Pubdate: Wed, 23 Sep 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


Fears of fire and Frankenbud.

We asked you to send in your canna-questions, and now it's time to 
answer some reader mail! (The Higher Ground legal staff has asked me 
to remind readers that answers provided herein should be taken with a 
grain of hempseed; I am, after all, a marijuana columnist.)

With wildfires all over the state, I'm worried a nearby marijuana 
field may catch on fire and get me and my family stoned. Can burning 
weed farms get people high? Lance, Chelan

Does Smokey the Bear crap in the woods? Yes! Look, if you are 
standing right next to a giant burning pile of ganja and you inhale 
the smoke, you will be stoned to the bejesus. A town in Indonesia got 
seriously baked after police there burned a three-ton mound of 
confiscated marijuana in March. Dozens of residents of Tangerang 
(about 20 miles from Jakarta) complained of severe headaches and 
dizziness after inhaling smoke from the bud barbecue.

In the event, however, you're not standing right next to giant bales 
of burning herb, it's unlikely your family will catch a contact high 
from wildfires of marijuana plants. According to a study in Drug and 
Alcohol Dependence (great centerfold last month, btw!), secondhand 
smoke can get people feeling stoned, but it takes a huge amount of 
THC for that to happen.

"We evaluated the conditions under which you'd need to be to get 
intoxicated from secondhand smoke exposure," noted Ryan Vandrey, an 
associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral 
Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, "and it needs to be very 
extreme." In their study, researchers put a dozen students in a small 
Plexiglas chamber without ventilation and gave three-quarters of them 
joints to smoke. "Enough smoke from the room filtered out so that the 
nonsmokers stuck in the 'hot box' didn't experience a buzz," Vandrey 
said. "Outside, where there is a constant circulation of air, it's 
hard to imagine that a person could breathe in enough marijuana smoke 
to feel the effects of the drug." (Bummer-though I am enrolling next 
semester at John Hopkins!)

Ultimately, if you're worried about that kind of fire getting the 
wife and kids high, you're worrying about the wrong thing: Get the 
hell outta Dodge, man! Smoke inhalation of any kind is serious in 
mega-quantities, and fumes from burning gas, plastics, pesticides, 
household products, and clouds of soot and ash can also do serious 
damage to your lungs.

I read somewhere that they're starting to make GMO marijuana! Is that 
true, and how can I make sure I'm not smoking Frankenbud from 
Monsanto! Erin, Wallingford

While rumors of genetically modified weed have been around for 
decades, at least for the moment it's a paranoid fantasy. "Genetic 
modification or genetic engineering involves altering a substance's 
DNA at the molecular level," the website PolitiFact explains. 
"Producers of marijuana on the illicit market don't have the ability 
to pull off those kinds of lab-based modifications."

Modern-day Reefer Madness proponents like Patrick Kennedy are also 
feeding the Frankenbud fires, claiming that GMO pot is being used to 
hard-wire megadoses of THC into the plant. While many growers (both 
legal and black-market) are selecting and breeding the best plants 
and coming up with high-potency strains of cannabis, thus far Big Ag 
players like Monsanto and company have yet to get their hands on 
seeds (one of the very few advantages of marijuana not being legal at 
the federal level).

Of course, given that cannabis is a cash cow (estimated to be a $15 
billion market by 2020), the corporate agro-bastards at Monsanto will 
jump in at some point. It's part of the reason the independent-grower 
model in early-legalization states like Washington, Oregon, and 
Colorado is so important-local, non-corporate farmers have got a 
headstart and a fighting chance!

You constantly mention how much in taxes legal pot is bringing in for 
the state, but obviously it also means there's a ton more weed out 
there. So now all our kids are going to be getting their hands on the 
stuff and smoking up nonstop. Great job, Stoner-Dickwad . Derrick, Des Moines

I'm not sure there's a question in there, Derrick, but I'd like to 
refute the statement.

According to data from the Washington Institute for Public Policy, 
the use of cannabis by youngsters in our state has remained unchanged 
over the past decade. "Cannabis use and access among students in 
sixth through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the 
most recent survey in 2014." The report went on to state that all the 
groups surveyed-sixth graders, eighth graders, 10th graders, 12th 
graders-demonstrated static use over time, with the oldest group 
actually reporting slight declines in lifetime use since 2002.

Of course, Initiative 502 passed in 2012 and retail sales didn't 
start until July 2014, so those numbers may change. However, eighth 
graders who were asked about their use of pot in the past month (as 
well as lifetime use) reported that they'd not only smoked less since 
legalization, but that it was harder to get. Unlike black-market 
dealers (who've been around for decades), our new crop of legal 
recreational cannabis stores actually checks IDs.

Last but not least, Derrick, I can tell you who is getting their 
hands on more reefer-full-grown adults. Since it became legal here, 
self-reported use is up 17 percent between 2012 and 2014. So yes, 
great job stoner-dickwads, indeed!
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom