Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Perrin Grauer


VANCOUVER - A government prohibition against mixing cannabis and
caffeine makes little sense, say some research scientists. There is
only speculation that the combination might pose a risk.

The practice, so common in the legendary pot capital of Amsterdam that
cannabis dispensaries are called "coffee shops," appears unlikely to
be coming to Canada anytime soon.

"It seems like the overriding philosophy for a lot of this is: ban
anything that might be a concern," said M-J Milloy, research scientist
with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use. "Then it's easier to un-ban …
rather than trying to do it the other way around."

Milloy said while both caffeine and cannabis have been known cause
tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart-rate), he hadn't heard of any
adverse effects coming from combining the two.

Milloy speculated banning caffeine and cannabis could mean the
government wishes to avoid commercial production of highly-caffeinated
energy drinks laced with THC, the psychoactive compound found in
cannabis.Article Continued Below

The prohibition, outlined in the back pages of Bill C-45 (the
so-called Cannabis Act), lists caffeine along with alcohol and
nicotine as three substances that cannot be combined with cannabis in
commercial products. A final vote on the bill is expected in June.

Health Canada declined to comment on why it wants to ban the
combination of cannabis and caffeine in commercial products. Nor did
it have any scientific data or research to provide.

Instead, it referred StarMetro to a report written by the task force
on cannabis legalization and regulation.

The report's stated mandate is to "maintain and improve the health of
Canadians by minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use." It
recommended the ban on combining cannabis with caffeine, though it
gives no reasons for that conclusion.

A search of documents listed as sources for this report found caffeine
was referred to less than half a dozen times, and never in relation to

Gary Wenk, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Ohio State
University and Medical Centre, said it's unsurprising the government
feels it needs to manage people's use, given the delight humans have
historically taken in mixing uppers and downers.

"People like to combine cannabis with things that take their bodies
and brains in both directions," Wenk said, adding he also knew of no
real danger stemming from mixing caffeine and THC.

He said both compounds can stimulate the brain's reward systems by
causing the release of dopamine - sometimes called the pleasure
transmitter. But banning the mixing of cannabis with substances simply
because they have the power to produce dopamine, Wenk said, would mean
all kinds of everyday edibles would have to be prohibited.

"Fat, salt and sugar are all going to generate their own euphoria,
their own pleasure, so if you're using that logic … then you might not
want to put it (cannabis) in things like brownies or cookies," he
said. "That's not going to happen."

Edibles are currently legal for medical marijuana users, and are
expected to be legalized for the general public within a year of the
final approval of Bill C-45.

Neil Boyd, professor and director at the school of criminology at
Simon Fraser University, said he understood the government's
reluctance to permit mixing caffeine and cannabis, regardless of
whether there was definitive proof it could be harmful.

"I don't know that it's a great idea to be mixing these drugs," Boyd
said, pointing to the checkered history of alcoholic energy drinks as
an example of how permitting the sale of pre-mixed, legal substances
can have unexpected - and sometimes tragic - results. Quebec is
currently moving to ban high-alcohol, high-sugar drinks province-wide
following the drowning death of 14-year-old Athena Gervais, who had
reportedly been drinking such products leading up to her disappearance
last month.

But he added that regardless of what companies were compelled to do by
law, individuals would be free to do as they pleased.

"One is not precluded from individually choosing to mix cannabis and
caffeine, or cannabis and alcohol," Boyd said. "It happens all the
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