The Mysterious World of CBD: Part II

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Mike Luce, co-founder of High Yield Insights, one of the cannabis industry’s first marketing and strategy firms. This is the second of his two-part series on the mysterious world–and spurious marketing–of CBD, a product I’m sure you’ve seen advertised and made available nearly everywhere. 

 

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Mike Luce, of High Yield Insights

If CBD is so popular, why don’t we know more about it? This post, the second in a two-part series, examines consumer perceptions and the not-always-aligned realities of CBD products on the market. For consumers seeking the many positive purported benefits of the suddenly fashionable cannabis compound, there’s little easily-accessible information. Worse yet, we may be witnessing an explosion of misunderstanding and misinformation as an epidemic of lung injuries continues across the US. 

 

Poisoned by black market products, nearly a thousand people have fallen ill across the country. As of this writing, illegal e-cigarettes have been implicated in at least 14 deaths. In over forty states, people have been struck by severe lung injuries from vaping, often at frightening speed. While research is still underway to isolate the specific substance or substances responsible, many hold black market THC e-cigarettes responsible. Something changed in the composition of the oil used by many black marketeers to fill vaporizer cartridges. Initial evidence suggests contamination by fungicides and the misuse of thickening agents to disguise diluted product. (I wrote about the outbreak in mid-September.) Either as a direct result, or in some unknown interaction with tobacco e-cigarettes as well, vaping has been turned deadly.

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The Mysterious World of CBD: Part I

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Mike Luce, co-founder of High Yield Insights, one of the cannabis industry’s first marketing and strategy firms. Here he presents the first in his two-part series on the mysterious world–and spurious marketing–of CBD, a product I’m sure you’ve seen advertised and made available nearly everywhere. His follow-up will run on Tuesday next week. Stay tuned!

Americans are consumed by fads in food, drink, and wellness. We swing from one subject of fascination to another: antioxidants, açai, resveratrol, fat free, healthy fats, active cultures, spiked seltzers, organic, biodynamic, anything free range, you name it.

Screenshot 2019-09-26 at 8.42.32 AMYet the latest fad to hit the USA Today-level is unique in post-WWII America. Interest in CBD, the three letters you see everywhere, has reached a fever pitch. This does necessarily set CBD apart from other fads in consumer goods, but hitting the mainstream radar so fast and so hard puts CBD in the upper echelon. The potential of CBD is largely unknown and the future scale of what’s starting to be known as the CBD industry is unpredictable. Consumers, including those using CBD today, poorly grasp the nature of CBD, lack any precise understanding of how CBD works and what it does, and express significant concerns about safety. Yet forecasts place the CBD market at $15-20 billion by 2025. Contrast those figures with the latest numbers by some household products, and CBD’s estimates truly pop: 

Sales of CBD will net out close to $5 billion in 2019, a puny number in comparison. But the last industry on the list above can’t expect more than low single digit annual growth rate. To reach the market size forecasts, CBD will experience compound annual growth rates over 100 percent. That new users will drive that growth should be obvious.

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Ergot and the First Roots of the FDA

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Naomi Rendina. Rendina is a PhD candidate at Case Western Reserve University. She is expected to defend her dissertation, Pushing Too Hard: Pharmaceuticals and the Nature of Childbirth, in early March 2020. Here she explores the role a controversy of ergot played in creating the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was first formed in 1906. 

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Naomi Rendina

Pharmacists and historians celebrated the 200th anniversary of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) at the 44th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy, on September 5- 8, 2019, in Washington, DC. Founded in 1819, the USP remains the non-profit organization responsible for creating the standards for medicines, food ingredients, and supplements. These standards ensure that each compound is appropriately identified, and is of consistent strength, quality, and purity. For three days, historians and pharmacists presented their research on drugs, as well as histories of the profession and institutions that shape pharmacy. 

What most stood out to me was a comment that  FDA historian Dr. John Swann made during his portion of the Opening Ceremony comments. He said that the period between 1906 and 1938 were formative years of what became the Food and Drug Administration. This statement underlined one of my frustrations in researching the history of ergot (a group of fungi that have been used to treat a variety of medical issues, including inducing contractions and controlling bleeding after childbirth). The incident fascinated me, but I stumbled through reasons why anyone else would find this as amazing as I did. Dr. Swann argued that these years were foundational to the institutionalization of science and of the regulation of food and medicine in the United States, but are all too often only given a cursory glance. 

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The Eastern Bloc, the Cold War and International Drug Trafficking

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the final in the two-part series from Dr. Ned Richardson-Little on drug use in East Germany during the Communist period. Richardson-Little is a Freigeist Fellow at the University of Erfurt, Germany, where he is currently leading a major research project on the history of “deviant globalization” in modern Germany. Originally from Canada, he studied at McGill University and received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has previously worked at the University of Exeter (UK). If you’re interested in learning more about the sources in this post, contact Richardson-Little at ned.richardson-little@uni-erfurt.de.

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Dr. Ned Richardson-Little

One of the staples of Eastern Bloc propaganda was the notion that socialism produced a drug-free society. Under capitalism, young people were driven to narcotics due to the emptiness of consumerism and the despair of exploitation; under socialism there was no such need for escape. To some extent, this propaganda was actually based on reality. In contrast to the post-war West, there was no mass drug culture in Eastern Europe. Cannabis, cocaine, heroin and other restricted substances were also banned or strictly regulated in the East, but there were comparatively few arrests for possession or dealing. The black market could provide many imported products normally unavailable in state stores, but very rarely did that include trafficked narcotics. As one East German put it, hashish was as “hard to get your hands on as explosives.”

