Currently Reading: Caffeine V. Cannabis: Stranger Danger

In this Issue of PDA we will do a 180 on this back asswards perception of Caffeine and Cannabis

In April 2010 Michael Bedford of the UK eats two spoonfuls of pure caffeine powder and washes it down with an energy drink. He vomited, collapsed an died. He ingested a bit more than 5 grams of synthetic caffeine. Would 5 grams of cannabis ever endanger your life?

Hell nah.

Yet our public discourse about limiting the availability of cannabis meets the strictest standards, and right now you can buy a 24-pack of energy shots that could be detrimental to your health if over-consumed. Cannabis is a federally banned substance with a Schedule 1 classification, meaning it has no recognized medicinal properties. Caffeine is consumed in staggering quantities by people of ANY age without significant regulation.

Americans consume 15 million pounds of powdered caffeine every year. Emergency room visits related to caffeine ingestion rose from 1,100 cases in 2005 to 13,000 in 2009. That kind of increase raises eyebrows, not just heart rates. The FDA is currently investigating 13 deaths related to abuse of the 5-Hour Energy product, a popular energy shot which brought concentrated caffeine to the mainstream in 2004.

What is undeniably disconcerting is that most of the caffeine we consume is synthetic and made in Chinese chemical factories. Three firms in China manufacture 50% of the caffeine we consume in this country according to a Wired Magazine report. It smells like cat pee because it’s made using Urea, a nitrogen rich compound that comes from ammonia. Kinda gross if you think about it.

So while coffee has a naturally occurring amount of caffeine that is organic in nature, some of these concentrated synthetic beverages are more dangerous than they seem. Cannabis is trending towards pharmaceutical-grade testing, and most of what is available in the Pacific Northwest is grown locally without harmful pesticides or other additives. But the prevailing wisdom is that marijuana needs to be a tightly controlled substance in the interest of public safety, an assertion that we at 4E agree with. However, we cannot ignore the hypocrisy when it comes to an unnatural chemical compound that happens to be free of stigma in American life.

In 1909 foreign governments seized shipments of Coca-Cola sighting the ill effects of caffeine. In 1911 Coca-Cola hired a clinical psychologist to demonstrate the benefits of caffeine to the American people. It worked. We don’t question the risk of hyper-potent caffeine in our refrigerators anymore. Although there was no hesitation to ban alcoholic energy drinks in 2009 when state’s attorney generals pleaded the case after high profile stories of abuse.

This is Washington State after all, and quality java like the locally roasted Cafe Vita company is a lovely benefit of our locale. If we were scoring this championship bout we would have to declare it a draw, since many of the adults in our fair city opt to get the neurotransmitters firing in all directions with a double shot of espresso and a healthy dose of cannabis to level it out. Mornings in the mildew basins of Puget Sound require a bit of a kick in the pants.

THC and Caffeine can get along, and live in harmony with mutual respect. We just ask that the powers that be stop using this double standard for determining health risks to the general public. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths.


 

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 Timeline

1615 – Venetian merchants introduce coffee to Europe

1819 – Friedlieb Ferdinand isolates caffeine from coffee

1886 – Coca Cola introduced

1895 – German chemist Emil Fischer synthesizes caffeine from urea

1909 – Federal government seizes foreign export of Coca Cola because of ill effects

1911 – Coca Cola hires psychologist Harry Hollingworth to demonstrate benefits of caffeine

1985 – Jolt Cola introduced

1992 – Starbucks goes public

1997 – Red Bull launches in USA

2004 – 5-Hour Energy creates “Energy Shots”

2009 – State Attorney Generals petition FDA to ban alcoholic energy drinks

2011 – LeBron James introduces Sheets, melt-on-the-tongue caffeine strips

 


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