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Strong Ass’n Between Perceived Risk, Availability & Cannabis Use

Study Shows Strong Association Between Perceived Risk, Availability and Past-Year Cannabis Use
News Wise 15 July 2021
Individuals who perceived cannabis as both low-risk and available were 22 times more likely to have used cannabis in the past year than those perceiving cannabis as both high-risk and unavailable.

Combined perceptions of the risk and availability of cannabis influence the risk of cannabis use more than perceived risk and perceived availability alone, according to a new study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Researchers observed that those who perceived cannabis as low-risk and available were more likely to report using the drug in the past year and almost daily compared to those individuals who perceived cannabis as high-risk and unavailable. This is the first study to consider the joint effects of perceived risk and perceived availability. The results are published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Our study described the evolution of joint perceptions of cannabis risk and availability from 2002-2018 and estimated the relationship between combined perceptions and past-year cannabis use, frequent use, and cannabis use disorder,” said Natalie Levy, MPH, doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, and first author. “Studying perceived risk and availability in conjunction revealed more nuanced patterns than considering each perception in isolation..”

Using data on 949,285 participants from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2002-2018, researchers observed that the prevalence of perceiving cannabis use as low-risk doubled over this period while the prevalence of perceiving cannabis as available increased only marginally. When looking at joint categories of perceived risk and perceived availability, they found that prevalence of perceiving cannabis as both low-risk and available increased, from 17 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2018 while the proportion of the population perceiving cannabis as high-risk and available or high-risk and unavailable declined. By 2018, a larger proportion of the population perceived marijuana as low-risk and available (36 percent) than both high-risk and available and high-risk and unavailable, at 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Individuals who perceived cannabis as low-risk were six times more likely to have used cannabis in the past-year than individuals who perceived the drug as high-risk. Similarly, individuals who perceived cannabis as available were five times more likely to have used cannabis in the past year than individuals who perceived it as unavailable. However, individuals who perceived marijuana as both low-risk and available were 22 times more likely to have used the drug in the past year than those who perceived cannabis as high-risk and unavailable.

In 2018, most individuals who reported no past-year cannabis use perceived cannabis as high-risk, whether or not they distinguished between its availability or non-availability. In contrast, the majority of individuals who used cannabis in the past year perceived the drug as low-risk and available and this perception rose to even higher levels among those reporting frequent use.

AI Show: Ep 14 – “Has cannabis gone wild in Colorado?”

Cannabis in Colorado has been legal for medical use since 2000 and for recreational use since late 2012. The public were told that this would reduce the harms associated with cannabis use and create social benefits – particularly for communities of colour.

Former Democrat US Attorney Bob Troyer says it has been a disaster and that if anything, things have gotten worse since legalisation.

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Cannabis intoxication in kids rise after Canada legalisation – study

Cannabis intoxication and rates of accidental ingestion in young children rise after legalization, new study finds
Medical Xpress 30 June 2021
Significantly higher rates of child intensive care admissions for unintentional cannabis poisonings have been seen following legalization of the drug in Canada.

Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), based in Toronto, found a four-fold increase in unintentional poisonings in children under the age of 12 and a three-fold increase in intensive care admissions for severe cannabis poisoning in the first two years following .

However, the overall number of visits per month for cannabis intoxications to the SickKids Emergency Department (ED) remained consistent when comparing the pre- and post-legalization periods. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology.

Led by Dr. Yaron Finkelstein, Staff Physician, Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at SickKids, the study compared cannabis-related ED visits, hospitalizations and  (ICU) admissions at SickKids during pre- and post-legalization periods to analyze the unintentional impacts of the legislation.

“While uncommon in adults, cannabis intoxication can have significant negative impacts on young children including behavioural changes, seizures, respiratory depression, problems with coordination and balance, and even coma. As different formulations of cannabis continue to be legalized, it is important for everyone who has cannabis in their home, to be aware of the potential harms to children and ensure  are safely stored,” notes Finkelstein, Senior Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences at SickKids.

