What happens when you try all the CBD products you can find?

Would the alleged magic of cannabidiol have an effect on me or is it all snake oils and placebos?

Shortly before I sat down to begin writing this, I squirted a 1 milliliter dropper of full-spectrum hemp extract, also known as CBD oil, under my tongue. It contained according to the bottle 6.25 mg of CBD per dosage, and tasted also per the bottles label of cold-pressed oranges.

I wasnt sure what to expect, if anything. But with the mania around CBD approaching fever pitch, I was curious to know if I, too, could in some way be touched by its allegedly remarkable powers of stress reduction, relaxation, and all-around wellbeing. We live in dire times. Whats the harm in trying to get away from it all without actually having to go anywhere?

I bought the oil a week ago at the 420 Store, which bills itself as New Yorks first luxury, dedicated CBD store. Most of its wares are displayed sparingly on pristine white shelves, and run the gamut from bath salts and skin creams to flavored gummies and tinctures. All contain some amount of CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound (different from THC, the plants main psychoactive compound).

The wide variety of OTC CBD products sampled. Photograph: Cole Wilson

The shop has a self-serious, high-gloss ambience, with a touch of wellness-derived spirituality thrown in, like some hybrid of Sephora and a Burning Man prayer circle. It made me want to laugh, but also made me mad, which is the same reaction I have to most attempts of the wellness industry to commodify and market the myriad stresses that accompany our attempts to exist in the modern world.

The 420 Store opened its doors in June, six months after hemp was removed from the FDAs list of controlled substances. Although there were already plenty of CBD products on the market, this had the effect of ungating a dam; suddenly CBD seemed to be everywhere, from bodega counters to subway ads to shiny Soho storefronts to Walgreens. CBD had effectively become the new pumpkin spice, sprinkled on products high and low and everywhere in-between in an attempt to cash in on its alleged magic.

CBD is purported to provide relief from a host of bodily ills like inflammation, pain and digestive problems to stress and anxiety. As such, the market is now crowded with CBD-infused chocolate bars, beverages, gummies, body lotions, pills, tinctures, face masks, and pain creams. The products are not limited to humans: a reportedly growing number of pet parents now turn to cannabidiol as the latest remedy to treat their pups.

I had read a lot about CBD in preparation for my experiment and had mixed, which is to say highly skeptical, feelings about it. On the one hand, I know plenty of people who have found relief from a host of ailments in both medical cannabis and CBD products. On the other, where opportunity appears, snake oil quickly follows. A 2017 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association compared 84 different CBD products sold online and found that almost 70% of them under- or over-labeled their dosages.

The effect of Wingeds Happiness softgels: I felt nothing (aside from disgust for the companys car salesman-esque messaging). Photograph: Cole Wilson

Dr Jordan Tishler founded and has run the Boston-based medical cannabis practice InhaleMD for six years (which in the cannabis world, makes him one of the old guys, he said). Hes also an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He takes a slightly dim view on the CBD gold rush. Im like, this is a side step; this is foolishness, he said. People are so obsessed with talking about CBD that theyve stopped talking about cannabis. And at the end of the day, cannabis is what helps my patients. CBD is close to useless.

Topicals, Tishler explained, wouldnt do anything to me (Theyre another mythology cannabinoids dont go through your skin, he said). Ingestible products such as vapes and oils might have an impact, but have been known to contain heavy metals like arsenic and mercury. The FDA doesnt regulate cannabis products, and many of them arent subjected to third-party laboratory testing. Tishler recommended buying products only from legitimate dispensaries that require a medical marijuana card, which I didnt have, so I went for the OTC variety.

I started with the topicals: TriBeautys CBD Superfood Mask, Tribe Revives CBD-infused pain cream, TriBeautys CBD eye cream, and Uncle Buds CBD body lotion. All of them smelled nice; the pain cream had a pleasant wintergreen aroma, while the face mask was redolent of pineapple (it doesnt actually include pineapple, though it does include kale, spinach, and green tea). And all of them were, well, creamy; I appreciated their ease of application and lack of discernible oiliness.

Did any of them make me feel anything? No. Of course they didnt; the only thing I felt was the menthol in the Tribe Revive pain cream, which made my arm tingle like Id slathered on Bengay. The amount I was getting from the creams was miniscule, in the ballpark of 1 to 5 mg. The doses that tend to be effective in humans, says Tishler, are 10 to 20 mg per kilogram. The average human is about 70 kg, he says. Thats 700 to 1400 mg of CBD per day. Nobody can get that.


Annoyed but not surprised, I pressed on to ingestibles. I bought the Vitamin Shoppes Ancient Nutritions organic CBD hemp caplets (10 mg) and Wingeds Happiness mood support complex, (15 mg of CBD per soft gel, uniquely formulated for women). From the 420 Store, I bought Wylds blackberry gummies (25 mg per gummy); Grns Fair Trade dark chocolate bar (100 mg per $23.99 bar yes, you read the price correctly); and Toasts cold-pressed orange tincture (250 mg of CBD per one-ounce bottle) the one I took before I started writing this. From TribeTokes, I tried Tribe Tincs full-spectrum CBD tincture (1,500 mg of CBD per one-ounce bottle).

Had I taken them all at once, I would have easily exceeded the 700 mg mark, but the thought of potentially incapacitating myself with CBD was not appealing. I had a job and shit to do. So I proceeded with some vague sense of moderation.

Unlike the lack of effectiveness of the topicals, the ingestibles presented a spectrum of results. On one end were capsules by Winged. One capsules evening primrose oil and good mood complex, it read, may support balanced hormone levels as well as the brains happy neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Get your smile on girl! Instead, I felt nothing (aside from disgust for the companys car salesman-esque messaging) .