Was this, however, really an effect of the enlightened social policies of state socialism? Possibly for some, but the main driver was economics: Eastern Bloc citizens lacked the hard currency needed to purchase narcotics from traffickers. Few international criminal smuggling operations were interested in the socialist market, where – in the absence of Western money – they would need to barter for locally produced goods. As it turns out, not many people in the heroin business are willing to trade their product for a Trabant. And thus, the proliferation of international trafficking routes in the post-war era largely bypassed the Eastern Bloc. While China was once one of the great centres of opium addiction, its consumption dropped off almost completely after the Communist Revolution. Although Cuba was once a hotspot for organized crime, the mafia relocated after the Castro regime took control in 1959

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Reefer Madness Behind the Iron Curtain

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from guest writer Dr. Ned Richardson-Little, and it begins a two-week special series on drug use in East Germany during the Communist period. Richardson-Little is a Freigeist Fellow at the University of Erfurt, Germany, where he is currently leading a major research project on the history of “deviant globalization” in modern Germany. Originally from Canada, he studied at McGill University and received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has previously worked at the University of Exeter (UK). If you’re interested in learning more about the sources in this post, contact Richardson-Little at ned.richardson-little@uni-erfurt.de.

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Dr. Ned Richardson-Little

In Junky, William S. Burrough’s 1953 memoir of his experiences as a heroin user, he captures the paranoia of the early Cold War in America in a conversation about drugs:

“Tell me,” I said, “exactly what is the tie-up between narcotics and Communism?”

“You know the answer to that one a lot better than I do […] The same people are in both narcotics and Communism. Right now, they control most of America.”

The idea that communists were behind narcotics was hardly a fringe notion and it was often advanced publicly by the US Drug Czar Harry Anslinger and other state officials. Anslinger claimed that there was a global communist conspiracy to use drugs as a weapon against capitalism on the path to global domination. He warned of “Red China’s long range dope-and-dialectic assault on America” and claimed that Cuba’s Fidel Castro had “joined the hammer and sickle – and the narcotic needle,” by assisting the People’s Republic of China in trafficking drugs into the US. In 1948, he testified to Congress that “Marijuana leads to pacifism and Communist brainwashing.” In the early Cold War, drug warriors in the West saw the fight against narcotics and communism as a singular conflict.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, however, Communists were equally concerned about the dangerous impact of narcotics and addiction, which they believed were the product of a diseased capitalist society. While many leftists in the West saw recreational drug consumption as part of an anti-capitalist counterculture, the state socialists of the Eastern Bloc were just as vehemently opposed to narcotics as capitalist anti-drug warriors.

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Wanted: Author for New Title on Contemporary Debates Surrounding Legal and Illegal Drug Use

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from Kevin Hillstrom, the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Government, Politics, and Issues at the publishing house ABC-CLIO. He’s looking for an author to work on a factual book about the debates surrounding legal and illegal drug use. This could be a great opportunity for an early career historian looking to get some publishing experience, or a more established historian hoping to correct some of the misinformation that’s always floating around. Hillstrom’s contact info is at the bottom of this post if you have any questions.

The ABC-CLIO reference publishing company is seeking a qualified scholar to author a “fact-check” book on illegal and legal drug use in America, past and present.

For more than 60 years, ABC-CLIO and its Praeger and Greenwood Press imprints have delivered award-winning collections of digital and print resources for secondary education, higher education, and public libraries. Our mission is to support educators and librarians in their work to foster 21st-century skills, independent critical thinking, and genuine exploration and understanding of the complex issues of our world—past, present, and future.

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Points Bookshelf: “The African Roots of Marijuana” by Chris Duvall

Editor’s Note: Today’s book review comes from Nick Johnson. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in American history from Colorado State University. A former freelance journalist in his home state of Illinois, Johnson now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and works as associate editor of the online Colorado Encyclopedia. He is the author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West.

Screenshot 2019-07-02 at 8.52.56 AMDespite a vast and ever-growing scholarly literature on cannabis, the African experience with the plant is too often glossed over or entirely neglected. One gets a sense of this reading some of Chris Duvall’s earlier work, including the global history Cannabis (2015). But in his most recent book, The African Roots of Marijuana (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019), the geographer hammers this point home with an infallible rigor that should convince other cannabis scholars to more closely examine the biases reflected in their own work.

Duvall’s most pervasive and important argument in the book is that Europeans’ historic preference for hemp over drug cannabis was rooted in racist interpretations of cultural ecologies, and those interpretations became the foundation for much of what is known (or assumed) about the plant today. In Europe, where ecological conditions favored hemp, cannabis was known as the fiber-yielding plant of productive industrialists; in South Asia and Africa, where ecological conditions favored drug-producing cannabis, “the plant was valued principally to supply psychoactive drugs” (103). When nineteenth-century Europeans began traveling Africa under the oppressive shadow of colonialism, they saw the use of cannabis drugs as an unnatural corruption of the plant itself as well as an indicator of Africans’ supposed backwardness and inferiority (10-11). This perspective then became embedded in Western understandings of cannabis and remains lodged there today, despite a robust academic literature on the role of racism and colonialism in the development of scientific thought.

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