Measuring admissions for cannabis intoxication to SickKids over a 12-year period, from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2019, the study identified that a higher proportion of children were admitted to the ICU following legalization (13.6% vs. 4.7%, respectively).

The study determined that the increases in severe intoxications from cannabis were primarily due to exposure of young children to , which have become increasingly accessible and popular. Edible cannabis products are both highly concentrated and visually attractive to young children—leading to ingestion as the most consequential route of paediatric exposures. Inconsistencies and difficulties in determining the exact formulation and potency of the edible ingested can also make it challenging for health-care providers to anticipate the severity and length of the effects of cannabis exposure.

Mysterious vomiting illness from cannabis use (US)

Mysterious vomiting illness from cannabis use emerges in US hospitals
NewsHub 12 July 2021
A mysterious vomiting illness is becoming increasingly prevalent in US hospitals as a result of potent cannabis usage among teenagers.

The illness, where patients uncontrollably vomit and scream at the same time, is officially called ‘cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome’ but has been dubbed ‘scromiting’.

Twenty-year-old Bo Gribbon told NBC News he experienced the illness in 2018 and began vomiting multiple times an hour.

“It felt like Edwards Scissorhands was trying to grab my intestines and pull them out,” he said.

Over nine months the then-17-year-old visited the emergency department 11 times for the same issue and the doctor told him it was likely a side effect from cannabis use.

“The only thing that convinced me was that it stopped when I stopped smoking,” Gribbon said.

NBC reported the illness is now becoming more prevalent in the United States as states legalise cannabis and as it becomes more potent.

LA police make record $1.6b black market cannabis bust

Los Angeles police make record $1.6b black market cannabis bust
ABC News 7 July 2021
Los Angeles police have made the largest illegal marijuana seizure in the county’s history, netting 373,000 plants that would ultimately have been worth about $US1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) on the street.

But the record bust eradicated only a fraction of the illicit “grows” in the Southern California high desert.

The problem is wide-ranging in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, officials said, and has grown substantially during the coronavirus pandemic.

California assemblyman Tom Lackey said the weed was threatening the environment, public health and public safety.

“What we have, ladies and gentlemen, is an illicit weed-demic,” he said.

“It’s terrible.”

Armed cartel members run massive illegal grows, some spanning dozens of greenhouses, that compete with the state’s legal marijuana industry.

Multiple law enforcement agencies carried out a 10-day operation in the Antelope Valley last month that resulted in 131 arrests and the seizure of nearly 15 tonnes of harvested marijuana plants with a street value of $US1.2 billion.

Yet the undertaking only demolished 205 illegal grows out of the 500 seen by aerial surveillance in the area.

The “Colorado Experiment”: Legalized Marijuana’s Impact in Colorado

Hudson Institute 28 June 2021
The state of Colorado has been offered up by many policy makers as a test case regarding the wisdom of drug legalization. Colorado has permitted “medical” marijuana sales since 2009, and it allowed for outright commercialization (“recreational use”), as permitted by the Obama administration, since 2014.

Drug legalization advocates have consistently invited the nation, particularly states considering following the Colorado model, to view the state as a real-world “experiment,” demonstrating the benefits or harms of legalized drugs. But beyond the first blush of enthusiasm claiming that “the sky hasn’t fallen” as a result of unhindered access to marijuana, there have been few media accounts citing actual data about how Colorado is faring.

The road is rockier than many believe. In fact, given the preponderance of glowing testimonials from advocates, it may come as a surprise that this month, a quiet resistance to legalization burst into the open. The event was the passage of state bill H 1317, which applies limits to the state’s medical marijuana industry. Passing with strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of the state legislature, the bill was recently signed into law.

