such as a fine-mist inhaler and additives that provide rapid onset and predictable dosing for cannabis-infused beverages.
      The privately held Surterra does not disclose financial information, but Wrigley said the company is profitable.

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      ‘A bleak prospect’: why legal weed in Britain may be a pipe dream

      While public interest is growing, experts say a mix of political and social factors is holding back change

      The legalization of cannabis in the US shows no signs of slowing down but the prospect of a green rush in the UK, experts say, is bleak.

      The consultancy Hanway Associates aims to bring North American-style cannabis capitalism to the UK and Europe. This month, the group is hosting the Cannabis Europa conference in London, but its CEO, George McBride, does not expect drastic change anytime soon.

      According to a 2018 survey commissioned by the drug policy thinktank Volteface, which has ties to Hanway, 59% of the British public supports cannabis legalization. But the political dynamics that have made legal marijuana all but inevitable in the US are absent in the UK.

      In both countries, there are racial discrepancies in drug enforcement. However, the aggressive and widely despised police tactics associated with Americas war on drugs never took hold in Britain, nor did they contribute to mass incarceration and other life-ruining consequences for perpetrators.

      Second, as McBride and his colleague Alastair Moore note, the UK hasnt experienced an opioid crisis, or the subsequent disillusionment with mainstream pharmaceuticals and the medical field. Nor is there an entrenched constituency of veterans suffering from PTSD, concussive brain injuries and other ailments, which have led to a desperate search for alternatives.

      While the British public is interested in medical marijuana, and CBD is advertised on many high streets in particular, there does not seem to be any significant constituency eager to implement a for-profit industry on a large scale. And there is not an industry-funded medical marijuana lobby insisting on the issues urgency.

      Last year, Charlotte Caldwell, a Northern Irish mother, arrived at Heathrow from Canada with her son Billy, a 12 year-old who has a severe seizure disorder, and cannabis oil she acquired to treat him. When authorities confiscated the medicine, it led to a public outcry, and within weeks the UK had legalized medical marijuana for a very limited number of patients. It was the biggest cannabis story in Britain since the scare about high potency skunk weed in the 1990s. But it hardly galvanized the country to legalize it for everyone.

      Experts say the prospect of a green rush in the UK is bleak. Illustration: George Wylesol/THE GUARDIAN

      Public support for legalization in the UK is broad but not deep, McBride said. In other words, its not an issue that decides how people vote. The same can largely be said for the Trump-era US, but the political levers American legalization supporters have wielded so effectively dont really exist in the UK. In particular, theres no equivalent of the state referendums which have been crucial to legalizing in many of the states that have legalized medical marijuana and almost all of those that have legalized the drug for recreational use.

      Finally, one of the most effective arguments for legalizing in the US is that it makes more sense to regulate and tax the drug, rather than allow lawless cartels to control it. Thus far, US marijuana taxes have not brought much money into state coffers, but the argument appeals to the American mind.

      In the UK, however, legalization actually polls lower when you ask about taxing it. McBride and Moore attributed it to skepticism towards business, coming both from the left and the protectionist right. The specter of violent drug traffickers doesnt loom as large in the British imagination.

      Still, major social developments in the US usually reach Britain somehow. I suspect a combination of social and corporate pressure could eventually change minds. Within two or three years, as attractive cannabis cafes become more familiar in Chicago, Boston and California, and more professional Americans incorporate cannabis into their lives, more Brits will become curious, not to say envious. As that happens, growing cannabis companies will start looking for effective arguments to persuade the public in Britain and other countries. Until then, theyve got their hands full trying to turn a profit in North America.

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      Louisiana coroner claims first THC-related death, but some experts are skeptical

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      TSA Updates Policy To Address Flying With Medical Marijuana

      The Transportation Security Administration has updated its guidance regarding medical marijuana and air travel, clarifying that medications containing hemp-derived CBD are legal to fly with ― mostly.

      The update, made quietly to the TSA website over Memorial Day weekend, formally permits products containing hemp-derived CBD, and FDA-approved medications containing CBD, in both carry-on and checked luggage.

      Confusion regarding the status of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved pediatric epilepsy drug that contains CBD, prompted the change.

      The TSA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told CNN the agency “immediately updated” its written guidelines “once we became aware of the issue.”

      CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. In the 2018 farm bill, the federal government legalized hemp ― a non-intoxicating form of cannabis ― and CBD that’s derived from hemp plants.

      As long as travelers have CBD in forms that adhere to the regulations in the farm bill, the TSA will now permit it on an airplane.

