When An Opera Is Just As Trippy As Any Psychedelic

If you’re a regular reader of High Times, you know that we don’t usually cover operas. We do, however, have 45 years’ experience covering psychedelics and the counterculture at large, so when we were presented with the opportunity to view a breakthrough staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s legendary opera, The Magic Flute, we took it — along with some edibles, for good measure.

LA Opera’s hallucinatory staging of Mozart’s beloved opera is a trip unto itself, reminiscent of early silent French films à la George Méliès or the Lumière brothers, only with sound — lots of it. Hand-drawn animations are projected onto a massive two-story white wall, subsuming static scenery with stunning visuals that bring an entirely new dimension to the opera. Not only does the multimedia masterpiece include a quirky, enchanted landscape brought to life by professional vocalists, it’s poised to redefine the way theater will be presented in the future.

Theo Hoffman as Papageno and Zuzana Marková as Pamina in LA Opera’s 2019 production of “The Magic Flute”/ Cory Weaver

Equal parts vaudeville, cabaret, silent film, and opera, this version of The Magic Flute takes the form of a feature film, only the so-called “film” is a compilation of a thousand separate video files that are projected with an 18k lumen projector 120 feet away from the stage. It’s an entirely new kind of presentation that first debuted in 2012 at Komische Oper Berlin, and has had more than 350,000 audience members in dozens of cities around the world. In 2013, Los Angeles was the first city to host performances of the opera outside Berlin, and it’s featured two more runs since.

Stage director Barrie Kosky was inspired to create this version of The Magic Flute after he attended a performance of a show called Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It was the inaugural presentation from a British theater company called 1927, which first formed in 2005 in the UK. “From the moment the show started, there was this fascinating mix of live performance with animation, creating its own aesthetic world,” says Kosky in an interview with Ulrich Lenz. “Within minutes, this strange mixture of silent film and music hall had convinced me that these people had to do The Magic Flute with me in Berlin!

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Sarastro in LA Opera’s 2019 production of “The Magic Flute”/ Cory Weaver

A World of Dreams and Nightmares

Filmmaker Paul Barritt and director/writer/performer Suzanne Andrade are the co-creators of 1927, named after the year that the first talking pictures hit the silver screen. “We work with a mixture of live performance and animation, which makes it a completely new art form in many ways,” Andrade explains. “Many others have used film in theater, but 1927 integrates film in a very new way. We don’t do a theater piece with added movies. Nor do we make a movie and then combine it with acting elements. Everything goes hand in hand. Our shows evoke the world of dreams and nightmares, with aesthetics that hearken back to the world of silent film.”

While The Magic Flute by Mozart first premiered in 1791, this interpretation takes place in Berlin in the 1920s, a hotspot for European counterculture at the time. Papageno is modeled after Buster Keaton; Monostatos recalls Nosferatu; and Pamina bears a striking resemblance to Louise Brooks. The deft combination of costumes, animations, and unmatched vocal styling combine for a one-of-a-kind production with fairly insane visuals, including references to perennial pop-culture favorites such as comic books and vintage martial-arts movies.

Bogdan Volkov as Tamino in LA Opera’s 2019 production of “The Magic Flute”/ Cory Weaver

“This emphasis on the images makes it possible for every viewer to experience the show in his or her own way: as a magical, living storybook; as a curious, contemporary meditation on silent film as a singing silent film; or as paintings come to life,” Kosky says. “Basically, we have a hundred stage sets in which things happen that normally aren’t possible onstage: flying elephants, flutes trailing notes, bells as showgirls… We can fly up to the stars and then ride an elevator to hell, all within a few minutes.”

In the end, while it’s easy to love this particular version of The Magic Flute, it’s not easy to define it. We know it’s an opera, but it’s so much more than that. So what is it, exactly? Maybe Kosky describes it best: “It’s a silent film by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, so to speak!”

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Trinidad and Tobago’s House of Representatives Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is making history with the advancement of two new marijuana related bills. Most notably, the country’s House of Representatives just approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of cannabis.

Taking things a step further, the nation is also considering a second bill. This one could set up a framework for regulating the production and sale of marijuana.

All in all, this new legislation could bring big changes to the country. But it could also have much broader implications throughout the region.

Trinidad and Tobago Getting Close to Decriminalizing Weed

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives in Trinidad and Tobago approved the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill of 2019. After the House’s approval, the bill will now move on to the Senate.

The Senate will discuss and debate the bill before it goes up for a vote. All of that is reportedly going to take place this week and next week.

If the Senate agrees on a final version of the bill and approves it, the legislation would eventually be sent back to the House for one more vote. And from there, it would finally be handed on to President Paula-Mae Weekes to be officially signed into law.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill of 2019 introduces a number of big changes for cannabis law in the country. These include the following:

  • A person can possess up to 30 grams of weed and five grams of resin without facing any criminal charges.
  • Possession of between 30 and 60 grams of weed, and between five and 10 grams of resin, will face a fee of roughly $200 USD. Importantly, this will not carry any criminal charges.
  • Possession of 60 to 100 grams of weed, or 14 grams of resin, would carry a penalty as high as $11,092 USD.
  • Citizens will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home. A previous version of this legislation allowed for home-growing male plants only. But this was changed, since male plants don’t actually produce smokable flowers.
  • None of these will result in criminal offenses punishable by jail time. But, failure to pay fines could lead to additional fines and community service.