Purchases of high-potency marijuana will now be limited (down to only a fifth of the current level). The bill requires warning labels, real-time monitoring of sales, and stiffened medical recommendations from physicians. It also calls for the Colorado School of Public Health to research the mental and physical health effects of the drug.

It should be clear that not all is well in the relationship between Colorado citizens and the state marijuana industry, in spite of the money the marijuana lobby has invested in protecting itself politically among state power brokers.

This month’s legislative news was accompanied by an account in the Denver Post of yet another black market and money-laundering operation being taken down. The operation involved millions of dollars of illegal marijuana and twenty-one individuals funneling the money to China. Mexican and Colombian cartels, as well as gangs from Cuba and Russia, have also been implicated in multiple similar transnational criminal schemes in Colorado and nationwide.

According to Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado, a 2020 law enforcement intelligence report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficing Area ( HIDTA ), there were 278 similar black market cases in 2019 involving the seizure of 7.5 tons of marijuana and over 15,000 marijuana edibles, destined for 29 US states.

Advocates for legalization were adamant that a major purpose was to create a regulated market that would drive out the criminal element and end the violence that drives the black market. It fact, the exact opposite has happened, with a thriving black market still dominating the trade, as has happened everywhere states have legalized marijuana, from California to Illinois.

It is important to remember that legalization advocates believed that their policy prescriptions would do more than just avoid a debacle. Instead, they argued that legalized marijuana would improve the metrics that mattered. Such metrics included preventing youth access and alleviating purported injustices (such as racial disparities in arrests, even though the latest data show that more Black and Hispanic people are being arrested today than before legalization). Further, it was supposed to end corruption, which has actually spread more widely after legalization.

The primary justification for legal marijuana was to provide a financial boon for states, through taxation revenue that could be applied to societal needs like drug treatment or education. Advocates further assured doubters that a legal, regulated regime of drug access would make society safer by driving out the criminal element, thereby reducing violence and illegal drugs.

By now, however, we have enough accumulated data in 2020 to see the actual effects of this experiment in drug policy. And they are not comforting. Not only did the promised benefits, both financial and on behalf of public safety, not come to pass, but in multiples areas of daily life the metrics have worsened.

Moreover, the data from Colorado have been accompanied by several years of greater medical science awareness of the health risks from marijuana exposure. Easier access, greater prevalence, higher psychoactive potency from increased THC, a continued criminal element, and more intensive daily use have all occurred since the experiment began. Maybe the sky hasn’t fallen, but a great deal of damage has rained down on Colorado, as measured across several indicators.

Growing Youth Drug Use
Colorado’s ranking among the states for youth drug use was already among the highest before legalization, and it remains so today. In fact, all of the states that accompanied Colorado on the path toward legalization have now emerged as the states with the highest percentage of youth users, well above the national average.

For the entire population twelve and older, Colorado’s marijuana use has increased starkly since legalization, rising 30 percent to become third in the nation, 76 percent above the national average. Among college-age youth (20–25), past-month use is 50 percent higher than the average, while past-month use for ages 12–17 is 43 percent higher. Colorado is also first in the nation for the highest percentage of adults who need drug treatment but aren’t getting it.

According to the latest school-based survey from the state, marijuana use has risen over the past two years (2017–2019), with past-month use of marijuana being reported by 21 percent of young people. The increase particularly affected young teens (15 and younger) who now report a 14.8 percent increase in past-month use from 2017 levels. Marijuana use by all age groups has risen by 6.2 percent since the last time the survey was reported in 2017.

Even where reported rates of youth smoking marijuana have not steeply risen, there is still cause for alarm. The rise of recreational commercial markets has stimulated the introduction of new forms of consuming the drug. For instance, between 2016 and 2018, reported marijuana exposures in the health care systems involving “edibles” increased from 18 percent to 60 percent, according to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report.

Moreover, the use of other drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine, is also strikingly high among Coloradans, while the use of alcohol, often in conjunction with other drugs, has not diminished—against the assurances of advocates. Beginning in 2016, Colorado was the only state with the highest rate of consumption for all four of the major intoxicants: marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, and opioids.