Toasts tincture did taste and smell just like oranges, as advertised, but was similarly uneventful. As for the Grn bar, it tasted like any other decent artisan chocolate bar, but the idea of eating the whole thing just to glean some kind of purported CBD effect was unappetizing. So I gave up, unaltered.

Wylds 25 mg gummies seemed to alter my outlook on the day. Photograph: COLE_WILSON/Cole Wilson

Trying to toe the line between Tishlers recommended effective dosage, my need to be a functioning adult, and, at this point, determined to feel something, I took the Tribe Tincs prescribed 50 mg dosage. While I disagree with its claim of flavorlessness to me, it carried a definite note of weedy funk it did produce a noticeable feeling of general wellbeing, a sense that life had somehow become something I didnt need to worry about very much.

I felt my mind stray from thoughts of deadlines, rising sea levels, and the presidents sphincter-like visage to how beautiful my bag of frozen compost looked when I removed it from the freezer. Whether this was because I took it on the weekend or wasnt feeling particularly anxious to begin with, I dont know; theres also the possibility of the (very real) placebo effect. But what I can say is that, for whatever reason, 50 mg of CBD seemed to have a positive effect on me, insofar as it seemed to redirect my mind to a more sunny locale.

Likewise, taking one of Wylds 25 mg gummies seemed to alter my outlook on the day. It helped that the gummies actually taste like blackberries and are thus delicious; they also have a pleasing soft-chewy texture. Not long after taking one, I started to feel somewhat relaxed so relaxed that I literally walked into traffic later that afternoon (thankfully, it was moving slowly, as was I).

For my last adventure in CBD, I decided to go big, and also straight to the source. On a sunny Thursday afternoon, I climbed a flight of stairs to the snug but brightly lit Lower Manhattan office of Tribe Tokes. There I was greeted by Kim Byrnes, the companys cofounder, who proceeded to guide me through a CBD dab. Byrnes, clad in midriff-bearing athleisure wear (shes also a longtime pilates instructor) is an incredibly enthusiastic proponent of both CBD and THC both, she told me, have helped her treat her ulcerative colitis and other ailments. She sounded almost encyclopedic as she talked about the numerous methods of CBD ingestion and their comparative merits.

The Grn CBD chocolate bar costs $23.99. Photograph: COLE_WILSON/Cole Wilson

A dab is a highly concentrated form of CBD, containing about 10-15 mg of CBD. You inhale its vapor through a dab rig, a close cousin to the bong. The result, Byrnes said, is a body high it feels nice and relaxed and calm.

She put a concentrate of 7 Point Naturals CBD Terp Sauce, a mix of CBD crystals and cannabis terpenes (organic compounds) in the rigs nail and heated it up. I sucked the resulting vapor deep into my lungs, and, because Im a rank amateur, scorched my esophagus. But on my second pull, I managed to get light-headed for a minute, and then felt fine.

It was only after leaving the TribeTokes office that I began to understand what Byrnes was talking about. All of the afternoons obstacles seemed to fall away from me, leaving me to walk a clear, gloriously smooth path through the rest of my day. Tourists walking four abreast down the sidewalk? Whatever, I thought. Theyre just enjoying my citys unparalleled beauty. A 15-minute wait for the train home? Not a problem, I thought; more time to watch adorable rats frolic on the tracks.

I felt beatific rather than annoyed by all of the obstacles the city placed in my path. But more than anything, I felt lucky. I am lucky that Im at a point in my life where Im not suffering from aches and pains or even much anxiety, aside from the usual geopolitical-climate-crisis-end-of-days variety. Had I written this story a few months ago, when I was dealing with the aftermath of a terrible relationship and wrenching shoulder and back pain, I might have been much more receptive to the claims being made by the CBD industry. But on this day, I was a contented skeptic.

My head felt clear, my limbs felt loose, and the world rolled out its carpet in front of me, beckoning me to bask in the sunshine of my minds own invention.

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5 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Democratic Debate: The Elizabeth Warren Pile-On

The fourth Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night confirmed what has been evident in the polls for some time: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runner in the race for the party’s nomination.

The other candidates on stage in Westerville, Ohio, treated the senator from Massachusetts as the new favorite, hammering her repeatedly over her evasiveness when confronted with questions about her health care and wealth inequality plans.

Biden, in contrast to the previous debates, often seemed like more of an after-thought. The former vice president still got in his hits against President Donald Trump, but his rivals mostly ignored him.

Here are some key takeaways from the debate.

Welcome to life as a front-runner, Elizabeth Warren.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and businessman Andrew Yang all took shots at Warren.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar got that bandwagon going early when they criticized Warren for not giving a straight answer to a question about whether middle-class taxes would go up under “Medicare for All,” a government-sponsored health care proposal she has backed.

“Your signature is to have a plan for everything, except this,” Buttigieg said. “No plan has been laid out to explain how a multitrillion-dollar hole in this Medicare for All plan that Sen. Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in.”

Klobuchar quickly piled on: “I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but … the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.”

Warren responded by repeating her usual answer when challenged on this point, focusing on the bottom-line effect the plan would have on middle-class families and pledging she wouldn’t support a proposal that raised overall costs for them.

Republicans have also attacked Warren over not being willing to address the question, which she has dismissed as “Republican framing.”

Klobuchar and O’Rourke also went after Warren over her proposal to levy a 2% tax on the super-rich.

“I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth; nobody on this stage wants to protect billionaires,” Klobuchar said.