      But that doesn’t mean marijuana can fly. Unlike hemp, marijuana remains federally illegal, and the TSA wants to make sure you know it.

      “Possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law,” the TSA’s updated language warns. “TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products.”

      Marijuana Moment, a marijuana policy and advocacy blog, first reported the updated language.

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      The First Gene-Edited Food Is Now Being Served

      Not long after Calyxt moved into its shiny new steel and glass headquarters on the outskirts of Minneapolis last summer, someone pulled her car into its freshly poured parking lot and headed for the biotech firm’s front door. She caught the company’s chief science officer, Dan Voytas, as he was leaving. “Um, is this a medical marijuana facility?” she asked, her eyes drifting to the rows of greenhouses at the back of the property and the high fences surrounding them. No, they weren’t growing pot. They were growing something at once even more revolutionary and perhaps more controversial: gene-edited food crops.

      Farmers and breeders have been manipulating the DNA of the plants humans eat for millennia. But with powerful new gene-editing technologies developed over the last five years, scientists can now add or subtract plant genes with unprecedented precision and speed—leaving first-generation GMOs, along with their stigma and burdensome regulations, in the dust. Companies big and small have adopted the technology to make products as disparate as climate change-resistant cacao and extra-starchy corn for adhesives. But last month Calyxt became the first to commercially debut a gene-edited food, a soybean oil it claims to have made healthier.

      Shoppers can’t yet buy the oil, a product of soybean plants that have been edited to produce fewer saturated fats and zero trans fats, but Calyxt’s CEO Jim Blome says people are already eating it. The company’s first client—a restaurant with multiple locations in the Midwest—has begun using the oil to fry, make sauces, and dress salads, as the Associated Press reported last week. Calyxt describes its oil as having the heart-healthy fat profile of olive oil without its strong, sometimes grassy flavor. Whether that’s something customers want remains to be seen. But Calyno, as the oil is known, marks an important moment in the long human history of messing with plant DNA. It signals the official arrival of foods that have been genetically altered not solely to make farmers' lives easier, but to make consumers’ tummies (and hearts and other organs) happier.

      “Right now the food industry solves all its problems through processing or chemistry,” says Voytas. “We’d like to do it through genetics and gene-editing.” In addition to its soybean oil, Calyxt is working on wheats with more fiber and less gluten and potatoes that can safely be put in cold storage without accumulating sugars that catalyze into cancer-causing chemicals when cooked at high temperatures. (That’s a thing that actually happens.)

      The company is also working on developing traits useful to farmers too. When I visited Calyxt last August, rows of alfalfa plants had just been moved from the greenhouses to test plots outside to make way for herbicide-resistant soy and canola. But those are in much earlier stages of development. What Calyxt is really trying to do, according to Voytas, is make it easier for people to have a healthy diet without giving up the foods they like. “We’d like a piece of Wonder Bread to meet all your daily requirements of fiber,” he adds.

      Engineering these novel nutritional attributes starts on the top floor of the Calyxt lab, where its scientists design gene-editing molecules on computer screens and then have pipetting robots build them. The most well-known gene editor is Crispr, but Calyxt uses a different set of DNA-cutting enzymes called TALENs. In 2010, Voytas co-invented the method in his plant genetics lab at the University of Minnesota, where he still spends some of his time. For a few years, he and his grad students were busy making TALENs for other researchers who wanted to supercharge their plant gene-tinkering toolbox. “Then Crispr came along and you didn’t really need the Voytas lab anymore,” he says.

      By then, though, he had taken his tech to the French biotechnology firm Cellectis and been installed as chief scientist of its new plant engineering division. Calyxt, as that company is known today, has about 50 employees. Many of them are scientists who work down in the sterile plant-tissue culture labs. There they sort seeds, transfer embryonic plant cells to agar-filled petri dishes, and deliver the custom-designed TALENs. Then they douse the cells in root- and leaf-stimulating hormones and let them grow until they become big enough to punch out a bit of leaf material to sequence and see if the right edit was made.

      Successfully edited plants get moved to a brightly lit, temperature-regulated nursery room for further testing before going out to the greenhouse. Next they might get crossed with other lines that grow better in less controlled environments or sent straight outside to see how they behave in small plot trials. From the top performing plant, Calyxt will start saving seeds to eventually sell to farmers.