A troubling data point is that contrary to many hopeful claims, the opioid epidemic of use and overdoses has not been stanched by the rise of marijuana. In fact, youth marijuana use seems implicated in even greater risk of opioid misuse, including prescription opioid use, just as cannabis use disorder (CUD) itself also climbs and worsens. For youth, the number developing CUD, only three years following initiation, rises to over 20 percent.

Daily use of marijuana, the most risky pattern, increased by 65 percent between 2017 and 2019 for high school youths. Concern over risk of their developing CUD, a risk enhanced by legalization policies, is well-justified.

Marijuana’s Increasing THC Potency
Nationwide, marijuana potency for traditional leaf marijuana has risen since 2008 from an average of 6 percent of the psychoactive component THC to over 16 percent today, according to the Marijuana Potency Project, a study funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Moreover, new forms of marijuana concentrates, which are particularly associated with the recreational commercial market, have seen average potency rise to over 61 percent THC.

Increased potency is clearly linked to increased risks of developing CUD as well as increasing the risk of psychotic incidents. Some forms of the drug now available in dispensaries go as high as 90 percent THC, substantially increasing the risk of cannabis-induced psychosis.

Is the purported revenue from marijuana sales truly worth it for the states? Not according to a statement counseling against marijuana legalization from several state medical societies representing thousands of physicians. Whatever amount of money the state thinks will be legal marijuana gravy, doctors fear that the damage done will cost even more.

The doctors write: “legalization continues to present serious public health concerns…. We are very concerned that the long-term public health costs associated with hospitalizations and treatment for psychiatric/addictive disorders could significantly outweigh any revenues that (states) anticipate would be received from the legalization of cannabis.”

So striking is the risk that the Irish Board of Psychiatry, recently summarizing the matter, stated that high-potency cannabis in Ireland has become “the gravest threat to the mental health of young people.”

Marijuana Use By At-Risk Populations
For teens, marijuana is the most common drug found in toxicology of those who die by suicide. The percentage of incidents of suicide in which toxicology results were positive for marijuana increased to 23 percent in 2018, compared to 14 percent in 2014 (note that these figures are prior to the pandemic).

The significant increase in the number of teen suicides in Colorado over the past five years, and marijuana as the number one drug found when toxicology is reported, can be seen to correlate with increased potency and availability of marijuana, of concentrates, and of vaping by teens. Of teens ages 15–19 who died of suicide in 2018, marijuana was present in 37 percent of the cases (of the two-thirds who had toxicology information available).

While the issue of teen suicide is complex, there is now substantial research linking heavy and early marijuana use to an increased risk of self-harm among users. Whatever has been the effect of legalization on this risk, it surely hasn’t helped, and the risk of harm is worsened in the presence of a commercial marijuana industry.

A recently published study has found a significant difference for both male and female young adults in suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts in relation to CUD and particularly daily cannabis use.

And a suicide problem is found for veterans as well. The National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report indicates Colorado’s rates are significantly higher than the national average, with 2019 figures showing a 25 percent increase over 2018.

It’s not only teen marijuana exposure that is worrisome. There is increasing medical literature showing the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Most importantly, recent research has shown that commercial legalization is linked to an increase in perinatal maternal marijuana consumption, placing offspring at developmental risk.

Not only is marijuana found for long periods of time in mothers’ breast milk, there are clear and growing signs of adverse developmental effects on children exposed in the womb. Young women in Colorado beguiled by “recreational” marijuana products are placing themselves and their future children at risk, since some of the adverse effects, including birth defects, begin even before a woman may know that she is pregnant.

Broader Social Impact
The general societal impact of greater marijuana use has also been broad. And the impact is not limited to just the set of those who use. It can be seen reshaping social life in the wider community.