In a nod to Tom Steyer, the wealthy hedge fund manager who just recently entered the presidential race and was participating in his first debate, Klobuchar wryly added, “Not even the billionaire wants to protect the billionaires.”

O’Rourke joined in by accusing Warren of being “more focused on being punitive or pitting one part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up.”

Yang called out Warren for not addressing the threat automation poses to U.S. workers. That prompted several other candidates to address his signature universal basic income proposal ― perhaps the biggest coup for his campaign so far.

Biden meandered in talking about the Ukraine flap.

Biden didn’t directly answer if it was wrong that during his tenure as vice president, his son Hunter served as a board member for the Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings ― which spurred Trump’s controversial phone call to Ukraine’s president, which in turn could lead to Trump’s impeachment.

“I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything to do with Ukraine. … We always kept everything separate,” Biden said about his son’s work overseas. “There would be no potential conflict. My son made a judgment. I’m proud of the judgment he made … the fact of the matter is this is about Trump’s corruption.”

Hunter Biden acknowledged in an interview with ABC airing Tuesday that it was “poor judgment” on his part to join the venture, and conceded it was likely that his last name helped him professionally.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker actually gave a more succinct answer in defense of Biden, noting the hypocrisy of Trump and Republicans seeking to attempt to make hay of the matter, given the financial conflicts of interest that cloud the Trump administration

“We are literally using Donald Trump’s lies, and the second issue we cover on this stage is elevating a lie and attacking a statesman,” Booker said, referring to Joe Biden.

Buttigieg, Klobuchar made a play for the middle lane.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar may have delivered their best debate performances yet.

Buttigieg, in particular, seemed to put more sustained effort into positioning himself as an alternative for centrists to Biden. He played up his small-town roots by recalling driving past closed factories while growing up in the post-industrial Midwest. The 37-year-old also repeatedly expressed his aversion to Washington elites, calling out “senators” and “congressmen” who have not gotten many things done during his “entire adult life.”

During a conversation on foreign policy and Trump’s recent decision to withdraw troops in Syria, Buttigieg drew applause after he called for the U.S. to stand by its allies.

“The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values,” he said. 

Buttigieg made another nod to more moderate voters when he called out O’Rourke for not giving more details on how the Texan’s proposed mandatory buyback program for assault weapons and a voluntary buyback program for handguns would work.

“I don’t need lessons from you on courage ― political or personal,” Buttigieg, a military veteran, told O’Rourke in one sharp exchange.

Bernie Sanders bounced back.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t look or sound like a guy who had a heart attack two weeks ago. He was as animated as ever, landing sharp blows against Trump and other Democrats on stage.

“I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” said the 78-year-old when asked about his health and age.

After Booker jokingly interjected that Sanders supports medical marijuana, Sanders quipped, “I’m not on it tonight.” The line elicited laughter and applause from the audience. 

But Sanders’ best moment may have been a fast-ball at Biden after the former vice president asserted that he knew how to “get stuff done,” and that he didn’t simply offer plans about how to do so.

“You know what else you got done? You got the disastrous war in Iraq done. You got a bankruptcy bill that’s hurting middle-class Americans all over the country,” Sanders retorted, referring to positions Biden took as a senator from Delaware.

There were some missed opportunities.

Steyer, whose focus is on combating climate change, started strong in the debate’s opening act, saying that “every candidate here is more decent, more coherent and more patriotic than the criminal in the White House.”

That may have been his only good line of the night, however, as the debate hummed along and he barely made his presence felt.

California Sen. Kamala Harris also needed a breakout moment ― similar to the one she enjoyed in the first debate in June ― to reverse her struggling poll numbers. She won applause and good marks from women’s rights groups when she noted that none of the previous encounters had featured any direct questions about reproductive rights, calling the omission “outrageous.”

Ultimately, this debate did feature such a query. But Harris, meanwhile, had nothing that would qualify as a standout remark or exchanges.

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Chicagos Black Leaders Voice Equity Concerns Over New Illinois Marijuana Law

Chicago passed city zoning regulations for Illinois’ new recreational marijuana law, but some of the city’s Black leaders are concerned about the lack of minority-owned business participation.

City Council approved, on a vote of 40 to 10, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed zoning rules Wednesday for where marijuana dispensaries can operate. The council’s Black Caucus previously tried to hold up the vote over concerns that Black residents aren’t represented among the owners of nearly a dozen existing medical marijuana dispensaries who would get a head start in the city when recreational sales begin Jan. 1.

Eleven existing businesses will be allowed to use their current location to sell recreational marijuana in the first year of legalization, according to a plan by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. These same businesses will also be allowed to exclusively open a second recreational site until late spring of 2020, when other new businesses get a chance to bid. All of the selected business owners are white, according to Alderman Jason Ervin, chairman of the 20-member Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus.

“Of these 11 businesses … there is zero Black ownership. Let me repeat this: zero Black ownership of the existing lottery,” Ervin said at a news conference before the council meeting, criticizing the current plan. “Social equity means … ownership. People who look like the folks standing up here having an opportunity for ownership. Not participating as workers.”

Ervin introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would delay the start of recreational sales in Chicago to July 1 so that the council can find more equitable options that boost minority ownership. That proposal was referred to committee.

Alderman Anthony Beale, a Black Caucus member who has been a vocal critic of Lightfoot, said Wednesday he would vote against the mayor’s zoning rules to influence city officials to correct mistakes in the state law.

“When we look at the fact that the Black and brown community has been adversely affected by the cannabis industry ― jails have been filled up, people have been locked up ― and now we are being locked out of benefiting from this particular ordinance,” Beale said. 

