An archeological researcher from U.C. Berkley has stumbled upon a stash of really old drugs. Well, to be fair, “stash” might be a bit of an exaggeration. Rather, ayahuasca residue was found in a 1,000-year-old pouch pulled from a cave in the Bolivian Andes mountains.
The finding comes at an interesting time — Denver voters have just decriminalized the possession of psychoactive mushrooms. Not to mention, decades after the illustrious Timothy Leary made a “mockery” of Harvard, scientific interest in hallucinogenic substances is re-emerging with a vengeance.
1,000-Year-Old Ayahuasca Found in Bolivian Cave
A team led by Melanie Miller, an archeologist with an interest in chemical analysis, found an interesting pouch inside a cliff-faced cave in the mountains of Bolivia. The pouch, which consisted of three fox snouts sewn together, turned out the be the ancient equivalent of a drug bag. After swabbing and testing the inside of the pouch, the researchers discovered chemical traces from at least five different psychoactive plants.
Yes, that’s right. Five different psychoactive plants.
The plant residue featured traces of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is thought to be the active chemical constituent of ayahuasca. These days, ayahuasca is a popular substance of choice among adventure travelers hoping to get a taste of the spirit world. Traditionally, it is an Amazonian brew made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other synergistic plants.
While many people travel to experience the profound experience of an ayahuasca journey, the hallucinogenic drink does far more than provide an unforgettable high. For many, the ayahuasca experience is a healing and deeply spiritual one. Considered an entheogen, the herbal concoction was traditionally used by some Amazonian peoples as a tool for cleansing and as a sacrament during traditional religious rituals.
In the Western world, respectable nonprofit organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies supports research into ayahuasca-assisted therapies for individuals battling drug addiction and post-traumatic stress. While interest in the substance has only increased among Westerners over the past two decades, the sacred mixture is still used traditionally in cleansing and other shamanic ceremonies along the Amazon basin.
The residue found in the Bolivian pouch, however, was a little different. While Amazonian Ayahuasca is commonly made from a vine and a few other native plants, the Bolivian version tested positive for traces of cocaine, harmine, and benzoylecgonine. Of the latter two, harmine is one of the active constituents of ayahuasca and benzoylecgonine is a cocaine derivative.
“This is the first evidence of ancient South Americans potentially combining different medicinal plants to produce a powerful substance like ayahuasca,” Miller explained. Although, references to the use of psychoactive plants can be found in textile weavings that date prior to the Spanish and Portuguese colonization in the 1400s.
An Old-School Tradition of Psychoactive Therapy
The use of psychedelic and mind-altering substances is a long-held human pastime. More and more, archeological evidence points to just how long these substances have been enjoyed and used by the human species. Take, for example, the belongings of the excavated Siberian Ice Princess, which lead to the discovery of psychoactive cannabis resin dated to be over 2,500 years old. Or, in Mesoamerica, archeologists have dated evidence for ritualistic peyote use back 5,000 years.
In the case of the new Bolivian finding, archeologists speculate that the fox nose pouch is pre-Inca, belonging to a member of the Tiwanaku civilization which existed between 550 to 950 AD.
“Our findings support the idea that people have been using these powerful plants for at least 1,000 years, combining them to go on a psychedelic journey, and that ayahuasca use may have roots in antiquity,” Miller said.
Hallucinogens may have a longstanding relationship with humankind, but it is only recently that psychoactive substances have caught the eye of the scientific community. Back in the 1960s and 70s, psychedelics got their first taste of mass consumer culture. Popularized perhaps in part by to the wild experiments from Dr. Timothy Leary and Walter Pahnke, who dosed half of the attendees at a chapel service with psilocybin mushrooms, hallucinogenic substances played a leading role in the cultural renaissance of the hippie era.
After a lull of disinterest, however, psychedelics have once again inspired curiosity in the minds of scientists and medical professionals. Indeed, prior to Colorado’s decriminalization of hallucinogenic mushrooms, multiple studies have demonstrated that psilocybin, the active chemical constituent in the fungi, has produced profoundly beneficial effects in the lives of cancer patients.
One study, led by experts from John Hopkins University and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that psilocybin treatment produced “substantial and sustained” improvements in depression and anxiety scores in individuals with terminal cancer. In another study, researchers found that even one single treatment with the compound was able to produce lasting personality changes.