For instance, traffic danger has increased, according to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA. Colorado traffic deaths since legalization have increased 24 percent overall (all prior to the pandemic-related lockdowns), while deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 135 percent. Currently, the percentage of all Colorado traffic deaths that were marijuana related has risen from 15 percent in 2014 to 25 percent in 2019.

As the nationwide workplace drug-testing company QUEST Diagnostics recently reported, positive tests for marijuana are 30 percent higher in Colorado than the national average, at a time when nationwide drug positive rates are at their highest in sixteen years. As a consequence, not only are workplaces less safe, but finding available workers, especially in safety-sensitive occupations such as transportation or mining, has become a challenge in Colorado.

More marijuana calls are coming in to poison control centers, which report that adverse marijuana-only exposures have more than quadrupled since legalization. Hospital emergency-department events with marijuana involvement have also risen sharply, as have marijuana-related hospitalizations.

As the years since legalization have passed, the public health and public safety impact has grown, year over year. The effect on families, on pediatricians, on educators, on emergency departments, on the workplace, on law enforcement, and indeed on the general quality of life in a once thriving state, has been strikingly negative.

We should not be surprised to learn that there is a high cost to making an addictive and dangerous substance a commercial product. Nor should we enable this public policy mistake to take root elsewhere. Taking stock, we can now say that the so-called legalization experiment has, at least, produced one positive impact—it has issued a clear warning about the path we are on. 



Cannabis 4x more potent – UN report

COVID pandemic fuelling major increase in drug use worldwide: UN report
UN News 24 June 2021
According to UNODC’s World Drug Report 2021, cannabis potency has quadrupled in some parts of the world over the last two decades, while the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent.

This perception gap prevails despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, especially among regular long-term users. Moreover, most countries have reported a rise in the use of cannabis during the pandemic.

“Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to higher rates of drug use, and the findings of UNODC’s 2021 World Drug Report highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate young people and safeguard public health,” said UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly.

Socioeconomic impact

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost 255 million jobs in 2020.

Mental health conditions are also on the rise worldwide. These factors have the potential to spur a rise in drug use disorders.

Moreover, changes have already been observed in drug use patterns during the pandemic, including increases in the use of cannabis and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical sedatives.

Underlying socioeconomic stressors have also likely accelerated demand for these drugs.

Key numbers:

  • Between 2010-2019 the number of people using drugs increased by 22 per cent, owing in part to increase in the global population.
  • Roughly 200 million people used cannabis in 2019 representing 4 per cent of the global population.
  • The number of cannabis users has increased by nearly 18 per cent over the past decade.
  • An estimated 20 million people used cocaine in 2019, corresponding to 0.4 per cent of the global population.
  • Roughly 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States in 2019, more than double the 2010 figure.
  • Fentanyl and its analogues now are involved in most of the deaths..
  • The number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) found at global level has been stabilizing in recent years at slightly more than 500 substances (541 in 2019) while the actual number of NPS identified for the first time at global level declined from 213 to 71 between 2013 and 2019.

Cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in young adults

National Institute on Drug Abuse 22 June 2021
NIH study suggests a link between cannabis use and higher levels of suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt.

An analysis of survey data from more than 280,000 young adults ages 18-35 showed that cannabis (marijuana) use was associated with increased risks of thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), suicide plan, and suicide attempt. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression, and the risks were greater for women than for men. The study published online today in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of this study. “As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”

The number of adults in the United States who use cannabis more than doubled from 22.6 million in 2008 to 45.0 million in 2019, and the number of daily or near-daily users almost tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million in 2019. Over the same time span, the number of adults with depression also increased, as did the number of people who reported suicidal ideation or plan or who died by suicide. To date, however, the relationship between trends in cannabis use and suicidality is not well understood.