“How do we start a game already down 22-0? That is a travesty,” he added. “We have an opportunity to make sure our community can get a piece of the pie. I guarantee you … when these licenses are rolled out, and the first 22 are people not of color, they’re going to have a 12-month head start before we even start trying to level the playing field. How do we do that?”

Alderman David Moore, also a member of the Black Caucus, agreed with Beale, saying that zoning regulation “is our only leverage.”

“This thing only comes once in a lifetime where we can gain some ground finally,” Moore said, recalling memories of friends getting arrested for small amounts of marijuana while growing up.

“There’s so much to look at when you look at the lottery piece. They say that’s equal, but it’s not equitable. You put 44 white balls in and one black ball and what’s the probability that a black ball will get chosen?” he continued. “There is no equity. The zoning is right, but there is no equity.”

Ervin still supported voting in favor of the zoning regulations Wednesday, urging his fellow members of the Black Caucus to prioritize zoning and focus on the issue of equity at a later date.

“I agree with you that there are issues of equity in this conversation, there is no question, there is no doubt I stand 100% on it,” Ervin said. “But what I do not want to see is these places opening at portions of our community or anywhere in the city that the local community, the aldermen and the city of Chicago do not want them to be. … We will deal with the issue of equity.”

Beale and Moore continued to be two of the 10 council members who voted no on the ordinance.

A spokesperson for the Black Caucus did not immediately answer questions from HuffPost about voting in favor of the zoning regulations despite the lack of minority ownership, as well as what the caucus thinks is the likelihood that the measure introduced Wednesday will pass.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been criticized over the zoning regulations connected to new recreational marijuana law.

Lightfoot, who was at the council meeting, stressed that concerns about giving Black business owners a fair chance at recreational sales should be taken up with the state, not the city. The mayor said Chicago has very limited movement under Illinois’ recreational marijuana law when it comes to sales and that the main channel the city can control is through zoning rules. Lightfoot’s zoning plan splits the city into seven zones and excludes part of the downtown Loop area.

“I will be your partner in joining and addressing equity issues where they can be addressed, which is in Springfield,” she told the council Wednesday, referring to the state capital. Lightfoot has been under pressure to avoid a delay so that the city could get the much-needed revenue from marijuana sales to help fix Chicago’s debt.

The Black Caucus said it is willing to work with Lightfoot and state lawmakers to amend the law in favor of social equity and boosting minority-owned businesses, according to CBS Chicago.

“In the end, we want to see people that look like us in this business profit from it,” Ervin said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill in June legalizing the possession and sale of recreational marijuana, making Illinois the first state to pass a measure on comprehensive legal pot sales through its legislature rather than as a ballot initiative. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2014.

The law was marketed as equity-focused, with a social equity program meant to help small minority-owned businesses enter the industry through grants and loans, as well as a program that puts a portion of the industry’s revenue back into communities that were disproportionately affected by the drug war. The law also includes expunging marijuana convictions for up to 770,000 cases.

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Bernie Sanders jokes he didn’t use medical marijuana before tonight’s debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cracked a joke during Tuesdays 2020 Democratic debate that he didnt use medical marijuana before getting on the stage after being asked about his health.

Sanders, who recently suffered a heart attack, was asked by a moderator about his health as part of a larger discussion about the age of a potential president.

The Vermont senator quickly tried to assure that he was in good health. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) interjected, noting that Sanders was in favor of medical marijuana use.

In response, Sanders joked that he was not on it tonight.

Heres the full exchange:

Im healthy, Im feeling great, Sanders said in response to the question about a presidents age.

Senator Sanders is in favor of medical marijuana, I want to make sure thats clear as well, Booker said.

Thats true. Im not on it tonight, Sanders said, smiling.

The response from Sanders drew applause and laughter from the audience at the debate.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta on medical marijuana: We are in an age of wisdom, but also an age of foolishness

(CNN)When we released “Weed” in 2013, few people had ever heard of cannabidiol, or CBD. Now, two-thirds of Americans are familiar with the compound, and 1 in 7 have tried it. Most of the country, 93%, are in favor of medical marijuana and hemp-derived CBD itself, which has less than 0.3% THC, has been legalized in every state.

It’s not just public perception. The science over the last six years has grown by leaps and bounds, as well. Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil, went through clinical trials and is being prescribed for thousands of patients with seizures. The founder of GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Epidiolex, told me they are now developing cannabis medications for everything from autism to anxiety.
The lives of characters we introduced you to in “Weed” have completely changed, as well. The Stanley brothers of Colorado — who literally bet the farm on CBD and couldn’t even afford a reliable car six years ago — now grow CBD on 800 acres in three states and have a marijuana empire worth an estimated $2 billion.
And Charlotte, sweet Charlotte Figi. Soon after birth, she started having seizures. By age 3, she was having 300 seizures a week, despite having tried more than half a dozen medications. Her mother, Paige, worried her daughter would stop breathing one day or go into cardiac arrest. Charlotte was not expected to live past her 8th birthday. Today, she’s 12, and has only two or three seizures a month, despite being off all of her other seizure medications. The only thing she takes is a CBD oil, called Charlotte’s Web. She represents countless patients who are alive today because of this plant, and this plant alone.
    For many in the medical marijuana community, these last few years have been the realization of a dream they never really believed was possible. But, there is a funny thing about dreams. As beautiful as they are, they are often fragile and ready to tear at the seams.
    Here is where the cannabis story took an awkward, ill-conceived and sometimes ugly turn.