Far-Reaching Impact

Obviously, if these amendments pass into law it will immediately affect Trinidad and Tobago. But it could also have ripple effects throughout the Caribbean.

According to Investopedia, Trinidad and Tobago is the wealthiest country in the Caribbean bloc, giving it a lot of weight and influence throughout the region.

One More Piece of Cannabis Legislation

While the nation is currently closest to passing its decriminalization bill, lawmakers are also considering another potentially big bill. This one is called The Cannabis Control Bill.

Importantly, this bill would establish a framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana in the country.

The Cannabis Control Bill was recently moved to a Joint Selection Committee of the Parliament. Reportedly, this body will make recommendations to Parliament in early 2020.

If this bill eventually passes into law, it would move Trinidad and Tobago firmly to the forefront of progressive cannabis law in the Caribbean.

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Massachusetts Lifts Ban On Cannabis Vaping Products

Cannabis regulators in Massachusetts have modified a ban on marijuana vape products that will allow businesses to begin selling newly manufactured goods as soon as retailers can get them on the shelf. However, vape products manufactured before December 12 will remain under a quarantine imposed by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) on November 12.

Under the amended quarantine order, medical marijuana treatment centers and adult-use dispensaries will be permitted to sell devices that vaporize cannabis flower or concentrates provided that they comply with new regulations.

November’s quarantine order was issued in response to the outbreak of lung illnesses that has been dubbed e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) by health officials. In its ongoing investigation of the lung injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified vitamin E acetate as a toxin of concern.

Shawn Collins, the executive director of the CCC, emphasized that the new regulations, which were put in place in the interest of consumer safety, only apply to products purchased from licensed retailers.

“These protections exist in the legal market,” he said. “They do not exist in the illicit market.”

New Rules Push Transparency

Dispensaries that carry cannabis vaping products will be required to post a warning and disclaimer to consumers that reads “This product has been tested for contaminants, including Vitamin E Acetate, with no adverse findings. WARNING: Vaporizer Products may contain ingredients harmful to health when inhaled.” The warning must also be contained on an insert provided with vaping products.

Amanda Rose, the president of cannabis retailer New England Treatment Access, said that the new regulations will help advance consumer safety and confidence in licensed cannabis businesses.

“[The commission’s decision] is really a win for our customers and our patients who can now have access to a product that has been tested, that’s well regulated, that comes with accurate information about what’s inside those products, and that really drives them back into the regulated market and away from the illicit market,” she said.

Businesses selling cannabis vaping products “will be required to list their active or inactive additives, including the amount infused or incorporated during the manufacturing process, including thickening agents, thinning agents, and specific terpenes,” according to Thursday’s announcement from the CCC. Regulators are also requiring transparency on the parts used in vape pens and other devices, which “will be required to include a written insert that identifies their manufacturer, battery, and other known components, and discloses the materials used in their atomizer coil. This information will be required to be included in product lists posted on the licensee’s website and other third-party applications as well.”

David Torrisi, the executive director of industry group the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, applauded state regulators in a statement.

“Today’s ‘lifting’ of the quarantine order on cannabis vaping products by the CCC’s Executive Director Shawn Collins is reflective of the thorough, thoughtful, collaborative, and evidence-based approach he has led the CCC through,” he said.

Cannabis companies in Massachusetts can begin producing vape products that comply with the new regulations. But before they can be sold they’ll have to be lab tested, a process that usually takes three to five days, according to Michael Kahn, the CEO of licensed cannabis analytic laboratory MCR Labs.

“If we have a huge onslaught, of course it’ll take longer,” he said. “We’re doing our best.”

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Virginia Attorney General Hosts Cannabis Summit To Discuss Reform

On Wednesday, Virginia attorney general Mark Herring, a Democrat, hosted a day-long summit in the capital city of Richmond, where he made his case for joining the more than dozen states and cities that have lifted pot prohibition.

“Front and center is badly needed reform of our cannabis laws in Virginia. I don’t believe that Virginia’s current system of criminalizing cannabis is working. It is needlessly creating criminals and burdening Virginians with convictions. The human and social costs of this are enormous,” Herring said, as quoted by Cannabis Wire.

Herring bolstered his argument by pointing to some statistics. He noted that the number of pot-related arrests in Virginia “more than tripled” between 1999 and 2018, going from 9,000 to 29,000. Herring also pointed to a recent poll showing that more than 60 percent of Virginians support legalization for adults.

“It is clear to me that it is time for a new, smarter approach to cannabis in Virginia. And the question that we’re here to answer today is: what does that look like?” Herring said, according to Cannabis Wire. “To me, the best path forward is to immediately decriminalize possession of small amounts and start moving toward legal regulated adult use.”