The current study sought to fill this gap. For their analysis, NIDA researchers examined data from the 2008-2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health(link is external) (NSDUH). NSDUH, which is conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, collects nationally representative data among the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population age 12 or older on cannabis use and use disorder, depression, suicidality, and other behavioral health indicators. In addition to determining the associations between these factors, the researchers examined whether the associations varied by gender. They examined data from 281,650 young adults ages 18 to 35 years—the age range when most substance use and mood disorders emerge—with an almost even number of women and men.

The researchers compared four levels of past-year cannabis use: no cannabis use; nondaily cannabis use; daily cannabis use, which was defined as use on at least 300 days per year; and presence of cannabis use disorder, which was assessed in the survey and involves meeting specific criteria for a pattern of continued cannabis use despite negative consequences. To determine the presence of depression, they assessed the prevalence of major depressive episodes based on specific diagnostic criteria measured through the survey. To identify suicidality trends, the investigators separately assessed the trends in the prevalence of past-year suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt as reported in the 2008-2019 NSDUH surveys.

The results of the study indicated that even people who used cannabis nondaily, fewer than 300 days a year, were more likely to have suicidal ideation and to plan or attempt suicide than those who did not use the drug at all. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression. Among people without a major depressive episode, about 3% of those who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared with about 7% of those with nondaily cannabis use, about 9% of those with daily cannabis use, and 14% of those with a cannabis use disorder. Among people with depression, 35% of people who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared to 44% of those with nondaily cannabis use, 53% of those who used cannabis daily, and 50% of those who had a cannabis use disorder. Similar trends existed for the associations between different levels of cannabis use and suicide plan or attempt.

Doco on P ignored ‘true horror of the drug’

More FM’s Jay-Jay Feeney says Patrick Gower: On P ignored ‘the true horror of the drug’
Stuff 17 June 2021
Broadcaster Jay-Jay Feeney has dismissed Three’s documentary Patrick Gower: On P as “candyfloss”, saying as someone whose “life was threatened by an extremely unhinged [P] addict” she felt it ignored the true stories behind meth addiction.

On More FM’s drive show on Wednesday afternoon, Feeney told her co-host, Paul “Flynny” Flynn, she felt “quite frustrated” after watching the special, which aired on Tuesday night.

“I felt like [Gower] almost glamorised P,” Feeney said, because he devoted a lot of time to how much money there was to be made out of it.

“He never really touched on the true horror of the drug, and what it really does to the people who get addicted and the people close to them.”

On P follows Gower’s wildly successful three-part series Patrick Gower: On Weed, and sees the Newshub national correspondent delve into the world of pure methamphetamine, or P.

During the one-hour special, Gower spoke to a Mexican cartel running meth into New Zealand, a cop, and a former addict who is three years clean, among others.

Gower called for a Government-led, health-based approach to dealing with New Zealand’s P problem, guiding users on a path to sobriety.

But Feeney argued that glossed over the gritty reality of the situation for many, pointing out that Jessie, the recovering addict, had the full support of her family to get clean.

“What [Gower] didn’t touch on, I think, is the truth.”

She had seen and felt the “wrath” of P, Feeney said.

The drug destroyed the addict, who became “irrational, emotionless, devoid of any kind of compassion or sense… they don’t care who they hurt on the way”.

And it was extremely difficult to help an addict, Feeney went on. Loved ones who tried to intervene were subject to abuse, were threatened with and sometimes the victims of physical and emotional harm.

“The only way that an addict will get better is if they actually want to, not if you want them to… A lot of them are quite happy with the way it is, because it’s just too hard to quit.”

Feeney said when she was threatened by an addicted loved one, she went to the police, but was told there was nothing they could do “unless the perpetrator actually did something first”.

She said faced with the fear of physical and emotional harm and without adequate protection, families would try to distance themselves, which made room for the addict to become the victim, accusing loved ones of not being there for them.

“So I disagree with the conclusion of Paddy [Gower]’s documentary,” Feeney said, “because we do need to treat addicts as mental health patients and have the services to help them. But it’s not always going to be a fairy tale ending with the addict sober and everyone loves each other again like he portrayed on his show.”

