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Rising Hash Use in Saudi Arabia Counters Standard Optics

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We talk all the time about the growing acceptance of drugs like cannabis and psychedelics in the world today. But we’re not talking about every country, and some countries move slower than others. For some, so little information is released, that all we know are government lines unless another piece of information is provided. A great example: hash in Saudi Arabia. Now, a 2021 study shows us the rising hash use among the younger generations. And it counters the standard image put out by the government.

Drug laws in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia – officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest country in West Asia, as well as the Middle East. It sits north of Yemen, north-east of Oman, east of United Arab Emirates, and south of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait. To the west side is the South Sea, separating it from Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea. It covers approximately 830,000 square miles (2,150,000 km2). As of about 10 years ago, the population was approximately 26.9 million people.

Saudi Arabia is also one of those countries that is known for being particularly harsh with drugs, even if we don’t have precise information from the country itself. I can’t tell you much of anything about what the specific punishments are, or where the cutoff is between different punishments. But I can tell you that the system as it is, is based on an interpretation of Islamic law, which – in this interpretation – forbids the use of anything that hurts the body, or the general social welfare of the country.

According to a 2018 mini review in The Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, called Illegality of Hashish Usage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the two prior years, usage of hashish skyrocketed 300%. Hash is the most widely used drug in the country. The Saudi General Directorate of Narcotic Control estimated at that time, that about 70% of hash smokers were still in school.


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There’s an interesting statistic from the report. Apparently in 2006, (and as per the UN), the amount of narcotics (including hash) that was intercepted in that year by the Saudi government, was greater than what was intercepted from everywhere else in the world. While this sounds a bit off, it could simply relate to the idea that Saudi Arabia is extremely diligent with drug busts.

Though we don’t know specifics punishments, we do know that anyone related to illicit drugs will have some form of punishment handed down, that this varies depending on who the person is. A user and a trafficker incur two different punishments, but neither gets off the hook. Death is generally reserved for the most severe crime of smuggling. Drugs in general are regulated in the country via The Narcotic Control Law.

There is also variation in punishment depending on how many times a person is caught. Punishment for a first-time offense could be jail time, fines, lashings, or a combination. Second time offenses incur greater punishments, and it’s posited that even dealers can find themselves with death sentences if they’re caught enough times.

Users receive a judgement from the court, which usually involves a jail sentence of about two years. Saudi Arabia does follow UN guidelines when it comes to users, and does prefer to treat them as patients rather than criminals. Users can enter a treatment program to decrease punishment. Students also get lighter treatment, with discipline and monitoring over anything harsher.

What about the death sentences?

Being caught with any illicit drug will mean prison time, fines, lashings, or treatment; but it can go even farther than that with death sentences. And while I can’t stress enough that we have very little confirmable information out of this country, there are stories like this from 2014, about the beheading of four men, all caught smuggling cannabis into the country.

Part of the reason we don’t get a lot of great information, is because the government itself owns much of the media, and that which isn’t owned is highly subsidized and regulated by the government. As per reports on the beheadings, we’re only told the men smuggled in “a large quantity of hashish,” but that’s as specific as it gets. Which is a bit sparse considering the extremity of the punishment. For a year in jail, maybe those words would be enough. But cutting off heads? It’s also said that the confessions of all the men were illicited by extreme torture; meaning we can’t know if they were valid or not.

Saudi Arabia beheads for trafficking hash
Saudi Arabia beheads for trafficking hash

In a 2017 report by Amnesty International, an international non-government agency which works for human rights issues globally, between 2016 and 2017, drug-related beheadings increased from 16% to 40% in the country. Saudi Arabia is even pointed to for executing people who confessed under extreme torture, like the story mentioned above. Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, put it this way:

“Despite strides towards abolishing this abhorrent punishment, there are still a few leaders who would resort to the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ rather than tackling problems at their roots with humane, effective and evidence-based policies. Strong leaders execute justice, not people.”

Students and hash in Saudi Arabia

As tends to be the case with a lot of illicit drug usage, the greatest percentage of users are young people. This is true in Saudi Arabia as well, despite the harsh consequences of involvement with drugs. In 2021, the journal Crime, Law and Social Change published this paper: Drugs behind the veil of Islam: a view of Saudi youth. “Drawing on the qualitative data, the study tries to shed light on the hidden dimensions of drug trafficking and abuse in the Kingdom through its diversity, complexity and richness.”