While Tiwanaku civilization may not have used their ayahuasca concoction to manage post-traumatic stress or ease the fears of life-threating cancer patients — who knows exactly where the Tiwanaku went on their journeys — it’s safe to say that these millennia-old medicines are once again finding their place in the spiritual hearts of many.
5 Tips for Owning and Operating Successful Cannabis Dispensaries
The cannabis retail landscape has changed. Once regarded as somewhat of a novelty, legalization has allowed cannabis dispensaries to evolve into modern and innovative retail storefronts more akin to an Apple Store than the dark, secretive spaces they used to be. Some, like Shiny Bud, are proving to be leaders in the space, setting an exemplary standard of a contemporary cannabis retail experience.
Shiny Bud is one of Canada’s most successful dispensary chains. They pride themselves on offering customers a premium experience from the moment they enter, from a contemporary and inviting store design to highly trained staff, and of course, premium products.
Co-founder Alex Ledesma joined the cannabis industry when the Canadian government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. She comes from a forward-thinking family of entrepreneurs, so the move to cannabis was an obvious next step.
“I saw an opportunity to be part of something big in Canada’s history, so we started following the industry, and applied for an application,” said Ledesma.
Shiny Bud opened its first dispensary in Toronto on February 14. Fast forward only a few months, and the company has opened the doors to its fifth location in a small town called Orleans, just outside of Ottawa.
“We have a pretty aggressive rollout,” said Ledesma. “Coming from a quick-service industry, we’re quite comfortable with builds and finding locations. We took our expertise from that and put it into cannabis. And it’s all completely within the family.”
Shiny Bud was awarded 75 dispensary licenses by the Canadian government. The company’s expansion plans include two more Ontario store openings this year, bringing the total number of store openings to seven. And they have no plans to slow down.
“We should be hitting 30 stores by the end of 2021. And we’re planning on maxing out to 75 stores allocated. When we stop to think about it, it can take our breath away.”
The constant march forward of legalization has created an ever-growing interest in dispensary ownership. Below, Ledesma offers up five pieces of advice for those looking to enter the cannabis game.
1. Have a Well-Trained Team That’s Focused on Customer Experience
As the industry is still so young, formal education in cannabis is still relatively scarce amongst prospective employees. For Shiny Bud, this presents an opportunity to reinforce one of their most important business objectives: provide cannabis education and training for their budtenders to pass on to their customers.
“Education is everything because the industry’s so new,” Ledesma said. “We truly believe that we’re an industry where we need to listen to our guests. This is one of the first things we teach our budtenders, along with providing a safe and educational experience for our customers in-store.”
For many customers, the biggest value in going to a dispensary is learning which products are best suited for a specific condition or effect, whether they’re seasoned cannabis consumers or newly curious.
“The goal for budtenders at Shiny Bud is to ensure customers are choosing the right product for them to provide a safe experience both in-store and at home,” Ledesma said.
2. Create a Guest Centric Environment
This goes without saying, but customer service is critical to the success of any retail operation. Ledesma attributes Shiny Bud’s success to the brand’s core vision of providing a “fast and friendly cannabis retail destination.”
“We strive to offer our customers a unique and memorable experience — this has stayed with us since day one,” Ledesma said. “When you walk into any of our Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries, they’re bright, they’re big, and there’s a lot of education. The budtenders are dressed uniformly, and there’s personality — it’s not what people expect.”
Watching the change in customer demographic has been encouraging to Ledesma, who notes the increase in the 60+ demographic looking to add cannabis to their health and wellness, whether it be recreational, or to aid with a specific ailment.
“As a disclaimer, we always have to tell them that we’re not doctors and we can’t give them medical advice, so to start low and go slow,” Ledesma said. “It’s nice to see people like my mom, my dad, and grandparents come through the door, because you also know you’re helping break down the stigma.”
3. Stock the Best Inventory
With so many quality products now available, choosing which ones to bring to Shiny Bud is quite a lengthy process.
“We carry out a lot of research in terms of what’s new or trending, and what our customers are looking for in each location,” Ledesma said. “I wish I knew consumers’ buying preferences before our initial order was placed. We ended up buying too much!”
“We also use recommendations from our team members, our budtenders, and our customers. A lot of times we bring in representatives of the licensed producers to educate our budtenders about the products we’re selling.”