      In 2018, Calyxt contracted with 78 farmers in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota to grow 17,000 acres of its gene-edited, high oleic soybeans. At the end of the season Calyxt bought back the beans, and had them crushed into Calyno oil, which it is currently shopping around to more than 40 food companies. The company tries to find farmers within 100 miles of small, independent crushing facilities that don’t mind halting operations for a deep-cleaning of their machines to make way for Calyxt’s haul. That’s because—unlike 95 percent of the 80 million or so acres of soybeans planted each year—Calyxt says its crop is “non-GMO.”

      So far, US regulators have agreed, saying that as long as a genetic alteration could have been bred in a plant, meaning you’re not injecting DNA from other reproductively incompatible organisms, it doesn’t require special oversight. Bayer and DuPont each have their own versions of high oleic soybeans that were made with conventional genetic engineering techniques, and therefore had to undergo additional safety testing and environmental assessments. Calyxt’s version won’t be subject to any of that, nor the USDA’s long-awaited GMO labeling requirements, which it released in December. The standards will require food companies to label foods that have been “bioengineered” by 2022, but the rule likely won’t apply to gene-edited foods if they don’t contain foreign DNA.

      While critics lambasted these decisions and have called for more regulation of gene-edited foods, companies are plowing ahead. Farmers in Montana and North Dakota are growing an herbicide-resistant canola that was genetically tweaked by Cibus, a plant-editing company based in San Diego. In Massachusetts, Yield10 Bioscience is boosting flax’s omega-3 content; another company called Pairwise has an eye on designer fruits and veggies; and a third, named Inari, is planning to tailor seeds right down to growing conditions of individual farms. In February, Benson Hill Biosystems of St. Louis announced that it’s working with scientists in California to engineer high-CBD, low-THC cultivars of cannabis.

      Greenhouses growing gene-edited pot might not be such a crazy idea after all.

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      You Can Help Ben & Jerrys CBD-Infused Ice Cream Become A Reality

      When Will Ben & Jerry’s Release CBD-Infused Ice Cream? You Can Help Make It Happen

      At this point, you have most likely heard a thing or two about cannabidiol, also known as CBD. If you know absolutely nothing about the natural chemical compound, it’s the “non-psychoactive” compound derived from the cannabis plant, and it’s praised for an endless list of health benefits. Most importantly, it can seamlessly be infused with a variety of foods… including ice cream. So, you might be wondering, ” When will Ben & Jerry’s release CBD-infused ice cream?” You’ll be happy to know that it could actually happen soon.

      If you’ve ever had popular Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, you know the brand has a “good vibes only” attitude. Between creative flavors like Phish Food and Half Baked, it’s somewhat surprising they don’t already have any CBD-infused ice cream flavors. But, according to a May 30 press release, they have tentative plans to start making some.

      Yes, you heard that correctly — as long as CBD officially becomes legalized at the federal level, according to the press release, they intend to start using it. Apparently, the FDA currently prohibits adding CBD to food and beverages. However, on May 31, 2019, the FDA set a public hearing on legalizing CBD in food and beverages, and the ice cream brand has commented on the issue, in favor of it happening. So, it definitely sounds like they really hope to get started on that.

      Ben & Jerry’s

      In the press release, Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy said the brand wants to create CBD-infused ice cream for fans of the brand. Just like how they created dairy-free options and pint slices in response to requests, this is something that would cater to the public in Ben & Jerry’s fashion.

      According to the press release, McCarthy said:

      We’re doing this for our fans. We’ve listened and brought them everything from Non-Dairy indulgences to on-the-go portions with our Pint Slices. We aspire to love our fans more than they love us and we want to give them what they’re looking for in a fun, Ben & Jerry’s way.

      In hopes that CBD is legalized on a federal level, Ben & Jerry’s has already started researching sustainable CBD brands from Vermont (where the ice cream is made). According to the press release, sourcing locally is very important to Ben & Jerry’s, in terms of product development.


      Now, let’s get to how can help this become a reality. If you want to be updated on all the latest in regards to the brand’s dedication to legalizing CBD for consumption (and making CBD-infused ice cream), Ben & Jerry’s recommends signing up for updates via the Ben & Jerry’s website. If you want to help voice for support for CBD to be legalized for consumption, you can also contact the FDA during the open comment window through July 2, 2019, according to the press release.


      If you still aren’t entirely sure what CBD is, it’s a compound in the cannabis plant that has psychoactive effects on you when you ingest it, unlike THC, which is the compound in cannabis that has those psychoactive properties. However, according to Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc., CBD, can help you manage your stress, especially on a physiological level. The cannabis compound interacts with something in your body known as the endogenous cannabinoid system, which regulates your central nervous system development and your body’s responses to internal and external stress. So, CBD has the potential to help you cope with stress, and it can also stabilize your mood.