Feeney said young people needed to be educated “about the real dangers of this drug, none of this candyfloss crap that no one can relate to… Show people the true destruction of the person who uses P and the damage it does to every good person around.”

She advocated for a prevention-based approach, because those who were already addicted could not always be helped.

She didn’t usually talk about her personal experience, but was doing so to draw attention to P as “the worst drug in the world”.

“So yeah, I’ll take it to parliament, and we can start a march,” Feeney said.

On P became Discovery-owned Three’s highest rating local show of the year, with nearly half a million people tuning in on Tuesday night.

Billions in black-market weed still selling in Illinois 18 months after marijuana legalized

Chicago Sun Times 14 June 2021
The nation’s highest prices for legal pot have kept illegal sales strong — and even raised the cost of a joint on the street in some cases. A lot of the underground bud is coming from California.

Even as legal weed sales in Illinois continue to shatter records nearly 18 months after they kicked off, the illicit pot trade is still dominating a total statewide market some experts have valued at over $4 billion.

New Frontier Data, a cannabis industry research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. estimates that black market pot sales here will top $2.2 billion this year. Meanwhile, BDSA, another pot research firm based in Colorado predicts more than $1.7 billion in illegal sales.

Those numbers are expected to outpace the surging totals for recreational and medical marijuana sales — which surpassed $1 billion last year and reached nearly $680 million by the end of May — by hundreds of millions of dollars. New Frontier Data projects nearly $1.9 billion in legal sales by year’s end, while BDSA offered a more modest estimate of $1.2 billion.

Highest prices in the nation

Neighborhood dope dealers have continued to thrive by undercutting the sky-high prices found at dispensaries, where an eighth of an ounce of smokable cannabis flower can cost around $80 after hefty taxes on recreational pot are tacked on. Illinois’ pre-tax flower prices — which typically run around $60 an eighth — are “higher than every other state right now,” according to Kelly Nielson, vice president of insights and analytics at BDSA.

The high cost of legal weed has had a perhaps surprising benefit for the black market, said one dealer who operates in Chicago and asked to remain anonymous. Based on that legal price point, he was able to raises his own prices — especially for less informed customers.

“If you’re some dork who only learned about [pricing] from the $60 and I obviously know that your only other reference for weed is that, then cool,” said the dealer (who admits to offering more affordable deals to “starving artists, broke people, homies and pretty girls”). “You would happily pay that than stand in line and pay taxes.”

Legal sales could take over by late 2022 or 2023

Experts predict legal sellers will overtake the lion’s share of the state’s pot trade in the coming years, though illicit sales will likely continue to make up a billion-dollar underground market even longer.

Kacey Morrissey, senior director of industry analytics at New Frontier Data, predicts that total legal sales will surpass $2.3 billion by the end of next year, outpacing nearly $2 billion in projected black market sales. Nielson believes the shift will happen in 2023, when she predicts nearly $1.5 billion in legal receipts will outpace illegal sales to contribute to almost $2.8 billion in total sales.

Ultimately, Morrissey predicts many of Illinois’ roughly two million weed consumers will gravitate toward legal outlets.

How quickly that transition happens will largely depend on the cost of legal cannabis and how accessible it is, she noted. Should federal lawmakers enact legislation that removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the process would likely be accelerated.

Felony cannabis arrests dipped in the first year of legalization, when COVID-19, civil unrest and spiking violence stretched police resources thin. But this year’s numbers are now on pace with those recorded in 2019, the source said. He noted that money, gangs and the relatively light penalties for pot-related crimes continue to drive illegal sales.

The dealer scoffed at the explanation for the continued pot-related enforcement. And while he acknowledged gangs are involved in the weed trade, he said many players like him are merely hustling to get by.

“Now that it’s legal, you should see that it’s not evil and that people just want to smoke some bud.”