The three most popular purchases across three Shiny Bud locations are dried flower, vapes, and pre-rolls. “Our most frequently asked question is, ‘what is your highest THC or CBD?’” Ledesma said.
4. Have a Great Location
The age-old proverb of “location, location, location” rings true in the cannabis industry, too. Finding the right real estate is arguably the most important part of retail success. Plus, because of the industry’s prohibition history and the nature of the products being sold, it’s important to find understanding landlords.
“Initially, landlords have said to us, ‘absolutely not, we will not entertain the idea of having a cannabis retailer here,’ so I invite them to take a look at one of our dispensaries so they can see the vision of what and who we are as a company and as an industry.”
5. Ensure Your Cannabis Dispensaries Connect with the Community
Dispensaries are already major focal points in their communities. For Ledesma, giving back and helping break down old stigmas related to cannabis is a top priority.
Shiny Bud is in the process of launching a collaboration with Tsaichedelic to create a line of tie-dyed tees and other merchandise. The proceeds will go towards supporting Cannabis Amnesty projects, like providing legal counsel to get those with criminal records over minor cannabis charges expunged.
“Being a woman and a person of color in the cannabis space, I really believe in the fact that it needs to be the same playing fields for everybody,” Ledesma said. “Teaming up with Cannabis Amnesty just felt right.”
With the regulated cannabis market still so new, it’s important that business owners are able to adapt to changes and weather the ever-changing landscape of cannabis and the regulations.
“It’s ever-changing, so we’re constantly learning and growing from it,” Ledesma said. “Regulations are always changing, so being fluid helps a lot.”
Look for Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries in Canada and keep an eye out for their expansion into America in 2021.
Gwyneth Paltrow and a Slew of Celebs Invest in ‘Social Tonic’ Brand, Cann
Gwyneth Paltrow is one of several high-profile celebrities investing in cannabis-infused beverage company, Cann.
Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Darren Criss, Tove Lo, Casey Neistat, former NBA star Baron Davis and Bre-Z have also invested in the company.
The actress and Goop CEO and founder calls cannabis a “hero ingredient of the future” for wellness and says she was drawn to Cann’s drinks, which are infused with small doses of THC and CBD, as an appealing alternative to alcohol.
“There’s a whole sober-curious movement that’s going on and the cannabis-curious movement that’s going on, this is kind of at the intersection of those things in a way,” said Paltrow.
Cann is not the health and wellness moguls’ first cannabis investment. Paltrow admitted that while she’s not a big cannabis user personally, she acknowledges its “amazing medicinal qualities.”
“There’s no reason why alcohol should be so much easier to purchase than Cann, and I’m confident the founders will lead the charge in finding ways to integrate it into the same purchasing channels and drinking environments,” she said via a news release.
Cann founder Luke Anderson called the comments made by Gwyneth Paltrow “a sign that Cann (and microdose beverages more broadly) are a viable answer to that very common consumer pain point.”
He added that when people think of Paltrow, “they don’t think of ‘weed’ – they think of cutting-edge solutions for today’s health and wellness needs.”
Cann has positioned itself as a “healthy” and hangover-free alternative to alcohol. Most of Cann’s “social tonics” contain roughly 30 calories and are “microdosed” with 2 milligrams of THC and 4 milligrams of CBD. A recently introduced Pineapple Jalapeño flavor contains 50 calories and 5 milligrams of THC.
Earlier this year, Cann secured $5 million in funding as part of the company’s 2020 production and distribution expansion plans for 2020.
According to TechCrunch, the beverage startup has sold 150,000 cans, which retail for $4 each, since last May. Cann products are available at just 60 dispensaries in California, and online via the Eaze cannabis marketplace, making the $600,000 in revenue the company generated in less than a year even more impressive.
Miss Marijuana: Canadian Beauty Queen Alyssa Boston Is on a Mission to End Stigmas
Alyssa Boston is a woman on a mission. The 24-year-old Canadian beauty queen is using her platform to start a conversation on ending stigmas around mental illness, competing in pageants — and cannabis.
While she doesn’t actually smoke weed, Canada’s crowned Miss Universe caused a media uproar when she wore a sparkling cannabis-inspired look during the 2019 Miss Universe competition in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cannabis Aficionado spoke to her about breaking stigmas, social media and of course, that costume.
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