Herring, who is running for governor in 2021, announced the summit last month as part of his effort to move legalization through the legislature, where Democrats control both chambers.

Virginians in Favor of Decriminalization

Herring announced his support for legalization in a tweet back in October. In the tweet, he cited the poll he mentioned at the summit on Wednesday. The poll, conducted by the University of Mary Washington, found that 61 percent of Virginians support legalization marijuana for recreational use—up from 39 percent when the school polled the same question only two years ago.

“Virginians know we can do better. It’s time to move toward legal, regulated adult use,” Herring wrote in the tweet.

The summit featured panels and presentations that, among other things, focused on other states like Colorado and Illinois where marijuana has already been legalized for recreational use. It also included remarks by other Virginia lawmakers, including Democratic state Sen. Dave Marsden, who preached caution as the state moves toward legalization.
“What we have to be careful of is that full legalization, or recreational, or whatever you want to call it, that people drift away from this as medicine,” Marsden said, as quoted by Cannabis Wire. “We have to proceed, I think, cautiously. Clearly, we need to do decriminalization.”

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Can You Fail a Drug Test from Secondhand Smoke?

Typically, drug tests tend to jeopardize the careers of, well, people who do drugs.

In most instances, it’s people who smoke weed, as the THC component of cannabis remains in the user’s system for several months.

However, a recent study shows that even certain non-smokers aren’t completely safe from the wrath of a drug test.

The Implications Of A Second-Hand Toke

According to a new study at the University of Calgary, THC can be detected in the body after just 15 minutes of second-hand smoke exposure, so make sure you well versed on marijuana detection times.

That’s right, just one second-hand toke can be the difference in you getting your dream job, as the report noted its findings could be especially problematic for companies with a zero-tolerance drug policy.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open, concluded that people exposed to second-hand pot smoke in a poorly ventilated area, such as a basement, kitchen or bedroom, with the windows shut, could test positive for a drug test.

But the results didn’t just end there. The study also suggested second-hand smoke can lead to the subject actually feeling the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Or in simpler terms, getting second-hand stoned.

“Exposure to second-hand marijuana smoke leads to cannabinoid metabolites in bodily fluids, and people experience psychoactive effects after such exposure,” the study determined.

Perhaps the only difference between a second-hand toke and an actual one is the time it takes to get out of your system. Typically, one-time smokers require a five- to eight-hour time frame to ensure a negative drug test, but it was estimated that second-hand THC could stay in the body anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.

Regardless, having to wait any amount of time could prove troublesome for those finding themselves as a surprise guest at a good, old-fashioned hot-box.

How to Quickly Get it Out of Your System

If you do happen to fall victim to the dreaded “second hand toke,” not all is lost. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to get it out of your system quickly and efficiently.

For starters (if this isn’t already painfully obvious), if you haven’t left the room yet, do so immediately. The less secondhand smoke the better. If for whatever reason this is impossible, get some much-needed ventilation in the room. According to a separate study, second hand smokers placed in a “hot box” scenario felt slight impairments and tested positive for THC in the urine. On the other hand, non-smokers placed in a well-ventilated area boasted significantly lower levels of the cannabis component altogether.

“Those in the ventilated condition had much lower levels of THC in their blood, did not feel impaired or high, and did not test positive for THC in their urine,” the study concluded.

Granted, these types of measures are more preventative than anything else. If it’s already too late, the best thing to do is just wait it out. Unfortunately, a hotbox-type scenario can cause small traces of THC to show up in the urine 22 hours post-exposure. You can always try to reschedule any upcoming drug tests for a day later, but this isn’t always realistic.  Instead, try to drink as many fluids as possible. Water (Ideally, around 2-3 liters) and/or electrolyte-heavy beverages like Gatorade or Pedialyte will flush out your system and expedite the process.

Vitamin B is another option. Unlike water and other fluids, this doesn’t fully flush the THC out of your system, but it does mask it. And considering you didn’t actually take a hit of marijuana, you should be fine. You can pick up Vitamin B-2 or B-12 at your local drugstore. Take 50-100mg of either supplement a few hours before your test for the best results.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to combine all of said methods just to be safe.

Final Hit: Can An Accidental Second-Hand Toke Make You Fail A Drug Test?

The basis of the research study was to better understand the public health risks associated with cannabis, as Canada is set to legalize recreational marijuana in July 2018. The study suggests sanctions that closely mirror pre-existing tobacco regulations in Canada.

“Alignment of tobacco and marijuana smoking bylaws, with a coherent policy approach to exposure to smoke of any kind, may result in the most effective public policies,” the report suggested. “For example, bylaws forbidding smoking in indoor spaces such as bars and nightclubs and in shared outdoor spaces such as beaches or parks should be considered.”

This report contradicts previous studies that determined it is highly difficult to pass a drug test by simply being around people smoking. However, those findings don’t necessarily take into account the aforementioned areas of poor ventilation.

The latest study did admit, however, that more research was necessary to determine the long-term effects of second-hand smoke. But for those who may worry about potential short-term repercussions, make sure you check out the different ways to pass a drug test.

(Updated from a previous post.)

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