      If you’re interested in getting the effects of CBD through your fave ice cream flavors, you should definitely get cross your fingers that it will become legal at the federal level. However, it is totally up to you to contact the FDA and voice your support. I know I’ll be adding in my two cents during the comment period — my future ice cream sessions depend on it, TBH.

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      Colorado signs bill allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana instead of opioids

      Colorado signed a bill on Thursday which will allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to treat conditions they’ve previously used painkillers for. (weed opiods iStock)

      Colorado is trying to help tamp down the opioid crisis by allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition meriting a painkiller prescription, The Denver Post reported.

      Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 13 on Thursday, and the new law is scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 2, after passing through Colorado’s General Assembly.

      “This will substitute marijuana for an FDA-approved medication — something that’s unregulated for something that’s highly regulated,” Stephanie Stewart, a physician in Colorado, told the news outlet.


      Under Colorado law, medical marijuana can be recommended for patients struggling with cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, PTSD or other chronic disorders that cause severe pain, seizures and nausea. The new law includes all conditions in which opioids could be prescribed.

      The bipartisan legislation is a win for marijuana backers, but it raises concerns with some addiction-centric medical professionals.

      “Our real concern is that a patient would go to a physician with a condition that has a medical treatment with evidence behind it, and then instead of that treatment, they would be recommended marijuana instead,” said Stephanie Stewart, a physician in Colorado.

      Backers of the law say it’s a safer form of treatment that will help limit the opioid crisis, which is currently at epidemic levels in the U.S. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 130 people die after overdosing on opioids.


      “Adding a condition for which a physician could recommend medical marijuana instead of an opioid is a safer pain management tool that will be useful for both our doctors and patients,” said Ashley Weber, executive director of Colorado NORML, a pro-marijuana advocacy group.

      The law applies to residents over and under the age of 18. People under the age of 18 who take medical marijuana must ingest it in an edible form when using it on school grounds or transportation.

      The House voted 47-16 in favor of the bill, with most Democrats and a few Republicans supporting it. The Senate voted 33-2, with only conservative Senators. John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, in opposition.


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      US says immigrants can be denied citizenship over marijuana ties. Even in states where it’s legal

      (CNN)Marijuana possession, production and distribution, even in states where it is legal, will remain a barrier in many cases to immigrants hoping to gain US citizenship, the federal government said.

      “Marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”
      “It’s been something that we have been struggling with in Colorado for a while now,” said Jeff Joseph, an immigration attorney in Denver, where marijuana use is legal. “There’s a number of activities that can be perfectly legal in Colorado that people don’t realize constitute as an immigration violation.”
        Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock sent a letter to US Attorney General William Barr asking for Department of Justice guidance on policies that are “negatively impacting” the legal immigration status for people who work in Colorado’s cannabis industry.
        “Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock said in a statement.
        Two Denver immigrants who had lived in the US for more than 20 years were told by USCIS that they were ineligible for naturalization because of their employment in the cannabis industry, the mayor said.
        One of the immigrants, Oswaldo Barrientos, 30, told CNN in a statement that he thought he “was a shoe-in for citizenship.”
        “I work hard in an industry that offers opportunity and that’s unquestionably legal within the state. For the government to deny my citizenship application because I’m a bad person is devastating,” Barrientos said.
        Barrientos’ attorney, Aaron Elinoff, said this policy announcement is a move by the Trump administration to “quietly and systematically” target the immigrant population.
        Prior to this guidance, immigration field offices around the US handled marijuana in different ways, according to Joseph. “This now seems to instruct [immigration] officers to probe.”
        Joseph said he prefers the transparency of the new guidance, but the unfortunate part is that “people are doing things that are perfectly legal under state law, but will make them permanently ineligible for a green card.”
        According to USCIS, as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the agency won’t grant special considerations to individuals whose marijuana activities may be decriminalized under state or local law.
        “Marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”
        David Leopold, counsel to DHS Watch and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, criticized the policy guidance, calling it “nonsensical” at a time when states continue to liberalize their marijuana laws.
          There have been cases where people have used medical marijuana for a serious injury, left the US, and upon return were challenged by immigration authorities, as if it had been illicit use, Leopold said.
          As states legalize, “noncitizens can really find themselves in a bind,” he said. “USCIS doesn’t have to make it worse. You have a situation where you have an obvious conflict between state and federal law.”

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