    A bold promise, hijacked

    Last year, in a single moment, the legislation around CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, changed. With the passage of the Farm Bill, hemp, defined as any cannabis plant with 0.3% THC or less, became legal to grow, sell, and consume. For the cannabis community, it was like suddenly drinking from a fire hose in the middle of a drought. One day, it was taboo wrapped in decades of stigma, and now it is sold at the corner store.
    There are CBD-infused oils, mints, cheeseburgers, vitamin waters, shampoos and even sportswear. Most of this stuff couldn’t possibly offer the human body any benefit. Without the respect of being treated like the medicine it is, or reasonable regulation when it is purchased as a supplement, CBD has been hijacked by unscrupulous actors peddling crooked, corrupt and contaminated products. They’re making a quick buck and disappearing into the ether without a trace.
    It was really discouraging to see the results of a recent study in the medical journal JAMA where researchers analyzed 84 CBD products from 31 companies and found 69% were mislabeled. Some of the products had no CBD at all, some had too much CBD, some too much THC.
    Others studies showed that some CBD products contained dangerous synthetics that have been responsible for outbreaks of illness all over the country. The legitimate vendors of CBD, who took the time to ensure consistency, safety and quality, are now sadly lumped together with the dishonest and dodgy ones, leaving the consumer confused about where to turn.
    The general attitude we have long heard from CBD consumers is they think the product “might help, can’t hurt, why not.” But, when you can’t even count on the authenticity or safety of the product you are buying, that is no longer the case.
    In our latest investigation, “Weed 5: The CBD Craze,” we take you on board the cannabis rocket ship, that shot us from a barren wasteland of prohibition to the Wild West of the CBD craze, and we reveal exactly how we got here. We also provide a roadmap to help you navigate the landscape of CBD, including understanding how to read a “certificate of analysis” and determining what is legal and what isn’t.

    A story of facts, not faith

    With the release of my first “Weed” documentary and op-ed in 2013, some say I became an advocate for medical marijuana. At first I recoiled. To me and my journalist friends and colleagues, “advocacy” can be a dirty word. No doubt, it is sometimes necessary, to champion causes that would otherwise get little attention. To some, however, advocacy implies a certain lack of objectivity, a blind faith. Is that what happened with “Weed”?
    There’s one thing I can’t stress enough: The core story of cannabis has never required me or anyone else to follow blindly. With medical marijuana, you aren’t asked to sacrifice your objectivity or your skepticism. You too will discover it if you diligently study the evidence from all over the world, spend days in the lab to really understand the cannabis molecules — and visit patients whose lives truly depend on it.
    The real story of cannabis has always been rooted in facts, not faith.
    With the series of “Weed,” films, I wanted to shine a light on what would have been obvious, if people had taken the time to look. Echo chambers exist, even in the world of science. I wanted to show you that these chambers can grow bigger and louder with each generation that neglects to challenge them. For too long, the real story of cannabis was drowned out in those echo chambers. Marijuana was preordained as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. My team and I wanted you to hear the other side, the voices that had been drowned out by decades of this noise.

    Let science lead the way

    Over the last six years, I have continued to read constantly, discuss the latest scientific developments with researchers and spend hours with patients to really understand their experience with cannabis as a medication. Through it all, however, there has been something else nagging at me.
    I realized that CBD has become such a convenient political narrative, so easy to rally behind. Maybe too easy.

      Your brain on marijuana

    Indeed, CBD alone doesn’t make you high. You don’t have to smoke it. And the people it has helped the most are little kids like Charlotte. But that was never supposed to be the entire story. After all, “Weed” wasn’t just about CBD, it was about weed, the entire cannabis plant, comprised of hundreds of potentially therapeutic ingredients. And yes, one of those is THC, which to this day remains demonized with the rest of the cannabis plant as a federally illegal (Schedule 1) substance, even though it too has shown promise as an effective medicine.
    We are in an age of wisdom, but also an age of foolishness. We have made great strides with medical marijuana, but we’ve also repeated some of the same mistakes that led cannabis to be vilified and misunderstood in the first place. Hype and echo chambers are never a friend to science or clear-eyed thinking.
      Make no mistake: Cannabis is a medicine. Over the last six years, through countless articles and essays, and now five documentary films, my team and I have made that case and we have provided the proof. At times, it can heal when nothing else can. Denying people this substance represents a moral issue just as much as a medical one.

      Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

      I have always let science and facts lead the way. That isn’t advocacy; that is speaking truth to power. But yes, when you are certain of the evidence and people’s lives depend on it, then shout it from the rooftops, trumpet it loudly in medical conferences and make sure the world knows. If being called an advocate means you took the time to faithfully learn the issues, allowed yourself to change and even admit where you were wrong, then I will proudly own the title and honorably wear the badge.

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      Vaping-related deaths in United States rise to 17

      (CNN)Alabama on Wednesday announced the state’s first death due to lung disease associated with vaping — bringing the nationwide total of confirmed deaths to 17.

      The Alabama Department of Public Health said the death was an adult man in the eastern part of the state.
      “While this current outbreak is being investigated, the safest option is to refrain from using any e-cigarette or vape product,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a statement Wednesday.
        The Virginia death, an adult from the state’s southwest region, was initially reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, on September 26. The New Jersey death, an adult from the northern part of the state, was reported to its health department in August.
        “I am deeply saddened to announce the first death of a Virginia resident related to this outbreak,” Virginia’s state health commissioner, Dr. M. Norman Oliver, said in a statement on Tuesday.
        Fourteen other deaths have been identified nationwide as part of the multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping: two in California, two in Kansas, two in Oregon, and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nebraska.
        The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that the agency is aware of 805 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use in 46 states and the US Virgin Islands.

        Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

          A specific cause of the nationwide outbreak remains unknown, but health officials are zeroing in on potential clues — including the prevalence of THC-containing products among cases.
          New Jersey’s health department noted that, “to date, there have been no reports of serious lung illness associated with products sold in dispensaries permitted by the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program.”

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          Beto O’Rourke Details His Plan To Legalize Marijuana In The U.S.

          Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke announced a broad plan Thursday for legalizing marijuana nationwide and repairing some of the injustices the so-called war on drugs has wrought in Black and brown communities.

          The Democratic Party has increasingly moved toward a consensus that Congress should legalize weed. But O’Rourke’s marijuana plan, the most detailed one yet issued by a 2020 candidate, goes further, listing a spate of demands aimed at correcting a century’s worth of prohibition-driven injustices. 

          “We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” O’Rourke said in a news release. “These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization.” 

          The former El Paso congressman’s plan would grant clemency to people currently in prison for marijuana possession and would expunge the records of those with previous possession convictions. He would also regulate marijuana much like alcohol, limiting the drug’s sale to adults and prohibiting smoking in public spaces.

          O’Rourke is also calling for a federal tax on the marijuana industry, which would be used to fund a monthly “drug war justice grant” to give people formerly incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses. His plan would require that the majority of licenses for marijuana businesses go to minority-owned shops and people with previous weed convictions, and would waive licensing fees for low-income people with such convictions.

          Black people across the nation were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, according to a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union ― despite data that suggested the groups use the drug at about the same rate.

          All of the leading Democratic candidates for president have come out in support of federal marijuana legalization, except former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has stopped short of nationwide legalization, having said in the past that the issue should be left up to states. (When HuffPost reached out to Biden’s team for more clarity on Thursday, it said Biden would not be “going beyond” his existing criminal justice plan, which calls for legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing the use of recreational marijuana, as well as expunging prior marijuana-related convictions.) 

          O’Rourke has questioned the logic guiding the drug war for years, penning a resolution in 2009 as an El Paso city councilman calling for a debate on whether to legalize drugs. 

          In 2011, he co-wrote a book with fellow El Paso activist Susie Byrd titled “Dealing Death and Drugs… An Argument for Ending the Prohibition of Marijuana.” They argued that marijuana prohibition fueled the violence that had turned their Mexican sister city of Ciudad Juárez into one of the world’s most violent while simultaneously driving mass incarceration in the United States. 

          O’Rourke, who served on the House Veterans Committee as a congressman, has also argued that the federal government should make marijuana available to combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

          Other candidates have also focused their support for legalization on seeking justice for people incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses during the U.S. government’s war on drugs. 

          When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he’d support legalizing weed as a presidential candidate in 2015 ― becoming the first major-party candidate for president to do so ― he lamented the “many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses.” And earlier this year, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said at a forum in Texas that young men of color who’d been jailed under marijuana charges “should be first in line” to get jobs in the growing weed industry.  

          Later Thursday morning, O’Rourke ― who has been campaigning in California ― was expected to attend a roundtable with community leaders in Oakland about equity and justice in the marijuana industry. The event was to be held at Blunts and Moore, a marijuana dispensary that opened as part of the city’s equity permit program, which grants permits for marijuana sales to people with previous weed-related convictions or those who have lived for at least a decade in a neighborhood with disproportionate weed-related arrests.

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          Start your Monday smart: Assault weapons, United Nations, Emmys, whistleblower, ‘SNL’

          (CNN)Here’s what you need to know toStart Your Week Smart.

          (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. You give us five minutes, and we give you five things you must know for your weekday, plus a Sunday edition to get your week started smart. Sign up here.)


            • The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards arrives. Will “Game of Thrones” rule, or could the “Bodyguard,” “Better Call Saul” or “Killing Eve” thwart its dominance? Review nominees in major categories, then tune in at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

              ‘Game of Thrones’ leading the way in Emmy nominations

            • A lot more than done-me-wrong songs. Ken Burns’ new epic, “Country Music,” traces the American mainstay from its birth in the 1920s. The latest installments of the eight-part, 16-hour series air nightly through Wednesday at 8 ET on PBS.

              Nashville is the hot new place for bachelorette parties

            • The Rugby World Cup is in full scrum. New Zealand returns to defend its back-to-back titles against 19 teams, including a US squad (though event host Japan may already be distracted by Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics). The final is November 2. Here’s how to watch.

              Rugby players advised to cover tattoos in Japan


            • The world comes to New York. The United Nations General Assembly convenes this week, kicking off with a climate summit. President Trump is expected to speak Tuesday ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who’s still awash in Brexit woes. Also on the week’s docket are recent developments in Iran, Venezuela and Israel.

              On GPS: Are Saudi Arabia and Iran on the brink of war?

            • Ex-Dallas officer’s trial starts. Amber Guyger is due to go on trial for the murder of Botham Jean. Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she went into what she says she thought was her apartment and fatally shot Jean, an unarmed black man, in his own home. Guyger was fired shortly after the incident.

              Police officer indicted in Botham Jean’s death

            • Fall into fall. The season of pumpkin spice and endless leaf-bagging begins around 4 a.m. ET.
            • Happy birthday to The Boss. Bruce Springsteen turns 70.

              How Springsteen OK’d ‘Blinded By The Light’


            • NTSB reviews fatal Massachusetts fires. A year after a series of fires and explosions rocked cities north of Boston, the National Transportation Safety Board is due to meet to determine what caused the blasts. A teenager was killed and others were hurt when more than 60 suspected gas fires broke out, forcing thousands to evacuate.

