Marijuana News Roundup: How Safe Is Smoking Pot?

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While beliefs that marijuana is a gateway drug or that its use may lead to brain damage or psychosis may finally be on their way out (see another story below), there remain real questions about the quality and safety of cannabis. States where marijuana is legal either for medicinal or recreational use have been struggling with setting up testing labs to verify that the weed being sold does not contain harmful substances left behind from growing.

A new study from the University of California at Davis now recommends that users avoid smoking cannabis. The report was published in the journal “Clinical Microbiology and Infection.”

According to the report, marijuana sold in Northern California  contains “multiple bacterial and fungal pathogens that can cause serious infections.”

The effect is not of particular concern to the vast majority of pot users one of the researchers told The Sacramento Bee, but the users with weakened immune systems caused by illnesses such as AIDS, lymphoma, leukemia or who are receiving cancer treatments “could unwittingly be exposing themselves to serious lung infections when they smoke or vape medical marijuana.” The researchers said, “We strongly advise them to avoid it.”

Queens of the Stoned Age
There are a thousand ways to buy weed in New York City, but the Green Angels devised a novel strategy for standing out: They hired models to be their dealers. In the eight years since the group was founded—by a blonde, blue-eyed Mormon ex-model—they’ve never been busted, and the business has grown into a multimillion-dollar operation. Suketu Mehta spent months embedded with them at their headquarters and out on their delivery routes to see where this great experiment in American entrepreneurship might lead.

A friend tells me about the Green Angels, a collective of about 30 models turned high-end-weed dealers, and he introduces me to the group’s leader, Honey. The first time we speak, in the spring of 2015, she comes to my house in Greenwich Village and we talk for six hours.

She is 27 and several months pregnant. Her belly is showing, a little, under her black top and over her black patterned stockings. But her face is still as fresh as hay, sunlight, the idea the rest of the world has about the American West, where she was born—she’s an excommunicated Mormon from the Rocky Mountains. Honey is not her real name; it’s a pseudonym she chose for this article. She is over six feet tall, blonde, and blue-eyed. Patrick Demarchelier took photos of her when she was a teenager. She still does some modeling. Now that she’s pregnant, I tell her, she should do maternity modeling.

“Why would I do that when I can make $6,000 a day just watching TV?” she asks.

Honey started the business in 2009. When she began dealing, she would get an ounce from a guy in Union Square, then take it to her apartment and divide it into smaller quantities for sale. She bought a vacuum sealer from Bed Bath & Beyond to make the little bags her product came in airtight. She tells me that part of her research was watching CNN specials on the drug war to find out how dealers got busted.

Today her total expenses average more than $300,000 a month for the product, plus around $30,000 for cabs, cell phones, rent for various safe houses, and other administrative costs. She makes a profit of $27,000 a week. “I like seeing a pile of cash in my living room,” she says.