To investigate the issue, researchers used documentary methods, in-depth interviews, and literature reviews. They used a snowball method for interviewing students, meaning they used their interviewees to help find new interviewees. All came from Saudi University in Eastern Province. Researchers looked at the backgrounds and hometowns of interviewees to avoid bias since interviewees knew each other from school. A total of 18 students were used, all men. 10 had used drugs previously. Interviews lasted on average 1.5 hours.

Drug trafficking was found to be tied to situations of low economic standing, and it was also found that drug use tends to come from social change. Hash showed itself as the most popular drug in the country. According to one student dubbed Interviewee C, “College students like hashish most because it is not strong and relatively cheap. My friends say you won’t get addicted by smoking hashish.”

Hash use has increased so much in the younger generations, that another student, Interviewee M stated: “It is so popular among youngsters that you may be distanced if you don’t try it with peers. Gradually, you consider it acceptable.” Which means, despite harsh repercussions, there is now a social pressure attached to using it.

Hash is most popular in Saudi Arabia
Hash is most popular in Saudi Arabia

Another thing found is that there wasn’t much different between genders in terms of drug use. Said interviewee G, “girls smoke hashish too. I heard from my sister that her friends meet together and smoke hashish…..Arabs always smoke shisha mixed with hashish. You know, women smoke shisha too; it should be common that they smoke shisha with hashish. But it may not be as popular as it among boys.”

However, there was a bit of a difference between urbanites and those from rural areas. Explained interviewee L “I am from a village, and now study at the second largest city in the Kingdom. Look like drug-taking is more common in the city. But city residents and villagers take similar drugs.”

What else is big in Saudi Arabia?

Second to hash, the next most popular drug in Saudi Arabia is the amphetamine Captagon. In fact, Saudi Arabia is targeted by counterfeit manufacturers, even more so than the rest of the Middle East. This drug is mainly for the young. Interviewee M sheds some light saying, “I think age matters. Unlike old people, young people like to try and accept new things. That is why old Saudis like hashish but young Saudis like Captagon.”

Some even prefer Captagon to hash. Said interviewee O, “Captagon is small. My school mates and I like it more than hashish. Not like hashish, we can buy in tablet……Once we get 25 Riyals from parents, we can buy one tablet and enjoy it.”

It’s said that older people don’t like the drug as much as the young folks, partly for health and social reasons. “Old people have social status and families. They may lose all of them if take amphetamine. But young people have no such fear,” said interviewee H. This was added onto by interviewee D, who said, “drug dealers specialize one or two kinds of drug. Those above middle age stick to their old social circle and don’t have connections with amphetamine dealers.”

Conclusion

Several Middle Eastern countries are secretive about their drug statistics. In such cases, we only know what the governments say, or a little from other small pieces of information that get through. Right now, all available evidence points to a rise in overall drug usage, with hash leading the way in Saudi Arabia.

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Cannabis

Men Or Women? Who Benefits More From Using Weed Before Sex?

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A new study adds more evidence of marijuana’s positive impact on sex. Results show that cannabis increases the odds of orgasms and makes people more likely to experience pleasure. Most importantly, the study claims that the plant could be impactful for women, helping treat sexual dysfunctions and reducing the orgasm inequality gap.

The study, published in the Journal of Cannabis Research and conducted by researchers from East Carolina University, focused on survey responses from 811 adults between the ages of 18 and 85. The majority of them identified as female and all had previous experience with cannabis.

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Photo by Goodboy Picture Company via Getty

“The purpose of this study was to examine the perceived influence of cannabis on sexual functioning and satisfaction,” researchers wrote.

Responses show that most participants, regardless of age and gender, reported experiencing more pleasure and satisfaction when having sex after consuming cannabis.

RELATED: Why Cannabis Users Have Better Orgasms & Overall Sexual Function, According To Study

A closer look at the results show that 70% of respondents said that using cannabis before sex made them more likely to experience an orgasm while also increasing their desire. 62% said the drug increased pleasure while masturbating.

One of the strengths of the study is the fact that it used subjects of various backgrounds. For example, researchers made sure that their subjects were involved in multiple work industries, had varying cannabis preferences, ages and sexual orientations (almost 25% of the participants were identified as LGBTQIA+). After accounting for factors that could have altered their results, they concluded that the sex life of both men and women benefitted from the addition of marijuana.

“This study updates the current literature on cannabis and sexuality and provides implications for improving sexual quality,” researchers wrote. “Medical implications of this study include the possible use of cannabis for treating sexual dysfunctions, especially within women.”

cannabis and sex
Photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

RELATED: How Cannabis Can Improve Your Sex Life

In the case of women, the study suggested marijuana could help them treat various medical dysfunctions while helping close the orgasm inequality gap, a phenomenon that refers to the disparity between heterosexual men and women when it comes to orgasms.