              Several suspected gas explosions caused fires in Massachusetts

            • 1st US cannabis café opens. You’ve heard of wine pairings; how about weed pairings? Lowell Café is set to open near Los Angeles, aiming to reduce the stigma around marijuana.

              Possible cannabis plants found at state Capitol building

            • 1st down, Congress! This is no sports metaphor. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle team up with ex-NFL players to face off against the US Capitol Police in the 10th annual charity football game.

              Sights and sounds from the congressional game


            • ‘Military-style assault weapons’ up for debate. The House Judiciary Committee is due to hold a hearing on “military-style assault weapons,” which some Democrats want to ban. The firearms have been used in mass attacks in Las VegasEl Paso, Texas, and elsewhere. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke highlighted the issue at a recent debate, saying, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” 

              Beto O’Rourke: We should stop selling weapons of war


            • Whistleblower complaint takes center stage. The acting director of national intelligence has agreed to testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee. Joseph Maguire has blocked the panel from seeing a whistleblower complaint about communications between President Trump and a foreign leader.

              Cooper breaks down whistleblower complaint revelations

            • Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ marks 50 years. The last album recorded by the Fab Four was released a half-century ago. Fans last month flocked to the London street crossing featured on the record’s cover.

              50th anniversary edition of ‘Abbey Road’


            • Racing returns to beleaguered Santa Anita. The autumn meet is scheduled to open at the California race course where 31 horses have died since December. Investigations are underway and stricter rules have been implemented following the deaths.

              Horse trainers and track investigated after Santa Anita deaths


              • A memorial service honors a teen killed in a brawl. Mourners are due to gather to honor Khaseen Morris, the 16-year-old student who was attacked and killed in New York as a group of teens looked on, some recording the assault on their phones but none stepping in to help.

                Teen fatally stabbed while onlookers took video

              • ‘Saturday Night Live’ opens another season. The comedy classic has run into some controversy in the run-up to its 45th season. Woody Harrelson will try to forge ahead when he hosts the premiere with musical guest Billie Eilish. Tune in at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

                Comedian fired from ‘SNL’ for making bigoted comments

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              Ken Burns’ new documentary ‘Country Music’ is essential viewing

              (CNN)We’re divided by culture as much as politics. The roots of red state vs. blue state tribalism reflect the different ways we live in rural and urban America. But while these divides run deep, they are also simplistic stereotypes that are reinforced by ignorance and insults.

              Country music comes from the heart of rural America. But it is both a cruel and stupid mistake to dismiss it as hillbilly music. It is a cross-pollination of different traditions that has evolved over more than a century. It’s the sound of Saturday night and Sunday morning, a music of love and loss. And like jazz, the subject of an earlier series from Burns, country music is an authentic American art form.
              The series is arguably the best documentary series Burns has made since his initial epics on the Civil War and baseball. Burns weaves a coherent story from disparate parts, using iconic characters like Hank Williams, the self-destructive “Hillbilly Shakespeare,” and Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” who managed to be both a traditionalist and counter-culture icon, as narrative anchors.
                But it’s the interweaving stories that make the series an eye-opening journey. If you’re only an occasional listener of country music or someone who dismisses the genre entirely, you’ll be fascinated to hear the hardscrabble origin stories of early stars like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. All American music is a cross-cultural gumbo, but you might still be surprised to learn about the black musical influences on country’s earliest evolutions.
                If that seems too Sepia-toned, there are lessons about the power of authenticity in art and life to be taken from Willie Nelson, who ditched the star-making assembly line of Nashville for Austin, where he stirred up a new scene and a popular subgenre, Outlaw Country. There is a slice of redemption in the racism that Charlie Pride, one of the few black country stars, confronts and then transcends through the power of his voice and unlikely advocates at the Grand Ole Opry.
                Dolly Parton is a study in self-creation, overcoming snickers and doubts to become an iconic singer songwriter. Dolly not only got the joke, but flipped it on her critics when she said, “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb. And I’m not blonde either.”
                Country music is about relationships and so it’s fitting that the series includes the great love story between Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, the father-daughter relationship between Johnny and Rosanne Cash and the doomed love of George Jones and Tammy Wynette that produced enduring songs out of the wreckage.
                Ultimately, the music is the medium. And if you think you know country music through a passing acquaintance with honky-tonk bars and whatever comes up on the radio during long drives, you’ll quickly realize what you’ve been missing.
                The defiant dirge of Waylon Jennings “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is the essence of punk rock. Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and even Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA” are proto-feminist anthems. Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Townes Van Zandt’s much-covered “Pancho and Lefty” are pure poetry. Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s reimagining of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” fuse gospel and country into the equivalent of four-minute symphonies with their precision and ambition.
                Country music’s reputation as a reactionary soundtrack doesn’t hold up on close scrutiny either. Sure, anthems like Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” may have resonated with crewcut audiences with lyrics like “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” or “We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street.” But they did not represent the artists’ own reality: the ex-con later expressed his regret for writing the song, and turned to weed and grew medical marijuana in California in his later life. Bluegrass musicians joined rockers in playing Vietnam war protests, while the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s intergenerational country sessions were a metaphor for healing from the late 60s.
                But as always, it was Johnny Cash who walked the line most effectively, opposing Vietnam while playing for the troops overseas, bringing Bob Dylan to a country audience and accepting an invitation to the White House to play for Richard Nixon while rejecting his request that he perform a cynical conservative song called “Welfare Cadillac.”
                Instead, Cash played his tune “What is Truth” which honored the rebellious questioning of the younger generation against the conservative confines of their parents. The President had to accept the defiance with a grin plastered across his face.
                As with any distillation of a major theme in American life, there will be debates and quibbles as well as questions of inclusion. With hundreds of interviews, the story stops at the turn of the century and brushes over some of my personal favorites like Lyle Lovett. But then part of the purpose of a documentary like this is to establish the tributaries of tradition that get expanded and combined when a new crop of American originals like Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves or Sturgill Simpson come along.
                There will be other inevitable complaints from the self-appointed culture police. A new version of looking down at country music as being the music of poor white folks is to dismiss it as a soundtrack to white privilege. Among other things, this willfully ignores the painful and relatable role of class in American life, choosing to focus primarily on the wound of race, which has been a core theme of Burns’ work.
                That’s why I was gratified to see a tweet by none other than Chuck D of Public Enemy calling the documentary “amazing” and saying “for those MCs and fanatics in hip-hop that relish the power of lyrics…this is a can’t miss in the knowledge of music.”

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                  And that’s the thing: for all the interesting differences and dramatic details of various musical traditions in America, we’re all part of the broader song. Understanding requires empathy. And by reaching out beyond our respective divides we not only bridge differences, we create something new and vibrant, mirroring the creative leaps that characterize American music.
                  That’s the American alchemy that Ken Burns brings alive in this latest chapter of his American epic. He is one of our greatest historians, illuminating the past and present while guiding us to a shared future.

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                  Marijuana Business Leaders Meet With Beto ORourke On His Legalization Plan

                  OAKLAND, Calif. ― Hours after Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled a sweeping plan to legalize marijuana and repair the racist injustices of the war on drugs, weed industry leaders met with him here on Thursday to discuss the merits and limits of such proposals.

                  The former Texas congressman hosted a roundtable gathering with about a dozen participants ― mostly people of color ― that included business owners, local officials and community organizers. The discussion touched upon the challenges in creating a legalized marijuana industry nationwide while avoiding America’s ongoing history of racism and the injustices of the capitalist system.

                  “When [weed is legal] at the federal level, and the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries come in, where is the protection for the small businesses and the people of color?” asked Phae Moore, co-founder of Blunts and Moore, an Oakland dispensary where the event was held. 

                  The shop was the first “social equity” dispensary to open as part of a city program that grants permits to people with previous weed-related convictions or from neighborhoods with disproportionate arrests. 

                  Moore expressed concern about the federal taxes O’Rourke’s plan would impose on the marijuana industry, which she said is already heavily taxed. Businesses like hers would have to pass on those extra costs to consumers, she said, at the risk of losing out to competitors in the ongoing illicit market. 

                  “You’re overtaxing and (customers) can get it at a better rate on the street,” she said, as a marijuana plant glowed green on a screen behind her on a wall.  

                  O’Rourke’s detailed legalization proposal includes expunging the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana possession, as well as requiring the majority of licenses for marijuana businesses go to minority-owned shops and people with previous weed convictions. 

                  Black people across the nation were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, according to a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union ― this despite data that suggested the groups use the drug at about the same rate.

                  O’Rourke kicked off the conversation at the roundtable by saying he was “here to listen.”

                  “As a white guy it was never really a fear of mine that I’d be stopped or arrested for marijuana,” O’Rourke said. “How do we ensure those that are the most harmed by the war on drugs have the greatest chance to succeed moving forward? And I want your guidance and help doing that.”

                  Beto O’Rourke (fourth from right) listens at the roundtable discussion he held Thursday in Oakland, California on issues surrounding his plan to legalize marijuana nationwide.

                  All of the leading Democratic presidential candidates support federal marijuana legalization except for former Vice President Joe Biden, who has stopped short of backing such a move for recreational use. He has instead called for legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing the use of marijuana, as well as expunging prior marijuana-related convictions.

                  Leaders in the room in Oakland discussed how legalization in the weed industry must be tied to lifting up the communities surrounding it, particularly those most harmed by criminalization.

                  “The bread and butter comes from community ― how can you make millions, and not give that back into community? And not through beautification of parks,” said Christine De La Rosa, co-founder of the People’s Dispensary, which is 100% LGBTQ-owned and operates in Oakland and Portland, Oregon. Her company dedicates 10% of profits to a rapid response fund that helps finance donations to homeless neighbors and “micro-investments” in business ideas by community members who may not have access to venture capital or other funding, she said.

                  Others brought up the challenges of having policies with good intentions that can go awry when applied in practice.

                  Lanese Martin, co-founder of the Hood Incubator, pointed to Oakland’s own equity program that gives priority for permits to marijuana businesses that “incubate” applicants with previous convictions ― meaning they provide them with three years’ free rent on at least 1,000 square feet of space to develop their outlets. But then some applicants need more than just space.

                  “Growing up in communities that have been underserved ― why would they have the skillset now to run a company?” Martin said. “Most businesses are handing over the space so they can get through the hoops, then you have ‘equity’ people who have no ability to run a business.”

                  Many of the speakers insisted on the importance of giving a strong voice on federal policies toward the marijuana industry to people from the communities most affected by decades-long punitive drug policies.

                  “How do we create development without displacement?” asked Oakland City Council member Loren Taylor. “And make sure those anchored here are benefiting from improvement?” 

                  O’Rourke ended the session by saying he wanted to ensure his legalization proposal was “informed by people who have lived this.” He pointed to Alphonso Blunt, who now co-owns the Blunts and Moore dispensary but in 2004 was among the many black men who’d been arrested for selling weed. 

                  “These challenges are systemic, endemic, foundational ― we can’t look at just one industry apart from the rest of the country,” O’Rourke said. “It makes the solutions that much more challenging but it’s more honest … I certainly have not figured all this out, but I feel many steps closer thanks to what you shared today.” 

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