“Women may be more likely to orgasm when using cannabis before sexual encounters, which could contribute to equity in the amount of sexual pleasure and satisfaction experienced by both women and men. Sex therapists could incorporate use of cannabis in states where it is currently legal,” argued the researchers.



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More Weed, More Problems? – Cannabis | Weed | Marijuana

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More weed, more problems? As in, if you smoke all day, everyday, your life is likely a hot mess with no hope of redemption? According to recent research from CU Boulder, the answer to “more weed, more problems” is no.

According to researchers, legalizing recreational cannabis at the state level does not lead to an increase in substance use disorders. Or even increased use of illicit drugs among adults. In fact, it may even decrease issues related to alcohol abuse.

A study involving over 4,000 twins from Colorado and Minnesota found no correlation between cannabis legalization and any increases in cognitive, psychological, social, relationship, or financial problems.

“We really didn’t find any support for a lot of the harms people worry about with legalization,” said lead author Stephanie Zellers. “From a public health perspective, these results are reassuring.”

The study, published in Psychological Medicine, was conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota, CU Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The study used data from two of the nation’s most extensive and longest-running twin studies: one located at IBG and the other at the Minnesota Center for Twin Family Research.

What Are Twin Studies? 

More Weed, More Problems?

Can twin studies prove that more weed doesn’t equal more problems? Well, what are twin studies?

Twin studies are research designs that compare identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins. The idea is that identical twins share all their genes, while fraternal twins share only about half of their genes.

So any differences between the two types of twins can help researchers identify which traits or conditions are likely influenced by genetics and which are likely influenced by environment. Researchers can use twin studies to study a wide range of topics, including genetics, development, and health.

IBG stands for Institute of Behavioral Genetics, a research center at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Minnesota Center for Twin Family Research located at the University of Minnesota.

Both centers conduct twin studies and have been collecting data over the years. And both centers are among the nation’s most prominent and longest-running twin studies. They provide researchers with a wealth of data on genetic and environmental factors related to human behaviour and development.

The Problem with Twin Studies

Of course, Twin studies are not without their critics.

  1. Assumption of equal environments: Twin studies sometimes assume that identical and fraternal twins are raised in similar environments, but this may not always be the case. For example, identical twins may be treated more similarly than fraternal twins, which could affect the results.
  2. Limited generalizability: Researchers often conduct twin studies on small, specific samples, such as twins from a particular country or region. This limits the generalizability of the findings to other populations.
  3. Missing heritability: Twin studies estimate the proportion of variation in a trait or condition due to genetics. But they do not account for all the genetic variation that may influence the trait or condition.
  4. Complexity of human behaviour: Many complex human behaviours and conditions, such as mental disorders or intelligence, likely result from multiple genes and environmental factors. Twin studies may not fully capture these interactions.
  5. Selection bias: Twins who volunteer for studies might differ from twins who do not volunteer, which can bias the results.

Twin Studies Disprove More Weed, More Problems? 

More Weed, More Problems?

The researchers of this “more weed, more problems” study compared the 40% of twins who reside in states where recreational cannabis is legal to those who live in states where it remains illegal to understand the overall impact of legalization.

Researchers have been tracking the participants, who are now between the ages of 24 and 49, since their adolescence. They’ve been gathering information on their use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and several other illicit drugs, as well as assessing their overall well-being.

By specifically comparing twins within 240 pairs, in which one twin lives in a state with legal cannabis and the other where it is not, the researchers aimed to identify any changes caused by cannabis legalization.

The researchers previously found that identical twins residing in states where recreational cannabis is legal tend to use it around 20% more often than their twins living in states where it remains illegal.

So does that mean more weed, more problems?

To answer this question, the team compared survey results that examined 23 indicators of “psychosocial distress.” Including the use of alcohol and illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin, psychological distress, financial difficulties, cognitive issues, unemployment, and relationship issues both at home and at work.

“We included everything we had data on with the goal of getting a well-rounded look at the impacts on the whole person,” said Zellers. “Big picture, there’s not much there.”

No, More Weed Does Not Equal More Problems

More Weed, More Problems?

So is “more weed, more problems” debunked?

Researchers found no relationship between legal cannabis and an increased risk of “cannabis use disorder” or dependency.

For years, critics have called cannabis a “gateway” drug to harder substances like cocaine and heroin. The researchers found no changes post-legalization.

“For low-level cannabis use, which was the majority of users, in adults, legalization does not appear to increase the risk of substance use disorders,” said co-author Dr. Christian Hopfer.

Not only does this study question the “more weed, more problems” narrative, but it also shows legal cannabis’ benefit. People in legal states are less likely to develop alcohol dependency problems, including driving drunk.

“Our study suggests that we should not be overly concerned about everyday adult use in a legalized environment. But no drug is risk-free,” said John Hewitt, professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder.

While the study found no adverse effects on the daily lives of cannabis-consuming adults, the study also found no evidence that legal cannabis benefited people’s cognitive, psychological, social, relationship, or financial status.

Overall, the study seems to suggest the same thing we have before. Substances are neutral. It is the person who can choose to use or abuse them. But the drugs themselves have no innate power of control.





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Health Canada: Let’s Ban Potent Cannabis Extracts  – Cannabis | Weed | Marijuana

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Despite a healthcare system already on the verge of collapse pre-COVID, Health Canada bureaucrats have focused on cannabis companies selling extracts.

Health Canada recently requested federally licensed cannabis companies to discontinue the sale of cannabis products the bureaucracy considers mislabeled. Health Canada is concerned adults are consuming products labelled “extracts” as “edibles.”

The move is expected to cost cannabis companies millions of dollars. And it comes at a time when most publicly traded cannabis producers are still losing money.

Why target products that have been on the market for three years? Health Canada has not responded to any media on the topic, including Cannabis Life Network’s request for clarification.

Health Canada: Let's Ban Cannabis Extracts 

While Health Canada’s targeting of cannabis extracts surprises many, others, like CLN, have been expecting this move for a while.

In the letter seen by MJBizDaily, Health Canada said that “upon further review of the products in question, Health Canada has assessed that this product is edible cannabis and, consequently, it contains a quantity of THC that exceeds the allowable limit of 10 mg per immediate container.”

The letter goes on to define “extract,” “edible,” and “food.”

“Health Canada has determined that (the products in question) are consumed in the same manner as food, and therefore fit the definition of edible cannabis,” the Health Canada letter says.

Cannabis extracts cannot exceed 1,000 milligrams per container, one hundred times more than Health Canada permits in the edible class. Ergo, companies would instead produce extracts than edibles.

However, the line has gotten blurred, and this is likely what concerns the bureaucracy’s busybodies. For example, New Brunswick-based cannabis producer Organigram has a “Jolts” product advertised as a lozenge. While each candy is 10mg, the entire pack of 100mg.

Likewise, Redecan has a cannabis extract containing 800 to 1000mg of THC per bottle. However, the oral dispensing syringe caps each “dose” at 8-10mg. 

Are these the products Health Canada wants discontinued?

Health Canada On Extracts: Useless

Health Canada: Let's Ban Cannabis Extracts 

Why Health Canada? And why now? Why at all?

Industry sources expect to lose tens of millions if Health Canada demands extracts and lozenges get pulled from the Canadian cannabis market. They also expect the illicit and legacy markets to fill the void.

Regardless of what you think about public health and safety or an individual’s freedom to consume as much THC as they want, there’s significant concern about how Health Canada is going about this.

This kind of regulatory enforcement is akin to banana republics. Health Canada has already approved these products. Organigram’s “Jolts” have been on the market for over a year.

Producers of these extracts followed all the rules and regulations. And now Health Canada will arbitrarily limit (or ban) these products because… what? Canadian consumers prefer potent extracts over weak-ass edibles?

The lesson here is to remove all THC limits, not bring the hammer down on companies producing legal products. This is not how you regulate an industry.

Infantilizing Adults

While Health Canada hasn’t responded to a request for comment, I suspect the justification will likely be over “public health” and “increased hospitalizations from high-THC products.”

Another way of saying: we’re so bad at delivering health care that instead of improving it, we’re going to start controlling the behaviours that may lead people to need a hospital bed.

That’s the most insulting part of all of this. Health Canada treats adult cannabis consumers like children by limiting their autonomy and decision-making.

Actions speak louder than words. Health Canada bureaucrats (who live off our taxes) lack trust in cannabis-consuming adults to make their own choices and take responsibility for their actions.

When regulations are not based on evidence or are not well-reasoned, they are an infringement on personal liberty and autonomy.

Even with “conventional thinking,” in which government regulations are effective and immune to corruption and politics, it’s essential that regulators balance the need to protect public health and safety with the need to respect adults’ autonomy and decision-making abilities.

Health Canada’s crackdown on cannabis extracts clearly violates that balance. 

This situation would be like if Health Canada discovered that vodka and whiskey were stronger than beer. And so they order distilleries across the nation to arbitrarily limit their alcohol content and take the products off the shelves.

Health Canada has no business regulating cannabis. 

Footnote(s)





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